Friday, July 31, 2009

Community Discussion Meeting, Business, Etc.

Come one, come all!

Our first community discussion meeting will be held:

Wednesday, August 5 from 7:00pm- 8:45 (7-7:30 is mingling/ meet and greet for first meeting)
at The Gerber/Hart Library
1127 West Granville Avenue • Chicago, Illinois 60660
The library is easiest to access from the Red Line Granville stop.

GLN (Gay Liberation Network) will be meeting on August 5th in the library. Simply enter the library and make a right into the room where Genderqueer Chicago meets. This overlap in meetings will not be permanent, so if you are wanting to participate in both groups, fear not.

Meetings will be held bi-weekly, usually at the Gerber/Hart, which has offered us a free space in a private room. We also intend to hold a few meetings on the south side, so that folks who live south can more easily access the group. All meetings will be announced well in advance.

See this mini- schedule:
August 12- Group Meeting at Gerber/Hart 7pm (meetings starts at 7:30)
August 19- Group Meeting at Gerber/Hart 7pm
August 26- Community film Screening at Gerber/Hart 7pm TBA

Group discussions are intended to serve as a support space for folks wishing to question their own gender identity/ expression, but folks who do not feel the need for such a space are asked and encouraged to participate in Genderqueer Chicago through activism, organizing, and education. Genderqueer Chicago is an inclusive community, and anyone wishing to take part is considered family.

Meetings are free and open. However, the library has asked us to pass around a change jar in an effort to keep the lights on for us. If you can spare a quarter or two to help them keep this free community space open, please do. If not, that's also okay.

At our first meeting, we will do short introductions, group updates, discuss what each of us is looking for in a safe space, and then meet. Depending on the turnout, we may break into small discussion groups.

In the meantime, remember that you are welcome to submit a blog to the community page.

See you in August!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It started with a Happy Meal

By: Ianthe

It started with a Happy Meal.

We pulled up to the McDonald's drive-thru and left the car idling, waiting for the speaker to crackle with the voice of some teenage part-time drone.

“Welcome to McDonald's, what can I get for you?” She spoke with a lilt of disinterest, the sort that grows from minimum wage recitation and repetition.

Uhhh, yes, can I get a, uh, cheeseburger Happy Meal and--”

No pickles!” I hissed quietly. In my elementary school world, everything was meant to be in nice categories, separable into clean-cut picture book dichotomies. Cheeseburgers were in the “delicious” category. Pickles were overwhelmingly in the “yuck” category. To attempt to combine these stark opposites in one instance would surely cause a universal breakdown and utter chaos.

“--no pickles on the cheeseburger, and a Coke with that.” Papa concluded.

There are several aspects of Happy Meals that make them far superior to less emotional meals – the box itself, with its bright colors, games, and Golden Arches handles. Any child can tell you, though, the absolute best thing about Happy Meals is that they come with toys. Sometimes 101 Dalmatians, sometimes Tomagotchi, always cheap Chinese plastic – it didn't matter. At least, that's what I thought.

“Is the Happy Meal for a boy or a girl?” the speaker droned.

My father was visibly taken aback by the question and replied sternly, “What does it matter?”

“There's two toys, it depends if they're a boy or a girl which one they get.”

“What's the difference?” Papa was irked. I just wanted my cheeseburger, sans-pickles. Man, did I hate pickles. They were like cucumbers that had their souls stolen by the devil.

“The toy for boys is a Hot Wheels car and the toy for girls is a uh, little Barbie doll.”

“Why can't girls play with Hot Wheels?” he demanded. I can't imagine the drive-thru attendant being anything but jarred by this exchange. This wasn't the conversation she was trained to have! Why did he have to raise such a fuss over something stupid like a Happy Meal toy?

“Is the meal for a boy or a girl?” Papa was very obviously displeased, and he turned around to ask me my opinion.

“Do you want Hot Wheels or a Barbie?” he asked.

“Hot Wheels!” It was a no brainer. You can race Hot Wheels around the inside of the car window and what could Barbie do? Sit around and look pretty. That's boring. The decision was made almost instantly.

“It's for a boy.”

■ ■ ■

It wasn't until taking AP Psychology this year that I ever really thought about the concept of “gender identity”. I mean, all children know who's a “tomboy” and who's a “girly boy”, but that was always supposed to be wrong, to not act in accord with your birth certificate. The truth of the matter is, biological sex is completely separate from gender – your own self-concept of being male or female. The idea that your biology and sense of self could be divergent, yet harmonious and complete, was an utter revolution in the way that I framed myself and my upbringing.

