Why FAAB Non-Binary People Must Recognize Transmisogyny

agender, faab, femininity, femme, femmephobia, gender expression, genderfluid, genderqueer, maab, masculinity, non-binary, non-binary erasure, transmisogyny, transphobia

Trigger Warning: transmisogyny, transphobia, non-binary erasure, violence against trans people

NOTE: I know not everyone uses the words “masculinity” and “femininity” for themselves (I don’t), but for the sake of brevity I’m using them here.

themanicpixienightmaregirl:themanicpixienightmaregirl:Hey Nightmare Girls, this is going to be the first t-shirt. Eh?http://www.cafepress.com/manicpixienightmaregirls

Source: http://themanicpixienightmaregirl.tumblr.com/post/109631076432/themanicpixienightmaregirl

A few weeks ago, I saw a MAAB student start wearing some new clothes to school–a sparkly striped pink, purple, and blue shirt; a red sweatshirt with silver rhinestones. The clothes complimented their rainbow pink light-up shoes very nicely.

As I saw this student finally able to make some changes in their school wardrobe, I was excited, for sure, and scared for them, hoping it was going OK. I also realized something–I think I knew it in theory before, but it hit my gut that week.

This student wearing glitter and purple and pink and rhinestones–the censure they face is fundamentally different from the censure I face as someone who is (and is perceived as) FAAB. Transmisogyny and/or femmephobia is something that affects all MAAB people that deviate from the norms set by masculinity.

Those norms are stricter, with less room to move, than the norms set by femininity. Although FAAB people who deviate from those norms still face problems (for sure!) masculinity in FAAB people is more accepted and met with less violence than femininity in MAAB people.

With my body as it currently is, and in the queer-friendly area where I live, I can express my gender in a much wider range than someone who is or is perceived as MAAB, without as intense of a risk of violence.

Now, do I struggle with tons of shit and transphobia? Of course I do! Do I always feel comfortable with the way people are perceiving me? No–on days when I wear a dress, I hate when people think I’m a girl. Do I feel like I have a license to express my gender how I truly want to, all the time? No, definitely not–my gender expression, in some of its forms, is outside the realms of acceptability.

But, as long as I am seen as FAAB, it is much less likely to bring physical violence my way. Even if I leave the house in fairy wings, a leather jacket, plaid pants, glittery platforms, and a big straw hat. I may be laughed at, sure, ostracized, yes, deemed unprofessional–the marginalizations are real, and why I don’t always express my gender all the ways I’d like to.

But it’s still safer. It’s still safer. It’s still safer.

FAAB people, I know we are not a monolithic category. We have a huge range of experiences. If we are perceived as MAAB but also express a lot of femininity, we might even experience different pieces of femmephobia that feel a lot like transmisogyny, even if it’s different.

(Personally, although I’m neither a femme man nor a butch woman, if I had to choose I’d rather be perceived as a femme man. It’s not what I want to be perceived as, but given the options most people think of, it’s the better possibility. But I have to admit that one reason (among many) I’m nervous about taking medical steps for that to happen is all of the extra violence that will be thrown my way.)

We FAAB people come from all sorts of experiences, and we still need to recognize all forms of transmisogyny. It’s real. It’s killing our siblings at very high rates. It may feel like the unique problems of non-binary erasure are affecting us all equally. They’re not. They’re not in 1001 ways (this isn’t even going into how race, class, ability, nationality, etc. affect people). But one big way is the way in which femininity on MAAB (and MAAB-appearing) bodies is reviled and exterminiated.

Honor our siblings who are well aware of this, for whom this is their daily life, for whom this is their deaths, our siblings who wear pink and purple and glitter and rhinestones and light-up shoes anyway. Listen to their stories.

And call out transmisogyny when you see it, again and again. Act in solidarity with our MAAB siblings. Work towards love, for everyone, again and again, and again.

It’s how we’ll all get free.

Getting it Half Right: What to Do (and Not to Do) When Your Client Says You’re a Transphobic Therapist

agender, cicssexism, cis entitlement, cisgender, fatphobia, gatekeeping, gender specialist, genderfluid, genderqueer, mental illness, saneism, therapist, transgender, transphobia

Trigger Warning: discussion of bad therapy, transphobia in clinical practice, fatphobia, saneism, suicidal ideation, homophobia

I’m continuing the story of how I called out Former Therapist #1 for his transphobic gender policing and gatekeeping. I am really pissed at him right now, because he has done so much to take away my ability to work with other providers. I’m putting our exchange here and then some of my feelings about it in footnotes.

Let this be something that other providers can learn from, so that other people don’t have to deal with this pain.

