This poem was written and performed by Erin Upchurch in 2011 as a part of the Columbus, OH Transgender Day of Remembrance. This year, we wanted to bring it back. With the recent murder of Cemia “Cece” Dove from Cleveland, OH and many other members of the trans community, this poem really hits home for us.
Thank you to all of the Trans*, Gender Non-Conforming and Allied people who took part in this video and thank you to Erin Upchurch for creating this amazing piece and allowing us to adapt it into video.
Even something as seemingly innocuous as using the term ‘third gender’ cannot be stripped of its racist past and the ways that the very notion has been used to misrepresent and colonize non-western gender and their discourses.
While it may not be the case that third gender is not a slur, it is also not exactly the sort of thing that white people should feel entitled to. Particularly because of the way that it was created to further exotify and, thus, delegitimize genders not easily understood by white, western academics.
A good piece on the term third gender and a case of its previous use in a documentary and how it has racial connotations. It is essential to be aware of how even neutral sounding terms can have more complex backgrounds and take this as another reminder of how important it is to use caution, accuracy, and mindfulness in language.
These questions came to my mind In relation to the recent Age and Gender article, as I was interested to know readers’ experiences. I expect there will probably be some variance in responses. Age range may be given (such as 10-12, or pre-teen, as examples) if you are unsure of an exact age.
For my own responses, I would say 1) somewhat as a pre-teen, more strongly in teen years, 2) Vague understanding beforehand, but not really until 17 - 18? 3) 19-20.
One of the most common types of questions I’ve received on the site and in private messages and interactions concerns whether someone is either “too young” or “too old” to identify as transgender, genderqueer, non-binary, or even as an otherwise gender non-conforming person who may not even see themselves as trans*. Sometimes the individual thinks this about themselves and is concerned about what this means, and other times it may be a family member or friend who is skeptical about how someone could identify a particular way when it seems either too early or late, in their mind, for them to be identifying this way.
Part of this stems from a body of medically-oriented literature that suggests that, for the majority of people (both cis and trans*), gender identity is fixed at an early age. You can easily find such remarks as “By age four, children’s gender identity is stable, and they know they will always be a boy or a girl” (Healthy Children). There are also more broad, and in my experience, more helpful, articulations, such as that found on Gender Spectrum: “Your child may articulate [their gender] at age 4, 14, or even 24” and Kids’ Health: “Some transgender people know they feel “different” from the time they’re young kids. Others start sensing it around puberty or even later.” Seeing the variety of responses on Genderfork’s ‘When do trans people realize it?’ post is also encouraging.
I aim for a more inclusive approach in my own research and discussion of age and gender identity determination. Even if it is the case that the majority of people feel solid about their gender identity at a young age, this factoid is not particularly helpful to use as “evidence” against anyone identifying as trans* at an age older than expected based on this model. This method is similarly harmful as that used by people who think it is better or more acceptable somehow for someone to be naturally a given sexual identity and who use “by choice” in a pejorative fashion.
There are a number of reasons why someone may not name themselves as trans* and/or sense any kind of conflict about societal expectations, assigned sex, and gender until later in life. A lack of information access concerning gender terminology and associated communities is one. Someone may have a fluid identity that changes over time. Environmental factors like absence of parental discussion about gender or lack of prohibition from exploring what is considered atypical gender behavior or presentation is another way. Someone may even indeed identify as trans* in some way, either by name or in recognition of similar characteristics, but keep it secret until they feel it is safer for them to come out, or even never come out.
As for those who do explore non-normative gender at a young age, this is another feature that unfortunately can be used as cause for undue alarm, perhaps just as much as the “too old to be trans*’ model. People who are not familiar with the topic and trajectories of trans* people may think that entertaining something that may be a “phase” seriously, particularly if hormonal or surgical intervention is a future possibility, is dangerous for young people. Some of these people may not even believe trans* identities are real or, even if accepting these identities as existing, think that it would be better for someone to “just wait and see.”
I have already discussed how attacking a concept as “just” a phase is problematic. Identity may indeed change over time for a variety of reasons: some people may view a given past identity as having been true for them at that time, other people may view such fluidity to a new identity as discovering their true selves. A fluidly changing gender or sexual identity, in itself, should not be cause for concern unless the person is experiencing distress as a result and wishes for this to not be the case. Regarding hormonal or surgical transition, if desired, consulting with a young person over time about their goals, parental involvement, following WPATH’s Standards of Care guidelines, and supportive medical professionals that make clear the temporary or permanent implications of treatments of interest are all components that should help to ensure that the best options are taken. Parents and other supportive people in a young person’s life must also be prepared to listen and for identity to change and to not pressure someone to continue along a path they no longer want to pursue.
