Saturday, February 27, 2010

Clothing Swap On Wednesday!


This Wednesday is Genderqueer Chicago's one-year anniversary! Rather than cracking open a box of chocolates and a bottle of champaign, we're celebrating our first year with a little less cheese and a little more genderfunk.

Face it--that polyester sweatsuit that was fab last year is now an embarrassing skeleton in your closet. Want to get rid of your old clothes? Are you looking for something new? For FREE? This Wednesday, rather than having our usual safespace meeting, we're having a Genderqueer Chicago clothing swap. Bring your old clothes, accessories, and some munchies so we can swap, snack, and give our wardrobes some fabulous makeovers. We deserve it.

Wednesday, March 3rd at 7 pm
Gerber-Hart Library

A Mark of Trust

by Andre Perez

This week I reluctantly return to VT for my final semester of college. Return still feels like regression to this navy-brat nomad. But in repetition I’m learning to see difference, and it’s a week before I decide I’m committed to going on testosterone. After a summer of hooking up homeless queer kids with social services, I’ve realize how realize what I’m capable of. The moment T becomes possible, it takes on the weight of inevitability, pushing me through phone calls to therapists and insurance companies and naturopaths. It lingers heavy on my tongue as I confess to my ex girlfriend. She’s always known everything before I told her.

How strange that something I qualitatively denied only months ago feels more familiar by the day. I’ve never known what home feels like, but I know making that decision is as close as I’ve ever gotten. I meditate on what body modification, kink and physical transition have in common. I've been thinking of all the ways we inscribe meaning onto our flesh, of all the events in my life that have marked me against my will. What drives some people to veil those markings and others to display them brazenly?

I remember my ambivalent admiration as a scrawny genderqueer lifted up their shirt to reveal the phrase "Faggots Kill Fascists" etched across their pelvis. They tell us if they ever go to jail, they want us to raise money to get the tattoo covered up. We joke: what about if we can only raise half? Our nods build rhythms like shudders when they respond, "Let's be honest, the word ‘Fascist’ is what matters here. Everything else is inscribed over and over in ways I can never erase."

I pause briefly to contemplate what happens in the space where needs converge... the need to make what is felt real, the need to make what is imagined imminent, the need to make what is marked visible. As I unpack, I find a crumpled sheet of paper with a phrase scrawled across it--Where our imagination cannot stretch, we must test our skin--and I wonder if I ever left this place.
********

It’s been months since I resumed therapy. In past years talk about relationships dominate the 50 minutes of gaping awkwardness. I had shared my suspicion of therapy as practice, but I had no intention of insulting what she did. I returned from my summer internship with an agenda. Our eyes lock during session. “Why do you come?” she prods me.

“because I have to.”

Silence.

“Because mid-century, a well-meaning and well-respected physician decided that you get to decide that I want what I want.”

“You don’t see the advantage? You know… not everyone thinks through things as much as you do.”

“I talk to trans people everyday. It’s not something people take lightly. Every time you tell someone, they ask you if you’re fucking sure. They practically beg you not be.”

She was sympathetic. A sympathetic professional whose career is built on the assumption that people can’t solve their own problems. I built my life on the conviction that I was the only one who could change anything that mattered in my own life. We spent months grappling for common ground. I demanded a letter, and eventually refused to return. I graduated and moved half way across the country. I found a healthcare provider who operated on an informed consent model. We made fun of my therapist as she read over my letter. When she handed me the prescription, I was holding back tears.
*****

Last week I referred to going on T as the most anticlimactic life-changing event I’ll ever experience. Moments of impatience accentuate my reverence—that one can change so completely, that this body can become almost anything I am willing to make it, that the very constraints of possibility can be pushed to their limits. A half wall of mirrors entices me to examine these curves for traces of overnight body alchemy.

More important than any change testosterone’s made to my physical presence is the way it’s changed how I relate to my body. What has long been a no man’s land riddled with insecurity and mild contempt has been renewed by curiosity. My body has become the site of progress, of potential, of possibility. It is as if, after being estranged for so long, I am considering reconciliation. I withhold judgment, studying it, trying to see it anew. I let it reveal itself to me. It is as if I am learning to trust—both myself with my body and my body with myself.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

pass it on

by a. broad
On Monday night, as I walked through slush and tried not to slip on any remaining ice, this thought passed vaguely through my head: "I'm carrying Kate Bornstein's pizza." And yes, it's true, I was. My girlfriend, badass that she is, had organized a workshop and talk with Kate and we were walking her back to her hotel via one of the local pizza places after the concluding performance. Kate Bornstein, in case you don't know her work--and it's entirely likely you don't, unless you or somebody you love is a self-proclaimed gender deviant--is an author, performer, and one of my first gender inspirations, so it's no large wonder that I was feeling a little surreal as I followed our group down a snowy street, holding the takeout order in my gloved hands.

