Sunday, July 21, 2013

Humanizing Genderqueer 11: M

Humanizing Genderqueer: Lived experiences of non-binary people.

Gender Wins: Recall a happy memory of when you felt most comfortable in your gender or most accepted as your gender by those around you.

A group of friends and I were all enthusiastically discussing a film we all love but have never watched collectively. Everyone but me identified as a cisgender woman. A friend exclaimed "Let's have a ladies' night!" Not a single beat later, she corrected herself "A people's night!" - and in chorus with several other people who were present. Not only did my friend catch herself and correct herself without me needing to speak up, my other friends were ready and willing to do that work for me, knowing how I have to deal with misgendering all the time from strangers and intimates alike and wanting to offer me a break from continual education and advocacy. It made me feel like they really have my back on this issue.

Gender Struggles: Tell about a time when circumstances would not allow, or you had to make sacrifices, to remain true to your gender.

Pretty much every day. Genderqueer where I live is not a widely recognized gender category, nor is it known to my family and most of my friends. As a curvaceous person, no matter how masculinely I cut my hair or how tightly I bind, so far people consistently perceive me as female. When I choose to come out to someone, I have to explain what my gender identity means, and I continual struggle with how to word it so that people don't dismiss me as being "precious," or whatever. Just walking down the street, I have to deal with misogynistic harassment, people saying "excuse me ma'am" or "pardon me, girl" or whatever gendered nouns and honorifics they feel they must use in situations that really, really don't require any.
Worst, I cannot be out at work. Not because my workplace is hostile, thankfully, but because: how do you explain, in our heavily binaristic and heternormative culture, the concept of genderqueer and pronouns and bodies to the specific adults with special needs with whom I work? I came really close accidentally one time, when I asked a man I work with to please stop using "ladies" for a group that included me ("ladies" is a particular pet peeve of mine). He answered with "Well, that's what you are isn't it? You aren't some...thing." Most of the people I work with wouldn't be any better at looking at a body like mine and remembering that it isn't female than my neurotypical friends are (they need reminding often enough), and many of them struggle with language and don't need an extra pronoun or two thrown in the mix - ones that are not in popular use and that their families probably wouldn't understand. (I want to be really clear that I am talking about specific people whom I know very well, not painting a broad community as incapable of understanding gender diversity.)

Humanist Involvement: Suggest something the humanist community could do to make a positive impact on your personal quality of life.

Mostly, genderqueer/nonbinarism isn't very well known, in my experience. Education in that matter is important - and it provides a lead-in to a very simple and important point that would greatly decrease my discomfort just walking around in the world - "Don't use gendered terms with/for folks who haven't explicitly identified their gender to you, especially when addressing strangers." "Have a great day!" and "Sorry for bumping you!" are perfectly polite and require no added "ma'am" or "lady" or "girl" or "sir" or "man" to be perceived as such.

How You Identify (optional): Name, age, gender, location, ethnicity, anything you deem relevant.

M, 26, agender/genderqueer, PDX

Survey responses shared with permission.

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