GQ Challenge: Day 20

The Genderqueer Challenge can be found here.

20. Have you faced any problems problems or gone through any changes regarding religion?

I’m afraid this isn’t going to be the most interesting day of this challenge because the answer is no. I was raised Catholic, but if you’ve ever met anyone Catholic you probably know that they rarely follow the Magisterium to the letter anyway, so when I was my young LGBT-ally self, I figured it didn’t really matter that the church was so anti-LGBT because it was anti- a lot of things; I thought of myself as more of what my RE textbook classed as a ‘liberal Christian’, but that was it. Even if I didn’t have those views, or if I wanted to take a harder line when I realised I wasn’t just an ally, by that point I was well into being agnostic, so my religion and who I am have never come into conflict.

GQ Challenge: Day 19

The Genderqueer Challenge can be found here.

[CN: brief mention of conversion therapy]

19. What terms in the cisgender, GSM or trans community are problematic?

(Again, I’m switching out ‘GSM’ for ‘queer’.) Honestly? I think we all have a lot of words that are problematic in one way or another — just like people can’t be perfect, I don’t think words can be either. However, my main pet peeve with terms in the queer community is one that has been exacerbated by the Tumblr community’s use of ‘SGA’. The pet peeve itself is the entire concept of gender-based attraction.

I’m just gonna put a quick disclaimer here that I’m honestly not saying this to upset anyone; I know that, for a lot of people, their ability to use the gender-based attraction model to say that they have an interest in people of a different gender or genders than the one society tells them they should be interested in has been hard fought, and I don’t want to make out that that interest isn’t real or important — it is. It is just also part of a larger social construction of attraction that I would much rather replace with something less cissexist.

Okay, so, for folks who don’t know, ‘SGA’ stands for same-gender attraction (or, on occasion, ‘similar’ gender attraction). The origins of the term are disputed, but it seems like it comes from Mormon conversion therapy. Obviously, that already stands the word in a not-so-great place for folks who want to use it. The larger problem I have with it, however, is that it helps to entrench cissexist ideology more than gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, or queer ever could.

I’ve spoken about this in the past, so I won’t go into too much detail, but basically, as someone who is nonbinary, and especially someone who is quoigender, I’m unlikely to find anyone who is the same gender as me. Nonbinary people are incredibly diverse, so I don’t think ‘nonbinary people who don’t use more specific terms’ would necessarily ‘count’ as the same gender as me. I’m not sure even other quoigender people would qualify, since for me it’s a way of signalling ‘I have no fucking clue and I’ve given up trying to work it out’ — that’s not really a gender in the specific sense of the word.

When I have talked to, or seen others talk to, people who use SGA, they usually have one of two responses: ‘SGA means similar genders!’ or ‘so the term doesn’t apply to you — doesn’t mean it can’t work for the rest of us’. The latter response (besides being ridiculously insensitive to other people’s concerns and brushing them off) doesn’t take into account the impact of anyone using that term which is the entrenching of cissexism in the queer community, and I think the former response gives a good example of how that works.

The idea that there are ‘similar’ genders is sort of ridiculous to me; all genders are different — even ones that have similar components, such as people who identify with different terms (genderfluid, demigirl, bigender, nan0girl, etc) but are partially girls. Those people are all still, partially or wholly, a different gender to the others at some point or all the time. But if that was where these people were coming from, it would at least make some sense.

However, SGA gained popularity as a term for gatekeeping; the idea was that only people who were SGA and/or trans were oppressed in the way that counted you as LGBT. Carrying that logic forward to ‘similar genders’, what SGA proponents really mean is people who are attracted to people that will be read as the same binary gender as them. Which is pretty obvious cissexism.

But even without the logic that I presumed in that last paragraph, which I’m sure someone would disagree with me on as what the SGA-ers are really saying, SGA still entrenches cissexism because it pretty much writes in stone the model of gender-based attraction (whereas other words like gay, lesbian, and bi at least have a tiny bit of wriggle room for different interpretations).

