agender

An Impossible Balancing Act

One of the frustrating things about being genderqueer (for me, anyway) is the balancing act of knowing you need to constantly remind people of your identity lest they forget and misgender you, but not wanting to make your genderqueerness your most important or defining character trait.

I struggle with this on social media particularly. I want to share all kinds of non-binary memes. I want to boost the visibility of trans people generally, and non-binary people particularly. I want the people around me both online and in real life to see non-binary representation often enough that it actually gels in their brains, so that it becomes second nature to them to think about gender as a plurality much greater than a binary, so that phrases like “both genders” are immediately, obviously *wrong* to them in the way they are to me.

I’d settle, though, for them at least remembering *my* gender.

But.

Possibly especially as a person who is agender much of the time, my (often lack of a) gender also isn’t the only or the first thing I want people to think of as defining who I am. For one thing, that’s a weird and (ideally) boring defining trait – can you imagine if we did that to binary people? “Oh, you know Mary? She’s pretty great. Yeah, she’s a woman. That’s kind of her thing.”

Just no.

The problem, though, is  that I really don’t think there’s a magic formula for the right amount of reminders that non-binary people exist and that I am one of them, for the right proportion of gender-related posts versus everything-else-I-like-and-care-about posts. On the one hand, I know there are people who will take any such reminders as too much, as harping, as being overly preachy or political. On the other hand, I know that some people will take any excuse to backslide,  to conveniently ‘forget’ my pronouns, or simply pretend they thought I’d stopped being non-binary or whatever. Any excuse to blame me for their mistakes and for the harm they cause me when they make them, really.

Those are the extremes, of course, and the people at either end of that spectrum aren’t people I am actually close to or really care about – they’ll probably self-select themselves out of my feed anyway. But everyone exists somewhere between those two poles, and I can’t please them all. I will be harmed one way or he other no matter what I do, and I hate that it is all my job to deal with and manage so much of the time.

I need people to know this my gender is vitally important, but once they’ve properly internalized that, I also need them to understand that it also really isn’t.

This is still the best distillation of this whole mess I’ve ever managed and it still doesn’t quite get the whole picture.

I guess I’ll just keep fumbling along!

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 16

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.]

A Love Letter to My Pre-T Body | Tragic Gender Story
Tristan shares a letter they wrote to themself two years ago, before starting to take testosterone:

Some cisgender people have assumed that my transition is about self-hate, but it’s really about self-recognition. I don’t hate you for your round face; I just don’t recognize it as my own. I don’t hate you for the pitch of your voice; I just want to hear myself when I speak and sing, not someone who sounds like a girl or a little boy to me.

30 Day Gender Queer Challenge: Prompt 2 | A3
I’ve been happy to see a bunch of other folks doing the Genderqueer Challenge! Here’s one of A3‘s posts:

How did you grow up with your gender or lack of gender?

When I was 23 I had to attend a diversity training for a job and the speaker touched upon the different genders and I remember being very, very confused, but unable to exactly pinpoint what I was confused about. It wasn’t until I started talking to other non-binary individuals that it finally dawned on me, “Wait a minute, you feel like your gender?”

What I’m doing here | The Bearded Genderqueer
The Bearded Genderqueer’s first post explores the loneliness of being transfeminine and non-binary:

When I search things like genderqueer fashion or androgyny I usually don’t see myself or anyone like me in the results…That’s part of why it took me until I was 26 to realize that I could be genderqueer and that my beard and my body didn’t exclude me from being nonbinary.

What I’ve Learned from Women Who Detransitioned | a boy and her dog
The author of a boy and her dog has some thoughts about women who have detransitioned after exploring trans male identities:

I read transition and detransition stories the way I read warning labels on medicines. I want to know the expected effects and the potential side effects. The range of experiences, good and bad. What I’ve learned, unintentionally, is to trust my judgement and go at my own pace. To listen to, but not necessarily accept, advice. To accept that I’m probably not ever (never say never) going to follow the classic binary transition route and that I’m just as trans no matter which route I take.

