#QueeringGender: Affirming Us, Loving Us #Gender #Transgender #F

This post originally appeared on January 6, 2014 written by Lynx. This was Lynx first post as a contributor to Hashtag Feminism.

On December 27th 2013, I tweeted about my gender. I wanted to talk about my gender identity especially since the character limit in the Twitter bio section doesn’t provide space for much detail. Using the hashtag, I spoke about how my gender isn’t as simple as checking off “male” or “female” on a form or online test. I talked about pronouns I used that include “she” and “they”, with “he” being reserved for special occasions.

#Queeringgender to me means bending it to your will. Making it yours. Stepping over it, tip-toeing under it…bouncing on it back and forth

— Lynx Sainte-Marie (@LynxSainteMarie) December 27, 2013

#QueeringGender to me means thinking beyond the boxes of traditional gender performance. I perform gender more than I AM a gender.

— Lynx Sainte-Marie (@LynxSainteMarie) December 27, 2013

#Queeringgender was born from these self-reflections online.  As someone who identifies as a genderqueer person of color (POC), my gender cannot easily be described. My gender is part of my spirit; it is a complex entity that cannot be named by others.

I always say that I can’t tell what my gender really is, but if it could speak, it would name itself. My gender is unconventional and outside of the “norm”. My gender is messy. My gender is political. It serves to be a reminder to those who believe that gender can only be what society says it can be. Thus, I am #QueeringGender.

Photo: #queeringgender is going on on twitter right now, so I’ve mapped mine out in a handy graphic. http://t.co/3nVJEGIGoG

— Emperor von Bears (@halfabear) December 27, 2013

For most of us, the gender binary does a lot more harm than good. This current binary system that is created for cis gender heterosexual (or “cishet”) folks oftentimes renders many of us who don’t fit neatly into its confines as invisible. We become othered. We are shunned.

This binaric belief system purports that sex, gender, and gender expression should be the same, or match-up according to prescribed notions of traditional sex, gender stereotypes, and expressions of gender norms. For instance, if you were assigned female at birth (AFAB), then you are considered a woman and thus, it holds true, that you should act feminine.

This system also says that male and female are opposites; that these genders should rely on each other and compliment each other.

#Queeringgender is a hashtag that helps to eradicate a binaric gender belief system by affirming all genders and gender expressions, especially those outside of the male and female binary.#Queeringgender is a message of love. It is a celebration. The hashtag exists to let others know that whatever gender they are and whatever gender expression they have, these expressions are normal and natural, regardless of the journey that people take to arrive at their own conclusions.

#Queeringgender is also about building community with other folks who share similar experiences of being condemned and shunned because their gender/gender expression don’t match traditional norms.

We are what we say we are, and that’s okay.

Society makes those of us who swerve away from traditional gender ideals feel SO much shame “Put on a dress or get out of the world, woman!”

— Lynx Sainte-Marie (@LynxSainteMarie) December 27, 2013

My Story

Growing up in an old-school Jamaican household where Christianity and cornmeal porridge were served hot every morning, I was told that there were certain things that boys could do that girls should not do. My grandmother always told me that “a whistling woman and a crowing are an abomination unto the Lord”, and for awhile, I had no choice but to believe her. As I grew into adulthood and found feminism, I felt I would find a community of people that would be open to my gender experiences, even if it didn’t match their own.

In both circumstances, I felt like an outsider. My mum still cringes at the thought that I describe myself as “routinely androgynous”. The white, able-bodied, cishet feminists that I befriended during my university days still believe that sex and gender are synonymous with each other. To fight against your feminist sisters, who have time to read more books and reference more Gloria Steinem quotes than you, meant your feminist membership would be permanently revoked.

Though it took several years, I grew to learn that there were others like me in the world that didn’t and couldn’t ascribe to cishet-feminist experiences of gender. I would come to see the world as a place I should belong to because there were others like me who struggled against a confined gender system.

I support #queeringgender b/c rigid rules regarding gender help no one and hurt so many.

— Sophia Banks (@sophiaphotos) December 29, 2013

I support #queeringgender because I don’t want people to put me in a box labelled “woman” or “femme” or “queer” or “has a uterus”

— jay, token muslim (@jaythenerdkid) December 29, 2013

Trolling #QueeringGender

Because folks fear those who live outside traditional gender norms, queer/trans* individuals confront marginalization on a daily basis.  It is no wonder, then, that the #QueeringGenderhashtag was trolled with violent reactions.

TERFs, get the f*ck out of my HT. This is about love and affirmation. Not your discomfort or trans*phobia. #queeringgender

— Lynx Sainte-Marie (@LynxSainteMarie) December 28, 2013

Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (or TERFs) speak out against trans* folk, especially trans* women who they believe are not “real” women. Many of these attacks from trolls on the hashtag were dehumanizing and violent, especially those remarks directed towards trans* women.  These attacks continued throughout the day and even now, some trolls continue to stalk the hashtag.  Some attacks were thwarted by other trans* folk; others were silenced by trans* allies.