I’m not the only one dealing with or writing about this. Check out this lovely example of therapeutic invalidation (plus an intersection with fatphobia) from Rooster Tails Comic:

The lady who ran out on me then came back in with another person.... it felt like I was in a job interview. So weird.Source: http://www.roostertailscomic.com/comic/happy-mental-health-awareness-week/

Two weeks after I sent a letter to Former Therapist #1 about his mistreatment, I got this email from him:

5/30/14

Hello [Birth name],[1]

I didn’t want too much time to go by before I acknowledged your much appreciated letter I received.  I have been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting on your letter.  I’m planning to send you a response soon.  I’m consulting my colleges [sic] and other gender specialists as well.  I didn’t want you to think my delay was in any way me ignoring or rejecting your letter.  I want to acknowledge the courage and integrity you displayed in your letter with a response that is as thoughtful and respectful as I can make it.

Thank you again for the letter.  I will send my response as soon as it is ready.[2]

[Former Therapist #1], LICSW

I replied almost immediately:

5/30/14

My name is [real name]. I hoped that you would know not to call me by my birth name at this point.

Are you talking with anyone who’s actually trans*?

Also, I am now seeing [current therapist]. If you talk with any providers, I recommend talking with her. She is the only provider I have seen who has been gender affirming. If she has the time and energy, she would be a great resource.

I received no reply to this email. It was early on in my trying out new names and pronouns, and his misgendering hurt a lot. I especially was appalled that he did it in email, after such a gender-relevant letter. Four days later, I sent him another email:

6/3/14

Hi,

[Current therapist] says that she’d welcome a call from you.

[Real name]

It was at the moment of his misgendering me as his first interaction with this letter—that moment when I 100% gave up on him as a therapist. I was just done. This time, he replied on the same day:

6/3/14

[Real name],

I have placed a call to her today, left a message,  and will consult with her further.  Also my apologies for wrong naming you in my last email.  I realized the mistake right after I sent it, but still no excuse.[3]

[Former therapist #1], LICSW

I received this letter about a month after I sent my own letter to Former Therapist #1.

Dear [real name],

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and courageously honest letter. I have read and reread it multiple times, consulted with some of my fellow colleagues,[4] and done some deep personal and professional reflection before responding in order to give your letter the respect and consideration you disserve [sic].[5]

First, I feel deeply sorry for the pain and suffering you have endured during your treatment with me. One of the guiding principles of my practice as a gender specialist[6] and a therapist is the basic human right of self-identification. Upon reflection, I now realize that I did not respect or encourage that right in our work together.[7] I also feel very sorry for the lingering gender binary prejudice that you felt in our recent work.[8] Eliminating prejudice in all forms continues to be one of the primary goals in my practice. For all these things, and any other moments of pain and suffering you have experienced during our work together, I am truly sorry.

In your letter you offered advice on how I could improve my future work in the gender field. I have taken this advice to heart. I have begun a thorough review of previous and current gender work in my practice, with a focus on improving quality of care.[9] Thank you for suggesting consultation with [current therapist]. We have already exchanged messages, and, with your consent, we will be in further consultation in the coming weeks. Since gender is such an evolving field of study, ongoing education and training to keep my skills current is obviously necessary.[10] I appreciate your sincere wish for me to rise to the challenge you have initiated with your letter. My hope is that I can and will rise to the challenge in my ongoing work.[11]

I am very happy to hear that you have found a therapist whom you feel very comfortable with. I am also happy to see that your right to self-identify is not only being respected, but encouraged.[12] I hope this leads to higher levels of self-affirmation for you.[13] I wish you the best of luck and hope you continue this courageous journey you are on.[14]

With respect and appreciation,

[Former Therapist #1]

A critique by which other therapists may be advised…

  • Always gender your clients appropriately, and apologize if you do not.
  • Vehement apologies for malpractice are always welcome. They do not, of course, erase the damages of said mistreatment. But they at least are a step in the right direction.
  • They are much more sincere and effective when they come with a plan for changing or avoiding the errant behavior in the future—which this one did. At least for some of the problems here.
  • It shouldn’t have to take deep reflection to help you realize how much you wronged someone. If it does, you should note that that is evidence of a long journey ahead. (This therapist didn’t recognize that the level of reflection required for him to realize how hugely he’d messed up was evidence of the level of work he needs to do.)
  • They should be led by the injured party’s wishes—so listen carefully to what the problem is. (This one only did that halfway.)
  • Any kind of social change should be led by the people directly affected by the oppression. (This therapist only consulted with other clinicians—so that did not happen here.)
  • Be humble about your own knowledge and impact, especially if you aren’t a part of the oppressed group. (This therapist showed humility by reflecting and making changes—but he did not show humility by still claiming expertise in gender.)
  • Feel free to wish someone the best, but be careful that you maintain boundaries while doing so. (This therapist slightly crossed a few lines here.)

[1] I very clearly said in my letter that I am now trying a different name, and expressed profanity at the use of my birth name.

[2] The rest of this email made me feel relatively warm and glad that he was doing this work.

