quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
I saw the gender clinic for my surgery follow up today. That's going to be the last time I should ever need to see them!

After getting blocked by Canterbury PCT in 2002 and having started out in 1999, it feels good to have finally successfully got everything I needed out of the system. I was extremely nervous and felt very vulnerable when I submitted myself to Nottingham Gender Clinic as nonbinary in 2009, but my psych was friendly and cooperative, understanding and helpful right up to the last moment. I'm regretting not asking for a parting hug rather than a handshake! :)

It felt so good to have seen a gender psych for the last time that I celebrated with ice cream :D
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
Last week I went to a formal ball. It was an LGBT Pride formal ball, so allowed some degree of alternative gender expression, but the dress code was still 'cocktail dress or suit and tie'. As you may be able to imagine, shopping for this made me somewhat gender dysphoric as my gender expression is usually firmly casual and in the overlap between clothing genders (think t-shirts, jeans and hoodies). Nonetheless I was determined to go and actually enjoy dressing formal and knowing that there would be queer women there dressed in suits helped me to be comfortable with the idea that I was still dressing in the overlap (especially once I'd applied eye makeup and nail varnish to bridge the void between suits and dresses a little further).

In order to defeat gendered space related anxiety, I went shopping with [personal profile] forthwritten, a nonbinary friend going to the same ball. We managed to turn anxiety inducing gendered shopping into a transgressive genderqueer jape as we raided every department in the shop. I can heartily recommend clothes shopping with a trans* buddy, it makes shop assistants arbitrarily (mis)gendering you a two-against-one situation :)

Trying to buy me a suit in the M&S mens section was an interesting experience. When measured, my neck size was 14", while their smallest suits were for 16" collar and cut assuming bulky shoulders and arms (despite being 'slim fit'). There was no way I was going to pay £99 for something that looked boxy and ill fitting on me. Meanwhile their 14.5" 'slim fit' shirts fit my top half reasonably well but were pretty tight around my waist and hips.

But while we were browsing the boys section finding [personal profile] forthwritten a rather dapper suit cut for '11 years', I couldn't help noticing that an awful lot of the clothes we were looking at (and sniggering at - M&S seem to be helping you dress your children as mini hipsters or baby lesbians) appeared to be in my size. Now I'm 32 years old, 5 foot 10 (178cm), weigh 10 stone 2 (about 64kg, 142lbs) and have a 31.5" waist (80cm), so I have never even vaguely considered going to look in the children's section for clothes, but this stuff looked like it was just my style and just my size. So I was tempted to try it on... And lo and behold some '13-14 years boys' jumpers from Marks and Spenser's fit me impressively well. If anything they were fitting me better than any clothes usually do.

In the end I supplemented mens shirt and trousers with a '13 year old boys' suit jacket that was slightly too tight on the chest to do up and slightly too short in the sleeves, but fit my shoulders perfectly, sat on me very well when open (albeit making me look like a hipster) and looked great combined with the 14.5" collar slim fit mens shirt I'd bought with the cuffs sticking out below the jacket sleeves (the 13-14 year old boys shirt fit me perfectly in collar, shoulders and chest but was also too short in sleeves). Having looked online, the same jacket is available one size larger on the M&S website (14 years), but I was shopping 2 days before the event so didn't have the option of that. I also ended up buying two of those impressively well fitting '13-14 years' jumpers in different colours.

So this was quite the revelation for me, that I could not only shop in the mens and women's sections of the shop but also in the children's section too, despite being quite a lot taller than a child and having a 20.5 'ideal' BMI. It's got me to thinking about why that is... Mainly it's because I have an unusual androgynous/transgender body shape. I have pretty much no muscle mass (in fact I have hypotonic muscles due to dyspraxia), a pretty much flat chest and body fat that goes on my waist and hips long long before it gets anywhere near my chest, arms and shoulders. Having gone home and measured based on size charts, my chest is 34.5" measured under the arms, my bust is 35" (yes, not much difference), my neck is 14", my waist is 31.5", my hips (aka 'seat') are 35.5" and my inside leg is 32" (I'm using imperial measures here because the clothes sizes do too). I *think* my sleeves should be about 32 to 33" from back of the neck to wrist (as suit/shirt size guides seem to go) although this is difficult to measure on yourself, about 20" armpit to wrist.

Sizing table mainly for my own information... )
So it's really no surprise that I keep finding mens tops I buy bag up around my armpits or neck, or fit lopsidedly on my shoulders. Or that when I buy size XS or S (depending on the shop) t-shirts from 'young fashion' outlets like H&M or Topman, that are cut to fit my shoulders well, they tend to be tight around the hips and waist and so somehow manage to make me look like I have a potbelly even though I'm happily in the middle of BMI ideal (and frankly even when I was underweight they weren't very flattering for my fat distribution). Meanwhile women's tops assume that I have rather more of a bust than I do or have annoyingly short sleeves despite fitting my shoulders well.

Which leaves me in the odd situation of discovering that boys clothes from some shops that are designed for 34" chest 13 to 14 year olds fit my shoulders and arms really well, are cut to assume a relatively flat chest but seem to leave a lot more bagginess around the waist than mens clothes with that chest size do. Essentially boys clothes cut for my shoulders expect you to be a little bit chubby around the waist but have no muscle mass on your shoulders and arms, while mens clothes cut for my shoulders or neck expect you to be rake thin or have muscles you want to be showing off (which I *really* don't). As a friend said, "I've been enjoying shopping in the boys department since they started making 11 year olds in my size".

