GQ Challenge: Day 27

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

27. Write a poem about being genderqueer.

I’ve actually already written a few poems about being nonbinary, but I’m not posting them here because they’re actually pretty good and one day I might actually have the guts to try and get them published somewhere (and a lot of places count personal blogs as ‘previously published’ nowadays, which they don’t like). So instead, I’ll write a new one especially for this challenge! (It’s going to be unedited so please don’t be harsh on me! Edit: As I’m writing it, actually, it’s starting to seem like it’s got nothing to do with gender at all, but I promise you that it does and I might explain it afterwards. Oh also — I am terrible at titles so it’s untitled, as pretty much all my poems are.)

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GQ Challenge: Day 26

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

26. Discuss how your clothes do or don’t reflect your gender.

I think I touched on this earlier? But basically they kind of do and kind of don’t.

My clothes don’t reflect my gender because, really,how on earth could they? I don’t even know what my gender is! Besides which, I don’t particularly have a consistent type of clothing that I wear; my jeans and t-shirt outfits have a very different gender connotation (and personal gender feeling for myself) than shorts and t-shirt outfits do ( on the rare occasion that it’s warm enough for shorts), and there’s an even bigger difference between those two and my dresses and skirts. Looking at it from a gender presentation sense, my clothes range from androgynous (although obviously not androgynous enough for people to be confused about my gender or for me to pass as a guy) to rather feminine, which doesn’t really feel like it represents or reflects my gender.

However, all the same… there’s something about pretty dresses and flowing skirts that feels like it reflects my gender. Even though they’re clearly tied (in society) to womanhood and femininity, wearing skirts and dresses still somehow makes me feel validated in my gender. My first thought when trying to word it was that wearing them makes my gender ‘sing’, as weird a thought as that might be. I feel like ‘pretty things’ seem to fit under the purview of my gender, if that makes any sense whatsoever, and so it makes me really happy to be able to wear things that help to describe my gender.

However, as I think I mentioned before, sometimes the connotations that come with dresses (ie that you must be of a certain binary gender to wear them (and if you don’t look like that gender usually looks, you are trying and failing to be that gender, but that’s irrelevant in this case)) really grate on me. That’s when the unisex t-shirts and dungarees come out, it seems.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why I wear jeans and t-shirts, since they clearly don’t bring me any gender-related happiness. The reason I wear them is partially because of my original long-standing dislike of dresses, which receded slowly enough that I still don’t have a lot of dresses but have a lot of t-shirts (that are getting too small and being replaced with the slightly oversized coloured tops that seem to be trendy right now). I also have a lot of jeans because my emo days caused me to believe that you must always have at least one good pair of black skinny jeans, whilst my mother has bought me coloured skinny jeans to try and combat the remaining emo clothes.

Mainly, however, I wear jeans and t-shirts or tops because it’s just easier; there’s no shaving required with jeans, and there’s also no (or at least, rarely) a need for thermal tights with jeans, whilst there most definitely is with dresses in a British winter. So, basically, whilst my more day-to-day clothes are simply practical, my fancier/more occasionally-worn clothes reflect my gender.

GQ Challenge: Day 25

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

[CN: internalised homophobia]

25. Your first queer crush or relationship.

This is another one that’s kind of difficult (I swear these questions didn’t look this hard when I skim read them before deciding to do the challenge) for two reasons. First, I’m nonbinary, so any crush or relationship I have is kinda gonna be queer by default, and second, I’m greyromantic and asexual, so I have absolutely no clue what feelings I’ve had count as crushes and which don’t.

For the first, since I’m trying not to ascribe gender to little me anyways, I guess I’ll go with what felt queer at the time, and for the second, I’ll just have to use my best guess.

So, my first queer crush was probably on my maths teacher. She was my teacher from when I was 12 to when I was 15, and she was just really awesome. She was kind, and funny, and made maths really fun (I always found it fun, but she made it even more fun). She was also very pretty, which always helps even if you’re ace.

I remember kinda half-knowing at the time that I maybe-sort-of liked her in a not-so-platonic kinda-gay way, but internalised homophobia pushed that down pretty far. I always knew I hero-worshipped her, though, and I was really sad when she stopped being my teacher and then moved schools. She came back for prom and it was probably my favourite thing about going to prom; I still have a picture of her, me, and my best friend at the time all smiling away in really bad resolution because it was dark and the photo was taken on a shitty camera phone.

My first queer relationship (and first relationship, full stop) doesn’t give me half as many sentimental feelings, unfortunately. In fact, it caused me to have real difficulty to look into my gender; gender became a trigger for me for a while, and trying to feel what my gender was like staring into a dark abyss and knowing you’re going to fall into it (ie, very anxiety-inducing). Not just that, but, I recently discovered, it seems to have caused me to have a bit of a sense of foreboding when  women I know are in relationships with other women, as if I’m worried that they’re gonna have a similarly shitty time, even though, by the end of my shitty relationship, neither of the people in it actually identified as women.

