About The Alchemist's Closet The Zine Distro Sort Posts by Topic Tumblr Write for AC

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Google Privacy Controls Suck (Or Why There Are No Pictures Anymore)

Apparently, there are very few working images left on this blog. This was entirely unintentional and doesn't indicate that I've decided to neglect this blog. Rather, it's because Google's privacy controls for pictures suck, as a result of their decision to push their Google+ product to the detriment of their users.

As you may know, Google introduced their social network, Google+, to a fairly unenthusiastic response, and ever since then they have been trying to push it by linking the social media profile to every piece of content created or interacted with by that user using the Google email account associated with the profile. This can lead to content ending up centralized in the profile that the user may not have intended.

While this may not comprise a privacy violation in the strictest sense, it can pose problems that did not exist before, as media associated with a single email address is aggregated in one, highly searchable location. The most problematic aspect of this for me was the Pictures tab, where all images from all blogs that I have ever contributed to (and there are quite a lot) were aggregated on a profile that I would have very much liked to have used as a professional representation of myself and my non-LGBT-related small business. Having content associated with my critiques of the internal functionings of the LGBT community or the BDSM scene were not appropriate to have on my Google+ profile together with content I've generated for client blogs and so forth. While I don't expressly hide these aspects of my life, the way they were presented on the Google+ profile made them seem like work I was promoting in association with that profile.

Accordingly, I deleted them from the albums. Google did not offer a warning that they would also be deleted from my blogs; in fact, they explicitly used the term "album" during the deletion process, as if to indicate that the pictures existed in two locations, the album and the blog. In part, I was also doubtful that by deleting the pictures from my profile, I would be deleting them from my blogs, because that just seemed like too irresponsible, careless, and unintelligent a way to organize their system. Of course people would want to delete some pictures from their profiles without affecting their blogs.

Yet, of course, Google's rush to force the use and relevance of their social network had abrogated the concerns normally applied to the handling of users' media by a social network. Typically, when using a media-sharing website, users are reminded that, if deleting content, it will also be deleted in other locations where it appears, if that is the case. Instead, with Google+, a basic respect for users' content, and desire to control the locations in which it appears,  is entirely absent.

In some cases, I have backups of the pictures from this blog, and in other cases, I may have hidden the pictures instead of deleting them. I will restore what is available as I'm able to. What's worse, I will have to deal with the issues of further picture uploads to this and other blogs I contribute to or may contribute to in the future and how those will appear on my Google+ profile. It may be simpler to simply not have a Google+ profile at all if it's too difficult to control -- a reaction opposite to that that Google+ developers would have hoped to inspire.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why You Should Say "Cis"

The word "cis" or "cisgender" has been growing in popularity recently. While the terms have been around for some time, it is only recently that they have broken into the mainstream discourse. Some people are understandably confused about what these relatively new terms mean, and some people are surprised to find themselves called "cis" or "cisgender" by trans people.

The word 'cis' was coined by trans people in order to describe people who were not trans, and this was done because no word existed to describe them. Though one could say 'non-trans,' this defines people as what they are not, and is ultimately unwieldy. The other option would be something like "normal," "real" or "biological."

Cis people did not have a word to describe themselves as a group, prior to the invention of the word "cis," besides words like "normal," "real," or "biological." All of these words are transphobic and inappropriate. Trans people are not abnormal, less real, or non-biological. Prior to the invention of the word/prefix "cis," there was no word for non-trans people that did not stigmatize trans people in some way.

Trans people used some other words to describe non-trans people, prior to the emergence of the word "cis" into mainstream usage. These include "genetic (girl/boy/man/woman)" and "natal (girl/boy/man/woman)." Neither of these formulations are particularly viable. The genetic prefix puts the focus on bodies and chromosomes, neither of which are a helpful focus for meaningful trans liberation. In order to use genetic as a type of classification system for trans/non-trans people, we would have to assert that some genetic configurations create womanhood or manhood naturally, while other men and woman must be created in another way.

A more liberated perspective asserts that genes operate independently of internal gender identity; that is, an XX set of chromosomes does not inherently result in a female, feminine, or "woman" identity, and visa versa.  This is our perspective.