I learned in Psychology that children learn and assimilate into gender roles by observing behaviors and being rewarded for mimicking “the correct ones”. Sally, you're such a good mommy to your dollies – Jimmy, put your sister's tea set down, why don't you go play outside? But looking back on my childhood, these gender-specific models were absent. Mama could rock a dress and use a caulking gun and papa took time off of work to raise his kids and keep the roof repaired. My parents did encourage me to take ballet if I wanted to... as long as I didn't miss my karate lessons. I watched wrestling and HGTV back-to-back and never understood why all the good T-shirts at Kohl's were in the boys' section. I saw nothing wrong with climbing trees in a dress as long as nobody was standing under me. I could never completely fit in with “the guys”, but I never really felt at home with “the girls” either.

Alas, the world works the way I thought it did in elementary school – it necessitates dichotomies. Feminine/masculine exist to parallel delicious/yuck. And we all know what happens when you try to combine such dire opposites – utter chaos.

And chaos, I am finding out, is a pretty sweet deal.

I've taken the liberty of just completely rejecting gender. I have no concept of myself as “male” or “female”, “masculine” or “feminine”. I am free to move between all, some, either or neither with no repercussions, no strained loyalties. I will paint my nails just to have them chip when I change the belt on the power sander. I will wear my dad's old air force jacket with my black miniskirt. Sure, I'm still a girl, and I would never deny that – I embrace it fully! Sex equality! But no gender equality. Gender's just something we've made up to try to simplify the world, something we should break free of.

In the end, nothing is black and white. Dichotomies are false advertising, subject to change without warning. Things can shift and suddenly nothing fits in the boxes anymore. I'm a vegetarian now – cheeseburgers disgust me. I order veggie wraps in the lunch line, and I always ask for extra pickles.

Monday, July 20, 2009

wanna work on the railroad

Posted by a. broad

Lately I've been thinking about insides and outsides and how confusing and frustrating it is when there are incongruities between those two things. Obviously this is a major part of genderqueer identity much of the time, and that's been something I've been thinking about a lot too. What does it mean to be genderqueer exactly? How is that different from being queer queer? Is it? Am I? How? If I can't put that into words, does it still exist? (Short answer: yes, but in an existentially frustrating way.) Is my personal identity semi-irritation related to genderqueerness? How do I talk about my own (very interior and private) frustration while acknowledging that this is nothing compared to what visibly genderqueer people experience (internally and externally) constantly?
I've always felt that who I am inside is different from the way I present myself. On the outside I feel like I'm too quiet, too nice, too polite, a good girl sitting with my hands folded watching the debate with squinted eyes. But inside sometimes (especially lately) I feel loud, powerful, maybe a little crazy but hopefully not in a bad way. I feel sparkly, interested in everything, a little frenetic but also so excited by everything (ideas! books! music! conversations!) that I can't sit still. I feel like I'm vibrating with desire to do and feel and think and talk and write. I worry that those things aren't making it through the good-girl shell with enough regularity. One-on-one I'm worlds away from where I used to be, but in groups especially I'm still silent. Why? I sometimes feel myself acting in ways I don't like because they fit the "girl" image and it is so upsetting; I worry that so much of my personal presentation is directly tied to a bullshit system of categorization and social enforcement.
I'm trying to put all of these pieces together, an identity that questions gender and gets all worked up about a new idea and wants to go all new places all the time, and the fact that if you met me on the street I probably wouldn't make much of an impression. I fucking hate that. I feel like I'm split into (at least) two different people. I worry that that split makes it much harder for me to meet and interact with some of the people that excite me the most, intellectually and otherwise. I worry that I'm not having the life that I would be having if the pieces matched up better.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gerber/ Hart Book Sale!

Need a cheap read? Some new queer lit?

The Gerber/ Hart Book sale kicks off this week. The sale happens three times a year. I just returned from the library, and let me tell you, there are some pretty sweet finds there! We'll be there, stocking up on stuff to share and pass around at meetings.

