Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Importance of Coming Out

By Ryan

Coming out is important to me. I know for some people, it’s not a big deal — they can really take it or leave it. For others, it’s this awkward thing that would perhaps better be circumvented by dropping hints, letting people draw their own conclusions, or an offhand remark about their past (prior to transitioning or coming out as not being cisgendered). And all that is fine; however people choose to come out, or not come out, is their business.

For me, though, it’s important to directly, explicitly come out as trans. Part of this is for people who knew me before — before I started to use different pronouns, before I started going by Ryan, mostly before I moved to Chicago. I can drop all of the hints I want, I can go on for ages about how awesome GQC is, and unless I specifically tell them that I’m trans, they’ll still consider me a woman (after all, the clothes can be attributed to me being a “lesbian,” and the interest in trans issues can be attributed either to my involvement with the LBGT community or to my concentration in Gender and Sexuality in college, including my thesis on dismantling the binary systems of gender and sex).

I don’t pass as a guy — mentioning that I went to an all-girls school for high school and one of the Seven Sisters (one of the few that hasn’t gone “co-ed”) for college won’t discreetly out me. Dropping a comment about being a Girl Scout for years in lower school won’t make people realize I’m trans. Saying anything about my girlhood will just reinforce ideas that I am a woman.

Without explicitly saying that I’m trans, or that I don’t identify as a woman, people in general just don’t get it. And I want that recognition. It’s important to me that the people I care about know who I am, and this is part of who I am. I hate — I hate — feeling like I’m hiding who I am. I hate feeling as though I’m trying to censor what I’m saying so that people don’t realize I’m trans — so that I can control how they find out in a way I choose. I hate being in closets.

For me, coming out is like clearing the air. It’s introducing myself as who I am, not who people want or expect me to be. If people take exception to who I truly am, well, I suppose that in the end, it’s best to know that now. For me, coming out is freeing. It’s liberating. It’s the beginning of something new.

When people think I’m a woman, it feels as though there’s this chasm between us that only I can see. They only know so much about me, about who I feel myself to be, about what’s important to me. There are secrets and things left unsaid between us that push us apart. For me, being out is the only way to have truly authentic relationships with people. I can’t really be myself — they can’t really see me as myself — if I’m assumed to be a woman.

Am I placing too much importance on whether or not people know I’m trans? Perhaps. I don’t really care, though — it simply is that important to me, and I’m learning to accept that. Luckily, I’m developing a support network that can help me deal with whatever fallout there may be from coming out. I’m realizing that being out is necessary for me to live an authentic existence.
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Next Meeting: Coming Out

If you've ever done it, you always remember your first time. You remember who initiated it and the unspeakably awkward moments linger in your memory. Hopefully you've gotten better with practice, and if not then this is the place to get some pointers.

Join us for a safe space meeting about coming out. Whether you're figuring out what to come out as next or reminiscing on the past, your stories and musings are welcome.

This Wednesday
The Gerber/Hart Library (1127 W. Granville)
7-8:30pm

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

It DOES Get Better: Kate Bornstein's Method for Gettin' Happy


Yeah, it DOES get better. Here's another tool for reminding us about the little things that make us healthy, happy, genderfabulous people:

Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws saved my life. Really. In this pocket-sized book, gender outlaw Kate Bornstein shares her personal (and frequently unorthodox) methods of survival for those who navigate a world that isn't all that nice. Bornstein's 101 Alternative to Suicide are rebellious (Disbelieve the [Gender] Binary), silly (Moisturize), and sometimes a little unusual (Get Laid. Please). The books only directive ("Don't Be Mean") encourages readers to let lose on a self-validating path towards happiness.

-m


Saturday, September 25, 2010

It Gets Better


Dan Savage recently answered a question on his Savage Love column from someone who read an article about Billy Lucas - a teenager in Indiana who committed suicide after taunts from classmates. The question was: What the hell can we do?

Savage's response was to set up a Youtube channel called It Gets Better. The purpose of the channel is to provide a space for queer youth to connect with hopeful stories about how even though times for many of them seem dark now that it gets better.

Please read the article, check out the videos, and if you are comfortable doing so upload a video of your own.

-b

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blogger linkup: Being GenderQueer

Heather Aurelia over at Witchy Feminist wrote a short introspective blog post entitled Being GenderQueer. Enjoy!

