Saturday, January 30, 2010

i'd like it to go, please

by wry

riding home on my bicycle, i stop at a traffic light. "nice jacket!" someone yells to me from the sidewalk, in appreciation of my bright yellow/red/green early 90's-aesthetic winter coat. "thanks!" i yell back, happy that someone appreciates my fashion. "what's your name?" the jacket-complimenter asks me. i tell them my name. "are you a guy or a girl?" the next question fires immediately back.

the traffic light changes to green and i pedal along my way.

(scene change)

¿maricón o lesbina?


(scene change)

it's a drag themed party. in drag--no cover charge. logically, i would think that this means that i should camp it up and play a character that i am not in real life for the night. but gender comes in there too. which am i acting out tonight? i stare into the mirror at a loss of decision. is woman or man drag? how did i get here? when did i become neither and everything? what if i showed up as a pumpkin?

i decide not to dress-up for the party and go in my regular clothes. they don't ask me to pay the cover.

(scene change)

i'm reading a Lynne Breedlove joke: Q: "how do you tell the trannies from the genderqueers?" A: "when you ask the trannies if they're a boy or a girl, they answer 'yes'; when you ask the genderqueers, they answer 'no'".

yes. wait, no. but yes. no--no. yes and no? yes.

(scene change)

alone in my room. thinking comradery across the generations. older is riper. where are all the older genderqueers? why is everyone so young? and then it hit me like a brick to the head. is it possible to make it to 'older' as a genderqueer? how long until we choose? or implode? or run into the mountains to hide?

i see an older genderqueer on a bus in a city. they see me looking for something. we exchange smiles and eye contact. i can't contain myself and actually begin to cry.

it's all possible.

(scene change)

watching a one-act play of cross-dressing, boy-girl dildo mouth fucking, upside down, cross-overs, and loops of magic in the air--there is no separation between us. and when the crowd laughs, i settle deeper into my seat. mouth closed. watching myself on the stage.

(scene change)

Friday, January 29, 2010

TRANSportation Part Duex

Ever wanted to fill a train just for the sake of genderfucking it? Do you want to let people on the brown line know that trans people won't be invisible anymore... The come to TRANSportation Part Duex!

Join us on February 1st as we alert Chicago to the presence of gender-variant people with some light-hearted theatre.
We'll meet at the Randolph Brown Line stop at at 5:45pm On the NORTH side platform.
we will take the train together at 6pm.
We will ride with each car for two stops, performing some informal theatre to let train cars know that genderqueer people ride CTA daily. You need not be an actor to ride this train! And you need not be trans either. Gender funnies and all allies are welcome. Come out for a night of fun, safe, and informal education!
Please, set aside two hours for the activity.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

sisters, brothers, and others

by malic moxie

“What do you want me to call you?”

Crazy. Half-drunk. Halfway through a pile of coats shoved absentmindedly in a corner—all of them black, including my own—all but one.

Hers is orange, she says.
Red-orange like the flags that dot the lakeshore sometimes.

There is an important number in that coat, she says.
A number for Haiti.

So I am wading through them, limp arms intertwined like the bodies that used to be in them, bodies that fumble on the living room dance floor—college kids sweating out winter and alcohol.
Too many bodies in too little space, too warm for January in Chicago.

And I am wading through shells of bodies while she wades through real bodies in her head, bodies she might know.
Counting bodies, counting change she’s been collecting since the earthquake hit.

She sways a little in her heels, grips the window frame.
She hasn’t slept in a week, she says.

“This is my fun night out and I am having fun, damnit!”

Until tonight we hadn’t spoken for months, but I can still hear the worry beneath her bravado. She isn’t as drunk as she’d like to be.

And then I see it—a flash of orange like warning—and tear it from the bottom of the pile. She clutches the coat in her hands and thanks me, producing a worn piece of paper from its pocket, folded and refolded in nervous fingers.

With the coat slung over her shoulders now, she clumsily reaches for her phone and starts dialing.
But she pauses unexpectedly, looks at me so hard that I freeze.

“What do you want me to call you?”

My brain reels back to the first time I heard that question in the basement of an abandoned building.
The speaker loomed over me. A punk show raged on above our heads.

“Malic is fine.”

And that’s exactly how I answer now, words muffled by techno thump that shakes the floor we stand on. Our eyes are almost level.

