01: Gender Questioning basics

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Am I the only one like this?

Basics – by Rose Moore

If you’re questioning your gender, be sure you’re not alone, nor the first to find yourself here.

Below you’ll find information that will help, from information on gender expression, relationships, even gender-neutral toilets!

If you would like specific information that’s not here, click the blue comment button at the bottom and write something in. We’ll do our best to answer your question.

Choose a topic

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Article: Different ways to be transgender

Tranifesto website | Different ways to be transgender

Gender Pirate – by Rose Moore

Synopsis

Matt Kailey answers a question from a reader on whether it really is possible to feel transgender but not to dislike your own body. In the article, Matt speaks of medical criteria and why it’s not a good idea to use these exclusively to determine your own identity.

 

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Article: genderqueer meanings

Transgender, Genderqueer, Cisgender… What Do These Terms Mean? | Kinsey Confidential.

This article from the Kinsey Institute website goes into some detail on what gender identity actually is, and the terms transgender, genderqueer and cisgender.

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Audio: Interview with Fintan Harte

JOY 94.9 Word For Word | Download Podcast interview with Fintan Harte, director SHGC

Summary

Dean Beck interviews Southern Health Care Network Gender Clinic director Fintan Harte about his involvement with helping the gender diverse population of Victoria.

He goes into detail about how much diversity there is in gender and that the team he leads does support those who are questioning their gender and who identify as genderqueer.

 

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Basics: Acronyms

Queer@M additional definitions | Asexual | Allies

The alphabet soup

The Queer community is sometimes called the “alphabet soup” because there are so many acronyms and abbreviations used. Here are some of the basic ones you’ll come across.

  • GLBTI / LGBTI – Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex
  • LGBTQA / GLBTQA - Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer/Questioning Asexual/Allies
  • SGD – Sex and Gender Diverse
  • DGS – Diverse Sex and Gender
  • SSAGQ – Same Sex Attracted Gender Questioning
  • SSATIQ – Same Sex Attracted, Transgender, Intersex and Queer
  • MAAB - Male assigned at birth; people who have been brought up as male
  • FAAB – Female assigned at birth; people who have been brought up as female
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Basics: Assumptions

Identity | Pronouns | Gender 101 | Gender

You’re walking down the street…

Normal: Melbourne, 31 May 2012 by boigrrlwonder

What’s the first thing you notice when you see someone on the street? Some would say their clothing. Others their gender.

Actually, the first thing you see is a human shape.

Everything else that we see builds to a point where we can make an educated guess about who the person is, all based on verbal and non-verbal cues – the way someone speaks and the movements they make with hands, face and body, their clothing choices, hair length and other things.

As human beings in society, we are taught that the presence of a particular collection of visual cues – what we see with our eyes – corresponds with a male or female gender identity.

Assume nothing

Except this isn’t always the case.

A person with tattoos isn’t automatically a biker and/or a criminal.

A person in a business suit may be a high-powered business-person, but could equally be just about anything else.

Our concepts of masculine and feminine are similarly flawed and based on our personal and collective assumptions – stereotypes – about what particular appearances mean.

So what do I do?

So what to do you do when you see someone who looks female or male? Don’t make assumptions.

A person’s gender expression is their business not yours.

 

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Basics: Binding

Wikipedia article on binding | FTM Australia guide to bindersUnderworks binders | Pay it forward binders

What is binding?

Binding is where you use bandages or a tight (usually purpose-made) top to flatten breasts.

Binding is a way of helping you look less female and more androgynous.

 

 

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Basics: Gender 101

What is Gender |  ”It’s pronounced metrosexual” website explanation of gender

If someone questions their gender they want to be another sex, right?

Gender Thing: Northcote, February 2007 by gotheek

Not quite.

People who come to you may feel they want to explore what it would be like to be less the gender they were assigned at birth.

Some just want to look outwardly like another sex.

Others may want to appear more neutral, neither male nor female, more androgynous.

They may want to take hormones to make physical changes to their bodies, and gain some of the physical characteristics of their preferred gender.

They may want to have surgeries to alter some parts of their bodies.

They may want to have surgery on their sexual organs to remove or reshape them

Any variation is possible in gender-questioning or genderqueer people.

Gender-questioning

If someone comes to you and says they’re questioning their gender, then they’re asking questions about what it is to be male or female. They’re asking questions about the relationship between their physical body and how they feel inside about their gender.

