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Author Topic: gender identity and expression - feel like I'm doing it wrong
treetops
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Apologies in advance about the length of this!

So I'm FAAB, which I am OK with for the most part (I mean, I'm OK with it in relation to myself, not the practice as a whole), and part of my identity is intertwined with having been brought up female and being treated as a woman (people seem to read me as female pretty much no matter what I do/how i present).

So there is a female/woman part to my identity in terms of society in general, and I identify with feminism (the non-transphobic sort...), but I largely feel that the labels genderqueer or non-binary suit me better, as I feel like they can encompass my experiences 'as a woman' and also my feelings of gender neutrality and fluidity, where I feel like neither male nor female.

I feel sort of awkward about this though, like I'm not trans enough or something. I don't want hormones or surgery (for now and for the foreseeable future) and I don't have the levels of dysphoria a lot of people have. But I feel very uncomfortable when people make assumptions about my gender based on my body, my voice etc, and prefer it when people address me in a gender-neutral way. I certainly generally dislike having femaleness or femininity attributed to me without my consent. I do, however, feel that sometimes I want to speak about my experiences as a woman, especially with regard to sexism etc. I also feel solidarity with women.

So part of what I'm asking is, am I trans enough? Should I just get over it and try and live as a cis woman? I have been to a trans group a couple of times but it seemed that everyone there wanted/needed to transition medically (there was a big discussion about it, and I was the only person who wasn't saying anything), and dressed either in a binary fashion, or if they were GQ/non-binary, in a masculine fashion. I felt like my experience was quite different.

The other part of my problem is that sometimes I like to present in a way coded as masculine, sometimes feminine, and sometimes in between or a mix. I am aware, though, that when I present femininely I am reinforcing in others' minds that I am female/a cis woman, which makes me very uncomfortable.

The other day, I was presenting quite femininely (mostly because I've put on weight and only my skirts fit me at the moment). One of the few people I know who knows my gender identity (who is also trans) was there and slipped up with my pronouns, referring to me as 'she'. While she obviously realised her mistake and I know it was in no way malicious, it really upset me as it made me even more aware of the fact that I can't be 'allowed' to present femininely if I want people to respect my genderqueer identity. I feel like I have to do what other FAAB GQ people seem to do, and bind all the time (which I find very uncomfortable), and present masculinely. But that isn't what I want. I want to present as I feel from day to day without people reading a whole lot of stuff into it.

I'm feeling like a fraud, which I don't really think I am, but I don't know what to do really. I feel like I'm never going to be able to have others treat me as I would want to be treated.

Any advice/support at all, especially from other trans/non-binary peeps, would be very welcome. [Smile]

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Djuna
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Hey treetops! Hope you're doing good. [Smile]

I'm really sorry that you found that trans group wasn't a good fit for you. I think also that I feel a tension between presenting how I want to on a given day versus presenting in a way that means I will pass as female, and that tension can be pretty uncomfortable and makes me doubt myself and my gender sometimes.

I wouldn't say that I believe in someone being trans "enough" to identify that way - only that for individual people, it can be about how much they *do* deviate from gender norms and whether or not they feel it's worth them identifying as trans, when there can be a lot of hassle and potential to get hurt that comes with that. For example, I have several close friends who have had partners of more than one gender but keep on identifying as straight because they find that that's easier for them. And you know, the way society handles our gender or our sexual orientation doesn't necessarily jive with the way we like to handle society. A woman who sleeps with women doesn't *have* to feel any bond to lesbian communities or identify as a lesbian if she doesn't want to, for example.

So I guess what I'm saying is, what do "trans" or "genderqueer" as gender identities do for you? What I'm hearing is that they're pretty important to you, and that you feel upset when those identities aren't respected, like with pronouns. You seem to be trans enough that it matters to you, which is the only "trans enough" I can see mattering. [Smile]

When I say that, though, know that I don't mean to dismiss your hurt feelings. In practice other people's perceptions of us do matter to us, and for example your other trans friends should really know how important pronouns are. Can you tell me more about how that? For example, when your friend slipped up, is it like she corrected herself (not that that necessarily helps) or did you correct her, or did you feel you weren't able to? I did notice that in this post you didn't mention which pronouns you *do* prefer, and perhaps it's worth asking yourself if you do enough to affirm, yourself, what your identity is and how you should be pronouned.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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treetops
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Hey Djuna, thanks for replying! Hope all is good for you.