It was late 2004 or early 2005 when a friend handed me a copy of Gender Outlaw--at the time I was utterly obsessed with drag kings and was also a total gender novice and maybe my friend knew what I needed to read more than I knew what I should be looking for--and it was one of those rare instances where I literally felt a shift inside myself, a large-scale reorganization of ideas. In no uncertain terms, Kate Bornstein probably fucked with my head more than anybody else I've read in recent and not-so-recent memory; as I recall, I was so freaked out that I was literally vibrating with enthusiasm for weeks. Because that's how I react to revolutionary knowledge: I go manic, preach at my friends about whatever idea I just had, whatever new thing I learned that has me all worked up. It's actually something I love about myself, the energy that I get from new knowledge, because it reminds me how amazing the world is and how much I appreciate it. Who can learn such fantastic things and stay stolid and unemotional? My enthusiasm, my joy, keeps me human and alive.

I had never really considered or even known about gender variance beyond "straight", "gay", and a very specific form of "transgendered", at least in more than a very academic and theoretical sense, and suddenly here was this person telling me that those categories were not only restrictive but, far more importantly, that the opportunity to transcend them was all around me. This wasn't just about words, or boxes, or even ideas, although those things were part of it; she broke the theory barrier and showed me that this was real, that there were people who understood things I couldn't even wrap my head around, that they existed and were living actual lives that I had never even imagined. Sometimes an idea is simply not enough. Sometimes you need a role model, somebody to show you that the living, breathing expression of an idea is possible and maybe even a lot of fun. For me and for a lot people I know, Gender Outlaw gave us something to work off of.

In any case, I never would have predicted that five years later I'd be carrying Kate Bornstein's pizza, that I would have eaten dinner with her and that she would kiss my copy of her book--my second, because I gave my first to my dear friend when he started questioning gender and I knew he needed a voice to listen to. He was at the talk too, and I saw him go up to her and tell her what that had meant to him, her book and her ideas and her self, and I almost teared up because I'm so happy for us all. We're reading and learning and passing on our knowledge to others, passing around the texts that can help to show us new ways of living, like a modern-day version of familial heritage. Take this book, read it, learn, and pass it on when you see somebody in need. We're building our new history by talking to each other and sharing our revelations.

To meet somebody who changed your life, to hug them or shake their hand and know that you can never really tell them what they've meant to you and yours: how can you ever quantify that? How can you ever say what you really, truly mean, have the experience be as much as you want it to be? Fuck quantification, I say. Our idols, they are real people too, and that's part of why we love them. I had dinner with Kate Bornstein, the person who literally changed my life and who, through her writing, helped me become who I am today, and my week is still progressing as always. She's a lovely person, is Kate, and I'm glad she exists; I'm also glad I exist, that my friends, my lovers, and the publishers that okayed her gender fuckery exist, that we are all alive. Alive, and talking.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Genderbending Gentile

by malic moxie

When I start feeling awkward in social situations, I find something to do with my hands. On coffee dates I’m known for tearing paper cups to shreds. At parties I hold cigarettes that I never actually smoke.

Here—at the Jewish community center—I’m braiding challah bread.

This would be totally fine if I weren’t a genderbending Gentile who is only here to help you (a devout Jew and volunteer) prepare Shabbat dinner.

Folks trickle in for services: women in skirts and sweaters, men in crisp ties. I feel awkward enough in a kosher kitchen on a holy day I don’t even observe. Looking down at my own clothes, I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed.

Plaid shirt with fraying sleeves: ten cents.
Baggy jeans with worn out hems (it’s the start of skateboarding season): free.
Baseball cap with a glow-in-dark Goosebumps logo: fifty cents.

You never told me I was supposed to dress up for Shabbat.

They probably think I’m your kid brother dragged away from his video games for some force-fed Hebrew before he gets bar-mitzvahed. Actually, I’m a transgender Gentile whose only exposure to Judaism has been through your prayer recitation and recipes—second hand culture cooked up in dorm kitchens on Friday afternoons.

