The Genderqueer Umbrella

This is a translation of a post written by my friend Dan Veg in their Hebrew-language blog Parshedona. This is also my 100th post in Femina Invicta, and I was looking for a worthy topic… I’m glad Dan provided this post. It is incredibly important to me for both personal and political reasons, as my queer/feminist community has recently exploded in an unprecedented, and entirely unexpected rash of transphobia, directed in particular toward genderqueer persons, or anyone on the MTF scale who doesn’t entirely pass. 

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Lately, I’ve been hearing all kinds of different opinions by cisgender people about genderqueer identities, and what genderqueer means. So let’s make this clear: Genderqueer does not mean a “man in a dress”, it doesn’t mean “someone who objects to gender”, nor does it mean “a woman who wants male privilege without being trans*”. All these are mostly your own transphobic and binary assumptions.

Genderqueer-ness is an umbrella of gender identities, just like “man” and “woman” are gender identities. The genderqueer identity is not a single and constant identity, but rather a variety of non-normative identities, accompanied by a variety of practices, a variety of conceptions, and different experiences. I will try and offer some definitions of genderqueer identities that I’m familiar with, in order to – hopefully – enable some of you to let go of your dichotomous, queer-phobic perceptions.

But first, some important notes:

  • These definitions reflect the opinion of the author, and do not purport to represent anyone who does not identify with them.
  • The umbrella covers only those who identify with it.
  • A person’s gender identification does not necessarily reflect any particular gender practices or choice of pronouns. In order to know how to address a genderqueer person, ask her/him! To address or refer to a person in a way other than according to the preference they have indicated is a violent and transphobic act.
  • The umbrella is partial and dynamic, anyone is free to redefine for themselves their gender, gender practices, and so on.
  • Many genderqueers identify with more than one gender identity, so do not assume that because someone has identified in a certain way, that other identities are negated.
gender identification

Genderqueer:
A person who does not always identify completely as a man or as a woman, and identifies as genderqueer. In other words: someone whose gender does not conform to the dichotomous definitions of man/woman.

Queer:
A catch-all identity that describes anyone who deviates from heteronormativity. Under the genderqueer umbrella the term describes resistance to definitions or to identities that defy the gender binary.

Bigender:
A person who identifies with two genders simultaneously, or with the gender they were assigned at birth and another gender, and who identifies as bigender.

Gender Fluid:
A person who at different times identifies with different gender identities, or who sometimes defines themselves as a particular gender and at other times does not, and who identifies as gender fluid.

Genderless, A-Gender:
A person who does not identify as any gender category, or to whom the concept of gender is irrelevant, and who identifies as genderless.

Transgenderqueer:
A person who does not at all identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, but only partially identifies with other gender identities, or identifies as both genderqueer and transgender, sometimes with an emphasis on wanting to undergo physical changes, and who identifies as transgenderqueer.

Third Gender/Other Gendered:
A person whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, and identifies as third gender or other gendered.

Intergender:
A person who identifies as being somewhere on the continuum between two or more genders, and who identifies as intergender.

Gender Bender/Genderfuck:
A person who combines attributes of different genders, and who identifies as genderblender/genderfuck.

Additional genderqueer identities include: 
Genderqueer man, genderqueer woman, pangender, multigender, man-flexible, woman-flexible, femme, butch, girlfag, guydyke, and many more.

The Invisible Elephant in the Room

There is a topic that is near and dear to me… Yet I haven’t written about it at all.
Femme Elephant

I’ve begun posts or articles many times…
I have dozens of bookmarks saved in my browser… Nothing to show for it. Yet.

Femme. Being Femme. Femme InVisibility. Femme Identity. 

Headings, tags, pieces of things.

It seems that when things get too personal for me, I cannot write a casual post… I want to write a dissertation (:
And who has time for that…

So.

This is not really a post. It is a note. It is a notice. It is a rant. It is a statement – that there is not enough written about what being a femme is all about. There are things I want to shout out, insist upon, inform… There are stances I want to take, and territory I want to stake. There are misconceptions I want to dispel and conceptions I want to eradicate. So much to say. So much emotion choking down the words. It won’t all be said here and now, but this is the opening shot, clumsy as it may be.

