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Posts Tagged ‘genderqueer’

Question MarkI’m catching up, but still behind. Today we have two short letters that I have some thoughts about, but that I am unable to answer with much certainty, so I hope that readers can give these writers some additional information.

A reader writes: “I found your website while googling around on gender-neutral pronouns. My question, in brief, is this: Is it just me, or are gender-neutral pronouns mostly sought by people who were assumed to be cis women at birth?

“I love the idea of genderqueer and have happily appropriated the parts that work for me and read a fair amount of queer theory over the years. It occurred to me today that most of the third-way writing I have read is by people who no longer want to use girl-pronouns after being assigned she/her at birth, where as trans women tend to love getting access to (and perhaps ideally only using) the girl pronouns versus seeking some third way.

“I googled a bit hoping to find some evidence to the contrary, but didn’t find much. Perhaps I’m insufficiently thorough. Thanks in advance for your reply, and also for your patience with my question and any parts I may have phrased inelegantly or insensitively.”

I don’t know whether or not this is true, but it appears to me, as well, that the majority of people who prefer gender-neutral pronouns are those who were assumed to be female at birth. I do know some genderqueer-identified people who were designated male at birth who use “they,” and I know some who use “he” and “she” interchangeably. But again, the majority of people who I have found to use “they” or “ze” were designated female at birth.

I’m not aware of any statistics on this, or whether or not any surveys or studies have been done (if anyone knows, please fill us in), so my answer is coming from personal experience.

If my personal experience transfers to the larger culture (and I don’t know if it does or not), and I had to give my thoughts on why this might be, I would say that I think that the “gendered” life experience is different for those who are designated female at birth and those who are designated male at birth, and this causes potentially different responses to any feelings of gender incongruity. (more…)

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Question MarkHere, we have two coming-out posts reflecting very different situations. As always, I encourage readers to chime in. Here goes:

A reader writes: “I identify as a genderfluid/ genderqueer FTM transsexual who presents and lives publicly as male. I’ve been in a relationship with a cissexual, genderqueer person who presents and lives publicly as female for about a year and a half.

“She recently came out to her parents as queer. I’ve been out to my family as queer and trans for years, but I’m not out to her family (and most people in general). It simply doesn’t come up/isn’t any of their business, combined with an intense fear I have of people knowing I’m trans, in part due to an experience of coming out to someone I thought I could trust and his reaction being to rape me to try to prove to me that I’m female. I don’t trust many people with this information.

“My partner and I just got engaged, and everyone is happy for us and all is well and dandy. My concern is that folks in my family (who all know my gender history) will tell other people at the wedding, perhaps even tell everyone at once during a toast. I can’t really imagine a worse way for me to come out to her family.

“The options I see are (1) tell her family ahead of time, (2) keep our families apart/elope, and (3) ask folks in my family not to out me and just hope they are able to do it. Do you see any options I’m missing? I’m just so uncomfortable with all of these options. I imagine this information will eventually make the rounds, but I’d feel much more comfortable if it came up naturally and not as a big announcement.”

That’s a tough one. But there’s one thing missing from all these options, and that is – what does your fiancée think? It’s not her decision when and how you come out, but I think under these circumstances, it’s definitely something that the two of you should discuss together (with you getting the final say if the two of you disagree).

My personal opinion is that you should tell her family ahead of time, and here’s why: The two families will probably have many interactions over the years, even if you elope. Expecting every member of your family to honor an agreement not to out you over the next fifty years might be more than you can reasonably count on.

Just expecting no one to slip up at the wedding might be too much. Even with the best of intentions, someone can easily make a mistake, and there could be one family member who thinks this bit of information might be too juicy to withhold – especially after a few champagne toasts. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I was inspired to write by a question you posted recently from a parent asking about their genderqueer teenager. I felt like that teenager could have been me if I was born a couple of decades later.

“I started to have issues with my assigned birth gender at about age 13, but the message I got from so many people was that I was just going through a normal adolescent phase and I would grow up to feel comfortable being a woman. I spent some years thinking I must be a trans man, but that didn’t really fit either. By the time I was 19, I was pretty sure I wanted to change my body to create something androgynous and knew that meant taking hormones.

“But this was the 1990s and everything I read and heard about transition was that it was only open to binary-identified people who could complete a ‘real life test.’ My brief experiences with therapy where I tried to bring up gender issues did not go well – my therapists took the ‘normal adolescent phase’ tack I was hearing everywhere else. So I did my best to push my issues aside and accept living in the body I was born with, because I didn’t think I had another choice.

