Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gender Geography

How does our environment affect the way we think and feel about gender? How does our own gender expression change in different settings: at home, on the bus, at school, at work, in our hometowns, across the country, across the world?

Join us for a safe space discussion!

Wednesday, September 1st
at the Gerber/Hart Library

7-8:30 pm

This is an inclusive community event and as such it is free and open to the public.

People of all ages and abilities encouraged to attend.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Got Gender? Send us a blog!

This blog is open to all community members who want to share personal stories, poems, ideas, images, videos, and music.

We're counting on you to keep up the momentum! Send your submissions to Include a title and a name you want to publish under.

Can't think of what to send us?
For inspiration, try to answer one of the following:
-When was the first time you realized you were supposed to be a boy or a girl?
-How do you go against gender rules?
-Talk about a time when you felt good about gender stuff.
-What is something that people don't expect you to do because of the way they perceive your gender?
-Who is your favorite gender outlaw and why?
-What is a good book you've read about gender and why do you like it?
-How does gender intersect with other identities of yours?

Remember, you don't have to be a Chicagoan to submit.

The GqC Organizing team will not post content deemed offensive. All submissions should be owned by person submitting. Submissions are your property solely and may be used for other purposes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


by a boy in motion

Bones crack with every heel that hits the Lakeshore path:
Sciatica. Shin splints. Worn out shoes.

But your body is running away from you

Running began as a form of self-punishment. You ran because your hips got wider. You ran because movies and magazines and Special K cereal boxes told You and
Everyone Like You that you were

But you never really believed that.

You ran until you hit 92 pounds in high school, until you had to explain to your doctor that no, you were not anorexic and yes, you understood that eating disorders are a serious problem among Teenage Girls
like You.
No, you weren’t trying to lose weight—you were just running.

You swallowed the birth control pills they gave you, “filled out” until someone else was satisfied, until you bled and proved you could breed because that is
what Women do
and kept on running.

College spit you onto streets in what you didn’t dare call your neighborhood, but you ran up and down them until they were yours. You spent hours at the college gym running on the treadmill, running away from the girls who kicked you out of the locker room because
you didn’t look
like Them.

You ran through summers and rain and ice-covered sidewalks that left ankles twisted and bruised. But you still run.

When you run you are genderless—a blur in a hoodie and sweatpants, getting chin jerks from the dudes you see every morning, pounding out the same path.

Almost summer again, and a newer You stretches its limbs. You up your mileage.

You run to the lake where men sit by themselves in hiking boots and parkas—men dressed like your father. You wonder if he’d be proud of your newfound athleticism. You spent a childhood trying to impress him, treading water until you thought you’d drown just to prove that you were tough, the first kid to reach the top of the hill or catch a fish with bare hands.

But as you’ve started growing stronger, growing into this body that can move and change with muscles clinging to hairy calves and broad shoulders, he can’t look at it.
He can’t look at you.

So you run until you see yourself instead.

Sidelining Intersexed People

Recently there was an article posted at the LA Times, Medical Treatment Carries Possible Side Effect of Limiting Homosexuality, on a treatment for congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). CAH can cause heart problems newborn children but like most genetic conditions, CAH has a range of effects not nearly all of them fatal. However, the focus of the article, as you may glean from the title, does not deal with the potential fatal aspects of CAH complications and instead focus on CAH's most identifiable (and common) trait, that is affecting genital development, as well as sex hormones. This latter trait folds nicely into into popular discourse on the causes of homosexuality (reducing it to biology and thus pathologizing and medicalizing non-heterosexual orientations). The ethical debate on trying to regulate sexual orientation is central to the article and for good reason. However the article completely de-legitimizes intersexed individuals. The article begins with:

"Each year in the United States, perhaps a few dozen pregnant women learn they are carrying a fetus at risk for a rare disorder known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The condition causes an accumulation of male hormones and can, in females, lead to genitals so masculinized that it can be difficult at birth to determine the baby’s gender."

So to start the article is de-legitimizing intersexed individuals by placing everyone in a male/female binary and as an added bonus conflates sex with gender. I don't know about you but I find it hard to determine any infants gender, they generally are not able to express their gender identity at that time (unless drooling counts). This particular bit of fail is throughout the article but it is not the worst part of the article.

