Gender Perspectives Vol. 21

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

My gender | Aut of Spoons

I don’t know what gender IS.

How can I know what my gender is, if I don’t know what gender is?

On Coming Out Day this year, I said that I was “less cis than originally advertised.” I don’t know what that means. Perhaps gender is the collection of attributes that are most important to you; your defining characteristics. Your core identity. Why have a word for it, if not your name? Gender Olivia?

Transition, trans becoming | The dancing trans

The process of transition is defined and controlled by cis people in a way that denies transness to many, many trans people. However, we are all still slowly becoming our genders and that, for us trans folks, is our transition, cis-sanctioned or not.

Carve Me Like a Pumpkin | The Junkie Comsonaut

I am preparing my body for surgery, and it is almost there. My brain needs some more time. Anticipating the damage and the aftermath still makes me queasy, but I’ll cope. I want this. I want what it will get me.

An open letter to OKCupid about the proposed “Real Name” policy

I just heard about this new OKC policy shortly before this post popped into my feed. OKCupid is planning to replace usernames with people’s first names (presumably to be more like Tinder?) There’s a whole pile of reasons why this is a shitty idea, and the Bearded Genderqueer makes the point very clearly here.

The Bearded Genderqueer

Here is a copy of what I wrote in the OKCupid feedback form in response to their proposed policy change that would require real first names instead of custom usernames by the end of 2017.

Dear OKC team,
I’ve been a user since 2004, I met my spouse here, and I’ve had many relationships ranging from casual to long term that started on your site. I love a lot about your site and I am usually a fan of your changes, especially those to reduce unwanted and harassing messages. I’m not the type to complain every time someone releases a new feature, even if I’m not a fan.

However, I sincerely hope that by “real name policy” you don’t mean to police that like Facebook has done to the detriment and harm of transgender people. For many people, the name that everyone knows them by is not the name on…

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Questions from the search terms: “what is your sexuality if you like non-binary people?”

Today’s question:

What is your sexuality if you like non-binary people?

This has become a bit of a theme in my search terms, so much so that “If you’re into me, then you’re not straight: orientations and attractions to non-binary people” is the most-viewed post on this site on most days, and some of my most recent questions from the search terms have been in this vein as well. However, I like this framing of it, so here we go again!

This is an interesting question searcher, and the answer is the incredibly unsatisfying “it depends”.

The way that we currently define sexuality depends both on our own gender and on the gender(s) to which we are attracted – if you know that someone is only attracted to women, that’s not enough information to determine their sexual orientation without knowing their gender also – they could be a straight man, or a lesbian woman, or a non-binary person (in which case, the label would be harder to determine).

It’s also unclear to me from your question whether you’re talking about being exclusively attracted to non-binary people or not, so I’ll try to cover both cases.

If someone is exclusively attracted to non-binary people, what *is* their sexual orientation?

If you’re talking about a man or a woman here, technically they would be heterosexual (only attracted to people of genders different than their own), but not really straight per se. It would be a better bet to identify as queer, really, from my perspective.

A non-binary person who is only attracted to non-binary people might consider themself homosexual or gay, although being non-binary and being attracted to non-binary peopel doesn’t inherently mean being attracted to people with the same gender as you (as there are many different genders that fall under the non-binary umbrella), or heterosexual (sometimes we enbies like to joke that we’re all het, because no one else has the same gender as us), but again, queer might be the best bet.

I don’t actually think that an exclusive attraction to non-binary people is what we’re talking about here, though. Usually people who are into non-binary people are into at least one of the binary genders as well.

People who are attracted to non-binary people plus men and/or women fall pretty clearly under the bisexual umbrella (as they are attracted to more than one gender). There are different ways of identifying within this umbrella, too. If you’re attracted to people of all genders, then pansexual is a good choice, but bisexual still applies if you prefer it. And queer is still on the table here too.

So, yeah, as I’ve pretty much said before, if you’re attracted to non-binary people, there’s a pretty good chance you’re queer, though the precise label you want to use may vary.

Name change weirdnesses

I’m still occasionally surprised and amused by some of the upshots of having changed my name (and especially of having changed my name in the particular way I did, making my old first name into my permanent last name.)

For one thing, I am now one of those jerks with the dreaded two first names (I mean, kind of. I was given my grandmother’s maiden name as a first name, so it was actually a last name all along, but it is also a name that is used as a first name about 50% of the times that you see it.) On top of that, my work email displays the last name first (as in Lastname, Firstname), so sometimes people who aren’t paying a whole lot of attention will respond to emails from me with “Hi Lastname”

Which means they’re actually sending me emails addressed “Hi Deadname” and I always, *always* have a weird moment of “Wait, how did they knoooooooooow?” before remembering that I did this to myself.

Another weirdly specific thing I deal with is the fact that, oddly enough, both my previous name and my current name sometimes get mistaken for the same wrong names. Before I was Kasey, I had an uncommon name that regularly got transmuted into variations on Kelly/Kayley/Kelsey etc. And… that still happens with Kasey. I just got called Kelsey a bunch by a customer who misread my name.

On the up-side, though I’ve been getting a new wave of compliments on my name lately (my current firstname-lastname combo is very satisfying to say, and more than one person has told me I have a very ‘rockstar’ name). It’s cool that I can take full responsibility for that, too; it’s not just something I got lucky on, it’s something I actively did.

Basically, I did real good job at rebranding myself, y’all. Even though sometimes it’s also weird.