“Fast forward to the past couple of years. I started hearing about non-binary and genderqueer folks who were pursuing partial transitions to achieve androgynous bodies. They were finding therapists and gender specialists who were supportive of this, even managing to get their transitions covered by insurance. I’m re-evaluating my decision not to seek transition in light of this.

“I’m really wishing I could go back and tell my 19-year-old self this was an option, but of course the past is the past. I have to deal with the present, and the present I live in is one in which I know I could have hormones if I decide I want them, but in which I have the weight of nearly two decades of convincing myself I didn’t need that weighing down on me (I’m 37 now). So I guess the question is, if I’ve lived without T for the better part of two decades, do I really need it?

“On the other hand, if I’ve lived without it all this time, but the feeling of wanting it never went away, maybe that means I really do. Complicating this decision is the fact that I am married. My spouse identifies as agender, but to him that means he just expresses himself however he wants and if other people project gender onto him that’s their problem and not his. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I have a question about how to support my teen daughter. She is 19 and decided this past year that she identifies as genderqueer, which she describes as ‘being neither male nor female, but only herself as an individual.’

“Until she was 18, we saw no sign of this; for example, she used to wear very long hair and dresses at 17, but now is dressing and wearing her hair ‘butch,’ to use her words. She did not express discontent to us with her gender when growing up. She also identifies as bisexual, which we have been aware of and supportive of since she was in high school.

“She says that she has great discomfort with her biologically female body so has decided to go onto testosterone hormones in order to have a more gender ambiguous body, ie, to look and sound less female. She is not interested in transitioning to becoming male. However, she does want to drop her voice to sound like a man and hopes to change her facial structure.

“Her father and I support her feelings about her gender identity – at least we think we do – but we are very concerned that she is apparently being given medical permission to go onto male hormones so quickly. We would like for her to slow the process down and take more time to decide.

“One reason is that she is struggling with other mental health issues, such as depression and ADD, with which she was just diagnosed this past year and still has not yet found the right combination of therapy and medication to treat either one. We’d like to see those under control before she adds any hormones at all to the mix. She seems OK with this part of our objection and says she will give it two months.

“A second concern is that she seems to have identified so recently as genderqueer that we wonder whether she can really know whether this is a deep-seated identity issue that must play out with hormonal therapy for her to feel comfortable in her body, or if it is part of normal exploration of what gender means to her in a culture that has pretty rigid and narrow expectations of what it means to be female. She also has never dated or kissed anyone (either male or female) and seems to fear vulnerability of her body within the context of a romantic or sexual relationship, and we wonder if that is also relevant.

“When we expressed these latter concerns to her, she told us we were being ‘transphobic.’ We think there is a difference between being transphobic and telling your child that we think she needs more time to discern. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “So I’m FAAB (female assigned at birth), I was a tomboy for some but not all of my childhood, and now that I’m in high school, I came out as genderqueer to my family and some friends a few months ago.

“I have dysphoria about my breasts but mostly not about my genitals (though I’ve always hated periods so much that I just tried to ignore them), and the chest dysphoria is actually somewhat recent. I’ve gotten some people to call me by ‘they’ pronouns, but increasingly now I’m not so sure that I am actually trans.

“I’m so confused about this and I feel like I’m in a constant state of questioning. I know that sometimes I like to be feminine and sometimes I like to be masculine, and when I came out as genderqueer that helped explain to my family why I wanted a binder, but now I kind of miss who I was before I decided to use trans* labels for myself.

“Before, it was okay for me to be feminine because, after all, I was a ‘girl,’ and it was okay to be masculine because I’d always been a ‘tomboy,’ but now when I’m masculine my family always makes comments about my gender identity to me and I can’t be feminine for fear of them not taking my (current) identity seriously.

“I can’t even tell if I’m feeling icky because I don’t identify with the masculine and gender-neutral language I’ve told my parents to try using for me right now, or whether I feel icky because of the sarcastic tone of voice that always seems to go along with ‘they’ and ‘young man.’ I’m not comfortable with ANY gendered OR ungendered pronouns and stuff for me right now and I don’t know why not!

“Anyway, do you know any good way to really figure out what one’s gender identity is? If I want top surgery, does that definitively mean I’m not cis?”