The Privilege of Not Existing Yet | Holding Patterns and High Tea
Selissa brings us a poem about not fitting in, and invisible/unrecognized identities:

How can I convince you I exist
When there aren’t even words for this
For me
For my life and breath

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 15

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 is Like a Rose (The Importance of Context from a Linguistic Perspective) | A³
The author of A³ explains their agender identity through the lens of language’s fundamental arbitrariness:

…why is it “wrong” when I say “I am agender”? Why do people snap judgement at me for using a word we have assigned meaning to when I feel it most accurately describes my experience? Why do people say I am “confused” and spew shameful language at me in an attempt to poke holes in my statement? Am I not like the poet and just trying to put into words, arbitrary words, my abstract feelings and experiences and shape them into a recognizable metaphor? How else am I supposed to describe the detached feelings I have with the gender binary?

The Flow of Gender Fluidity | Queer Asterisk
T talks about the process of discovering and coming out with thier genderfluid identity:

I took 12 months to let people in my life know that I’m not actually a woman and waited to see what the impact of this revelation would be. Here are some of the reactions I have heard from various peoples:

“Makes sense.”

“Are you sure?”

“I don’t know what you mean, but I know I love you.”

“This seems like it’s just another one of your phases.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just related to your body image issues?”

“That identity isn’t real to me.”

“Your pronouns are grammatically incorrect.”

“You just look too much like a woman to be trans.”

I don’t really expect non-fluid people to remotely understand that concept… it’s hard to understand from inside the flow! All I know is that my identity flows; it is a dance. It’s a dance with myself, with my environment, within relationships, and within spirit. I flow like a stream or a current of air and even I’m not sure where I will end up.

Why I’m Nonbinary But Don’t Use ‘They/Them’ | Wear Your Voice
Ashleigh Shackelford dissects her personal experience of the intersections of blackness and non-binary identity, and her decision to use she/her pronouns:

Throughout my life, I was experiencing so much of this journey called Black Girl/Womanhood while also experiencing a denial of gender conformity. This complicated internal struggle led me to a very difficult realization as I grew up and found more resources, language and tools for navigating my gender identity: I felt disconnected from the notion of seeing myself as a Black woman, yet I also felt uncomfortable saying that I didn’t identify or experience Black womanhood. So much of the trauma and violence I moved through, and resilience and power I embodied is that of Black womanhood and Black femininity. In acknowledging that, I chose to use she/her pronouns because those pronouns were not afforded to me and they are a derivative and gift of the time I spent in crafting my Black femme-ness in a world that denied me to do so. They represent the work and fight I put into my Black girlhood/womanhood within my alignment of gender expansiveness.

I’m a Trans Guy, Not a Guy: Maintaining Queerness While #datingwhiletrans | Life Writ Large
Germaine de Larch provides a perspective in which transness is an inseperable and essential part of gender identity (though, as the post states, it must be stressed that this is not the experience of all trans people):

…while them calling me ‘boyfriend’ is heart-fillingly-soaringly affirming and seeing of who I am, it is important to me that I am seen as trans, and not a man.

I am not and will never be a man. I am, and always will be, trans. And this is an important distinction.

This being seen-ness as trans and queer is essential. Because anything less would be not seeing me for who I am. It would be an erasure of me.

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 14

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.]

On Gender Expression, or None Gender with Left Girl | The Gay Divorcee Chronicles
The author discusses their struggles with gender boxes, dypshoria, and their identity of “Vaguely Genderqueer But Mostly Female”:

That female box may be what is most appropriate for me to check, but it really doesn’t cover it.

It’s definitely not all of me, and it makes me extremely uncomfortable to check that box. It limits me, confines me, suffocates me. When I was trying to earn money on a survey-taking site, I actually had a bit of a breakdown at one point because I was so infuriated by the fact that I HAD TO CHECK THAT DAMN BOX.

Gender Peformance | Sighs and Sprites
A genderqueer femme discusses their struggles with internalized misogyny and anti-femme bias.

I said to a friend that I feel like a drag queen sometimes, performing femininity because it makes me feel attractive and powerful, to which she pointed out that all gender is performative. That hypermasculine dudebro’s, with their utes and beer are performing masculinity to feel attractive and powerful as well.

