Ask a GenderQueer Person

(from here)

I’ll start this now, but after posting I’m off to get some sleep and won’t be back for a few hours.

I’m biologically male, with no notable departures from traditional male morphology. Starting back when I was 7 or 8 and intensifying through the end of my elementary-school years, I considered that the people who constituted “we” or “us” was composed of the other girls and me. They were smart, self-disciplined, and valued in themselves and in each other certain characteristics: being well-behaved, not just in the sense of obedient but in the sense of paying attention to what adults valued and considered important and internalizing that predictively so as to be good citizens; being good to or at least restrained to a civilized degree in how one treats other kids; and being smart and industrious in school. The other boys were mostly all impulse and noise, randomly destructive, crude, VALUED crude, considered what we (the girls and me) were doing to consist of no more than knuckling under to adult authority (they didn’t seem to see that we took pride in it), and they seemed sort of dense and stupid.

I knew I was a boy, physiologically speaking, and I had no problems with the plumbing. I didn’t spend time wishing I had girl parts, it didn’t translate to that for me. I craved acceptance from the girls but I was also in competition with them. I was initially out to prove that I was just as good as they were. I was a BOY who was one of them and could keep up and measure up in all the relevant ways. Just like an ethnic kid who wanted to be recognized as just as able to read and write and speak proper English as the kids who had been born here, but who wasn’t trying to hide his heritage.

Over time I had less and less of a sense of allegiance to the rest of my sex. Back in second grade I might have felt a moment of male-centric triumph if I beat Tess and Rhonda and Sharon in the weekly spelling bee — THERE! HA! you girls don’t always win! — but with the other boys obliviously uninterested and peculiarly obsessed with beating each other up and sports teams and telling scatological jokes, I more and more sought my recognition and approval from the other girls as well as competed with them.

Other kids harassed me and called me gay. (Using words for it that were more in vogue in that time and place than “gay”, though). I was spectacularly unpopular and considered weird and creepy and for a few years I just thought they tossed this accusation out because it was considered insulting.

I didn’t talk with other boys much, and as a consequence I discovered my own sexual feelings without any input from other people. I had a secret, I was a pervert, harmlessly so as long as no one found out, but I really liked to look at the front of girls’ pants where they had that different shape there, and to think about them. I only gradually figured out these were “sexual feelings” and were widely shared and expected to be shared, even though, yeah, quite a few people did indeed consider all that stuff to be dirty and taboo. But by the time I was in 6th grade I was happily anticipating that in a few short years I’d be at an age where my perversion would be considered natural, but I’d have a special advantage because I liked girls and thought well of them and was like them in most of the relevant important ways, so obviously they’d rather be with someone like me than with one of those, you know, typical boy-people.

It didn’t work out that way (you probably didn’t need me to tell you that) and instead trying to practice heterosexuality was a complicated and frustrating experience for me. And during those same years the background harassment where people accused me of being gay got a lot worse and adults joined in and people expressed a lot of contempt and sometimes got violent about it.

Heterosexuality isn’t just a pattern where people of opposite sexes get together and pursue sexual interests because each is interested in the body of the other. It is driven by roles and expectations which are very very GENDERED. There are expected boy behaviors and expected girl behaviors, and on top of that the same behavior by a boy is regarded and understood differently than if a girl had done it and vice versa. And the behaviors built into the boy role are all wound up in the same personality and behavior patterns that I’d never wanted to have anything to do with. THAT WAS NOT ME. And the person that I was, who was much more akin to who the girls were that I was trying to get close to? I was not being understood, because, as I said, the same behaviors (ranging from very overt behaviors to little nuances and gestures and stuff) are interpreted very differently when the person is male as opposed to female. Girls I was interested in often didn’t know I was interested in them. And on other occasions when they seemed to think I might be interested in them and they were open to possibilities, they would behave according to the role script that called for me to do something more pushy and overt than anything they were doing. And this was bad enough when I was 14 and 15 and 16, it only got WORSE as girls got older and a lot more irritated by and bored with the constancy of male sexual attention and the risk of being labeled “slut” if they didn’t act like sexual interest was unwanted and unappreciated.