What is most telling about this discussion is the fact that the article does not mention any of those potentially life threatening implications of CAH until about halfway through. Until then it is solely about genitals and sexual orientation. The heart conditions are the afterthought, the juicy story is the freak-show. Even after the potential life threatening implications are addressed the focus shifts back to genital “abnormalities.” The fatal complications of CAH are not always present. CAH complications can result in those conditions but as a rule it does not and in fact it is common for CAH to be managed. It is severe and undiagnosed CAH conditions that are often fatal. However, if the article was focused on the potentially fatal aspects of CAH complications and the treatment was targeted to children with CAH that may potentially develop fatal heart conditions or other fatal conditions associated such as salt wasting, it would be a different story. The problem is the genital "abnormalities" are framed as just as concerning (if not more so) as those fatal heart conditions (which are hardly mentioned and as be managed). CAH more often manifests non-fatal ways, but in apparently disturbing ways according to strict adherents to the sex binary.

"The excess presence of the male hormone testosterone in the womb has little effect on a male fetus' genitalia. Even in females, the anatomical defect may be mild, involving nothing more obvious than a slightly enlarged clitoris. However, in severe cases, girls are born with male-like sexual organs although they usually have ovaries and a uterus."

So a slightly enlarged clitoris is a "defect" and should be under the purview of the medical establishment to regulate, let alone any more “severe” cases (which can be "severe" only in relation to genitals, not potentially fatal infantile complications) that fall way outside many people’s expectations and must be dealt with on the spot to protect the binary. They mention people who advocate for the rights of intersexed individuals and actual informed consent of those affected:

"The treatment of such disorders has long been the subject of debate. Early surgery to assign a child's gender is controversial, but prenatal treatment for congenital adrenal hyperplasia is even more alarming, said Anne Tamar-Mattis, executive director of Advocates for Informed Choice. She adds that the complicated surgery carries risks, including infection and nerve damage, and that parents may not be adequately counseled beforehand. The group favors allowing children born with intersex conditions to participate in decisions about their gender identity, including delaying a decision until adolescence."

Even this paragraph that talks about the controversy of early genital surgery focuses on the complications that can occur, and should require consent, and less on the ethics of altering “abnormal” genitalia at all without consent. Only a sentence about giving intersexed people the ability to make that decision. I suspect were there no potential complications in early genital surgery then the article would not even have mentioned any controversy, because in their frame there would be none; genitals need to be "fixed" and only how you go about it may be concerning. Surgical complications had to be addressed, as this new non-surgical procedure is touted as a safe alternative to risky surgery in the rest of the article. As a result only one cursory sentence, concerning the rights of intersexed people to exist on their own terms, survives and then the article moves on and it is ignored. That quote, which I’m sure was cherry picked and taken out of context, is telling of what is not part of the ethical debate here, the possibility of accepting sexual variance.

The ethical debate in the article is all about this new procedure being used to affect the future sexual orientation of a child. This is definitely a huge ethical issue and needs attention and criticism so that is not seen as acceptable. However treating genital “abnormalities” is seen as an end in itself and not part of the ethical debate.

"Any treatment can be misused. That could happen here. But this is not the focus of the treatment. The focus is to make surgery unnecessary."

Surgery to “fix” genitals is not a misuse of this treatment. The focus of this treatment is whats is disturbing, it is not addressing infants who may have a fatal heart condition, that is an afterthought (and largely not the concern of CAH for most). The real issue is erasing intersexuality and anything outside the binary of male/female. Sex and, by their extension, gender variance are fair targets of medical management. The fact that the focus is on genitals clearly shows the obsession with sexual and gender binaries and the conflation involved. The controversy almost completely centers around sexual orientation not genital variance. Altering (or potentially altering, I won’t get into that) a child’s sexual orientation is seen (rightfully so) as controversial, but “fixing” intersexed people is taken as obvious. This is problematic for anyone who stands outside a sex or gender binary, gender because sex is seen as an ultimate binary which completely determines gender. In this way sexuality can be still confined to a binary and further serves to marginalize many non-binary identified individuals.

This type of debate clearly affects people who are sex or gender variant. What thoughts do others have on this article? Ideas for responses? Perhaps this type of debate has already affected you personally and would like to share? Comments are welcomed with open arms; this is your space!

(I may later on write a blog post reviewing books that deal with positive ideas of sex, and queer diversity from a biological standpoint. Books I have in mind are Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People and Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes.) -B

Monday, August 23, 2010

Critical Mass Invite

Attention alternative transportation enthusiasts, bicycle riders of all stripes, and long-distance skateboarders…

This Friday is Critical Mass and some Genderqueer Chicago folks are unofficially lookin’ to queer it up while having a blast! According to their website Critical mass is “a worldwide movement to promote the use of bicycles as a viable means of transportation."