I understood the point she was making and I agreed fully but it wasn’t shaking this icky feeling that I had inside. Like I wasn’t really genderqueer because I’m AFAB and dress femme so often. As if there were some kind of gender non-conforming checklist of criteria that I wasn’t measuring up to. I knew this was bullshit but I didn’t feel it.

Standing on the Wrong Mountain | quizzicalsloth
The concept of evolutionary “Fitness Peaks” makes a potentially useful analogy to gender transition and identity.

I feel like I’m on peak A: I’m fairly happy with myself (most of the time) but if I think about being somewhere on peak B I feel like I would be even happier. The problem I’m seeing at the moment is that to get to that point I’m going to have to go through a time where things aren’t so good.

To Justify and Identify Gender | my love, my loathe
An intensely personal exploration of gender identity, with no definitive answers (i.e. my favourite kind, really :P)

I’ve been pondering – specifically the question of gender. Does one have to pick a single identity to truly convey what they feel? Does dysphoria, or lack there of, set a person’s identity in stone? Does dissatisfaction with the social expectations of your gender truly mean anything beyond being different?

Dysphoria and how you manage it: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 5

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

Today’s prompt: Dysphoria and how you manage it

I actually wrote a bit about this not too long ago, but I didn’t really address management tactics, so here goes.

The main thing for me, in dealing with the social dysphoria that inevitably comes from being misgendered on the daily by people who just plain old don’t know any better, is constant reminders that I am not defined by how others see me. I mean, hilariously, people also tend to assume I’m straight, so given that level of obliviousness, I find it hard to be bothered when they think gender is binary also.

I find it easiest to manage social dysphoria when I my self-presentation is authentic and when I haven’t already deliberately watered down my gender ambiguity out of fear. If I’ve deliberately presented myself as binary-gendered (whatever the fuck that even means, really…), then I find it harder to shake of misgendering that occurs, because I partially blame myself, even though I know that’s not actually valid or called for. on the flip side, if I’m looking good by my own standard, and if I feel awesome about the image I’m projecting, I’m just straight-up less likely to care what other people think about what I look like, so.

As for body dysphoria, I don’t have as much experience with it. Some days I look in the mirror and am surprised at what I see. Some days I am suddenly in love with my body and some days I am shocked when my body seems gendered to me in a way I don’t want it to be. I mean, I know bodies don’t have genders, I just don’t have better words for that experience. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a woman’s body, and I have all kinds of feelings around that. Other days, I see my body, and it is a part of me and who I am, and it is great.

I don’t have any really solid ways of dealing body dysphoria, though it is usually mercifully short-lived for me. Binding helps, but if I am in this headspace, I will really only see the ways in which binding fails to give me a distinctly masculine shape, so it definitely doesn’t get at the root of the problem, whatever that may be.

The only other thing I can do is throw myself into activities that absorb my brain, the ones that settle me into a more agender space, where I am less aware of myself as a physical being, and more just a free-floating context-free self – writing, or watching tv, or crafting can do this for me. Though I think this might actually more honestly be an “ignore it til it goes away” approach rather than an actual preventative/management measure.

So yeah, I’d love to hear others’ strategies for dealing with body dysphoria, since I don’t really have any solid ones.


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

How did you grow up with your gender? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 2

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

Today’s question: How did you grow up with your gender?

I am just going to take this as a more general prompt to think and talk about my experience of gender growing up, and how I got to where I am now!

I am honestly not sure what to say about my gender growing up. I don’t think that it makes sense to say that I have always been genderqueer, in large part because of the particular political affiliations I associate with my genderqueer identity today, that I certainly didn’t have as a child. But I very easily could have been agender then, as I often still am today.

At the risk of sounding like a total cliche: I was never a terribly girly child. I liked some “girl” things, and didn’t like others, and in my preschool years I spent most of my time playing with my little brother (we are just a year apart in age and were very close growing up) playing with a mixture of toys, from My Little Pony and Barbie, to just plain stuffies or Mighty Max or whatever else.

