It’s not about the dress

So I promised some trans/QG stuff last November and am finally following through now.

Part of the reason for the lag is garden variety fear. Me, I know. Fear. Right? But it is, and it’s because I’ve found I have to defend myself not just to the non-queer community but also the queer community, and in some ways I feel like this part of me is trivial, and so trivial I shouldn’t, you know, rock the boat.


Right, so having acknowledged that issue, here I go.

I’m going to start with a moment at WisCon a couple of years ago. I’m sitting on a panel to talk ostensibly about non binary gender in SF/F — cool topic — which has as we predicted devolved into a Nonbinary 101 discussion. Less cool. In particular it’s less cool because someone on my panel is saying she’s never heard of nonbinary gender before and is it actually a thing, even though we asked her in discussions about the panel before the panel to not go there.

She went there.

I was the only nonbinary, queergender identifying person on the panel. Originally the person who wanted to know if nonbinary was really a thing and had never heard of it before was put in charge of the panel, which we finally protested particularly because she kept relegating what I am to “well, it’s a matter of opinion.”

Hey, guess what? It’s not.
We’re not even going to have that discussion. It’s not a matter of opinion. Right? Okay.

So then we get on this kind of dangerous tangent about “gender” being only a product of society’s construction. Which I get, I see why that’s said and in part it’s true but in part it’s absolutely not true.

Perception of gender is absolutely partially about behaviors, and perceptions, and socialization.

Perception of gender is also absolutely about biology and perception of body.

Which is why when someone said to me “well, given that gender doesn’t really exist, who cares how you identify? It doesn’t really matter.”

I replied thus, and when you think and talk about nonbinary gender, I want you to hear my voice in your head, saying this:

“Around half or more of the time, I think of myself as having a COCK.”

I said COCK really loudly like that and people jumped visibly. I want you to think it loudly like that in your head too. COCK!

So. I am by birth female. Despite being female-bodied, I still conceive of myself as having a cock a good portion of the time.  COCK! God, I love that word.  Anyway, yes, this means that a large portion of the time I experience dysphoria. Is it bad enough for me to do anything about?  No. Because if I went and got an operation to have a cock, then my physiological gender, my sex would be wrong less than half the time and I would have gotten expensive surgery that didn’t really fix anything, or only half fixed it, and I was mostly right half the time.

Which brings me to, weirdly enough, pronouns.

The majority of the time I’m referred to as “she,” which isn’t wrong much of the time, and when it is wrong, it seems pointless to me to correct someone and say “actually right now it’s he,” because listen, short of a placard there’s really no way to know.

This brings me to dress.

“If you’re feeling male, then you signify that by dressing male, and if you feel female, you signify that by dressing female.”  Right?  So fucking simple.  I wear a skirt, you call me by the “she” pronoun, I wear — oh, crap. Men and women both wear pants.  Fuckity fuck!  Now what?

See the issue?


… which would be hilarious but, well, no.

So I’m going to present this to you, dear reader, as our mutual dilemma. You want to gender me properly and I reserve the right to be the gender I am in this moment, and this moment may actually change five minutes from now. And it changed fifteen minutes ago. Like when a gorgeous ass walked by and I thought “goddamn I would love to tap that.”

“Zie!” you exclaim helpfully. “Hir.”

Sure.  If you must.  But I am male, when I am male, and I want “he.” In fact I want “Sir,” in fact I want “dude you are one fine specimen of manhood get your COCK over here.”

If it helps, I have the same problems you do. When I get up in the morning and get dressed, I wind up settling on a day to day basis for pants and a tank top or T-shirt and generally no bra (because nothing makes a guy feel less masculine than a bra except maybe a vagina), and go from there.

Going out?

Jesus, it gets complicated.

What I’m trying to say here is that being nonbinary being queergendered is complicated. It’s complicated for me, for you, and that’s why, I think, those of us who are both — not simultaneously, not agender (yes, that is also a thing, go look it up) and in my case, not genderfluid, which I consider to be something else, something I’m not — tend to be quiet about it. Because it’s powerful, real but also nuanced, and extremely difficult to explain and even express.

And when members of our trans family are having enough trouble as it is getting recognition and rights they deserve, our “mostly okay at least half the time” seems kind of pissant, or at least that’s how I feel.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.





I have to put a disclaimer here. My experience of gender is mine. I don’ t speak for others. There’s a crapton of ways to be out there, and this is mine. Don’t generalize by my experience and view, just add it to your box of knowledge and continue to add to that box. Trust me, I’m doing the same, all the time.

One thought on “It’s not about the dress

  1. Now I want a velcro moustache.

    “well, given that gender doesn’t really exist, who cares how you identify? It doesn’t really matter.”

    … but it matters enough to try to nullify it. Hmm.

    Who cares how any of us identify? Only ourselves and each other.

    Social constructs -really exist- all over the place. Making social constructs exist is one of the things humans do. ‘Society’ and ‘family’ exist in ways far beyond ‘groups of hairless primates’ and ‘sets of genetically closely related hairless primates’. Part of my family purrs and catches mice.

    Calling something a social construct does not make it not real enough to matter, it just allocates to it a particularly intriguing and potentially mutable kind of reality. Isn’t that, and the intersection between kinds of reality, what make SF&F so particularly interesting?

    “Around half or more of the time, I think of myself as having a COCK.”

    This deserves a round of applause.

    ‘Don’t generalize by my experience and view, just add it to your box of knowledge and continue to add to that box.’

    You are wonderful, Sir, Madam.

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