queerspoons: (Q Neon)
It's kind of interesting. At first I was a little intimidated by people who said, "If you're trans, you've known it all your life." Which isn't exactly true. I didn't have a box for what I was or wasn't. I mean, I got called "tomboy" a lot because I wasn't girly, but it's not like I thought I was a boy either.

And then I read this, from genderspectrum.org about children who claim to have no gender - or, in my current terminology, who are third gender. They fall outside the gender spectrum - and I just... laughed. A lot.

Children who see themselves as “neither” will often speak of how regardless of whether they’re with a group of boys or girls, they feel like they don’t fit. This is not necessarily a sad feeling. They just see the kids around them and know that they are not “that.” Kids in this category often appear androgynous, and will frequently answer the question “are you a boy or a girl” by saying their name (“I’m Devon”) or by identifying themselves as animals. When asked to draw self portraits, they will portray themselves as rainbows, or unicorns, or another symbol of their choosing.

I don't know that I ever appeared androgynous, but I do know my mother says I used to cry when she would put me in a dress. But what I laughed about most was that they - we - portray ourselves as a non-human, non-immediately-gendered symbol. Because I drew horses. I never drew people. I still draw horses. Horses are such an expression of me. I have one tattooed on my back. Until I was about ten years old, I would insist I was a horse and even behave as one, answering everything in whinnies or neighs or whickers. I remember someone asking me "Why don't you act like a little girl?" and me answering, "Because I'm not one!"

So I guess I have always known. I just didn't know I knew.


Aug. 25th, 2010 10:21 pm
queerspoons: (Q Writing)
So yesterday started a new semester at school. (Yeah, we started on a Tuesday.) All of my professors this year are new to me, so I've taken the opportunity to start socially transitioning to using my name in public.

On the one hand, it's really freeing. Having people call me Jules is getting more and more natural. I'm not jumping anymore in surprise when it happens.

On the other hand, it's really stressful. Thankfully, my bipolar is at a steady place right now where I'm not feeling too freaked out one way or the other, so I have enough spoons for this right now. But I still have this internal fear that someone is going to narrow their eyes at me and say, "The hell? Your name doesn't even sound like Jules." But almost everyone has a nickname they go by. Their middle name, or something that their friends call them, or whatever, so it's not like I stand out when I say, "I go by Jules."

Soon, soon. I swear. I will get it changed legally. Maybe for my Christmas present to myself. The thing is that I want a lawyer to help me file the paperwork, because South Carolina has such a strict time limit on when you have to have everything filed with, like, everyone in the whole wide world ever. And I don't want to go through all that only to not get one piece of paperwork filed and nullify the whole thing...

...but I don't want to deal with explaining things to a lawyer. I suppose I don't have to tell them anything aside from "I like this name, I think it fits me, I'm changing it for personal reasons and not to escape a debt or legal obligations."

But at least I'm using my name now.
queerspoons: a purple irony mark, which looks like a stylized backwards question mark (Default)
So I had to write a paper for my Psych of Women class, the one that traumatized me so much with its abbreviated and problematic exploration of transgenderism early on. With my professor's approval, I wrote the paper on transgender issues. Some people expressed interest in seeing it, so I'm posting it here.

Keep in mind that a lot of this is kind of 101/102-level stuff, and that it explicitly ties into feminism to fit with my class, so it's very much only one angle of the issue. Our class was taught in a format of "the four perspectives," in that everything was examined from the perspective of social learning and psychology, media influence, self and individual, and feminism, so that is also the structure of this paper. Citations included.

Behind the cut for convenience. )
queerspoons: a purple irony mark, which looks like a stylized backwards question mark (Default)
Over at LiveJournal's [community profile] lgbtfest, there was an any fandom/any character prompt that I almost took that asked to know the most important moment in a Queer person's life that wasn't a first kiss, wedding, coming out.

And I thought, I have one of those. I almost claimed the prompt before I realized I couldn't write a fandom story about it because it's just my story.

The most important moment in my life is when a friend or acquaintance who knows me outside the internet uses my chosen name non-apologetically. I struggle with using my chosen name - Jules - in non-internet contexts. It's my name, it's my real name, it's what I identify with, but it is not yet my legal name. So when I'm dealing with people and I introduce myself as Jules, and sooner or later I have to use my legal name or if I have to use a credit card or produce identification... I worry. I worry about what they think the distinction is. Especially if it's one of my ID's that includes my full first-middle-last legal name, because nothing in those names sounds like Jules. There's nothing anyone could get that nickname from.

