Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I’ll never know if it was her idea or my own, but I hardly believe it matters. Those were, without question, some of the sweetest afternoons I’ve had. Covered in flour and fingers caked with dough, I narrated to a mute kitchen cabinet the next steps. “Be sure not to knead the dough too much,” I told an imaginary camera. “Just enough.”
My mother then explained to the fake audience that we wrap the sugar-cookie dough in plastic and put it in the fridge for at least two hours- the longest commercial break in history. “And we’ll be right back on the Mother Daughter Cooking Show,” she told the cabinet.
We would both relax then. The business of pretending to be famous is a lot of work when you take yourself too seriously, which I did, always. I imagined the hundreds of eager housewives glued to their TVs, just sitting on the couch while we artfully concocted dishes they would never attempt, like I did when Mr. Rogers ended and Jeff Smith came on PBS. Jeff would sauté vegetables with names I couldn’t pronounce, and I watched him faithfully day after day until I dozed off and woke to something even more boring than Jeff whisking egg whites. In, I slipped the VHS of Mary Martin’s Peter Pan, and like a daily religious rite, I recited along.
Days with Mom before I got swept out of privilege and into the suburban public school system, were wagon rides and home-made play dough, sledding and hide-and-seek, knitting and watercolor paints. I was a creature of her crafting alone, my attempts to draw my businesslike father into the game a repeated failure as he spread across mountains of documents and furrowed into laptop computer screens. “Dad, want to go play catch?” Maybe a little later. I’m busy now.
My mother raised a youngest daughter. And my abhorrence for dresses, my inability to close my legs while sitting, and my insistence on boy heroes as Halloween costumes did not obscure this truth. My mother raised a daughter, two in fact. And a son. That was her doing, her choice, the only one she knew she had.
In the days after my Dad left, when I was older, she would pass on more than culinary wisdom. She would teach me to TP the houses of cruel boys, the art of over-ordering take-out to bridge bad moods, and the brain’s nostalgic attachment to scents.
I am not the daughter she imagined- short-haired and decorated in neck ties, a sweet-faced boy gritting teeth along Chicago’s sidewalks. I am searching out boyhoods lost, muting the girlhoods of my head, reclaiming a history of physical discomfort. I am cutting my hair over and over. I am in love with my ability to pass and forget. No, I am not the daughter she imagined at all. But I am hers.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Wondering what to do with those old crayons, colored pencils, markers? Have a giant stash of unused watercolors lying around just asking to be painted with? How about some extra paper, or a pair of scissors? Now, we have an answer for you: Bring them to Genderqueer Chicago! During our Safe Space meetings for the next two weeks, GqC will be collecting art supplies to donate to TYRA, Howard Brown and Illinois Gender Advocates’ Trans Youth Resource and Advocacy program, for use in their weekly Drop-In Center. TYRA is a fantastic program that is struggling hard to help out trans youth in our community, so please please please help us support this amazing community service!
Sunday, March 28, 2010
As always, we'll be meeting this Wednsday at:
The Gerber/Hart Library
1127 W. Granville
Like last week, we'll have an open space so that everyone can contribute topic ideas.
Genderqueer Chicago is an open community space, and everyone wishing to take part is considered family. Reporters and researchers are asked to refrain from attending in a professional capacity but may contact organizers at email@example.com for inquiries.
See you on Wednesday!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
One kid who was on the Tyra show is speaking out against the way he was treated (and giving us a behind-the-scenes look at what else happened on the Tyra show).
Leave him a comment and show this brave brother your support!
Sunday, March 21, 2010
This Wendesday! @Affinity Community Services (57th and Woodlawn)
An open community discussion for anyone wanting to talk about personal issues with gender. Join us for a free-form discussion. No topic this week, so bring whatever you like.
