Category Archives: gender

#whyqueer 3: Decentering (or Expanding) Gender As a Relationship Axis

One of my favorite reasons for identifying as queer is all about fucking with how we center our understanding of relationships and attraction. In the last post, I covered how other terms don’t work well for me because they’re clunky to use as a non-binary person. But also, I don’t find terms that relate to gender to be particularly useful for describing those to whom I’m attracted. Gender just isn’t my main focal point for classifying my relationships and attractions, and I find it strange that a single trait would be so central to how almost everyone talks about these subjects. Even terms like “pansexual” are implicitly about gender–they just mean “all of them.”

Personally, I use other sorts of categories to vaguely describe the pool of folks I’m interested in. I’m attracted to queerness, dominance, and (with some notable exceptions!) femmes. I suppose I could come up with specific terms for these attractions, but I like “queer” as a way of saying “hey, you might want to ask me some more questions to understand my sexuality.” I can then describe my attraction in sentences and paragraphs, and that’s more likely to lead to a connection anyway.

Gatekeeping

Here’s my current theory of how the medical establishment thinks about gender identity and transition:

  1. Gender is pretty abstract. It’s more of a decision to group oneself in a certain way than a concrete provable fact. This is a problem.
  2. We can’t just let anyone who wants to medically transition. How would we know who “qualifies” if we just let anyone who believes themselves to be male or female access medical care for that gender? Transition would be rampant! (Or something.)
  3. Since we need a requirement to access medical care, masculinity or femininity might as well be the requirement. It’s easiest to quantify your gender in medical terms if you present as masculine or feminine. Femme trans boys and butch trans girls are just confusing.
  4. Don’t even get us started on those genderqueers–especially those who aren’t interested in a more androgynous. What do they even want? What kind of dysphoria could they possibly be experiencing? There is very little to be sympathetic to, here.

Now I know there are empathetic medical professionals, professionals who understand the difference between identity and expression, and those who don’t think of trans people as requiring a certain level of tragedy and pity to medically transition. But sometimes, it feels like the profession is stacked against us.

An Update with Some Honesty About Spoons

Fact: this blogging thing never does get easier.

I keep hoping that consistent posting will one day become natural, that I’ll be able to write and schedule posts every weekend, but that is just not a thing. I’m being honest with myself about emotional and mental labor, and the fact that this world we live in doesn’t give us enough time to heal and just be present outside of our paid working hours. I’m also realizing that as an ADD adult, my attention span will never stick with a particular project for more than a month or two, and that’s okay.

This blog isn’t going anywhere, though. I have a post scheduled for this coming week, in fact, about a really fantastic book I want you to read. I’m just acknowledging that I’ll probably never follow the best practices of posting regularly and self-promoting, that there will be spurts of activity and then months-long gaps as there have always been. But I’ve also been blogging for more than ten years in some form, so I think that’s likely to stay.

There’s another fact in here, which is that I’m not totally comfortable being “a voice” in activist spaces when we don’t as a community acknowledge the labor of people of color who are doing most of the work here. I recently wrestled with the question of whether to write a book about non-binary gender and ultimately decided that I am not the person to write that book right now–because I don’t have the time and energy to do a full, comprehensive survey of non-binary people, focused on the voices of people of color, and the world just doesn’t need a white centered 101 to non-binary identity. I also think that if I do write that book in the future, I likely can’t in good conscience do it without a co-author of color. Since I don’t have collaboration/social spoons right now, I’m instead stepping back. If you’re hungry for queer voices, I recommend you start with checking out black girl dangerous and proceed from there.

 

 

Practical Tips for Trans-Inclusive Data

graph of genders in the colors of the trans flag with options "male," "female," and "annoyed with your question"

As this post goes live, I’ll be sharing a talk at AlterConf DC called “5 Simple Steps for Trans-Inclusive Data.” This talk originally crept into my brain as an idea for a very long blog post, and as I was preparing to cut that idea down to twenty minutes with Q&A time, I decided to also execute the original plan, since I can’t possibly say everything I want to about how to make data more trans-inclusive in fifteen minutes.