So when I am asked for my name in a public setting, there is always a hesitation. If I use my real name, I risk running into problems that I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with. If I use my legal name, I feel I am not being true to myself.

So the best moments in my life, the most important parts, are when people who see me face to face, who know my legal name and see my incongruent physical cues, call me Jules and don't make a fuss about it.

My sociology professor did that recently, and I nearly started crying. My last class with her is ending this semester, and she was inviting me to a get-together of liberals in our very conservative town, and asked for my non-school e-mail address... which not only contains my real name in it, it's set up to show my real name in the reply. So I gave her a quick, embarrassed explanation.


She instantly apologized for calling me by my legal name - which is ridiculous, as I'd never told her anything else - and proceeded to introduce me to her husband and all her friends as 'Jules' without a single word of explanation or justification.

She still calls me by my legal name in class, as I told her that I've never come out to any of my classmates about my real name, so it would only be confusing. But outside of class? She calls me Jules.

My very best friend and her little sister call me Jules, too.

These things make me happy in ways I can't even explain. Every time it happens, every time they address me or refer to me as my real name, my chosen name, it soothes the anxiety that surrounds my trans* identity, my coming out.

One day soon I'll have my name legally and I won't have to hesitate when I introduce myself to people. I won't have to decide which name to give them, if introducing myself as my real name will open me up to suspicions of fraud or identity theft or...

But even then, it will always be incredibly special to me that my friends called me Jules just because I said that was my name.
queerspoons: a purple irony mark, which looks like a stylized backwards question mark (Default)
Have been discussing the issues of identifying as third gender with another friend who also does. Have been thinking about them a lot on my own, especially about the nervousness I feel when trying to explain to someone, "Yes, I consider myself transgender." FtX is a legitimate transgender identity, dammit.

But I still sometimes feel illegitimate. I sometimes feel that I am a fraud because I do not face issues of "passing." (And then I realize that yeah, I actually do, and right now, non-op/pre-op, I don't pass. I don't pass as xale because everyone can look at me and think "female." My attitude toward op-ness is steadily moving toward "please, please, please, please let me surgically transition to xale. Please let me be gender neutral. Please let people not be able to assign me a false gender based on my physical cues.")

It's difficult. Right now I am living a double life. I discovered my trans-ness very late in life, as I didn't have the language then for what I am. In fact, a lot of the language I am using, I have invented with input from other xale friends, because it didn't exist before that.

All we had was pronouns. Xe/ze, hir. I appreciate those pronouns. I appreciate them giving me a pattern to follow. But dammit, we needed nouns.

Just as a reference point, here are the ones we have been using.

Xale (relates to Male and Female signifiers.)
Xan/Zan (relates to Man and Woman signifiers.)
Ziv (relates to Boy/Guy and Girl/Gal signifiers.)

The words sound awkward when I say them out loud. Their shape is unwieldy on my tongue. I like them, but they're unfamiliar. They're like dropping a foreign language into the middle of a conversation. I'm afraid to use them, afraid they won't be seen as legitimate.

But I'm tired of being invisible. I'm tired of being tongue-tied.

Hi, I'm Jules. I identify as queer, because gay, lesbian, and bisexual are irrelevant descriptors. They only apply to binary genders, and I am xale. I identify as transgender because I was not born xale. I was born with female physical cues, but I am not a she. I am not a woman. I am not a girl. Neither am I a he, a boy, a man. I am a xe, a ziv, a zan.

And automatic spell check can kiss my third-gendered ass for not recognizing those as legitimate words.

I count.
queerspoons: (Q Piece)
I don't have a lot of spoons on the best of days. It's a simple fact of my life that I have to organize my commitments around the knowledge that my sanity may bottom out at any moment, with or without warning. And sometimes, no amount of organizing can compensate for the bottom falling out of my silverware drawer in the middle of the day.

Being queer when you're already biologically coded for depression and anxiety sucks. Because when you're queer -- especially when you're bottom-of-the-label-barrel queer -- there's never any shortage of things to be depressed about. You have to look hard for positive things. You have to fight for moments of sunshine. And sometimes, especially if you're in a depressive downswing, you just don't have the energy to fight for that.

It's like you're already in water that's too deep for you and getting too tired to swim, and then someone dunks you.