[3] If he realized the mistake right after he sent it, then why didn’t he send another email correcting himself and apologizing? I find it depressing to think that this person thinks that he can regularly work with trans people.

[4] I specifically said in my letter that he should consult with trans community members, and that, given the quality of “gender specialists” in the area, I wasn’t sure that they would be a good resource.

So the fact that he consulted with colleagues—I’ve met most of them, and most of them are gender tools—isn’t really that helpful. But I suppose it’s a small credit to them that they recognized he had mistreated me.

[5] I asked him to think deeply, and I’m glad that he did this. I am a little nonplussed that it took such deep thinking and consultation to realize how messed up he’d been. But at least he realized it.

[6] My current therapist says to be very wary of anyone who labels themselves a “gender specialist.” “Anyone can do it, and it shows that they’re trying to claim expertise in who you are.” The fact that he still thinks he can claim this label after me sending him a letter like that is pretty appalling. It’s kind of like claiming the word “ally” instead of having it be applied to you—except with direct clinical consequences.

Former Therapist #1, you are not a gender specialist. Not at all. You are not an expert or specialist in who I am. And you, as a white, straight, cis man, certainly do not know what gender-based oppression is like and clearly have not taken the time you need to attempt understanding from people who do have lived experience with it.

[7] For the most part, a pretty good apology! At least, he said sorry a lot and explained how he’s trying to fix it.

[8] I think he missed the point of what I had experienced in our more recent work. I had told him that his commenting on “reevaluating” my gender showed how much further he needed to go in his understanding of gender. I told him that no one except me gets to evaluate my gender. He didn’t really address this in my letter.

I had also noted that he had projected ideas about what my gender was onto me—not necessarily binary prejudice. Extra apologies aren’t a bad thing, necessarily, but I am concerned that he is still stuck to the gatekeeper model of trans care, and he didn’t address that in his letter.

[9] I am so glad that he is doing this! I asked him to look into it and he says that he is. Wow. I’m not sure many people would take this to heart like that.

[10] This feels like a veiled “you non-binary people are so new” comment. Just because the Standards of Care only recently started to recognize us doesn’t mean that we only recently “evolved.”I know that he was referencing a field of study—but we are people, not a field of study, and we’ve been around for a while.

When I first started seeing him, I needed him to have cultural competency and awareness of non-binary people then—six years ago, not just now.

[11] I was truly uncertain as to whether he would take up this challenge or not. And I don’t know if he has, really, or if he just said he did. I am glad that the therapist I knew, who was committed in ideals to eliminating prejudice, if not always in practice, is trying to put his ideals into practice now.

I only wish that he was listening more carefully to me, and to other community members, more than his fellow quack “gender specialists.”

But I am glad that he has taken this to heart and trying to make changes. That is so important and goes a little ways towards helping me feel a little less wounded by all of this. (Although I still have a lot of trauma and trust issues with providers, thanks to him and others.)

The fact that we had such a close and long therapeutic relationship I hope helped for him to reflect and take this seriously—and the fact that I could leverage that feels really important and good.

[12] I appreciated this part of his wishes.

[13] This starts to get… I don’t know—like he’s back to being my therapist again? I really can’t imagine anyone except a therapist saying that in this way.

[14] There are so many things that he could be referencing in terms of “courageous journey.” Does he mean my journey for healing mental-health wise? Does he mean my transition?

When people talk about “courageous journeys” to trans people, they often are talking about transitions. If he meant my mental health journey, it again feels a little weird-are-you-my-therapist-or-not-boundary crossing. I suppose that boundary is also crossed with referencing transition, but there’s so much more in there with transition.

If he meant my transition—well, whew! I mean, there are a few awkward things about that. One is that it’s pretty patronizing for him as a cis person to call my journey a courageous one. Even if it is, even if does require a lot of courage.

It’s especially galling given how he’s already tried to shut down that journey before. I imagine that’s why he said it—he wanted to say, “Hey, I’m trying to affirm who you are now.”

But that ship has sailed, bro. You missed that opportunity. It’s a little late now.

And saying that you hope I continue it now—it implies that I’m considering discontinuing it. The only way I’ve really considered doing that is by suicide. And I’m sure you didn’t really mean, I hope you don’t kill yourself. But maybe you did. I don’t really know, because this was so vague.

Guess what? Discrimination is more awkward.

#LeelahAlcorn, agedner, ally, cisgender, cissexism, genderqueer, non-binary, resilience, suicidal ideation, transgender, transphobia, youth rights

MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING: suicide, transphobia, cissexism, discrimination, #LeelahAlcorn

Why do our babies have to die?

Why do we live in a world where little trans kids want to die rather than live their lives?

Who is making it so unbearable for us to be alive?

We are just trying to be ourselves. We are just looking for respect, dignity, our true truths of ourselves.