Most of my friends growing up were girls. All of the close ones were, actually. I mean, all the kids in the neighbourhood (and we had a *lot* actually, in retrospect) played together pretty regularly, but the friends I would call on every day and walk to school with were girls. I didn’t think about it much, and I don’t put a lot of meaning on it besides probably minor social pressure, expectations and norms, but it seems worth mentioning.

Mostly, we just played board games together. And cards. And sometimes vast epic imagination games, where the entire neighbourhood transformed into a strange abandoned, haunted amusement park we couldn’t escape or some such. It wasn’t as if we were somehow doing significantly different things than the neighbourhood boys (or at least, I don’t think so, anyway?).

I never had a strong sense of identification as girl, and I definitely never wished to not be one either. I sort of just accepted that I was one, because I had been told as much and it didn’t seem distinctly wrong or whatever. My parents love to tell the story of my second birthday, where I tried to give all of my presents to my little brother, one by one, until I opened up some clothes that were pink, and immediately declared that they were mine. Pink wasn’t my favourite colour at the time (or ever, really: I went with the safe alternative of purple through most of my childhood – mildly non-conformist without being too out there, y’see. Even at that age, I was making that kid of calculation though). I had just clearly noticed that everything pink in the house belonged to me. (My mother, though distinctly feminine, also deliberately avoided being over-the-top girly and is not much into pink herself, so it would have really just been me).

I also never had to deal with much along the lines of gender policing growing up, which may be part of why I didn’t think too much about this stuff at the time. Although my parents (er, my father really, mostly) subscribe to some weirdly outdated gender stuff, and there was one memorable occasion as a teenager when my dad tried to shame my brother because, when we’d accidentally locked ourselves out of the house and I’d climbed in through the bedroom window to let him back in, he hadn’t insisted that he be the one to do the dangerous work of climbing on the roof – despite me being (at the time…) taller and more flexible, and the fact that it was my bedroom window that was open, by the way – white knight bullshit, basically, which both of us pushed back at him for, anyway.

I have only worn make-up on a literal handful of occasions in my life. When I was in junior high school, I kind of wanted to, since it was a rite of passage my peers were going through, but house rules said I wasn’t allowed until I was 16, and I was too rule-abiding back then to even think about hiding make-up from them. And by the time I turned 16, I was a junior in high school with an established identity and friend group and make-up wasn’t a priority any more, so that backfired on them I guess.

More to the point, though, the times I tried make-up (once while on vacation with a friend and her family, another time at a sleepover or whatever, once as an adult for being on tv, etc) it has been a weirdly disconcerting experience. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. It made me uncomfortable in a really distinct way. I kind of hated it, for no real reason.

Which, it’s weird to include this kind of stuff when talking about gender, because obviously “likes to wear make-up” isn’t just something women feel, or whatever. It’s certainly not part of some magic formula for determining gender (pro tip: the only magic formula for determining gender is to ask a person, even if that person is yourself <3). But for some reason it still feels like a relevant component of my personal gender experience and my sense of myself as a non-binary person.

So, I've lost track of where this post was headed, but I think that's because it was never really headed anywhere. I think I've always had a weird vague, undetermined sense of myself as a gendered human, because the idea of having a gender mostly doesn't make sense for me. Most of the time. And that's actually been pretty consistent throughout my life. So I guess that's a thing?


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

March 2016 Carnival of Aces Roundup

Here is the roundup of posts for this month’s Carnival of Aces, on the topic of gender norms and asexuality! I loved being the host this month, and I have enjoyed reading all of your submissions so much; there has been much squeeing with joy, so thank you all who contributed! Without further ado, here are this month’s submissions, in the order I received them:

Passive vs. Active Femininity: Does Asexuality Affect It? | the notes which do not fit
Sara examines the ways in which her femininity is often the result of passive conformity to female norms rather than an active gender expression, and considers whether her approach to femme-ness is related to her asexuality.

(a)Gender and (a)Sexuality: Chickens and Eggs | darkmetineknight
Maris considers the ways in which kyr dysphoria contributes to kyr sex-repulsion, and vice versa, and the way these things feed back into kyr agender and asexual identity, concluding that they are so deeply related they can’t possibly be pulled apart.