The problem with gender-based attraction (which I’m sure a lot of folks reading this will already know since I’ve gone on about it quite a bit but hey ho here it is again) is that you can’t actually base your attraction on the gender of the person unless you are (or have similar experiences to those described as) demisexual/demiromatic. Unless you don’t get attracted to a person until you know them well enough to know their gender, your attraction is not aimed at a specific gender but at your assumption of what that gender looks like.

For example, if that’s not clear enough, someone who’s attracted to me that doesn’t know me would probably say that they’re attracted to me because I’m a girl, and they’re attracted to girls. However, just because I am read as a girl doesn’t mean I am one. Surprise, hypothetical person! You’re attracted to a nonbinary person!

So, people aren’t attracted to genders. I don’t think you can say that people are attracted to gender presentations, either — monosexual folks who are attracted to masculine-leaning people aren’t attracted to all masculine-leaning people (they might be attracted to people they perceive as butch women or people they perceive as masculine men (or theoretically masculine nonbinary folks, although people are very rarely assumed to be nonbinary)), but if they’re monosexual they’re unlikely to be attracted by both). Plus, that’s discarding the fact that what is or isn’t ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ or ‘androgynous’ or otherwise as a gender presentation varies not just cross-culturally but also inside cultures (for example, black women and fat women both having to over-perform femininity to seem feminine at all). The only thing that’s left is sexual characteristics, which again varies according to ethnicity (I think? Correct me if I’m wrong) and of course HRT and some conditions can also cause different mixes of sex characteristics, so that doesn’t explain anything either.

In the end, the only thing to say about the gender-based model is that it doesn’t make sense. It’s based on cissexist assumptions; take those assumptions away and it fails. The only reason that it’s such a widely-held belief that that’s how attraction works is because it’s a social construction. That social construction could (and should) be dismantled.

GQ Challenge: Day 18

The Genderqueer Challenge can be found here.

18. How does your gender factor into your future plans?

This kinda depends on what my future plans are going to be, which I haven’t exactly got sorted right now.

Personally and socially, the only thing that’s relevant to gender in my future really is social transition — as I think I’ve mentioned before, I want to try to be more out with friends and acquaintances. I guess it also sort of relates to my future in that, if I ever wanted to get married in the future (which I don’t know if I will), then I would probably not want to do it until my gender is legally recognised. That’s partially because getting married is very gendered and so getting married using my current ‘legal’ gender would feel like tacit agreement with that gender, but mainly it’s just because getting married before my gender is recognised could cause problems once it is (there’s the spousal veto, although if I had a partner that wanted to veto my gender recognition I don’t think I’d want them anyway; plus there’s the fact that marriage laws would have to be updated, and if they weren’t I may end up having to get an annulment, which is what happened for transitioning trans people before the marriage equality bill).

From an activist-type point of view (because I’m sure I will eventually get past this giant burnout and go back to that sort of thing), I really want to get into nonbinary activism, especially here in the UK, if I can, so that’s definitely a plan for the future.

And finally career-wise, I currently have two options in mind once I finish my Bsc, and both of them could be at least a bit related to my gender. The first option is to become a clinical psychologist (this is the option I’m currently leaning towards, although it would probably involve finding a year’s worth of mental health work and then doing another two or three years of study, as well as actually getting my own mental health in good enough order to be stable when doing it). In that case, I’d like to either run a support group for queer kids (especially nonbinary kids) or at the very least make it super clear that I’m queer-friendly, because I know how much of a concern that can be when looking for a mental health practitioner. The second option is going into academia (which is probably waaaaay too expensive for me to actually be able to do). I’m still a little bit unsure of what I’d want to do specifically, but I’m leaning very much towards social psychology, and in particular gender and/or sexuality studies. I’ve wanted to do research on asexuality for a while now because it would be nice for the ace community to have an actual ace studying them so it’s a little bit less creepy, but I’m also now leaning towards really annoying gender essentialists and evolutionary social psychologists.

GQ Challenge: Day 17

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

17. How do you, or would you, deal with being misgendered?

Okay so this question seems to have two sides: how you deal with the misgendering from a practical point of view and how you deal with it emotionally.

