a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
"Embrace the power of 'and'" 
18 February 2013 18:08 - "Embrace the power of 'and'"
This is a very long overdue post about gender and me.

Here are the things I'm pretty sure about:

* I'm part of the asterisk in "trans*". Transcendent, perhaps. Sometimes transmasculine. Certainly transgressive. But I'm not transgender; that term as it's currently used implies a whole bunch of things that aren't applicable to me.

* The best pronoun to use for me is "Rose", because it's always accurate. "They" is acceptable. "He" and "she" are both inaccurate in significant ways, and deprecated in this release. I'd rather be mistaken for male than for female, but that's mostly because the latter happens so much more often.

* My gender is inclusive, variable, situational, and complex. About the only things it never includes are being cisgender and being heterosexual. I am queer and genderqueer, and those things manifest differently from one situation to another.

* Broadly speaking, I don't identify as a woman or as a man. There are situations where I am... let's say "politically female", because as a FAAB1 person who's usually read as female, I get the short end of the patriarchy stick in many respects; but I'm also aware that by shifting away from being female-identified I am taking on some of the privilege of masculinity. (The simplest illustration of this is that I almost never get cat-called on the street anymore.) So when I say "we" to mean "people whose sex/gender is approximately like mine", I'm usually referring to trans* or genderqueer people.

1. FAAB = female-assigned at birth, i.e. possessed of a body that this culture thinks of as female.

* There are times when I feel and behave like a woman, a man, a sexless genderless androgyne, a dapper dude, a butch dyke, a gay boy, a drag king, or the belle of the ball. I really like employing and exploring aspects of binary sex and gender. Today I shaved my chin, went to the barber to have my head buzzed, and then stood at the ironing board in my jeans and white t-shirt, ironing a dress shirt to be worn under a vest. I did all these things as conscious performance of masculinity. But when my mother introduces me to people as her daughter, I don't correct her. In some ways this post has been waiting until I could work my way around to an understanding of my gender that includes the phrase "my mother's daughter". It is still tremendously important to me that I am part of my family's tradition of strong, smart, artistic, quirky, loving women. So that's what I mean by my gender being inclusive.

* My gender is also inclusive of my history as a female-identified, female-presenting person. I know some trans* folks have felt trans* since childhood. I... have no idea whether that's the case for me. Whether through nature or upbringing, I have always had a mix of what this culture thinks of as masculine and feminine traits, and that's all I know about that, really.

* I'm not planning to change my name, take hormones, or have surgery. None of that negates my sense that for the last few years I have been what might be called "in transition". And I still am. My gender is a work in progress.

* My identity shifts have not in any way undermined my romantic relationships. Josh and Xtina have been tremendously, tremendously supportive, going out of their way to appreciate me as I am, reassure me when I doubt my attractiveness, get used to uncommon pronoun usage, have thoughtful conversations with me about how their orientations intersect with my gender identity, and otherwise be awesome. There are no words for how grateful I am to them.

What this means for you:

* In print or in speech, please use "Rose" or "they" as pronouns for me, and refer to me in gender-neutral ways: as a person rather than a woman or man, as J and X's partner rather than their husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend, as someone you admire rather than as your hero or heroine, as neither "sir" nor "ma'am". I'm not going to death-glare you for slip-ups; I make them too. But please try.

* It is perfectly fine to describe me to anyone as genderqueer or (in print) trans*. Please don't refer to me as trans or transgender. That asterisk is important. Update, 2015-01-26: my approach to this language has changed, and I'm now entirely comfortable being referred to as genderqueer, nonbinary, trans, or trans*.

* If you want to compliment my appearance, it's best to default to a gender-neutral phrase like "Wow, that outfit looks great on you" or "I love how you've tied your tie". If I'm deep in the dapper mindset, it can be very jarring and uncomfortable for me to be called pretty, or vice versa, and I don't expect anyone to be able to tell from the outside where my head is in that regard.

* If you feel tempted to divide the world up into men and women, remember you know someone who's neither/both, and adjust your worldview accordingly.