-b

Schrödinger’s Rapist--A review

by Andre Perez

In Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced, Miss LonelyHearts endeavors to help men understand why women perceive men as threatening, offering Anne-Landers-meets-Andrea-Dwarkin-style romance advice. With a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and an uncannily accessible style, Phaedra Starling addresses some of the most difficult issues with consent, sex, and sexism. The step-by-step format allows her the space to be playful without ever loosing site of the fact that non-consent and fear are at the heart of gendered experiences.

I was a bit uncomfortable with how much Starling's work draws on second-wave feminists, addressing an audience assumed to be straight and framing her arguments in terms of a gender binary. HOWEVER, she describes gender dynamics that felt relevant to my own experiences and relevant to majority of peoples' experiences. Unfortunately, we all get read by strangers and treated accordingly. Understanding the assumptions at play (and the reasons for them) was a first step in deciding how I wanted to deal with them.

Regardless of how you identify this article is a great prompt to push you outside of your own experiences, help you examine your own actions, and/or instigate a contemplation about why any of us relate to strangers in the ways we do. Ain't that what good writing is supposed to do?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Narrative

I was asked my narrative the other day. This happens a lot.

Inquiring minds want to know right?

It's not just my queer narrative people want to know it is any narrative.

General.
"So what's your story?" "Hey, what do you do?" "Where are you from?"
Targeted.
"Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Right, Left, Anarchist, Green?" "When did you first realize you were..."


Narratives make people feel safe, connect the dots.

Usually it's not too difficult, we do it all the time and it becomes second nature. We tell tales of discovery, tales of how we made it all makes sense.

"I'm a student, I study this, I realized this was for me then"
"My politics are this, I came to this conclusion then."


A line is formed, bumps along the way sure, but always to a static endpoint. This is how we are taught to tell out tales, they are our book and they have to follow the structure.

But our lives change, sometimes dramatically. And thus we change the story, but not just the part we are living now, it all becomes re-written.

Our lives change and we feel we have to rewrite our narrative to fit, to lead up to this new endpoint, to justify ourselves.

"I've always been interested in that so of course I became..."
"I had these politics before but they were wrong and now I have realized my politics."


Queer narratives seem particularly marred with this. We have to show our work, we'll gets points off otherwise.

I was asked my queer narrative the other day. It happens.

I had to show that I was valid, I grasped for something in my head. I tried to string together memories, make a story.

No early childhood memories, my best friend in grade school was a typical tomboy, does that mean anything, brother wore goth makeup, my mom slapped him, "faggot," did I repress, high school was a drag, I was odd but who wasn't, punk, nerd, communist, started thinking of myself as bi, I use pan or queer now, started "cross dressing" more into college, I liked it but felt ashamed, confused, I questioned myself more, read more on queer theory, decided to go with it, made sense, I no longer felt I could identify as one gender, I embraced my new queerness, end.

But I didn't know what to say. I didn't have the right story. I shrugged. Avoided.

Genderqueer was not the endpoint in a long series of events culminating in a realization of my true self. I just kind of fell into it, constructed it, and I like it like that.

I fight the urge to rewrite my life, to make it fit. I still do it a little. It's hard not to, not to try and find meaning, Truth, in ones life. I endeavor to construct new meaning as I go and not agonize about a past narrative that does not fit cleanly.

People still ask for my narrative. It happens a lot.

I still don't know what to say.

-b

GenderJive: "A Whole New World"

This gender-bending rendition of a classic Disney tune will make you giggle.



Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happy Fall! Happy Potluck!


Before the weather sends Chicagoans into wind-cursing frenzy, we're holding a fall-themed potluck!

This Wednesday- September 22nd
Millennium Park, picnic tables across from the bean (if you were at the sign project, it's the same place)
7-9pm


Bring your favorite dish, your favorite pal, and/ or your favorite park activity and join us for a celebration of community and tolerable outdoor temperatures. In the event of rain, we'll cancel and do this another day (if it's raining at 5:30pm, we'll cancel).

Comment on this post if you want to let the group know what you're planning to bring. Otherwise, it's a free for all!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Got Events? Share the wealth!


See that calendar on the right?
It's looking a little empty!

We post events of interest to queer and gender-variant community. The criteria is simple: your event must be free, cheap, or sliding scale. Events should be inclusive and "community-minded."