For the first part, I’m really bad in that I do absolutely nothing. I may wince a little bit, but I don’t actively ask people not to call me a woman or use the incorrect pronouns, mainly because I’m a bit of a wimp and don’t like confrontation. Whilst I know that I have every right to tell people that they have to refer to me correctly since they do it for literally everyone else, I always feel that the other person isn’t exactly going to see it that way — most people think that changing their perception of a person as a certain gender is extra work, and so being strict with it probably seems quite mean to them. I’m not a strict person, and I’m not very good at being mean (even if it only seems mean). It also probably doesn’t help that most people know I’m nonbinary because they follow me on Tumblr and so I’ve actually never spoken to them about it in person; I’ve had pretty much no practice with sitting down face-to-face and talking about my gender and pronouns and things, so nobody I know actually has any idea what I find acceptable from them, so explaining it later on feels like an imposition, not to mention the fact that I simply haven’t had any practice in speaking about it so just don’t know how to go about it. Hopefully one day I’ll get better at it, but I think it’s part of a larger problem I have of being afraid of confrontation that I’ll probably have to work on first.

Onto how I emotionally deal with being misgendered pretty much on a daily basis… mainly, I’m just very good at ignoring upsetting things and not thinking about them. I avoid thinking about how Person A has forgotten to use my pronouns, and that means that they still see me as a girl and are really just humouring me with the pronouns. I avoid thinking about how Person B has used gendered terms for me again, and it makes me feel like I need to punch something but I know that it’d be even worse if I explained to them that I don’t like those terms and why. It works quite well for me, really. I’m sure that the proper response is to work through it, rather than ignore it, but honestly the only thing that would help is if people were to stop doing it — which brings me back to being more assertive, picking people up on it when they misspeak, and coming out to more people. One day, I’ll hopefully be a valued member of the Pronoun Police, but for now I’ve got a bunch of stuff to work up to.

GQ Challenge: Day 16

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

16. Name some media you connect with queerly.

I’ve been sitting thinking about this one for a while; it’s actually quite difficult to answer — mainly because what counts as ‘connecting queerly’. In some ways, I connect with all media queerly, because I see it from my perspective that’s involved with my queerness — when I watch TV, I might wonder why all I see is cis straight people, or if I’m lucky, I’ll get to be happy that the token gay person has a cute partner. Similarly, if I’m watching the news and gender is mentioned at all, I’ll have a different viewpoint because of my different understanding of gender. Things as simple as following the labour leadership election are coloured by my experiences as a nonbinary person, because I have experience being a minority and doing activism for minorities, and so I see the policies and claims through that light. For example, there was a hustings with Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith which I caught the last bit of, and they were speaking about misogyny in the party and in society more generally. A few years back, before I understood myself or social issues like I do now, I’d probably think they were saying basically the same thing. Now, I realise that Corbyn actually understands the importance of the grassroots — that you can’t work towards having equality in the genders of CEOs without looking at equality in what career paths people go into and how they are treated there. Smith didn’t seem to understand that, however.

But anyway, this isn’t a post about my Corbyn favouritism. The point is that I think most media, and life in general, is at least partly coloured by my being queer.

I think what I most connect with queerly, though, is stuff in which I’m involved with the fandom — mainly because I tend to be quite blind to any relationships that aren’t purposefully romantically coded by the writers and directors and am pretty bad with gender-related headcanons other than saying ‘they definitely are nonbinary!’. In fandom, luckily people tend to do the hard work for me, so I get to relate to loads of queer stories and ideas and meta without actually having to notice it much myself. However, I find that the longer I’m in a fandom, the better I get at noticing the patterns that other people are seeing in the original media, until eventually I’m doing the meta and shipping in my head (although I still leave other people to write it down most times). Fandoms, and fan fiction especially, are one of the best things ever because not only do you have millions of free stories at your fingertips, not only do you have millions of free queer stories at your fingertips, but there’s also tags and warnings that allow you to easily avoid things that will upset you and easily find things that, in usual published fiction, would be way too specific to search for (eg tropes like fake marriage or sharing a bed). In fact, fanfic is so great that, even though I don’t think I’ve ever read a fanfic of my favourite genre (supernatural/urban fantasy), I still find books quite disappointing in comparison.