I do feel quite attached to genderqueer as an identity for myself, trans maybe less so, although I like the thought of being under the trans* umbrella, as it were. I feel like the genderqueer identity makes sense of a lot of things I've felt about myself and my gender.

It's a bit awkward because with most people I haven't said anything about my gender identity, so they all assume I am a cis woman (not having a go at them for that - it's how we're all socialised, I guess). And tbh I am in no place mentally and emotionally atm to be explaining it to people who aren't close friends or to people who I would expect to not really get it or react negatively. I don't know if I ever will be in that place - it may be that I will be ok with some people knowing, but not discussing it with everyone. Currently it's something I would feel very uncomfortable talking to most people about.

I guess I would like it if some people did know and would pronoun me as I'd prefer (it's 'they' btw - meant to put it in that post!).
I definitely don't do much with most people to affirm my identity, but I guess I found it all the more upsetting when someone who definitely did know my pronouns and had used them before slipped up. In fairness, we were in a group where everyone else sees me as a cis woman and addresses me accordingly (including one guy who tends to address people as 'woman' sometimes, which makes me massively uncomfortable). One of the things I had really enjoyed about being in that group was that there was someone there who would pronoun me correctly, in a matter-of-fact sort of way.

She corrected herself as soon as she'd said it, but if she hadn't I wouldn't have said anything, due to the group not knowing. I just don't want to always feel like my gender is something just in my own head, that no-one else acknowledges [Frown] . It was sort of reinforced to me by my (straight) ex-boyfriend, who basically ignored my genderqueerness (which I did tell him about) and made it very clear that he preferred me to present femininely, which thinking about it now I find really disrespectful, but I think I did internalise it a bit.

In a general way, I don't believe in 'trans enough' either - it's just when I think about myself in relation to others that I worry about it. I would like to go back to the trans group as I do feel like I have a right to be there, and the people were perfectly nice, so maybe I just need to get used to feeling comfortable in the space.

Urgh, I feel like I'm jsut rambling but I've had an awful day and this, among other things, is really getting me down.

[ 05-12-2012, 04:43 PM: Message edited by: treetops ]

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WesLuck
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-hugs for treetops-
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moonlight bouncing off water
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Wow treetops, while reading your first post I felt like I was reading something I had written. In fact, if you take out the part about your friend and the part about going to the trans group and plop in something from my life, that post would exactly describe how I feel about my gender identity right now!

I too am female assigned at birth (and I actually had to google FAAB, but I like it way better than any other way of describing my sex) and I totally get what you're saying about having been raised and socialised as a girl being an important part of your gender identity, for better or for worse.

I also get view as cisgender and female pretty much no matter what I do, although I've never really done much to try and get viewed as something else.

And I really, really identify with how you say you don't feel trans enough. I feel like if I identify that way, genderqueer or trans*, then I'm a fake, because I feel no need to transition. I feel like, just because I wear a skirt one day it doesn't mean I'm cis. I feel like I'd be stealing from the "real" trans people and being unfair to them, hurting their cause or rather making their transness less real by calling myself trans or genderqueer since I don't really fit the bill.

I feel like, well pretty much how you said before, I feel like I'm not really trans, because I don't think I'm a guy and yet I don't feel cis. And I don't know what parts of my gender come from my upbringing and what parts are real I guess.


It makes me wonder, as I believe you may be wondering as well, is calling one's self trans or genderqueer, when one looks and acts rather cis, okay? Or is it taking away from those who are, without a doubt, trans?

