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"I’m pretty comfortable with myself and my genderqueer-ness when I’m alone, but as soon as I find myself around other people, I start to question my gender roles. I find myself constantly asking, "Am I more masculine right meow? Or feminine?? What am I trying to convey to the world?" Getting dressed in the morning is a nightmare. How do I DEAL."

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Erika Lynn as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Erika Says:

First of all, I’m a dog person, so I would have said “masculine right woof.” But, more importantly, I can relate. For much of my adolescence, my gender presentation and roles were determined by the people around me. Sometimes, I’d try to be really masculine to fit in, and other times I’d try to be incredibly femme to stick it to my parents. But most of the time, these changes were unconscious, and I’d only notice them after the fact, when someone pointed out to me that my behavior changed in different settings. I used to think of this as a bad thing, as a sign of inauthenticity, but as I got older, I realized that having your gender role and presentation informed by those around you is actually fairly common, and can be really good and important.

Gender, I like to think, isn’t so much something we are, but rather something wedo. And we all do gender in different ways. Cheerleaders in layers of makeup, all trying to wear skirts shorter than each other, are doing gender one way. Football linebackers (they’re the big ones, right?) trying to bulk up more than the others are doing gender their own way. Drag queens trying to out-fabulous each other are doing gender their way. To each group, doing gender can mean very different things, and someone existed in all three circles, as a cheerleader, a linebacker, and a drag queen (maybe a character on Glee?), then they would be doing gender in different and equally valid ways, depending on the situation and the people around them.

Now, it does seem like this is causing you discomfort, so I would suggest that when you’re in different settings, look for specific ways that you do gender that you dislike. If you want to change your gender presentation to something you feel more comfortable with, then identifying those specifically gendered things you do in different situations allows you to know what you might want to change; that is, it allows you to know how you can do gender differently.

As for the clothing question, many people, myself included, have very fluid gender presentations, and it seems like you might as well. That question seems to haunt you in the mornings, but actually I do something similar myself. I usually ask myself how I’m feeling, and what I want to do (in terms of gender) today. And from that, I pick out an outfit—sometimes a cute frock, other times a ripped, tye-dyed t-shirt. Either way I’m doing gender differently.

One thing that might help ease any discomfort is to stop labeling different actions as “masculine” and “feminine,” and to think of doing gender in terms of specific action sets and behaviors. For example, “Today, I want to be perceived as rough-and-tumble and tough,” or “Today, I want to be dainty and passive,” or “Today, I want to be tough, dainty and assertive.” These are all ways of thinking about how you want to do gender outside of the gender binary. Sure, the first two could be lined up with “masculine” and “feminine,” but by stripping them of that context, they can be perceived more as socially constructed, as something we create.

As someone who’s genderqueer, you have the privilege of getting to define what gender is for you. Thinking of gender as different sets of actions, behaviors or perceptions rather than as a combination of masculine and feminine traits might give you more personal freedom and alleviate any discomfort you feel with your presentation. It also allows you to look more specifically at actions you do in different groups, and, as I said earlier, this can help you determine which actions and behaviors you like doing around certain people, which you don’t, and which you want to get rid of.

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"Hey, so I came out to my parents as both genderqueer and pansexual last week (I’m 14). Today my mum went clothes shopping with me and didn’t make MANY comments when I went to the male section of the shops. Until, on the way home, I asked if she could buy me a binder, and she started crying. I’m AWFUL at talking to my parents, and I cant get out any of the words important to this conversation (sexuality, gender, binder, queer, etc.) What can I do? Please help me."

- Question submitted by PridefullyQueer

Dannielle Says:

I always suggest writing your feelings down when you can’t communicated them properly. Your mom / parents are going to feel pretty sensitive because this is all HELLA new to them. I mean, you’ve been feeling it, thinking about it, discovering what it means, etc for weeks/months/years and you JUST told them recently. We all need time to process things when it comes to gender / sexuality because we just aren’t used to thinking about these things.

Part a. Your parents are clearly trying, if your mom went shopping with you, that is HUGE. There are so many parents that would either (1) give you $50 and send you on your way, (2) tell you not to buy “boy clothes,” (3) buy you clothes without asking what you wanted, making you feel 1000x worse.

Part b. Your parents want to understand and communicate, but right now this is all new and they are confused and they don’t know what to say. WHICH IS FINE because you don’t know what to say. You have all these feelings you want to talk to them about, but no clue how to say the right thing OR how to respond when your mom bursts into tears on the freeway.

Write a letter. Say the things you want to say, tell them you understand it’ll take time until they totally get it, tell them you want to have these conversations but you don’t always know which words to use, appreciate them for being supportive, let them know you’re willing to talk, give them mad props for being amazing, accepting, loving and wonderful parents.

They don’t totally get it right now, but they’re working towards an understanding and they will get there.

Kristin Says:

I agree one million percent.

First of all, you feeling really torn up about the fact that your mom burst into tears when you were just trying to communicate something about yourself makes complete sense. We all wish that those around us – and especially our parents – would simply understand us immediately, and be happy that we are working toward a place of understanding ourselves. But, like Dannielle, said, this is a different process for every person, parents included.