Non-thesaurus: Non-impactful

Way back in the early years of Valprehension, I wrote a couple of “non-thesaurus” posts. These posts take common non-words – that is, words that people instinctively use, but that aren’t technically ‘words’ according to the word authorities or whatever – and provide a list of ‘real’ words that can be used instead.

I still get occasional hits from people looking for ways to call things impactful without losing marks for using the (non)-word impactful. But I recently visited by someone looking for synonyms to “nonimpactful”, so hey, why not write that one up as well? Here’s some words you may be able to use as an alternative to calling something ‘non-impactful’ (or unimpactful?). I’ve tried to cover my bases for different potential contexts and uses:

  • banal
  • boring
  • empty
  • frivolous
  • hollow
  • impotent
  • inane
  • inconsequential
  • ineffective
  • insipid
  • irrelevant
  • lacklustre
  • mundane
  • pointless
  • prosaic
  • trivial
  • unconvincing
  • uninspired
  • uninspiring

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: Z is for “Ze”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

Z is for “ze”

We’re going out on a high note, friends! Thankfully not everything cis people say about trans people is bad or wrong or transphobic all the time. Sometimes cis people actually respect and support us(!). Sometimes they use the correct pronouns, even when they’re new or unfamiliar ones, like ‘ze’.

Cis people, you are not doomed to be the people that this series has been about! Although this series only pulled in one person who felt the need to make sure *I* know that #NotAllCis people are like this, it’s probably worth stating it explicitly here. If you’ve found yourself reflected in one or more of the posts here, you can use it as a learning opportunity, and decide to do better going forward. If nothing I’ve written has been a personal call-out to you, then you’re probably pretty good at supporting trans people, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t also still have room to grow.

If you care about trans people, please keep on actively listening to as wide a variety of trans voices as you can, and never stop learning!


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

Phew, and that’s the end of this saga, just one day shy of the anniversary of when I put up “A is for Attention”. So all in all, this series took twice as long as I originally intended it to. I’m ok with it!

Questions from the search terms: “I’m attracted to my biological sex only but I identify as genderqueer. Does that still make me lesbian?”

It’s time for another question from the search terms! Today I bring you:

I’m attracted to my biological sex only, but I identify as genderqueer. Does that still make me lesbian?

Dear searcher,

I’m hoping that you were just being a little sloppy with your words in the relative privacy of your internet search (it’s not like you actually said this to another person, and I know that sometimes using less-than-correct language is the best route to the results you want on the internet, because those are the smae words other people are using!) but before I address your actual question, a quick clarification for other people reading this:

Being a lesbian doesn’t mean being only attracted to ‘biological females’. For the most part, it means being only attracted to women (who may or may not be the same biological sex as you, searcher!) I also realize that lesbian community and culture is in reality messier than that, and I know that there are complicated and delicate questions around trans men and lesbianism – some trans men identify as lesbians, I think? And I know that there are women who date both (cis?) women and trans men, who still identify as lesbians.

I also know that TERFiness and transmisogyny are pretty rampant in many lesbian communities, though, so those community norms may not be things you want to play into or live up to. It is some complicated stuff, and I am not a great authority on the nuances of lesbian communities, but suffice to say that if you actually think that being solely attracted to ‘biological’ females is an unproblematic definition of lesbianism, you have got another thing coming! The group of people who share your biological sex includes a wide variety of genders, from men and women to all kinds of non-binary and genderqueer people, and that’s not what lesbianism is about, as far as I can tell.

But ok, I’m going to pivot to the more generous reading of the question now, so you can get an actual answer!

I’m going to take it that you’re a genderqueer person who was assigned female at birth, and you find yourself exclusively attracted to women. So, are you a lesbian then?

…maybe?

I know there are non-binary people out there who identify as lesbians, and I know there are lesbian communities who are open and welcoming to enbies (afab ones, anyway…) who identify this way.

Ultimately, though, what you’ve actually run into here is a major limitation of the way in which we try to categorize sexual attraction. At its core, the hetero-/homo- binary is very dependent on a binary gender system, both for the people feeling attraction and the objects of that attraction. I’ve written more than once about how these categories aren’t really sufficient to properly contain attraction *to* non-binary people (see here and here), but I’ve somehow missed the aspect where they fail even harder to provide labels for non-binary people’s own experiences of attraction.

This is partially because my bisexuality/queerness does map onto my non-binary identity in the same way that it did onto my birth-assigned gender. I can be attracted to people of any gender, and that remains true regardless of *my* particular gender.

Shit gets complicated when you’re only attracted to one gender, though. If you want to be strict about it, a non-binary person who is only attracted to one gender (other than a non-binary gender) is heterosexual (though possibly not straight).

But that’s not at all helpful. So where do I go from there?

In general, I think it is a terrible idea for non-binary people to define their sexual orientation in terms of their birth-assigned gender. For one thing, doing so would require non-binary people to out themselves about their birth-assigned gender, and how about we just don’t do that?

So, in general, non-binary people who are only attracted to women aren’t lesbians. You still might be, if it’s really what feels right for you? But, since I suspect that you aren’t actually exclusively attracted to women, and that your attractions probably include other non-binary people and possibly trans men as well, I encourage you to consider other identities. Queer is a really good label for people who don’t fit well into the existing models of sexual identity. Is there a reason why you don’t want to use it?

I think the main reason people in your sort of situation sometimes shy away from this, is they don’t like the implication that they’re into men, but if that’s the case, try this: “I’m a queer non-binary person who isn’t attracted to men”. Problem solved, ok?