quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
I wrote an article appraising and critiquing this year's IoS Pink List, suggesting constructive responses and looking at how some of the eleven (binary, transitioned) trans* people included for the first time this year have inspired and represented me as a nonbinary, genderqueer, gender nonconforming, queer-identified, atypically transitioning, andrognynously presenting trans* person. Here are some extracts:
This stuff is important. I had an ‘inspiration board’ on the wall of my teenage bedroom, full of printed out song lyrics, pictures and newspaper clippings that kept me going through my last couple of years as a closeted queer teenager at a rural comprehensive school (1996 to 98). My board included people like teenage Age Of Consent campaigners Chris Morris (who was the same age as me) and Euan Sutherland, and famous performers like Ellen Degeneres, Wilson Cruz, Brian Molko, David McAlmont, Ani DiFranco, Michael Stipe and Skin from Skunk Anansie. Being surrounded by images of successful queer and gender nonconforming people and listening to their music made me feel like less of a freak and gave me hope for the future.
As a community, we need visible inspirational ‘heroes’ to look up to. Some people survive, get through it and are inspired to succeed and perhaps become activists themselves due to newspaper articles just like this one. It is possible to critique the form of an award and the nature of the organisation that issued it while still seeing it as important and valuable. As little as I believe in the honours system and the monarchy, I still found it incredibly significant and inspiring when the establishment recognised the work of trans* activist Christine Burns by issuing her with an MBE in 2004 and Stephen Whittle by issuing him with an OBE in 2005.
I see these lists and the tendency to single out certain prominent famous and notable people for recognition and awards as only problematic in isolation. If we let this be the only way that trans*, queer and LGBT people are celebrated in our communities, then yes, it is problematic. If we let this start a conversation about who else should be recognised and celebrated, the hard work that so many others do in our communities and all the different ways people make a difference, then it becomes just one of many ways that the deserving, inspiring people in our communities receive thanks.
When Dan Savage started the It Gets Better campaign, I was among the critics who found it deeply problematic. But it started a conversation that prompted complementary and constructive campaigns that focused on helping young people to Make It Better, and inspired many other It Gets Better videos that weren’t problematic in the ways that Savage’s had been. There are now some amazing trans* and queer It Gets Better videos out there and no end of testimonials from people saying how seeing them has helped them in the way my inspiration board helped me.
...
And let’s not forget that we do have eleven openly trans* people and several more trans* allies recognised within the Pink List article. Forget the numbering and the different categories and focus on the recognition these people have been rightfully given. As I said above, I want to see more trans* people included, more trans men, more trans* people assigned female at birth, more nonbinary, openly genderqueer and solely gender nonconforming people, and I want us to work towards getting those people into next year’s list and given recognition through our own community efforts, independent of The Independent. But let’s not play down the hugely important work those who are listed have done to represent, inspire and improve the lives of all trans* people.
...
Travel writer Jan Morris whose groundbreaking 1974 memoir Conundrum and its journey through her transition (most notably chapter 12) was my first exposure to the reality that it was possible for me to become androgynous, it wasn’t just something that some people were naturally gifted with that I could never achieve. I cannot overstate how important this was to me and how much hope and inspiration it gave me as a dysphoric nonbinary person trying to find comfort with my body and social role.
...
Sarah Brown, Britain’s only openly transgender activist serving in an elected political position; a Liberal Democrat Cambridge City Councillor, and chair of the Lib Dem Transgender Working Group. Sarah was instrumental (along with Zoe O’Connell) in influencing Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert to raise the issue of gender neutral documentation such as passports in the House of Commons. Something that will be vitally important to many nonbinary, genderqueer, transgender and gender nonconforming people in this country (including myself).

Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence, an organisation that does hugely important creative work with young transgender and genderqueer people and is explicitly inclusive of the wider transgender spectrum. Jay organised the wonderfully positive and inclusive Trans Community Conference, that I was lucky enough to attend this year, and was previously the chair of FTM London, an AFAB (assigned female at birth) trans* support and social group known for being inclusive of all identities and expressions within the wider transgender spectrum. I have briefly spoken with Jay and seen him speak from stage and on video. He comes across as someone who comfortably challenges stereotypical assumptions that all trans men are hyper-masculine. Read him here encouraging readers of the Times Educational Supplement to celebrate transgender students and allow male assigned students to express femininity in their schools.

Journalist Juliet Jacques (in the ‘Nice to meet you’ section) whose blogging for The Guardian has talked frankly about the process of coming to terms with being a trans woman and undergoing transition in a very public and visible way that has exposed the human story behind trans* people’s lives to a whole new audience. In her earlier articles, Juliet talks about how she did not have the stereotypical transsexual childhood story (in a way I hugely identified with), and tried on and explored numerous transgender identities and communities before transitioning. She writes about having been drawn to male crossdressers, made to feel less alone by the comedy of ‘action transvestite’ Eddy Izzard and going through years of identifying as a gay male crossdresser and later ‘transgender’ as described by Leslie Feinberg and Kate Bornstein. As such she is one of the few journalists to have written about transgender people who ‘live beyond the traditional gender binary’ in a mainstream outlet.

...

