Here and Genderqueer

Commentary from a UH Hilo student

Contributing Writer Sadie Dossett

Depending on what you're interested in, your vocabulary can include words that no one else has heard before. For example, someone who knows a lot about computers would know the technical term for the rainbow spinning wheel that means something's loading. Someone who wants to know everything about cars would know what all the letters on the PRNDL stand for. And in relation to what this article is about, someone who is interested in gender and sexuality would know quite a lot about the different ways to identify.

Why would someone be interested in gender and sexuality? There's a small chance it would be because you were taking WS 352 with Dr. Gregg, but more often than not, it's because you're trying to figure out your own gender and sexuality. Both can be an adventure to figure out because they are very personal things that can be very fluid. It is different for everyone, so it is important to know that even though people may use the same identifier, the way they experience who they are can be vastly different. It's like if you and your best friend both agree that your favorite food is ice cream, it is not an automatic guarantee that you both like the same flavor.

This article is specifically about what it means to identify as genderqueer. More specifically, how it applies to me. Other genderqueer people might identify in a completely different way, which is to be expected. It's not as if every man or woman all act the same exact way, so the same is true for other gender identities.

Before I get too carried away, I want to address the term “queer.” The proud cheer of "we're here, we're queer, get used to it" has been around for a while, as “queer” was reclaimed by the community more than 40 years ago, though some may associate it as a slur. Of course, there's a difference between someone in the community saying it, and someone else using it. If it makes you uncomfortable to use the term, don't use it.

“Genderqueer” means something unique to everyone, but Google defines it as "denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.” For me, genderqueer is identifying with neither. The binary system of gender - the assumption that there are only two genders-male and female - does not seem realistic to me. I'm not the only person that feels this way: in America alone, there are over 150,000 genderqueer people, according to the 2011 Transgender Discrimination Survey. Even a few celebrities are included among the ranks of genderqueer people, like author Kate Bornstein, rapper Angel Haze, and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg.

There's a lot that could be said about the genderqueer identity, but to reiterate: everyone's gender is as unique as they are. Gender identity is a very personal thing, so one experience does not define every experience. I can only explain my version, and hope that it inspires others to tell their stories as well.

Some commonly asked questions include…

1. How do you know you’re genderqueer?

The best advice that I ever got was that "if you spend a lot of time thinking about your gender, you're probably not cis." Cisgender (where the “cis” prefix comes from) is defined as "denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender.” Figuring out that I was not cis helped me feel comfortable to start looking for what I did identify as. At 17, I had found a word that worked - genderqueer - but I had yet to discover a place where I felt safe to be “out.” When I moved away, I did find the community I was looking for, but when I came back to Hawaii I was unsure if I would be able to find it again. I learned that the easiest way to find more GQ people was to be more open about how I identify. The way I know that I am genderqueer is because once I found the identifier that worked, I was able to stop obsessing about my gender. I found what worked, and it feels right.

2. Are you getting any surgeries?

Asking someone about their surgeries is super rude and yet it is something so many people really want to know. Many people will talk about their paths to becoming who they are, but it is their choice to share, and not something they are obligated to do. That being said, there are a few surgeries I want, but as a poor college student, it is not something I try to think about. If I ever become financially stable, there are many things I will do - but until then, my main goal is to save up enough money to buy a binder. Questions about surgery can feel very invasive, so it is best to let people tell you what they want to tell you, on their own time.

3. Why do you dress like that?

Many people tend to imagine being genderqueer as being androgynous, and most androgyny one sees is very masculine. My wardrobe is what it is because of two big reasons: (1) I am lazy and (2) I don't believe clothing should be gendered. I wear dresses because they take the least amount of effort. It's one piece of clothing that you don't have to match with anything. Dresses are not just for one gender, everyone looks best in what they're comfortable in. If society stopped gendering products, it would make life much easier for everyone. It would also make a lot of things cheaper, but that's a whole other story. So long answer short: I dress like I do because it's comfortable and because gendering clothing is more harmful than helpful.

4. What are your pronouns?

They/them/theirs, and please don't tell me it's not grammatically correct. Also, don't assume every genderqueer person has the same pronouns. Even as a cis person you can normalize expressing your pronouns so it is more comfortable for trans people to do so as well. For example, when you meet someone you can say: Hi, I'm [your name] and my pronouns are [your pronouns.] It's a few extra words in a sentence, but it helps create a more inclusive environment.

5. After reading all of this, I have more questions than answers. What do I do?

Google is always my friend when I have a question, but sometimes even that is not enough. If you're struggling with gender or sexuality, talking to a professional might help. There are many different resources on campus that are available, like counseling services. There are also many Safe Zone-trained people on campus, including some students and faculty. Also, there’s PRIDE Hilo - UH Hilo’s LGBTQIA+ club - where you can interact with a diverse group.

If you have any other specific questions about what I wrote, I'm always up for conversation - as long as I'm not eating or doing homework.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.