Being Genderqueer

What it Means for Me

By: Donna Lynn Matthews, October 2006

I’m 40+ year old male, married and have two daughters. I live in the suburbs, schlep my ass to work every day to provide a good home for my family and I’m as involved as I can be with my family. In many ways – a rather typical ‘dad’.

I’m also genderqueer – at least, that’s how I choose to identify.

There is a saying I absolutely love:

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice – but in practice, there is.

Yes, Genderqueer is rooted in Queer Theory which is itself rooted in Postmodernism – all of which are most at home within the walls of academia: one can almost make a career studying and arguing postmodern theory. And theory is important: understanding the theory allows you to apply it to and better understand real world situations – usually.

But with or without the theory, the real world still happens to us. This is where my quote above comes in. Quite often, the theory doesn’t help in our day to day, practical existence.

It is far too easy to get wrapped up in the theory and the almost impenetrable lexicon which accompanies it. And while debating theory can be an interesting intellectual pastime – it also has the chilling effect of alienating nearly everyone else who wants to get through life. In practice, the theory can almost get in the way.

From an operational perspective, I like the following definition: not a state of being so much as a state of mind – an admission that there truly are no absolutes about gender. It is for this reason that I characterize Genderqueer as operating at a meta level with respect to other gendered identities.

I see gendered identities as an attempt to define a set of operational boundries – a domain of actions and feelings – within which one can call ‘home’. From this perspective, Genderqueer can be thought of as the superset of gendered identities, of which man, woman, trans, etc are but a few.

So far in my life, I have identified as:

  • Man : (with a kinky side) : identifying as a man allowed me to be ‘normal’ and I accounted for my trans feelings and actions as a kink.
  • Crossdresser : Upon the discovery that I was far from alone in my feelings and actions, I considered ‘crossdresser’ as an identity.
  • ’Woman’ : As I dealt with my trans feelings, I briefly identified as a woman. My assumption was that if what I was ‘feeling’ was not that of a man, than it must be that of a woman. I did not hold this identity for long.
  • Intergender : I latched onto this idea big time – enough to create a new Usenet newsgroup for it. I say myself as a mix of man and woman – somewhere between the two. But even this didn’t hold as well as I wanted and I expended it to be a mix of both or neither of the two. I felt (feel) like neither but from an operational perspective, both and neither are about the same.
  • Genderqueer : An acknowledgment that there are no absolutes about gender. There is no single gendered identity which properly fits me.

My ‘gender’ can and does change – day to day and even during the day. I ‘do’ or ‘am’ what I need to be, when I need to be it. People will gender me as they see fit: some see a man, some see a woman – and other aren’t sure what they see. I can shift their interpretation with something as simple as allowing then to see my purse – suddenly, I move from ‘man’ to ‘woman’. Yes, I fuck with gender – not as much as some – but I fuck with it nonetheless. And regardless of how I am ‘gendered’ by others, there is always something ‘queer’ about it. 🙂

With the exception of online forums, I rarely consider the theoretical side to Genderqueer. I simply use it as a shorthand description for my view of gender and my relation to the world at large. If you consider it from a practical perspective, there is no reason to not consider yourself Genderqueer. Because – IMHO – at the end of the day, we’re all Genderqueer… With some of us just slightly queerer than others. 🙂

Perhaps the main problem people seem to have with Genderqueer as an ‘identity’ is that at it’s core, Genderqueer really is more a ‘theory’ or, more properly, a philosophy than an identity. It is more ‘a state of mind, not a state of being.’ Perhaps, it is more proper to state “I embrace the philosophy of Genderqueer as an interpretation of the world” than it is to make the statement “I am Genderqueer.”

In this respect, it is not unlike the use of Transgender: on the one hand it being specific to an individual who identified as the gender ‘opposite’ that which has been assigned to them – and on the other hand being a broader, more conceptual notion of being gender variant.

In practical usage, Genderqueer has been defined as “someone who identifies as a gender other than ‘man’ or ‘woman,’ or someone who identifies as neither, both, or some combination thereof.” (from Wikipedia.) From a theoretical standpoint, Genderqueer recognizes the fluid and boundless nature of gender.

As a construct, Genderqueer (no absolutes with regards to gender) encompasses Transgender (variations within a specific domain of operational boundaries). As an identity, Genderqueer (both, neither or other) is distinct from Transgender (opposite of one’s assigned gender).

Me personally – I see both the theory and practical definitions as being applicable: I do not identify as any specific gender and I view gender as something with no true absolutes.

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One Comment

  1. nome
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Some of this I kinda have to challenge. The assertion that everyone is genderqueer, just some more than others, is rather invalidating. It makes it sound like genderqueer is about not fitting the exact gender stereotype for what a person identifies with. That would be gender bending. Genderqueer is much more of an identity. Therefore saying everyone is that makes invisible those who identify as that as a primary gender. It says, “we’re all like that” and reduces genderqueer down to a defiant action and concept around gender. Rather, I assert that genderqueer *is* an identity and not just a philosophy.

    Also, your definition of transgender is highly binarist. There is no “opposite” gender, and not all trans people are binary. I am no less trans for being non-binary. To limit trans to trans-male and trans-female is off and does a disservice to the trans community.


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