How do you deal with gendered things? Clothes shopping, bathrooms, forms, etc.: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 15

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Also, this is week 15, y’all, which means I’m halfway there! This has been a productive journey for me so far, and I hope it is being interesting for you as well!

Today’s prompt: How do you deal with gendered things? Clothes shopping, bathrooms, forms, etc.

As with a few of the previous weeks, this is something I have written about some aspects of before:

  • A few years back, I wrote about navigating binary-gendered spaces as a non-binary person. I will add here that I am less willing to consider myself welcome in any women-only spaces than I used to, for a variety of reasons including the transmisogyny that is often present in spaces that would include me as an afab person.
  • More recently, I wrote about the evolution of my gender presentation as a non-binary person.
  • These days my wardrobe is an eclectic mix of “men’s” and “women’s” clothes (of course, being mine, they are really all non-binary clothes), and my presentation changes more based on the weather than anything else – I like dresses and skirts for hot weather, and love bulky sweaters layered with flannels and button-downs when it’s colder. I am more likely to bind my chest (which usually involves a simple sports bra these days) when presenting more femme, though that it is really something that is only for my own internal comfort rather than because it has any impact on the fact that everyone reads me a woman on those days.

    When I am clothes shopping, I really just look at everything and pick the things I like, without concern for their genderedness.

    I use all-gender or gender-neutral washrooms wherever possible, and pretty much exclusively use the women’s when I have to choose.

    For official forms, I am way more comfortable choosing a binary option when the form explicitly asks for my sex rather than my gender. Since I don’t have dysphoria around my genitals, it is unproblematic for me to identify which of the binary forms I have (though I would prefer for there to be more options). When the form is asking for “gender”, but pretty much actually means sex (because it is a medical form and I know they actually mean to ask a biological question but don’t know how to word it or whatever), I suck it up and pick the most useful answer to the people who need the form filled out.

    When an online form requires me to indicate a binary gender in order to sign up for an account, I almost always decide I don’t want an account on that site any more. Sometimes I send an email to them about it, letting them know they’ve made it impossible for me to sign up, but usually I don’t bother.

    I mostly make all of these sorts of calls without thinking super hard about them anymore. Navigating these things has become habitual for me, so I’m sure I’m forgetting about other places where I make judgment calls around binary gendered things that I have to participate in in various ways, but I can’t think of them right now.

    If there’s something obvious I’ve missed that you’re curious about, feel free to ask in the comments! Or, y’know, let me know how you navigate these things. Maybe you have better methods than me!

    Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!


  1. In the UK there is often an Mx option for those who do not wish to disclose their gender or marital status and/or are gender queer. Not sure how common the Mx option might be. But oh I wish gender neutral bathrooms were the norm – even made the only legal option! Trump and Co’s messages are ‘crossing the pond’ and I feel many of us are becoming more nervous to use those reflecting our gender rather than birth sex.

  2. Thanks for writing about forms – I’m always really interested in how people experience forms, because my institution is in the process of revising our forms to make them more inclusive, and I’m one of the people involved in that. What we’ve started doing is having separate questions for sex and gender, and being careful not to say gender when we mean sex. (I correct people all the time now.) Then under gender, we offered an “Identity not listed, please specify” option. That’s actually taught us a lot about what we need to be including on our forms – most people wrote in gender queer or gender fluid, so I’ll be adding those options in moving forward, as well as keeping the write in option.

    We also started asking people if they identify as transgender or transexual – this was optional to report. What was interesting was that we know of a certain number of trans students, but more than twice that number responded yes – so we’ve got a lot of trans people that aren’t out or that we’re not aware of in an official way, which I think our higher ups really needed to hear. There was actually a lot of surprise around it. And the response by leaders made me happy – the first thing they said was, “Do we have appropriate resources and programming for them, and are we communicating to them where those resources are?” There was a lot of concern around why we didn’t know about some of them – are they okay, are they afraid to tell us, if they are afraid why are they afraid, do we need to adjust our communications to be more explicit about being supportive of trans students, how do we reach out to them without outing them, etc. Lots of good dialogue, and genuine concern, which made me personally really happy to see.