Genderqueer Chicago is an open community group, and anyone wishing to participate is considered family. Researchers and journalists are not welcome in a professional capacity. For media/ academic inquiries please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, March 20, 2010
by a. broad
I sigh and roll my eyes, because this has happened to me every damn day this week. Nothing much about me has changed, but spring is in the air and I guess that makes me fair game for every random stranger on the street who feels that catcalling is definitely the way to get into somebody’s pants. I’m tired of it, and tired of the reactions it inspires in me; peering distrustfully at everybody who glances my way is not my preferred method of interaction. It’s especially galling to me now, even more so than it’s been in the past, because there is so much about me that these people don’t know. I look perfectly average, but inside this quiet and ordinary exterior is a genderfunny polyamorous queer, a wild reimagining of what a “good girl” could and should be, and it bothers me that my internal complexity is so imperfectly mirrored by the external presentation that feels most comfortable to me.
I’ve always been undercover, sometimes even to myself. I spent my childhood, my full-fledged girlhood, purposefully and happily wearing white gloves, lacy ankle socks, and frilly dresses—I would make my mother take me grocery shopping while dressed like that, often also wearing a large white straw hat with a ribbon on it—and other than my sporadic fascination with various female characters on Star Trek: The Next Generation (Beverly Crusher, oh yeah, and Tasha Yar before that) and the fact that I laughed so hysterically when I saw my first penis that my mother had to force me to apologize to my father for hurting his feelings, there doesn’t seem to be much in my early history that marked me as a potential queer. There were no childhood dreams of a corseted Tim Curry or a latex-clad Michelle Pfeiffer for me, and I tended far more towards the geek side than the tomboy aesthetic. “Nah, I don’t want to build a clubhouse today, I think I’m gonna go read.” Which I guess is queer in its own right, actually, but not quite in the accepted way.
I prefer undercover to the more commonly-used “invisible”, because it makes me feel smart and subversive instead of just lonely. If I say I’m undercover, I feel like a spy, like I can sneak in behind enemy lines with my quiet straight-looking nice-girl exterior and blow people’s minds when I finally get around to talking. If I start to feel invisible, though, that’s a whole different matter. Nobody wants to lack history; nobody wants to feel alone. But when I try to connect myself to the larger continuum of queerness, I usually feel like I don’t have access to the visible representation that might help facilitate that connection: when I see other queers on the street, there’s no frisson of recognition or meeting of eyes across a crowded bus, because I look like just another straight person on my way to wherever. Hell, I probably look straighter than most of them, if I happen to be in a neighborhood with a lot of hipsters.
There’s an adage of sorts that says that The Master’s Tools Can Never Dismantle The Master’s House, and I suspect that’s part of why femmes, non-queer-looking folks, and a whole slew of other potential identities get so much conscious and unconscious shit from everybody else: we look like we’re using the master’s tools. Hell, sometimes it feels like I’m using the master’s tools, what with my apparent and supposed normality and such; I’m well aware of how much easier my life is because of how I look—not to mention my race, my class, my level of education, all the stuff that is weighted before my favor, mostly determined before I even had much of a say in it—and sometimes that feels really, really shitty. What do you do when the tools you have at your disposal look so much like the tools of the ruling ideology, the ideology that has been screwing up the world for just about as far back as anybody can remember, that they are outwardly indistinguishable? That line is razor-thin, and I’ve never wanted to walk the straight and narrow, not really.
There are queers hidden under shy exteriors, shy exteriors hidden under flamboyant presentations; there are a million different ways to be alive, all of them valid and joyful and contradictory and confusing. I think the only way to begin to respect all of that is to listen to others, and to speak up—even if it’s in a whisper, even if it’s in writing, because in addition to being nonvisibly queer I’m also one of the quiet ones and I understand not always wanting to be loud. But if we can’t be seen, we have to find each other somehow; that’s why I wrote this and why, even as I respect my own comfort levels, I sometimes rush across them. I want to be who I am and I believe that there’s value in that, but I need community as much as anybody else. It makes me stronger.
Maybe eventually I’ll get fed up with all of this and decide that really I’ve always wanted that mohawk and those cool tattoos that might make me seem more queer on the bus and I’ll leave all this ambiguity behind, but I doubt it. I don’t want to blow my cover.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
We want to hear from you! Been to a safe space meeting? Thinking about going to one? We would love to hear how we are doing, ideas for topics and what you envision as the ideal Genderqueer Chicago.
Take the (totally anonymous) survey here!
Thank you to all who take this and help us see how we are doing.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Norrie's doctors submitted that zie was not male or female, and Centrelink cooperated with their request to issue a genderless certificate. The process was not smooth for government workers who had to figure out just how to enter a genderless person in their system.
