My heart hurts a little. I woke up yesterday to an attack on my gender, which if you follow me on twitter you’ve probably already heard about.
I wrote a post not too long ago on The Femme’s Guide about my newfound femme fagette identity, my multigendered femme identity and I was hoping for a while that more people would comment on it, so I suppose this is the one of those “be careful what you wish for” moments.
I woke up to this comment:
You are a cissexual person appropriating the expriences of trans women and other MtF-side trans people.
Wearing a feather boa and badly-applied lipstick that is the wrong color for you with your t-shirt and half-assed fauxhawk does not make you a drag queen and isn’t even particularly femme.
You are not a starfish, snowflake, or magical twinkling unicorn, and your personal identity is not a form of activism.
Pretty much a direct personal attack on my person, my gender, and my appearance. I replied well, or so I thought, but apparently I was being condescending and though I was trying not to be defensive it’s difficult not to be defensive when someone is out and out attacking you.
The comments went on, but one person stopped commenting and another took over. This second commenter was much more reasonable and constructive, she didn’t attack just told me to pay attention, basically, which I am grateful for. You can read all the comments here, many of which are insightful and thoughtful not just personal attacks.
The big issue that was offensive was they thought I was trying to appropriate trans experiences, which I wasn’t. Here is part of my latest comment:
When I talk about gender I’m not talking about anything “biological.” Never in the post did I talk about my sex, only my gender, and I get attacked with “you’re cissexual trying to be a trans woman” which is not at all what I’m saying. Am I cissexual? Very probably. I’ve never had a real affinity toward my sex, I don’t “feel” female (whatever that means) but I don’t feel male either so I’ve thought about reassignment surgery but, like the quote above, I’ve “decided that would not resolve my gender conflicts.” (Note: the quote I am referring to is the same one in this post) Part of the reason I love that quote. As Riki Wilchins said, you can say “I feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body” (or in my case, woman’s) and get results, but if you say “I feel like a herm trapped in a man’s body” people don’t understand and would think you’re crazy. (And I do know hermaphrodite is not a positive word, I was, however, quoting Riki from the book Genderqueer.) If I had my way I would be able to change sex frequently, but since I can’t do that, that’s what my gender and strap-ons are for. ;) (Though I know that’s not the same as transitioning, that’s supposed to be a bit of a joke.)
As for appropriation, I wasn’t trying to appropriate trans experiences in any way shape or form. This comes down to a language issue. Am I transsexual? No. Do I feel like Patrick did when he wrote the quote above? Definitely. I was agreeing with his sentiments, using the same language, and he wasn’t transitioning then either. The problem is that I don’t have any language for what I’m feeling or experiencing, the best I can do is use the language around me and try to make sense of myself as best I can. Just because I use language that sounds similar to trans experiences doesn’t mean I’m claiming to be trans, it just means I don’t have any better words, and that’s my fault for not finding any. I am multigendered. I never claimed to be trans in the post and I’m not trying to claim to be transsexual. I may be transgendered but that depends on the definition. I do not use gender and sex interchangeably.
Through these comments (the constructive ones, anyway) I have been made to think more about my gender and my definitions and experiences. I may repeat myself a bit from the quote above, so apologies if I do.
While I’m not transitioning I haven’t ruled it out completely, I just don’t think it would solve anything. I don’t feel female or male, I’m not sure what that’s supposed to feel like. I like having breasts and orifices, but I also like having a cock (though mine’s silicone, granted, and that’s not the same). I like the idea of growing facial hair, of my voice deepening, but I like my breasts and don’t want to get rid of them. I’ve felt for a while that I would feel most “me” as an intersexed person, somewhere between male and female. I’m not trying to appropriate the experiences of an intersexed person, I’m just saying I don’t feel male or female.
I have been feeling more masculine lately, not sure why I just have, more of my fagette side than the femme. Yet I don’t wear pants. Granted, gender is more than the clothes you wear it’s an attitude, a feeling, which is partly why my masculine gender is fagette as it’s a feminine masculinity. I never wear pants, or, almost never, I wear pants when I go to the gym and that’s pretty much it. Can I be masculine in a skirt or dress? I think so! Though not all would.
The big issue here is it is felt that I am trying to appropriate trans experiences. This too, is a limitation of language. I’m not transsexual, I freely admit that, and I’m not trying to say that I’m a trans woman, far from it! I used similar language, but I did not mean to appropriate anything. I do not think my experience is in any way shape or form similar to that of a trans woman.
I do think I am transgendered, however, though that depends highly on the definition of transgender, and I usually use genderqueer over transgender but they are similar though not the same. I know that is not the same as being transsexual (in my and many others definition). I don’t feel like I fit in with my culturally assigned gender. I am not a typical femme (whatever that means) or a typical feminine female, I embrace masculinity and femininity and rework them into me in a way that works for me. I enjoy drag of every kind, and I love to change my gender expression at the drop of a hat. I’m genderqueer.
When I walk down the street do I think that people see my gender as I see it? Not at all. I’m not easily identifiable, as I’m not easily categorized. I use the terms femme and fagette but what do either of those really mean outside of my own definitions? They’re so open to interpretation that I often don’t know what I mean by them, but I know I identify with them.
I try to learn as much as I can about gender and sex differences. I have a degree in Gender Studies focused on gender and sexuality issues. I try not to be offensive but obviously that doesn’t always happen. I try to understand as much as I can, but I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand the experience of another even if you have gone through a similar experience and definitely not if your experiences don’t come close. I have read a lot, but it’s never enough to avoid misunderstandings like this. I don’t really have any answers yet, but I’m thinking about it, and I think that’s important.
Although I was caused much pain yesterday from the hurtful and attacking way the comments started I’m glad that this issue was brought to my attention, as it’s not something I had considered before. I admit my own ignorance on this freely. All I can do is learn from the experience and try to be more precise with my wording in the future.