She nods seriously.

“Then that is what I will call you.”

Now it’s my turn to thank her in so many ways.

Hey, thanks for the work you’ve been doing for Haiti. It sounds lame. I try to personalize it, make my gratitude and admiration carry the weight it deserves. Someone I love has friends there, I tell her.

“I have friends there.”

She looks past my shoulder and her eyes cross an ocean, latching onto an island as if she can pull it closer, hold it in her hands instead of jars of spare change.

“Malic,” she starts to call me something else, but she stops herself.
“Are you my sister or are you my brother?”

I’m tempted to quote a phrase I learned recently—“sisters, brothers, and others”—a witty way to gender neutralize camaraderie.
But I don’t. We come from different places and we rarely say hello in passing, but we are not Others here.

“I’m your brother.”

“You were my sister and now you are my brother.
That is what I will call you.”

She nods decisively and finishes dialing, leaving me in a sea of bad music and black coats.
My sister strides out into the darkness of early morning.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ziggy on the Rocks with a Twist.

Jory Gifford

So I am turned inside out. No, I am flipped. I have ditched the static and predictable interstate for the ziggy way- the path that bends. If only it were as easy as merely running the spectrum of gender unconscientiously with my skateboard shoes and my boy undershirts. But the road… the road is paved with broken glass, and I am in a constant state of self-examination and perception. It’s wonderful and maybe even necessary; but you know something is lost when the boy who used to stare into a camera lens blankly and in awe now makes a face- a face that smiles recklessly to strive for the daring, the glam, the queer.

And here is where the rocks come in, that mass of a mountain I battled against for a week over winter break with only a snowboard as a shield. My body, a colored speck on white without identity or explanation, only movement and instinct. The snow trail reflecting not a boi but only the winter sun.

And so here I am attempting to replicate that feeling in a concrete city where a façade is forced on all of us- whether it is a façade within the social constraints of binaries, or one that goes radically against the grain. Here I am repaving the ziggy way, to move on it without even the notion of becoming gendered or non-gendered- a movement that is instinctual, free, and fast flowing.

Als das Kind Kind war, es machte kein Gesicht beim fotografieren.
When the child was a child, it did not make a face when photographed.

Howard Brown/ Chicago Women's Health Center Launch Group for Partners of Trans Guys!

Howard Brown and CWHC are co-sponsoring a new group for partners of trans-masculine people.

The group is open to anyone in a relationship (girlfriends, boyfriends, partners) with a trans-masculine person (FTM, transguy, gender queer) who is medically transitioning and also NOT medically transitioning.

Contact Audra at the Chicago Women's Health Center for more info: 773-935-6126 Ext. 303

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Story of a Strange Child

by kt R.

"Phil's adopted."

When we were kids, my big sister would make these kinds of statements
at the dinner table, kicking me under the table and grinning. It's
what sisters do. I love her.

"Phil's an alien. He hatched and mom and dad found him."

My mom would say "Yes, the aliens left Phil on our doorstop and we're
so happy they did."

I'd smile smugly and say "Ray was named after a crazy guy, isn't that
right mom?" - and it was true. My parents liked to tell the story of
the man named Raymundo who lived in the VA psychiatric hospital where
they worked during grad school. He called everyone else Ray. "Hi Ray"
he would say to my dad. "Morning, Ray" to my mom. My parents adopted
this affectation at home and called each other Ray. When their first
daughter was born they named her Ray (Rachel). Or so the story goes.
When their second daughter was born they named her Katie. And their
first daughter renamed herm Phil. Yes, I just said herm. This was
actually the pronoun my sister used to use for me! I remember looking
up "hermaphrodite" in the encyclopedia with her. "That's you, Phil!"

I have never really been Katie to my family, except in public. For a
long time I was Tater because it sounds like Katie. Then Layla, and
I'm not sure where Layla came from (possibly the Eric Clapton song).
During the 1994 winter olympics I became Lillehammer. When my sister
was reading Gulliver's Travels I became Lilliput. When she found out
about the Jewish/biblical demon Lilith, that was me. Disney's Beauty
and the Beast came out and we would pretend my sister was Belle and I
was her horse, Phillipe. That was shortened to Phil, or sometimes
combined into Philith. Sometimes Phil Haise, Phil-of-pee, Phee-phee,
Phister, Philly.

