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Manhole

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.

Comments

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.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

So much yes to this whole post.

Thank you.
Thank you - I'm glad it said what I hoped it would.
This is a fantastic post. I would highlight the same bit as Rose does, also, for expressing a lot of my own recent thoughts about my gender, and for being an awesome part of an awesome whole.

Thank you for writing this.
Thank you.
Well, you know my stance.
Yup. Thanks for your support.
Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for this.
Thanks - I'm glad it's working for you.
Thank you for this.
Thanks for the support.
Not cool. Not cool at all.

Amen.
Ditto.
You are so cool. Also, brave.

I'm bookmarking this because you've put so much so well here and I want to be able to point people at this in future.
Thank you. I'm glad it makes sense, hah.
I'm bookmarking it too, for those reasons and also because it's personally relevant.
Thank you.
Thank you for writing this.
Thank you for the support.
Thank you for writing this.

I believe it is the strength of knowing oneself that is feared. There is great power in being fluid, being in between, being tirelessly undefined. It is to step outside of the world, be liminal, accept that we are more than one or the other. Because, frankly, we are - the soul (and here I go all metaphysical) has no gendered lodestone to hold it in place, cycle after cycle. IMHO.

Your words are bravely said.
There is great power in being fluid, being in between, being tirelessly undefined.

Yes. And a great tension between the comfort of definitions, and the radical wildness of the undefined.
Yes. Yes. This. Everything this. Thank you for writing it.
Thank you.
Thank you for this.
Thanks for the support.
Adding to the chorus of "thank you" and "well said."
Thanks.
Another post of support, both for this and for your work on gender and genderqueer issues in sci-fi and speculative fiction. I have a better sense of what it means to be genderqueer because of the perspective you present in the various articles and reviews you've written. Keep up the good work, keep hold of your self-determined sense of self.
Me too, so I too add thanks.
Thanks.
Thank you.
I've just started reading Beyond Binary and am appreciating it because of the people that feature in the stories. On a personal level, I find it easiest to relate to characters whose personhood is defined not by stereotyped shorthands of gender, but by the details of their emotional life, their interpersonal relationships, their cultural and religious affiliations, their embodied sense of themselves, or any of the other multiple and complex things that make a person a person.

Of the non-binary people I know, most are non-binary because gender is, quite simply, not a factor in who they are. Or it's a factor only in the sense that society makes it a factor and they have to find ways to respond to living a culture that constantly assumes that they must be gendered in certain rigidly defined ways.

One of the things I love most about fiction, and speculative fiction in particular, is that we can use it to imaginatively explore what it might be like to be people in a culture without such rigid definitions.

I also find that, personally, I end up feeling pretty alienated from most genderqueer and trans* activists I come across, because in many ways they seem to have definitions of gender that, while they might differ from mainstream definitions, can end up being enforced equally rigidly.

As I said, I'm only a couple of stories into Beyond Binary and may have some further thoughts down the line, after I've finished reading it.

Edited at 2013-01-03 08:52 am (UTC)
Thank you.

One of the things I love most about fiction, and speculative fiction in particular, is that we can use it to imaginatively explore what it might be like to be people in a culture without such rigid definitions.

Yes, this.
Thank you for this. Reading it brings me back to the ... difficult place I sometimes hit with my own gender and sexuality -- but reading your experience has me wanting to stay there and claim that space. Thank you.

(Just now found this post by way of Rose linking to it from her sticky.)
Thank you.
[Coming back to this from THE FUTURE, for the first time, but: thank you.]
Thanks.
Adding another voice to the chorus of thanks for writing this - I just saw a link to it this morning.
Thank you.
Manhole

April 2014

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