If you have an event you'd like to share, shoot us an e-mail at genderqueerchicago@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's On Your Mind?: Open Meeting This Wednesday


Join us this Wednesday for an OPEN FLOOR safe space discussion. We'll talk about whatever comes to mind, so get ready to go with the flow!

Wednesday, September 15th
7pm-8:30pm
Gerber/Hart Library

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

People of all ages and abilities encouraged to attend.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Like Son by Felicia Luna Lemus

review by: malic


Set in the underbellies of New York, LA, and Mexico City, Like Son captures a family narrative where love, history, and fate are inescapable.

After growing up in the barrios of Southern California, thirty-year-old Frank Cruz inherits his dead father’s legacy. Going through his father’s old possessions, Frank discovers a photograph of Nahui Olin, a revolutionary of the early 20th century Mexican avant-garde who left a scandalous mark on his own family history.

Inspired by Olin, Frank flees with her portrait to New York City where he plans to start a new life, but after falling in love with woman whose eyes are just as piercing as the woman in the photograph, he finds himself trapped in the fate his father left.



By the way, Frank is transgender.

I just skimmed through this book for the first time since I read it in 2007. Every other novel I’ve read featuring a transgender protagonist has turned into yet another coming-out story. But in Like Son, Frank’s transgender identity is barely mentioned. Sure, his gender presentation affects his experiences, interactions, and perception of the world, but Frank is so much more than a genderbender—he’s a person.

In an interview with Bookslut, author Felicia Luna Lemus explained that while she sees the value in coming-out stories, she was more interested in relaying her protagonist's life experiences rather than his struggle with identity. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Call For Gender-Neutral Restrooms

By Ryan

I've been thinking a lot of restrooms lately -- public restrooms, in particular. It's such a strange topic: it's completely innocuous to some, yet it's absolutely a source of anxiety and tension for others. For me, it's definitely the latter.

There are so many reasons why restrooms are so stressful for a lot of trans folk and gender-nonconforming people, but I'm not trying to speak for anyone other than myself. Personally, it's not as though there's a particular gender-specific restroom that I want to use. I realize that for many people, using a particular public restroom is hugely important -- using the "women's" room or the "men's" room is essential -- but that's not the case for me.

I don't generally have too many problems from other people when I use public restrooms. I've been approached by someone who thought I was in the wrong restroom; I've been handed the key to the men's room when I had thought I was presenting as a woman (and I was with people who only knew me as a woman) -- but I've never had any real confrontations. And since there are so many people who face harassment and violence every time they try to use a public restroom, I recognize that I'm lucky. Knowing what I could be facing, knowing how much worse it could be, puts my problems into perspective. Still, using a restroom shouldn't be a source of anxiety for anyone, no matter who small the problem. We all deserve to use public restrooms safely, without fear.

Gender-specific restrooms really stress me out because they force me to pick one side of the binary or the other. And because it seems safer -- by which I mean less likely to get me in trouble -- I typically choose the women's room. And that, in turn, messes with my head because I am not a woman. I don't want to be a woman. And choosing to identify myself as a woman, even for something as brief a trip to the restroom, is really upsetting. I feel this sense of embarrassment, almost bordering on shame, as I push open the door, hoping -- praying -- that no one will see me so that I pretend it never happened.

I would love it if there were more gender-neutral restrooms. Gender-specific restrooms -- and the policing that goes on with them -- cause so much harm to so many people. And it's so unnecessary. What's the big problem with allowing people to use the restrooms they wish to use? I don't understand. Especially with single-stall/single-occupancy restrooms -- I just don't get the fuss. They lock; there's only one person allowed in at a time. What is the point of separating them by gender?

Having the option of a gender-neutral restroom would eliminate that dread of deciding which to choose. It would diminish the feeling of self-loathing that comes with choosing the women's restroom. It would lessen the fear that maybe, just maybe, today will be the day that someone takes exception to the restroom I choose -- I know that others have been assaulted or arrested just for using the restroom, and I can't quite shake the fear that someday it will happen to me.

We deserve safe restrooms, and we deserve the right to use the restrooms of our choice. Who's with me?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some Potty Talk From Huffington Post

In this Huffington Post piece, Carlos A. Ball makes an argument for transgender-friendly bathrooms in the workplace.