On a happier note, my second queer (queer because I’m in it and it feels queer to me) relationship (and second relationship, full stop) is a much happier affair. It’s weird (for both of us, I think) trying to navigate romance, and sexual things, and my gender on top of all that, but I think we make it work.

GQ Challenge: Day 24

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

24. How has your relationship with the cisgender people in your life changed?

Since I’m not out to most of them, I don’t think it really has — and the cis people that I am out to have known for a long proportion of the time that they’ve known me, so it’s difficult to say how our relationships have changed since often, I hadn’t known them for long enough before they knew to really have a relationship.

(Some of these posts are ridiculously short, I’ve realised, so sorry to anyone who clicked on them expecting ~500 words and getting less than 100; for some of these questions I just simply don’t have an answer that can be stretched into a proper post-size thing.)

GQ Challenge: Day 23

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

23. Do you feel comfortable answering questions about your gender to friends? Acquaintances? Strangers?

If you’ve been reading every one of these (well done!), you probably already know the answer to this. Basically, it’s complicated.

I don’t get many questions about my gender in the first place, but I think I can pretty reliably work out what I would do in each situation.

If it’s in person, no matter who it is, I’m probably going to be at least mildly anxious. With friends, if I’m already out to them I might be a little bit nervous. For acquaintances and strangers (unless I specifically knew they were queer friendly) and friends I’m not out to, I would be bordering on an anxiety attack, most likely. It’s not that I specifically mind the questions — I have no shame really and I’ll answer anything, even the most gross cliche kinda thing — but gender is a very personal thing and something that could get me transphobic abuse, so it makes sense to be a little nervous. The rest of the anxiety, where I get to bordering on an anxiety attack even though most people I know are pretty accepting and at best would just be really awkward about it, is just my anxiety, I guess. My anxiety is weird in that there’s too forms: the I’m-stressed-to-bursting-why-is-this-happening sort, which has built up over the last few years through a mix of sublimation and perfectionism, and doesn’t really feel like it counts; and the I’m-going-to-faint-everything-is-shaking kind, which, while it feels more like what people typically portray anxiety as, it’s the one that feels most ridiculous, since it only developed during this year and only occurs during talking about gender as described above, certain times when I’ve been triggered (often when in public), and public speaking at college (and only, it seems, at college). So that’s weird, whilst kind of irrelevant to what I was just saying.

Anyway, another way I talk about gender is through Tumblr, Twitter, and this blog. In those situations, I’m completely fine talking about gender to anyone who asks and I’ll happily answer whatever questions I’m given.

With internet messaging services, my comfort level is similar to that when talking in real life, except to a slightly lesser degree — I’m totally fine with talking to people I’m out to, but, as I recently found out, when talking to other people about gender, I’m still bordering on an anxiety attack; the only positive is that I find it much easier to string words together on a computer than speaking when I’m anxious, so at least I don’t make a fool of myself that way.

GQ Challenge: Day 22

The Genderqueer Challenge is here.

22. What are your sexual and romantic orientations? Are they affected by your gender?

I’m asexual and greyromantic. My gender makes me glad that my orientations allow me freedom from attempting to name my gender-based attractions, but other than that I don’t think they’re affected.

I used to wonder if maybe it was the other way around, and my asexuality influenced my gender — I wondered if not wanting or needing sexual organs had meant that I didn’t feel connected to whatever connects women together — but ultimately that a) sounds kinda TERF-y and b) is not how I feel my gender works anymore. My gender doesn’t feel grounded in my body at all, but rather feels like it floats above my head somewhere. So it definitely doesn’t have anything to do with having sex or not.


GQ Challenge: Day 21

The Genderqueer Challenge can be found here.

21. How has your relationship with yourself been affected since you realised you were genderqueer?

This is a tough one — not only have I never sat down to think about this, there’s just been so much else going on in my life that it’s hard to say a) when my gender has been related and when it hasn’t and b) what my relationship with myself actually is right now.

Honestly, I keep going over this question in my head, but in the nearly two years since I started questioning my gender, my life and my relationship with myself has changed so much that my brain stalls at even thinking about it.

The only thing I can really say is that I’m probably a bit more comfortable with myself just because I know more about who I am. I don’t think that was how I felt at first — I definitely felt like a special snowflake, and like life really ought to stop ruining itself for me (being queer one time over was bad, but three? that was just overkill), but nowadays I guess I’m mainly just happy to know who I am, even if it comes with sucky side effects.

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.