I’m lost. Here and everywhere. And I’m “going through some gender stuff.” That’s what I told you last month. I feel awkward in my body and in unfamiliar spaces—you can see that. So you try to make me feel welcome while I lend a fumbling hand. You introduce me to the Cook, a cute twentysomething with well-meaning eyes who spends weekends whipping up Shabbat dinners like this one.

You use my birthname first. Then you glance sideways at me, uncertain, and give me a chance to correct you. I shake my head.

“You want me to…?”
“It’s fine.”

I’ve finished braiding the challah bread and I lean against the counter with nothing to do, shoving my fists deep in my pockets to keep from touching something I’m not supposed to taint with my grubby Gentile trannyhands. The Cook eyes me curiously and takes in my out-of-place clothes. “So, ________, what do you usually do on Shabbat?”

“Nothing. I’m not Jewish,” I confess. “I don’t even know how I feel about the whole god thing.”

“Hey, that’s ok. Thanks for being here to help out. Want to cut up some vegetables?”

I nod, eager for a hands-on task while you go pick up some forgotten ingredients, leaving me alone with the Cook. I’ve already outed myself as a non-Jew, leaving no cultural thread that could tie us into conversation. I prepare for several minutes of awkward silence.

But once you’re out the door, the Cook gives me that curious look again.

“Is there something else you want me to call you?”

“No! Uh, no.”

“You know, I have a lot of friends who try out different names. And I just met you, so I won’t screw it up or anything. Try me.”

Taken aback, I give her my chosen name. “I’m, uh, just trying it out. I used it at this queer convergence last weekend.”

“The one at ______?”

“Yeah. How did you…?”

“I was there.”

And then I get her full story, how she lives in a queer artist’s collective, pouring her nights into puppetry and her days into the Jewish community center. Most of her roommates are genderfreaks of some kind or another. She’s happy to see a familiar face around here.

You return for the dinner, unaware of the conversation that has just taken place, and leave early. You’re surprised when I stay all evening, serving soup and bread and wine. The Cook introduces me to everyone. “This is Malic. He has been helping me in the kitchen today.” No one bats an eye at my pronoun, my name, or my ridiculous clothes.

I walk home late in the evening, hands cracked from dishsoap and Jewish prayer songs in my head.

“So how did you like Shabbat?” you ask when I meet you back at your dorm room. I want to say something about cultural understanding or community or feeling closer to a god I’ve never actually believed in. But I’m fumbling with my words—Awkward Boy once again.

I don’t know what to do with my hands. So I take yours.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This Wednesday- All Those Gender Games



Remember Rudolph? Yes, this discussion has nothing to do with him other than its title sounds like "Reindeer Games."

Join us for a safe space discussion meeting about when, where, and why we play with gender.

This Wednesday
7pm
Affinity Community Services
(57th and Woodlawn, Garden Level of the Unitarian Church)

Meetings are open to any and everyone wishing to talk about gender (unless you're a reporter or researcher, in which case you have to contact us by e-mailing genderqueerchicago@gmail.com).

Also, join us on March 3rd for a grand clothing swap celebration! It's our one-year anniversary! Gerber/Hart Library at 7. More info TBA.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

As I Do

By Soda

lately, i am all pulse and no beat,
a stinging wire
buzzing naked
on the pavement

stitches. stitches.
i fight.
i crack up the inseams
tell her, on dust-covered shelves
to get a new life.

the orange face fading
on a poster of a demonic air-shot fist,
raised like
hell and revolution and messiah
are earth-bound at this intersection.
Because hope-
the fuel that feeds
the whole damned venture
must roll to you
over photocopied cause.

Yes. We are Fighting the Good Fight.
All of Us.
in opposition.

i pull her from my old frames.
i dare ask her:
“where are you now?
do you believe the wonder i have become?”
I do not.

remember me as i do-
a scared boygirl
with too-late
thumb-sucking addiction
and greasy pink glasses.

Remember me as i do-
a girl in parachute pants
with undone hair and lack of boyfriend.