Basically it’s a bike ride comprised of hundreds of people who wanna ride together, be safer with numbers, and have a fun. The mass decides where to go on the spot, so it’s a bit of an adventure. Be aware that Critical Mass does not ask for permits because they maintain that roads are just as much for bikes and cars. As a result the mass sometimes has a tense relationship with police.

If you've never participated in Critical Mass before, check out their Newbie page and their FAQ so that you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Interested participants should meet up in the Daley Plaza around 5:15 on friday August 27th wearing red. We’ll be representin’ with a sign.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gender and Aging

Many queer folks have lifves in transition, redefining gender, relationships. career, and family according to our own terms.

Whether you feel like entering into uncharted waters or you’ve been there and lived to tell about it, join us for a discussion.

at the Gerber/Hart Library

7-8:30 pm

As always this is an inclusive community event and as such it is free and open to the public.

People of all ages and abilities encouraged to attend.

Letter to the Editor Victory!

Dear Andre,

Thanks for your e-mail to ninemsn.

I forwarded your complaint on to our News team executives and they agreed that your complaint was very much a valid complaint and that the article should not have been written in the way that it was. As such, they have removed the article from our site and both the person who wrote the article and the editor responsible for allowing it to be published will be asked to explain their actions. Please accept our sincere apologies for any offence caused by this article.

If you have any further queries or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,

Wil New
Customer Service

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Got Mad Skills? Share 'Em!

We're hosting a skill share!

On September 8th, we'll be trading talents.

We're looking for a few folks with simple skills to impart to a group of about 20 people. Projects should take about 30 minutes or less to complete, be easy to teach, and require minimal (or cheap) materials.

Teach us how to stencil or make an ash tray out of paper clips. Teach us to turn bandannas into emergency medical supplies. Or.... think up something even cooler.

Shoot us an e-mail at

Friday, August 20, 2010

Watch Out! Website Under Construction

Hey folks,

Some of you may have noticed the website doesn't reflect how vibrant and colorful the people who come to our meetings are. We're sprucing it up with a few new features and a brand new look. For a few days you may notice things shifting about or lookin' funny, so don't be alarmed. And (if all goes right) by next week we should be up with a lovely new design.

-GQC organizing team

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Letter to the Editor

If I were to stop what I was doing every time I read or saw something offensive about the community and take the time to respond to it, then I wouldn't have time to live my life. That being said, I think it's important to push the topic, and when I ran across an article in the World section of MSN (now NineMSN) news, that had been flocked (another newfangled social networking thing) 333 times, I figured it was time for a good-ole-fashioned letter to the editor:
Dear NineMSN News,

I recently read your article entitled "Man Dies After Seeing Prostitute is Transsexual." I find that article to be poor news reporting. It implies a connection where there does not seem to be one. A man died of a Viagra over-dose, an occurrence which has been documented before on a number of occasions. The amount he ingested and/or heart conditions he may have had beforehand are not mentioned even though they are probably the most significant factors associated with his passing.

As a member of the transgender community I find this article offensive. It is clearly drawing on the idea that transsexual people are freakish monsters, are sexually undesirable and are deceitful if they do not disclose information about their gender transition. It draw on the fears and biases which lead to the death of hundreds of transgender women (many of whom turn to sex work as a response to prolonged unemployment caused by discrimination) in countries across the world.

If you are interested in doing a story about a transgender person or organization at some point, this is an excellent resource created by a reporter who is also a community leader. Until then, I encourage your reporting team to resist the urge to tack-on irrelevant information about people’s anatomy just because it’s novel.

Please take this article offline, talk to the person responsible for writing it, and refrain from posting half-heartedly researched and blatantly sensationalist pseudo-news in the future.

Andre Perez
UPDATE: Check out the response I got.

Stonewall Uprising! Discussion TOMORROW

The Gerber/Hart Library will be hosting a discussion on the film "Stonewall Uprising," and some of us will be in attendance. If you're looking for something chill to do, join us at the Gerber/Hart (1127 W. Granville).

Discussion starts at 7pm.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gender ReaSIGNed: A Theatre Action

Join us on Wednesday, August 18th, at 7pm for an interactive, artsy, and mobile conversation about gender!