The piece has some issues (too many to name, maybe).

And still, it makes some interesting points about the history of bathrooms as contested spaces. And further, it provides odd insight into how a gay mainstream might talk about gender-variant folks and restrooms.

I recently learned that the Center on Halsted made the decision not to de-gender many of their restrooms. Part of the argument for this decision was that many transgender people have worked hard for the right to use one restroom or the other. My feeling is that maybe no one should have to work at all in the first place...

I vote for gender-neutral restrooms. What's your take?

Posted by: Kate

Word of the day: Neurosexism

Over at Pharyngula, P.Z. Myers made a short post commenting on an interview with Cordelia Fine, who is the author of a new book entitled Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference. In the book Fine attacks much of the research done on sex difference in the brain saying that it is not only deeply flawed but also dangerously misleading. This flawed research can actually bee seen as creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by perpetuating social stereotypes.

From the Salon.com interview:

Women's brains are wired differently from men's. It's why so few women do well in math. It's why women gravitate toward dolls and tea sets as young children, and why they're so much better at understanding other people's emotions. It's why they're so good at housework! (Men are more wired to focus on one task — like arithmetic.) At least that's what a host of recent studies in the field of neuroscience have argued. Too bad they're wrong.

In her new book, "Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference," Cordelia Fine, a research associate and the author of "A Mind of Its Own" (also about brain science), discovers that, far from supporting the existence of vastly different male and female brains, much of the research on the topic is not only deeply flawed, but dangerously misleading. Women aren't worse at math (as Fine proves in the book, bad neurological research is one of the reasons women are still struggling to catch up in the field), and girls' preference for girlish toys probably has more to do with social expectations than what's in their skulls. Fine's book is a remarkably researched and dense work that, even while tackling highly complex subject manner, retains a light, breezy touch. (read more)

The book seems to focus on dismantling such pop culture stereotypes, that women are inherently bad at math, that men are less socially perceptive etc. These kind of stereotypes are important to challenge for equality sake but the concept of sex and gender binaries must also be challenged. While I'm hearing some things in reviews that give me hope on how this book will treat non-binary gender and the idea of gender construction, there are moments that give me pause.

Once the children reach the age of 2, which is the age they discover which side of this gender divide they're on, all bets are off. Parents may prefer that girls not play with Barbies and boys not play with guns, but by that age children know what tribe they belong to, and will want to be part of it.

This plays into the idea of not only a binary gender but that gender is hard socialization, unchangeable socially enforced destiny. I'm not sure how, or even if, this book will treat gender from the perspective of a non-binary. Though even if the book itself does not do well on issues of non normative gender identity; chipping away at this bad brain business may help future discussions of sex and gender that are queer inclusive.

-b

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oops- Skill Share Postponed!


Every now and then, something doesn't go at all according to plan. This is one such week.

Due to extenuating circumstances, we have had to postpone the skill share we scheduled for this Wednesday. So, no Skill Share this week.

Don't worry, we'll be back next Wednesday for our regular safe space meeting! And we've got some fantastic events in the works...

Check back soon for updates.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Transcending Transphobia: A JTIC Event Next Week!


Check out Join the Impact Chicago's discussion about transphobia in the queer community! The event will include a presentation by one of our Genderqueer Chicago organizers.

Tuesday, September 7
7pm-9pm
Underground Cafe
600 S. Michigan Ave.

Learn more about JTIC here.
RSVP to the Facebook event here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nominate Your Band!

It's no secret--there's a lot of talent in the queer and trans community of Chicago and the Mid-west. I, for one, am feeling like more of them should be on my Ipod. What's community for if not to turn each other on to new things and share stuff that's great?

Let's highlight some folks who are playing great music locally with a
5 Local Musicians You Outta
Check Out
list.

Here's how it works,
Step 1: You send us the name of a musician/band you'd like to recommend AND/OR you send us your contact info if you are interested in being one of our reviewers.
Step 2: We contact the musician/band and ask them to send us some sample music.
Step 3: We match up the music to a listener who then writes a paragraph-long review.
Step 4: Once we get a few, we post them with samples and links to where you can find more of their stuff.
Step 5: Everyone has a better music selection.

If you're interested in being a reviewer or have a musician to recommend, send it to genderqueerchicago@gmail.com

Website graphics and design by Andre Perez