Tag Archives: non-binary

Body Political

(Originally published on Gender Splendor in Fall 2013)

My body is a political weapon. I’m not talking about just the fact my body is a transgender one either. I am a walking political billboard, by my own choice. I use my body, especially how I dress my body, as a statement every time I go out into public. I am a visibly queer and transgender person. While I dress rather gender non-conforming (since I am a non-binary person who prefers feminine clothing, heels, and extreme colors), there is something much more eye catching than that.

I wear a hoodie, covered in buttons and patches ranging from simple trans pride flags to loud exclamations of gender terrorist, the gender binary is a form of hierarchy and oppression, and your silence will not save you. From the moment I walk out the door of my grandmother’s house, I am setting out on the table who and what I am. I am THAT queer person who introduces themselves as queer almost before they give you their name.

This simple article of clothing has become an important part of me. I love being visible. I find empowerment in it. I love knowing that the moment I walk into a place, I automatically get the label of queer (or some form of it). Every day is some form of social experiment depending on where I go and it seems to be a bigger success than my topless NYC Pride statement (where everyone just thought I was a hairy lesbian. More planning needed for next year). If people are not staring at me, I am probably at a friend’s house. Everywhere I go, people stare and look.

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The Impact of School Environments on LGBTQ Youth

Abstract

The impact of negative school environments were examined on LGBTQ youth, focusing on the mental and academic areas. LGBTQ students who experienced higher rates of victimization experienced more frequent school and mental health problems. Students in supportive environments experienced less frequent school issues, especially if the school staff showed support and understanding. Studies show and support that negative school environments have long-lasting repercussions for LGBTQ students that influence later life choices such as higher education as well as reported self-esteem and depression.

The Impact of School Environments on LGBTQ Youth

In the United States, the majority of youth spend most of their time in the education system. In this environment students learn not only about math, social studies, and various other topics, but about how to interact with peer groups, form life-long social relationships, and learn about themselves, their identities, and their place in the world. While school is meant to be a mostly learning environment, the social aspects of the school experience cannot be ignored. Due to this social aspect of school, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) youth face special hardships due to their sexuality and gender that are not faced by their heterosexual and cisgender peers (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). These hardships are not caused by peers alone but also from faculty and staff as well which creates an even more negative environment for LGBTQ youth.

This victimization takes many forms from vocal, to verbal, to sexual. Students face anti-queer sentiments from simply hearing their sexuality used as an insult (“That’s so gay”) to having laws and lawsuits placed against their needs such as using the correct restrooms in the case of transgender students (Biegel, 2010; Kosciw, Greytak, Palmer, & Boesen, 2014). The harsher the responses and the source of the victimization have a direct connection with the response of the LGBTQ youth. The lack of support from faculty and staff in regards to peer issues leads to greater harm than students who face victimization but have the support of the school staff (Adelman & Woods, 2006).

These negative environments also lead to a decline in school attendance, lower GPA, mental health issues, and lack of goals for future education. The impact of the negative environment is harsh, taking its toll on not only on school based activities, but mental health as well. LGBTQ youth in unsupportive and negative school environments face lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression and even more suicidal ideations/thoughts that those whose environments are supportive of them (Adelman & Woods, 2006). This impact does not stop after the student leaves school but can leave lasting mental health issues that can lead to problems with substance abuse as well as problems with maintaining relationships later on in life (Grant, Mottet, Tanis, Harrison, & Herman, 2011).

The key is not only to tackle the negative environment but to make sure that the students also have a support structure as well. This includes clubs like Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), on the books anti-bullying policies, as well as training for faculty and staff in dealing with the specific needs of LGBTQ students (Cahill & Cianciotto, 2012). These support structures are crucial in taking the epidemic of problems faced by LGBTQ youth within the school system. Without these support structures, students have no way of creating an environment that is safe for them to grow, learn, and create lasting peer groups as well as positive self-esteem (Adelman & Woods, 2006; Biegel, 2010). Negative school environments lead to problems in school with attendance and GPA as well as mental health issues that last once the student leaves school. This paper will look over these negative school environments and these various impacts on LGBTQ students throughout their school careers.

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Queering Religion

Religion and queer identities- often these two things are seen as conflicting forces. If you are one, you cannot be the opposite. Religion and being queer cannot exist hand-in-hand and when they do, it is often not only in conflict with the person, but within their community at large as well. Religion and queer are seen as conflict and negative, rarely as something ever positive. Even when the topic of queering religion comes up, it often comes up in the form of gay and lesbian members of the Judeo-Christian churches. Narratives focus on them and their sexuality, within the context of how they manage to reconcile their sexuality with their religion. These forces are still seen at odds as opposed to complimentary modes of support that create a whole rather than conflicting parts.

