By Shanna Katz
A huge thanks to Avory for sharing some of zir thoughts about their Genderqueer identity. There are definitely some interesting answers here, particularly dealing with the process of going through multiple identities to find one that fits, as well as re-examining parts of yourself as you become an ally, rather than direct parts of certain communities.
This interview is about your GENDERQUEER identity…What are some other identities of yours:
poly, Southern, white, kinky, activist, writer
Define your queer identity – what does it mean to you, how long have you had this identity, how was the process of getting there?
I’ve identified as genderqueer for a little over a year now. It’s an identity that feels very right to me, but it’s still tough that I sometimes feel I have to justify it, or if I have a question about my identity it feels like a big fat ”I told you so” coming from some voice up in the sky somewhere.
To me, genderqueer means something a little different than what I’ve heard from a lot of genderqueer folks online. I don’t identify with femininity or masculinity. My genderqueerness is about identifying outside of gender, about putting together a self-image that is not based on gender ”boxes.” It’s not a transitioning or transmasculine identity for me.
In fact, the funny thing about being genderqueer and raised female is that I am more comfortable with the things I like that are considered femme than I was when I identified as a female lesbian. This identity, and queer identity in general, evolved for me through my twenties as my understanding of gender and sexuality grew and changed. As I learned how to communicate in a mutual, consensual way in all arenas, my understanding of those parts of me changed quite a bit.
Talk about some of the language surrounding this identity – what terms do you like/dislike?
As far as pronouns, I’ve started using ”zie” and ”zir” whenever possible. Genderqueer and queer are the only particular identity words I use, though a friend uses ”gender ninja” and you kind of have to love that. I don’t like being called trans or transmasculine because those aren’t correct for me. I really don’t like being called ”he,” though when I get a Sir in a store because of my buzzcut it’s no big deal. It is tough when words don’t have commonly understood definitions, because genderqueer is often lumped under trans, and maybe by some definitions I would agree with that, but I don’t personally identify as trans.
What are some common questions you get about this identity? How do you answer them and how do they make you feel?
I’m not really out outside of communities that already know about genderqueer people existing, because these communities make me feel so much safer and understood and supported than the world at large. So usually when someone asks, it’s something like ”what are your pronouns” or ”what does genderqueer mean to you?” So I explain what it is for me, as above, and that feels pretty good to be able to put it out there explicitly in my terms.
What are some of the positives of having this identity?
This identity makes more sense for me, logically, than all my different attempts of fitting into womanhood. I always assumed the only options were be a woman or become a man, and so having this choice is very freeing for me. I like how avoiding assumptions about gender makes me more creative in how I see the world, and I think more respectful of others, regardless of their identities. It also makes it easier for me to understand my sexuality, because I’m not thinking in generalizations much anymore. Instead, I’m looking at specific sex acts, ways of communicating, fears I have, things I’d like to explore, and talking directly with my partners about those
things. I’m a shy, introverted person, but I’ve found it easier to communicate since I started identifying as genderqueer. It’s actually helped me banish shame in some areas of my sexuality.
What are some of the struggles that have come along with this identity?
Probably the most difficult is the “is it right?” question, because I feel a lot of internal pressure not to change. I’ve claimed different identities over the years and always felt like I was betraying a community when I changed, or like I was ”not really” the new identity. I try to be loving with myself and say that it’s okay if this identity isn’t permanent, but I’d like to have something static in my life. It’s also tough that, although I have some really supportive friends and romantic partners, I don’t know many other genderqueer people. Those I’ve met online often identify more strongly with the trans community, and genderqueer resources I find are often really geared towards trans. I’m hoping for more resources to come that are directed at those who don’t identify as male or female. I’m also hoping for more ”other” checkboxes on forms, but that’s a tangential concern. Finally, I find it difficult as a genderqueer feminist to shift from ”women can do anything, and I’m proof!” to ”I am an ally for women but I have to ask for a place at the table.” I believe that destroying the patriarchy would help pretty much everyone, and that often ”female” concerns extend to trans and genderqueer people, as well as some men, but there are some practical difficulties.
How does this identity fit or not fit with your other identities?
It fits in very well. I’m sort of gender/sexuality ”alternative,” and all those identities basically come down to ”I define each relationship I have with another person, and each thing I do/like/say, on it own terms.”
How do you feel this identity is received in the sexuality and/or sex positive communities?
For the most part, very well. There is work be done. Please don’t call me ”it” or ”he/she.” It’s happened, and it feels like an emotional knife-wound. If you don’t know, ask. Generally, though, people tend to be more knowledgeable and accepting here than in other communities, and I find it refreshing that I can state what I’m looking for sexually and find people who are down with that, or write about my sexuality and have people nod and smile and say ”me, too.” I hope that over time, sex writers and bloggers and presenters will remember to be more gender inclusive, and learn that not everyone is a ”he” or ”she,” and that not everyone with breasts and a vulva considers those ”female parts.” The range of genders and sexualities
that exist make sex more interesting!
What else do you want people to know about this identity?
There is no universal definition of ”genderqueer,” so if you meet someone who is genderqueer, you can’t really assume what that means for that person. You have to ask. I’d rather someone ask me a question that is too personal and I have to say ”no thank you” than not ask a question that I’d be happy to answer and make an assumption instead.