Genderqueer

When a friend or family member says they’re genderqueer – neither male nor female, or both, or something else entirely, then they’ve come to a conclusion that the categories of “male” and “female” as understood by mainstream society don’t fit who they are.

Transgender

Someone who calls themselves transgender is saying that they could be gender-questioning, genderqueer, transsexual or another non-normative gender expression.

Transsexual people identify with the opposite sex and their gender identity is fixed: they ARE the other sex rather than wondering about gender (gender-questioning) or floating between (genderqueer).

Cisgender

Finally, cisgender people are those whose internal gender identity (their own sense of gender), outward gender identity (how others perceive their gender) and physical body (chromosomes, hormones and sex organs) match up.

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Basics: gender questioning

Gender 101 | What is gender

Gender Questioning – by boigrrlwonder

When you’re gender-questioning, you’re really unsure of where you sit as far as being male or female.

You have to be boy or girl don’t you?

Society says that you do. So does the all the advertising trying to get your attention.

However, the truth is far more interesting.

Gender is not black or white, man or woman. It’s a spectrum – it stretches from the extremes of gender to the grey area in-between. Also there are plenty of people who exist there – everyday people who don’t live to the gender norms we’re taught.

Listening to how you feel

The only person qualified to tell you how you feel is you. It’s your body and your life.

As hard as it can be, to live a life that’s a lie is unhealthy. So if you need to express yourself as something other than a gender stereotype, then you must do-so. If you do not, the pain will become harder and harder to bear. This is not selfish (though you may be accused of this by others) – it is looking after yourself.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be exclusively Boy or Girl, man or woman. If you want to, you can walk in the grey area between the genders.

What this means is that you’re giving yourself time to find out where you actually lie on the gender spectrum. Other people who live in this place call themselves Genderqueer.

It may be that this is all you need, to express your true self – to be freed from the gender stereotypes that drive people.

It may mean you work out that you fall closer to the edges of the spectrum, male or female (and may choose to undertake hormone therapy and/or eventual surgery to alter your body as much as possible). Other people who do this call themselves Transgender.

What about the other people in my life?

Here’s where things get tricky.

People in general are used to seeing a boy or girl, a man or woman. Sometimes when they’re confronted with someone that doesn’t fit these neatly boxed genders, they may ignore the differences and simply treat you as a human being. Unfortunately, you may find that others:

  • become upset
  • become verbally or physically abusive
  • reject you out-of-hand
  • refuse to address you by the correct pronouns (he, she, ze)
  • refuse to treat you with respect

There are laws to protect people from discrimination in the education system and the workforce and the Victoria police force has Gay Lesbian Liason Officers (GLLO’s) who are trained to help you if something happens. You can also make a complaint on the Victorian Equal Rights and Human Rights Commission website.

“When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it – don’t back down and don’t give up – then you’re going to mystify a lot of folks.”

Bob Dylan


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Basics: How many are gender-questioning or genderqueer?

Writing Themselves In | Fintan Harte radio interview

Statistics

It’s a difficult number to quantify because gender diverse people aren’t easily identified as they often just blend into the population and get on with their lives.

In “Writing Themselves In” (Hillier et al. 1998) it was estimated that 3% of those surveyed (a total of 3134 SGD young people) identified as gender questioning (which worked out at 94 young people approximately). In this context, Gender Questioning included those who were unsure of which gender they belonged to (gender-questioning), those who identified as neither male nor female (genderqueer) and those who believed themselves to be the opposite sex to that assigned at birth (transgender).

In his recent radio interview with Dean Beck of Joy FM, Fintan Harte (director of the Victorian Gender Dysphoria Clinic) stated that gender diverse people were as much as one in 10,000.

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Basics: Identity

AssumptionsGender 101 | What is genderArticle: Why the gender binary doesn’t work

When you look at another person, the first thing you see isn’t their hair colour, their clothing or their body shape; you don’t see male or female first. You see “Human”.

Gender-Pirate: Melbourne, 5 September 2011 by boigrrlwonder

So who are you, really?

And why do so many people want you to be something specific?

You’re the only one qualified to say who you are, so don’t settle for second best. And you don’t have to fit into predetermined gender stereotypes, or any other stereotype for that matter.

This is a question of choice: the right to be who you want to be. There is power in being able to express who you are in the way that you wish. To do anything else can be incredibly stressful.

Identity is who we are

We don’t all fit into neat boxes. Our identity can be communicated in so many different ways, from the way we dress, how long our hair is, makeup or not, or even how we talk. These are just a few different ways of communicating our identities.