Rarely is the queering of religion spoken about as the involvement of transgender and gender non-conforming religious and spiritual people. Maybe occasionally, but not in the same vein as queer sexualities in regards to religions. Then again, this tends to be the case with anything that does not follow the Big Gay focus of marriage and assimilation.

Thus, religion as a positive force is rarely ever explored when it comes to queer identities, let alone gender. Even rarer is the exploration of how religion can help one better express their gender and their identities and relationship with their gender and their religion or spirituality. Religion is often such a negative influence that we often forget the positive that religion can do for people and communities, the help religion can provide as well as the guidance it can bring.

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Righteously Mad

This originally appeared on In Our Words Blog. The website is no longer available so I am posting this previously published piece here. It has been edited slightly to fit into my more recent words and writing style (such as an added paragraph) but 95% of the post remains the same as it was when it was posted to IOWB.

Why do trans people act so sensitive when you discuss trans identities? Why do they get so uptight and righteous when you start talking about the obviously fake trans people and not them? Why do they get so upset when you misgender someone out of spite? It’s not like you were talking about them! You’re just talking about the bad trans people who give queer people a bad name! People shouldn’t get so upset about that!

When you talk about people as a collective, you are talking about them. You are telling people it is ok to do these things as long as someone sees them as bad, wrong, or incorrect. You are telling others and setting an example of behaviors that are never OK to do to anyone. You are tone and identity policing people.

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Short and Long-Term Effects of Family Rejection on LGBTQ Youth

A family’s most basic functions include support, both emotional and financial. Our family are the first relationships we develop and are usually the ones that we hold onto the longest, from birth to death. These bonds are not only meant to integrate us into society but prepare us for our own families when the time or choice comes (Hammond & Cheney, 2009). What happens when these family units do not fulfill their most basic functions and cast out their family members for things that are often not a choice, such as gender or sexual orientation?

Family rejection can happen for a number of reasons from personal differences, religious problems, alcohol/drug use, arguments, and so forth. However, many times families can settle their differences and still continue to act as a unit, even if they do not necessarily get along. However there are occasions where this rejection is lifelong from the moment it happens. This can lead to short and long-term health effects, both mentally and physically, regardless of age. The impact is most significant if this rejection happens during youth and is over things that cannot be changed, such as gender or sexuality (Lowrey, 2010).

These effects can range from homelessness, increased depression, increased suicidal thoughts and tendencies, to higher accounts of HIV/AIDS and drug use/alcoholism (Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2010). This rejection can also lead to being in and out of the criminal justice system due to the criminalization of homelessness as well as survival tactics such as the survival sex trade (Valentino, 2011). These problems are also affected by experiencing racism, transmisogyny (misogyny directed specifically at trans women), as well as sexism, heterosexism, and other institutional oppressions. For example, a Black trans women will face more problems on the streets than a White cisgender (meaning non-transgender) gay male (Grant, Mottet, Tanis, Harrison, & Herman, 2011). These impacts are both short and long-term, impacting a person’s life from the moment the rejection happens and beyond.

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The Feminine Threat

When people critique femininity, they proclaim that femininity is weak, unnatural, and artificial. Many of the traits that people associate with femininity are seen as inferior, such as emotional, sensitive, grace, innocence, feminine styles of dress (such as colorful attire), especially when compared to their masculine counterparts. However, I find this kind of absurd when compared to how fragile masculinity actually is. It is threatened and questioned, potentially even destroyed, by being near femininity. Even associations with femininity cause chaos in the stability of masculinity.

Masculinity, especially the masculinity of cisgender straight men, is constantly under threat from femininity. Masculinity is something so fragile, that they fear to breathe the same air as someone who is feminine, especially someone they perceive as male (whether this is correct or not). For something seen as so weak and so inferior, masculinity is certainly on shaky ground. This ground becomes increasingly shakier the more masculine a person becomes. It becomes increasingly fragile the closer someone gets to hypermasculinity or idealized masculinity. It becomes threatened by something as small as painted nails.

In an attempt to stop biting my nails, I wore fake nails with sparkling purple nail polish on them. People stared at my hands. They refused to touch me. They acted as if touching me would somehow have them catch The Gay. People would take bags from me at work, avoiding at all cost touching me. The overwhelming majority were men. They were threatened by my blatant display of femininity, seen as more over the line than my long hair. It’s absurd that we see femininity as weak when masculinity is defeated and threatened so easily. How can femininity be seen as weak when masculinity is threatened by a dude with painted fingernails? A small dude, nonetheless, with painted fingernails who is 100lbs soaking wet. Yet we see masculinity as strength?