"Strange child," you may be thinking. No shit.

I guess I was a tomboy but I didn't really notice much. My mom picked
out clothes for me, they were pretty neutral. I liked riding horses
and being outside and preferred clothing that allowed these
activities. In a restaurant, the waiter said to Ray, "and what will
your little brother be having?" - this happened pretty frequently
actually. It was probably largely due to the fact that I was always
filthy and had short hair and no feminine accessories.

And of course my grandmother outed me when I was 9 or 10. "Did a boy
give you that ring?" she asked. It was an eyeball ring from a toy
gumball machine. "No, a girl. My friend Emma" I said. "Ooooh! We've
got a queer one in the family!" And she happily told my parents and
extended family. I was embarrassed that people were discussing
something about me that I completely didn't understand.

Starting high school was interesting. I had just discovered punk rock
and my hair was extremely short. I cut and bleached it myself (badly).
I joined the gay-straight alliance. "Phil, you ARE the GSA, you're all
the queer rolled into one" my sister teased me. "Are you a gay man
stuck in a lesbian's body? Or a lesbian stuck in a gay man's body?"
she asked. "Alien stuck in a human's body" I countered, laughing.
The GSA became another of my names. She still calls me The GSA.

My parents were very progressive. Many would call them hippies. They
had fought in the Civil Rights movement and against the Vietnam war.
They had been pretty radical. They did things like living in a
macrobiotic coop, and they had lived and worked as migrant farmers
picking strawberries and living in a one-room shack with a potbelly
stove. Recently I asked my mom how she raised my sister and I
differently. My mom has her degree in child psychology so I feel like
she knew what she was doing. "We took a more hands-off approach with
you," she told me, "We wanted you to feel free so we instilled common
sense and let you loose. We didn't really impose any limits so as not
to stifle your creativity. Do you think this was the right approach?"

"Yes," I told her, "I think you and dad did a wonderful job."

I never had one specific coming out moment. I've just lived and
sometimes other people have made pronouncements upon me or assumed
things and that's that. I don't think my parents ever read me as

I guess some might think I've come out and gone back in and came back
out again, depending on the gender of the person I'm dating, but I
don't feel that way. I have never ever thought of myself as straight,
or called myself straight, and I don't think anybody who has ever
known me has either. I'm a person. Genderqueer and pansexual seem to
explain the situation pretty well, but that's still just on the very
outskirts of what most people understand. "So basically you will bang
anyone" a (cismale) friend of mine said. Big sigh. No.

Using Humor: Sometimes when I say I am "genderqueer pansexual" I also
add "elf" because, you know.. I have always felt like I should have
been born an elf. Plus it sounds good, and my Dragon Age character
really is a genderqueer pansexual elf. Or, when someone looks confused
when I say pansexual, I follow with "that means I am only sexually
attracted to pans, sometimes pots."

Gingerqueer. When I dye my hair red.
Gentlequeer. Shh, it's ok.

We're at Affinity this Weds!

Just your friendly reminder to join us for this week's safe space discussion meeting at Affinity Community Services (57th and Woodlawn, Gardlen Level).

This Weds.

Safe space meetings are open to everyone who wants a space to deal with personal gender questions. Researchers and press are not to attend. For inquiries e-mail us at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Affinity Volunteer Open House--TONIGHT!

Volunteer Opportunities Open House
Time: 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Location: Affinity Community Services,
5650 South Woodlawn Avenue, Garden Level

Every other we we've been meeting at Affinity, a fantastic space on the south side. Much of Affinity's work is carried out by volunteers who assist with program planning and logistics, marketing and outreach, and office operations. At their Open House tonight, attendees will learn about the many ways to lend time and talents to Affinity to help us better serve its constituents. Show up and show your support!

For more information, check out

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

TRANSportation, Take 2

Ever been on a crowded train, suffocating with twenty or thirty strangers, keeping your eyes on your shoes because you're too afraid to look up? Well this is the train for you.