With all that not happening for me, I began to wonder if maybe all the folks insisting I was gay might be on to something. They way they spoke of it, being girl-like if you were male was the same thing as being gay, like one causes the other or the two are identical, and yeah I was certainly more like the girls than I was like one of the boys. I didn’t have the hots for staring at boy bodies but maybe that wasn’t all there was to sexual orientation. So one of my few male friends wanted to do some stuff and I tried it and didn’t care for it and when he kept wanting to I got annoyed and thought him selfish. A year or so later I had an opportunity to try it with a stranger who was showing interest in me and I wondered if, well, maybe it would be better if it weren’t someone I was friends with and already thought of in a different way. Instead, it was worse.

In college I was a virgin and other students seemed to be circling around me constantly making insinuations and innuendos about me being gay — not all of it hostile, mind you, a lot of it was liberally tolerant and the winks were accepting winks. As far as hooking up with girls was concerned, well, I felt like my inexperience and girlness and shyness and lack of mannish behaviors were just making things impossible.

I read several books like CONUNDRUM: from JAMES to JAN and the RENEE RICHARDS story. These stories of people born male who had realized they were girls and had then gone on to get surgery to get their bodies to match who they were… it was the first time in my life I’d had such a powerful feeling of YES someone else like me!!! Except… well, they weren’t quite. My problem wasn’t really that I was supposed to be a girl-bodied person. I mean, if I could buy a spaceship ticket to a planet where all the sex roles were diametrically inverted, I’d be right at home without having to change my body. No, for me it wasn’t the body, it was what it meant to everyone. I was not the person they assumed I was when they saw a male bodied person.

This was 1980. We did not have the word GenderQueer back then. There wasn’t a word for it, for the way I was. Consciousness of gay and lesbian experience was still pretty new and even more so for transsexual people (that was the term used then, I never heard transgendered until years later). I figured out that there was nothing WRONG with me and I figured out how I was, as a sexual and gender identity, and began writing about it and tried to get my professors and other students interested in it. People could not understand what the hell I was on about and became worried that I was bonkers and asked me to talk to a psychiatrist. I agreed and signed a release form which did not state that I thought I needed to be locked up for my own good but that’s what they treated it as and I was therefore locked up in a looney bin for trying to come out.


I don’t know what the word “simply” adds to the sentence about considering myself an effeminate heterosexual. The term for it that I invented for myself in 1980 was “heterosexual sissy”. It did not prove to be simple. I don’t say “sissy” any more because it confuses people more than it explains: to some people it means “coward” and within the kink community a “sissy” is someone male who gets off, to some extent, on the humiliation of being reduced to acting in role as and dressing as a girlish person. I don’t find any of the being-a-girl stuff remotely humiliating. “Effeminate” has its own problems and I’ve never cared for it but I’d consider it.

To answer your second question, yeah, you might. Then again you might not. I don’t have exaggeratedly girly-girl mannerisms. But people who have no information one way or the other seem to end up thinking I’m gay a bit more often than not. Then some people think it’s “something” but not necessarily that.

I would be at ease with the “lesbian in a male body” formulation except that apparently it was a corny hafl-serious come-on used by lots of guys bantering with lesbians and as a consequence it is not a phrase well-received by lesbian people. Or so I’ve been told. I suppose it’s arrogant for any male-bodied person to describe himself/herself as a “lesbian” but then you could say the same for describing one’s self as a girl or woman. The whole “what to call it” issue is one I’ve never resolved to my satisfaction.
So why GenderQueer?

Because the way in which I have this weird and differently gendered sexual identity is NOT THE ONLY ONE that’s out there, still unpublicized and largely unrecognized. Note that the thread title is Ask A GenderQueer Person. If you asked a different one you might get a different story.
But also because, well, dammit, finally there’s a word out there that is IN USE and refers to sexual and gender identity, that’s about being DIFFERENT in those elements from the conventional, and which, even if it doesn’t apply only to my situation, isn’t WRONGLY applied to it. And I’m really really tired of not having a name I can call it that people have ever heard of. The GLBT community has opened their spectrum and said, in essence, “Oh, and there are perhaps others besides the categories we’ve specifically mentioned who are also outsiders in this respect”. Thank you, thank you, yes there are and I really appreciate you sharing your rainbow with me. It’s been lonely.