As trans people, we have decided that our liberation is best served by emphasizing gender identity as being much more important than genetic code or types of chromosomes. We have emphasized the human, social experience of gender, rather than the biological underpinnings of chromosomal sex. This is a more humane and human perspective, and as time goes on, terms like "genetic girl" or "natal female" are falling to the wayside quickly.

Additionally, there are other problems with terms like "real," "biological," "natal" or "genetic" to describe how one came to one's gender. To use terms like "genetic male" is confusing in terms of genetic diversity-- plenty of trans-identified and non-trans-identified people, are intersex (see the post and comments here for more on the intersex/trans distinction.). Whether someone identifies as male, female or another non-binary identity stands apart from their genetics and their sex as assigned at birth.

And what's more, many people do not identify as male or female, man or woman-- such as genderqueer, gender variant, two-spirit, non-binary, third gender people and many others. The natal/genetic identity prefix was only meant to encompass the distinction between a binary-identified (exclusively man or woman identified) transitioned or transitioning trans person, and a binary-identified cis person. It comes from an earlier time when non-binary gendered people were still very much hidden and not understood.

Some people are concerned that cis is not well-defined, and shouldn't be used-- or that it sets up a new binary of sorts. Simply put, cis means someone who was assigned a certain sex at birth, raised in the socially corresponding gender, and continues to identify as such. A person who is assigned female at birth (generally, based on the doctors', parents' or nurses' evaluation of that baby's genitalia), raised as a girl, and identifies as exclusively as a girl, woman, or female, is cis. A person who is assigned male at birth (based on the doctors', parents' or nurses' evaluation of that baby's genitalia, and possibly their chromosomes), raised as a boy, and identifies as exclusively as a boy, man, or male, is cis.

Is it just that simple? Nope, sorry. Life is complicated. Here's the deal:

Some people are not clearly cis or trans. For example, some people do not feel comfortable claiming that they are trans, but also do not feel that they are cis. They occupy a middle area. Perhaps they have some feelings of identifying with the sex other than the one assigned them at birth, but they are not sure how strong those feelings are, how much they affect their life, or what they wish to do about them.

While these individuals deserve the same compassion, support, and where possible, access to trans spaces that trans people do, this does not negate the usefulness of the categories "trans" and "cis" any more than the color green negates the usefulness of the categories "blue" and "yellow." Complexity will always exist, but that doesn't mean that words or concepts are useless. It's okay to not be either cis or trans, just as it's okay to not be either man or woman. It means that when conversations about privilege are happening, people who are neither cis nor trans will need to parse those conversations more carefully and more individually. Some things may apply to them, some not.

Additionally, some people who have fully transitioned no longer identify with the word "trans" or "transgender." They do not experience themselves as part of the conceptual meaning of "trans" (to go across, or to transcend, or to be on the other side of). They also may not see themselves as cis.  Additionally, some people, regardless of their transition status, do not like the word "trans" and prefer "affirmed male," or "affirmed female." All of these people should be supported in their chosen use of language for themselves, but this also does not negate the usefulness of terms like "trans" and "cis" in many situations.

Some feel that words like "trans" or "cis" just divide us further. "We are all just human beings!"

Words like trans and cis are necessary, not to divide us, but because we already are divided. Unfortunately, trans people are divided from cis people by our life experiences in critical areas like access to jobs, medical treatment, social acceptance, safe housing, freedom from violence, and the ability to live in, and be seen as, the gender(s) with which we identify. (Other kinds of oppression, such as being a person of color, being disabled, &c. play a great role in producing inequalities as well. When compounded with being trans, disparities between populations are even larger and systemic violence is also more extreme.)

Trans people, and often trans women in particular, face serious disparities (inequalities) in mental and physical health and economic well-being. A wealth of statistics now verifies that trans people face serious barriers in many aspects of life. One in five transgender people in the U.S. have been refused a home or apartment, and more than one in ten have been evicted, because of their gender identity (source). 41% of trans people have attempted suicide (source). Trans people are medically insured at a lower rate than the general population, and almost 50 percent of transgender respondents have postponed medically necessary care for financial reasons or because they were afraid of encountering discrimination from providers (source).

