gender presentation

30-DayWeek Genderqueer Challenge, part 1

I’ve seen the 30-Day Genderqueer Challenge popping up in a couple of places lately, so I figured I’d give it a go! I’m not going to do it in 30 days though, because I feel like that would be super spammy relative to my normal posting schedule (and cuz I want to try to put some extra thought in to some of the posts). So I’m just going to add a regular Friday post to my normal posting habits until I’m done – 30 weeks will take me to around the end of the year I think!

Today’s question is: Do you use any other words to define or explain your gender

Oh my goodness, so many though! I often find that I prefer to use non-binary rather than genderqueer lately. It feels less radically political, and sometimes it’s all I have the energy for.

As those who’ve been reading regularly know, though, I also identify as genderfluid, and that fluidity contains agender and transmasc/boyish identities in addition to genderqueerness.

I’ve also been trying to figure out what my personal aesthetic is around gender presentation lately, and I’ve started describing the note I try to hit as “transmasculine dirty tomboy femme or something” (the or something is an integral part of it obviously), though for work purposes I mostly go for dapper tomboy, which is relatively boring, but also helpful in warding off dysphoria.

Though sometimes I also get tired by the weight of trying to describe and justify myself and I wish that I could just be seen as me and be done with it. The social aspects of gender kinda suck, y’know.


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

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 10

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.]

Dysphoria and body positivity | sexdrugspolitics. on the struggle to be positive about a body that is also a source of gender dysphoria:

It is a complicated balancing act within myself while trying to foster a positive attitude about my body. Dysphoria for me is a cognitive dissonance between what I see when I look in a mirror and what I know I look like inside my head, it leaves me with a feeling of duality, wanting to feel accepting of my body but also having a niggling discomfort debilitating schism of self when I am confronted with those parts that don’t actually look how they should in my mind.

I often wonder how much of my dysphoria is a result of the limited the representation of transgender, gender fluid and non binary people in the world. So much of non binary representation in the mass media revolves around conventionally euro-centrically beautiful, skinny, androgynous people like Ruby Rose.

Stop playing dress-up with my oppression | captainglittertoes. Frustrations with the celebration of drag and the vilification of day-by-day queer presentation:

When I get dressed, it’s not a moment to broaden my horizons.

No, when I get dressed, it’s a fucking panic attack.

My clothes are not a performance. My gender is not a farce. This isn’t a show that will be over at the end of the night.

This is me.

I am real.

Why is it that you get more support for looking like me for one night than I do in my entire lifetime?

If you really want to take up the mantle with us, try working to end our suicide or unemployment or assault rates.

Not wearing our clothes.

Kid Girl Woman Human | Letters for Leslie. From a wonderful blog of letters addressed to the late Leslie Feinberg, an exploration of the discomforts of referring to a past, pre-transition self.

I want to be able to say, “when I was a little girl.” I want to be able to say, “when I was a little girl” without people assuming that I identify as a girl now. Because I want to be able to talk about my childhood and take ownership of my childhood in the names and identities I grew up in without betraying who I am now.

An introduction of sorts | Accidentally Gay. The inaugural post by Jello, the transgender husband of the man who has been writing Accidentally Gay for two years. I was so excited to hear Jello’s voice, so I had to share!

I often refer to my version of being transgender as the quiet knowledge that I was actually a man. A soft voice that started talking to me about my masculinity when I was too young to understand why I had to use the girls bathroom instead of the boys.

…at the age of 40, I decided I should revisit the gender clusterfuck, that was my life.

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.

Brief Thought: Chestfeels

It recently occurred to me that over the past 3 years or so, I have from from:

A person who didn’t feel comfortable when not wearing a bra; to

A person who, upon putting on a bra on a random whim, immediately took it off and couldn’t believe they used to wear to that uncomfortable (and to be honest, probably poorly fitted) shit every day, and usually just wore a tank top under everything; to

A person who doesn’t really feel comfortable going anywhere public without some kind of chest compression going on.