Remember Me as I do-
a sweater
in a high school dance of dresses

I am crumpled-up paper.
A story waiting to blow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

GqC TRANSportation Video

video

What happens when a few good folks try to start surprising conversations on a north-bound Brown Line. Video by: Charlie

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

a queer and present danger

I’ve never been that comfortable with abrupt change, and so it’s not that often that there’s a clearly defined instant, a switch-flipping moment, to mark the line between one part of my life and another. I tend to make my transitions gradually, only moving quickly when I’m forced to, and so it’s shocking—but not necessarily bad--when something happens that pushes me into a new place without warning. Maybe that’s why reading Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw at the age of twenty-two was such a formative moment for me: it came out of nowhere, like a backhand from a stranger who I’ve since unexpectedly grow to love.

I’d been pretty heavily into feminist theory for a few years before that, reading my bell hooks and Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich and so on and so forth, but Kate Bornstein was my first encounter with what is perhaps more accurately termed “gender studies”, and she changed way of considering the world more radically over the course of two-hundred-some pages than any of them ever had. To be fair, I was totally naïve; I had never conceived of the possibility of no gender, or fluid gender, or even gender variance really, in any sort of realistic way, and suddenly here was this person telling me that all of these things were real and people were living them and that there was just so much possibility and I could hardly contain myself. In memory, I was manic for weeks; the glimpse I had caught, or almost caught, of a different way of thinking was explosive. I vibrated with the energy of new ideas, and I radically reconsidered my vocabulary, my preconceptions, and my own identity. Gender Outlaw was the first book that I ever reconsidered not returning to the person who loaned it to me; it was the book I gave my best friend when he came to me with questions of his own.

But really, what I’m trying to say is that Kate Bornstein will be speaking at Northwestern next week, and it’s totally worth the trip to Evanston. Her autobiographical interactive signature piece "On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us" is "Postmodern Gender 101 with a comic twist." These are Kate’s most personal stories, favorite comic and dramatic monologues, and pieces from her upcoming memoir, "Kate Bornstein Is A Queer and Pleasant Danger."

McCormick Tribune Center (1870 Campus Drive)
Northwestern University, Evanston
Monday, February 22nd @ 7:30pm
FREE

Presented by The Gender Studies Undergraduate Board with support from Northwestern’s LGBT Resource Center, the Performance Studies Department, the Theatre Department, SHAPE, and the Gender Studies Program

Monday, February 15, 2010

For a History Kept

By Aidan Christopher

[It was brought to my attention that I need to clarify and make a disclaimer: this is an opinion of myself and my history I see myself still as female and male, I do not mean to discount identities of others but feel that it is important to share narratives outside the normative trans narrative, this is mainly the idea that for me surgery does not end in me being male instead of trans, but rather that I will always be both female and male and that I am proud of that.]

I was born and raised female. I sometimes forget, and I hate when I do. I think it is important to remember my history. I have done this in many ways, and think it is essential to my life. I never changed my birth certificate. While I was born in Ohio and cannot change the gender marker, I have also chosen to not to change the name. I want to respect my past and hold it as a part of my life that even while not the best of times it has made me the person I am today. I was named after my grandmother and great-grandmother. Two wonderful women whose own histories will always be connected to me: I never got to meet either of them but they live on in my blood and my name. I did change my name and am proud of the name I chose. But I could not bring myself to erase them from my past.

My mother once asked me what she should do with my pictures. I told her to keep them up and keep them visible in her albums. That is my history as much as it is hers and I cannot take that nor do I have the right to. Really I am still female and always will be, living as male does not erase this fact for me, it is hard for some to understand this. Many trans people wish to paint a new picture and I have found it is a disservice to my life to paint a new picture or rewrite my book. I have just added on to my painting and created a new chapter.

Because I never changed my history I get caught in situations where I confuse people and this in it self can me a learning tool to use on those who meet me. I had once said, when I was a girl scout… and I got a look that can only be described as utter confusion and this is a window of opportunity to use my history for discussion of what trans is and how it affects the lives of those who are gender variant.

I have found power and strength in my history and truly am proud of it. This is not the life for everyone and I know we each must chose our own ways of living but I hope this can open the eyes of some struggling to decide what to do about their own history. A new chapter was my choice. What will be yours?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"One time on the CTA..."



Join us This Wednesday at The Gerber/ Hart Libary for a safe space discussion about the horrors and the hilarity of public transportation.
7-9pm
1127 W. Granville

For gender variant folks in the city, public transportation is a place of vulnerability and skewed sides--always outnumbered with no place to go until the next stop comes up. But while this image might seem scary, public transportation is often the perfect setting for education and visibility. So how do you draw the line between loud, proud expression and personal safety? Do you have the privilege of making that choice?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Got Gender? Send us a Blog!



