I called them "boy parts" when I was little. We were in kindergarten, first grade. To be honest we kids were kind of obsessed with sexual difference. We talked about it a lot. But I was one of the girls. I was a girl with boy parts. I wasn't entirely unique. One of the people I played with during recess, Clea, was a boy with girl parts.
If we showed up in your Facebook group and introduced ourselves the way we understood ourselves back then, would you embrace us, or would you attack us for being insensitive to people who don't consider those parts to be "boy parts" or "girl parts" and invalidating other people's identities, and not using the phrases that have been embraced as the most appropriate and least offensive ones and so forth?
Last week I put up a blog post: femininity versus femaleness. It generated mixed feedback, with lots of Facebook "likes" and a handful of people posting praise for what I'd said, saying that they'd been trying to put those sentiments into words for a long long time, or explaining how their personal experiences meshed with what I was saying. But with a lot of other people saying they found it transphobic, insulting, binary in a reductionistic sense, oppressive.
I was *kicked out* of one Facebook group, as if I'd planted a post that was so offensive that it demanded banning me. Nonbinary Femmes. A group I've been a part of for six years, posting at least one a week. In another group, my post was locked to further comments and I was afraid I was about to be banned there as well, although in the long run they only demanded that I place a content warning.
Honestly, what was more disturbing to me was how many people in groups I've been an ongoing participant in were so quick to respond with short and judgmental dismissals:
"What a load of internalized transphobia"
and of course: "Why hasn't a moderator done something about this shit?"
Considering how long I've been posting and participating, I'm stung that so many people wouldn't give me the benefit of the doubt, not necessarily agreeing with me but at least not being quick to believe that I'm a biased hate-monger!
I don't think we've created safe spaces. That may have been our intention, but we've become so quick to trigger when someone uses a phrase or term that the general consensus has shifted against using that one person's need to be kept safe from being upset becomes another person's feeling that they have to walk on eggshells.
The problem with general consensus is that we aren't all alike. We come here from different experiences. Some of us call ourselves "transgender"; some say "nonbinary"; some "genderqueer"; we also have intersex and gay and lesbian and bisexual and pansexual and other kinds of queer folks here. We value diversity, yeah? Well, then, we can't be going around with an attitude like "This is the party line, everyone in here has to have this opinion on this issue, that opinion on that issue, has to believe this, has to agree with this other thing, or you don't belong in here!". Because sometimes some of those established consensus beliefs conflict with the needs of some of our identities.
The centerpoint in this case was whether or not body parts (however you refer to them) and gender are, or are not, two different things, and how to talk about them separately. Yeah, I know a lot of transgender people in particular have had their gender identity invalidated by people emphasizing genitals. Yeah, I know that not everyone wishes to transition, and that not everyone who'd like to can afford it anyway, and that it's important not to make people feel like they are less authentic if they don't.
But there are other people in here, in our community, who find it necessary to distinguish between sex and gender and sometimes we are going to refer to our own body parts in the course of explaining our marginalized queer identities.
Some of us are intersex people. Me, I'm a gender invert. If you don't understand our reasons for drawing attention to our genital configurations, that shows how much teaching we still need to do.
If you think there is an LGBTQIA consensus that nobody gets to say that sex isn't the same thing as gender—or that there should be—consider yourself notified that consensus on that issue has not been reached and some of us are not on board with that.
Diversity has to include diversity of viewpoint.
You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!
My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.
Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page
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