Here's the info:

Summer Spectacular Book Sale

Our Summer Spectacular Book Sale begins on Friday, July 24, and wraps up on Sunday, August 2. We've received many enticing new donations since the last sale in March. And, we're now accepting your donations of books, both LGBT and non-LGBT, DVDs, videos, vinyl records, and audiocassettes. Finish up that spring cleaning before it's too hot to move, and bring your materials to 1127 West Granville. Days and hours of the sale are:
Friday, July 24 noon–6 pm
Saturday, July 25 10 am–6 pm
Sunday, July 26 noon–6 pm
Wednesday, July 29 6–9 pm
Thursday, July 30 6–9 pm
Friday, July 31 noon–6 pm
Saturday, August 1 10 am–6 pm
Sunday, August 2 noon–4 pm

Gerber/Hart Library
1127 West Granville Avenue • Chicago, Illinois 60660
(773) 381-8030 •

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Establishing Genderqueer Chicago

"I have begun speaking simply of gender as a name for that system that punishes bodies for how they look, who they love, or how they feel-- for the size or color or shape of their skin. I do this not to collapse our differences, but to emphasize our connections."
-Riki Anne Wilchins


It’s a funny, if not problematic, thing to create an “inclusive” genderqueer group. “Genderqueer” itself is little more than a junkyard identity- an attempt to name all the little somethings in us that defy gender as a constructed binary. That is to say, “genderqueer” means very little… and it also means everything.

Still, there is a particular pang felt by those who of us who transgress (or wish to transgress) our assigned genders and/or gender scripts. We stand out, our sense of place in this world as indefinite as the identities we create to describe ourselves.

We’re shopping in the wrong sections at clothing stores, or peeing in stalls marked with people shapes that don’t resemble us, or being called “sir” when we want to hear “miss,” or gawking fearfully at our closets, or cutting our hair against our wills, or borrowing makeup because we’re afraid to buy it or…. The list could go on for an eternity (and the list would far exceed issues of visibility).

What is specific to our community are not our experiences, our cultural backgrounds, our ages, our sexual orientations, our races, our class backgrounds, our aesthetics, or even our gender identifications. Rather, it is our anguish. It is the suppression of our complexities when gender systems fall short.

In recognition of this unnamed ache, we ally ourselves with one another, across multiple and intersecting identities, in forming Genderqueer Chicago.

Genderqueer Chicago is an inclusive group for all who identify as genderqueer/genderfuck/bigender/transgender or otherwise gender-non-conforming folk as well as those who are questioning their gender identity/expression. We hold weekly meetings for community members to debrief, discuss, and connect with other genderqueer individuals. If you’d like to get involved, please e-mail us at

*Group discussions are intended to serve as a support space for folks wishing to question their own gender identity/ expression, but folks who do not feel the need for such a space are asked and encouraged to participate in Genderqueer Chicago through activism, organizing, and education. Genderqueer Chicago is an inclusive community, and anyone wishing to take part is considered family.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gender Memory #1

By K. Switch

If you squint really hard and go back over it, you can sometimes remember the moments when nature became disorder. They don’t tell you those things right away, you know. A lot of people might say you are gendered before you’re even born- adorned in ruffled pink or basic blue the moment that the sonogram lights up.

But other cues come slower. Girls are allotted at least three happy shirtless summers before forced to cover what’s anticipated but not yet there. Boys can cry on Mommy for almost a decade before it makes them sissy. Siblings take baths together, first Halloween costumes need not be “princess” or “superhero,” little Jimmy can ask Mom to paint his toes like her, and she probably will, so long as Dad is expected home late from work.

In my own mind, I sit, toes dangling from a vinyl bathroom counter top, a plastic razor set and a plastic pipe at my side, things I asked Poppy to buy me because I wanted to grow up and be like him. It’s a lazy summer afternoon, the kind where the difference between noon and 4pm is absolutely negligible, unless of course you’re waiting for whoopee pies from the oven, in which case time is of the greatest essence. A day of dancing in the sprinkler, and swinging from the hose tied to the apple tree out back, and climbing the roof.

Poppy calls me “Tiny Tim” because he and I share an inexplicable love for with the Christmas Carol, and he has provided me with all the rites of passage that a grandson should receive. Never mind, that I am a granddaughter. For all his old and bigoted ways, Poppy doesn’t seem to mind my insistence on boyhood. He shows me how to climb trees, how to shoot a rifle into the side of the garage wall, how to wield a hacksaw and hammer nails, how to knot a silk bowtie, and how to shave my face.

I already know how to shave my face because I’ve been admiring the process for years, the way Poppy fills a palm with fluffy Barbasol from a black and green can, and then paints his chin and cheeks. This is when he is most handsome because the moment he covers his jaws you just want to see them again, pronounced and smooth all at once, a real man’s face. He takes a short yellow bic and rakes through the thick shaving cream, careful and determined in each stroke.