You're welcome to comment on LJ, but I'd rather you leave a comment on the Dreamwidth version of this entry. The current comment count is comment count unavailable.
18 February 2013 23:33
A fascinating and awesome post. Thanks for sharing it.
I'll admit that, for me, it's hard to think in non-binary terms when talking to/about someone who doesn't identify as such. You're not the only person I know who's somewhere in the middle, and it's been hard trying to retrain my mind to use the third/non-specific pronouns. The brain, it likes putting things in easy-to-define boxes. Heck, the brain, it likes transmen and transwomen because again, they're what it recognizes.

You, you make the brain work harder. And that's a good thing.

By default, then, you are Rose. Or "evil editor." :)

The really good thing? You don't need gender to be awesome. :)

In all the seriousness, it's essays like this which really help bring your aspect of the world to life and help us all understand just a little more.
19 February 2013 02:06
Another thing for your brain to chew on: I've seen several people say they prefer "trans men" and "trans women" rather than "transmen" and "transwomen"; the first is adjective + noun, emphasizing that a trans man is still a man and a trans woman is still a woman, while the second makes trans people into their own exotic nouns.
18 February 2013 23:35
Thanks for sharing, and yay on verbalizing!

(Also, slight envy on having this clear a picture of it all. I still have no idea what the heck gender I am, and not sure I ever will.)
18 February 2013 23:47
I think the slow but steady move back to using a singular they in English is a wonderful thing.

Interestingly, this tossed up in my brain the realization that I rarely use "female" in my internal identifiers of someone, but I do occasionally use "woman" (not of all females, only some, and occasionally of some males, too). I... need to poke at that some more and figure out what it means for/to me. Hrm.
19 February 2013 01:03
I loved reading this, and consider it done.
19 February 2013 01:48
Thank you for posting this. It was really interesting. It was also terribly apropos The other day in class, I was talking, loosely, about knowing several people who are gender queer in (from an exterior view) apparently similar ways, where they seem to care deeply about gender but move around a lot on the spectrum, playing with both the binary and the continuum. It generated a useful discussion, because the general awareness is of cis-gendered, trans (in the more standard binary crossing sense, although this is moving), and gender queer (in the sense falling outside the binary but not in a terribly fluid manner.)

Also, serious question, is "you look hot?" a gender-neutral compliment? I'd use it for both men and women, but I'm not certain that's a standard/appropriate use.
19 February 2013 01:55
Sure, I think that's perfectly reasonable to say to anyone you find attractive and have reason to think won't mind such a compliment from you.
19 February 2013 01:49
Commenting here rather than DW b/c I wanted to use this icon and haven't ever gotten the icon migrator to work.

I caught up with JY in Boston over Hunt/Arisia weekend, and you came up in conversation. It was a very awkward conversation for me as I corrected myself around twice a sentence in my pronoun usage as I tried to express my (of necessity incomplete) understanding of your gender identity. On the plus side, this means I care, even if I'm a stupid creature of habit and am still stuck w/ using the pronouns I first knew you by. I don't think she follows your LJ/DW, but we mentioned that was where I'd read of your evolving gender identity, so if she does want more details she knows she can come here/there. It's my understanding you two don't particularly move in the same social circles, though I could be mistaken. But my point is, I'm trying, though I'm not yet there. My apologies I'm not yet there, and if you'd prefer I didn't report my failures but only my successes (though I do view the attempts as successes, it occurs to me you might not), or if I didn't say anything at all and treated this process as the norm, then I'll do as you prefer. I think you're the only person I know who's out to me as being non-cisgender, so I'm trying to do right by you. (Edit: Not that I wouldn't try to do right by the N-th person or by someone I hadn't known for as long, but setting precedent is good.)

by shifting away from being female-identified I am taking on some of the privilege of masculinity. (The simplest illustration of this is that I almost never get cat-called on the street anymore.)

What makes you say that this is due to your gender-identity/-presentation, rather than say your age or just your own mindset on a given day? Do you actually observe a different number of catcalls on days that you present as feminine rather than masculine, and are you sure it's not that you perceive the world differently when you are presenting a different way (i.e., not noticing the catcalls or interpreting them differently when presenting as male)? I find that I experience fewer catcalls "nowadays" than "in the past," but I think it's due to multiple factors. I think a lot is location because all of my female-presenting friends who grew up in the NYC area experienced sexual harassment (if not worse) on public transit, while my Boston-growing-up-female-presenting-friends are all shocked when I tell them the stories and say they never experienced anything like that. But it's more than just that for me b/c I haven't experienced any street/transit harassment in NYC when I've visited in recent years (could be my age, my self-confidence, or even "Guiliani/Bloomberg cleaned up the streets").
19 February 2013 02:04
I'd be totally happy to never hear anyone tell me how hard they try to use my pronouns, to be honest. Just do your best and don't stress it.