Ultimately, while statistics about the ages at which cisgender and trans* people articulate their gender identity are useful to know, making the mistake of using ideas about normalcy or the majority as an excuse, even if unintentional at first, to invalidate anyone’s identity is not an angle I would recommend for support or research.
— Tam Sanger, Trans People’s Partnerships: Towards and Ethics of Intimacy
Here is my contribution to the piece in the link:
1. It is unlikely I would have ever deconstructed concepts of gender and sex without my identity as it is (even though thinking critically about these topics is something everyone should do at some point).
2. understanding who I am feels better than when I did not know what was going on or how to describe it.
3. Being trans + gay was the impetus for going into LGBT studies and sex education fields in school, completely altering the course of my education and career path for the better.
About 3 1/2 - 4 years ago I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to come up with anything positive about being transgender, so a lot has definitely changed over that period of time! It is also makes me happy to read the other positive responses as well.
One thing that this article does not mention is that several of the people who responded to Transadvocate’s call for posting positive things about being trans* brought up that there was nothing they could think of that was positive about it, even being confused at the idea that there could possibly be anything good about being trans*.
There are of course many reasons why people might feel negative about being trans*, from an inability to afford items or procedures that would help with presenting how they desire, to a lack of supportive friends, family and/or partner/s. Even some aspects of the trans* community itself can be a source of negativity, causing someone to feel like they are either being scrutinized or ignored, while others can be very comforting and enlightening. It is also possible, and totally okay, to feel a mixture of positive and negative feelings, some things being a source of joy and self-discovery and other things just feeling frustrating.
I can’t tell everyone how to release some of their negativity or how to gain a positive perspective - it might not even be possible for some of you reading this right now, due to your specific circumstance. But I can tell you that it feels so much better to start shifting to a place where you can find even just one thing that you can feel good about being trans*, even if it is along the lines of:
"I know this part of myself well. Not everybody even questions what gender is and works on developing an understanding of this part of themselves. And that’s something."
Making a list of positives and negatives can help us to figure out what is and isn’t possible for us to improve about ourselves and our situation. Being realistic and realizing both how far you have come and what you still must do in order to feel more comfortable is a process I would really recommend going through. I did this a few of years ago when I still thought it would not be possible to have the type of appearance or relationship that I have wanted - I was wrong about both of these things! But, I still had begun to articulate what I wanted, as well as to take steps to get to those places.
Many people stop at the visualization stage, or focus only on thinking so hard about things that they already know are impossible that they get very upset. If you actually really do want to get to a better place where you have things to feel good about your whole self, not just about being trans*, going about it this way is not going to work, even if you find yourself in this rut from time to time. It makes complete sense to get stuck especially when other people say and do harmful things to you to attempt to get in the way of your happiness.
There are times when being angry and upset are entirely appropriate responses. Even when going such tumultuous periods in your life or observing these things from your community or the media, I strongly encourage seeking out ways to manifest positivity in your life around this topic, whether its finding supportive friends in physical space or online that you can confide in, finding out about the positive experiences of others, recognizing that there are certain aspects about yourself that you can celebrate, or any number of other possibilities. Again, just look at the link earlier and you’ll see that there actually have been many positives that have come about in trans* people’s lives.
Recognizing the positives isn’t about ignoring the work we still need to do for recognition and rights or a large scale, or about ignoring the negatives in our own lives. It is about looking at reality and seeing that there are also good things available to us, and about us as people, in the present and hope for the future.
I’m making a short documentary about the lives of trans*, genderqueer and gender non-conforming people of color. I want this to be a exploration into what Trans* POC think about transition, style, being trans* (umbrella term) and any discrimination or racism feel in the community by other queer or trans* folks.
If you’re in the Richmond, Va area and interested in being interviewed please email me or tumblr message me (mickyalexvstheworld.tumblr.com). Or just reblog this post to help me out.
— D. Vade, Expanding Gender and Expanding the Law
I wanted to share this amazing Groupon deal that just came out, which can be redeemed at Good Vibrations stores in San Francisco, Oakland, or Berkeley: $25 for $50 worth of items! (Note: only usable in store locations, not the online shop, and you must be 18 years or older; if you are unable to visit the physical store, they are also currently having an online sale)
In the realm of transitional or gender play gear, you can have a look at the Good Vibes section for this online to get an idea of what they carry. Much of the gear in this section presumes FAAB customers so far (packers, STP, packing briefs, pumps, etc.), and I sincerely hope they expand into products of specific interest to trans women and MAAB genderqueer folks at some point (I only noticed dilators; see this post for an idea of other product possibilities); I suggest that people e-mail them about products and ways in which they could improve on this point. They have do have a dizzying array of other toys and books throughout their site outside of this category as well.