Female Stereotypes and Asexuality | aroacelennie
Lennie writes about how, despite their agender identity, other people often try to frame the aro and ace aspects of their identity through common female archetypes.

When Dudes Talk Gender & Asexuality | The Ace Theist
Coyote unpacks some of the oversimplifications and other problems with the ways some asexual guys talk about the tensions between their gender and their asexuality.

Gender and Asexuality | quizzicalsloth
Amber explores potential explanations for asexual people’s tendency to not feel a strong connection to binary genders, from a personal perspective, and considers how gender plays a role in their experiences of platonic and aesthetic attractions, and relationships.

Do gender roles serve any purpose for asexuals? | It’s An Ace Thing
Dee questions the purposes gender norms serve, and concludes that many gender norms simply don’t serve asexual people.

Genderqueer and demisexual: two sides of the same coin for me | Valprehension
I wrote about the ways in which my genderqueerness and my demisexuality are inextricably tangled up with each other, and fundamental to my overall identity and sense of self.

Sexism at work | A3
The author of A3 relates their experiences of sexism (and heterosexism) in the workplace, as an agender aro ace who is not out about those aspects of their identity, and who is perceived as a woman.

Gender, Or Why I’m Glad I’m Aro/Ace | Grey Is My Favourite Colour
Mara explains why they’re glad to be aro/ace, because of the potential complications of parsing gendered attractions (and sexual/romantic orientations) as a non-binary person.

The Healer Role | Prismatic Entanglements
Elizabeth considers her tendency to take on healer roles in video games, and considers how this role relates to her identity as a cisgender woman, and the ways in which this tendency is reflected (and not) in her asexual activism.

By nature of being asexual, I’m defying gender norms | From Fandom to Family
luvtheheaven unpacks some of the interactions between gender norms, (especially heteronormativity) and asexuality, and how those norms can make it difficult to come to an asexual identity, and even more difficult to get others to understand it.

Gender Norms and Asexuality | Aro Ace Gin
Gin considers the ways in which her asexuality has impacted her relationship to her gender as a cis woman.

Asexual E-Dating Diaries #1 | la pamplemouse
The author of la pamplemouse talks about her early attempts at online dating as an asexual cis woman.

Non-Binary Gender Norms and (A)Sexuality: Yeah, No | Queer As Cat
Vesper talks about why they just don’t see any connection between gender norms and sexuality for them, given that there are no gender norms that apply to their gender (maverique) in the first place, and much more!

On Gender and Asexuality | conasultingamadman
Bonnie explains how embracing her asexuality helped her understand her relationship to both femininity and androgyny, describes her journey toward a panromantic identity, and considers her feelings around others’ perceptions of her as a cis het white girl.

My Gender Aesthetics are All Kinds of Ace | The City of Cuova
S. Knaus unpacks the ways in which their asexuality has freed them up to explore their personal gender aesthetics without regard for whether they are attractive to others, and many other things.

Asexuality and Gender Presentation | [A] Life of Experiences
Jeremy writes about his experience in trying to subtly play with his gender presentation, how his asexual identity helped him find the confidence to do so, and both his struggles and enjoyment in pushing back against being seen as just another straight dude.

Obscure lines: agender and asexual comes together | golden weasel
golden weasel writes about the ways in which their agender-ness and asexuality are inter-related.

What Are You? A Question of Mixed Race, Gender, And Asexuality | Halfthoughts
The author of Halfthoughts explores the relationships and parallels among their Hapa/mixed race, asexual, and non-binary identities.

Gender in Space | Becoming a Person
elainexe explores her general lack of any strong gender identity, and her attempts to understand what gender is, linking some of her observations back to her asexuality.

No | Aros and Aces
Roses considers a wade range of influences – from Purity Culture to Megan Trainor – on their developing identity, and the ways in which coing to an aro ace agender identity has freed them from a lot of the baggage they were handed growing up.