Join us on February 1st as we alert Chicago to the presence of gender-variant people with some light-hearted theatre.
We'll meet at the Randolph Brown Line stop at at 5:45pm On the NORTH side platform.
we will take the train together at 6pm.
We will ride with each car for two stops, performing some informal theatre to let train cars know that genderqueer people ride CTA daily. You need not be an actor to ride this train! And you need not be trans either. Gender funnies and all allies are welcome. Come out for a night of fun, safe, and informal education!
Please, set aside two hours for the activity.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

For the Brother Who Always Was

By Sodapop

“Are you trans, yet?” he asks, his semi-annual question, flung across six states from yet another new phone number. I haven’t seen him in four years now. I take a deep breath and sigh into the receiver.

He was my first bro, before I the words “trans” or “genderqueer” ever entered my innocent ears, before I bellowed the spit-fire anthems of Ani DiFranco, before I dog-eared the pages of Feinberg and Bornstein and Butler.

On a crumb-covered dorm room carpet, I sucked fumes from a stale bong and waded through the alcohol, taking in stories of his high school days- the concerts he’d been to, the many girls he’d loved, the mother he’d battled for years.

He knew everything before I did. Like a magician, constantly revealing the secrets of alter-sexuality, he pulled out the codes of handkerchiefs, the words of Michelle Tea, and every movie starring Janine Garofalo (he had a thing). In my own short life, I had been spoon-fed all of life’s great experiences- trips to Europe and Mexico, golf outings and ski adventures, tree houses and sail boats. But he had lived. And he was determined to show me how. I, in turn, shortened his name to neutralize its gendering, buzzed his hair off, and kept him in constant supply of popcorn and juice boxes. For this, he called me the truest kind of a friend.

He dragged me to my first campus queer event (a tragic lesbian flick where five queers spread out over four different couches), slid burned tracks of PJ Harvey under my door, and brought a real live tranny to his dorm room when I confessed I had never met one (insert the world’s most awkward introduction here).

Yeah, I was a late-bloomer, sprung into a world where hippies and trannies and sneaker-strutting Brooklyn-borns fumed critical theory by day and fought the crimes of capitalism by night. My expensive alternative college would teach me that a Midwestern upbringing had led to my overconsumption of Campbell’s soup and Western imperialism. But it was he who would teach me the wonders of hair dye and dental dams. He’d show me how to pack a bowl and turn a plastic egg into a vibrator.

For two semesters, we lived like dorm rogues- stoned and overfed and giddy on Erin McKeown tracks. He was my wingman at parties and my protector from the wrath of first-year lesbians. He was queerer than queer, queer before I had any idea that queer could be sexy and political and non-academic. And he was my bro, through and through.

By his second year of college, his name had changed into something that closer fit his gender and cultural identity. He was calling himself “trans.” He didn’t want to dance in the circles of dykedom anymore. When the college failed him financially after his second year, he left for the west coast, never to return. He called me the following semester to check-in. Things were a little rough for him, but he didn’t want to talk about that.

“Are you trans?” he asked me from a crackling phone. “I’ve been looking at pictures of you. Maybe you are starting to pass?”

I laughed nervously. “No, man. I’m not trans. I just like skinny ties.”

“Oh.” The disappointment hit my ear like a dull punch. I got the sense that he needed a trans brother, but it wasn’t going to be me.

We barely stayed in contact after that, speaking twice a year at most. He fell in and out of love, got jobs and lost them, got addictions and lost those, too. Every time he called me it was from a new number. Every time he called, he asked the same first question: “Are you trans, now?”

He called one morning in August, after months of silence. I was in a car on my way to Camp Trans. I couldn’t talk, I explained. But I would bring him something from camp. Was I trans? I was, um… me? I didn’t know. Could we catch up in a few days?

A few days became five months.

I made a few half-hearted attempts to reach him, but the number had been disconnected. So much had changed in my life. I wanted to tell him about the community I had built and the boy I loved, but his number was a dead-end. So, I waited. Until tonight.

My phone buzzes with an unfamiliar number. Across six states he explains that life has taken a few tough turns. He had been reluctant to call, but he wanted a familiar voice.

I tell him all about my life. I tell him about gender organizing in Chicago. I tell him about my parents. I tell him about people from college I still talk to. And I tell him about falling in love with a trans person.

And then I wait for it. I know that it might be another half year before I have the chance to answer.

“Are you trans, yet?” the question comes in near-exasperation. Maybe he has given up on me.