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Djuna
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Okay, so I hear what you're saying, treetops, and I think I worry about my gender just being in my head too. One thing I recently did was write a novella with a genderqueer main character - it was all in 3rd person, so there were gender neutral pronouns too - and that helped me externalize a lot of the stuff that's in my head. I figure cis people get the whole of popular culture doing that for them (especially if they're straight, white, able-bodied, and middle-class), so maybe I need to be creating my own. I don't know whether for you that might look like a diary, or art, or a song (there are a lot of songs describing someone from the third person, in fact, and that's something I've been working with too). Know what I mean? Because I think things like pronouns are so difficult for us to affirm positively apart from straight up saying "these are the pronouns I prefer" - we can end up feeling a bit passive while other people pronoun us, I feel.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Jill2000Plus
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I identify as agender, and I think there's a kind of thing where: if you present in such a way that people will generally tend to think you are trans and/or have a non-binary gender identity, those who are prejudiced about gender are probably going to take the attitude that you're, in their eyes, "doing it (gender) wrong", they'll see the evidence of your "wrongness" and will do terrible things to destroy you or "cure/correct/right you", in the same way that someone prejudiced about sexual/romantic orientation will see someone in a same gender and/or "sex" relationship, whereas if you're, say, a bisexual person in an "opposite" gender and/or "sex" relationship and/or who isn't "persuing" relationships with same gender and/or "sex" people or someone who identifies their gender as something other than cis but does not present in such a way that people would usually/mostly guess that you do, people who are prejudiced about gender/sexual orientation will just refuse to believe that there is anything different about you at all. At my supported accommodation, I repeatedly told people that I didn't like being referred to as a woman because I don't identify that way, and one of the staff there actually said to me "no, you're a woman", and this is someone who would not have told someone who was transgender and transitioning (I don't know if that's the correct term) this, but they were clearly thinking that since I did not want surgery or hormone therapy and since I don't present as masculine in their eyes, and as I am disabled, they could just dismiss it as me "not getting it" or something. There are privileges to passing as a member of the dominant group, huge ones, I know that I will probably never be attacked for my non-cis and/or non-binary gender identity by someone passing me in the street, or for being non-het by someone who sees me with my partner, but feeling like you aren't even really different at all and it's all just in the head inside the head inside your head is the downside of that. At least in my experience, and I am not claiming that trans people do not have self doubt. I think what I mean is that sometimes not having something to show for the way we feel can make us self doubting in the same way that someone who has a mental health issue and/or is neuroatypical while being able-bodied can live for decades, their whole life even, thinking that they aren't disabled and it's just a character flaw/flaws. But this is an oversimplification and I seriously don't want to be making any trans person feel like the amount of shit they have to deal with is being minimised. I guess I kind of feel like my non-cis, non-het identity has been erased by people because I'm autistic and have mental health issues, so this is really about my personal experiences. But, yeah, I don't think there is such a thing as being enough or not enough of something to identify that way, if it's important to you then that's what matters. I think that ultimately what's important is that if you have a privileged position within an oppressed group, you don't claim to be representative of other people in that group (so for instance if you said that because you don't want to transition that means that other trans people who do are misguided, that would be not cool).

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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treetops
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Thanks for replying peeps [Smile]

Wes: thanks for the hug!

moonlight: glad to hear from someone else who identifies! Yeah, I do sometimes worry. Sometimes that I might be taking something away from other trans* people by identifying that way, but more often I worry that *other people* might feel like I am taking something from them. That thought makes me feel very uncomfortable about talking to anyone about my identity. Have you found ways of dealing with these feelings/feeling better in your own identity?

Djuna: Thanks, I really like your suggestions about creating art that reflects a different reality to the one(s) we see most of the time in the media. I'm going to think more about this as I think it's something that will help me.

Jill: I totally know what you mean. I have felt this way as a queer person, as a genderqueer person, and as someone with pretty severe mental health problems; while there is a massive privilege in not necessarily visibly being a member of an oppressed group, it can feel very lonely when others don't see/affirm/believe your identity or issues. I think I'm really worried about having the privilege of not always being read as a trans person (although I have had comments about my presentation) while also identifying as being under the trans* umbrella. I worry that other people might feel like I'm having my cake and eating it, sort of thing. I really don't want to screw other people over while I'm trying to sort out my own identity.