Before I got dunked today, though, I had a happy moment. It's hard to remember it right now, hard to remember how it felt. It's like looking up at a ray of sunshine through the surface of a dark ocean. (Getting tired of that metaphor/simile yet?)

But I remember enough to know that I was unexpectedly faced with my nude reflection in a mirror, and for the first time, I felt okay with my body. It's not that I suddenly felt like a woman. It's not that I suddenly felt like I matched my body. It's just that I suddenly felt like my body matched me -- I suddenly realized, Why do breasts have to mean I'm a woman?. Nevermind that it's a culturally-recognized physical clue as to the female gender. It's that moment where you've stared at a word for so long that it has ceased to hold the power of symbolism it normally does. It's that moment where "the" stops meaning "definite article" and starts meaning, "three letters stacked in a row that might mean anything in any number of different circumstances and languages."

I know other people will probably continue to look at my physical cues, at my three letters stacked in a row, and they will continue to see "Definite article: Female." But for the first time, I saw my body, and instead of thinking, This is a woman's body and I am not a woman, I thought, I am not a woman, and this is a body that belongs to me, therefore it is not a woman's body.

(I still want to get rid of my boobs if only because they get in the way more than one could possibly imagine, but I no longer feel desperate to get rid of them in order to be more of who I am.)
queerspoons: A painted Q on a glass window (Q Window)
Ever since I started exploring my gender identity on this blog, I realized how much I identify with trans* and genderqueer issues. I don't think I'd ever really parsed that completely before. Blame it on me shoving it to the back of my mind all those years of religious upbringing and ex-gay therapy, I don't know. I never let myself think about it. I had one box, one label I had to fit, and I was determined to fit it. It's been very freeing not to have to fit in that box anymore.

In the meantime, it is absolutely making my life better when I find stories about children identifying their trans* or genderqueer nature at a young age, especially when their parents are supportive (even if they often remain clueless about the intricacies of gender identity).

This was one such.

Kindergarten Complications
What the journey of transitioning from female to male means for a five-year-old in Silverton, and for those around him
By Megan A. Gex

Editor’s Note: Silverton native Megan A. Gex is a fourth-year magazine journalism and digital art major at the University of Oregon. Her mother, Susie, was Oliver’s kindergarten teacher and was intimately involved in his transition into grade school, as well as his gender identification process. Over the past two years, Gex and her mother have continued to be in contact with the family, and follow Oliver’s progress. The family’s last name has not been included to respect their privacy. Gex can be reached at megangex@gmail.com.

At first glance, Oliver is a healthy, jovial seven-year-old boy.

In the schoolyard he’s known for his gelled faux-hawk, and his favorite color is blue. His favorite book is The Dangerous Book for Boys. He loves to sprint the 200-meter in track and watch Sponge Bob on the weekends with his best friend. His rambunctious attitude and boyish tendencies belie a core reality: Oliver was born a girl.

(read the rest at justout.com)
queerspoons: Tracing paper uppercase Q and lowercase q (Q Learning)
Two in one day? Hah. Yes.

I've been thinking about pronouns. I had to describe the gender-neutral set and its purposes to a friend of mine the other day. I also had to write about myself in the third person. I, of course, wrestled with personal pronouns. I ended up using "she" and "her" just to skip the explanation phase.

When I was explaining to my friend, I told him (he's cis-male) that I refer to myself as "she" and "her" out of habit because of my upbringing. There were no gender options. I had to use the pronouns that matched the plumbing.

Today, I was typing a sentence about myself in third person in chat. You know, one of those *laughs* third person action things. /me commands, if you're used to IRC. You know the drill.

The first time I typed it, I used "her". Before I hit enter, I stared at it for a second, and I made the conscious decision to change it to "hir."

The thrill in my chest was amazing. It felt good. It felt better. I've thought about how it would feel to use "his" and "he," but that doesn't fit me either. I feel like that's just as limiting, just as inadequate at describing who I am.

I'm not sure I'm ready to start asking people to refer to me using gender neutral pronouns. It takes a lot of explaining, and it's not something that's in most people's vocabulary. If I wanted to change to "he/him/his", then that would be easier. They have a box for that. So I don't think I'll be offended if people continue to refer to me as she/her. But I think I am definitely ready to begin actually describing myself as xe/hir.