“Now, you make sure you never use the yellow razors,” he tells me. “You have to use your own razor. The one I bought you in the toy section, okay?”

I nod and take a puff on my pipe.

Grandpa’s face is almost clean now, with dashes of white still stuck to places the yellow bic refuses to trek. This is the part I don’t like because when he shaves without the Barbasol on his face, you can hear all the scratching sounds of the bic against his rough skin. But it’s over soon enough, and he’s rinses his face with two open palms.

My turn now.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

War Song

By Desiree Gales

How I want war
Being taught how to steal a carton of cigarettes
only at 13

I want war because
because this is the only song
I Know how to sing

Oppression Oppression
anger and hate are my
waves of nodes

Peace is not a word I have not defined yet
Integrity is another language foreign to my policy

Character , Compromise
Character , Compromise

I am not excusing myself from my actions
I am locating the truth of my location
to think that I am above
the homeless person on the street.
the iraq war soldier
the proud ceo
I would lose my soul

WE must set right what was wrong
we must have justice
not vindicate , not oppress and suppress
but look each other in the eye with hope
with a message

From asshole to activist algebra has accrued
Take Note :
Mother Teresa was a rich woman
gave it all for the house of dieing
even denied the pope a house in vadicant city

Justice does not kill
Justice restores

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

clothes minded

Posted by A. Broad

When I was a little girl, I was all about the dress-up. I would run around my apartment complex in a pink ballerina costume asking people if they thought I was pretty, and I frequently put on a frilly dress, white gloves, large hat, and lace-trimmed socks and demand to go to the grocery store with my mother. (She loved that, as you can imagine.) But as I got older and more self-conscious, as girls tend to do, dress-up became a far smaller part of my life.

It wasn't until I started reading and thinking about gender that dress-up made a reappearance in my life. Ru-Paul's words, that we're all born naked and the rest is drag, resonated with me and freed me up to experiment just a little bit with my presentation. I've been feeling fairly androgynous lately but there have also been other phases, most notably a resurgence of my femmey self a few summers ago. I haven't been feeling particularly girly lately, but when I heard that Genderqueer Chicago was going to be having a drag 1920's party I knew I was going to have to femme myself up in some sort of outrageous fashion. For one thing, I look like a total dweeb in boy drag--think bible salesman--and for another I have a very flapper-esque body type. When else was my lack of boobage going to count in my favor for girl drag? But also, I just kind of wanted to, and for me being an excessively feminine girl is pretty damn subversive feeling.

And so I showed up in perhaps the shortest black dress I've ever owned, my hair curled and pinned on top of my head and sporting heels, two pearl necklaces, and a peacock feather. My friends were all looking incredibly dapper in their suits, fedoras, knickers, and mustaches, and much to my relief and surprise the vast majority of people walking into the rather swanky pretentious under-lit gay bar we were at were decked out in similar fashion. Dress parties are only fun if people really go for it, and I've been to more than my fair share where I did and other people did not; it's gotten to the point where, if I'm invited to a theme event, I often show up in normal clothes with my costume in tow just in case. I will never forget showing up to my first Ugly Christmas Sweater party (in another town, which pretty much obliterated my chances of a change of clothing) wearing a christmas tree turtleneck, red pants, and a vest embroidered with huge Santa faces only to find out that no one else had dressed up. And then there was the early nineties party where I showed up in neon Blossom shorts and a midriff-baring orange plaid halter top tied in front, only to discover that the host had forgotten to inform most of the other guests that it was a theme party at all. I believe both events ended with excessive drunkenness on my part, largely due to embarrassment and the massive discomfort of looking like a total weirdo.

But last night? It was classy. Fedoras abounded, as did vests and ties. I felt like a million dollars, and even though I was nearly the only person there in girl drag I was completely comfortable with that. It felt good to see so many happy costumed queer folk chatting and making new connections and generally taking over the bar we'd booked; all these queers in this blowdried gay male space! It made me so happy. And even though we didn't talk formally about Genderqueer Chicago, it still felt like one of the major underlying layers to the evening. I talked with people about queer barbecues, pronoun choice--I was asked multiple times which pronouns I preferred, and there was a group lean towards y'all as a neutral option--and yes, sometimes even what the group was about and what we hoped to do in the future. We have time and space later for more words and deeper discussions, but as a coming out party this was the bee's knees.

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