#queeringgender Because one day it will seem deplorable that folks choose not to acknowledge the identities of others. — J Mase III (@JMaseIII) December 28, 2013

In my opinion, anyone flying a feminist flag that endorses trans*phobia and trans*misogyny are NOT feminists. Cishet folks who consider themselves feminists, but who remain silent while others fight for equality should have their feminist cards revoked.

And so, #QueeringGender also serves to criticize some feminists who do not believe transgender folks exist or do not see the marginalization of transgender folks as a priority in their movements.

We are coming for you cis white feminism #FuckCisNorms #queeringgender#MyFeminismIsTransInclusive — Sophia Banks (@sophiaphotos) December 28, 2013

The reality, however, is that no one is safe from the gender binary, with its rigid rules of gender conduct by which not even the cis of cis folks can abide. I’ve witnessed self-identified tomboys (a girl or woman who exhibits certain masculine-of-center characteristics) chastised for not being quiet enough, or lady-like enough. I’ve seen femme-identified men who have routinely been targets of hate and violence at the hands of straight men who used violence to prove their masculinity and self worth. Femmephobia is perpetuated by binaries, patriarchy and misogyny.

Because doing the work and creating space for all people dismantles patriarchy and cissexism. #queeringgender — J Mase III (@JMaseIII) December 28, 2013

Since everyone’s lives and realities are complex, #QueeringGender is highly intersectional and filled with nuance. Not all of us who claim various gender identities and expressions come from the same lived experiences of oppression. An example of this is the way black trans* women deal with higher rates of violence than other races of trans* folk.

Race is always a factor in my gender perception. Racism is always a factor when I experience hate incidents and harassment. #queeringgender — Jun-Fung 闕 君 方 (@chuehjunfung) December 27, 2013 

Proud trans latin@ here. My gender was not stolen by the Spanish Imperialists. It is my greatest rebellion #QueeringGender — satan (@bloodmages) December 27, 2013 

Being gender ambiguous and a POC is a dangerous business. Shoutout to those who have no choice but to live under the radar! #queeringgender — Lynx Sainte-Marie (@LynxSainteMarie) December 28, 2013 

Where my multi-issue allies at? Please signal boost #queeringgender. HT created by the amazing @LynxSainteMarie — Jun-Fung 闕 君 方 (@chuehjunfung) December 27, 2013

There are many of us who deal with visible and non-visible disabilities on top of trans*misogyny. Some of us, because of our inability to “pass”, cannot use gender segregated washrooms. Some of us do not want, or cannot afford gender affirmation surgery (which by the way, doesn’t make us any of us less trans*!). And some of us, because of white supremacy, have had our genders questioned because of our race, culture, or immigration status.

My ancestors had gods that existed outside the gender binary. I am just following in their footsteps  #QueeringGender

— satan (@bloodmages) December 27, 2013

Finding Community in (Un)Safe Spaces

Having read through, retweeted, and favourited many experiences from all who used the hashtag, I can safely say that a great deal of us are finding solace and community. However, Twitter is far from perfect, and there are still many different sides of the story that need our full attention. We need accessible spaces, both online and offline, that celebrate and affirm queer/trans*, intersex, and non-binary gender experiences. For these reasons, I started the website Queer of Gender, a site for marginalized and multi-issue folks whose gender/gender expression aren’t “traditional”, “white-washed”, able-bodied, “thin” and so on.

Non-binary teenagers are brave and important. Our identities are just as valid as yours. #QueeringGender

— satan (@bloodmages) December 27, 2013

@sophiaphotos you’re incredible. Trans* people are warriors for being true to themselves despite heteronormative society. #queeringgender

— Catia A (@agcatia90) December 29, 2013

#queeringgender is being grateful for all of the amazing genders, bodies, sexualities and identities that exist in our beautiful community

— J Mase III (@JMaseIII) December 31, 2013

hashtags like #queeringgender help me remember that i’m not alone in my non-binary identity <3 so needed.

— cupid stunts (@catpennies) December 27, 2013

#queeringgender gave me the courage to admit that I am genderfluid. I feel like I can be honest in conversations now.

— Lilith (@GrimalkinRN) December 29, 2013

#queeringgender: That time you put on your first pair of #falsies and became #JunFungcé. (“Drunk In… http://t.co/wWdwpqxkBq

— Jun-Fung 闕 君 方 (@chuehjunfung) December 27, 2013

There are so many ways we negotiate and understand our genders and all are valid and should be recognized. And though this hashtag was accidentally put forth on Twitter, I’m glad we are having these conversations together. The conversations and ideas emerging by way of #QueeringGenderare not simply opinions, they are expressions about our lives. I can only speak for myself and encourage others to lift their voices. Each of us has a story to tell, and we need to listen to each other just as much as others should listen to us.

We exist, and we need to honour our many existences.