Which, I don’t have anything intelligent to say about that. Just, that’s been happening apparently.

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 8

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I hope to curate writing by people with a wide variety of gender identities and experiences, talking about their gender, what it means to them personally, and what it means for the ways in which they move through and interact with the world. Basically, this is where I point out that I’m not the only person in the world who has complex thoughts about gender, and that there as many ways to be Trans* and/or genderqueer as there are to be cisgender (and yes, there are many different ways to be cisgender). Check out the rest of the series.]

  • Sage Pantony discusses their experiences of changing privilege when going from a femme presentation to a masculine one, within their identity as a simultaneously gender-fluid/genderqueer and cisgender person.

    The catcalling I used to receive from men in the streets has almost completely stopped. I didn’t expect this. In fact, I thought I would experience more sexualizing taunts and threats once I went against the norm. I’m experiencing a form of masculine privilege in that I actually feel safer when I move in public spaces now. This is interesting, as I’m pretty sure people still read me as female. Store clerks still call me “Miss” or refer to me as one of the “girls” when I’m with a group of feminine folks.

    Masculinity affords certain privileges in a patriarchal culture. I believe that I’m benefiting from some of these privileges now.

  • The author of “An Exacting Life”, a cisgender parent with a trans* child, contemplates her personal relationship with and experiences of gender.

    I am a woman who was raised as a girl. What could be more natural?

    Until I think about what a strange construct that is. I was born with certain visible body parts, and that determined how I was raised and what my future role in life would be. My culture not only supports this, but pretty much requires it. My parents carried this out unquestioningly…

  • Belinda Cooper talks about being “she-zi-thee-he” genderqueer, zir intimate relationships, and dealing with the broader world.

    At time you can feel like an alien not fitting into the terms and conditions of society and the humans don’t understand your language and properly never will. So you squeeze your alien self into their terms and you get used to it as it is easier, easier for your mother, father, brothers and as well as the stranger talking to you on the bus.

    When they present you with a forms requesting your gender, they seem to ask a question that actually want to know. Sometimes you get lucky and there are more than two possible answers and you smile and say well done people. Other times you just feel bitter anger and frustration.

    This is how ‘I’ experience life and gender.

  • Sam Dylan Finch writes incredibly beautifully about dealing with his own internalized anti-trans thoughts feelings

    What they don’t tell you about being transgender is that sometimes, the transphobe is you.

    Those days, the only words I knew how to say were, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

    They never tell you that being transgender can sometimes feel like a run-on string of apologies – I’m sorry for being here, I’m sorry for being this way, I’m sorry for disappointing you, I’m sorry for your expectations, and I’m sorry for mine.

  • Olly from “Apparently I Don’t Exist” responds to the search term “gender fluid is utter nonsense”, which brought someone to their blog.

    I don’t think they found what they were looking for.

    Although privately I do agree with them; it is complete nonsense. I’m a logical creature who likes their patterns and progressions so not being able to predict where my gender identity is going to be on any given day of the week is what some people might call a nightmare. But it’s my reality.

    Gender is a social construct and yet in my head I know the difference between femme days and masc days and agender days and any other kind of days. Logic tells me that the clothes I wear on my body are *my* clothes, but there are days where the thought if wearing skimpy panties rather than my pirate boxer shorts makes me want to cry.

    So yeah, it is utter and complete total nonsense. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 7

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I hope to curate writing by people with a wide variety of gender identities and experiences, talking about their gender, what it means to them personally, and what it means for the ways in which they move through and interact with the world. Basically, this is where I point out that I’m not the only person in the world who has complex thoughts about gender, and that there as many ways to be Trans* and/or genderqueer as there are to be cisgender (and yes, there are many different ways to be cisgender). Check out the rest of the series.]