Meet up at the Bean in Millennium Park to encourage passerbys to write their answers to the following questions (and more!) on a giant sign we'll parade throughout the park:

What is gender?
How do you defy gender norms?
What is femininity?
What is masculinity?

Whether folks write their own answers or simply stop to read others, we hope to spark transformative thoughts and conversation about gender, spreading GqC love throughout the city!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I smiled inwardly as a friend up on stage introduces the band with: "Ladies, gentleman and those who find themselves somewhere in between..." A small bit of recognition in a non-queer space.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Trans (Un)employment- Interview with Sparrow

Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Sparrow. I identify as genderqueer and am from Brooklyn, NY.

What do you think are some of the major issues surrounding employment that impact trans people?
I used to work at a homeless shelter for queer and trans youth in Brooklyn. A lot of the residents had difficulty finding employment either because their presentation did not match their identification or because the were transitioning and they were very visibly trans. Trans women in particular have a lot of difficulty with bullshit.

Do you feel like community-based initiatives targeting trans people to help them get employment have been useful? What kind of strategies do you think have been successful, if any?
That’s really complicated. What has been useful have unfortunately been lawsuits, like Win Dixie getting sued. In 1996, a woman who had been presenting as a man for a large portion of her employment history with Win Dixie started presenting as a woman, and was fired explicitly for being trans. She sued Win Dixie and won. They were forced to give her back wages and put a gender nondiscrimination clause in their policy. Those sorts of things are great but there needs to be a clear understanding that people are going to change because they are nice. They are going to change because they are forced to.

Do you think passing a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act is going to be useful or more of the same?

It’s a useful thing to start from and to fall back on because job security is an issue that impacts us a great deal. Short of obliterating capitalism, we have to exist in the world as it is today.

Do you have any personal stories you’d like to share related to employment as a trans people?
I’ve actually chose to do sex work to support myself because I have a lot of control over the hours I work, the environment I work in and I don’t need to be concerned about what my employer thinks about my presentation.

How do you feel about that decision?
I feel pretty good about it. It’s the only job I’ve ever had where I feel respected, where I am adequately compensated for my time. It’s a job that I chose consciously and feel good about having.

Do you have anything to say to allies or people who want to help gender non-conforming people?

There’s a lot to be said for creating space. When you see stuff goes down that’s busted, you need to say something because it’s really lonely to be the only one.

Trans (un)employment is a documentary that seeks to explore how employment issues impact the gender variant and transgender community. I am motivated to create this partially by the recent discussion of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), partially by my own experiences with unemployment, and partially by the underwhelming amount of information available about the topic.

This investigation will include the perspectives of activists, community members, social services workers, legislators, and many others. I am currently interested in talking with people who self-identify within the trans and gender variant community about what themes and topics they feel are most relevant to address. If you are interested in the project and/or are willing to share your thoughts and experiences with me, let me know by e-mailing me at

Stay tuned for related articles and snippets from this project.

A Few Notes for further information:
Win Dixie was let off the hook in
Oliver V Win Dixie, a similar case about a person who was fired for engaging in crossdressing outside of work. For more legal precidents, read this.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stonewall Uprising!

Stonewall Uprising hits the screen at the Music Box Theatre at 7:20pm tonight and tomorrow night. Click here for ticket information.

Join a discussion about the film at the Gerber/Hart Library on August 20th at 7pm!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Family Queer and Far-This Wednesday!

Whether it's family by birth, family by choice, or family by circumstance, family is a complicated and often difficult topic.

Join us for a safe space meeting about family and its many meanings.

This Wednesday
The Gerber/Hart Library (1127 W. Granville)

Genderqueer Chicago meetings are open to everyone who wants to talk about gender. Researchers and reporters are not invited to attend in their professional capacities but can contact organizers at

Friday, August 6, 2010

What's the deal with MichFest?

With the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in full swing,
here's a hilarious take on the festival's notoriously
anti-trans environment:

Monday, August 2, 2010

GenderGames: A GqC Board Game Extravaganza!

Join us at 7pm on Wednesday, August 4th for a board game fest in Grant Park! Meet by the Buckingham Fountain and bring games if you've got 'em. If you arrive later than 7:15, look for us in the grassy area north of the fountain.

Family friendly! Everyone is welcome! Bring your buddies!

It looks like the weather will clear up, but in the event that it doesn't before 6pm, we'll take a rain check and re-schedule at a later date.

If it is canceled and you're looking for something fun to do, check out the Gerber-Hart book sale at 1127 W. Granville!

Website graphics and design by Andre Perez