We keep on dying for people to maintain their ideas, their boxes, their order of things, their wrong order of things.

They say, we would rather you die and us stay in our boxes. We would rather you die, because you don’t follow these whimsical Willy Wonka rules that never fit anyone anyway.

We would rather you die than us feel uncomfortable.

I want to live in a world where anyone, child, teenager, adult, someone who has thousands of wrinkles—where anyone realizing that their gender doesn’t fit these rules doesn’t want to die. Where every single person who realize they’re trans or something like it—where death doesn’t seem like a better solution than facing the trauma. Where it no longer seems like nearly everyone trans I know has thought about suicide, or attempted it.

When that has happened, it’s not a matter of an individual problem. Unless you think oppression is a series of coincidences.

I want to live in a world where we are welcomed and held with open arms by everyone, where our trueness of self is celebrated.

I don’t want us to die for the sake of cis people’s fear—their fear of discovering their own selves, their fear of toes getting over the line, their stupid fucking fear of gender being awkward.

Well, of course it’s awkward. It’s a coercive system that forces people into a rigid set of unnatural rules that governs nearly everything that someone does in order to maintain an oppressive hierarchy.

I’d call that awkward, maybe. Maybe discrimination is more awkward than your discomfort. Maybe suicide is.

If someone not fitting your idea of what their gender “should” be is awkward, just think about how it might feel when they’re dead.

Do you feel less awkward, now that we’re not in front of your face anymore?

This is why I can’t stop talking about trans deaths. I refuse to let us fade away. I refuse to let our deaths make us disappear.

We are here. We are here. We are here. We will be here, here, here until we rise like a glittery sun, until our fierce power and beauty spreads across the world.

We must keep on. We must move forward. We must get up every day and live, live. Because we are stunning. We are beautiful. We are handsome and dapper and kinky and funky and fabulous.

We give a gift to the world that they do not want to accept, but it is a gift nonetheless. It is freedom.

That discomfort they’re feeling? It’s the beginnings of freedom.

Of course, we aren’t here for them, though they should be grateful for us. We are here for ourselves, we are here for our communities, we are here for the glittery gorgeous right to be who we are and be safe.

Pride and love will keep us alive.

Source: http://randomflyingpigeons.deviantart.com/art/Tie-Dyed-Trans-Pride-275151732

PLEASE CALL the Trans Lifeline if you need it: 877-565-8860 in the US http://www.translifeline.org/

You are beautiful just as you are.

agender, beauty, communities of care, disability, genderqueer, non-binary, resilience, transgender

TRIGGER WARNING: struggling to be who you are

You are beautiful just as you are.

You, yes, you, shine in the sun and glisten in the dark. You light up the world with your full true self, with your you-ness, with your real, hard-earned concentrate of you.

Not everyone has had to work so hard just to be able to fill themselves up, to burst with their beauty the way that you do. Not everyone has had to struggle just to perch on the ledge of a mountain of possible faces, possible selves.

You have, and that has made the carving of yourself more defined, sharper, almost painfully detailed, intricate. Even when all the lines haven’t been filled in yet, we can hold who you are.

Yes, you are beautiful just as you are. You are beautiful when you are broken and sad and it looks like the road will never end, like it will always be muddy and rough. You are beautiful when you are singing a song deep from your gut. You are beautiful when you reach out, yet again, to someone else.

Never forget your fullness of self.

I am so glad that you are you, bursting with you, brimming, sparkling, bubbling over with a whole stew of you, simmering for years till perfection. Thank you for sharing it. Thank you for lifting off from a small perch of yourself and flying into the sky.

We shouldn’t have to struggle, but we are more stunning for it.

I am glad you are here with me.

THIS JUST IN: Therapists Nationwide Control Clients’ Genitalia in Practices Sanctioned and Required by DSM

ableism, agender, ally, cis entitlement, cissexism, dehumanization, dysphoria, gatekeeper model, gender fluid, gender specialist, genderfluid, genderqueer, saneism, therapist, transgender, transition, transphobia

TRIGGER WARNING: bad therapy, gatekeeping model of trans care, gatekeeping apologism, staying closeted, cis entitlement

To the “trans ally” who said that it is good for everyone to talk to a therapist, just a few times, just to make sure… To all the “trans allies” and others who seem to think that gatekeeping is a good idea.

Even more, to the trans people who have to put up with this BS in therapy, and who start to believe it, too.

To my younger self, who believed that a therapist knew more about who I was than I did—keeping me away from myself for six more years because of a “gender specialist.”

To all the people who stay away from their true selves longer because a therapist “knew best.”

Gatekeepers are not here by our own consent or for our own good. The only person who needs to make sure that we fully understand medical decisions we make about our bodies is our doctor. And they simply are there to tell us what effects this might have on our body.

We then make the decision about what’s best for us.