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Dysphoric Reality

TW: Suicide (potentially), dysphoria

People talk about dysphoria as if its a monster. This looming beast who lurches over us, slowly pressing its weight into our bodies. This creature that lurks around every corner, in every shadow. This Blood Mary who waits in our mirrors to strike if we dare to catch a glimpse. Dysphoria is described as dark and monstrous, something ready to rip out hearts and minds out the moment we dare to acknowledge it, feeding on the small triumphs to bring us back down. Those watchful eyes that never leave, that phantom breath down our necks.

What if I were to tell you that for some, dysphoria really is a monster. It really is a creature lurking in the shadows, sucking on happiness and leaving a hollow shell. What if I were to tell you that it may kill me soon and is just waiting for the right moment to strike with blade sharp fangs and claws? If the hushed ways we speak of these feelings manifests. It twists. It warps. It becomes real. Welcome to my world. I do not only have to deal with dysphoria, I have to live with it.

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The Tokenization of Relationships

“But I have Black friends!” “My cousin is gay.” “That’s not true! My uncle is transgender!” We’ve all seen it before, the tokenization of relationships in order to prove a fact. Someone with friends, relatives, or ever partners who belong to a marginalized community cannot be against that community or hold ideas that are oppressive against them, right? Of course they can. The tokenization of relationships to prove a point even solidifies this point. How?

 

We’re all the same.

By saying you are friends, related to, partners with, etc. X marginalized group and thus cannot hold beliefs that harm other members of the group, you are saying that all members of the group are like your friend, family member, partner, etc. This is erasive and simplification of the complexity and variance of the group. In order for you to be supportive of the entire group, you are saying their identities and lives are just like that of the person you know.

Get Out of Jail Free Card

This tokenization also uses said relationship as an object, proving that there is nothing you can do or say that would be problematic because you have some relationship to this marginalized group and they have never said anything. This goes back to the fact that it holds the idea that these groups are all the same and cannot hold varying, let alone conflicting ideas or beliefs. If one person of a group believes something, all other beliefs must be incorrect. Interesting how this only applies to the ones who agree with the person who is defending their actions, beliefs, thoughts, etc.

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What ARE You?: Confusion in a Confusing World

“What are you?”

Honestly, I’m not quite sure. I am a trans man…..sort of. I do not entirely identify with man and trans is more of a description for me than man ever has been. I am non-binary, but that is just as vague as saying I have some sort of gender, but I’m not quite sure what it is, no matter how true that is. I am not confused as to who I am, I know that part quite well, but what I am is quite a bit trickier.

Imagine someone handing you a color swatch. They are painting their house and need to figure out how to describe the type of color. They want your help. You look at the swatch. The swatch is purple…kind of. It’s not exactly purple but, that is the closest word you know to describe it. It is clearly not green, orange, or red. However, purple is not quite the correct term. Purple-ish? Not exactly quite right either. You know what the color is not, but you can only describe certain qualities of the color, not the color itself.

Thus, for me, man is the closest I can get to my identity in the current word pool I am allowed and know. However, it is not entirely correct, thus I use non-binary, however, even then, it is imperfect.

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Trans Masculine/Feminine: The Recreated Binary

I can only speak on the term trans masculine and how it erases CAF (coercively assigned female) trans people like myself. Thus, the majority of this piece will focus on those erasive and binary aspects of the general usage of the term trans masculine.

 

I do not feel safe in trans masculine/trans male spaces. Despite identifying in some ways as a trans guy (my identity is complicated), I know these spaces are not for me. I am not masculine. I am what I consider to be high femme. I prefer feminine clothing and dress. I embrace my feminine characteristics such as my speech patterns, movement, and hand gestures. I’d be considered camp and flamboyant by gay male standards of femininity. My personal style is more close to drag queens than it is to other trans men. I am not trans masculine.

Trans masculine spaces, in an attempt to be inclusive of people like me, have shut people like me and many others out. They tie the ideas that to be trans and have been CAF, one must also be masculine. These spaces are overwhelming dominated by masculinity, as the name implies, to the point that feminine people like me are pushed out. Our identities and ‘transness’ questioned not only by the terminology but by the members as a whole.

They continue the binary and cissexist notion that to be trans, if one is CAF, one must be masculine in some way. They tie maleness to masculinity, often in excess. Even the non-binary aspects, are tied to maleness as masculinity is tied to that idea in society. If we wish to escape the binaries of society, we need to unravel that connection. We need to remove masculinity from male, femininity from female. Another discussion for another time.

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