Gender questioning and genderqueer people often use body modifications such as piercings and tattoos to step outside the “normal” social expressions of identity. People who do this are trying to find their own way to express their inner identity.

But equally you can also just dress differently; wear whatever clothing you feel the most comfortable in, rather than what you’re told is “appropriate” for your gender or sexuality.

We can express ourselves as ourselves every day.

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Basics: Labels don’t define us

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Atheist or Agnostic? – YouTube

Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks in this video about how labels can be used against people to claim you are something based upon a narrow definition.

This is something Genderqueer Australia works with people to understand, that our definitions of ourselves are extremely narrow, and their use reduces us to these labels. So when we say we are a husband, mother, white, black, homosexual, transgender or genderqueer, we are giving someone else the ammunition to define us as exactly that label and no more.

As human beings we have limitless potential to be something much better: We can be ourselves.

 

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Basics: Packing

Wikipedia article on packing | FTM Australia guide to packing | Tranzwear underwear

Got Junk – Richmond, June 2012 by gotheek

What is packing?

Packing is where you use a prosthesis or other materials to simulate the presence of male genitalia. A penis prosthesis is often referred to as a “packie”.

Penis prostheses comes in many different sizes and colours and are worn either close to or next to the skin. Some can also be used to urinate or for penetrative sex. Follow the after-care instructions on your packie otherwise it will deteriorate.

Some people choose to purchase special underwear to hold the packie in place because it may move around in standard underwear. Other people choose to use a harness or jock strap to hold it in place, or some models can be safely glued to the skin using special skin-safe adhesive.

 

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Basics: Pronouns

Comic on Gender pronouns | List of Gender Neutral pronouns | Blog on “they” as a singular pronoun | Grammar Girl – “Yo” as a pronoun

In English, he is a pronoun that identifies a male. She is a pronoun that identifies a female.

So what do you do if you don’t identify as either? What do you do if you can’t tell just by looking what gender a person is?

I want to be called…

Some people invent their own pronouns or rely on ones created by others for this purpose such as xe, ze or hir. Other people may choose to use the singular pronoun they. Many different pronouns have been suggested, as the list on the Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog indicates.

Everyone assumes

Based on outward appearance, most people assign other people a gender based on whatever they see in front of them.

Very few people actually ask what a person’s gender is or how they want to be addressed.

It’s often not deliberate, it’s just the way we’ve been brought up in this society of ours. There are males and females and that’s it.

So what do I do if I can’t tell?

Well, the simplest way to find out is to be bold and ask! For example: “What pronoun do you prefer?” or “How do you like to be referred to, in terms of pronouns?”

Or you could rely on knowing the person’s name and use that instead of him or her.

Finally, some people use they to identify people who don’t identify their gender.

The XKCD cartoon to the right is a great reasoning for why you can use “They” as a gender-free pronoun.

 

 

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Basics: relationships

“It’s pronounced metrosexual” article on genderqueer sexual orientation

Gender and sexuality

For most people, gender and sexuality are inextricably linked.

If you have a vagina, you’ll be attracted to men. If you have a penis, you’ll be attracted to women. It’s a species survival thing that’s been around for millions of years, generally known as Heterosexuality.

In a good proportion of the population, these don’t match; thus we have gay and lesbian people.

Your sex – and sexuality – is between your legs, while your gender – how you identify as a human being – is between your ears, deep in your brain.

So what happens if I identify as genderqueer?

You’re a lesbian if you’re a woman who is attracted to women. You’re gay if you and your partner look like men. You’re heterosexual if your partner has the opposite sex to you.

Or are you?

What if you identify as genderqueer and your partner as a woman or a man?  Are you lesbian, gay or heterosexual?

What if both you and your partner are genderqueer?

This question comes up frequently and the truth is that there is no clear answer.

If you (or your partner) don’t identify as exclusively male or female, then logically you fall outside both the gender binary (male and female) and the sexual binary (hetrosexuality and homosexuality).

So what’s wrong with just being in love?

Nothing at all. You can choose to identify sexually as heterosexual or homosexual, or, like your gender, you can identify as both or neither.

There are no hard and fast rules here; we’re on the cutting-edge of possibility, and that to us at Melbourne Genderqueer is a very good thing. For if we accept the status-quo, accept what others tell us rather than listening to our own hearts and minds, then we run the very real risk of stagnation and pain in the short and long term.

It is better to be true to yourself, and to have the freedom from living as others demand regardless of what is personally right for you.

 

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Basics: Trans enough

Trans enough website | Trans enough on Facebook

Trans*: Melbourne, 5 september 2011 by boigrrlwonder

Community

Within every community there are non-conformists and absolutists.

Non-conformists are those who self-identify, who are prepared and happy to work outside boundaries set by others.

Absolutists are those who like and try to maintain boundaries of behaviour, and often attempt to force others to conform to their expectations of what is appropriate and inappropriate.

The gender community is like all other communities of human beings on the planet. It contains non-conformists and absolutists.

Trans enough?

How this translates is that some people will attempt to force gender-questioning or genderqueer people, through peer pressure, words or actions, to conform to their standard of what constitutes “trans”, “male” or “female”. There will even be those who identify as genderqueer who attempt to force you to conform to their idea of what the term means.

There are no absolutes

One human being cannot look at another human being and tell who they are inside. The only person qualified to say who you are is you.

And you are the only person who can decide who to be, when, how and how often. You are responsible for your life and happiness. Don’t let other people take this responsibility away from you and try not to worry about how other people define particular identities – everyone experiences gender differently, even if we use the same words to describe our identities.

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Basics: Tucking

Transgenderzone.info article on tucking | Crossdressing.pl guide to tucking | Tranz wiki article on tucking

Tuck – Melbourne, May 2012 by gotheek

What is tucking?

Tucking is where you pull your male sexual organs back in order to conceal them and look less masculine. This can be achieved with tight underwear and surgical tape if necessary.

Care should be taken if using tape as it can damage the skin.

The article links above explain this all in much greater detail.

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Basics: What is Gender?

Sex differencesGender | Third gender | Intersex | Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome

3 dimensions of gender

Gender in our world is really split into the physical aspects of our bodies and the way we express ourselves through the way we dress and the ways we behave.

One way to imagine gender is with three dimensions:

  • Physical – the way the body looks and its underlying biology
  • Mental – the way we feel we are
  • Expression – the outward appearance, the way we express ourselves through behaviour, clothing, haircut, etc.

Physical

Gender is supposed to be clear and well-defined by our external and internal genitalia – male or female.

There are physical aspects that are identified as male or female, including:

  • body shape
  • external and internal genitalia
  • secondary gender characteristics (eg. male facial hair, female breasts, etc.)

Our genitalia, hormones and chromosomes are used to identify our physical gender, but even these aren’t 100% accurate. Here is where the sliding scale above can help.

Our genitalia can be large, small or different depending on all sorts of factors, both known and unknown. People born with ambiguous genitalia are termed intersex and their lives can be very difficult.

Hormones can be affected by different biological syndromes which means that despite their presence or absence, our bodies don’t react as expected. Androgen insensitivity syndrome is where, for example, testosterone doesn’t make the fetus change to male as expected.

Mental

How a person feels about their gender identity is rarely taken into consideration. The majority of people in the world identify as male or female and are perfectly happy with that.

These people are referred to as cisgender.

But this isn’t an absolute rule. It’s an assumption, an expectation. And it’s not true for everyone.

We all sit on a sliding scale of mental gender, from the stereotypes of masculinity and femininity shown in movies and popular culture, to the ways we behave around others.

Expression

Not everyone conforms to the stereotypes we often see in popular culture about how men and women look, dress and behave. Men can cry. Women can be strong.

Many of the rules about appropriate behaviour and appearance for people perceived as male and female date back to the eighteenth century and reflect the influence of dominant religions (Muslim, Jewish and Christian). The result was that social gender roles for men and women became very sharply defined, with “male” and “female” roles viewed as being complete opposites.

Historically, however, there have always been variations in gender expression, and in some societies people who didn’t fit in with dominant gender roles were accorded particular status. For example, two-spirit people often became the shamans of native American tribes.

These days, not conforming to social gender stereotypes is more permissible; females especially have more license to be tomboys and dress in ways that are not considered stereotypically feminine. People who are perceived as boys on the other hand often still face stricter social conventions about  appropriate dress and behaviour, although this varies considerably by social context and group.

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Basics: What is Self-harm? – YouTube

What is Self-harm? – YouTube.

Self harm is a unspoken issue in the LGBTIQ community, this video is meant to help break down the stigma and explain the reasons why people do it. Dr. George Forgan-Smith speaks about self-harm, what it is, why people do it, and how to work through it.

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Cartoon: Rooster Tails – Is My Binary Showing Part 3

Rooster Tails – Is My Binary Showing Part 3.

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