What if I told you there are more than two genders? Like, a WHOLE lot more. For some of you, it may be a little hard to believe. I mean, we are taught from the time we are young that gender only means male or female. We have to be one of those two things. And our junk dictates which we are.
Think about it. We are immersed in this binary gender expectation all day everyday. Personally, I choose the women’s bathroom over the men’s with relative ease. I gravitate toward the women’s clothing section (most of the time) without even thinking about it. I automatically check off “female” on my doctor’s forms. I often take for granted how easy these decisions come for me, which is a type of privilege I have to constantly work to confront. Because for others, it’s not so easy. And many of those people fall under the umbrella term genderqueer.
You might be scratching your head at that term. In fact, I know lots of you are because we get questions about genderqueerness on the regular! But, don’t worry, I’ve got you. Here’s a small crash course on what is really means to identify as genderqueer.
It’s quite simple to begin with, actually. Basically genderqueer means just that. You are queering — complicating, challenging, purposefully confusing — what everyone else sees as the “norm” for gender. You are existing outside of the boundaries of these little male or female check boxes on doctor’s forms.
Now, how are you doing that? Maybe you are androgynous, which means you are existing somewhere in the middle ground in the gender spectrum. Maybe you’re genderfluid, which means you float and flow across the gender spectrum with no fixed place. Maybe you’re agender, which means you have no gender identity whatsoever — and that’s perfectly okay!
Point is, being genderqueer can mean that you are any one of these things…plus more. For that “plus more,” check out my fave illustration of gender called The Genderbread Person. Seriously. As simple as it gets.
But don’t get it twisted. Genderqueer people aren’t confused about whether they are a boy or a girl. Simply put, they know they are neither of those things. And they know that they are limited by the binary gender. Simple check boxes of “male” and “female” don’t describe their experience with gender identity and expression. It’s much more complex than that.
The popular notion of gender that we all buy into — that being male and female genders with no variation — is simply not the way the world works! Sure, some may argue penis and vaginas make it easy to classify people by gender. But that totally not a valid claim. At all. Why? Well, not everyone has a penis or vagina (intersex people exist ya’ll) AND that type of thinking doesn’t account for sex being different than gender!
If you need a crash course in that last concept, here it is: Sex is what you are assigned at birth by looking at your bits down there. Gender is your sense of self. And, for some, that sense of self doesn’t align or only sorta aligns with their sex. And that’s perfectly fine. Sometimes that means your transgender, meaning you were wrongly assigned the “opposite” gender at birth. But sometimes it means you are genderqueer — which is what you learned all about today!
Now, there’s A LOT more to learn about genderqueerness, from history to subterms to how to be a fab ally. So I hope you will take this crash course as the beginning of a larger conversation. Use this as a basis to think about genderqueerness, question our current ridged notion of gender, and confront your own biases.
P.S. Whenever I talk about an identity that’s not my own, I always like to bring in first-person experience from someone who actually has that identity. In this case, please read this super amazing piece about being genderqueer (and professional), which is probably one of my favorite LGBTQ articles of all time. Seriously.
Do you identify as genderqueer or know someone who does? What else did I forget that’s important to know? Let’s chat it out in the comments below!