Sophia: Explaining Genderqueer

Saturday, 13th June 2009 at 1:35 UTC 6 comments

It’s a term being used quite a bit these days, especially on campuses, but what the heck does it actually mean? For those who live on planet YUSU, Trans issues have taken on added importance in recent weeks, with a Gender Neutral Toilets (GNT) motion being passed by the union a week ago. Originally written for Cambridge University SU by the person Wikipedia cites as the first to get a students union to pass a GNT motion, here’s a readable take on the concept of Genderqueer.

Even while you are still in the womb, society starts to try and put you into one of two boxes: boy or girl? From the moment you are born and the doctor checks between your legs and cries out “It’s a beautiful baby girl/bouncing baby boy(delete as appropriate)”, your fate is supposed to be sealed. Society will tell you what colour your clothes will be, what games you will like, who you can be friends with, even what you are good at.

Genderqueer says fuck that! Life isn’t so simple. Contrary to popular opinion, there are more than two sexes and as many genders as you can imagine: earth mother, metrosexual, tomboy, drag queen, butch, femme…

In fact, there are so many different masculinities and femininities that one day I realised I couldn’t think of a single thing that ALL women have in common (other than the label ‘woman’ obviously). Possessing a vagina? That both wrongly excludes some transwomen and wrongly includes some transmen. Liking pink and wearing skirts? I hope everyone knows that that is a ridiculous suggestion. But then, what do all men have in common? Fancying women? I know some gay guys who would object to that idea. (For me, being Genderqueer affects my sexuality too. What do ‘straight’ or ‘bi’ or ‘gay’ mean if you yourself aren’t male or female?)
Genderqueer is about being who you are and doing what you want and being aware that this can change.

People might be surprised to see me sewing patchwork in my army boots but I’m comfortable, and I’m just as happy cooking on a stove or a barbecue. When I fill in forms and the person behind the counter looks at me and says “You ticked Mr, surely that’s a mistake?”, I grin back and say “Nope, Mr Sophia, that’s me!”

Genderqueer is freeing, confusing, challenging, transgressive, comfortable, radical, normal and fun.

As well as wearing army boots and doing cooking various amazing veggie and vegan food, Sophia also co-authors a new blog entitled “Daleks Love Crafting

T’s and C’s: You send me the post or a link to it, and if I decide to include it, I copy and paste it across to my blog. Please supply a name to be posted under (pseudonyms are fine), or state a desire for anonymity, and tell me whether or not to link back to an original post/your blog. Posts can be either freshly written or previously published, must be substantially your own work, and broadly fit the Feminism/Gender theme.

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Entry filed under: Gender, Guest, Transgender.

Odds and Ends A Web of Hatred Worldwide

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alex  |  Saturday, 13th June 2009 at 2:35 UTC

    Vis-à-vis Sophia’s closing comment – I really do object to this use of “normal.” By definition, something which is transgressive and radical cannot be normal, so this list of adjectives doesn’t add up. If what you mean to say is that being abnormal is not a bad thing then that’s brilliant, I concur wholeheartedly. It is, however, still abnormal.

    If we are mature enough to abandon the stigma attached to ideas like homosexuality then why must there still be such a hang-up over normality? “Normal” and “abnormal” each have clear and well defined meanings and I see no need to misapply them in an attempt to defend something, particularly when it doesn’t need defending in the first place.

    Reply
  • 2. Helen  |  Saturday, 13th June 2009 at 7:20 UTC

    I think the day I “got” genderqueer was when a female-bodied genderqueer friend remarked that dressing “as a girl” – make-up, girly clothes etc – made them feel like they were in drag. I’m female and I feel female most of the time, whatever the heck feeling female means, but I sometimes feel criminally unfeminine compared to the stuff the talking box in the corner of my living room tells me. And If Gok Wan tried to get me into a capsule wardrobe it had better have two pairs of sensible trousers and lots of t-shirts. Actually I really want to do a post on Gok Wan now. Watch this space 🙂

    I think we need some kind of post-feminist genderqueer movement actually… (post-feminist as in progressing from feminism rather than negating it as irrelevant). I feel the only way we can properly get out of the horrid patriarchal mess that is society is if we can acknowledge people’s identity as transcending their gender rather than inherently subservient to their gender role.

    Or, to put it in actual English, that people are people, and it’s ok to be a man who likes pretty flowers or a woman who likes race cars, or genderqueer and liking quilting and army boots.

    I think a good start would be if all products were ungendered – no gender labelling. I saw a set of large stickers in Home Bargains (classy!) which said “Girl’s Bedroom Wall Stickers”. No, they were butterflies and flowers. Not only does the labelling exclude boys, it excludes girls who don’t want butterflies and flowers on their wall and are daily overwhelmed by the number of things that deny their own femininity because it doesn’t involve pretty pink things and flowers and stuff. It wouldn’t be too hard to just label things like that “Butterfly and Flower Wall Stickers”, leaving it open to interpretation.

    Hmm, I think I want to do a blogpost/rant about this now 🙂

    Reply
  • 3. sophia  |  Saturday, 13th June 2009 at 14:16 UTC

    Alex, the point I was trying to get across is that genderqueer can mean all sorts of things to all sorts of people. For me it is both normal and abnormal.

    I really like the idea of queer as being strange and unusual, of being not normal, and definitely not heteronormative. That said, being genderqueer is normal for a lot of people in that it is a fixed aspect of their daily lived experience.

    Reply
    • 4. Alex  |  Saturday, 13th June 2009 at 17:20 UTC

      I understand but I don’t agree. All that (ab)normal describes is frequency of occurrence. It doesn’t need to be taken as offensive, and it’s not necessary to find reasons to call something normal. It may well be “normal for a lot of people in that it is a fixed aspect of their daily lived experience” but it is not normal to most people and therefore not normal in the global sense, so why say that it is?

      If a descriptor is to be deemed offensive (though I don’t think either should) then I say it is normal, not abnormal. I just can’t help but find it a bit disheartening to see a celebration of diversity and individuality being qualified with normal. It’s undermining and contrary to its own purpose.

      Reply
      • 5. Alex  |  Saturday, 13th June 2009 at 23:05 UTC

        I feel I should add that I didn’t mean in the slightest to criticise the general content of what you had to say; it is “normal” and only “normal” with which I have issue.

  • 6. Guest blogging « Daleks Love Crafting  |  Monday, 15th June 2009 at 22:02 UTC

    […] check out my guest post over on Graham’s blog. […]

    Reply

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