I AM A FEMME. I am not a femme because my girlfriend is a butch. I am not a femme because of internalized heteronormative oppression. I am not worth less because queer communities seem to idolize masculinity as much as – or more than! – straight communities. My identity is not subject to lesbian culture’s identity police. I AM A FEMME because this is the identity I choose, because this is the skin I am comfortable in, what fits, here and now. As a femme, I am the one who defines what it means to be a femme. It might be different than how someone else defines it for themselves. As a femme, I insist on my autonomy to conform or not to conform, to whichever standards I choose.

More than that, I believe that BEING FEMME IS ABOUT AS RADICAL AS IT GETS. Think about it: Being femme is a choice. As such, there is an element of gender transition involved. It also transcends hetero gender policing – by first rejecting the compulsory aspect of it, and then choosing the parts that please you. Wrapping yourself in the “weak” presentations of the hegemony, and using them to express and celebrate your strength and power. Sometimes taking them to the nth degree. That is deconstruction, and that is pretty radical. It is totally “in your face” to heteronormativity and queer normativity (yes, I just said that) alike.

elephant8

Obviously I have a lot more to say about this, but let me leave you with these rant bits:

BEING FEMME HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BUTCHES

We are not defined as the absence of, the opposite of, or the partner of. Period. We can be in a relationship with a butch, or with a femme, or with someone who defines themselves as something else entirely. OUR PARTNERS’ DEFINITIONS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR SELF-DEFINED IDENTITY. We may or may not even have a partner.

WE ARE TIRED OF BEING INVISIBLE

We are tired of being assumed to be straight, of being overlooked as not radical enough, of being tagged as “wanting to pass” or as being bound by heteronormative culture. THERE IS NOTHING NORMATIVE ABOUT BEING FEMME.

And personally, I am pretty sick of the hierarchies of the queer communities I know, where there is a very clear status ladder, at the top of which are FTMs and at the bottom of which are cis femmes, and in which female/feminine identities are always subordinate to equivalent male/masculine ones (FTMs are “better” then MTFs, and cis gay men are “better” than cis lesbian women, butch is “better” than femme, and so on).

WE DON’T HAVE TO BE LESBIANS

We can be bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, asexual, even hetero (there are queer heteros. seriously.), or have any other sexual orientation or lack thereof. Because, WE ARE NOT DEFINED BY OUR PARTNERS.

WE DON’T EVEN NEED TO BE WOMEN

Fuck the gender binary. Seriously. Some of my best femme friends are genderqueer. Which means they may or may not define themselves as women to any given degree, at any given time. Which is just one example. I find odd, to say the least, the notion that eliminating the binary must mean we go to a unary system of alikeness. Why not expand our possibilities to the infinite, rather than restricting and policing them?

More to come. Stay tuned.

Michael Oren Strikes Again, Rewrites History

Ah, Pinkwashing. Is there anything cheerier to wake up to in the morning?

Today, I woke up to to this article, an interview with Israel’s ambassador to the US Michael Oren. Oren, who starred in this blog about a week ago regarding the debacle of trying to forestall CBS News from airing a 60 Minutes piece on the plight of Christian Palestinians.

This time, Oren is preparing for his keynote address at the Equality Forum, an annual LGBTQ conference in Philadelphia. This year, its “featured nation”, inexplicably, is Israel — the nation identified by the UN as the only democracy that limits human rights, the nation carrying out a military occupation of a nation of people for 45 years, the nation doling out wave after wave of anti-democratic legislation aimed at limiting public roles of non-Jews, placing refugees in concentration camps, upholding segregation of women in public spaces, and the list seems endless…

That Israel presents itself as a paradise for LGBT folk is beyond ironic, but it also has a name: PINKWASHING. Pinkwashing is the idea that Israel has conceived of that if it flaunts its relatively good record on LGBT issues, it can divert attention from its anti-democratic, human-rights-violating, occupation-and-conquest-based policies and agendas. (More about pinkwashing here and here.)

And thus, featuring Israel at the Equality Forum, and having the Israeli ambassador as the keynote speaker, has quite rightly been branded the pinkwashing event of the year.

Back to the interview that started this post. It is filled with gems (read: lies, lies, and more lies), but my favorite is this part, which in a nutshell neatly wraps up everything that is wrong, and sick, about how Israel presents the issue:

Michael Oren Reinvents History

What do you say to those that criticize Israel being featured at the Equality Forum?
Israel was fighting for gay rights before the 1967 war. Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes, there was equality for gays.