This article details a fantastic example of creativity over adherence to gendered systems. Next time someone says that gender-variance is "too confusing and annoying to accomodate" I'm going to show them this.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
by knox daley
found an online quiz that would tell me whether i should transition
from male to female
turquoise background, outdated design
it's been on the web for over a decade
asked questions like "do you like math?"
"do you like makeup?"
and it told me
that i should not
from male to female.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Sure, the folks at Genderqueer Chicago spend a lot (a LOT) of time thinking about how gender impacts our lives and the lives of those around us. But how do other parts of who we are influence our experiences with gender? How has thinking about gender identity informed the way we relate to other people's identities and other parts of our own?
Join us for a safe space discussion where identities collide on common ground.
Wednesday, March 17
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
He sits complacent on the bus to the red line—headphones blaring some NPR podcast, back bent beneath a swelling of books. He stretches his legs and taps the CTA card in his back pocket—the one he bought with Christmas money from mom and dad, a reward for scoring A’s last semester.
Each word hits him like a pebble spat sideways.
“Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, White Boy. Look at me when I talk to you. Are you a racist or something?”
When he was White Girl, this never happened. The occasional “dyke” slipped out and tripped him up once in a while, enough to scare him into passing as a Boy when he can. Hood up, head down. He hides his hips beneath a heavy belt, but he can’t hide his whiteness.
When he was White Girl, his whiteness was visible, but never verbally acknowledged. Dead weight in a bus seat—he couldn’t hurt a fly. But White Boy is a threat. White Boy is an oppressor.
I swear I don’t live here, he wants to say. But the bus is just a few blocks from home, smack-dab in the middle of Gentrification Station. He doesn’t like to say he goes to school here, a school that most people in his neighborhood could never afford to attend. He’s embarrassed.
“I said, are you a racist, White Boy?”
He chest gets tight beneath the fabric that binds it down. He wants to whip out his Oppression Card, scream, Look at me! I’m a tranny! I’m not what you think I am. But he knows that’s Fucked Up and it’s too late to backtrack. Perceived as White Boy, the Ultimate Oppressor, he’s stuck.
“Are you a racist?”
If he says yes, he’ll be an asshole. If he says no he’d be lying. Socialized in white America, middle class suburban boy—of course he has some privilege to examine. And how ironic that he’s using academia to unlearn it all. He sits in classrooms and tackles the Race, Class, and Gender triad, teaching himself the fundamentals of Being A Good Person. Someday people won’t have to do this—they’ll just know it. That’s his biggest hope.
“Are you a racist?”
He doesn’t answer, drops his head. The bus pulls up to the red line and he stands. His shoulders ache beneath the weight of his headphones, his backpack, the accidental privilege he never thought he’d carry.
Editor's note: In the original post, the line, "When he was White Girl, his whiteness was visible, but never verbally acknowledged" was "When he was White girl, his whiteness was mostly ignored." I changed the poor wording of this sentence because I believe that whiteness is never ignored, regardless of whether or not a person is perceived as male or female. However, I wanted to acknowledge that my skin privilege was rarely "publicly called out" until I began passing as male.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
It will change history. You should look at it.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), will determine access to care for gender-variant people for years to come, and it will also significantly impact societal perceptions of gender-variance.
Take a moment and read through it. Your comments on the page or on this blog will be noted in discussions regarding the DSM-5 as it is finalized.
Still not sure what the DSM is? All-knowing Wikipeda gods got you covered.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Poking. Proding. Paper gowns. Doctor visits are particularly complicated for folks who break genderboxes instead of bones. The way medical professionals react to our genderfreaky selves often leads to discomfort, but unfortunately, even the superheros of the gender outlaw world need a checkup once in a while. How can gender variant folks alleviate awkward moments with medical professionals? How can we find mental health services that don't try to pathologize our gender rebel selves?
Join us for a discussion that will surely include tales of horror and hilarity with an extra helping of good advice.
This Wednesday, 7pm
at Affinity Community Services
Friday, March 5, 2010
Take the Survey!
Thank you to all who take this and help us see how we are doing.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
It's not a big deal, I told myself. It's my mom, she loves me no matter what, she has always told me so.