So ultimately this proves that everyone's body shapes are different, transgender people doubly so! It also means I'm more aware of my actual measurements, so I can approach shopping knowing my actual sizes (especially as each chain store has a sizing guide on their website), and I now have yet another department I can look in for clothes that suit my style and body shape, so more choice! ...and I could be saving a fortune in VAT ;)

Update: Having heard this story, my mum has amusedly related to me how my parents could never get me to wear M&S children's clothes when I was a kid because they were sized too big for me and I didn't want to wear 7-8 years clothes when I was 10 or 11. Clearly the tables are turned now and that oversizing is finally working to my advantage! ;)
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)
Today is the last day for responses to the UK Government's 3rd survey of transgender people (which explicitly includes 'androgynous', 'non-gender' and 'genderqueer' options in the demographics section). This survey follows up on responses from the first two surveys by focusing on issues of employment, identity and privacy. If you're in the UK and identify as trans*, genderqueer, non-binary or gender variant please complete the survey (sorry for the late notice!).

Below is a sample of my responses to the survey as a non-binary trans person (some responses have been reworded to protect my privacy):

What barriers or challenges do you think exist in employment?

As a non-binary trans person (identifying and neither female nor male) my protection from discrimination under the Equality Act is ambiguous, I may not be protected at all due to the 'gender reassignment' wording. My neutral/androgynous gender identity is not recognised under the law so it is questionable whether I can be said to have undergone 'gender reassignment' even though I am treated by a gender clinic and have undergone medical treatments for my gender dysphoria.

It is difficult to educate employers on my legal protections when the wording of the act heavily implies that I may not be protected at all.

What do you think Government can do to help trans employees tackle workplace discrimination?

Clarify the ambiguous position of non-binary trans people.

Does expressing our gender identities constitute 'gender reassignment'? Can 'gender reassignment' protections apply when the law does not recognise our genders as existing or valid?

Are we protected should we ask for gender neutral language to be used in reference to us rather than gendered words such as 'man', 'woman', 'Mr', 'Ms', 'he' and 'she'?

If we undergo hormone treatments or have surgeries to treat the gender dysphoria arising from our non-binary genders, does this fall under the 'gender reassignment' protections even though we do not identify as an 'opposite sex' or gender?

Are we exempt from gender-specific dress code requirements such as short hair and ties for those with male 'legal genders' and makeup and skirts for those with female 'legal genders'?

What do you think employers can do to help tackle workplace discrimination?

Recognise all gender identities and expressions. Offer gender neutral facilities and language for those who require them. Offer a gender neutral dress code for those who are not comfortable with firmly female or male presentation

What can the following do in helping you to find employment?

Government: Recognise non-binary genders not just female and male, recognise the unique challenges faced by non-binary trans people.

Employers: Be aware of non-binary genders and those who live outside of the gender binary. Do not require a binary gender on job application forms/websites. Do not insist on using gendered titles such as Mr/Ms. Do not use gendered job titles such as 'Dinner Lady' or 'Postman'.

In response to the problem you identified, what do you think the following can do to address these challenges?

Government: Explicitly recognise and protect non-binary trans people, perhaps by wording the law as protecting 'gender identity and expression' rather than 'gender reassignment'

Employers: Provide gender neutral facilities wherever possible

Are there any other workplace issues you want to raise?

Use of gendered language such as 'man', 'woman', 'Mr', 'Ms', 'he' and 'she'. Gendered dress code etc. Employers should allow gender neutral options wherever feasible.

What do you think Government can do better to protect your privacy?

Explicitly class gender as private information that it is not reasonable to ask for when providing goods and services (Data Protection Act should apply).

Do you consider your current identity secure from disclosure?

No. Numerous services require a binary gender (female/male) or a gendered title/honorific (Mr/Ms etc) to be specified as required fields. As such I am misgendered or outed as transgender when ordering shopping, using my bank, registering for a library card etc. This is a particular problem where others complete my form for me or where computer form validation enforces entry of binary gender identifiers.

What can be done by Government to help you successfully live in your current identity?

Explicitly class gender as private information that it is not reasonable to ask for when providing goods and services (Data Protection Act should apply). Explicitly recognise and protect non-binary trans people, perhaps by wording the law as protecting 'gender identity and expression' rather than 'gender reassignment'.

Are there any other issues concerning your privacy and/or identity you want to raise?

The government does not recognise my non-binary gender identity. Only binary (female/male) options are provided on birth certificates and passports. As such I am discriminated against by the government and denied Gender Recognition afforded to other trans people.

I consider the sex I was assigned at birth to be deeply personal information that is only relevant to a handful of medical professionals and my partner. However the law and common practice currently force me to disclose this in a wide variety of situations. Doing so causes me gender dysphoria, misgenders me and outs me as transgender in a way that binary trans people are able to avoid due to the Gender Recognition Act.

Please extend gender recognition protections to all trans people, not just those with binary identities. Please also help to establish that gender (even 'legal gender') is deeply personal information for many people and it should not be reasonable under the Data Protection Act to require its disclosure when ordering groceries online or signing up for local services.
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!
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

December 2016

S M T W T F S
    123
45 678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 18th, 2017 09:11 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios