Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Personal Pronouns, Pretty Please!

'He' and 'she' just don't cut it for some of us, but fortunately there are other options! Those of us living outside of the binary may choose pronouns you aren't used to using or haven't heard of before! So, cis friends, some requests:
Please don't complain about non-binary pronouns (or changes in binary pronouns). 
[image description: six nametags reading: Hello, Address
me as (blank) Please Use: They, Them, Theirs; He, Him,
His; (blank); She, Her, Hers; Ze, Hir, Hirs; Xe, Xem, Xyrs]
I think most trans people can acknowledge that changing pronouns can be challenging, and that it can take time to get used to using pronouns you haven't heard of before (like, maybe, ey/em/eir/eirs/eirself or xe/xir/xir/xirs/xirself). My personal pronouns are they/them/their/theirs/themself. Personally, I don't want to correct people all the time, so please just practice and hold yourself accountable. If you mess up, just briefly apologize and correct yourself. Please don't dwell on it. And seriously, don't complain about it! What does that do but make your trans friend feel guilty for asking to be acknowledged as who they are?! If you want to be an awesome ally and friend, one thing you can do is practice using the correct pronouns. As I told my friends, go ahead and talk about me! Lol. There are websites that can help you practice different pronouns, too, like the pronoun dressing room, which also has a pretty good sized list of personal pronoun options. (a note: if you are practicing with they/them pronouns on that website, click "plural." Even though it is singular, the common way to use it is as though it were plural, grammar-wise.)

It should go without saying, but unfortunately this needs to be said, too:
Don't argue with someone about their pronouns. It's not up to you what pronouns people use. Using the correct pronouns is a matter of respect. Don't complain about grammar (seriously, 'singular they' has been used in language for a long time.... person 1: "My friend just got into a car accident!" person 2: "Oh no, are they okay?"). Don't tell someone their pronouns aren't real. We live in a society that has been oppressively shaped by patriarchy where only "he" and "she" are recognized as valid. Non-binary people deserve to exist and be acknowledged for who they are, and sometimes creating new pronouns or using less common pronouns is one way to do that. Just because someone's personal pronouns haven't made it into the dictionary yet, doesn't mean they aren't real! Saying so is just close-minded.
[image description: Text: Pronoun Dos and Don'ts: When someone asks you to use a different pronoun: DON'T: cartoon of a person saying, "What? 'Zie' isn't a real pronoun. Don't you have something more normal that you use? DON'T: Cartoon of a person saying "But it's not grammatically correct to use 'they' as a singular pronoun." WHY? You are not being asked to evaluate this person's gender identity or preferred terminology. (Also, I have not yet witnessed a verson of this conversation in which the person arguing is actually correct.)] from Robot Hugs.

Non-binary trans people don't choose their pronouns to make life difficult for cis people. We choose our pronouns to feel validated as who we are. We choose different pronouns because "he" or "she" never felt right. If you have never had to think about your pronouns, if your pronouns are in the dictionary and used by society at large, that is a privilege that many non-binary folks don't have.

Not all non-binary people choose to change their personal pronouns, and some choose to change to a different binary pronoun. This doesn't make their gender any less valid than anyone else's. Personal pronouns are a personal choice.
[image description: a cartoon of two characters sitting close and facing
each other, one saying, "You had me at 'What gender pronoun
d'you prefer?'..." with a pink heart as the background] from:

One more thing: it is okay to ask someone what pronouns they prefer! It is often suggested that you start by giving yours. I would say, "Hi, I'm Coco. My personal pronouns are they/them. What are yours?" or something like that. Some cis people might think this is an inappropriate question because they think that their gender is "obvious" but the truth is, you can never really tell. If they are offended by the question, it is because of cisnormative conditioning, and it's about time we all start breaking down those walls.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Gender Diverse Comics

I've come across some great comics about gender diversity lately, and I want to share a few of them with you! So here they are! Do you have favorite webcomics about trans issues or featuring gender diverse characters? Please share them in the comments!

Assigned Male
Assigned Male is a webcomic about a young transgender girl named Stephie, written by Sophie Labelle. Stephie is clever, kind, playful, and fierce. She is a great advocate for herself and her peers, and educates everyone around her on trans issues. The reader sees Stephie respond to instances of bullying, transphobia, transmisogyny, and misinformation with frustration, rage, sadness, and a sense of justice. It also deals with family acceptance--her dad fumbles, but cares; her mom is a strong bisexual role model. This webcomic is educational, inspirational, moving, and entertaining. You can follow Assigned Male on facebook for excellent memes and the occasional bonus comic.
[image description: first frame: a mother with short magenta hair sitting on a bus with her daughter who has long brown hair and is smiling. The mother asks: "So what are you going to buy with the money you just earned?" Her daughter responds: "I'll buy books about the cisgendered!" Second frame: a close up on Stephie (daughter), smiling slightly, saying: "This evening was an eye-opening experience. I want to learn more about them, so I can be a good ally." Third frame: Mom and Stephie on the bus. With one eyebrow raised, her mom says: "Didn't we have a discussion about sarcasm recently?" and Stephie replies with arms out in front of her and eyebrows raised, "We agreed I could do it 15 minutes a day!"]
Justin Hubbell
Justin Hubbell is the author of this mostly autobiographical webcomic. Sometimes silly, sometimes serious and social-justice focused, often personal. The more recent strips have been about coming out as genderqueer. These strips are uplifting, honest, and empowering. Previous strips have focused on depression and suicide, his relationship, becoming a pet owner, unpacking privilege, and coming to terms with her own feminism (see Orcs Vs Feminism in the archives).
[image description: a drawing  of the author's face, frowning slightly, eyebrows raised. Light blue background. Words on either side of picture read: "I fell under attack by a special cocktail of depression and internalized transphobia."]
Rooster Tails
Rooster Tails is a webcomic by Sam Orchard about a transguy and his genderqueer companion, and sometimes their cats. This webcomic is also at least semi-autobiographical. It deals with coming out as transgender after being known as a lesbian, medically transitioning, being a queer and trans couple, dysphoria, depression, romance, and more. It is sweet, funny, and often poignant.
[image description: 1st frame: Sam and Joe stand together smiling, Sam's arm around Joe's shoulder. Sam says: "Yaaay! It's your T-shot day again!" Joe: "Yeh! Yay!" 2nd frame: Sam stands behind Joe with his arms around him, both smiling. Sam says: "Was it ok? How do you feel? You feeling good? Joe: "Ummm..." 3rd frame: Sam holds Joe close, smiling with eyes closed, Joe's mouth is open in surprise, and the words "rub rub rub"  are around them. Sam: "mmm..." Joe: "Uhh...Sam?" 4th frame: Sam and Joe face each other, smiling, hands out in front of them. Joe: "What are you doing?" Sam: "I was hoping the T would rub off on me!"]

****Each of these webcomics are currently updated weekly!****

Please share your favorite trans and gender diverse webcomics in the comments! I've only just begun to explore the webcomic world...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Growing Up Non-binary at the Turn of the Century

As far back as I can remember, I have known that I did not fit into "female" or "male" categories. It wasn't until I was an adult, however, that I realized there were others who, like me, were neither male nor female. To be clear: I'm not talking about genitals or chromosomes (which are truly none of anybody's business). Gender is not the same thing as biological sex. Gender is much harder to define. It is an internal sense of self. (I will go more into working definitions of gender another time.)

As a 5 year old, I requested to be called "Johnny" and insisted I was a boy. After a while, this phased out, but I never lost the feeling that I was not really a girl. My mom enlightened me on how radical, strong, smart, and brave women can be. This was really important for me to see, but it didn't make me feel any more female. I longed to cut my hair short; I hated to dress in "feminine" clothing. I continued, however, to try to be a girl. That's what I was supposed to be.
[image description: author as a young child,
with blonde hair to their shoulders, wearing a jean jumper,
and a black and green checkered baseball cap, smiling slightly.]
I was teased for being masculine in elementary school and middle school. I recall a classmate looking at me with disgust one day and saying, "Your voice is really deep, like a boy's. And your nose is big." My best friend was often invited to play with the girls, but I was always ostracized. The girls didn't want to play with me, the boys didn't want to play with me. I was fortunate to have one close friend at school and one close friend in my neighborhood. In middle school, all I wanted was to blend in. No matter how I tried, I didn't. There were a few kids in 6th grade who were making fun of me, calling me a lesbian and a freak. One day, I took my mom's advice and when I was called a lesbian, I told that person to "grow up," but that didn't shut her up, it provoked her to physically attack me. The name-calling continued through middle school (and high school). I tried to reclaim the word "Freak" as my own nickname in 8th grade. I didn't know at the time that there were other people like me, or that Kate Bornstein, an amazing gender non-conforming trans person, had discovered hir own place outside the gender binary, and reclaimed the word freak as well (oh what would life had been like had I known about Auntie Kate all those years ago?!).