It sounds to me as if you are going through a questioning period, and when people go through a questioning period, often nothing seems right. Even with the proliferation of labels that has come about recently in gender communities, there still aren’t enough to fit everyone.

You might be trans and you might not. It depends on how you define “trans” and “trans*” for yourself. There are many definitions out there now. There are people who would say that you are trans*, whether you use that label or not, simply because you don’t fit neatly into the binary gender system. But I am really opposed to putting anyone under an umbrella who does not want to be there.

I know some genderqueer people who also identify as trans or trans*, and I know others who do not. I know some who use a male pronoun, some who  use a female pronoun, some who use both interchangeably, and some who use a gender-neutral pronoun, such as “ze” or “they.” Sometimes you have to experiment to know what’s right for you, and sometimes that means going back to the people you came out to and telling them that you have changed your mind on one issue or another. (more…)

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Question MarkWe have two reader questions in one post today, and in order to catch up with my backlog of Ask Matt questions, I will be posting a Thursday edition this week as well, so be looking for that.

Readers, as always, your insights and experiences are much appreciated, so please join the conversation in the Comments section. And here we are with today’s questions:

A reader writes: “My transgender daughter is legally changing her name next week and has decided to use my maiden name instead of her father’s last name due to his not being acceptable of the whole situation. My question is: How will this affect my husband’s legal responsibility towards her, health insurance and other scenarios. Plus, how does she handle telling my husband, who will not even begin to discuss the whole matter with me?”

First of all, thank you for being so supportive of your daughter. I’m sorry that your husband does not feel the same way – at least at this time.

I don’t know how old your daughter is, but if she is a minor, and her father is named on her birth certificate or if he has legally adopted her, the fact that she changes her name will not change this. She is still legally his child.

I don’t know if a parent is required to put a minor child on his/her health insurance policy (lawyers out there?). If not, he can probably drop her from the policy if he chooses. But with regard to his legal responsibilities toward her, he still has them unless he goes to court, files to have his parental rights terminated, and is successful in doing so (he is not likely to attempt to do this, and if he does, he is not likely to succeed).

I’m not a lawyer, but my understanding is that if your child is an adult (eighteen in the United States), your husband is not legally responsible for her in any way (and neither are you, for that matter). He doesn’t have to provide her with health insurance or any other form assistance. Under the Affordable Care Act, he can keep her on his policy until she is twenty-six, but he is in no way required to do so.

As far as talking to him about the name change, if your child is an adult, she doesn’t have to. However, if she still is on his health insurance policy, on his life insurance policy, or in his will, he will likely want to update these with her new name, although I don’t think that a name change on her part would negate any of these, even if they reflect her old name for quite a while to come. But for the most accurate legal information, you need to consult an attorney if you can afford one. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am 15 years old and I just started my sophomore year of high school. I also came out as genderqueer a couple of weeks ago. To make it easier on people, I chose one set of pronouns and I give people little cheat sheets with my pronouns.

“My mom seems to be really supportive, but as it turns out, she is refusing to use my pronouns (subjective: e/ey, objective: em, possessive: eir/eirs, reflexive: emself) because she doesn’t want to memorize them, and she also thinks that they’re awkward and that nobody’s going to understand what it is she’s talking about. My dad and brother pretend that nothing is different.

“My teachers are really cool about it, but so far they haven’t used any pronouns at all. My closest friends are mocking me a bit, and my friends still use the female pronouns and occasionally remember that I’m genderqueer and ask me what my pronouns are.

“My sensei, with whom I talked the most extensively about my gender identity, is just as nice as he was before I came out, but he consistently uses the female pronouns. I still haven’t had the guts to find out why – I am planning to do that soon.

“So this is pretty much my situation. Everyone I came out to is okay with my identity, but they call me she. Although I understand that this is very new to everybody and that my pronouns are unfamiliar, I have this feeling that people really aren’t even trying. Am I asking for too much? Do you have any suggestions on what I should/should not do?”

Pronouns are probably the most difficult part of being trans or genderqueer, or being in another situation where they might change. What I have found as a trans person transitioning from female to male is that the name came far earlier and with much more ease to others than the pronouns did.

Most people had no problem calling me Matt, and there was very little “slippage.” However, the changeover to “he” was much slower and much more aggravating – particularly for me. Friends would say, “Matt’s driving. She says she’s got enough room.” Or “Matt wants to come eat with us. She’ll be ready in a minute.” (more…)

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