Beyond the Binary: Question Eleven
June 20, 2013 § 3 Comments
For gender fluid people, do feel as though you’re “allowed” to state your gender as what it is at a given time (eg you feel neutrois today), or do you feel like you might be accused of appropriating/stealing someone else’s identity because you might be different the next day?
GrrlAlex: I’ve struggled historically to identify as a ‘woman’ or in some regards as female since being part of the feminist movement of the 1980’s I had been very aware of the ‘wimmin born wimmin’ “don’t appropriate our identities” sentiment. I also struggled to identify as a transsexual for a long time since I’d thought that being a lesbian stopped me qualifiying – finding transgender finally gave me legitimsation. Part of my genderqueerness is about finding a compromise where I can be my female self without (in my case) forcing potentially damaging or dangerous changes to my body albeit it can lead to being mis-read sometimes. Overall I feel comfortable where I’m at now.
Hel: This is an interesting one. When I was still in a more experimental place, I was a lot more comfortable with a giving a name and description of my gender that fit how I was feeling at that time (so, for example, there was a group of people who primarily knew me as a trans man, and by a male-coded name, although they also knew I presented differently and used other names elsewhere). These days – perhaps because of changes in my living situation, perhaps because I’ve come to know a more integrated queer community, rather going to disparate events – I tend to give a more all-encompassing description of me and my gender. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m moving house soon, and I’m looking forward to living with an old friend who very definitely Gets It when it comes to gender-fluidity.
CN: I have to admit, I find this a strange question – how can your description of yourself steal anything from my description of myself? Even if you were to say something ridiculous like ‘you feel CN Lester today’ that wouldn’t really be anything to do with me – simply your interpretation of a public facet of who I am that you’d be using to try to communicate an aspect of yourself. As to words like ‘androgynous’ or ‘feminine’ – who owns them? Who has a right to hedge them in? I think there’s a very valid question of appropriation when people try to claim experiences that they haven’t had, or use titles which they haven’t earned through the wisdom/work/experience which those titles convey – but I really can’t see how that would apply here.
Nat: I don’t necessarily identify with genderfluid, however the way that I conceptualise my gender does change with time and in different situations. I go through periods of being happy with using combinations of gendered words to describe my nonbinary gender, and other periods where I feel far more neutral or agender. I personally have regretted making definitive statements about what my gender is in the past, having later found myself disagreeing with and feeling limited by them, so I’ve tended to label my gender only with vague umbrella terms. On more recent occasions where I’ve strongly felt like a mixture of genders rather than neutral or genderless, I’ve stated this with caveats that it was how I was feeling that day and likely to change.
I personally haven’t made the link between this and appropriation, only in terms of not wishing to limit or misgender myself in the future.