I take a deep breath and sigh into the receiver. I have been clambering after him for years.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Privilege of Passing

By Aidan Christopher

Passing privilege is a constant thing I am trying to unpack in my life, especially because I identify more as genderqueer than I ever did as male even though I decided to transition (whatever that really means). I am writing this while sitting on a flight back from Atlanta and my experience in the airport has brought me back to the topic of my passing once more. Even though all of my ID’s say female, it seems that people either ignore, rewrite, or completely miss my complicated history when I need to use my ID. I am almost always Sir’d, and when I am not it normally makes no sense and the person corrects themselves without my comment. And yet I am a very queer body, seemingly invisible in a hetero-world, and it bothers me.

When I was living in rural Indiana, I could go into any bar and would automatically be assumed not only male but straight. And what was worse, at the time I would let them continue to believe that. Today I am not so sure I could stand to allow that assumption to continue. I feel like I am always in the balance between being visibly queer and passing as male or even passing as a hetro male and understanding what that means, how I feel about it and what it would mean if I were correct someone’s assumption. In rural Indiana, the decision was based on safety and now in Chicago, though safety is important, I feel that it is more important to not allow people to remain oblivious or ignorant to the idea of variant genders. But what does this mean for my life? I am not sure I have an answer. What does it mean if I allow myself the privileges that come with passing? What if I scream from the rafters That I am queer and gender queer? Though I may not be screaming aloud at all times, I think it is important at least in my life to not be silent. I cannot be indifferent to people assumptions and allow people to continue those assumptions about me or about anyone else. But how is this done? Is it with a slip of a sentence that places questions on my gender or an outright correction on the assumption?

This is more a point of discussion than an actual post, I do not have the answers to these postulated questions, nor do I think I will ever have the answers. My life is too fluid to even have a concrete response or understanding.

Queer Reflections: Parte Deux!

Where have you seen your own gender presentation reflected?

Come this week's safe space meeting!

This Wednesday (January 20th)
7:00 at The Gerber/Hart Library (1127 W. Granville)

Genderqueer Chicago is an inclusive community, welcoming everyone who wants a space to talk about personal gender issues. Yes, that includes you. Reporters and researchers are asked to respect this safe space and refrain from attending- but you can e-mail us at

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bike Mechanic Classes for Women and Transfolk

West Town Bikes is hosting bike mechanic workshops for women and trans folk. Each session is three consecutive Sundays from 10am-1pm at 2459 West Division Street Chicago, Ciclo Urbano/ West Town Bikes.

From Mia Moore, the contact and person who will be conducting the workshops:

"I am teaching these classes because I think it’s important and empowering to have a comfortable space in a traditionally hetero-male dominated environment for women and trans folks to learn basic bicycle mechanics skills."

To learn more, click here:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Time to Worship, How to Choose

by e. mc

growing up it was god. all, always. i wanted him to fill me. i prayed for friends.
i was always different, constantly trying to be the same. nothing else existed.
if just once playground kids called my name to join their game
i would have cried to god later with tears of excruciatingly deep joy.
but i never heard that call. i took their shit. i created my own shit. i thought there was something to gain by silence, and same, same, same.
i cried every night.
i cried every night.
but NOW
i've made choices.
now i hear my name every morning
and a painfully hot cup of coffee prepared just right sits calmly in her hand as she coaxes me out of bed. when i go downstairs, i am greeted by him, and him, and her, and her, and him, and her. six. SIX!
i cried every night, but NOW i have SIX brothers and sisters, a family in a house full of the hugest hearts and the warmest hands always calling, always waiting, ready to laugh and accept and learn and grow. i am still different. but we are all different. and we all love.
there are things.
you know what things, but they do not.
did i learn them from choices i made? a community that taught me? would i have ended up this way in the end, anyway?
you can't teach queerness.
it's easy to forget, too.
to displace feelings of discomfort, however slight, on the weather. the cat. bad day at work.
forgetting is easy when everywhere you look, a girl is a girl and a boy is a boy.
it's that simple.
but when remembering comes....
that's when it gets tough.
it's when i start to think.
it's when i look in the box upstairs, my summer clothes box, and see over a dozen ties sitting crisply together, folded over one another like starched memories.
how do i tell them, these people who finally love me, how do i tell them? how can i explain?
they would love me no matter what; it's not about that.
it's not that i am afraid to be the only one.
i can do that, i can be one standing visibly alone.
but it's lonely.
i want, i want, to walk anywhere and see colors and shapes jump out at me, people fucking with bodies and ideas all day every way.
it's lonely here.
where are you?
where am i, for how much longer?
i wonder what more i can be. i wonder how much more there is to discover. i wonder how far i will go when the time comes for me to fly away towards you.
you, you, you my people, my crazy homo people.

i miss you.

but i am coming soon.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Queer Reflections--This Wednesday!