When I buzzed my hair off the number of catcalls immediately dropped. It was very clear correlation.
19 February 2013 02:12 - *
*takes notes to make sure I remember*
19 February 2013 02:50
Good to know--I'll be sure to stick with your preferred pronouns from here on out.

Also, thanks for writing this; I often have trouble verbalizing concepts I have about my own gender, and your words are very meaningful/helpful to me.
19 February 2013 03:03
Glad to help!
19 February 2013 02:56
The "mother's daughter" thing is particularly interestingly timed for me, because timprov and I were having a far-ranging conversation that touched on analogies transgender people make to try to explain their experiences to cisgender people, among other things, and we were talking about continuity of self. And I forget what magic wand-type physical change he was asking about where he said, "Would you still consider yourself you if that happened?"--and what came out of my mouth was, "Well, yes, because no one else is my grandfather's granddaughter." And then I had to stop and turn that over and look at it in the light.

Sometimes the things we are come with facets we didn't entirely expect.
19 February 2013 03:02
I kept trying to say "Well, I sure am my mother's child" and it kept just not working. Finally I realized that if my instincts weren't conforming with my ideology then my ideology had to change.

What really sealed it was the notion of my mother no longer being able to say "I have a daughter"; that's just unfathomable. But beyond that, I changed my last name specifically to honor my matrilineal heritage, and in some ways to stake my claim to it. Annie, Rosalie, Caroline, Nancy, Rose. That will always, always be a part of me.
19 February 2013 06:28
Cool, thanks!
19 February 2013 08:38
I think this is all very cool. =)

As someone who is firmly cisgendered, I find it really interesting to see how other people view the world. On a side note, I think my femaleness is tied into my view of myself as someone who can bring a child into this world. And while I certainly value myself on many other intellectual levels, I think there's a very core part of myself that is very glad that I'm a mother, and it all ties into my gender identity. (This is an evolving theory in my head; please excuse the undoubtedly rough edges.)
19 February 2013 14:42
Hey Rose, I have a question that is meant in the spirit of curiosity and wishing to understand, but I am concerned it may come off as undermining, in which case, I apologize and retract it. Of course, it is important to refer to people the way they wish to be referred to; I am curious as to why "they" feels more correct to you than "zie," which is the inclusive non-gender-specific pronoun I'm used to from feminist websites. Again, I'm not attacking or correcting; I'm just wondering if there's something about "zie/zir" that I'm unaware of but should be.
24 February 2013 22:46
I like "they" because it arose spontaneously and has been in use for a long time. Everyone knows how to spell it and pronounce it and use it in a sentence. I have no argument with "zie/zir" except that it is so clearly artificial.
19 February 2013 16:24
Thanks for writing this, Rose. I feel like we're long-lost siblings sometimes, and I feel really reassured when someone else has the same thoughts about their gender/body/pronouns that I do. You are really an inspiration for me, too, to listen to those thoughts and try and manifest them, either by requesting terms like 'partner', or wearing men's clothing.

By the by, how do you feel about the word 'handsome'? I've read a lot of 18-20th C literature in which that adjective was applied to women and men, so I don't really think of it as being particularly gendered, myself. (BECAUSE I'M A MADWOMAN, A MADWOMAN!) (edit for other folks who're curious: that's a quote from a certain book I don't want to spoil by W. Collins, one of my favorite authors who examined women's issues and poly relationships in the 19th C, and used the word handsome in the manner I mention)

19 February 2013 20:34
Congratulations! [grin] Also, I appreciate the guidelines as to your preferences -- I like being polite and respectful, so knowing how is very helpful. Your wishes and identity matter to me. Also, I'm really glad that your partners have been so awesome and supportive. Yay!
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