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.