Do you secretly write up storms after bad experiences on the CTA? Paint like crazy to express occasional distaste for your parents? Take tons of photos? Make videos? Music?

Community submissions keep this blog alive. We accept submissions from anyone and everyone, and we post all of them here(and by all, we mean all the ones that aren't deemed offensive to someone else).

Submissions with gender or identity as a theme are preferred. Send your submission with a title and a name you'd like to publish with, and we'll post it for you! You do not need to live in Chicago to submit.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Free Agents

By Anonymous

Outside the bar. We're smoking hir Marlboro Reds. I'm filling hir in on what's been up with me the last few weeks. Why ze hasn't seen me.
"I feel so free," I said. "I wish you could feel how free it is."
"I want to," ze said, "but I've never done that before. I've always belonged ... to someone - or something."
"You don't have to belong. You can just be a person. A free agent. There's gonna be apocalypse and zombies and shit, I just wanna be me and make out with people and have fun and not worry about it."
Hir eyes grew wide. Ze laughed and threw hir arms around me. "I love you so much," ze said.

Later. Inside the bar. In the bathroom. This is our game: See who gets scared first. We have played it many times; we have played it for two years. I always win, because ze is not out, because ze is financially beholden to hir "it's complicated" beardy half-open relationship, and because this feels so strong it's frightening. But still we play it. Ze tells me to be careful of hir right side. Ze was wounded in a bar fight, at a different bar the night before. Hir eyes are on fire. I never want to stop kissing.

Ze looks at me. Says, "I feel like a man inside."
I beam.
"Is that how you feel?" ze asks.
I shrug. "I'm just me. I can't compare it to anyone else, I don't know how they feel inside."
I have told hir this many times. I can tell it pulls at hir every time ze hears it.
The sound of an opening door cuts the silence of the bar bathroom and ze jumps and tenses, ready to flee like a prey animal. I am leaning against the wall. I don't care. I'm not nervous like ze is. Not anymore.
It was nothing. Ze kisses my cheek.
"But I'm attracted to men. I'm not attracted to women. I mean.. you.. I've never thought of you as a woman."
I nod. "They're different things," I say, "who you're into and who you are - it's separate. Not tied together."
"But it must be so uncommon to be a transgendered gay man. I mean, do people do that?"
I smile. "Yeah. But anyway it doesn't matter, you can do whatever you want. Fuck what people do. You have to be yourself."
I'm not used to giving advice. Not about this. I feel like I should be explaining it better, but I'm three beers in and not really feeling that talkative. I'm surprised at how much ze said about it tonight.
Now I am on hir neck and we are devouring each other. But soon the nerves have overtaken hir and the game is over. Save for one last kiss. "I will kill you," ze tells me. I understand that the unspoken part of the sentence is "if you ever tell anyone."
"I love you too," I reply. Ze laughs.

Back out to the table where our friends are seated. Back in, for her. Now I see her face change. I see the fire in her eyes still, when she looks at me. But I see her unwilling to be himself, playing this
elaborate character in the world's longest play and I'm about ready to sneak out the back of the theatre. I hope it doesn't take long before he'll join me out there for a smoke.

Monday, February 8, 2010

This Wednesday: But I Already Told You...



Ever have to come out as something repeatedly because it was easier for the person you were telling to tune you out rather than face the facts? In what moments are we forced to assert identity in order to be respected or heard?

Join us for a safe space meeting:
This Wednesday
Affinity Community Services (57th and Woodlawn, First Unitarian Garden Level)
7-8:30PM

Meetings are open to any and everyone with personal questions about gender (that doesn't include reporters or researchers). Questions? genderqueerchicago@gmail.com

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Somewhere Out There--Listen to a Childhood Friendship Unfold

"Lilly and Thomasina have a lot in common. They’re both 8 years old. And they were both born boys, although it became clear pretty early on that they'd prefer to be girls. There aren’t all that many kids in the world like them, but recently, at a conference in Seattle on transgender parenting, they met. And they immediately hit it off."

In Act Two of this episode of This American Life, a beautiful friendship unfolds. Listen for free here:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1283

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brothers for the Day

by M. Rich

"You are going to be alright," Hero* hesitated before completing his sentence, "little brother."

