My 2012

Dec. 31st, 2012 01:23 pm
quarridors: Sporting a giant Tangle (not a chrome snake) (September 2012)
Looking back at my 2012, I went through some pretty major life changes and made some significant achievements, despite the year mainly feeling like putting my life on hold.

January, February and March: Activism, Fandom, Surgery and Stress... )

April, May and June: Autism Acceptance and putting my life on hiatus... )

July, August and September: Conferences, Gender Clinic Graduation and Diagnosis... )

October, November and December: Introspection, Intersections and Reformatting... )

Having written and proofread the above, 2012 feels like a year where I purposely put everything on hold, 'reinstalled' my identity and hopefully set myself up with a freshly formatted stable home and social life on which to build sustainable new routines, projects and relationships from a position of greater self-knowledge.

The changes I've already made seem to have helped with problems like low level chronic fatigue, which I take as an extremely positive sign that I'm doing the right sorts of things. Next year I'm hoping to work productively with the specialists at Nottingham City Asperger Service on helping me to understand myself and develop better strategies for maximising my strengths and working around my difficulties. I'm also planning to take some of my existing projects out of hiatus and take them in a new, more authentic intersectional direction. I'm feeling optimistic.

Hopefully 2013 will be the year I take my life out of hiatus.
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
I'm in the process of setting up an international nonbinary (and genderqueer/gender nonconforming) visibility, education and advocacy network, designed to highlight, signal boost, encourage and pool the resources and visibility efforts of activists across the web.

The website (with wiki, case studies, FAQ, forums etc) isn't ready yet, but the social media outlets are up and running on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. Would you all mind looking at them, liking/following them and giving them a signal boost if you like what you see?

http://nonbinary.tumblr.com/
http://www.facebook.com/nonbinaryorg
http://twitter.com/nonbinaryorg

This is going to be a long term project and the major focus of my activism work from now on. I've been talking with other activists and we're planning several resources, projects and campaigns. Including an initial focus on general visibility and a campaign about equal access to transgender medical care and services.

I want this to become a properly self sustaining community-based network, so it's going to launch with a wiki and forums and ask for case studies and contributions from the start. It's also not trying to re-invent the wheel at all, there's loads of writing and activism out there that can be highlighted. I was involved in setting up the modern positive asexuality movement (wrote the asexuality.org FAQ and ran the forums for a while back in 2002/03) and that gained momentum pretty quickly, ultimately having moderator elections and the like within a couple of years, so I'm hopeful that the success there is repeatable.

Right now I'm stressing about setting up the website and making sure the technology and structural decisions I make are right, so I'm wondering if you guys could give me some feedback on how to host the group blog. Should I set it up to use Wordpress (hosted on my own server, as with Practical Androgyny) or Tumblr?

Tumblr has a big nonbinary, trans* and genderqueer scene, lots of engagement but relatively poor accessibility. Of all outlets I use, I always seem to get the most responses and thought-provoking debate on Tumblr, but I find the reblogging model of commenting difficult to follow and end up clicking through 'Notes' to dozens of different pages, each with their own differently laid out theme/layout/colour scheme.

Wordpress has features like Most Read, Most Commented, tag clouds, searchable archives, threaded comments, better homepage integration for the planned 'community portal' feel, but it wouldn't come with an existing active nonbinary/genderqueer/trans* 'scene' like Tumblr has.

So what's your opinion? Whichever we opt for, the Nonbinary Tumblr will be active and highlighting non-blog content like wiki pages, case studies, resources and forum discussions.

Update: I wrote this explanation of how Tumblr works after I was asked for more information in one of the many places I posed this question:

Tumblr is kind of a 'miniblogging' service, designed to fit between 140 character microblogging like Twitter and full on blogging like on LJ or Wordpress. Every member has a personal blog on there, but the system is designed to make it very easy for people to share and add to other people's posts.

If you like (or dislike!) someone's post, you can click 'reblog' and then quote it on your own blog (with links/attributes back) and add your own thoughts.