Without words like "trans" and "cis" we cannot discuss these disparities as effectively, and without being able to discuss them, we cannot work for change. If we cannot work for change, we are powerless to make the lives of trans people better. Our allies know that words like "trans"and "cis" are tools to fight inequality and uncover systemic violence and discrimination against trans people. Language is one of the best tools that we have-- if we can't say it, we can't think it, and if we can't think it, we can't even begin to act.

Some people feel that they simply don't like having a label or additional identity. It is understandable that some people do not want to be labeled--either as trans or as cis. It is important to understand that trans and cis are not identities. That is, they are not usually thought of as gender identities, the way that "woman," "male," or "genderqueer" are.

Instead, they refer to states of being and often to gender histories. A person may identify as a woman, and also be cis. In this case, woman is her gender identity, and cis describes the way her womanhood is culturally situated. Because she is cis (assigned female at birth, raised as a girl, and identifies as a woman) it is likely that she experiences privileges that trans women do not, depending on her culture and how that culture views gender. For example, she may be able to use the women's restroom in public areas without fear of being kicked out by security personnel. This is not because she is a woman, but because she is a cis woman.

The word "cis" is our best way to describe the social position this woman occupies that allows her to access this privilege. It gives us a way to ask: If two women share the same race, are abled or disabled in the same ways, come from the same economic background, and so forth, why would one woman possess the privilege to freely access the women's room, and the other would do so only with justifiable fear and apprehension? Our simple answer, in this case, is that one is trans and the other is cis. These words don't label gender, they label the social position that these gender identities occupy.  They give us power by naming a type of inequality in our society.

BDSM is Not Immune to Rape Culture: Part 2/2

This is the second part of a two-part article. The first part is here.

Some people promote the idea that someone who is “sexually liberated” is necessarily interested in BDSM, power play, or similar kinds of “kinky” activities. The truth is, sexual liberation—and liberation in general—doesn’t depend on taking part in particular activities with your sexual partners. What is liberating is to do what you (and, if applicable, your partner or partners) genuinely want to do! Sexual liberation can look any way at all, including not having any sex, just having sex in a committed relationship, only having pretty traditional kinds of sex, or having wild and creative sexual escapades. The key is doing what makes you feel comfortable (and if there are other people involved, what makes everyone comfortable).

While the BDSM community offers many opportunities for self-exploration, it can also serve to funnel people's diverse and creative desires into two main expressions-- submission and dominance. This succeeds because the BDSM scene is able to promote the notion that these are the foundations of kink, and any kinky desires must be somehow related to dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. In fact, kinky or non-traditional desires are infinitely diverse!

Unfortunately, the BDSM scene does not have a vested interest in exploring the ways that it is coming up short sometimes, especially in terms of providing structural cover for sexual assault and domestic violence, harboring abusers and rapists, and pressuring people in various ways. In soliciting feedback for this story, I allowed anonymous submitters to share their experiences with consent violation. Here is one submission:

I've been very fortunate that my experiences have been very positive, surrounded by a very safe community who are very strict about their policy of "don't touch what isn't yours, and don't touch what hasn't given you permission". In private, however, I did have an experience in which I stated something as a hard limit (meaning a total No-No) and it was violated. I felt hurt, betrayed, and dirty. It ruined my trust in him, and in playing with others. It should have never happened.

People's experiences with BDSM vary widely. Some have had such positive experiences that they hate to hear anything negative said. Others have had negative experiences, but protect themselves from having to acknowledge them and feel their impact by defending the BDSM community against any allegations that it  too is part of rape culture.

If you are interested in exploring a “kinkier” side to your sexuality, it’s important to know, first of all, that there are many ways to do so that don’t require you to hand over power to someone else. For example, sexy outfits, using sex toys, costumes, role-play, playing with heat or cold, spanking, cross-dressing, etc., can be done in an atmosphere of fun, mutual trust, and equality. Even something as “BDSM-sounding” as bondage doesn’t have to have a serious power dynamic. For example, although we might think of being tied up as inherently “submissive,” restraint can be understood in many ways (For example, in everyday life, being restrained by the seatbelt in the car isn’t about dominance—it’s about safety and security. One idea, like “restraint,” can be used in many ways!) It’s up to everyone involved to decide the mood and the kind of words, ideas, and roles that are going to be used. 