Genderqueer and demisexual: two sides of the same coin for me

This is my submission to this month’s Carnival of Aces (which I am hosting!) I have been wanting to write this post for years now, so I’m glad I’ve given myself the kick in the pants I needed to actually do it!

For a long time now, it’s been intuitively clear to me that my experience of gender, and particularly my feelings about the gender binary, and my place in it (i.e. the fact that I don’t have one really), is deeply linked to my experience of sexual attraction, and the fact that I am demisexual. In particular, I guess it is linked to the fact that I am demisexual and queer – I suppose much of what I am going to say will not totally apply to exclusively homo- or hetero- oriented demisexuals.

So: the way I experience sexual attraction is not primarily based on any physical attributes of the people I am attracted to (although I have interesting thoughts about how, once I develop a sexual attraction to someone, it does psychologically attach itself to their physical beings – this goes on the unending list of things I will maybe write about one day). Attraction is, for me, based on emotional connectivity and intimacy (plus some amount of randomness/magic).

I’ve also written before about how it can be confusing, and even upsetting, to me to be on the receiving end of advances from other people based on their experience of primary sexual attraction for me. I don’t know what to do with it, it is extremely intimidating and just plain weird to me. I just don’t get it.

And I know that I started leaning into a more masculine-androgynous presentation, the freedom that I felt in that came in large part from the way it freed me from the traditional hetero-male gaze and the uncomfortable attentions that come with that. Because ultimately, masculine-androgynous isn’t truly (or at least for sure isn’t *always*) a good expression of my actual experience of my gender.

As I’ve more recently realized, I am genderfluid, and not just that, my fluidity and the gender I inhabit at any given time is highly context-dependent. Most of the time, and in many contexts, I am functionally asexual, because in many contexts, I am surrounded by people for whom I don’t and will never experience sexual attraction (i.e. contexts not conducive to the development of emotional intimacy, such as most working relationships, and all random day-to-day one-off interpersonal encounters). And most of the time, I am agender. I am not expressing gender, I am not experiencing myself as having a gender, binary or otherwise. I just am, and it’s fine.

In other contexts, I am more likely to feel actively genderqueer. There isn’t any really hard-and-fast rule for when I will feel one way or the other, but my gut nevertheless feels like this is connected to my experience of my sexuality. I wish I knew how to explain the difference between feeling agender and feeling genderqueer, but I don’t know if I can. I know that when I am genderqueer, I have a gender (though not one that fits into the binary), and when I am agender, I don’t. But I also know that the feeling of having a gender isn’t even universal to people who identify as having one, so that’s probably not helpful.

A lot of this may come down to my connection with my physical self, (a.k.a. my body). I have never been strongly connected to my actual body. I am one of those people who never knows where their limbs are, and I often forget to take care of my body because I am so caught up in my head. The less emotionally safe I feel, the less connected I tend to be to my body, in part because of past traumas, and the fact that dissociation is one of my major coping mechanisms/what happens when I get triggered around those traumas, but also I get the sense that my disconnection from my body pre-dates any such trauma, and is just this weirdly ingrained part of who I am.

…And this is where I always lose the plot. I have a very visceral sense that there is a direct connection between my confusions around sexual attraction growing up and my sense of alienation from/parallel confusion with gender norms – they feel like the same thing to me, to be honest. But getting to precisely *how* they are same is a loop I can’t quite close with words.

I just can’t play the sex game the way allosexual people do. And I can’t play the gender game the way cisgender people do, even the non-conforming ones, somehow. And that inability is an expression of the same part of my inner self, which I can feel and which makes total sense to me, but that I don’t know how to describe.

It’s in how I perceive the world. It’s in how different parts of the world perceive me. It’s in how I react to these perceptions. And it’s in every other interaction I have.

I am genderqueer. And I am demisexual. And both of those statements are just ways of saying “I am me”.

Gender, sex, and my body

I am beginning to realize that in some ways, I am genderfluid, moving among agender, genderqueer/genderfuck, and boyish identities. And part of what causes this sense of myself to shift around is the way I shift between contexts in my life, and in particular, how different contexts cause me to consider my body in different ways, depending on who is perceiving it.