In no way is it benign or helpful for us to be FORCED to go to therapy about it. Not only are we forced to go to therapy, but the decision is taken entirely out of our own hands. In a space where therapists aren’t even supposed to give us a hug, they are supposed to decide what we are able to do with our bodies. That is horrible therapeutic practice.

In a space where physical touch is forbidden, therapists still reach into our genitalia and into our chests and force them to stay a certain way. In no universe is that therapeutic. In all universes is that traumatizing.

And cis people, in general, you have no fucking clue what you’re talking about when it comes to being trans. I don’t care how many trans friends or lovers you have. You still have no fucking clue BECAUSE YOU AREN’T TRANS.

And because you have no fucking clue, you have NO RIGHT TO AN OPINION on this subject, or any subject when it comes to trans people. Fine, think your thoughts in your mind. But your opinion can never trump the opinions of THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE TO LIVE WITH IT.

You have no right to tell me what you think about a therapist being able to tell me what secondary sex characteristics I should have.

The only person who gets to decide what to do with my body is me. Every. Single. Time.

You are a rotten feminist if you think otherwise.

The gatekeeper model of trans “care” has traumatized trans people since its inception. We have been given access to medical transition based on curiosity, based on research, based on paternalism, based on saneism, based on how well we wear a dress, how well we wear our cuff links, how well we walk with a swagger or a swish.

Only in the past few years have non-binary people even made the list on standards of care. It’s certainly not only in the past few years that we’ve existed.

Only in the past year has our trans-ness been designated “dysphoria” and not a disorder. Only this year have we been told that we aren’t crazy simply because we are trans.

How do you think that a system that produces so much suffering for trans people is BENEVOLENT? How could that be? The only way you would think that is if you didn’t experience this sort of trauma at the hands of providers. Clearly, you haven’t.

Providers in general, as a system and as most individuals, enact these power trips every single time. It’s enough to send you to….

Oh. Therapy. Womp wooomp.

Doctors do not have our best interests at heart. Therapists do not have our best interests at heart. They are on power trips, large or small—at least on the trip of authority. They are not here to help us. They simply stand in the way of us and the care we need.

Yes, there are individual exceptions. But if you are attempting to get something you need from a provider for any period of time (for more reasons than medical transition—but that’s a story for another time), you will quickly come to this conclusion.

So why is it again that my THERAPIST gets to decide whether I cut off my boobs or not??? Why do YOU, cis person, think it is acceptable that a therapist can decide this for a trans person?

Could it be that society dictates that cis people always have a right to trans bodies—to gawk at, to experiment on, to decide what gender we are, to decide what’s appropriate for our “freakish” selves? Could it be, perhaps, that SOME CIS ENTITLEMENT has gotten in your way?

Consider that it is a possibility… and then get your hands off of my crotch. I like to keep it to myself, thank you very much.

Trans Lives as a Corny TV Show

agender, cissexism, coming out, dehumanization, gender fluid, genderqueer, media, media justice, misgendering, trans representation, transgender, transphobia, TV

TRIGGER WARNING: We don’t live in a world with accurate media representation of trans people. If our invisibility and/or abysmal media representation triggers you, this piece may not be fab to read. Also, mention of misgendering and discriminatory transitions in schools/workplaces.

Wouldn’t it be kind of rad if a TV show portrayed trans lives, coming out and being out and living trans lives, in a suspense/drama style? It would have to happen in an alternate universe, where enough people cared enough about trans lives to want to consume the challenges we face in a popcorn-crunching, candy-gnashing thriller manner, complete with suspenseful music. Let’s be real, our lives are ripe for consuming and processing conflict and strife, overcoming challenges, and all the other stuff of slightly tacky TV.

I mean, it wouldn’t have to be tacky TV, but that’s how I’m imagining it right now… This could be a break scene in between a suspenseful moment of a person who has been birth-named after announcing their real name:

[SCENE: A darkened room. Two figures enter the room in dark trench coats, with large-brimmed black hats over their eyes, and sunglasses. They lean towards each other slightly and use low voices.]

Person 1: How’s the name change procedure going in Workplace A?

Person 2: The usual. She just got birth-named.

Person 1: It’s time to bring on the special forces.

Person 2: No, let’s start with the Initial Surge Plan—education.

Person 1: Well, be quick about it. Lives are on the line. In School J, we’re already taking executive action.

Person 2: I know what’s at stake. Godspeed.

Person 1: Godspeed to you, too.

The whole show would be interspersed with lush, close-up, dramatic scenes of basic trans lives and challenges. I’m sure a lot of it would be related to trans oppression, but I think I would particularly enjoy this show if it also talked about the daily struggle to make coffee in the morning, cook eggs with your sweetie, floss your teeth, tie your shoes, and get off of the computer in a timely enough manner to get to bed.

[SCENE: Back in the darkened room.]

Person 1: Bed at midnight again?