Did she bat an eye when I told her I was gay? Nope. She hugged me.
Did she care when I told her I wasn't gay but was maybe bisexual after all and furthermore was dating a guy? Maybe a little confused but she said she just wanted me to be happy.
What about a few years after that when I told her I was gay after all? Or most recently when I said I was pansexual? She said she was happy I told her and that she always wants to know how I'm doing; that she's happy for me. When I tell my mama I'm dating someone new she used to say "a guy or a girl?" - now she says "tell me about this person" instead.
I took a deep breath. I looked at the snow-covered tree outside the picture window of my parents' living room.
"Hey mom," I looked at my hands, "remember that stuff we talked about .. like.. genderqueer stuff?"
My mom looked at me and I met her eye, saw the twinkle of recognition in it. I realized that my mom is so used to my coming out speeches by now that she knows it's happening already. I couldn't help but laugh.
Ok, I thought, this is fine. Just have to get it out now.
I told my mom about my gender feelings. About how I feel like I belong to neither the category of woman nor the category of man; and that I don't particularly want to belong. Nothing shocking to her. She told me about the womens' liberation movement of the 60's and 70's. She told me about her own gender transgressions.
She told me she was proud of me for finding my own spirit, my own identity, my own way to be. "You keep teaching me what unique really means," she said.
I felt more confident. Time to go for the big part.
"I want to be called Knox now. I mean.. I'm going by Knox. As my name" I told her, lifting my chin and firming my shoulders as I said it.
She raised an eyebrow.
"Knox?" mom asked, unconvinced, "I'm sorry, but you have been Phil for like ever, and I'm supposed to call you Knox now? I like Phil. What's wrong with Phil, sweetie?"
and I laughed.
Phil is not my birth name. Phil is the name my family has called me since I was very young instead of my feminine birth name. And I realized how wonderful and lucky it is to have a family who knows who I am, who supports me, who recognizes my gender-weirdness and to whom it's not really a big deal. My mom knows that I am a complex and shifting being - she knows because she helped to make me that way.
Ok, mom. You can still call me Phil.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I read a book once with the title “All Our Wounds Forgiven,” and even though I liked the book, I didn’t really get the title. My brain kept trying to fix it: “All Our Wounds Healed,” or “All Our Sins Forgiven,” or something else entirely. But lately I’ve been realizing that I really, really need to have all my wounds forgiven.
I have a lot of sore spots around gender. I first noticed them when other people accidentally bumped into them—by calling me “she,” by assuming I was a dyke, by acting in general like the gender binary was true and made sense. I wish I could say that becoming aware of my own gender different-ness was innocent and gleeful, part of the natural explorations of a curious child. But really, I just kept feeling flashes of pain without knowing exactly why, like touching a bruise you can’t remember getting.
Eventually the flashes of white-hot pain got old. So I started trying to build some padding into my world. I envisioned a need for a bubble of space to protect me. I asked people not to use “she” or “her” to refer to me. I began to experiment with different, less-gendered spellings of my name, hoping they might give me more breathing room. When people didn’t respect my wishes or honor my choices (or even see why they should), I pushed the boundaries of my bubble even further. I gave Trans 101 trainings and hoped people would see the error in their ways. If they didn’t, I reasoned, at least I had given them a chance. I could now be free to hate and resent them as much as I wanted. And I often did—and do.
This is why I need my wounds forgiven. I need compassion for the fact that sometimes when I’m talking about gender, anger eclipses everything else. A friend once described me as reacting like a “gut-shot bear.” I liked the image even as I cringed at having it applied to me. Who wants to be a vicious bear, blinded with pain, roaring and raking their claws over anything and anyone foolish enough to wander within range?
Part of me wants to skip over the pain, the anger, and the hurt to some enlightened state of being where I love everyone regardless what they say or do to me in their gender ignorance. But deep down I know that isn’t possible. First, I probably need to accept that I am “wounded.” At some point, I will need to forgive myself for the harm I have done, automatically and reflexively, when some unlucky soul bumped into one of my wounds. After that, I’m not sure. If I don’t make it all the way to enlightenment, I’m at least hoping for some healing.
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