It’s been a year

This time last year I came out to my friends, and the readers of this blog, as transgender/genderqueer. And what a year it has been. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and about transgender people generally. I’ve graduated university, and started a full-time job, although I’m not ‘out’ there yet.

Side-note: If you ‘re a colleague from work reading this, feel free to keep reading and ask me any questions privately in person or over sametime / notes etc. just don’t mention this to other colleagues – I’ll decide when and how to do that. Thankyou!

So I’ve taken several steps over this year: my wardrobe has expanded in several areas recently; I’ve experimented with nail varnish and with hair dye and shaving. The support from my core group of university friends was amazing.

I’ve also refined my own views on where I’d like to go with this; and on what it means to be transgender and/or genderqueer. It’s really hit home that despite what I just said about wardrobes, nail varnish etc they are all simply gender stereotypes. Even the idea that all men have penises with XY chromosomes and all women have vaginas with XX chromosomes is wrong – it erases intersex people whose sex chromosomes may not be of the traditional XY/XX configurations; transgender people who don’t want surgery down there because of costs, or the risks with SRS; and transgender people who don’t hate their genitals with a passion. The only real way of knowing is to know your inner self. It’s much more a question of “How does being called and read as male make me feel? How does that compare with being called and read as female?”. Indeed, any other question ultimately comes back to gender stereotypes – variously erasing intersex people, tomboys, and ‘effeminate’ men. For some people, myself included, there’s not a major dislike of being classed as one of male or female, but one is preferable to another – the opposite of the one assigned at birth. It’s the distinction between gender identity – what you know inside; and gender expression – how you express that identity and how that interacts with the stereotypes that society places on gender.

How do I know this? I’ve chosen a name. I’ve started using it online with several accounts. It feels right. More right than my birth name, and being read as my birth sex. But being called male doesn’t usually provoke an intense negative reaction. I hope to expand my use of it online, and filter it through to the real world over time.

I’ve started down the NHS route (it’s long and slow and I won’t see a specialist for about a year), and am looking into exactly what my private insurance covers, if anything. I do know I don’t have a hope in hell of passing without some… help.

I’ve become far more aware of exactly how the gender binary, and the resultant gender stereotypes are ingrained deeply into our culture – you only need to look at the questions the consultant psychiatrist asked before agreeing to refer me to a specialist. And naturally that leads to a much deeper understanding of the various “labels” that people use to describe their exact gender identity. For now I’ll stick with the labels of transgender and genderqueer – the latter being an umbrella term for anyone outside the gender binary.

It hasn’t all been progress and rainbows however – I haven’t come out at work, although I feel confident that the majority would be supportive. I also haven’t come out to my parents. That’s something that has caused me a great deal of pain. It’s something I won’t be able to hide forever, but… Well…. I have my reasons, despite wanting to tell them.

It’s been a year. I wonder what the next 12 months will bring?

On Gender and Sexuality

Ok, so here’s the thing. I’ve been trying to write this post for quite a while, but the words just don’t come out in any coherent manner. I intended to write a post explaining the concepts of Gender, chromosomal sex, and Sexuality. As this has not worked out what I shall instead do, I think, is include some useful videos/links etc that explain these concepts better than I ever could, with some comentary afterwards drawing out, what I feel are important quotes/themes

So firstly, a kind of 101 on all things related by the amazing Vlogbrothers

Some of the key ideas here are that sex and gender are two entirely separate things. Also, take note of the pronoun usage throughout – the pronoun is determined by the gender and not the sex.

And now I”ll include a genderbread person, which hopefully underlines that the combinations of the different traits – sexuality, gender, sex are infinite and a continuum, rather than just binary options.

Genderbread-2.1

An area that the vlogbrothers skimmed over, to the videos detriemnt is that of intersex people. These are people whose biological characteristics don’t match the two boxes we’ve seen. It may be a case that they have XY (tradiationally male) chromosones, but have female genitalia. Or they may have both genitalia, or even ‘just’ ambiguous genitalia. In all these cases it’s common for doctors to perform surgery on the baby/child (not all conditions are obvious at birth) to ‘fix’ them into one of the two roles they could fit in to.

To illustrate this, here’s a two part interview with a person who is intersex – they have XY chromosomes, and did have testes inside of them, whilst having outwardly female genitalia.

Some important things here- bodily automony and self determination. A person (including children) should be the only people to determine whether any surgery is done to their bodies. And a person is the only person who can determine their own identity, and choose their own labels (if any). Another concept is that the determinations people can make about their gender or sexuality can change over time, and that’s ok.

Another term in those videos was ‘cisgender’. All cisgender means is that basically your gender identity, and your physical sex characteristics all fit within one of the standard boxes of ‘male’ or ‘female’. It’s etymology is pretty much the exact opposite to ‘transgender’. Some cisgender people seem to have a problem with that term, but I simply ask, what other term could describe that particular alignment in a neutral way?

Another video now – one from a TEDx event that outlines some of the problems transgender people can face every single day.

There are a few things in this video that need to be highlighted – the first is the conflation of sexuality and gender. Breaking the gender roles as a child might mean your child is gay, or it might mean they’re transgender, or it might mean that they are a cisgendered heterosexual person. My point is that drawing conclusions about the signs after the facts seems easy, but is really very misleading, and no matter how your child interacts with gender roles, you shouldn’t assume it means anything about their sexuality or gender identity. Your child will tell you when they figure it out, and when they feel comfortable doing so. The important thing is to keep supporting them and loving them.

Another point mentioned is that of pronoun usage. It’s important to note that only the individual can decide which pronouns are acceptable for others to use. Some who fall outside the binary may even prefer something different to he or she – some prefer the use of Xir for example. Personally this next video, on the topic of gendered language sums up my thoughts on the matter of pronouns – although other trans people may disagree about the claim that ‘invented’ pronouns don’t really work.

A couple of things in this video – the use of ‘it’ is never never acceptable (well, there might be one trans person out there who is OK with it, but I have yet to find them). And they is a suitable gender-neutral alternative most of the time. Incidentally, I managed to remove my gender from Facebook via a bit of unfiltered input on their mobile site.

A common theme through this post has been that of ‘gender roles’. They’ve been mentioned in everything I’ve linked to so far. Gender Roles are the idea that ‘blue is for boys’, ‘women belong in the kitchen/at home’, ‘men are the breadwinners’ and ‘women care for the children’ and other such claims. We’ve already blasted through the very notion of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ binary classifications, so let’s put a final nail in the coffin. ‘Blue is for boys’ is only recently true – in America for example through most of the 1900’s, boys wore pink more often. The entire notion of acceptable colours for boys and girls got turned on its head at some point. If that doesn’t show how the entire notion of objective gender roles is wrong, I don’t know what will.

So, there we have it. An introduction into gender, sex and sexuality and how they really have no relation to each other at all. Except what society tries to force onto people anyway.