In other news, it seems like the friend I previously mentioned has completely given up on pronouning me correctly. [Frown]

[ 05-20-2012, 04:35 PM: Message edited by: treetops ]

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moonlight bouncing off water
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quote:
Originally posted by treetops:


Yeah, I do sometimes worry. Sometimes that I might be taking something away from other trans* people by identifying that way, but more often I worry that *other people* might feel like I am taking something from them. That thought makes me feel very uncomfortable about talking to anyone about my identity. Have you found ways of dealing with these feelings/feeling better in your own identity?

I'm really just starting to explore my gender identity, so I haven't really had the opportunity to find a way to deal with these feelings.

[ 05-21-2012, 02:37 PM: Message edited by: moonlight bouncing off water ]

--------------------
~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Cricket
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Wow, there are so many experiences in this thread that are super-familiar to me. I'm also FAAB, and I identify as genderqueer and part of the trans* umbrella. I used to chest bind way more often in an attempt to get more respect for my non-female identity, and while I love owning a binder, feeling like I had to dress a certain way to get people to refer to me correctly was really unpleasant. I've also had a trans person who is in the process of medically transitioning tell a mutual friend that I was a "poser" who was "setting the movement back" because I can "take off" my controversial gender presentation traits and not get the same amount of crap that medically transitioning folk get as they move through the world. This really disturbed me because it sounded almost like the lower likelihood of me being attacked physically or verbally for my identity made me less truly trans*, and while it is super important to acknowledge and address the violence that trans* folk face, I don't need to earn my identity by dealing with abuse for it, and neither does anyone else.

I also have a friend who also IDs as genderqueer, has long hair, a large chest, and frequently wears heels. She is okay with female pronouns, but it frustrates her how often she gets read as a cis woman. You are totally not alone in that experience. There is no non-binary uniform, you can dress and act however you want and be part of the trans* community.

This YouTube video is one of my favorites ever, and deals really well with the worry of not being "trans* enough," so I'm giving you a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAIyO5dDTsI

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Djuna
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Hi Cricket! So, I'm really sorry that this person was talking behind your back in this way, and I can see how hurtful that must have been.

I don't really have a solution for the trans community, because it *is* problematic and different kinds of trans people have different challenges to face and to discuss. I watched the YouTube video you posted - while I think there is a valid point that certain parts of our community assert this kind of linear medical narrative of transition, at the same time the boi in the video seemed to me to be hating on people who *do* transition medically. I think the title of the group he was criticising, FTMphotoshare, was a pretty good indication of what the space was, and I felt like he was way out of line criticising the supposed "pressure they put onto the community". To my mind an FTM space *must* be a space where it's okay to appear masculine, and if this boi in particular is not okay with people who appear masculine - he condescendingly said that they were "fine," while explaining that he was very much not fine with those people - he needs to be removing himself from that space.

In the same way, I think generally trans spaces and communities need to be tolerant of the diversity of people and discussions taking place, and I think honestly if that involves people talking about the abuse and violence they face and someone doesn't feel comfortable in that discussion - and if someone has nothing to add, it is of course great to sit around and listen too - there's the option of finding a different discussion or a different space rather than disrupting or derailing good, important discussions already taking place.

I mean, I so disagree with the person who's claiming that the presence of less transgressively gendered people "sets the movement back," with the caveat that if we're taking the boi in this video as an example, his message is not (I think) appropriate to express in a discussion people who are medically transitioning are having about medical transition. I feel like he's criticising the presence of medically transitioning people altogether, because "that's too much pressure," and I don't have much time for that argument, honestly. His wide eyed "you do not need to go on testosterone" felt dismissive and exclusionary, to me. I wouldn't think of that as a good video to be basing approaches to the trans community on at all.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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