I have shopped at Good Vibes many times and can attest to the quality of the products they sell and the friendly helpfulness of the staff.
Again I am going to talk about something that makes me uncomfortable. Lately a lot of the self-exploration I am undertaking makes me uncomfortable. Isn’t self exploration supposed to make us uncomfortable? I don’t like it. Maybe that is why so many of us avoid introspection, so we can avoid this uncomfortably feeling. So that we can avoid confronting ourselves. But I have reached a point in my life, a point where the depression and continual sadness I have pushed back and down over the years as well as the numerous things that trigger it need to be addressed. Something has to give. This means that I now no longer have to simply talk-the-talk of openness and must actually begin the task of tackling things. I must walk the walk of self awareness.
I am open, In fact I am often pretty darn candid in the things I say and how I say them. But it all stems from a hard shell that covers things I do not want to confront. I all stems from knots I tied to encase the core and that I now have to unravel with bleeding and torn fingernails in an attempt to find a way forward. This is not easy. This time of my life is a time of transition, a time of exploration and a time of near desperate confusion.
I currently exist in a place defined by being both comfortable and uncomfortable in my own butchness. Somewhere over the years I became weakened. My sense of self always somewhat steady but easily shaken was recently jostled and my first strongheld convictions in myself floundered easily.
This has become increasingly apparent to me in my sexual relations. For me sex is largely emotional. I like the act (a whole hell of a lot) but the main part of the pleasure I get is from pleasing my partner. I am usually a ‘top’. You can tell how confident and comfortable I am in a sexual relationship by how much of a ‘top’ I am. How much of a lead role I take. If I am uncomfortable, if my trust is shaky, then my confidence wavers and I cannot keep to this role. I do not have the strength and I withdraw into myself. I become more passive.
Sexual intimacy is for me something very important. It is something difficult for me in a way that others do not realise. It is something sacred. And this is something that many people have taken for granted. Even when they are people you trust enough and know enough to believe that this would not be the case.
I have deep body issues that affect my sense of self. To share that with you, it means sharing vulnerability with you in a way that leaves me at risk of harm. It leaves my triggers at the ready.
I have been used for sex several times. I have been treated like an object by people who feigned affection for me and who I trusted. I have been over sexualised and called hot by so many people that inside I have started to feel like nobody cares about ‘me’ as a person. I have come to hate that curiosity about who I am is overshadowed by what I may be like in bed. That my own level of comfort means little in the face of their desire to be fucked, to be satisfied.
I have had a lot of partners. I think of myself as very sex positive. I love sex. I have an incredibly high sex drive. And I see no problem with engaging in consensual respectful and safe sex with as many people as you wish. But I have also had a lot of problems with comfort and sex, a dichotomy that makes interpersonal relationships very difficult at times . A key example would be that I was once in a relationship with a women for almost a year. I did not sleep with her for the first three or four month and afterwards not nearly as much as my sex drive and hers would suggest . After that I would kiss and snuggle and cuddle with her, I was very affectionate, I wanted her to know I cared, but my heart and trust just weren’t there. I would indulge in foreplay but I did not have sex with her near as much as she wanted. It became an issue. I was not emotionally available. I did not trust in it, in her. I was afraid of being used. I was afraid of having that part of me exposed. I was not wholly comfortable with intimacy and this girl. Often, I am ashamed to admit, I had sex with her because I felt that I should, that she deserved it. She loved me, and I just wanted to hide inside myself. I did not want to share that part of me. It was not fair. To her or myself. After this relationship I took a break from intimacy and tried to get myself back on track.
I had felt this way for years, it had increased after a girl I was dating, messed me around, slept with me on and off , left me for a guy, left him for me, fucked me one final time but without once kissing me and then discarded me and got back with the guy. After this I crumbled. At the same time my estranged father was diagnosed with a serious illness. My world felt like it had crashed down. I did not know where my feet were in relation to the ground and I felt like I was gasping for air and that there was not enough space in my chest to contain what was trying to escape. Every second felt like too much. Every moment was an exercise in endurance.