I think the absolute best thing you could do is to write that letter. Explain that you are still learning about yourself, that it is hard for you to talk about it sometimes, and that you understand that it might be hard for your mom as well.

Make this about how much you love each other and how much you want to share your journey with your mom because of how much you love her. The more she is able to focus on how incredible it is that she has a child who feels comfortable enough to try to speak about things, the more she will begin to be thankful, open, and patient with her own and your process.

Almost every parent forms a certain idea in their head of what their kid’s future will look like, and almost every parent has to adjust that picture to the actual reality of their child’s life. Your mom is going through some feelings, likely related to those pictures she had in her head, but you can work with her to help her form a new picture of the real you.

It won’t happen right away. There will be some slip-ups, and some moments that both of you wish you could take back. That’s okay. You will learn to better express yourself over time, and she will learn to better understand you.

<3

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"I think I might be genderqueer, and I know my friends would be accepting of that, but at the same time I feel like if I tell them they’re just going to think I’m doing it for attention or to follow a fad or something, esp. cuz one of my friends has just said THEY’RE genderqueer. But like gah im just ugh I WANT TO TELL SOMEONE."

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

If I were you, I’d start by talking to my genderqueer friend. I’d literally sit down and be like “Hey TOAST, can i ask you a question” and when TOAST is like “Yes FRIEND” you simply ask “did it feel weird before you told everyone you were genderqueer, I’ve been kind of questioning and wondering and thinking and I don’t know who to talk to about it…”

If TOAST is a decent human being, you’ll feel a lot better. Generally when people think you’re ‘following a fad’ or ‘copying someone’ it’s because someone says ‘i did that first’ SO IF YOU CAN AVOID THAT YOU’LL BE GOLDEN. Plus, it’s nice to start with someone who understands what you’re going through. If that friend is like ‘YOU’RE A COPY CAT AND YOU’RE THE WORST AND YOU JUST WANT ATTENTION.” I would talk to a different friend and say “I dunno what to do because I’m having these questions about my gender and I tried to talk to TOAST and TOAST flipped out!!”

So, you see, your bases are totally covered. That’s baseball language for you’ll be totally fine. Just don’t say ‘I’M GENDERQUEER AND I’M NOT COPYING ANYONE AND EVERYONE SHUT UP’ bc… that’s not nice.

Kristin Says:

My advice was actually going to be to shout “‘I’M GENDERQUEER AND I’M NOT COPYING ANYONE AND EVERYONE SHUT UP,” sooooo…

En serio, though (that’s Spanish for SERIOUSLY), your own strength in your identity is what is going to help you through this process. There is no test that we have to pass or clothing we have to wear or behavior we have to adapt to “prove” how we identify. No one ever has the right to tell you who you are or why you feel the way you do inside, because each one of us is far too complex to be “figured out” by anyone… we are often too complex to figure ourselves out!

I think you can approach it, initially, from the standpoint of someone who identifies as genderqueer, is worried about being taken seriously, and who has become even more comfortable with themselves as a direct result of TOAST also coming out as genderqueer. It doesn’t at all have to be “COPYCAT MCGOO” but can instead be reflective of the fact that you now feel more comfortable and safe speaking about your identity because you know you are not alone.

At the end of the day, if anyone rolls their eyes or says something to you or behind your back, I would approach them and ask them how it would make them feel if you decided you knew exactly who they were and why. No one should ever tell anyone else who they are. KRISTIN SAYS SO.

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“This girl that I really like came out to me as gender queer. What does this mean because I don't want to offend her by saying something wrong like using the wrong pronoun or something?”

-Question submitted by addictedtothedrama

Dannielle Says:

I mean, in all honesty you should just ask. B/c genderqueer basically  means the person doesn’t identify with Male or Female, or identifies with both. It was coined as like a ‘third’ gender, pretty cool actually. You don’t necessarily have to choose. So, talk to your girl about it, chances are she’ll be pumped to tell you all about it and that openness will bring you even closer!!

Kristin Says:

Dannielle is so damn SMART, you guys.  There really isn’t a “correct” pronoun to use for someone who identifies as genderqueer; some people still go by “he” or “she,” some prefer gender-neutral pronouns (these get a little complicated), some prefer to alternate between the binary gender-pronouns, and still others prefer no pronouns at all.

The best thing for you to know is that you are not expected toknow what terminology to use.  I am always grateful to the people who go out of their way to ask questions in an effort to understand and to not be offensive.  When people have asked about my married lesbian friends (“Am I supposed to call them both each other’s wives, or is there another way that it is better to refer to them?”), I have always been happy to help them out.  I am sure that your friend will be psyched that you care enough about [insert pronoun here] to make that effort as well.

Don’t worry if you slip up, either! If your friend wants you to try to not use pronouns, and you accidentally say “she” in conversation, DON’T POOP YOUR PANTS.  You deserve time to get used to this new knowledge, and I am nearly certain that your friend will think the same.

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