Waymon Hudson

GenderQueer: Notes from a Sissy

Filed By Waymon Hudson | October 09, 2007 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: ENDA, gender expression, gender identity, genderqueer, LGBT, transgender, Waymon Hudson

Genderqueer is defined as: “a gender identity of both, neither or some combination of "man" and/or "woman". The term genderqueer is also sometimes used in a broader context as an adjective to refer to any person who challenges gender roles and binary notions of gender.”

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAs someone who can easily fit the above definition of genderqueer, I have been both surprised and disappointed by the “controversy” surrounding ENDA, as well as the debate on trans-inclusion and rights in general. The fact that some in the community are questioning if gays and lesbians actually have anything in common with trans-people is dumbfounding. Maybe I am missing some glaring part of the equation, but aren’t we all, on the most basic level, genderqueer?

The language “gender expression and gender identity” really applies to all of us. As LGBT people, none of us really fit into society’s narrow view of gender. Of course this is easiest to see within the trans-community, which challenges “traditional” gender roles. Yet as a gay man, don’t I, by definition, challenge those views just the same? Even the most “straight-acting” among us sleep with the same sex, something society views as outside of how we should act for our gender. They think men should not show affection to men. That is simply too “girly.” The same is said about lesbians: that they are women taking on what society typically sees as a man’s sexual role. By simply being gay, we are already bucking most people’s traditional notions of gender.

Even more obvious to me is the fact that we all suffer from the same basic form of gender oppression and discrimination. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and even many heterosexual people challenge gender boundaries and may be the victims of discrimination and violence as a result. In fact, studies of anti-gay discrimination indicate that up to 75% of such discrimination is caused by a reaction to gender expression, not actual knowledge that someone is lesbian, gay or bisexual. For example, when I’m walking down the street and someone yells “fag” at me out the window of their car, are they doing it because they know for sure that I’m a gay man? Unless I’m pulling a public Larry Craig/Jim Naugle move, they have no idea if I am really gay or not. They are reacting to the fact that I do not fit into their view as to what a man should look and act like. They see a man who looks too feminine and thus makes them uncomfortable.

This is why we have to come together as a community to push legislation that includes gender expression and identity in it. Sexual orientation language does not cover a large portion of the discrimination we face. It is a giant, glaring loophole that is used against us. We aren’t being discriminated against solely because we’re gay, it’s because we don’t act like someone thinks a man or woman should act. That is the commonality that binds LGBT people together as a true community. That is how all of our rights are related and tied together.

It comes down to this: we all are bound together as a minority who is attacked because of how the majority views us. None of us fit into so-called societal norms. We are all genderqueer. We challenge, on a daily basis, how many think people of a certain gender should act or live. Our enemies don’t care which part of the LGBT alphabet you fall under. They only see all of us a group of deviant, gender-freaks. Isn’t that reason enough to circle the wagons and fight as a community?

I would think so. But then again, what do I know.

I’m just a sissy…


Waymon Hudson, The Homo Politico, is founder and President of Fight OUT Loud, a national non-profit organization dedicated to helping GLBT individuals and their allies fight discrimination and hate. www.fightoutloud.org


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Indeed, we are not turned down for housing or employment, or fired from jobs, because the person doing the hiring/firing/leasing saw us commit a sex act.

These things happen because of perceptions people have of us. As I have often pointed out to some of my less-accepting Christian siblings, "you really don't know what, if anything, my partner and I do at home".

And, fortunately for many heterosexuals, no one knows what they do at hone either.

Eric Georgantes | October 9, 2007 11:15 AM

Excellent post. It describes very well what I dislike about the stripped-down version of ENDA.

Great post. The bit about being called "fag" from a car -- who can't relate to that? Walking to KMart from my college campus one time, in the middle of winter, all wrapped up in a body-consuming black wool coat (possibly the least gay article of clothing out there) I was called faggot by some drive-by bigots. What were they reacting to? Their own troublesome homosexual tendencies, I'm sure.

I have to admit I'm of the ilk who believes that "really" straight people are so unaware and unconcerned with gayness that they don't bother to hate, at least not to express it randomly while driving. The "I'm uncomfortable with my own gay thoughts so I hate on people to protect myself" theory surely explains the Larry Craigs of the world -- legislating against gays so as to hide from being gay.

The more we start to accept "queer" concepts as a community, the better, since "gay" and "straight" don't seem to cut it these days. Perhaps if people who occassionally had a gay thought but didn't want to be "gay" could deal with that and felt that it's okay, they wouldn't have to hate and discriminate to keep themselves in the safe/straight category.

Internalized homophobia -- that's my cross to die on.

This was a good post but i have to take exception to the assertion i am Gender Queer. I can assure you i am not. Being formerly transsexual i know what my gender expression status is and it is female.


Many people in my position see it the same way. we were borne in the wrong body according to some of those 57 chromosomes that determine brain sex according to a UCLA study some months back.

I also would take issue with society's narrow view of gender roles and identity. These days gender roles could not be more broad compared to when i first came out back in 1980.

I believe on both counts you are painting the world with a very broad brush.

A would also add as i have said in other posts here the trans community is really made of two very different types of people. Transgenders and Transsexuals or those formerly transsexual.

Once again good post
Take care
Sue


Thanks for the positive feedback! While I am not trying to paint anything or anyone with a broad stroke, nor would I assume to tell anyone how they should or shouldn't self-identify, the main point of the post is that we are all connected by how the larger society views us.

