The last couple of weeks have been unhappy ones in the m/m (male/male) romance community. Frankly, I haven't had the stomach, or the heart, to follow it all. What it boils down to is that a male author was "outed" as being female. The author then said, "actually, I'm transgendered." And then it all got dicey.
Some people were livid that this author had been "lying" to them, and didn't feel they could believe the transgender claim. Other transgendered authors were frightened by the public exposure, and horrified by the demands that other "women" writing in the genre declare themselves. The charge of lying was particularly hurtful to the trans community, since the identity of a transgendered person hangs on who they know themselves to be, and how they choose to present themselves to others, not necessarily what's between their legs. The whole thing was complicated by the fact that the author in question most definitely did lie by using a male model friend's picture as his author photo and even sending this friend out once to do a signing as the author. (And there was some other fishy stuff that I'm not really clear on.)
A hell of a mess, huh?
The ignorance and transphobia revealed by the whole situation has been enlightening, and not in a good way. The m/m romance community has always seen itself as being a welcoming, accepting place. Suddenly the transgendered and genderqueer members are feeling attacked, and a lot of other people are offended and confused by the charges of bigotry. The whole thing makes my heart hurt.
Other than a general dislike of bigotry in all shapes, why is this kerfluffle so upsetting to me? Because I am genderqueer.
You hear a lot of gay people say, "I've always known I was gay." For me, this is the same. I've always known I was genderqueer. I just never had a name for it until this summer.
Let me back up a minute and explain what this all means. There are a lot of different ways to define genderqueer. For me, it means that I don't think of myself as being a woman. I don't particularly think of myself as a man, either, and I have no desire to have gender reassignment surgery to become one. I am just... me. An individual floating somewhere in the middle, taking whatever I want from both traditionally male and traditionally female identities.
I discovered the term this past summer, and had about 5 minutes worth of panic over the whole thing. Oh, no! I'm genderqueer! What am I going to do? Then I settled down and realized, hello, dumbass. You're going to keep going just like you always have. Because while I may suddenly have had a word for what I've always felt, that didn't mean anything was going to change. I've always interacted with the world as a genderqueer person. I've never tried to pretend that I was anything other than who I am. Acknowledging the label doesn't make me any more or less than I've always been.
I know that I'm very lucky in this. For some people, acknowledging their trans or genderqueer identity means big changes. Or painful hiding in a public identity that doesn't match their inner reality. I could go along for the rest of my life and never say a word. Just "pass" as cisgendered (another nifty word I learned this summer which means that your identity/behavior matches your sex). Let the world make their assumptions and skate on by.
But after seeing all the hurt and anger of the last few weeks, I felt like I needed to say something. Maybe if people know someone who is different, they won't be so quick to judge. Maybe they won't be so quick to fear or hate, because there's already one perfectly ordinary genderqueer person in their life, even if it's only their online/blogging life. So here it is:
I'm genderqueer. I'm not lying. I'm exactly who I've always been-- I just never before had the courage or felt the need to throw that label out there. I'm perfectly normal. And my transgendered and genderqueer brothers, sisters, and others are just as deserving of respect as our cisgendered brethren. We're all just folks. So let's approach each other with a little more love, OK?