  • The author of It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way talks about how he doesn’t really know what it means to be a man, or what it means to say that he is one

    Until I was 26, I had picked up on very few clues that my gender was anything other than that of a cis woman

    So, even though it turns out that I am a man, is it fair to say that I know what it’s like to be a woman? What does such a statement even mean? What, then, of the fact that I feel like I’m only just beginning to learn about what it’s like to be a man? What does that even mean?

    Welcome to my brain.

  • Mia at Gender Drift contemplates whether her experience of gender would be different had she been assigned a different gender at birth

    So let’s imagine now that this other universe exists and there’s a me that was born female. We’ll call her Alter-Mia because that’s wonderfully comic-booky. Would she be blissfully unaware of all gender dysphoria? I don’t know.

    Y’see, although I identify as a transgender woman, truthfully it’s a bit more complicated than that. I see myself as genderqueer, on the female side of my plucky and faithful ruler of gender, but nudged towards the middle somewhat. So would Alter-Mia be genderqueer too? Would she perceive her personality and interests and come to the conclusion that she has some sort of masculine edge to them? Or would such interests be dismissed as playfully tomboy-ish and never cause any deeper thought? Would she feel gender dysphoria?

  • PlainT from Queering the Nerd discusses their experiences of gender fluidity

    There are things I am consistent about; e.g. my love for nature… No matter the rest, I will always seek out nature, and it’s always the theme I go back to.

    And then there are things that waver. My external representation of self is still adrift and has not anchored, briefly docking in one place or another but never calling it home. My external representation might never stay put.

    I love masculinity in all its forms, and I love femininity in all its forms. The duality of human experience (and the spectrum between the extremes, as well as outside of them) enriches society. Sometimes, though, the question isn’t “what do I WANT to embody?”; it’s “what CAN I embody?” or, “what DO I embody?”

  • Clementine Morrigan talks about their love/hate relationship with gender, and their own queer gender identity

    My pronouns are she/her or they/them and on rare occasions when I’m in femme boy mode, it’s he/him. Coming out as genderqueer feels like a sigh of relief because it means I no longer have to section off aspects of who I am. I can be all of it.

Pronouns, Gender Presentation, and Me: Updates

A whole bunch of things I’ve been noticing lately:

I am not as invested in the pronouns that are used for me a regular basis anymore. Before I go an further here: if you know me and you know I use they/them, you should continue using those for me. This statement is not intended as permission for people to stop doing that.

What I mean is that I think *because* the people who know me well and I am close to have, pretty much across the board, been totally willing to switch, and even when they’re not perfect with it, don’t ever make that *my* problem, but generally just apologize and/or correct themselves and move on, I have made a heck of a lot of progress in feeling more comfortable and secure in myself, to the extent that the pronouns that get used for me at work (almost universally she/her, though I get the occasional “young man” from a patron) sort of just slide off my back. I may come out at work eventually. I probably will. But it doesn’t feel like a major priority any more, which I actually take as a positive development.

Also, in whatever job I have next, I will be using my real name (I am using it to apply for jobs now), which will be great!

I’ve also become super bored with the vaguely masculine presentation I’ve been using at work. I’d really like to find ways to lean more into femme things at least sometimes, but I am actually struggling with feeling comfortable with that. I’m pretty sure that what I really want is to have a body/face that gets read more masculinely, and that I would feel better about wearing whatever if that were the case. I kind of think I want to pass as an AMAB genderqueer person, if that makes any sense :P

Really, in order to get what I think I want, I would need to move into medical interventions (testosterone for sure, probably chest surgery too?) but I don’t know for sure if I want to do that. And also it is vaguely TERRIFYING to contemplate. Also also, I am quite certain that “I want to be more masculine so that I can wear more dresses” isn’t going to get me very far, and the process will just be uncomfortable and involve lying and I don’t wanna.

For now, I am doing some really minor strength training, and maybe I will just jump that up and see where I can get that way? I don’t know. I am also pretty sure that none of this is stable, which is the extra frustrating part.

Bah.