However, of course, some people will explore this idea and realize that what they really want, still, is power play.  This may include role play in which one partner has power over the other. That often includes things like bondage, pain, or humiliation. These situations can be extra-challenging in terms of consent. Whatever the activity, it is very important prioritize genuine consent, and never to pressure partners into doing something that makes them uncomfortable. On the other hand, if it is you that is uncomfortable, listen to your gut. Never allow a partner to convince you that you need to do something in order to be a good partner, to be sexually liberated, or because they are "dominant."  Never, ever do something simply because it is what you feel you have to do to be a "good dominant" or " good submissive."It is always up to you. Trust yourself!

It’s also okay if you have consented to something in the moment and afterward realized that it didn’t feel right to you. Consent has many dimensions. One of those dimensions is what you may say out loud (“Yes”) and another is how you feel inside—before, during, and after. It’s possible to realize, after the fact, that you actually feel that you shouldn’t have said yes. This doesn’t necessarily put the fault on the other person involved (unless, of course, they were coercive or abusive, or used alcohol or drugs to get a “yes.”) Instead of seeing consent as something contractual and legalistic, it’s healthy to evaluate consent on an ongoing basis. Processing these issues together with a partner can even lead to better and more fulfilling experiences, or even the choice to stop having sex together if that is what is best for both of you. Real sexual liberation means that you have the power to make those choices.

Sexual roles, like dominant or submissive, are only roles at the end of the day. They are sets of socially constructed characteristics-- often constructed along the same exact lines as traditional gender roles. While for some it might be tempting to be submissive or dominant all the time in daily life, we are all called to be full human beings, able to assert ourselves, stand up for what we need, and care for and respect others. This requires some time when we’re not in a “role” and are able to just be ourselves. 

Some people engage in relationships that omit (or have less of) this kind of "outside-of-the-role" time. These are called 24/7 (because they're going on all the time) TPE (total power exchange) relationships. These kind of relationships can meet some needs and stifle others. Though there is not enough talk of this issue in the community itself, BDSM relationships don't exist beyond the possibility of abuse, and certain conditions of BDSM relationships can remove safeguards that might have existed to lessen the possibility of abuse or to stem the rise of a dominant partner's controlling tendencies.

Some people who have been in 24/7 relationships have unfortunately had them degenerate into controlling, abusive, or sexually violent relationships. This is never the victim's fault. Often, people are misled into thinking that they need these kinds of relationships in order to satisfy needs, to satisfy their partner, or to fix themselves or feel better.

EvanExhumed, a former submissive participant in a 24/7 BDSM relationship, writes: "[In my previous relationship] I let myself fall far too deep. It became unhealthy and abusive overtime. My current relationship is exactly what you describe in your last sentence [about "trust and love and infantilism."] It's really great. I don't feel consumed. I'm really happy. I feel in control still but, I sometimes let myself go. I feel equal. I feel that my pleasure is just as important as hers. I don't feel guilty for receiving something."

No matter what interests you sexually, remember to listen to yourself and your partner. Even though we say “yes means yes,” it’s crucial to move beyond just “getting consent” and start creating, together with your partner(s) or alone, the kind of situations that make you both feel thrilled, enthusiastic, and comfortable.

Friday, July 18, 2014

You Can Tell Me if You Feel Shitty

We lie. Everyone does, and people with chronic illnesses do. I lie to my family and my friends when I can tell by their voices that they really want me to be doing well. When they say, "You must be feeling so much better now that the weather is warm!" I say, "Yeah, sure, it's good, it's okay." Even if I'm mid-relapse and thought about suicide twice yesterday because my body hurt and I started to think it always would.

And I lie to doctors sometimes when they really, really want their new treatment to have worked. And it didn't, not really. But I'll say that maybe it was a little improvement. Maybe 5%. Maybe it made a difference.

Maybe I should stop lying.