Hero mentioned to me a few weeks beforehand that I'm like his "little brother." He really means to tell me that my personality reminds him of his music producer who is a tall, lanky, distracted, goofy looking dude whom he endearingly refers to as his "little brother." But I learn quickly that, in his eyes, I am a "woman." I didn't really consider his refusal to comply to my request that he call me his little brother as serious rejection. Admittedly, I thought I was making a case for myself, self righteously claiming that I, of course, could be his brother. I mean, why not? I knew to him this was an outrageous, request. I ignored the initial hint of rejection and persisted, annoyingly, to get Hero to refer to me as "brother."

Initially my concern was less than that of social change, therefore the strength of my argument dwindled in a representation of gender that was more childish than inspiring, and certainly driven more by the attention I craved rather than the enlightenment I wished to bestow upon revealing my knowledge, a well versed collection of facts I've learned, entitled "my trans-education."

Unfortunately or not, I recognized that this battle was better lost and that my argument was really a waste of energy. Those of you who know me know, I don't have a pronoun preference, so it seems obvious that I really have no interest, nor desire, to learn that respect comes in the form of a title (for which I begged) which is gendered. My own reluctance to accept the differences I've grown into is something I struggle to overcome. It's taken nearly 23 years to understand the value of respecting oneself, and in saying this I'm learning that respect itself is irredeemable. Throughout my life, the differences that I no longer punish myself for signifies my resistance to adhere to false reasoning which we essentially make up in defense and out of fear. Too often do I see how we subject ourselves to fall victim to swearing by the lies we tell ourselves. We've created only distance from ourselves and the in- betweens of difference in the face of change.

Growing up, my self-perspective diminished in the face of my peers whose popularity or opinions won over my own. I am now willed to find my voice, a voice neither she nor he. I prefer that you consider me a brother than a sister, but know also this sense of self is not so much an escape from the former "girl" version of myself - rather it is a means of reclaiming the parts of myself of which I had no knowledge for. There was little language, lagging media, negative thought: I drove like such a girl. I was annoying, one of the girls. I now know trans has always been a part of me like girl has; as I now understand boy will be too.

Despite Hero's outward disapproval, and refusal to comply with my request - that he call me "brother," I forgave him and thought this inability to accept that I might actually identify as a "brother," to be ignorance, an ignorance I had a familiar sense of being wrapped around the skeleton of my childhood and eerily haunting the anatomy of a more matured body. My chosen gender identity stands outside any hetero-normative binary that I once desperately aimed to claim as part, in the part I fit where I was my own version of some kind of girl. So, from my formally hetero-normative viewpoint, I can understand why my complicated, genderless identity is somewhat incomprehensible to one of the most hetero-normative, straight-identified, bio-men, that I can't help but recognize as totally different than myself and most of the people with which I tend to surround myself. But with Hero, I've bickered over gender, the politics of the LGBsilentT and most importantly, remembered the importance of trust, because in time he's proved loyalties that are kept like a brother's. Whether in times of trouble, hassle, or hustle, his willingness to protect me, beyond the bounds of friendship but within his rights as a friend have been well worth maintaining. Even though I knew Hero upheld me to the standards that once agreed with me, in girlhood, altogether I knew he'd learn this was a fantastical version, derived from what science, education and formula remained true to his memory. I understood this really had nothing to do with me. I know no one knows, better than I do, what or who I am. Despite any physical, emotional and/or sociable constructs that were prescribed to my body at birth, assumed by my sex, confines me to this role of which I've somewhat relinquished, and extracted my present understanding in which I've learned to define what identity really is to me, and what in this is possible for one to own.

The role I am assumed to perform upholds a gendered system of which I resent. In voicing his frustration and in misunderstanding me completely, I heard my friend continually contradict himself and insult me. But I understand that his misdirected rage all too well and what causes me to continually to suffer the brunt of one's naïveté. Identity, like circumstance, is always shifting. And like boundaries, our understandings of one another is always just out of reach, just slipping from our grasp. And like motionless bodies, we can't help but move gently down stream before the power that experience evokes in us, inspires us, and eventually causes us to change, as people.

This one morning the prolonged arrival of my friend's words acceptance, brought in respect, an unexpected affirmation- a renewal of faith, an experience invaluable to any one circumstance, and valuable across identities. This reminds me of the truth that lingers on, the truth that is unwavering and loyal to us as individuals, and proves to me worth believing in - this is not the enemy I anticipated meeting, in fact, this is my friend. I believe suddenly that he is my brother, for today. I think it is this part of me that you can't name, nor take away; it's the untainted, the glimmer in my eye that sees each day like a new born, one of bewilderment and unlimited possibility. I know this much is worth something and worth reclaiming, again and again throughout the course of my life. Because with respects to myself, and to others I see in my faith, the fate of change.