    Of course, we need to translate that concern into action. But knowing that we have way more trans students than we knew about has been eye opening to decision makers, and I think will help units who support our LGBTQIA students get more funding to do so. :-)

    1. Oh, thank you for sharing! I like that you are consciously making a point of differentiating between sex and gender and not asking for when you mean the other (pet peeve of mine). I have questions though!

      Are your sex options still binary or is there an intersex option? Also, just in general, are you interrogating your reasons for asking for students’ sex at all? Are you questioning which forms it is relevant to or not? I am guessing for health related stuff it is necessary but if you’re including it on other intake forms that seems unnecessarily invasive.

      1. We ask because we have to report sex to various state and government agencies, but no student is actually required to answer. If they don’t, they get reported out as Unknown. We’re very careful to make sure students know that reporting that sort of information is optional. We do understand the invasiveness, which is why we’re always stressing – optional self-reporting, data is confidential. If a student chooses not to give us information, we leave them alone. We never follow up.

        They’re also allowed to change answers, so if they didn’t report and later want to, or vice versa, we allow them access to do that. It’s up to them how much to disclose.

        There is not currently an intersex option on anything that I’m aware of. The sex binary is still just binary – the reasoning for that is that we have to report it that way to IPEDS (the organization all higher ed must report to.) IPEDS standards tend to dictate how we organize our data.

        We decided to separate gender and also ask a third question about whether someone identifies as trans when we realized that having just the binary is not inclusive, and so that we’d have more information internally about our student body. That information is used to drive programming and resources. Sometimes there are debates about how we can use that to help us understand what our LGBTQIA students experience on campus, which we debate about our race/ethnicity data. I will say, we’re very protective of that data, and not just because of FERPA…but as a general philosophy. My first question when I get requests for it is, “Why do you need it?”

        One reason why we like to know things about our students as a collective is that in the past, there was this idea from former senior leaders that LGBTQIA students are such a small minority that we don’t really need to be concerned with them. And because we weren’t concerned, we didn’t hear their voices, and just assumed they were fine and we didn’t need to have any resources for them. While that thinking has changed radically in the past decade, it’s still helpful for current leaders to see data and realize…yes, we DO have a lot of trans students who, for whatever reason, have not officially informed the university that they’re trans. There were leaders who were honestly baffled about why they wouldn’t tell us, and we had to pull out the stats about how much violence and discrimination trans people face. Of course they don’t want to tell us! Especially our younger ones – it’s hard enough being in that 18-22 year old age range and figuring shit out. I imagine being a young trans adult is not exactly easy, especially if you don’t have a supportive family, so I don’t blame them for not wanting to be forthcoming. Considering we just recently had to help professors understand that calling (legal) names out loud the first day of class can out trans students and some faculty honestly didn’t get why it was a problem…yeah, I don’t blame students for being wary about who they tell, or what ways they might be outed, or if their data will be used against them.

        Right now, the question is, how do we offer them resources without forcing them to out themselves to us, or anyone else? The focus has very much shifted to – okay, we know they’re here, but we don’t know who they are – how do we make sure they feel safe? So a lot of effort is going into “ways not to out trans people” outreach efforts. When we do other general LGBTQIA outreach, it’s to everyone. The official policy is that we NEVER assume someone is out to the community just because they’re out on paper. Even if they tell us they’re out to the community, we will not single them out in any way.

        Sorry for the super long answer…but it’s a big focus here. It’s new territory for a lot of our leaders.

        1. Thank you so much for such a thorough answer! This is definitely not the first time you’ve given me really useful perspective from your position in administering this kind of stuff, and it’s clear you care a whole hell of a lot so I always appreciate what you have to say! This all makes a ton of sense, and thank you again for taking the time to explain it :)

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