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Where do I begin????
(Well, I will just do my best to deconstruct this for you. )

Israel was fighting for gay rights… Really? Fighting? Fighting whom, exactly? Israel is the STATE. If the state wants someone to have rights, it GRANTS them. Who are these nefarious powers FIGHTING with Israel to prevent gay rights?

…before the 1967 war. Again — REALLY?? Two parts here:

  1. Connecting the issue of gay rights and Israeli-Arab war is at the heart of the pinkwashing mentality: What is the relevance? Are the ARABS those evil geniuses preventing Israel from achieving true equality for gays? And,
  2. Gay rights were not a policy issue prior to 1967, given that, for example, sodomy laws were only taken off the law books in 1988, and even then (swear to the spirits!) it was apparently done only through clerical error (accidentally on purpose). When the legislature voted on the new version of the sex crimes law, they didn’t realize that the final bill did not include the sodomy clause. So actually: Israel, the STATE, never actually voted on the issue, never “fought” for inclusion of gay rights in the law.

Note that the vast majority of LGBT rights in Israel were not passed by law — but rather informed by the courts, in which case, the STATE was often the party objecting to those rights. And to the extent that rights have been legislated or incorporated into national policies — NONE of that has been done under the current government, the one Michael Oren represents. So even if there is credit to be handed out, it isn’t credit they get.

Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes, there was equality for gays. Again, this weird conflation of Arab violence and gay rights. And is this still before 1967? Is Oren claiming there was a state of ongoing terrorism on buses and cafes before the war in which he apparently fought for gay rights? Because there have been spates of terror attacks in Israel, but the worst of them — particularly those aimed at buses and cafes — were after the collapse of the Oslo peace plan, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

So is Oren claiming gays have always has rights in Israel? And yet, oddly, that Israel has had to fight for them? And that the fighting was apparently against Arabs — because otherwise, how does this last sentence even compute? “Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes (bizarre thought trick connection) there was equality for gays”.

(And the more observant among you already noticed (and are probably biting your tongues) that somehow all we are talking about here is “gay rights”. That is Oren’s level of awareness — in this LGBT heaven! — that “gays” are the only ones who need rights, and BY GOD they already have them! He is giving the keynote address at this LGBTQ convention, and he has no fucking clue what LGBTQ even means. Or rather, to him it is just a means to an end. And the Equality Forum is going along with this.)

Thinking about this made me imagine Oren’s vision of Israel’s war in 1967: Amid exploding buses and cafes, running through the smoke and debris are crack Israeli combat troops — carrying rainbow flags. They halt, and create a phalanx before the Arab enemy with whom they are fighting for their gay rights, and they firmly state: This shall not pass!

Which is how this meme was born :)

Six Day War History According to Michael Oren

Among Oren’s other lies: Israel (or rather “his” ministry) is the only one in the world that grants spousal privileges to gay partners; that Israel provides shelter to Palestinians who are brutally persecuted in their own culture (that has NEVER happened. EVER. Yes, there is an ex-pat Palestinian community in Israel, but they must hide from the authorities because they will be DEPORTED if caught); that Israel is a LIBERAL DEMOCRACY (while his own party is passing laws that create racial, religious, and sex discrimination); Oren claims that proof of this is that groups like alQaws (the Palestinian organization for gender and sexual diversity) are “headquartered in Israel” rather than in the Palestinian territories… Totally ignoring that East Jerusalem is NOT LEGALLY PART OF ISRAEL, and is considered by those very groups to be PALESTINE… The extent of the hijacking of both Palestinian and Israeli queer issues by this most oppressive Israeli government ever is truly staggering.

Here is a statement by Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS) and Pinkwatching Israel.

Here is an open letter by the first LGBTIQ delegation to Palestine.

Thursday Round-Up

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A genderqueer love story; A 13 year-old girl who knows more about slut-shaming and why it’s wrong than almost any adult I know; Pink tanks;  Transgender Israeli man gives birth; Why you should buy girl scout cookies; Metonymy; Who’s the queerest of the queer?
It’s another Thursday Round-Up!
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From the Queer Blogosphere

Israeli Transgender Man Gives Birth

Yuval Topper-Erez is the first Israeli transgender man to give birth. Congratulations to him, his spouse, and their baby Lyrrie!