In a world of Hungry Man dinners and Cosmo magazine, it's pretty clear that the media has limited portrayals of gender expression. When we do find folks queering up gender, they're more often found hidden in the real world--that ambiguously gendered person on the bus every morning, that baby sitter you had who always seemed a little butch, your crazy uncle who used to hide tubes of lipstick beneath the kitchen sink.

Where have you seen your own gender presentation reflected? Let's find out!

This Wednesday (January 13th)
7:00 at Affinity Community Services

Genderqueer Chicago is an inclusive community, welcoming everyone who wants a space to talk about personal gender issues. Yes, that includes you. Reporters and researchers are asked to respect this safe space and refrain from attending- but you can e-mail us at

Friday, January 8, 2010

"Femme" Ain't Always Easy

By Kelly Saulsberry

“It’s so much easier for feminine lesbians than butch lesbians” so the story goes. I know what lesbian folks usually mean when they say this. We live in a society where many people have very rigid ideas of how men and women should think, behave, talk, and dress, among other things. If you are a woman or a gender variant person whose persona or gender presentation doesn’t correspond with those narrow and shallow perceptions, people get uncomfortable at best and violent at worst. I witnessed the dismissive looks people gave an ex-girlfriend and several friends of mine who identify as butch. I have heard several butch women share their negative encounters and harassment in the street, at school, or in public restrooms where they were assumed to be male and were, therefore, verbally attacked or physically removed from the bathroom. So I totally get it, and I am empathetic. Life can be difficult for some butch lesbians because of people’s ignorance, intolerance, and disrespect.

However, being a “feminine” lesbian like myself is not always a walk in the park, either. Assuming it’s always easy for feminine lesbians in this world oversimplifies our experiences and inadvertently privileges the experiences of butch or gender variant people to us more feminine sapphos. There have been times when my lesbian authenticity was in question by lesbians merely because I was deemed too feminine and girly to be a “real” lesbian. This is only a mere annoyance at times at which I roll my eyes and keep right on. Imagine, though, having to hear homophobic comments all the time made by extended family and peers because they are certain I am not “one of those queers”. Never mind that they’re too clueless to realize that many straight people would also find their remarks offensive. Let’s not talk about straight men who refuse to respect my flashing signals that scream “I’m not interested!”; those guys that make offensive comments about “homos” in my presence and become confused as to why I’m giving them a dirty look or walking away; or men who pursue me, even though they know I am gay, because they are determined to convert me into a believer with their irresistible cock (the one I bought pleasures me just fine); or the man that called me a dyke by the red line El stop and said “You like dick don’t you?” when I refused his advances; or another man who had the audacity to ask why a woman “like me” would be interested in women and find them satisfying. In some ways, straight men get just as angry with feminine lesbians who reject their advances than with butch lesbians for being who they are, because they are insecure and think only men should have access to and enjoy a woman’s femininity, NOT another woman. I have experienced this. A lot of straight men are threatened not only by gender variant people but also by feminine women who dare to be feminine AND with other women at the same time.

My point? There are layers of complexity about feminine and femme identities and experiences that don’t always make it easy, even though it may be tempting to think so because many of us can “pass” as straight on a good day. Some days I wish I couldn’t pass as straight, so that those homophobes too intimidated to hurl insults in the presence of a gay person, would just merely shut the hell up, stop hitting on me, and leave me the fuck alone.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Noise in Here

By K. Sosin

Pulling the mop bucket from the sink, the mop from its dirty corner, and hair from my eyes, I swallow the urge to ask her: how have you lived?

It’s an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. New York City’s many groaning gears slow as glass office doors are locked and beers slip into tall iced glasses. Smartly-dressed thirty-somethings charge from the Hoyt Street subway into the wealthier pockets of Brooklyn. Across Fulton Street, a jackhammer stops it chatter.

