Star Ford

Essays on lots of things since 1989.

In which queer is clarified

on 2013 August 18

After I posted some things about coming out, some people took that post as the Big Announcement, and thought that making that announcement is Doing Something Weird and OMG what will the children think and etcetera. Other people went into a “supportive” mode and I feel like they are a cheering audience and now I am supposed to perform a miraculous transition.

A few problems there.

First of all, one does not simply “step out of the closet”. Coming out is a long process of finding ways out, little by little; it is not like flipping a switch. Telling people about it is just one piece. I have the impression that most people are not fully aware of their surrounding walls, and don’t really know how in the closet they are. That’s how closets are, they mess with your mind, and you can’t find the way out. Since I still don’t know how to be myself in public or what kind of person I really am, it feels to me like I haven’t come out very much yet.

Second, coming out is the end of something, not the beginning of something. As it appears to some other people, I’m just going along normally tra la la, then one day I say I’m transgender and start dressing shockingly, so they think I started a new Thing which is totally out of character. The reality is that I was transgender all along but was putting a lot of energy into dressing and acting falsely. What I’m doing now is just not performing that act as much, so I’m not Doing Something new at all. I’m moving on to other things, it’s not a big deal any more. There are certain follow up tasks like getting clothes I like, but for the most part the show is over.

Third, the change is not as much in me as it is in those people who are surprised by it. Gender is at least two things: part of our inner identity and a projection we throw onto other people. Every time someone genders me and uses that to control or assume something, it’s a little assault. If they feel they have to change their projected gender of me in their mind, it could be a lot of reprogramming for them, and maybe they resist it or it feels like a big change and it feels like I’m requesting or forcing the change. But all their past gender assaulting wasn’t my fault and I’m not asking them to change any more than I asked to be judged in the first place; the reprogramming work is in their mind and is their problem. (The desire to control other people and make them fit your image comes from hatred, the seeds of violence. Let it go.)

And finally, just because someone is transgender does not mean they are doing a “transition”. I don’t like that word because it implies intentionality and depth, and a definite beginning and end, as if making a choice to switch sides whole-hog, leave one camp, traverse the desert and set up in the other camp. For me it is only changing the surface, and possibly manipulating other people into gendering me differently; it is superficial by definition. A person can be into female clothes for a while then be into male clothes later, and they aren’t going “backwards”. A person doesn’t have to do anything medical (for which the word “transition” makes more sense), or anything at all.


7 responses to “In which queer is clarified

  1. Jessie says:

    Now I’m imagining an actual desert between the girls’ and boys’ sections of clothing and toy stores. Just to make the difference clear, you know. You get through on a path of burning coals bordered with rattlesnakes.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If someone is putting a lot of energy into dressing and acting falsely in order to make others believe they are someone who they are not, is it respectful or disrespectful to interact with xyr as through xe is the person xe chooses to project? I generally consider it rude (and possibly dangerous) to “out” someone. The assault Is in failing to create relationships and communities where people feel safe enough to openly be xyrself.

  3. cck says:

    If someone is putting a lot of energy into dressing and acting falsely, they have good reasons for choosing to do so. I don’t think it is particularly respectful (or safe) to “out” someone, even I have some reliable way of knowing the truth if someone is intentionally hiding their identity. The assault, I think, is in failing to create relationships and communities where people are comfortable fully expressing themselves.

  4. ianology says:

    Anonymous, when you talk about people acting falsely in order to make others believe they are someone they are not, I wonder WHO you mean by that. Most people have some degree of “false” expression because people don’t automatically know who they are; for a lot of us it is a life journey to find out. Transwomen may falsely express themselves as male because of social or economic pressures. Some people may act falsely without putting a lot of energy into it. I guess I wonder how you could judge which person is being false? You seem to be saying you know who the “real” person is, but maybe you don’t know; maybe they don’t even know.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ianology, this is more of an etiquette question/comment.

    Active deception is different than being uncertain, evolving or experimental. The first is false and the later is honest questioning and growth. I’m not blaming anyone for passing to protect xyrself from social or economic harm. I’m just reacting to the word “assault.” I don’t want to assault a friend by using an incorrect pronoun. But how does one avoid it if the friend is intentionally projecting a false gender (or sexuality, race, ability, etc.)? The only way I can think to avoid it is to create safer communities where people don’t fear social or economic harm by expressing their identity. But maybe you have other ideas? [honest question-not rhetorical]

  6. Joel says:

    Anonymous, it’s simple: you use the pronouns that your friend wants. For instance, if your friend has an identity of woman, but presents (expression) as a man, and wants you to refer to her in public as a man, then, in public, you use “he, him, his.” It’s not dishonest, it’s respectful. My use of pronouns referring to someone else is not about telling the world their chromosomes are whatever, their identity is whatever, or anything else. It’s about saying, “I am affirming this person’s expression and desire to be referred to as ‘he'”.

    Likewise, if they are a transwoman, and are expressing themselves as such, you use “she, her, her’s”.

    It’s pretty simple. You are affirming expression, not necessarily identity and certainly not genitals. And expression can vary by circumstance. Someone may express masculine in some environments (around parents is a common one) and feminine in others (in a safe, comfortable environment). That should be respected. Of course they might be woman in gender identity always, even when pretending to be masculine around the parents, but you’re not affirming their identity with pronouns, only their expression.

  7. Ellie says:

    Even if you are not intending to ‘transition’, you should seriously consider getting more estrogen into your system. You might well find that it makes all the difference to you in your quest to find out what kind of person you really are. I think it may turn out that the concept of ‘Aspergers’ was a mistake from the beginning, at least for some of us. That’s what happens when you create a free floating symbol based on behaviour rather than biology, and then spend years promoting it as a ‘thing’ its own right. The real lesson seems to be to just keep searching and not let yourself be ‘labelled’ with something that doesn’t really fit.

    Thanks again for the book, it was one of the pieces of the puzzle that helped me in my quest to figure it all out for myself. If only there were a way to undo some of the damage for the others..

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