This means that it has a lot of active members who quickly share and debate content, but the discussion tends to escape from your original post and into a long threaded discussion across dozens of different blog pages very quickly. Kind of like following a mailing list discussion but with the added complexity that the layout, text style and colours are different on every message...

Try following the full discussion across the 146 'notes' (likes and reblogs) on this, for example: http://nonbinary.tumblr.com/post/12457351441/the-nonbinary-vs-genderqueer-quandary

I also clarified how things would work if I opted to primarily use Wordpress:

The group blog wouldn't be 'on' Wordpress or require a Wordpress account, it'd be on hosted on Nonbinary.org and likely using Disqus for comment entry and management (which allows multiple types of login including Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, OpenID, anonymous etc).

Whatever happened, I was planning to post summaries of every post (along with notable forum discussions and wiki pages) over on http://nonbinary.tumblr.com/

This is all really a question of whether the group blog contributors will have to get logins for Nonbinary.org's Wordpress install or whether they can just use Tumblr to make their contributions (of course some may not be on Tumblr and would be forced to sign up there in order to take part).
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
I've now seen several people I trust say positive things about 'My Transsexual Summer', a new series due to air on Channel 4 this evening and premiered in London yesterday.

I'm tentatively expecting it to be positive overall and a genuine change in the way trans* experiences are depicted on television, but the original press releases from Channel 4 had me feeling pretty nervous that it was going to conflate 'transsexual', 'transgender' and 'trans' as one thing and present that as the process of transitioning between binary genders.

Apparently it's an 'in their own words' part reality show format with group discussions, so whether nonbinary or genderqueer people get a look in may be down to what the people Channel 4 selected to represent the trans* community say.

I think I'd feel a little more confident about Channel 4's commitment to representation if their pre-publicity gave the impression that they included any minority trans* experiences.

Looking at the list of seven participants, only one of whom is over 30, all of whom appear to be white (although I'm told one has taken exception to that description) and able bodied, binary identified, transitioned or planning to transition, I can't say I'm seeing a full reflection of the trans* communities I'm a member of...

Maybe I'm expecting too much from a TV show, given that just having trans men and trans women featured together, on equal terms and in their own words is frankly a major breakthrough.

Maybe the producers decided that including all that 'complicated' stuff like intersectual experiences and nonbinary identities would just confuse the viewing public? (Seems to be the number one excuse for erasing me ...that and 'correct grammar').

And maybe I should watch the actual programme and view these people in their own words before I comment, it's not like I don't know enough people whose stories were 'simplified' by the press...

Update: I'm informed that one of the newspaper reviews says a participant on My Transsexual Summer is transitioning to 'a happy place inbetween'. If that's true then the pre-publicity really is guilty of conflating different trans* experiences into one! But I'll be watching with great interest to see!

Update 2: My reading comprehension skills clearly weren't up to much when I read all those profiles this morning: It says 'a happy place inbetween' at the bottom of Donna's profile. Remember, tune in to Channel 4 at 10pm to see how each of the participants self-describes!

Update 3: Judging from the first episode, Donna's 'inbetween' comment seems to be euphemistically talking about how firmly happy she is with her body with no wish for surgery (and how brilliant to see that view represented on TV!). It wasn't clear whether she also identifies outside of the binary in some way, and I consider it a failure of the programme makers for not making that clearer. Here's hoping there'll be more discussion of this in later episodes.

I've since spotted that one of the contestants describes himself on Twitter as 'two-spirited' and feels a lot of what he said about himself on film hasn't been shown. If the programme makers really have simplified a participant's self-described gender identity to make it 'easier to understand', I'll be very disappointed, but I'll reserve judgement until we've seen more episodes.

I've also seen another participant blogging about people complaining about stereotypical depictions in the show and left a comment there saying that the critique is very much placed on the producers for not having more diversity represented in the people they selected for the show (and in their editing). The stories of the participants featured are all positive and valuable and should be celebrated by 'the community'.