Person 2: I know, and zie has to get up at 5am.

Person 1: What kind of state are trans lives coming to?

I mean, for real, sometimes that stuff is a daily struggle. I was talking with my mom earlier today, who just doesn’t get a lot of this. She was trying to tell me to have a more positive attitude about the discrimination I’m facing, because my attitude is the one thing I can change. I told her that for many trans people, getting through the day is an accomplishment. She did come around a bit then and congratulated me on getting through my day.

Of course, trans representation in the media is often on cheesy TV shows, but it certainly is not usually as humanizing or sympathetic. Or it doesn’t portray us as alive or happy for very long. We need a show on our own terms, a show that displays all of these things, complete with cheesy music and a tinny intro tune. The range of our lives, on a weekly corny TV drama.

Or not. But at least I would be laughing in the back of the theater.

Happy Genderqueer-oween!

agender, cissexism, dysphoria, fashion, genderfluid, genderqueer, glitter, Halloween, non-binary, transgender

TW: binary clothes shopping experience, suppression of gender expression at work

I was certain for weeks that I wanted to be a ninja turtle for Halloween. I haven’t actually seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a long time, but somehow all the new-movie advertising reached the insides of my pop-culture-insulated cave, and I remembered them and thought they were cool. A random person at a party informed me I was Donatello, as I chose “bookish” as the best adjective for me. A teacher I used to work with offered up one of her kid’s old ninja turtle shells. Things were set. I haven’t had an opportunity to wear a costume in a few years, so I was pretty excited.

Then this past Extra Hellish Week rolled around, and I didn’t have time to find a costume until today. I haven’t been expressing anything particularly frilly at work, because I don’t want anyone saying, “See?? I told you you were a girl!” It might sound odd, but even though I only sometimes wear “boyish” things, and never really identify as masculine or butch (or feminine or femme for that matter), and certainly don’t want to be seen as a butch woman, I’d rather be read as gender non-conforming in some way than not at all—even though, right now, I’d probably more consistently say that if I had to be perceived in a binary fashion, “fancy boy” would be what I’d prefer.

The result, though, of suppressing all other expressions at work except “dapper,” “bookish,” “flashy,” and, sometimes, “surfer dude,”—basically, suppressing my fairy/pansy self and my glam “lady” side—is that I have become increasingly desperate to express those parts of myself whenever I can. Usually meaning, whenever I care less about if people see me as a girl, or if I feel like most people around me won’t make assumptions about my gender.

So I suppose that I shouldn’t have been too surprised this morning when I woke up, and after the usual half-hour of what-to-wear panic, I determined that I wanted to be something frillier for Halloween. By the time I got off of work, I knew I wanted to buy all the flouncy, sparkly fabrics on Halloween sale at the fabric store, and safety-pin them together. (I haven’t sewed anything since our pillow-sewing project in seventh grade.)

After walking through the girls’ section and sheepishly trying on too-tight XL Frozen and My Little Pony shirts, and bemoaning the fact that people only seem to put glitter on “girls’” clothing, I wandered through the too-cute toddler dresses and high tops, wishing myself baby-sized again. By the time I tried on a girls’ pink flouncy dress that didn’t button in the back, and saw at least 30 princess Halloween dresses, I knew what I wanted to be: a fairy princess. The problem was, I wanted to be this 20 years too late, according to society. At the Halloween store, they even had a unicorn costume! And a RAINBOW FAIRY costume! But only for people 8 years old and under, or for very small others.

I am just small enough to be tempted by some of these costumes, but no luck. I am still cobbling together some sort of costume (I vetoed the LED-light tutu because it was $30, and I did get some girls’ rainbow fairy wings), but it’s looking like my dreams of full fairy-princess glory will have to be put off for some other time. Why do “women’s” fancy dresses come only in darker, more “dignified” colors? What, may I ask, is wrong with bright pink, lavender, and tulle? I am here to demand glittery clothes in all sizes! Go glitter or go home!

Just some basic fashion questions here on Genderqueer-oween. If you celebrate, hope you all have a genderfabulous evening!

“Women’s” Colleges, Trans Inclusion, and Non-Binary Invisibility

"passing", activism, agender, ally, cissexism, dehumanization, gender fluid, genderqueer, non-binary, privilege, trans men, trans narrative, trans women, transgender, women's college

TRIGGER WARNING: cissexism, trans exclusion in “women’s” spaces, binarism, suicide statistics

Cis women do not have a monopoly on gender-based oppression.

Let me say this again, louder: CIS WOMEN DO NOT HAVE A MONOPOLY ON GENDER-BASED OPPRESSION.

One thing we talk about is how any oppressed group has a “dominant”–a more discussed–subset. In the case of gender-based oppression, it can be tricky to determine who has the most privilege. There are all sorts of gender-based privileges: cis passing privilege, the privilege of passing as your actual gender, binary privilege, cisgender privilege, male privilege, masculine privilege. Many or most people who experience gender-based oppression also hold one or more of these privileges.