GQ Challenge: Day 15

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

15. How do you deal with gendered things? Clothes shopping, bathrooms, forms etc.

I mainly deal with that sort of thing with a lot of internal swearing and dysphoria, or avoidance if possible. For example, if a site wants my gender and I’m not totally sold on signing up for it, I just don’t. A lot of the time, though, I don’t have the option of avoiding it.

I have to fill in a lot of forms nowadays; I’ve done a few job applications, re-enrolling at uni, and a pretty large number of online studies for course credit and in-person lab stuff where you have to give your gender. I absolutely hate it. I always tick the ‘F’ box uneasily and just try and forget about it. I’m not very good at it. One of my worst memories from this year has to be giving my data in to a lecturer for them to put it into a stats program and them writing in ‘F’ next to my data. I think it’s actually made worse by the fact that my department is ridiculously inconsistent when it comes to gender — some surveys have an ‘other’ option and some don’t, and I’ve sat in a lecture by a social psychologist who explained to us that there are people of different genders and people who are intersex as well, then just a few months later seen that their social psychology colleague is helping to run the equality monitoring thing and has set up two forums that you’re forcibly signed up to based on what sex you enrolled as (I take a weird kind of pleasure from seeing that literally no one has used it).

People seem to have the strangest blind-spot when it comes to the gender binary; they can somehow simultaneously recognise that there are people who don’t fit that binary whilst actively enforcing it without wondering how that will work out, such as places where they know that there are nonbinary and intersex people but still have single-sex dorms r facilities. I can’t decide if people just forget that we exist or figure they should leave us to sort out the mess they’ve made for us.

I say that, but actually sometimes I find that the people who try are actually the ones that I really can’t do with. For example, there are a lot of feminist groups that I see which don’t allow men in their meetings. However, I know of two examples which are aware of nonbinary people, and they both have different ways of trying to include us (and one is better than the other). Now, obviously this is just my personal opinion, and I’m sure that lots of nonbinary and genderqueer people feel completely different so I’m sure that the group whose inclusivity policy I don’t like isn’t as horrible as I make them out to be, but all the same this is my pet hate with activism at the moment. So: one group changed their name to include ‘women and nonbinary’ instead of ‘women’, so nonbinary folks can turn up to their meetings and help them fight misogyny; the other group allows people at their meetings who self-identify as women (including for political/activism purposes).

Personally, while it’s a shame that I can’t go to the second group’s meetings, I much prefer their way of doing things. They are identifying that not all the people there are cis women (because they’re specifically inclusive of binary trans women, hence the ‘self-identify’ line — they don’t kick people out for not passing or anything gross like that) or are fully women. They allow nonbinary people with connections to womanhood/female experience/misogyny into their space and therefore acknowledge that nonbinary people exist (woo), but they also keep their space as it was originally intended: for people who experience misogyny.

Group one, in my mind, is almost to the point of misgendering nonbinary people. Men are not allowed in their spaces, but all nonbinary people are. You’ve got to wonder why that is. Do they think that all nonbinary people suffer because of misogyny? Do they think that nonbinary people can’t be misogynistic? I find it a very odd stance to take, because the group isn’t there to fight misogyny and the gender binary; they’re just there to help women. So I find it really odd that men aren’t allowed in their spaces, but nonbinary people who may not have any link to womanhood (like myself) are. It feels like a very dodgy handling of things and makes me feel like they’re saying that all nonbinary people are basically women. Which is why I dislike them so much (although I’ve also heard comments of certain people involved that make it seem like they don’t know anything about nonbinary people, which doesn’t help).

But back to the examples actually given in the question: clothes shopping and toilets. With clothes shopping, recently I’ve actually really fallen in love with men’s fashion, specifically the flowery shirts that seem to be in the shops (or at least were last time I checked). Unfortunately, since I realised that I really wanted one of those shirts, I haven’t found any online that I like and I also haven’t had the opportunity to go clothes shopping without family members but with the money to buy anything, so as of yet I haven’t ventured out of the ladies’ section. With toilets, I go for the ladies if there isn’t a gender-neutral option other than the disabled toilet, and I don’t really mind that unless someone points it out to me or I’m in a particularly bad mood; I don’t see it so much as calling myself a woman but rather avoiding using the same bathroom as men, which I would feel very uncomfortable doing in such a setting.



