haleskarth: A person riding a bicycle with fairy lights woven into the spokes. (Lights entangled.)
Noël ([personal profile] haleskarth) wrote2011-05-06 02:08 pm

3W4DW: Identity, Presentation, and Language

Genderqueer FONSFAQ Master List

I have been reading [personal profile] pipisafoat’s Genderqueer FONSFAQ, in particular the sections on presentation and pronouns. I...thought that zie gave me a good springboard with which to discuss the matter of my own genderqueer identity, presentation, and language. This is from the perspective of a member of a plural system, particularly someone who is an active participant and decision-maker.

I am both agendered and androgynous: I do not feel that I have a gender, and I exhibit characteristics that this culture would define as being both masculine and feminine, so you could say that I am “androgynous,” but I feel that my behaviour is simply my being a person, rather than my deriving such behaviour from gendered cultural norms. I like what I like, and it is a reflection of who I am, independent of any gender identity. Politically, I view myself as genderqueer, because I do not identify with the gender binary, and want to create safer spaces for people who do not think that the current bipolar conceptualisation of gender matches their identity. All of these terms describe me: agendered, genderqueer, genderless, androgynous.

I express this, to an extent, in nonplural social contexts in which the atmosphere is obviously favourable towards nonbinary gender identities. While I usually do not talk about being totally genderless (after all, most of my headmates do most certainly have a gender), I do identify myself as genderqueer, and mention that “I” occasionally “fluctuate” to a more neutral identity. It is not strictly true, because I never fluctuate to a gendered position, but when there are several different people presenting as one, we feel that we have to compromise linguistically in order to accommodate people without feeling as though they are “lying.”

I am admittedly something of a clotheshorse (well, in my fantasies in which I am fabulously wealthy). Most of the clothing that I choose is fairly androgynous (my "uniform" consists of skinny or slim-cut jeans, button-down shirts, and boots, trainers, or slip-ons), although 99% of it comes from the men’s section. The front body appears decidedly male—and our male presentation was decided on by consensus—so the ambiguity is not evident. I am, though, not averse to picking things from the women’s section if it appeals to me and fits our body type without calling attention to the fact that they are “women’s” clothing. In order to avoid harassment for a “man” wearing obviously “women’s” clothing, though, nobody here would wear clothing that is strongly associated with women, like skirts, dresses, or heeled shoes. (The three of us who are the most active do not even wear such clothing within our headspace, except for Kerry.) While we live in an area that is certainly accepting of men in “female-assigned” clothing (we are in San Francisco, for goodness sake!), many of us, including me, are worried about social stigma. Yes, even though we routinely see drag queens boarding the 24 bus in the Castro.

I have a slight preference for male-assigned clothing, anyway, although what I prefer tends to be the sort worn by arty sorts, rather than “manly man”-wear.

I sometimes wish that the body appeared more androgynous—this was the case for a portion of 2009, after we had started testosterone, but were being perceived as both binary genders by different observers—but I know that Hess cannot tolerate being socially read as any gender other than male. The gender dysphoria that he dealt with at front was largely social dysphoria: he needed to be socially viewed as the correct gender. For me, this body would not meet my androgyny criteria whether it was transitioned or NOT, although I am more comfortable in it now than I was three years ago when I first joined the group. I have less physical dysphoria, anyway, than a desire to be unencumbered by gendered norms regardless of the body’s external appearance.

Our external presentation, therefore, is a matter of compromise. Is it difficult, sometimes, when you share space with people whose styles are nothing like yours? Yes. Often ridiculously difficult. When there are several people whose input is taken into account, however, it is something you simply have to deal with.

I use masculine pronouns, largely for convenience. I…am undecided about honourific titles, although I do not like any of the gendered ones. Neither “Mr Noël Dawkins” nor “Ms Noël Dawkins” fits. I like “Mx,” but it is currently unrecognised by most people who are unfamiliar with the genderqueer community.

This is why, in part, I use “he” rather than gender-neutral pronouns: I strongly dislike “it” (it is actually quite triggering for me), do not care for “she,” and people tend to struggle with the singular “they” and the neologistic GNPs like “xe” and “ey.” This also allows me to be addressed with my preferred pronoun at front, rather than having to adjust.

I think my pronoun usage would be different were society less averse to changing its habits. I worry that this sounds like a minor sop to the binary, but it works for me. I accept neuter pronouns in reference to me, but do not insist on them. This is in marked contrast to my headmate Em, who uses gender-neutral pronouns (usually “they” or “xe”) as a matter of course.