[image description: author at 12 yrs old, wearing a
checkered red/blue suit jacket, grey tie, and short brown
wig, holding an acoustic guitar and smiling largely.]
In high school, I came out to most people as queer, simply by ceasing to deny it when questioned/accused. At the time, I was labelled a lesbian. I couldn't figure out why I didn't like that word. Maybe part of it was my own internalized homophobia, but I think a big part of it was that it lumped me in with a bunch of women. I still didn't relate. In college, I found a queer group. I met some people who were transgender. When I got brave enough to ponder my gender identity out loud, I was told by one of the leaders of the group that I was "either a dyke, or a tranny boy," but that there was nothing in between. (Please note that dyke and tranny are both considered derogatory. I included them because that is the language that was used, and I think there was a lot of internalized homophobia and transphobia showing up in that particular queer group).

During/after college, I started dressing "in drag" a lot. I would bind with an ace bandage and draw on facial hair. I passed fairly easily as male, when I wanted to. I called myself a "gender bender." That was the first term I actually liked for myself. I started saying I was queer, which was more comfortable because it was vague and didn't say anything about my gender. I think I first heard the word "genderqueer" about four or five years ago. I remember saying, "Yes, I am that!" At the time, I heard it used only as a descriptor, like, "I'm a genderqueer woman." It was only a year or so ago that I realized that I didn't have to define as either a woman or a man, I could define as neither. I could simply say "I'm genderqueer" or "I'm non-binary." That is my truth. For the first time in my life, I am comfortable with my gender identity. I have masculine traits and feminine moments, but truly I am neither male nor female.
[image description: author at approx. 20 yrs old, brown hair
to their chin, brown beard drawn on, wearing black blazer, white
button down, and a tie. Looking to the side, serious expression.
Behind them is a vase with flowers and a poster of a tree in bloom.]
The Gender Binary is a system (created by society) in which there are only two genders: male and female. Gender is actually more complex and diverse than that. There are many gender identities being claimed today. Each is valid. The only person who can determine someone's gender is oneself. Non-binary means a gender that exists outside of the binary of male and female. Genderqueer is also a blanket term for gender that exists outside of the binary, but with a political connotation in reclaiming the word "queer." Trans is short for transgender and is an umbrella term covering any and all gender identities that are not cis-male or cis-female (cis-gender means someone identifies as the same gender they were assigned at birth based on their sex organs). I am a genderqueer/non-binary trans person, and I am proud to finally be embracing my gender.

[image description: left image: a person smiling and laughing, with black and purple-ish hair, tan skin, grey sweater, lip piercings. Speech bubbles around them from other directions say, "You're either a boy or a girl," "You're one or the other," "boy or girl," "You can't just be neither!" Right: same person, expression serious and pupils red, saying, "Fucking watch me!" source: Fawning Prince]

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Intention and Introduction

My intention in creating this blog is both personal and educational. I intend to write about my personal experience as a non-binary person, about parenting against the grain in this oppressive society, and to share information and resources, especially related to trans issues.
[image description: a waist-up photograph of the author, a non-binary white person
with brown hair and glasses, standing outside under an apple tree wearing a blue t-shirt
with dinosaurs and UFOs, with hands behind their head showing wrist tattoos, smiling.]
I am a non-binary/genderqueer trans person. I am not an expert on trans issues. I can only speak for my own experience, and share what I learn from others. My entire life I have known that I do not identify as female or male, but it was only in recent years that I began to have some terms to describe my gender. I am in the process of coming out more vocally about my non-binary gender and personal pronouns (they/them). It is a very personal matter, as gender really is only personal, but I truly believe "This above all: to thine own self be true" (Shakespeare). I hope that in writing here, I can raise some awareness and understanding on trans and non-binary identities and issues, help others with similar experiences feel less alone, and provide resources that could be helpful to allies, trans people, and parents of trans and gender-nonconforming kids.

Depending on your knowledge of trans issues, you may have questions (or something to add) about some of the terms I use or subjects I talk about. I welcome questions and comments that are related to the post. I also want to remind readers that the internet, and hopefully your local library, have vast amounts of information that can be at your fingertips, if you take the time.

I have a page of resources that you can look over, and I am hoping to create some book lists (that I'm sure will grow overtime).

Here is my favorite little comic (by RainbowBruises) to introduce a broader understanding of gender to cis-folks who are new to the idea.
[image description: a comic showing a diverse selection of people, with the text: "women are women regardless of sex/ and men are men in the same respects/ you can be both or a mix of the two/ or you can be neither if that's what suits you/ but people are people whatever their parts/ because what really matters is inside of our hearts."]