Then I met a friend, an old friend who I had spent nights wandering around the city blast bombing building with political graffiti and drinking large amounts of gin. A friend who was kind, supportive and stood by me. It was difficult. I was not easy. There was a lot of fallout. I suffered from mood swings while I tried to find my sense of balance. I needed support but I was not in any safe place to start dating somebody. We started to date. I trusted her so much. It didn’t work out, my back and forth and fear at the start damaged things, she began to put me down and insult me when she started to pull away. I thought I was in love with her. I trusted her. I had not been a ‘top’ in this relationship. The experience before had had stripped me of my confidence and my sense of self and sexual initiative and strength. I felt desexed and afraid. But still I gave and I pleasured and it was okay. I was finding my way. But it was too late. When we broke up she spread lies about our sex life. She said them in front of me. It tore down my confidence more. I had no strength to explain how difficult it was for me to rationalise my sexuality, my gender and my identity with sex. I have never had this strength and I hate that there is the need. That no one has asked. I don’t like to be the centre of sex. I like to focus my attention on them. Often I am uncomfortable and will pull my clothes on right afterwards. There have been many times when I have kept most of them on. It is hard to describe. It depends on the person, the circumstance and my emotional and mental health at the time. We are constantly in a state of flux and each experience will be different. Each trigger more or less significant.
After these incidences it took me four years to feel that level of comfort with another girl. It came quickly, naturally and it was intense. The sex was great. Not because of what was done but because of her placidness and the lead I was able to take. I thought a mutual trust had developed. Then things went sour. My confidence waned. I was so confused, my self esteem so low, my mind so clouded by her behaviour that I could not assert myself. I could not be myself as I know myself at my core. I withdrew. And I became more passive. Where once she called me a top she referred to me as ‘versatile’. I couldn’t articulate how for me sex and emotions are the same thing. How comfortable I am, how safe I feel, how much trust is there will directly translate. As things waned and I felt like I was being beaten with a new stick every day so did the control I could assert. So did my confidence.
This could have been recoverable. Maybe. My Queer Body is strange to me and I don’t always understand my motivations. I don’t always understand why I shrink away from someone’s touch or get cold. It doesn’t happen with everyone. Often I don’t physically react but when a stranger or someone I don’t know well, who isn’t part of my circle touches me I internally recoil. Their touch is a weight and I feel its impression after the fact. It usually happens with those outside of my circle. But right now it will happen with everyone.
Because a line was crossed for me. A line that is harder to fathom more because I know that many will never see it. Because I know for many it is not a deal. But for me it is devastating. It is one more action attempting to devalue me. And I am trying to fight against this.
After a lot of sleeping with this girl and back and forth I put my foot down and told her I could not do it anymore. That it was messing me up. That it was too much. We would be friends. But nothing more. A week later she was texting professing her feelings for me. It was hard but I did not give in. I was firm. A few days later I am out. I am drinking with friends. I am very drunk. I can hold myself well but I was past 7 or 8 drinks and I am not a large person. She text me and asked me to come over to watch movies. She was sober. I was drunk. She kissed me. We had sex. I woke the next morning. Nothing was mentioned. I left. It ate me up. It still eats me up if my mind goes there. Which luckily for me is largely in the past tense, though it has added to my hair trigger. For me, she crossed a line of consent that I am not comfortable with. Yes I participated but I know that had I been sober that I would not have done it. Had I known that her messages about feelings for me were exaggerated and unfounded I would not have slept with her even while extremely intoxicated. My feelings, body and trust were taking advantage of. This hurt more as this individual is someone who could speak at great length about the concept of consent and respect. Who should understand. She said later she felt like she had taken advantage of me. I said she had. She said nothing to that. And I doubt she thinks about it at all. But it still eats at me. I still feel used, discarded and inadequate. I feel dirty and I do not know how to get to a comfortable place in that regard again. I struggle to be comfortable with my body but it feels like something repellent. There had been great softness and trust with that girl at one point. But it has all been darkened by this soiling.
In conjunction with experience, body dysmorphia and past abusive relationships this memory has taken on gargantuan proportions. It has become one of the worst things a person has done to me. This is conceptual rather than factual. Because it triggered so much that came before. No action exists in a vacuum and we must be aware of that fact. Nobody’s body is an island, they have all been touched in some way before. They all bear scars and we must be aware of this outside of ourselves. Most triggers are pistols, but this is a double barreled shotgun that brought up buried issues of domestic abuse, physical and emotional, body issues relating to eating disorders and gender identity and overriding issues with intimacy and trust that have dogged me for years.
The issue of consent has so many trap doors and should NEVER be taken lightly.
I am suffering from fear, body hate, discomfort and misplaced trust.