*Hero is the name I have chosen to use to protect the identity of the person who inspired this blog post.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Name it Solidarity

By Sodapop

“Love, no one else can name you,” J says, a flick of her wrist shooing away my foolish pleas. “Only you can pick your name.”

I frown at my shoes. I don’t want name myself. It’s easier to have someone else to do it for me.

Out on the dance floor, a hundred or so drunk queers bounce to a vague techno beat. The scene is a blur of plaid and sweaty beards- some real, some glued. I look down at my own clothes- a red plaid button-up and a wool grey tie. What would I name myself? I don’t know.

J puts her face up to my ear. “You’re a beautiful person,” she belts. The words, shouted close-range over heavy dance beats, sting my ear-drums.

I nod dazedly, forgetting to thank her for the reassurance. I’m perched on a bar stool, trying to look cooler than I am despite the punching pain in my stomach. It’s that time of the month, a confession my body makes every 28 days about its horrifying capabilities. I fantasize about tearing out my uterus and throwing it onto the bar floor. It looks comically like that scene in Indiana Jones when the evil guy rips out someone’s heart in a bloody mess, only my fantasy ends with me getting up off the bar stool to shake it to Lady GaGa.

“You look miserable.” S is standing over me, her hands on hips in usual all-knowing femme fashion. “What’s wrong?”

I frown. “Do you have painkillers?”

She checks her bag to confirm that she doesn’t.

“I have my man period!” I yell. “I need to find a drug store.”

She nods. She knows of a place around the corner. She can show me the way. I follow her out of the bar, past the clumps of smoking twenty-somethings and into an empty blinking crosswalk. It’s so cold I want to yelp, like jumping from a hot shower onto bare concrete floor. She marches authoritatively through the drunken praises and insults of straight boys from other bars and right into the convenient store.

The yellow store light and aisles of color in kick at my drunken eyes. I realize now that I should have maybe braved this trip alone. After all, boys don’t buy tampons. I weave around the aisles while she stands guard patiently at the counter. She stares out the window as I throw a box of Tampax Supers and two Tylenol sleeves onto the counter. I keep waiting for her to say something. I’m waiting for her to acknowledge that it’s awkward or that I’m awkward or that it’s not fun to be called boy names all night only to end up buying tampons in the convenient store next to the dude bar. But she doesn’t say anything. In fact, she might be some place else entirely.

I think about her ex, a thick-skinned seemingly sensitive type who probably changed his name when they were together. She’s been surrounded by trans boys for years now, and she probably knows our issues better than I do. If anyone can deal with my tampon purchase, it’s her.

I pay the man, and we talk back to the bar in silence. I puff my shoulders past the groups of clicking dudes, trying to pass as a guy to shield her from their catcalls. The crosswalk lights still winks a hollow orange onto salt-crusted pavement. I don’t want to go back to the bar, but it’s too early to turn in.

I thank her for coming with me. She shrugs. Maybe she doesn’t get it, or maybe she gets it all too well. I decide it doesn’t matter either way. She hugs me at the door, and spins on her heals towards home.

Inside the bar, the smell of beer and sweat is heavy enough to taste. It sucks me in immediately. A crowd waits with a fresh arsenal of names for me: Earnest… Skip… Kyle… Kid… Dylan… Max. I shrug awkwardly. None of them fit. In my coat pocket, I feel the box of tampons concealed. I think of S strutting back home in arid winter, ignoring the chants of heterosexual testosterone. I think of her defiance, quieter than her femme bravado. I think of the angle her eyebrows take against stalking masculinity. Yeah, I decide. I’ll have to name myself.

This Wednesday: My Own Transphobia- Safe Space Discussion

Sometimes, the outside world need not say a word. We police ourselves and our peers in an effort to appear normal. Where does this internal transphobia come from? And how can we overcome it?

Join us This Wednesday at The Gerber/ Hart Libary for a safe space discussion
7-9pm
1127 W. Granville

Safe space meetings are open to everyone who wants to talk about personal gender issues. You need not sign up. Just come. Researchers and reporters are asked not to attend, but may contact organizers at genderqueerchicago@gmail.com. Questions? Shoot us an e-mail!

Website graphics and design by Andre Perez