What a great post! I went through a very mild case of what you went through, but the word that eventually worked for me was “metrosexual”: I have always been hetero, never felt like “one of the girls” but also didn’t feel like one of the more masculine “one of the boys.” I’ve had some of the “gay” tastes and proclivities, and at times people have thought I was gay.

First, I do have some questions:

  1. Tell us more about the “looney bin,” if you are OK with that.

  2. Did you end up with a woman as an adult who “got” you?

  3. How did your first sexual experience with woman actually go? Did it have any effect on your self-image or overall arc of experience?


At what point would you consider someone to be genderqueer versus just sharing common interests and mannerisms with the opposite sex?
As a tomboyish bisexual lady I’m curious about this.

I’m totally OK with that, but it might more appropriately become its own thread. It was a private bin on the outskirts of Albuquerque NM and I was tossed into the “violent and dangerous” ward by default because I guess that’s where they stick everyone and then "promote"you back out in stages. I had heard of something called “mental patients’ liberation front” and I started a chapter inside the bin because I was (for the first time) absolutely convinced that I was NOT crazy, and I was high enough on my self-discovery to find it more amusing than scary. They tossed me out rather abruptly after a month.

I’ve written about my psych experiences extensively in previous threads, btw.

Not swiftly, but yeah. More than one over the 33 year period. Not all in one fell swoop and with varying levels of remaining… I’ll call it “unsatisfactions” rather than “dissatisfactions”… but improving as I gained experience with being in relationships etc.

It was more casual than I would have wanted, and I was very self-conscious, and it was not great but it was OK. At that point in my life (age 21) it was nice to not be a virgin at least. (I guess I should say “a virgin with girls” since I’d been with boys). I had met an older woman with whom I had nice sparks even before the looney bin incident, which failed to freak her out ( :slight_smile: ) ; she did not want to be my first, too much of a Mrs Robinson role for her liking to deflower me, but we had a 4 year relationship not long after I was no longer virginal.

I’d say that my first relationship-experience with a woman had considerably more impact on self-image than first intercourse. It felt right, very organic and earthy and warm and huggy and loving and with infinitely long babbly conversations and delight and I knew this was what I’d been pining for.

I’m not going to appoint myself arbiter but my feeling is…

if it was or became a big deal to you, a central part of your identity to the point that it overrode “woman” (in your case), then it’s definitive for you. For some people, “bisexual” has that effect (they don’t think of themselves as one of the girls or one of the boys so much as they think of themselves specifically as a bisexual girl or boy).

I guess what I’m saying is that it has more to do with how someone identifies themselves TO themselves.

Thanks for the wonderful post!

How did your parents/family react to this?

Did you have any friends or confidants that you felt you could talk honestly to during your formative years?

Reading your post made me think of a young boy named Joel at my elementary school. In retrospect, he was very likely genderqueer or transgendered. Everyone teased him for being gay (ah, kids). I was a huge tomboy, rarely playing with girls, and so we weren’t friends. I don’t think I was ever specifically mean to him, but I’m sure my indifference to his suffering was, in retrospect, unacceptable. He freaked out one day in 5th grade, and hit a kid with a chair. He didn’t come back to school after that. I think about him on occassion. I wish I had been a better person to him.

My parents’ reaction was mostly a nonreaction: they considered me to be a good child with a brilliant mind and a promising future and never treated me like who or how I was needed to change. I was loved unconditionally (something I’ve observed to be pretty damn rare for kids who are not typical in behavior for their sex, especially boys), and I think it was because of that that I was so dismissive of the attitudes and behaviors of kids at school. That is, they enraged me but I was totally confident that I did not deserve that kind of treatment and that their behavior, not mine, was wrong.

Eventually, over the long haul of many years, the worry crept in that there was something wrong with me, but only after several moves and other opportunities to be exposed to entirely new peer groups kept resulting in the same treatment.

I have one younger sister and she sometimes resented me making friends with her friends when I was 9 and 10 and 11 and so forth. She made friends faster than I did though and it was a good way to get to know some people outside the classroom.

I wish. & I wished, then.

I didn’t know how to talk to girls about it, didn’t know how or where to even begin. As for boys, I had three main boy friends growing up between kindergarten and 12 years old. One of them in particular, Terry, also was a nice boy and hated how people expected misbehavior from him, so we had that in common, but in his case he associated the expected behavior with the fact that his older brothers were rowdy and had a reputation for disruption and violence, so while for me it was about not being lumped in with the other boys, for him it was about not being lumped in with his brothers.