So while I am not aware of any nonbinary, genderqueer-identified or solely gender nonconforming trans* people recognised on the Pink List this year, every one of the trans* people listed above has either worked for their rights and/or recognition in some way, or challenged binary gender roles and the public’s stereotypical view of transgender people through their openness, their humour or their own gender nonconformity. I don’t know about you but, as a genderqueer and nonbinary person, I think that’s worth celebrating.

Read the entire article at PracticalAndrogyny.com
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)

Practical Androgyny is a new site I've created devoted to the practicalities of ambiguous gender presentation within a binary gendered society.

The binary gender system classifies all people into either female or male, woman or man. However not everyone fits neatly into these categories. Some people have non-binary gender identities, and so do not feel comfortable when assigned a traditional gender. Whether owing to choice or chance, many of these people are not readily gendered by others. This state of binary gender ambiguity can be described as androgyny.

Practical Androgyny is a resource for both those who are comfortably androgynous but struggle with the pressures of the binary gender system, and for those who are gender dysphoric and wish to explore the possibilities of gender ambiguity. The site does not focus on the details of gender identity but on the practical aspects of living with, or obtaining, an appearance that defies gender classification.

Why ‘Practical Androgyny’?

Most websites and discussion communities about genderqueer and non-binary gender tend to focus on identity. The discussions tend to be mainly theoretical, deconstructing society’s concepts of gender and exploring the diversity of gender identities and expressions possible for those of us that slip through the gaps in the binary gender system. The most commonly asked questions are ‘What is gender?’ or ‘What is my gender?’. These are hugely important questions and it’s a good idea for everyone to be asking them, not just those who feel gender dysphoria or feel out of place in a binary gender system. However for those of us who already asked and answered those questions for ourselves, it’s difficult to find resources about the practicalities of living as something other than female or male.

‘Practical Androgyny’ is also descriptive rather than prescriptive. Resource sites that non-binary identifying people may find useful are often tied to a particular identity, with the assumption that the reader will hold that identity or the implication that you must take on that identity label if you relate to what’s described. Practical Androgyny recognises that gender identity is highly personal and that there can be as many gender identities as there are people. Practical Androgyny recognises that more than just non-binary gendered people will find androgynous living resources useful, and everyone will pick and choose from the resources this site provides. Plenty of genderqueer or non-binary identified people choose to live within the gender binary to some degree and even highly androgynous people need to blend in under some circumstances. These are the sorts of practical choices this site supports. Equally, there are circumstances under which binary identified people may find information on living with gender ambiguity of use. The resources that will be presented on the site are provided with no implication that all genderqueer or non-binary gendered people will find them useful, or that everyone who finds them useful must be transgender, genderqueer or non-binary identified.

What To Expect From The Site

Right now Practical Androgyny is more of a mission statement than a website. I’m planning to gradually post articles about different aspects of androgynous living that will eventually form a comprehensive guide to living outside the gender binary.

In addition to this, I will be keeping a blog of my personal observations and experiences of living with an ambiguous gender presentation. I would love to also host observations from other people who live androgynously, especially those who are androgynous for different reasons or who have differing experiences to mine. If you’re interested in contributing resources or blogging here as a columnist, please get in touch!

Subjects To Cover

Right now I'm blogging about my experiences of living with an ambiguous gender presentation and posting articles about pressing issues. Below is the list of subjects I'm planning to cover soon, I hope others will contribute their own suggestions for other subjects that should be covered.

  • Gendered Spaces
    • Changing Rooms
    • Employment
    • Formal Occasions
    • Public Toilets
    • Swimming Pools

  • Identity and Documentation
    • Campaigning for Change
    • Forms
    • Legal Gender and ID
    • Websites and Social Networks

  • Language and Pronouns
    • Gender Neutral Language
    • Names
    • Pronouns
    • Titles and Salutations

  • Physical Changes
    • Hair Gain
    • Hair Removal
    • Hormone Therapy
    • Surgery

  • Presentation
    • Binding and Tucking
    • Body Language
    • Clothing
    • Hair
    • Packing and Padding
    • Voice and Speech

Visit Practical Androgyny

quarridors: (XXXVI)
My favourite Doctor Who Podcast Radio Free Skaro asked me to be a guest panellist on a special Wednesday Cutaway episode discussing whether Torchwood: Children of Earth was homophobic from an LGBT perspective.

This episode is now available on the feed, via iTunes or directly from the Radio Free Skaro blog.

I had a great time recording this podcast and think we had an excellent and interesting discussion about the portrayal of LGBT characters in mainstream TV drama. I hope you'll all listen and let me know what you think!
quarridors: (The Red Badge Of Gayness)
This article contains spoilers for Torchwood: Children of Earth, especially days 4 and 5. If you haven't watched these yet or aren't already aware of the widely discussed spoiler, don't read on...

Also please note that I personally identify as queer and use the term to mean any sexual or gender identity outside of cisgender, vanilla heterosexuality. If you find this term offensive, please substitute the word with 'LGBT' as you read.


Torchwood: Children of Earth spoilers follow... )

If you enjoyed this article, I've also been involved in a podcast panel discussing the same topic, now available on the Radio Free Skaro blog.

December 2016

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