I'm sure a blog post will be written for Nonbinary.org in time for the site's launch :)
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)
If any of you have any influence with Google's privacy policy or know anyone who does, people pass this commentary about trans* privacy on to them.

It's a good start but Google can do better: How Google+ could improve the safety of trans* people

* The asterisk at the end of ‘trans*’ denotes that this is the wider inclusive form of trans that includes all transgender, genderqueer, gender variant and gender non-conforming people regardless of gender identity or expression.
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
Activism and being an activist are important to me but I have a long, mixed and largely ineffective relationship with activism.

When I first became chronically ill in my early 20s, was running both my university's LGBT society and the 'Gayline' once weekly overnight helpline (where I was re-working all the training materials and aiming to get the name changed to something more inclusive). Some part of me still now associates doing too much and taking on too much responsibility with 'making myself ill'.

My energy levels are now so unreliable that I will have weeks (especially in the darker winter months) where I struggle to work my full time job and keep on top of my self care, let alone do anything else. I have other weeks where I'm brimming with energy, enthusiasm and motivation, but I've come to see this as a cycle. I try not to volunteer for things during those periods any more. I especially should not volunteer to run regular in person meetings because in person meetings are the first thing to go when I'm fatigued.

I've come to see my activist energy as something finite, I've come to see activist causes and activities as something I have to choose very carefully.

Then there's the 'bad poster child' factor. I didn't become an asexual visibility poster child back when I was 'a founder the asexual movement' (according to a paper I read recently!) because I was also androgynous non-gender and felt that associating asexuality with genderlessness would damage both movements (as both were only just recovering from being linked to a 1980s American chat show guest). Similarly I was asked to consider being the first (if I recall correctly) NUS LGB Trans Officer but (partly) turned that down because I felt a genderqueer person would not be the most appropriate choice to represent all trans people (I don't exactly follow the typical transsexual or even transgender narrative).

And finally there's finding the right type of activism, doing what I feel to be the most important work with my limited and valuable time. I tell people the bi community is my home community where I feel most accepted. I always run workshops at BiCon, I sit on the bi stall at Prides, I'll recommend or defend the bi community to anyone who'll listen, but I have never identified directly as bi. Every time I attend bi activism workshops, or it's suggested that I run a bi group, I can't help but feel that it's not the activism I should be doing. Similarly whenever I've looked into trans activism in the past, it's been focused on binary trans identities, on a type of trans that I'm not. I'm not trans through transition (although I did transition over a decade ago, twice in fact), I'm trans because of my 'end point', because my identity and my appearance are transgressive.

So I've recently been focusing on finding the right type of activism. I'm back on focusing on visibility. I might have been a poor poster child for asexuality but for non-binary gender, a visibly androgynous person who refuses to make concessions to the binary, while getting on with their life without apology, that's a pretty good example. That's a case study for the people who refuse to accomodate non-binary people because "everyone sees them as men or women anyway". That's an example of what's possible for questioning non-binary people who can't feel any hope that what they know they have to be is even possible.

I'm also focusing on practicalities, on presentation, expression and behaviour. Historically the non-binary gender community has tended to focus on identity, on carving out ever more specific identity divisions and celebrating the diversity of our differences. But in our day to day lives, those of us who present ambiguity have more in common than we do different. If we're presenting ourselves to the world as something other than female and male, women and men, it doesn't make much of a difference if that's because we see ourselves in terms of a gender continuum, as non-gender or as something else entirely. We deal with the same reactions from others, we have the same difficulties with gendered spaces, with forms and language, with mandatory gendering.

That's why I started Practical Androgyny, and that's why I'm excited to see other people taking the same focus on practical day to day living for those of us who present our non-binary genders to the world. This is the right path for me, this is activism I can believe in. And I hope it's one that will become a movement, that has its own visibility campaigns and activist weekends. If you want to get involved, please get in touch!

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