(I like x's, so I like the xe form. X is an automatically cool quotient.)
queerspoons: A powder-blue quail standing in front of a pale blue Q (Queer Quail)
I am taking a Psychology of Women class this semester. It is one of the worst experiences I have had yet.

The first day, I was distressed to notice that one of our assignments for the semester would be to write a journal entry about what it meant to me to be a woman. Further perusal of the syllabus revealed that there are no notable queer women or trans women that we will be discussing. This is all going to be heteronormative gender binary feminine psychology.

Okay, I thought. I can handle being left out. I can handle thinking that "This is a class in which we will study straight ciswomen."

Except then, today, I walked in (a couple of minutes late) to hear that she was lecturing on gender as a binary, gender as a constant, gender as immutable. The professor and the class told jokes and laughed about children being confused about their gender. Little boys insisting they were little girls. Vice versa.

And then and then.

She said, "You might hear the term 'transgender' or 'metrosexual'." (note: Um. Not the same thing.) "These are people you see in the media, in entertainment, playing around and having fun by choosing to adopt some traits of both genders."

I'm really not good at controlling my Death Look (tm), and I think she could tell that the redhead sitting in the back of the classroom with hir arms crossed over hir chest and glaring at her really wanted to bite her head off.

"Gender is not a binary in all cultures," she went on to say. "For us, as westerners, it is. But in some cultures, like the Native Americans for example, they think that some can have two spirits. They think that someone can have parts of both genders. And they think these people are important in their - um, their - rituals, their - traditions. They seem to think that these 'Two Spirits'" -- yes, she used quotation marks with her fingers -- "help with life transitions, from childhood to adulthood, from single person to married partner, those types of things."

She went on to talk about how not being able to fit people into a gender box "makes us uncomfortable, because that binary is part of our lives. That binary is the foundation of our identity as human beings, and when someone chooses to play with that, or to blur that line, it really threatens our identities."

She did not go on to say how that feeling of being threatened, confused, and uncomfortable is something we should get past. It was left there as a legitimate thing. That basis for transpanic, that basis for hate crimes, was left to hang in the air as "Yes, this is what normal people in society feel when faced with these freaks of nature."

I have never in my life felt so vulnerable, so backed into a corner, so unwilling to speak up and speak out about who I am, what I believe, what is right or wrong.

I have an ally in the faculty who is an amazing woman (straight and cis though she may be, I tend to forget she's not queer; she's so sensitive to the issues). I am planning to talk to her, to tell her what happened, to ask her what to do. I don't feel comfortable confronting my psych professor in a way that will leave me identifiable to her. Not only has she already expressed that my gender identity is unnatural and equitable to a primitive superstition*, it's the beginning of the semester, I don't even have any grades yet. I'm not ruining my GPA over this if I can help it. If I can't help it, then I will challenge the grade.

My university is such a pocket of liberalism in a tiny, conservative town that I was brought up short by this thought that not everyone is open. Not everyone is comfortable. I mean, I have had professors who like to have long conversations with me about things like how the GLBQ community can make the Ts feel more comfortable and more welcome, and perhaps why we don't already. We participate in study groups the faculty puts together in order to learn how to make the curriculum more sensitive to GLBTQ issues, how to make classroom discussions a safe place for us.

I am not used to my classrooms not being a safe place. I guess I'm a little spoiled. It was, quite frankly, terrifying.

*ETA: I do not mean to say that I am calling the Native American Two Spirit identity a primitive superstition; I meant to say that I felt she identified that identity as such, which I find offensive.
queerspoons: A painted Q on a glass window (Q Window)
I heard this episode of This American Life on NPR today. Act Two, "Tom Girls," made me cry, and at times, tremble.

I wonder how these girls will adjust when puberty hits them and emphasizes the differences in their bodies and their souls. As far as I know, it isn't legal to have reassignment surgery under eighteen? Maybe with parents' permission. And hopefully, from what I hear, these parents will allow their children to have that privilege.

Cut so as not to spoil anyone who wants to be surprised by listening )
queerspoons: The Q key on an old-fashioned typewriter (Q Key)
I would like to think I have the right to label myself. However, I understand that there are outward cues that other people find confusing when contrasted with my self-labels.

For example. I have the extreme misfortune to have been born to a family line of big-breasted women. I have had C-cup breasts since eighth grade. I had to wear a bra in fifth grade. They are now 38-C's, and I hate them. In fact, in fourth grade, when I noticed I was growing breasts, I cried and wailed and generally railed against the unfairness of the universe. All my girl friends were so jealous that I was getting breasts, and I was like, "Here! You can have mine!"