While you may be sure of your own gender identity, others in society will happily lump you into one category with other LGBT's, like it or not. That is why we have to come together to fight for each others rights and issues, even if they may not be exactly the same. We are all a part of a minority trying to gain equality from a not too understanding majority.

I also think having a broad definition of "our community" is not necessarily a bad thing. By broadening what we define as "our issues", we reach more people and gain more allies.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 9, 2007 2:20 PM

Great post!

I just spent about three hours reading through all the letters (to date) in response to John Aravosis' Salon post. The majority, I'm glad to say, are running strongly in favor of a trans-inclusive ENDA.

I remain saddened, however, that the issue of trans inclusion in LGB is still being debated at all. It seems like such a no-brainer. Can't we move on to more pressing issues? Like, what exactly do we need to do to ensure that the USA is at least on par with Catholic Ireland when it comes to non-discrimination in employment (not to mention, delivery of goods and services) of LGBT folk?!

I've heard a rumor, btw, that Salon has invited a very articulate informed and awesome tranny activist to address Aravosis' points....

I agree that all queers, and really all people, suffer under the oppression of a male/female gender binary. Yet I think it’s important to acknowledge that unchallenged and unrestrained masculinity is hugely invested in and reinforced by mainstream gay male culture.

I also think that transgressing some gender stereotypes is not the same as being genderqueer, and to claim otherwise is potentially disempowering to people whose bodies and/or identities actually do reside in (or outside) the margins of a male/female binary.

But yes, I agree with the overall sentiment of your post.

Yes, you certainly are a good writer. But, like most people, you miss the point entirely!

This isn't about some deep and utterly complex view into the issue of transgender inclusion. Its about getting a bill to pass.

Point and case!

Sometimes I wonder if people literally grew up living in closets. By age 15, most of us see and hear how politics work. When it comes to being sneaky by attaching the hate crimes bill to the defense spending bill, we applaud! But when we HAVE to sacrifice a portion of our (already distanced and excluded) community members, we shutter!

Guilt, perhaps? We've only kept the "T" in "GLBT" because we were already floating in a similar boat. Regardless, we've been comfortable in not caring about the lives and rights of transgender persons. But when it comes to looking bad in front of America...publicly betraying those we've already betrayed years before...we crack. I'd go as far to say that this is probably more about saving face, than actually wanting to include transgender persons.

Please! Millions of greedy queens are going to give up federal work protections, just so they can make a failed point about gender inclusion? Sure. Whatever you say.

We've worked hard to get to this point. We added the "T" to "GLBT" out of not knowing what else to do with it. And now that we are close to federal protections, we're going to pretend that we wanted the "T" in the first place.

I support Trans inclusion. But not when it's going to cost EVERYONE else their long-awaited rights.

THAT is what politics is all about. Give and take.

Shawn-

You certainly have the right to have your opinion, but I couldn't disagree with you more (except for the good writer part… That I will take...). Rather than debunk all of your assertions, I will refer you to the wonderful entry written by Nadine Smith called "A Moment of Truth" (http://www.bilerico.com/2007/09/a_moment_of_truth.php) under the Project Highlights. She explains why this is indeed about politics, our entire community, and why this stand matters much better than I ever could.

I personally think that this is not about "looking bad in front of America." It is about securing basic human rights for our entire community. And yes, that certainly includes transgender people, but it also includes everyone that doesn’t fit into society’s view of gender normality (or whatever you want to call it or label it). Why pass a bill that would be so easy to find loopholes in (“I’m not firing you because you’re gay, it’s just because you’re too girly”) and sacrifice and alienate a group of wonderful (and very vulnerable) people in the process? Just to say we got something passed? I encourage you to really go back and read your comment and see just how odd and somewhat cold it sounds.

I always find it interesting when people are so willing to exclude others to get their own rights secured. It is very easy to say "I support trans inclusion" when it is easy and convenient. But to say that you support it only when it won't affect you and your rights is a bit troubling. I wonder if you would feel the same about the "give and take" of politics if you were the one being sacrificed.

I don't say any of this out of malice; I am just troubled by the willingness of some to sacrifice others for their own end.

You don't eat your own. It would pass because it helps to divide the community. If we're not a large community, our voting block isn't as large. Even by 15 I'd have been able to see that as part of the political game too, Shawn. :)

While you may be sure of your own gender identity, others in society will happily lump you into one category with other LGBT's, like it or not. That is why we have to come together to fight for each others rights and issues, even if they may not be exactly the same. We are all a part of a minority trying to gain equality from a not too understanding majority.

This rationale is a self reinforcing perception.
I certainly don't buy into that rational.
I also refuse to let others define me, That is choice.
I have done quite well in dispelling many of
the mainstream's myths regarding who i am and how i self-identify which does not include a transgender label.

The only true reasons for anybody to belong to the GLBT is for a sense of political or social commonality, not because some one sees you or I as a part of the GLBT.

Take care
Susan Robins

I actually think we are saying the same thing, Sue. The "sense of political or social commonality" is exactly what I am referring to.

I was by no means saying that we should let society define us or tell us how to identify. I was simply pointing out that even though we are all different and identify as such, we still have common issues in how others may perceive us or not fully understand how we identify.

I agree that no one should define your identity for you, but we all have the commonality of how some in society view us, which gives us a reason to come together politically. Does that mean we don’t have differences and that we are all the same? Of course not. It just means we have the commonality of the discrimination that we face.