The post that follows is a detailed guide of specific steps you can take to make whatever data you work with more trans-inclusive, building off of the talk content. Skim through the list below and use any tips that you find applicable! I’m drawing from my experience working with member and donor data at national non-profit organizations, but you can apply this advice to any kind of human-centered data you collect including data on customers, employees, patients, survey respondents, and app users. My starting point here is that trans people can show up in any data set, and so it’s important to address the needs we have around privacy, comfort, and affirmation not as a special population but as a regular part of data strategy. Rather than othering trans people, consider our experiences an opportunity to improve your data collection, storage, and analysis practices for everyone!

If you’d like to hear more after reading the tips below, check out my speaking page for more information. I’m hoping to do more “dataqueer” talks and workshops in the future.

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Practicing Polyamory While Healing from Relationship Trauma

This post is part three of a four-part series on polyamory, healing, and societal wounds. Start with part one.

In thinking about models for polyamory that don’t revolve around competition and scarcity, I couldn’t help thinking about healing and recovery. In the last post, I talked about healing from the societal wounds of capitalism and an alternative model for poly relationships. In this post, I’d like to talk about a different kind of healing, from interpersonal relationship trauma. This post does not describe details of my relationship history, but it does provide some thoughts on healing from emotional abuse and how abusers can manipulate a scarcity mentality. It also draws parallels with my experience of EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). For this reason, I’m putting most of the post below the cut tag. Please proceed with caution if this content may be triggering for you.

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Thoughts from an Uncategorized Non-Binary Person on Invisibilia’s Bigender “Categories” Story

I finally got my iPhone to successfully play Invisibilia, a much-lauded new podcast from the producers of This American Life. Overall, I really like the show, but I was disappointed and even a bit disturbed by the story in “The Power of Categories” focusing on Paige, a bi-gender person. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why I feel this way. The hosts cover Paige’s story sympathetically, and seem to have done their research. It’s for the most part a scientific take on the topic. But maybe that’s why, as a genderfluid, genderqueer, non-binary person who can’t quite even pick one word to describe my gender, it rankled me.

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A Radically Queer Gift Guide: Gifts for Masculine Queers

This third installment in the Radically Queer Gift Guide focuses on what to get the trans men, butch women, and otherwise masculine-leaning folks in your life. While this is not my own identity, I’ve found that Etsy is a treasure trove of ideas for trans-masculine folks and so I’ve compiled a few of my favorites here. If there’s a femme trans guy on your list, some of these suggestions might be especially relevant.

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Trans at the Intersections, #transchat Reimagined on the Rooms App

IMG_1035.PNGWhen the folks at Facebook reached out a few months ago to ask me to create one of the first handful of rooms on their new smartphone-based social platform, called Rooms, I immediately wondered if this might be a better way to implement the vision we started working toward with #transchat on Twitter. Today I’m excited to announce the debut of a Room called Trans at the Intersections, which you can join by using the image in this post within the Rooms app.

Facebook says, “Rooms lets you create places for the things that you’re into,” and I think it’s pretty cool that one of the first Rooms will be an explicitly anti-racist, radical space where trans people can get past the 101 and talk amongst ourselves about our lives at the intersection of trans and other identities. I hope this will be a space for talking about racism in Trans communities, discussing trans feminisms, sharing ideas about sexuality outside the binary, and other topics we think about from day to day. You don’t have to identify with the word “trans” to join, since that umbrella term itself can be problematic, but members should somehow identify as outside the compulsory white mainstream gender system whether trans, non-conforming, non-binary, or something else entirely.

The potential of this platform is something like what many of us fondly remember from 90s message boards–you can choose any pseudonym to identify yourself in the Room, and thus don’t have to come out outside this Room. Unlike Twitter, this is a curated space, meaning that any derailing, racist, and/or transmisogyny will not be tolerated, and members engaging in this bad behavior can be banned. I’ll be actively seeking curators in the coming weeks. For now, come join the discussion! You can download the app at rooms.me/download, and then just use the image in this post to join the Room.