I don't want to lie, and I don't want you to have to, to feel that you have to, either. You can tell me if you feel shitty. If I say, "I hope you're feeling better," you can say, "I'm not. I feel like death. I feel like utter, complete shit and I can't imagine ever feeling better." And I can say, "Shit, I am so sorry you feel that way." And if we're close, I can suggest ways for you to think about things  that you have done in the past that helped, and I can offer help to you so that you can get what you need. That's what I'd want you to do for me.

 Here's the thing about listening: We can hear what people say, and really listen to their reality, without necessarily accepting their conclusions. When I'm feeling really sick, I often think to myself that I may not get better again, I may never have another upswing. For my particular illness, that is very unlikely. Much likelier that I will feel better again. Much likelier that I have forgotten a crucial element of my self-care routine or medication routine. But I will never figure that out if I have to keep telling people I'm okay. I need to say, sometimes, that I am really not okay. I need to say that so that I can say, "What do I do, now? What do I need to fix?"

And likewise, I need to know if you are feeling shitty so that I can hear you say what's wrong. And maybe you will tell me it's all hopeless, and I need to hear you and accept what you feel without accepting your conclusions. I need to be able to remind you that it's not necessarily hopeless. I need to remind you about picking up your meds. I need to remind you about your sister or your friend or your mom or your therapist who would be glad to talk to you and help if you just call. I need to remind you about your savings account that's meant to help with just this sort of thing. I need to remember the things you forgot about, because we all have a very selective vision about our own options, when we feel really bad.

So tell me if you are feeling shitty. Maybe we can figure something out.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Multiple Perspectives: Patriarchy and Genderqueer Identity

There was a time when I didn't know how to approach feminism or a feminist identity. I saw that some feminists had defined different roles, both overtly and subtly, for men and women who want to come to a feminist identity or become allies to feminists and women generally. As a genderqueer person, I could not exclusively assign myself to either road. My gender itself defied attempts to anchor it to a particular position, much less a binary one, and I couldn't begin to understand how to do the complex work of unpacking my beliefs in a feminist context.

I'm happy to report that this is no longer the case for me, and I have feminist theory and philosophy to thank, in large part, for that shift. A few years ago, I took a feminist philosophy class at my university, part of my attempt to wrangle my ecology degree into something I could really get into. (I failed, by the way.) The texts that we read were frequently dense and academic, and they were counterbalanced by class discussions about our everyday lives and the applications of what we were reading. In feminist philosophy I found what I needed, and what had been lacking from the activist writing that I'd been exposed to. I found full-fledged, well-defended, and fascinating explanations of what gender itself was. I thrived on the questions and the explanations both. No easy slogans and catchphrases here-- and these had never helped me anyway, since my own gendered position in the world and within myself was so amorphous, and my own orientation toward patriarchy so complex. Here I found the meat and bones of gender theory, as well as the texts that had inspired many of the ways gender and sexuality are talked about in contemporary activist writing. 

The theory I read seemed to get inside me like a lockpick kit, unpacking and clarifying my experiences and beliefs, and I couldn't have been more ecstatic to have that happen. As I had this experience, something because quite clear to me: As a genderqueer person, I carried within me both the pain of being victimized by patriarchy as well as misogyny of my own. I was neither victim nor victor, neither purely oppressed nor oppressor, not even on the axis of gender alone. 

I am a genderqueer person who was assigned female at birth and raised "to be a woman," and I came out at the age of 16, in 2003. The world that I came out into was both similar and dissimilar from the one I experience today. Public consciousness about trans people did exist, but it was in its early stages and geographically disparate. While today I see young people in their mid-teens posting on Tumblr about their non-binary gender identities, this was not the case in 2003- at that time, it was difficult to find community even on the internet. There were few news stories about trans people, and they were sensationalistic and misgendering. When I began to explore my own identity, I knew about trans people solely from Jerry Springer. The trans community, both on and offline, tended to be older and much more binary-oriented. Older trans people who I met in person sometimes did not put much stock in non-binary identities or non-transitioning trans people; physical transition was the defining characteristic of transness, and most resources were oriented toward achieving it.