What is very clear, however, is that the movement for gender rights that has the most institutional power is the movement for cisgender women’s rights. I’m not saying they have a lot of institutional power. I’m not saying they have it as good as cis men. I’m not saying any of that. I’m not trying to say that sexism against cis women is unreal. All I’m saying is that they don’t have a monopoly on gender-based oppression–yet they have a near-monopoly on the resources and spaces to combat it.

There are times when any and every subset of people that face gender-based oppression need their own space, or their own moment to speak out against wrongs done to them. Closed spaces are important. However, there are times when closed spaces become exclusive spaces. There are times when that closedness is oppressive.

It is oppressive many of the times that cisgender women close their doors to anyone else facing gender-based oppression. The exclusion of trans women from closed women’s spaces is egregious. It is vital that they are included in closed women’s spaces. I fight for that right whenever I can.

What hurts, though, is when people don’t recognize this fact as well: women–trans and cis–don’t have a monopoly on gender-based oppression, either. It’s not solely trans women that are struggling to gain access to the resources and support that the cisgender women’s rights movement has long hoarded to themselves. And it’s not solely a dichotomy between trans men and trans women, too. (Although trans men and boys also need access to empowering resources and space.)

We exist, you all. We exist and we are a part of this conversation. We are non-binary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, A/G, genderfuck, bois, grrlz, birls, pansies, and everygender else. We experience gender-based oppression for our gender identities (or lack of gender). Womanhood is not the only gender identity that is oppressed. We are so marginalized that our existence doesn’t even occur to the wider societal mind.

And I, for one, and many others that I know, are tired of being excluded from the conversation. I am tired of my gender not being listed when we are talking about inclusion in “women’s” colleges, in girls’ after-school clubs, in every space that is a closed women’s space–but that holds institutional resources or power I cannot find elsewhere. Yes, there are times and places for all specific subsets of people who face gender-based oppression to have closed spaces. But when one particular subset holds most of the institutional power (in this case, cis women), they gotta share a little. Given that there are no educational institutions that support trans people of all genders, women, men, and everyone else (and those without genders as well)–“women’s” colleges need to take a good look at their resources and stop being such bigots. Given that there are few to no other institutional spaces for trans people specifically, certainly not at the (small, not enough) level there is for women and girls (trans and cis, although trans women and girls are often excluded or only have lip service paid to them), all spaces that provide resources solely to women need to look at how, why, and if that is necessary.

Given that there are ZERO schools that provide a closed, safe space for trans people, I say that “women’s” colleges and other exclusive “women’s spaces” have a feminist/civil/moral responsibility to step up. I am so tired of this conversation having no nuance.

We need to distinguish between identity and expression. Where do we draw the line? Why is it that FAAB transmasculine genderqueer people aren’t allowed in some rubrics, but cis women with a masculine expression are? Both are claiming masculine expressions, which, by some estimations, shouldn’t be allowed at a “women’s” college… at least if they aren’t on a woman. But genderqueer people face so much discrmination based on their genders, so why can’t we share this space? What about someone of any birth assignment who’s almost a guy, but not quite? What about someone who’s genderfluid? What about a trans guy who doesn’t medically transition or who doesn’t pass? What about MAAB non-binary people? Their bodies and voices belong in this space. They face so much oppression and censure. And if some of those MAAB non-binary people don’t physically transition, then there are typically MAAB bodies on campus that may never become more “feminized,” even if trans men aren’t there. What about trans men who do physically transition, but have feminine gender expressions? Why would we allow a MAAB non-binary person but not a femme trans man, given that their treatment based on gender perception might be similar? Where do you draw the line at, not kicking someone out, but at judging them for being at a “women’s” college and asking for basic recognition and respect?

I say, you don’t. You don’t draw the line at judgment. You say, you all are dealing with severe gender-based oppression, in different ways. You all, or many of you, also have various privileges from your gender even as you are being oppressed. We can process that in a community that’s committed to gender justice. I would like to say that “women’s” colleges are one such community, but they clearly aren’t, given that MAAB trans people of all genders (or lack thereof) aren’t part of the conversation, and given that FAAB trans people of all genders (or lack thereof) are marginalized when they do attend. What’s the bigger evil? Of course—it’s not even being allowed to attend. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to do to make our schools inclusive as well. Both things are important; including MAAB trans people of all genders (except cis male, of course), and agender people is the priority.

Of course supporting trans women is important and vital. I’m just saying that supporting non-binary people is vital, too. We’re killing ourselves at a higher rate than the general trans population; we face higher rates of most other forms of oppression as well. It’s time to count us. It’s time to include us. It’s time to recognize us as part of this movement. Use words for us when talking about gender equality and trans inclusion. Say the phrase, “trans women and non-binary people.” Say the phrase “all gender-oppressed people.” Say, “all forms of gender oppression”–and mean it and include it in all the work that you do.