Girls Scout Cookie Boycott?

There are plenty of reasons why I’m not a fan of the Girl Scouts or their cookies… But right now, I want to buy a case!

This girl scout wants to boycott the Girl Scouts cookie fundraiser because some divisions allow transgender girls to be members. She attempts to find a basis in girl scout values like honesty — the thesis being that girls and parents are being lied to, and that transgender girls are actually boys who decided they want to be girls… Well, watch for yourself.

Edit: The video seems to have been removed — perhaps because of all the hackles it raised? I hope so! But you can still see who and what is behind it, and get a full nauseating look at their agenda at the Honest Girl Scouts website.


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Some good response videos here and here. And this one by a queer former girl scout →
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(And someone needs to explain to Huffington Post that transgender is NOT gay)

Queerer Than Thou

I love this comedy, which aims to answer the age-old question –
Who’s the queerest of them all? (Which is all eerily familiar…)

(“I’m so queer, I’m beyond identity politics…” :-) )

Genderqueer love story

A poem.

Discovery of the Week

Activist Language

I love learning new stuff. Here are two words I was not familiar with before:

Microaggression: The idea that specific interactions between those of different races, cultures, or genders can be interpreted as non-physical aggression.

Type Definition
Microassault An explicit derogation characterized primarily by verbal or nonverbal attack meant to hurt the intended victim through name calling, avoidant behavior, or purposeful discriminatory actions.
Microinsult Characterized by communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial/cultural/gender heritage or identity
Microinvalidation Characterized by communications that exclude, negate, or nullify a person’s psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality.

Metonymy: A figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept. For instance, “Hollywood” as used to represent the American movie industry. Or, “The pen is mightier than the sword”, whereas “pen” represents the written word, and “sword” represents physical force.

While not necessarily a political/activist term, I learned it in this context. It’s dangerous to send me on Google searches to discover why a feminist-orientalist-activist-academician-Facebook-friend of mine used it in a political argument… I came up with a whole new way to look at how we use words in our political discourse. For example, this academic paper explores how the Bush administration used metaphorical and metonymical references to create solidarity (with “The American People”) and distance (from “The Iraqi People).

But you don’t need to delve into high-level academics to understand this: Just think about the automatic substitutions we do every day. Can you spot the difference in these (made-up) headlines?

  1. Russia Plans War With Japan
  2. Russian Premier, Sergei Doe, Opines That War With Japan Is Inevitable.

Think about how that changes our perception of what we read and hear.

Gender & Socialization

Fotoshop by Adobé

This video by Jesse Rosten has gone mega-viral, but just in case you haven’t seen it — it’s a must!

**This commercial isn’t real, and neither are society’s standards of beauty.**

13 Y.O. Explains Why Slut Shaming Is Wrong

I love this girl — I can’t believe she’s thirteen! Most adults I know cannot reason this well, and don’t know as much.

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MRI Scan of Female Orgasm

You know what it feels like… Do you know what it looks like? Really, science knows so little about it. Have you any idea how many sections of your brain light up?

To me — this is BEAUTIFUL.

 

Random 

And just because it’s fun – Art Cars!

Feminist Art Car — Vain Van

Peacenik Art Car — Ping-Pong VW

Make Afghans, Not War

http://artcar.blogspot.com/

http://www.braball.com/MoreArt/artcars.htm

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Thursday Round-Up

It’s another round-up! Today: gender & bullying, gender & socialization, little girl rant, penis mom, tropes, and did I mention a new favorite blog? If you don’t think this one is crazy brilliant, you can get your money back.

Queer Politics

Psychiatry in Israel 2011: Homosexuality is a disease that can be cured

Some forty years after the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders, and 20 years after its removal from the WHO IC-10 list, an Israeli psychiatry reference book (university textbook) describes homosexuality as a disease treatable by conversion therapy.

Gender & Bullying

Here is one amazing teacher’s approach to preventing gender bullying.

And together with that – because boys are still more important: Anti-bullying campaigns and the erasure of sexism.