She steals through the café door almost unseen and asks for a cappuccino. She’s dressed like she’s returning home from work, in fresh black slacks and a crisp white button-up. But she seems to be too calm to be working in this city. I don’t often see people like her, people I could grow up to be. Her hair is short. Her shoes are flat.

I pull two perfect shots for her, patiently steam the milk, and top off the foam with excruciating finesse. I shuffle to the window counter where she sits and deliver it hopefully.

I have been informed that the greatest joy this city offers is its people. New York is full to the brim of them. You might find solace in the city’s crowds, in its packed subway cars and blaring avenues, but you will never have to feel alone. I am told that this fact, above all else, is actually what makes New York City so safe. Great horror films are always set on dark country roads and in giant old houses. Here in New York, someone can always here you scream, even if they won’t do a thing about it. And if you look queer, they probably won’t.

Inside, the café is quiet. Paul Simon sings to me over two iPod speakers. I pour purple chemicals into the bucket and begin to mop. My back hurts so much I can barely stand up straight.

After work, I’ll walk to the Smith corner bar and spend all of my tip money on beer. I’ll regret that later because every dollar I spend is another dollar I won’t have when I work up the courage to move back to Chicago.

I keep one eye on my mop and one eye on her. I look for recognition, but she stares contentedly out the window as if nothing binds us together. I want her to see me in the way that I see her. I wonder if she too has been yelled at by bus drivers for wearing ties. I wonder if she hears “dyke” spat from passing car windows on her dark way home from the train. I wonder if old men chase her down the street with threats of “one good fu—” to make her straight. I wonder if she has loved women who broke her for straight guys, if her mother lamented her refusal to don skirts, if her father regretted teaching her to hammer nails and hit baseballs. Or perhaps I just selfishly hope these things.

She’s much older than I. She looks successful, happy even. And I want to ask her: how have you lived?

Paul Simon turns over a new track, and I finish shining off the last corner with a mop. The daylight tumbles down the trees. It’s time to close, but I don’t ask her to leave. I pull the sandwich sign in and flip off the lights on the food cases. I bag up the bagels and throw them into my backpack.

I hear a shuffle beyond the counter. I look up to see her at the door, throwing a coat over her shoulders. I feel the world get stuck in my throat. She’s pushing the door open, stepping out. In a moment, she’ll be gone. I will have missed my chance to ask her.

She pauses and turns around. “Thanks,” she says. An unsympathetic tired smile paints her soft features. “Keep it peaceful here, okay?”

I nod. I don’t tell her that it’s loud as hell in here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Silent Night

By K.L.

After three days in the suburbs, as much as I love my family, I needed a break. I called a friend who was home for the holidays to hang out and catch up. We were sitting in my parents’ living room, channel surfing, drinking wine, and generally reminiscing. We have quite a history, her and I. As two 14-year-old best friends we stumbled toward a queer identity through sleepless sleepovers and elaborately constructed mixed CDs, and later, as two twenty-year-olds making out in European hostels and drunkenly dancing in French gay clubs.

As we were flipping through the channels, we stopped on the Wendy Williams show. Neither of us had seen it, but it looked better than the Christmas movies we’d already watched twice that day. As Wendy Williams interviewed Florence Henderson, my mom stepped in from the other room. “Huh,” she said, chuckling. “She sort of looks like a tranny.”

I cringed.

My friend laughed too, agreeing. “She does look like a tranny.”

They went back and forth a few more times, both agreeing that this cable talk show host looked like someone they deem to be, basically, a gender joke.

I’m silent. My mind races and I’m ashamed of myself. I’m ashamed for not speaking up. I’m ashamed because my rapidly changing gender-identity has become a white elephant for my family. These two women assert their own femininity by jeering at the alleged masculinity of a TV personality. They do not ask my opinion. What would I have said? What should I have said?

When I hear my step-father call someone a faggot, how do I tell him to just say it to my face, because he is me? When my brother uses gay as an insult to mean less-than, stupid, inferior, how do I make him understand, for the millionth time, that language matters? When a childhood friend, a lesbian, calls someone a tranny to break them, to assert superiority over them, to cement her own femininity, how I tell her, we are the same?

I want to scream, take all the theory I’ve ever read, all the queer stories, the life stories I’ve ever been told on barstools, all the journals, all the doubt and the shame and the late nights and hold it up against the light. Mold it into armor, a shield, a bullet-proof vest.

Instead I take a deep breath. Next time, I will say something. Anything. I’ll scream it with every cell. Maybe it won’t change their minds, but maybe it will, just a little. It’s worth it to try. Maybe they’ll start seeing me in all of the hers and hims.

Meeting This Weds

Yes, Wednesday.
7:00 at the Gerber/ Hart Library
1127 W. Granville

Next Wednesday (January 13th)
7:00 at Affinity Community Services

Genderqueer Chicago is an inclusive community, welcoming everyone who wants a space to talk about personal gender issues. Yes, that includes you. Reporters and researchers are asked to respect this safe space and refrain from attending- but you can e-mail us at

Saturday, January 2, 2010

As My Hair Grows

By: J.S.

As my hair grows, it completely queers up my appearance. Coupled with my ever more feminine wardrobe of girl jeans, shirts, makeup and jewelry, I am finally putting the lie to my lifetime of forced, halfhearted masculinity.

Acquaintances are no longer recognizing me right away. I can make the homophobes squirm just by putting myself in their presence. I no longer feel a sense of isolation and disconnection from the fairer sex -- I'm often now grouped in with girls and we can gush over each other's outfits without me feeling the least bit self conscious.

Will it be enough? My height, swimmer's body and pretty-but-manly face will always scream dude from a mile away. As much as I'd love to, I'm just too butch to look good in dresses or other form fitting feminine attire, and I’ve decided against hormones etc.

But last night I went to a straight party dressed queer as a John Waters movie. And though I was still in (tight tight tight) jeans and t-shirt, I found myself being treated as more feminine than ever before.

I'm still so inhibited, so masculine-by-training. I feel a twinge of shame every time I let out my inner girl, and fight it out of habit. But I know that by the time my hair reaches the small of my back, and my lifelong series of boycuts finally comes to a close, I will have turned into the mostly feminine creature I’ve always felt myself to be. I hope only that the world that rushes to meet my mix-gendered self retains its warmth, and I can finally find a harmonious place within it.

Friday, January 1, 2010


by M. Rich

The truth is hard to bare,

so much so

that I take it to heart

I collect and bury all the realities

left unto me

piled are the memories

women and...

chatter after the one man

of all the office staff

is standing tall

behind the reception desk

grinning, his stupid grin


the silence has lasted long enough

for me to scream

but I don't

instead, I wait

and I write

I think about blood and gushing

things that my anger would destroy

I put everything that is killing me

right now into a poem

about your masculinity and male


while I wonder why

they care enough

to engage with you

and I imagine

you'll survive to be here a while

I on the other hand go

This is why I left, I think

Alone I am hardly strong enough to

shake you, you confirm this fear

I have to get over- it happened,

you saw me, held the door open

I said "thanks," in my lowest voice

and you proceeded to misunderstand me

I know because I've done it too

before the glare that kills you get nervous

and say "yep," while assessing the threat I hold you to

in my direction you point

the question always is who are you but an outsider?

what are you doing on the inside, what are you

staring at me for, naming me "lesbian," by, belonger

you wish to belong to you your world and I disrupt

the lack of danger suddenly because I don't belong here

you're right, you also don't belong here but you try

so hard to hassle them, because that's your way

and you annoy them, I can see but what scares me most

is that I've been there, hiding behind little girl giggles and

aimless aggression that I shot in your direction

intended, daggers through a healed wound

because I remember

I remember the discomfort and

I can reflect and relocate myself

behind that desk I stood years ago,

adamant about filing my status quo

as female, playing an imagined gender role,

dainty, yet brave, polite and all, yet powerless

scripted and defenseless, she chuckles

make eyes with the older receptionist

she knows, and so do I

but the difference is I can't play up

I won't lie

so she makes nice and I hate him and

next thing you know, I am leaving the office

that remains transphobic

I can't tell you how many times

since I got to New York I've been ladied

and the urge I fought at every chance I had to disagree

but bound I am to honesty, it's clear to me that "GENTLEMEN!"

isn't really going to funk the binary,

I am not here long enough to build the community that

I see so clearly lacking, where are my genderqueers?

Gender-what? you ask, I say "that's me!"

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