First of all, let me prime you. You probs already know about transgender identities. At least you will definitely have heard people talking about “transsexuals” who can be “female-to-male” or “male-to-female”. You will have heard about people getting “sex changes” (which is a fairly awkward, outdated & imprecise term for certain kinds of surgery).
Let’s explore this in greater depth. Transgender folks feel that their “innate” gender differs from the one they were assigned at birth based on their genitalia. So, oftentimes, they’ll strive to match their outward gender presentation with their identity. Like maybe a trans boy will start shopping in the men’s section and get a boy haircut to feel a bit better about the way he looks. Or a trans girl might expand her wardrobe to include dresses and skirts. With me so far?
So what if you don’t really identify with either gender? What if you’re assigned the gender male at birth and you just want to wear girl clothes and feel pretty, but you don’t actually want to be a woman? What if you’re assigned female and you want to take testosterone and be “read” as more manly but also you’re still girly inside? What if you feel completely disconnected from the notions of either gender and you just want to do your own thing? What if you just feel like a mix of genders and it’s all very confusing and some days you want people to see you one way and other days you feel differently?
Just so you know, this is not a hypothetical. It’s a real thing that happens. These are non-binary genders and yeah, we’re still figuring out how to make it sound less complicated.
This NY Times article sort of makes a stab at explaining it to laypeople which is a nice thing for them to try and do but unfortunately they do present it as like a thing the kids are doing these days to try and seem more rebellious which is really very silly and also they use so many annoying scare quotes. But they have the right idea. The article lists some of the most widely used gender-neutral pronouns – ze/hir, they/their, etc.
It’s important that we, as feminists, learn to use these pronouns, and learn to think of gender as a spectrum, not a binary. If we’re going for gender equality, we should be including all the genders, right? And there can be as many genders as there are shades of colour. Think about it! Think about girls you know, and how their “levels” of femininity vary, and the individual ways they present this femininity. Think about boys you know, too. There isn’t just one solid block that’s “male”, and one that’s “female”. It’s a lot more complicated.
Personally, I identify as genderqueer which is basically another way of saying non-binary. I use she/her pronouns ’cause I’m used to hearing them and my girl-ness does comprise quite a lot of me. But I can’t wear makeup and I only wear men’s jeans, and when I put on dresses I feel like I’m in drag. Which isn’t always a bad thing, like. I’m a drag queen some days. I’m just not COMMITTED to being one gender or the other, really. I guess. Sort of.
To help you lovely people with learning the trans language, I have Google-searched for a glossary of trans terms for your convenience! (I know right? I do so much work for this blog, I can’t even.) It also includes some things that trans people don’t generally love to hear so you know how to avoid making people cry or punch you, etc etc.
I would like to add a note, too. This is crucial, you guys. Write it on a Post-It.
If you’re not trans, you can’t know how it feels.
I’m not trying to be like “boo hoo nobody understands wah wah life is difficult”. It’s just that I cringe inside because cisgender people (aka people who’re not trans) always feel the need to pass judgement or tell everyone their extra special superior feelings about trans identities. Like “transsexual women aren’t real women”. And sometimes they use really horrible language like “tranny”.
(Clue: the answer is no.)
Anyway, I hope I’ve given you some stuff to think about. Have a good week, feminist lovers!
Amber Kennedy (dustyloves)
PS – You all need to friend Grrl Gasm on Facebook in a serious way. Okay? There’s gonna be a radio station and everything and maybe through them you’ll get to hear me play guitar and sing very angry riot grrl folk-punk songs about absurdism and freedom and gender and girls who didn’t text me back. JUST SAYING.