I speak about all of these things because I think that they lend some perspective to my own tumultuous early years as a trans-identified person. The emphasis on binary gender and transition for all trans people, as well as my own unexamined internalized misogyny, played major roles in my problematic thoughts and behavior. As a young genderqueer person, I believed that my only option was to identify as unequivocally male, especially in a public sense. Though I was femme in some ways, I focused on a core identity as a man and clung to it fiercely.

This insistence on maleness was only strengthened by the ways others interacted with me. I had to explain and defend my identity on a constant basis against people who attacked it in sexist ways. I was often told I wasn't a man because of various traits I had, whether physical, social or emotional. Today, I would refute these statements by questioning these binary and restrictive roles; I would bring the conversation back to respecting people's stated identity. Back then, I had no such tools. I defended myself by digging in and pointing out ways that I was masculine enough, man enough. But more importantly, I dug in by becoming more masculine-- by trying harder to pass, by flattening my personality and emotional affect, and by letting my misogynistic feelings remain strong within me. Even being sexually assaulted strengthened my misogyny, as I assigned fear and hatred to the body parts that I felt had "made me" vulnerable.

Looking back on this time, what amazes me is how similar my experience as a genderqueer trans boy mirror the experiences of cis men. Like many cis men, I felt insecure in my male identity and constantly wanted to prove myself. Like them, I had encountered threats to my manhood and sought to deal with those threats through my gender performance.

Like many cis men and boys, I adopted misogynistic attitudes as a way to differentiate myself from women and as a reaction against the power of women in my life. The circumstances were different in some cases-- for example, I was always afraid I'd be cast aside by a male lover in favor of a cis woman, and this played heavily into my insecurity about being trans, about being "gender trash." This caused me, in turn, to resent and hate cisgender women that I perceived as competitors and more "privileged" than myself. This is not an experience shared by many cis men, and yet the result was eerily similar- the perceived power of women around me caused me fear and loathing.

It is lucky for other people that my misogyny didn't become a bigger force for harm in the world. I don't usually date women, and I had primarily male friends. The women I did become friends with were "excluded," in my mind, from my generalized disdain for women. And I often kept my thoughts and feelings to myself.

Many years passed without a great deal of change in my attitudes. I continued to be intensely dysphoric about my body, and I continued to present myself as a trans man, with a relatively binary gender identity. Around me, people were embracing non-binary identities, and a culture was forming that allowed people to ably discuss these identities and their implications in non-academic language. A sort of non-binary revolution was occurring within the trans community as more and more people felt comfortable coming out into non-binary identities. It was a far cry from my experience, which had felt like being born into a dark wilderness. Now, some people are able to come out into already-formed, supportive communities-- something that still amazes me. My Facebook feed is peppered with posts from people from all over the left side of the political spectrum, supporting and validating trans identities.

Yet, even knowing all of this, several years ago I found myself still afraid to make the shift, even though my identity had always been genderqueer on the internal level. 

I pushed things to their maximum before I really began to reexamine my life. When I decided to take a closer look at my own identity, it was eight years later and I was on the bus to my doctor's office for a prescription for testosterone, the second time I would be taking the hormone. I had been lying in therapy, telling my counselor that I identified as male, afraid that any honesty about my non-binary feelings would put hormones forever beyond my reach. I never made it to my appointment that day because I got physically sick, probably from the stress and the knowledge that I was not doing what my heart really desired at that time, but what I thought I had to do to escape my fear. I stopped seeking testosterone and chest surgery for a while, stopped grasping at an identity; and I started looking at how to be myself.

It was around this time that I took my feminist theory class. When I look back on my experience around that time, it seems magical to me, and a little indescribable, as if someone had pried open the whole workings of gender and laid them out for me like a starmap, and I felt relief as all the little spaces were unfolded and exposed to the light of rationality and order. It still gives me pleasure to think about it. Meanwhile, something even more interesting was happening: I was understanding the gendered oppression I'd experienced myself, as a female-assigned person, a four-time survivor of sexual assault, and a gender variant person who doesn't perform femininity according to society's expectations. And I was taking in activist writing from the internet that was teaching me about the internal and sovereign definition of gender identity. Gender identity, I saw, was not something that could be defined by others, and nor did it have to conform to expected norms. There were no rules. With this realization, my desire to defend myself through internalized misogyny was fading. I began to see myself as worthy of existence and of whatever identity I chose to have. I felt love- and still do- for the community of non-binary and binary trans people who had argued and ranted and wrote and protested and made this theory of gender sovereignty valid in the real world and communicable to both allies and enemies.