I feel adverse to any intimacy beyond the superficial, I am sure I could kiss someone, but the thought of anything more right now makes me feel like vomiting. I slept with a person several times after this ordeal. A wonderful, kind and compassionate person who I do trust. But I was not able to continue. I have continued to withdraw into myself and I do not know how to find that safe place inside me again. Old Triggers have been hit and are now intensified. I am tackling my identity after a decade of denial. I am facing my monsters and I am struggling to adapt in a work where fairy tales are Grimm and not Disney. I am still searching for the safe place where I do not see my body, sex and soul to be something disposable and worthless. Where my body dysmorphia, trust issues and the respect and consent I practice are not at odds with the people I sleep with. Where my sexual history and experience are not coveted ‘despite’ my self-identity. I want to be seen. I want those I respect and interact with, those who I ensure are comfortable to ask me if I am comfortable. I want them to care. I am tired of having assumptions made about me, and I am oh so tired of people taking my body and emotions for granted. It doesn’t have to be for keeps, god knows I am not ready for that, but with me it does have to be real and honest and true.
When you sleep with queer individuals, especially those with Gender issues and body issues you need to respect their queer bodies and their queer boundaries. I am not a plaything. And you will never know the damage you do. This last person has no idea about these aspects of me. And she never asked .I am still struggling to articulate, reconcile and navigate my identity and gender. A lot of people are and you may not know it. So remember the ideals you preach and hold true to others and yourself. No one is stone and you can wield you willful ignorance like an axe to destroy or you can practice the art of consent by the common decency of mutual respect.
Just think before you act and look outside of yourself. It is really not that hard.
Hello, it’s me again. A lot of people seemed to have been interested in my previous submission here, and so I’m providing another (hopefully) relevant piece.
I discuss my own experiences with being in the closet, and how our support networks can differ when we find we can’t be ourselves around our families.
I am completely out to one or two very close and trusted friends, other friends will know bits or pieces, but some people - my family, in particular - know nothing. To them, I am a regular heterosexual, monogamous, vanilla, cisgender (if they knew what that meant) person - albeit a slightly odd one. Due to circumstances, I am forced to stay with my family for a time - so I have to live a lie.Being closeted is hard - I have to constantly pretend to be someone I am not. Putting on the persona of normality is emotionally exhausting: I have to constantly lie about things, to omit things concerning vital parts of my life and my identity, and to stand by and listen when people - unknowingly - insult me.For a lot of people, family is a support network - a place they can seek emotional support and feel safe and welcome. For others - disproportionately LGBT people - it is a place where they cannot drop their guard for an instant for fear of hostility or even losing the roof over their head.
Some thoughts of mine on the topic of not feeling like you’re “trans enough” to identify as it.
I’m genderqueer: I feel no connection to being a man or a woman, I prefer gender-neutral pronouns, and I get dysphoric - but I sometimes feel guilty about identifying as trans*. After all: sometimes I can go days without feeling uncomfortable, I’m not (currently) taking hormones and… well, my experiences don’t seem to quite match up with the dramatic and saddening accounts from trans people.Rationally, this feeling doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. I identify as a gender different to that I was assigned at birth, so I’m trans* - by definition. It’s hard, though, to shake the feeling of not belonging - the feeling that my experiences are somehow less valid than binary trans* people, people who suffer more dysphoria than I or people undertaking a medical transition.
I am making a playlist on Spotify of songs about gender variance and was interested for followers to name their favorites here. Doesn’t necessarily have to be about trans* people (other topics can include crossdressing, transgressing roles, and so on) and can of course include songs that are personally significant for your own identity.
Thanks everyone! I’ll be sure to share the list here when it fleshes out further.
I only think it is important to come out if an individual feels that it would be meaningful and beneficial to do so (it is also of course possible to come out to some people and not to others). No one should feel obligated to come out and in some cases it may be risky for safety or emotional well-being to do so.
In my case it is relatively easy for people to find out how I identify within a few minutes of encountering my primary online spaces or even taking a look at my bookshelf but, still, there are people I am around regularly that don’t know. The subject just doesn’t come up and I don’t bring it up either because I don’t view it as particularly relavant to my relationship with these particular people, or because I am already aware of some of their negative views on gender-variant and sexually-variant people and choose to not enter into an aggravating discussion with them and possible resulting alienation.
Only come out if you want to and to who you want to, if you do - not coming out doesn’t make you any less of of who you are as a genderqueer person.
Presented at A Night of GenderQueer Readings at the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco on May 4th, 2013
There are at least two ways to find out what it means to be genderqueer, whether you are genderqueer or consider yourself an interested ally. One way is to look up definitions in books or on the Internet and be inundated with interesting, but frequently contradictory information from many different viewpoints. These definitions can lend a voice to the variety of genderqueer experience that exists out there, but this is also an area where caution around inaccuracy and erasure is needed.
Here are just a few definitions of the term genderqueer: