Brit Mandelo (britmandelo) wrote,
This is hard to do, and makes me nervous. Please forgive any fuck-ups. But, I think it's been long enough since the book has come out that I can talk about something that has genuinely bothered me about some of the negative reviews for Beyond Binary. (You always want to avoid the "sour grapes" thing.) Namely: the insistence by a few folks that it's not being genderqueer or trans* or sexually fluid in the right way. This manifests in a couple of ways, often through the claim that it's not genderqueer unless the people involved are neutrois or fully "in the middle" of a binary male/female conception, or that folks who have various identifications in their sexual preference are "just bisexual" despite their queer or unnamed identification. Or, that trans* folks who embody a given gender can't also be genderqueer.

Y'all, that's fucked up.

I think inter-community gender and sexuality policing is heinous bullshit that hurts all of us, and helps none of us. Refusing to acknowledge someone's identity isn't something we should be doing, though we seem to do it a hell of a lot.

I love and respect gender-neutral folks and those who identify as solidly, always dual-gender. But I'm not one of those people. And when folks in the community say that those are the only ways to be genderqueer, they are hurting me and other folks who might identify more across a variable graph, or whose identification is fluid, or who occupy spaces not inside or employing a binary. They are trying to say that we don't exist--that we're just confused and need to pick something a little more concrete (and doesn't that sound familiar). It took me a much longer time to admit and embrace my gender than my sexuality; I've been out as queer for a long time, since I was a teenager.

But I haven't been as easily able to understand or embrace my gender identity. It's hard, especially in a society that offers only two poles--even within the queer community. Adding a third point on the scale isn't enough. I have variously identified as butch, as a dyke, as a woman, as genderqueer, and I've come to a point where I realize that I can be all of those things at once. And then some. Woman is a political space that I identify as someone who is visually read as a woman and who experiences sexism and misogyny as a female-bodied individual. I refuse to give up that word. I do not believe I should be made to give up "she" to use "he" or "they," because I am not just a woman, and I do not primarily identify as a woman. My gender is fluid. My gender is variable. My gender is not something I can easily and healthily contain or constrain, though I have tried, and it's not just been the heteronormative mainstream that has made me try.

The folks who insist that this is the wrong way to be genderqueer are participating in the same oppression that says what "woman" can be and what "man" can be. I'm not particularly cool with that. It's reactionary, and regressive, and frankly silly. It doesn't make sense. Why would we want to step away from heteronormativity only to re-inscribe our own strict roles? I understand the medico-historical precedent for role prescription, but I think it's time that we try to move past that.

It has taken me years more to understand that I am genderqueer, and that to be genderqueer is to be, in many ways, trans*, and I am still shy to discuss it. I am shaking as I write this. It makes me feel deeply vulnerable to open myself up this way. There's a reason I cried off and on throughout reading Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation. That book helped me finally begin to truly understand. I tried fitting myself into the mold of a cisgender woman, and it didn't work. It hurt me. I am also not a man. I'm not both, though that's an easy way to explain it when pressed. I'm all of the above. I can shift, and I can change, and I can embrace myself without trying to cut pieces of me off. It's just a goddamn challenge every day. I am still finding how to be me, in a way that feels right. This is where I am right now in my life, and I'm in my twenties, so. There's room to maneuver.

Honestly, fuck those people who think this is the wrong way to be genderqueer. I think they need to sit down and consider what they're saying and whose side they're on. Their rejection hurts as much as the rejection of those mainstream folks who won't accept my gender, and it's the same thing deep down. Not cool. Not cool at all.
Tags: gender & sexuality, queer, real life
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