For a long while, I struggled with femininity still, and with my fear of being perceived as feminine. Years of internalized misogyny had placed my femininity beyond my reach, behind a wall of my own making. I couldn't reach it through rational means alone; I couldn't think my way into a balanced way of being. I had to act. So I did something that changed me for the better: I periodically dressed femininely and I grew out my hair.

At first, I hated almost every moment of this practice, which I undertook at my college campus as well as when I went out around town. But intuitively, I trusted in myself and my desire to put myself through this. I lived within the femininity that I had run from, and I didn't perish. In fact, I gained new appreciations for my own femininity. I saw my hidden genderqueerness emerge, beautiful and delicate and free of the guilt I'd thrust upon it. This exercise started out feeling like a trial, but it became a kind of homecoming.

Today, I rarely dress in a way that society calls feminine, but the fear of doing so is mostly gone. What remains of it is justified: I know that unfortunately, dressing in a girly way might make others think I'm not really nonbinary, or they may get my pronouns (he/his) wrong. I might face catcalling or harassment sometimes. And better and more important than clothing is my internal sense of self: My gender exists on its own, without conformity to "masculine" norms. I draw strength from the people I see every day who live their nonbinary identities publicly, proudly, even if they don't adhere in every way to what society calls "androgynous." And I draw strength from the binary trans people who defend their identities from detractors who say they don't adhere to beauty, body, or personality norms for their identity. Their strength is my strength, and hopefully mine is theirs as well.

Nowadays, I live mostly without gender labels, but I'm aware of what has brought me to this point, of my past identifying publicly as a man and enduring many of the same psychological conditions as cis men and boys. I'm more aware of the threads of misogyny and patriarchial oppression that have affected my life. I want to be alert to these things always, because I don't think this work is done within myself, nor do I want it to be. It is fascinating work to do because it connects me to everything, and to millions of other people doing the work of untangling patriarchy within themselves, both as oppressors and as oppressed and sometimes as both.

For trans men and masculine-identifying people, it is crucial to examine one's experiences critically and ensure that patriarchial dynamics find no place to take root. For female-assigned people with gender dysphoria, this path can be complicated. It is important to remember that the impulse to differentiate oneself from women, girls, and femmes is not dissimilar from the experiences that shape misogyny in cis men and boys. It's crucial to find ways to actively resist this toxic socialization. Find opportunities to challenge the privileges assigned to people seen as male and masculine. Investigate ways that you can actively undermine these privileges or leverage them in a way that raises up women, girls, and femmes.

If someone places you in a female box and expects you to perform femininity, remember to challenge both the coercive gender assignment and the sexism in that act. If someone says you shouldn't do something because you're "a girl," say, "I don't identify that way, but girls can do anything they want. I personally know a woman who is a great (insert activity or occupation)." Don't let gender dysphoria and insecure masculinity shoulder into the place where feminism and critical thinking should rightly stand.

The result will be a stronger, more confident selfhood, one that stands on its own without leaning on women to define it's boundary, to define what it is not.

As a nonbinary person, I see myself from many perspectives, and I know that I have multiple experiences within frameworks of patriarchy and male supremacy. This is no longer as overwhelming as it once was, and it doesn't push me away from feminism. Instead, it is fascinating and it draws me into deeper dialogue. The impulse toward understanding is an impulse toward wholeness.


Dylan Ce/Curius Creature is a 29 y/o nonbinary artist, disabled person, and writer. He is the co-founder of Cutlines Press, a digital collaborative publishing platform for queer and trans writers. Cutlines Press can be found on the web at www.cutlinespress.com. He is also the curator of Queer Zines tumblr at queer-zines.tumblr.com.