It turns out that the ways in which I am comfortable talking about my body, and the ways in which I want it to be perceived, vary wildly based on context. Here, I’m just going to focus on three broad contexts to give a sense of what I mean.

My body in a medical context

As I’ve said before, in a medical context, I am generally comfortable identifying my body as “female”. My body has all of the physical characteristics communicated by the word female in that context; it is a short-hand that communicates a lot of information to doctors about what parts my body has, and so I use it as such, and I am mostly ok with it for myself.

I do wish that we had other terms for this – I don’t like that the male/female binary aligns linguistically with the masculine/feminine one. I hate any implication that my body is feminine, so much so that I don’t like selecting a box on forms which only specify ‘m’ or ‘f’, because it is less clear that I am only stipulating ‘femaleness’ in the medical sense.

The point for me here, really, is that my gender is not currently even remotely relevant to me in a medical context, so I just don’t sweat it too much.

My body in a public/social context

When I am in public, it is most comfortable for me to desexualize my body as much as possible. I feel this is strongly related to my demisexuality – because I just don’t ‘get’ primary/physical sexual attraction, it is confusing and troubling for me to deal with other people directing that sort of sexual attention toward me. I don’t know what it means, really, and particularly as a non-binary person, knowing that if someone who doesn’t know me is sexualizing me, they are probably sexualizing me *as a woman*, is deeply unsettling and inherently invalidating to me.

I don’t even want to be androgynous, as that suggests a mixture of binary genders – in a public context I strongly prefer to be read as agender, generally.

This is complicated, though. Because as I just said, I don’t equate my agender self with androgyny. I would honestly really love to be able to wear whatever the fuck I want without it making people think it means I have a fucking gender.

Really I want a body that can wear all kinds of clothes ambiguously. (I mean, really I want to live in a world where other people aren’t constantly making sexual judgments of each other, but y’know…) Mine, right now, doesn’t. I want to be able to feel more comfortable fucking around with my gender expression. In some ways, I want a body that is less clearly medically “female” probably (though really I just want people not to objectify my body). I don’t quite know yet how or if I’m going to go about that.

My body in a sexual context

[Content note: some explicit sexual language, but no references to specific sexual acts.]

A bunch of things here. In many ways I totally and unproblematically love my body in a sexual context. I love its capacity for for so many different kinds of pleasure, and when I am just just giving myself sexual pleasure, that is all there is to it. Gender doesn’t have anything to do with it.

But it’s not just me. I form sexual connections with other people sometimes, and that means contending with their understandings and perceptions of my body, and the way that is communicated in their interactions with me and my body.

And this is where the idea that my body can comfortably be described as ‘female’ goes out the window. What’s true medically, and I guess in some sort of rationally ‘real’ sense (whatever that means), is absolutely not the right way to approach my body sexually.

My sexual body is very explicitly and particularly a trans queer body and needs to be approached as such. Although there is a bunch of basic wisdom about cis women’s erogenous zones that can be transferred over onto my body, without being able to move past the basic physical facts of my body parts, it would be very easy for a sexual partner to seriously invalidate my own sense of myself as a sexual person, and the ways in which I relate to and perceive my body sexually. It’s… a hard thing for me to navigate effectively, but I’m doing ok.

In part, because I am actually a bit at a loss to describe my experience of gender in sex. More than anything, the way I identify as a sexual person is just “queer,” so I guess genderqueer is pretty ok, but really I want to go even further, I want to be queer *as fuck* y’all, which makes me feel really good about “genderfuck” which packs the kind of rhetorical punch I really want to express here. But then, sometimes I even slip into something that feels more solidly boyish. And also I think even just in writing this that a sense of myself as agender has maybe been sneaking in here for me, at other times. And then other times it’s really just extremely fluid and refuses to settle down into anything.

Fundamentally, the thing I think I need my sexual partners to understand is that despite all appearances, and even while I’m happy to own being a queer agender/genderfuck/boy (such as I am, when I am) with a vulva, my body is not just ‘female’, ever. And I crave engagement with all of me, engagement that understands that sometimes what looks like a vulva, isn’t. Sometimes it’s a cock. Sometimes it’s something else entirely.