I had more male friends in junior high and high school but it was a sort of loose easy association without much deep sharing. I was trying to become “less weird” and blend in more because I was tired of being picked on and left out and lonely. I wasn’t so much worried that they’d reject me if I told them, so much as I didn’t know how to explain it. Everyone expected me to WANT to be like the more conventionally masculine boys and to be envious of them. (Ewww!) Any time I tried to explain that I wasn’t like them people would think I was complaining that I wasn’t, as if I were trying but failing to be that way.

I had a classmate in 8th grade who was more overtly a gender dysphoriac than I was. I wish I’d been closer to him, had tried to talk with him about what we had in common. It’s not easy in 8th grade with creepy guys thinking it’s cute and fun to drag one of you towards the other and shout “Faggot, meet Queer Bait!” Anyway, one of the knuckle draggers started messing with him physically in the lunchroom and he rammed one of his knitting needles into the guy’s chest. I wish I’d liked him better… but I know when the world seems to be all against you it doesn’t bring forth your warmest and most welcoming qualities.

Thanks for posting!

Someone already mentioned “tomboys”. How do you feel about the general social acceptance of tomboys as females with stereotypically masculine interests but the general social intolerance of males with stereotypically feminine interests? Why do you think this is the case? What can society do about it?

Does the term “tomboy” imply a woman or girl who is GenderQueer, or do these relate to separate concepts or different intensities?

What is the GenderQueer community like? Everyone knows there are “gay bars” where gay people hang out and find community and sex and love and I have heard of lesbian venues as well as some transgender events. Are there GenderQueer bars, clubs, events, support groups, etc., or are they tacked on as a “other non-mainstream” category as an afterthought to the ever-increasing LGBTQ growing acronym fiasco?

So you don’t like sports?

Yeah. The analogous situation in which I’m in would be hetero “tomboys”, right? We’re socially aware of the idea that there’s a sense of self for “tomboy” lesbians. Someone who was female and had that same lack of congruency with the expected / traditionally associated behaviors and personality characteristics but had her attractions towards male-bodied people, does she think of herself as a straight woman, a dykey broad who happens to like fellows, … yeah I think there’s more freedom and less hostility for them than for sissy guys or effeminate guys or (yeesh again with the “what do I want to call it” issue), umm someone like me as I’ve described. But I wonder if they have the same frustrations with explaining who and/or what they are. We live in a world of sexual curiosities and folks categorize each other a lot but they also seek and expect a lot of self-definition, tell me who you are.

I’ve wondered about that myself and have tried over the years to get into conversations about that with women coming from that perspective.

There is, as of yet, no GenderQueer community as far as I know. Again, I wish there were. There is a growing openness and acceptance of sort of a diffuse spectrum of LGBTQishness that is pretty inclusive in some contexts though. The poly community, for example, and the kink (BDSMish folk), for example. More in the spirit of “you seem like a fine person and however / whoever you are sexually and genderwise is cool with us” than geared towards discussing all this stuff.

I’m capable of watching some and remaining entertained, I guess. I got into college football for a little while once and I used to watch women’s college basketball. But I could take it or leave it and I’ve never understood the obsessive interest in it. In all fairness, the same is true of video games for a lot of the same reason.

Since I’m asked “what do you feel about X or Y who are sort of in your community” all the time…you are aware that some who describe themselves as genderqueer do so as a political statement - they are notable for going dressed fully male into women’s rooms, or going to work in boy mode one day and girl mode the next not because they feel they need to, but to “freak the mundanes.” I imagine you might feel the same way about them as I feel about crossdressers, and some transgender persons, who by their activity and, well, antics, give transsexuals a bad name?

I’m sorry that this isn’t a question, I just wanted to share.

I don’t think liking(or not) sports or other ‘typical male’ activity necessarily has anything to do with gender.

I don’t like sports. I’m also totally disinterested in learning how to fix a car, I don’t drink much and don’t curse, swear and get in fights for no reason, and yet have never had the need to identify myself as anything but hetero. As well, there are plenty of girls who do like those things as well, and also consider themselves straight.


I actually was not aware that this was the case.