**Note: while we will try our best to curate fairly and avoid privacy violations, I want to recognize that it isn’t possible to create a truly “safe space.” You don’t have to disclose identifying info or join Facebook to use Rooms, but anything you share could be shared publicly and linked to your pseudonym. It’s also not possible to know to certain that those who join aren’t transphobic jerks who are trolling the Room silently for content to share, so I would recommend using a unique pseudonym of this is a concern. Please let me know about any other safety/privacy concerns that I can address!**

#TERFWeek: Why Must Feminism Always Include Trans Women?

Person holding a sign that says It’s #TERFWeek, which at first made me cringe, until I realized that the week is about educating the broader feminist community about the harmfulness of TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). This is a group of people, mostly women, many lesbians or queer-identified, who claim to be feminist, yet exclude trans women, one of the most marginalized and oppressed groups of women, from their communities. They’re usually the ones arguing that trans women in the women’s room or in lesbian groups or at MichFest are dangerous, often have weird convoluted mental requirements around transition-related surgeries to recognize trans women as women, and can be found outing trans women on the Internet (including previous names, arrest records, employer info, and home addresses) and generally making lives miserable.

Here’s the thing about TERFs: they’re not feminists.

Now, you could make the argument that a feminist is anyone who says they are one, but I don’t think that really jives with the definition. At the very least, TERFs are extremely hypocritical feminists opposed to the actual tenets of feminism, a movement that is about oppression to patriarchy (which includes, you guessed it, rigid gender norms and a hierarchical binary gender system!)

In this post, I’d like to focus specifically on why feminism must include trans women. I also believe that it must include trans people generally, but if you subscribe to the narrow definition of feminism being about male/female equality or equity, then trans women would be the focus here. It’s also important that feminism focuses on issues such as violence against women and lack of access to employment–areas where trans women are some of the most targeted and affected. Read the rest of this entry

Women of Color and #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen

As a white person, I don’t want to use #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and the Schwyzer debacle as a platform for my own thoughts, but I do want to lead my readers to just a few amazing women of color speaking for themselves. Please take a look at the following bloggers and authors, as well as the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag on Twitter and Mikki Kendall’s article explaining the subject.

Mikki Kendall (@karnythia): Esoterica on Tumblr, also writes for sites such as xoJane

Flavia Dozdan (@redlightvoices): Red Light Politics, also writes for Tiger Beatdown and The Guardian

T.F. Charlton (@graceishuman): Are Women Human?, also on Storify

Sydette Harry (@blackamazon): on Tumblr

Janet Mock (@janetmock): JanetMock.com and on Tumblr, also writes for sites such as The Huffington Post

Shanelle Matthews (@freedom_Writer): ShanelleMatthews.com, contributes to sites such as The Frisky (the most recent post there is on the Schwyzer situation) and Racialicious

Spectra (@spectraspeaks): Spectra Speaks and on Tumblr, founded QWOC Media Wire

Biyuti: Biyuti and The Biyuti Collective

Kendra James (@wriglied): writes for Racialicious

Jamilah King (@jamilahking): news editor for Colorlines

Andrea Plaid (@andreaplaid): writes for Racialicious

Renee Martin (@womanistmusings): Womanist Musings

The entire Crunk Feminist Collective (@crunkfeminists), also on Tumblr

Andrea Smith, Conquest

Adrien Wing, ed., Critical Race Feminism

INCITE! Women of Color Collective, Color of Violence and The Revolution Will Not Be Funded

Jessica Danforth, ed., Feminism for Real

Gloria Anzaldua & Cherrie Moraga, eds., This Bridge Called My Back

Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, eds., The Revolution Starts at Home

bell hooks, Feminist Theory from Margin to Center