I like my hair. I tend to let it grow at all lengths -- I'll cut it to pixie length, I'll grow it out past my shoulders, and then chop it off all over again. Even if I were bio-male, I think I would do this. (Boys with long hair are so pretty.)

However, when I told an (adult, lesbian, cisgendered female) friend of mine that I considered myself genderqueer, she scoffed at me. "You are wearing feminine-cut clothes, you don't hate your breasts, you have a girl haircut. You're not genderqueer."

Excuse me. Just because I'm not your image of butch doesn't mean I'm not genderqueer. If I were a boy, I would still wear girl's clothes sometimes -- just like I wear boy's clothes sometimes now. If I were a boy, I would still have long hair sometimes, and I would get it cut pretty. And just because I don't try to bind my breasts does not mean I don't hate them. I can't stand them -- I just have to cope with them because binding them A) Doesn't work; they're too big, and B) HURTS LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER. And so far I can't afford reduction surgery, though it is on my list of considerations for the future.

Why is it that "genderqueer" must only mean "your decoration doesn't match your biology"? Look, inside me, there is a fabulous drag queen. But she is a man who wants to dress as a woman. There is also a kickass tomboy in there who only wants to wear low-slung hipster jeans and wifebeaters and leather-cuff armbands and cut her hair pixie style and smoke clove cigarettes and punch people in the face when they piss her off. And she is a girl who wants to dress as a man.

(There's somebody else in there who scoffs at the idea of gender entirely.)

Anyway, this memory of being told I'm not really genderqueer is so vivid in part because sometimes I do feel illegitimate as a genderqueer person, especially in the face of people who go full-op transgender. Going full-op wouldn't solve an awful lot for me, really. Half-op, on the other hand, is a consideration. (Breast reduction, down to an A cup or a small B cup; no more uterus/ovaries/periods; perhaps hormone therapy; but stopping short of the Build-a-Penis phase. De-gendered, in a way. That would be awesome.)

It also worries me whether being genderqueer, and whether going half-op to express the particular shape of my genderqueer (if that would, which I don't know yet), would affect whether I am considered desirable.

Which is a weird concern for me. I like to be considered desirable. I don't so much like to be desired or seriously pursued. My attitudes on sex (while a post in themselves) can be summed up basically as: "I think sex is amazing, I think it's a great concept. I like when other people have it. In fact, sometimes I like thinking about/watching other people have it. I even like having it with myself! But I don't so much like having it with other people."

Although I wonder... if my body was more acceptable to me, if it matched what I feel a little better... would I be more comfortable with having sex with other people? I don't guess I'll be finding out about that anytime soon, though, unless I win the lottery.

I wish I had a magic switch on my body.
queerspoons: a purple irony mark, which looks like a stylized backwards question mark (Point d'Ironie)
Although this is a journal for me, not for other people, it is helpful, I think, to have an idea of where I am starting from. I think I probably will refer back to this myself later, too, just to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

I was born in 1982 on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. I am birth-assigned female. I was raised extreme-conservative Evangelical/Charismatic/Pentecostal Christian. When I was nineteen, I had a sudden epiphany that I liked girls. I didn't even know what that was called. I also liked boys, which made life very confusing for me, and also reinforced the message my religious upbringing was giving me about my attraction to women being caused by a demonic spirit.

I ended up going to a counselor, and I went through six years or so of prayer, counseling, and journaling to try to exorcise the demon of lesbianism. In the last few months of those years, a lay-minister (ie, someone not-ordained acting as a minister) told me that my "gender-confusion" or sense of not really being a girl was the result of some spiritual wound or split that needed to be healed.

I finally ditched my upbringing for the far less stressful fields of some version of atheist-agnostic-paganism. I will refer to myself as any of these three depending on what I'm feeling most at the moment. My former religion didn't trust psychiatry (which is my college major now), so I wasn't aware until just recently that I have bipolar and social anxiety with a side of panic disorder, exacerbated in the winter, which is filed under seasonal affective disorder. There may be more at play, but those are the diagnoses as they stand now. (Before, my panic attacks were explained as "demonic torment." No, really.)

Now I don't know who I am. I stuffed things so deeply that I'm confused about who I am. So this is my way of exploring that. So that's it.
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