It’s time.

When the Dust Starts to Settle

agender, cissexism, coming out, dehumanization, dysphoria, gender fluid, genderqueer, misgendering, non-binary, transgender

TRIGGER WARNING: hopelessness around being trans (and hopefulness too), trying to make yourself be a gender you aren’t

I’m baaack! Last week I left my laptop charger in another state, so I didn’t have a computer on me. So so many blog post ideas have come and gone since then. I’m going to write tonight something very straightforward:

Hold on to hope. There will be a time, maybe more a moment, maybe an era, when you are settled in to who you are. There has been for me. Now I feel like it’s me that’s living in my body. I can look inside my ribcage and feel myself inside my heart, instead of walls imprisoning… what is it that had been inside? The shrunken, light-deprived prune of myself, kept locked and guarded from my mind. There will be a time, wild as it seems, when all of that self has grown and taken up nutrients and soil and it is full, in full bloom.

Yes, it is an uphill battle, many days, most days. Yes, there will be times it all feels like too much. But, as you settle into yourself, you will realize that you are living the life you never imagined possible. You are living life as yourself, even when you see so few others like you in your daily world. You are alive and surviving, sometimes thriving. No one said you could do that, not for the longest time, but here you are, living. I think, here I am, living my regular genderqueer life, and for a few minutes there, life felt normal. Life felt regular. We are told that we are so abnormal that this is never a possibility–but it is.

When I first started on this journey, I thought I’d never even fully hold myself, have my own full self in my heart and mind and body. It would flit in for a moment and feel like the sweetest settling in, the sweetest relaxation–then it would go. I can’t be that, I have to always force myself to be whatever they’ve said I am, whatever I’ve said I am, for so long. With the whole world whipping harsh wind on my real true self, it is easy to forget what was like, when I was hiding my gender from myself. But that is what I was for so long–a shadow. This is why I am carving a ledge for myself each day: this way, I am me.

Coming out is such a tumultuous time that it feels like life will never be regular again. But after that earthquake, grass begins to grow up from the broken earth. My world and shifted surroundings start to make sense. And this time, I find my feet in a way that I never did before–I am wearing boots that fit me now.

This is possible. This is real. Many days are hard for me. Many days are days when I can’t imagine my life being bearable for the afternoon, let alone next week or next year. But the days when life feels normal, life feels calm–those are gifts. They are gifts that, in my fear when first realizing who I was, I thought I would never have again. Hear this, please–yes, life is fucking hard, in general, let alone when you’re trans. But there can be days like this. There will be days like this. Some days you’ll be able to look around you and see your life as normal again.

I know that not everyone’s coming out story is the same, and that others’ oppressions affect this in different ways. This may not be true for everyone. But I can say that if you stay true to the course your gender lays out for you, it will eventually get smoother. Being yourself is often worth the struggle.

Hold onto those days, even if they haven’t yet come. Hold them close to your heart as you break down the walls that have held your true self in for so many years. Hold it close in your cells as you nurture them with the you that you have deprived them of for so long. They are honey in the bitter black coffee of the world.

Lovely/Very Inspiring Blog Award

Uncategorized

Wow, I am so flattered and fluttery! Last week, two of my favorite blogs, janitorqueer and Valprehension, included me in a chain-style blogging award under the descriptor “Lovely/Inspiring.” I feel so cool! *puts on orange sunglasses with black stars on them*

I’ve been waiting on this post because there are so many excellent blogs to recommend to you all and give an award like this, and I needed to participate in the agonizing task of choosing. In no particular order, here are the blogs I would like to include for this Lovely/Very Inspiring Blog Award:

Jensgender

Dances with Fat

Because I’m Fabulous

Create Parity

Feminist Teacher

Something Queer to Read

Queering Healthcare

Leaving Evidence

Shakesville

Brownstargirl.org

Some of these are blogs you may be familiar with, some not–I tried to include a good mix of new and long-standing, and of a variety of topics that I write about here on my blog. Also, there is a blog that seems to be defunct since last year, but which is a lovely read about non-binary things: http://rainbowgenderpunk.wordpress.com/.

And now for a few facts about me…

  • I have a pair of gold Keds-style shoes, about which a student has actually written a haiku.
  • I spent a good portion of my teenage years and early twenties farming, but I have recently discovered that I am allergic to grass (whyyy so many allergies?), so that’s out for me, unless, I suppose, I wear some kind of environmentally impermeable suit. Despite this and the fact that I am a FAAB queer person, I am not, contrary to popular assumption, a vegetarian. I just like vegetables a lot.
  • I love to sing! I sing for myself and my friends all the time. In this vein, I have a past of participating in over 40 productions, mostly musicals, from the ages of 8-16.