And an interesting note: When I was putting this post together I went to Google to look for images. I started with “gender bullying”. I got images of girls bullying boys, and some of girls bullying girls. Some of the boys looked genderqueer to me, and I thought that might be a good angle – so I went looking for genderqueer images. But losing focus on the erasure of sexism bothered me. So this time, I looked up “boy bullying girl”. Again, I got lots of images of girls bullying boys, and a few of girls bullying girls.

In the end, I could not find one single image that was real, or even real-looking, of a boy (or boys) bullying a girl. Not one.
(Just some cutesy braid-pulling stock images).

Truly, it seems that boys never harass girls. Must’ve been a figment of my imagination. And that girls are the only bullies out there [puke icon].

Gender & Socialization

Socialization of little girls: 

One little girl’s rant about girl stuff and boy stuff:
(Riley for prez…!)

And women’s socialization: 

Culture & Media

The weekly Trope:

This week, three “queer” tropes that particularly annoy me.

Sweeps Week Girl on Girl Kiss

This one is actually losing steam these days, but remember what happened when Roseanne kissed Sharon?

Sorry, I’m Gay

Though meant to be gender neutral, it’s usually a guy trying to get away from a girl. When two women are together, somehow that doesn’t deter men – they just ask for a threesome.

I saw just this scenario on Rizzoli & Isles (please don’t ask why I was watching that…). Three notes: Indeed, used by a woman. But — they were extremely uncomfortable about it, squirmy, and inexplicit. So they “hugged”. Meh. Then — predictably — the guy (soul mate?) asked for a threesome.

Token Lesbian

The token lesbian in a cast of gay men

Blog Pick of the Week

Best for last? Check out this blog. You will not regret it!

Hyperbole and a half

Some of my favorite posts:

God of Cake

Party

This Is Why I’ll Never Be An Adult

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Season’s Greetings

Have a very femme-y Christmas….

And a Happy Queer Year!!

~*~

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

~*~

Happy Festivus, Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, or whatever your heart desires to celebrate!

My gift to you — my latest discovery:

Queer Fat Femme’s Guide to the Net

Thursday Round-Up


There is far too much going on in the world, and much too little time to write about it…

But I have some good ones this week!

Culture & Media

The Worst Toys for Girls List

This Huffington Post list shows how toy manufacturers and retailers want your girl to aspire to: She can be a maid, or even a Hooter’s girl!

Pro-Virginity, Anti-Feminist Folks Make The Purity Myth Trailer Terrifying

Jezebel reviews the documentary The Purity Myth – based on feminist writer and Feministing founder Jessica  Valenti’s book of the same name.

“The film visits the places the book visited, but since the antics of pro-virginity culture were captured on camera this time around, it’s now infinitely more gif-able. From the creepy father-daughter “purity balls” where young women promise their dads that they won’t let anyone’s penis inside of them until God says it’s okay to the fearmongering but charismatic pro-virginity speakers who claim a link between female sexual activity and sterility, parts of the film (like parts of the book) would be hilarious if they weren’t so scary.”

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From the Queer Blogosphere:

A friend posted this on Facebook. Not sure where it originated. But it’s sooo true!

Is this what BDSM is to you?

Weekly Trope:

This week’s trope: In TV and movies, when a bit of salacious BDSM is desired, there is only one scenario… All Women Are Doms, All Men Are Subs

Why we should just leave Kim Kardashian alone:

My new favorite blogger, Rachael, from the Social Justice League, writes about what’s wrong with the backlash of hatred against Kardashian and Co. — namely, that it’s sexist.

Shakesville concurs — here’s their post on the Kardashians.

Women's Activism

Not news, but recently came across several really amazing photo albums from International Women’s Day back in March. Nice to see! (click pics to see albums)

Women raise their hands as they shout slogans during a protest on International Women’s Day in Ahmedabad

Lebanese women working at an advertising company in Beirut dress like men and pose for pictures to make a statement about gender inequalities

In Israel

Refusing to go to the back of the bus

Tanya Rosenblit is being hailed by some as the Israeli Rosa Parks. Last week, she got on a bus from the town of Ashdod to Jerusalem. An Ultra-Orthodox man insisted she move to the back of the bus. She refused. The bus was stopped, police were called… Read all about it here.

And here’s another way kowtowing to the Ultra-Orthodox misogyny endangers women’s lives:

(Or: How can you educate women about breast cancer if you can’t use the word “breast”?)

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