Hey y’all, gender. And sex. And sexuality.
What are they? What’s the difference? Where do any of us fit?
What’s a cis person? What’s a trans person? What am I? How do I be respectful of people and not be a total ass? What are the words I should use and why? OMG am I gonna look like a total fool at this LGBTQI event Cha-Cha convinced me to go to?
And where do “bisexual/pansexual/not-straight-not-gay/+” identities fit into the scheme of things?
Guess what? Not all of us got a queer/gender theory course in college, and, not all of us went to college, or even got to graduate from high school. Not all of us had awesome knowledgable friends around to teach us. Some of us struggled to survive in a sea of ignorance, some in a sea of hate. Some of us copped attitudes to get through the days, others of us went silent. Some of us starred out windows or at the ground or into the sky and thought “anywhere but here”.
So many of us were very much alone. So many of us still are.
But here’s the thing: the often maligned “alphabet soup” of terms and descriptions for different identities exists for a reason, and the reason is not “semantics” or “being clever”. The reason is that such terms reflect actual human beings who actually exist, who are all (frequently unrecognized) parts of the human community, and many of whom are part of the bi/pan/+ community. And such terms also reflect the long, hard fights that some people have spent our whole lives fighting, in order to be who we are. And many of us occupy multiple labels at once, and there are reasons for that too. And many people are sick of being boxed in, ignored, or treated like “magical imaginary creatures” who don’t reeealllly exist or matter.
Goddamn right that sh*t gets old
We should honor all of our stories, in their multiplicity and complexity, not just on principle but because that way, we get more awesome people to hang out with and be community with and care for and be cared for by. And part of that means educating ourselves, especially in situations where such education was not provided for us by any institution (ie, most of us). Self-educating is part of fighting for our own liberation - when you didn’t get the opportunity to be taught, don’t just take that, teach yourself! Don’t wait for charity. As MIA said – “Get yourself an eduCAtion!”
Oh my GOD she’s so amazing. Do what she says.
Maybe some other folks remember when everything that was about queerness was “gay”? And then everything was “gay and lesbian” and then it was “lesbian and gay?” And now things are “LGBT” even tho the “B” and the “T” frequently seem to be silent letters, except when “T” stands for “Token”?
We shouldn’t erase identities that are not yet usually included in the gay-stream media, organizations, etc. We should learn about them. The people they reflect are real people, many of whom are us.
This is especially true when it comes to cis queers. Cis privilege is something cis people usually aren’t aware that they have… that’s kinda how privilege works, you aren’t aware when you have it, and hurt other people through your ignorance (or malice – hopefully not, but the malicious use of cis privilege as a weapon is definitely out there, including in queer / bi/pan/+ spaces). So I’m gonna say this real clear now: if you aren’t trans, recognize that you’re not “normal” – you’re cis. Recognize that you get a lot of unearned privilege, ie not having to deal with the bullshit society throws at people for being trans, just by being cis. I’m gonna cop to it: as a cis woman, I have been guilty of using the term “queer issues” as though that encompasses “trans issues” – it does not, and some trans people don’t feel comfortable in queer spaces, and people like me need to learn that. If we are going to build a true bi/pan/+ community around here, we’ve got to address this. Plenty of bi/pan people are also trans. All of us deserve one another’s solidarity.
I bitch all day long about not being included as a “real” queer girl. I definitely want to make sure that, as much as possible, ALL people of bi/pan/no-labels/all-labels/not-straight-not-gay/+ orientation can be heard here.
And so! I have attempted a link round up, which folks should DEFINITELY add to in the comments. Not complete AT ALL, nor does it claim to be, but the idea is to provide a start.
For those readers who may be unclear about what “sex” versus “gender” versus “sexual orientation” means, this is a chart that can provide a basic 101:http://www.ftmtransition.com/transition/faq/spectrum.gif (thanks and apologies to http://www.ftmtransition.com)
While that chart is useful in some ways, I’d like to remind folks that the “male/female” gender binary is a social construction, and doesn’t really work as a starting place for everyone. To that end, please see:http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lzkt4eUSk71qgleipo1_500.jpg(thanks and apologies to http://tracyvanity.tumblr.com)
A really wonderful, easy to understand glossary by Natalie at http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed can be found here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/glossary-and-guide-to-terminology (thanks Stentor!)
Here are some more basic terms from the Gender Equity Resource Center:http://geneq.berkeley.edu/lgbt_resources_definiton_of_terms
Also lots of people question the “sex is between your legs, gender is between your ears” idea found in many “Trans 101″ or “Gender 101″ texts. To wit, Asher’s post on www.tranarchism.com. Here it is: http://tranarchism.com/2010/11/26/not-your-moms-trans-101/
Here is a Glossary of Gender and Transgender Terms from Fenway Community Health in Boston:http://www.fenwayhealth.org/site/DocServer/Handout_7-C_Glossary_of_Gender_and_Transgender_Terms__fi.pdf
Happy reading. And, have fun adding to this list in the comments, as I will probably be doing!
** This paragraph is NOT a defense of people who were not educated or didn’t know something, and were corrected / given the opportunity to learn, and then chose not to and kept doing the same hurtful shit. That’s not “making a mistake” or “innocent” – it’s trolling, being mean, and being hurtful.