GQ Challenge: Day 14

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

14. Are you part of the Gender and Sexuality Minority community?

I’m going to say no on this one, just because people really don’t seem to use that term anymore. When it was used more often, I did use GSRM to describe the community I was part of. Nowadays, I would say that I’m part of the asexual community, part of the nonbinary community, part of the queer community and (kinda warily and whilst being unsure whether there’s any point anymore) part of the LGBTQ community. The ‘discourse’ on Tumblr has, unsurprisingly, worn me out to the point where I don’t much care about being a part of the LGBTQ community or not, but I still use the term because that’s the one that most places in the UK seem to use.

Of course, talking about these communities as if they’re really just one entity is a bit simplistic, as shown by the fact that a large proportion of LGBT societies and associations in UK unis support aces whilst a certain proportion of the online Tumblr community really doesn’t like us. Really, what I’m actually in is the WordPress and Tumblr ace communities, as well as to some extent the real-life UK ace community; the UK Twitter nonbinary community; the Tumblr queer community and kinda vague, collective idea of a queer community; and my local LGBT community in the form of friends and the uni LGBT+ association.

GQ Challenge: Day 13

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

13. How has your family taken it or might take it?

I feel a lot more sure nowadays that my family, while probably not understanding, would be supportive of me as much as they can. Unfortunately that’s all I have to say about it, making this probably the shortest post I’ve ever made on this blog.

GQ Challenge: Day 12

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

12. Discuss your relationship with the term ‘transgender’.

I have a really weird grasp on my relationship with ‘trans’, so I think I’ll start by explaining something a little off-topic, which is my relationship to religion.

I was brought up Catholic, and spent about 12 years in Catholic schooling. If you know anyone who’s been to Catholic school, you will probably have heard the concept that sending your child to a Catholic school is the best way to guarantee that they aren’t Catholic when they grow up. Following that trend, I am agnostic. However, my levels of agnosticism vary depending on context.

If I’m around atheists, my connection to Catholicism/religion/believing in God skyrockets as some kind of weird defense mechanism (or possibly a form of masochism). I guess that being around people who really don’t believe in God makes me realise that actually I’m a lot less like them than I thought I was.

In contrast, if you stick me with a bunch of religious people, especially Christians, I immediately feel like a heathen who doesn’t believe in God. I guess that being around people who really believe in God makes me realise that actually I’m a lot less like them than I thought I was.

So, my relationship to religion is just a bunch of cognitive dissonance wrapped up in a pretty bow. Which is very similar to my relationship to ‘transgender’.

When I identify as trans and when I don’t is a lot more complicated than when I feel religious or not. I think, as a general rule, I feel less comfortable using it when I’m around/in conversation with/reading the experiences of binary trans people, but I’m not sure what the rhyme or reason to when I feel happy identifying as trans is. I’m not even sure why I don’t ID as trans around binary trans people — presumably it’s because I feel ‘not trans enough’, but that’s just an educated guess. I really just tend to go with whatever I feel comfortable with at the time and hope for the best.

GQ Challenge: Day 11

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

11. Your first experience with a GSM organisation or event.

Okay so again I’m switching out GSM for LGBT and/or queer. My first experience outside of the internet was with Leeds Pride, which was nearly exactly a year ago! It was a really fun experience — I wore an ace flag like a cape which a few people complimented me on (plus getting the flag was awesome because I’d wanted one for ages!), I kissed a friend for a scavenger hunt (GISHWHES, to be specific) item, saw other people doing scavenger hunt items such as hugging for 20 minutes, and felt a real sense of happiness and community that I don’t think I’ve topped since then. I’m writing this on 5th August (maybe it’s cheating to pre-schedule all the days, but I would most definitely forget about this otherwise), and pride is on 7th August, so hopefully I will be able to update you with whether this year’s pride matched up before this posts.