I’m not going to explain here exactly what that means, or how that engagement manifests. I’m sure there’s literally a million different ways it can be done. My spouse-person and I are still finding new ways to mash up against each other, so.

And the other thing is, my genitals don’t necessarily matter all that much. When things are going really well for me, my pleasure isn’t located anywhere, it’s everything and everywhere; it’s my whole body, all the parts seen and unseen.

Sexually, my body is best understood outside of the male/female bullshit construct. My body is queer as fuck, and capable of so much more than the either the male or female sexual scripts allow for (which is not to say that this makes me special or whatever; lots of people of all genders benefit from ignoring these scripts and the “normal” ways on understanding, interpreting, and engaging with bodies of different types), and I want it treated as such.

My body and me

Fundamentally my relationship with my body is made problematic by the ways in which other people try to force their own perceptions/understandings/meanings onto it. My body is awesome, and other people so often want to limit its reach and its powers of signification. And my attempts to moderate this tension are what make my non-binary/genderfluid/genderqueer identity what it is, defined to a great extent by what I am not, and defined, ultimately, by the foundational importance of queerness to my politics, and to my aesthetics.

Genderqueer Perspectives, Vol. 2

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I am changing the title of this series, because I want to be able to include the perspectives of people who don’t necessarily identify as genderqueer. Lots of people struggle with and think deeply about gender, and I’m interested in highlighting the variety of experiences that people have with that in general, regardless of identity. Check out the rest of the series.

Today, I bring you:

A Boy and Her Dog writes about struggling to find a label that feels right, and that also communicates effectively to other people. (You might also just want to browse the archives of this one, for a lot more musings on gender).

I don’t want to be corralled into the polygon sliver within the overlapping circles of lesbian, butch, transgender, queer, neutrois, genderqueer, androgynous, agender, tomboy, and transmasculine. Nor do I want to define myself by the empty space left over after eliminating what I am not: cisgender, straight, polyamorous, bisexual, transsexual, trans man, or ftm. I would like to be able to explain myself in one sentence that anyone can understand and relate to.

When I tell someone I’m transgender, they may think that I just started to transition, or that I’m not very convincing. I don’t look “trans enough” to them.

When I tell someone I’m butch, they see a masculine woman who fits their stereotype of what a lesbian looks like. They see me as “butch enough.”

An amazing comic explaining agender identities – much of this is applicable to the broader non-binary umbrella. An excerpt summarizing the author’s personal gender journey:

Age 7 No idea what genders were
Age 10 Had a clue, Ghostbusters more important
Age 13 Tried the macho tihng, with a healthy dose of angst
Age 20 Tried to be more “girly,” Felt more uncomfortable than ever
Present Accepted that neither gender fit me

On the angst that come along with round-table pronoun announcements, a practice intended to make Trans* and gender-nonconforming folks more comfortable.

what seems to happen is that the [Preferred Gender Pronoun] Check will happen, and myself and the likely one or two other trans folks in the room will state what pronouns we prefer, and a few of the other people will state what pronouns they prefer. And then, without fail, about half of the cis people in the room say, “Oh, well, I prefer male/female pronouns, but really you can call me whatever you want.”

And so, time after time after time, what started as an attempt to make the space more trans friendly becomes another display of the cis privilege I will never have.

On being a woman with short hair.

I’ve experimented with growing the crop out twice, encouraged both times by men I was dating. It seemed like the thing to do to make myself more pleasing to potential boyfriends, potential bosses, and other people with potential power over my personal happiness. Both times, it looked awful. It took a lot of effort and a surprising amount of money to maintain, and it still looked awful, and I didn’t feel like myself.

And yet, the amount of male attention I got – from friendly flirting to unwanted hassle – increased enormously. Not because I looked better, but because I looked like I was trying to look more like a girl. Because I was performing femme. Every time I cut it off, I noticed immediately that the amount of street harassment I received, from cat-calls to whispered sexual slurs to gropes and grabs on public transport, dropped to a fraction of what it had been – apart from total strangers coming up to tell me how much prettier I’d be if I only grew it out.