Well, while on the one hand I can understand the position / attitude that “gender doesn’t exist except as a societal evil” and have some sympathy for it, I wish they weren’t doing things that would associate “genderqueer” with “we just want to fuck with your heads”.

Yeah, I agree. On the other hand, in some sense gender has to do with typical male (or female) behavior, since if it doesn’t it would be very very difficult to describe gender except as chromosomes and bodyparts… and then we’re just back to sex, not gender.

I do know a bit about how to fix a car (especially if it’s an old-world car with mechanical points and condenser and a carburetor and mechanical vacuum advance … no computer-controlled anything). It made me feel like an alien being when I sought employment as an auto mechanic but in and of itself it didn’t make me masculine or contradict my self-definition as a hetero sissy or effeminate male or male girl or whatever.

I’ve read the OP 3 times and I’m still a little confused. Which considering how focused I am on gender is unusual.

Does it boil down to you calling yourself genderqueer because you have a female mental gender but want to keep your male body intact and unaltered by hormones?

You speak of having male competitiveness and being attracted to women, yet feeling like you have a female gender. You pick up female mannerisms and comportment, but also retain some male ones, right? Because all of these things are not uncommon for transgender women. I’m trying to find the point where what you describe as “genderqueer” is different from “transgendered.”

[Alien From Mars mode]

You mean that you are unable to find someone (equally quirky as you) of the opposite sex who is compatible with the person that you describe yourself as? That is to say, in this supposedly enlightened age of Earthling Civilization, that gender roles on this odd planet of yours still remain that rigid and stereotyped, the number and variety of said heterosexual roles still remain very circumscribed?

[Me Mode]

Umm, yeah. I got the same kind of business that you did from my peers-oh, I loved sports and any number of guy things, but I was and remain very open emotionally and they quickly found out that they could elicit all sorts of amusing emotional reactions from me by various creative and/or crude means. If I were forced to give my personality a numerical 100 percentage point split along traditional gender lines, I’d probably come out 55-45 male-female, which was and is still far too ‘balanced’ for my own good I guess… I did find a fellow school chum who matched me in that way, and we got along famously.

And when it came to dating…well suffice it to say that girly girls never did it for me. But when it came time for me to find compatible partners, all of the tomboys that I crushed on when I was younger had either vanished into the aether or had come out as lesbians. Combine that with my idiosyncratic way of running my life (as in, I try to remain me and don’t indulge in ‘The Code’ or adhere to these quasi-nebulous standards of courting just so as to get laid or find myself in a conventional relationship), and my adult romantic life has been a lonely one. Going in the other direction, most hetero women don’t seem to get me either.

I can intellectually grasp the reasons why the state of affairs is as it is (the majority benefits from having-relatively!-simple to grasp unwritten rules, even if it means those who don’t want to play by said rules might end up left out with nobody left standing who ‘fits’ them when the music stops). Emotionally tho I still don’t really get it; do your own thing, be true to yourself-you’d think you’d find a like-minded soul of the opposite sex sooner or later (and yes I still prefer androgynous women, 55-45 female-male or such).

Yeah, someone will be along to tell me that that isn’t my ‘problem’ (there is a lot more to it than that which must remain unsaid here), that quirkyalones of this sort can still find compatible partners if they truly want to.

First time for me was very oddly unsatisfying-as was the resulting relationship, which turned out to be rather dysfunctional and short-lived. It’s almost as if the number of women out there who ‘fit’ me is very limited and the rest simply won’t do it for me, at all.

Thank you for starting this thread.

To me, transgender means one would like to change the plumbing. GenderQueer means gender (stereotypical roles)-relatedness difference. Is that close?

Do you think you come by your genderqueer “naturally?” That is to say, do you think unusual brain wiring may have something to do with your lack of gender conformity.

Do you tell people in real life that you are genderqueer? Or just let them figure it out on their own?

Does genderqueerness require being vocal and “obvious” about one’s gender non-conformity? Like, how would you feel about someone who easily “passes” as normal calling themselves genderqueer? I guess what I’m wondering, is it enough to just “feel” genderqueer, or does an individual have to also behaviorally “deviate” too.

“Transgender” is an awkward umbrella term, and being an umbrella term, people are often hitting each other over the head with it.

WPATH7 defines several terms in the following manner:

By those definitions, a genderqueer person is transgender, as is a transsexual person.