IDENTIFYING AS GENDERQUEER INSTEAD OF TRANSGENDER
Hi! I’m Allan, and I’m genderqueer. I also qualify as transgender, but I don’t use that term. I don’t identify as transgender.
My handy MacOS Dictionary defines “transgender” as:
denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity does not correspond with the gender assigned to them at birth. Compare cisgender.
My sense of personal identity is that I am a male-bodied person (I refer to that as my sex) who is a femme, one of the girls or women, a feminine person, a person on the feminine spectrum, whatever term you prefer for that (and I refer to that as my gender).
Does that need additional unpacking?
Waldell Goode, whose book (Queen Called Bitch: Tales of a Teenage Bitter-Ass Homosexual) I just reviewed for NineStar, refers to himself as femme as well and makes several references to himself as effeminate or feminine, but at a certain point complains snidely about guys on Grindr who “think I’m a woman or beg me to be more masculine… guys who are interested in a part time ‘tranny’ for play. I am neither of those things”. He elaborates further: “I am not a transsexual because I was assigned male at birth and I identify as male. I am not a woman because I am not a woman. .. can I make this any clearer? I urinate standing up.”
Transsexual is a word that has largely fallen by the wayside in disrepute, scarcely regarded as any less offensive than “tranny”. That’s a shame, because it had its own meaning — someone who did not only have a sense of personal identity that didn’t correspond with the gender assigned at birth, but who did some kind of transitioning to address that situation, whether it be reassignment surgery, hormones, or simply presenting as that sex normally associated with their gender identity. Transgender, the much less disreputable term, is a wider umbrella term that could include people who have no intention and no interest in transitioning. It could include a person whose sense of personal identity doesn’t match the gender assigned at birth and whose sole response to that is to say “I’m male. I’m a girl. Neither one of those things is wrong or in need of fixing. Deal with it”. It could include someone like me.
It could, if it had not become a stand-in term that people use instead of “transsexual” because “transsexual” isn’t considered polite any more. But it has, that’s exactly what has happened. Transgender functions as a euphemism. People say transgender when they mean transsexual. Transgender people themselves, on Facebook groups and in support communities and so forth, sometimes tell someone “You need to do something to qualify as trans. It doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t committed to living your life as the gender you identify with”. Some examples here.
Waldell Goode is an effeminate gay fellow. Culturally, we know about them, it’s an identity we’re familiar with, right? In the modern enlightened 21st century, we no longer assert that all gay guys are feminine or go around thinking that all gay guys want to be women. But we are still cognizant of the sissy gay phenomenon, it’s a stereotype that describes some real live people. So we understand how that’s a different thing than being a transgender person. It’s like being a butch lesbian instead of being a transgender man.
In my case, it so happens that my attractions are towards female-bodied people. And I can tell you that there isn’t a similar understanding of effeminate guys who are not gay OR transgender, but who are every bit as feminine. I get a lot of blank confused stares and requests for clarification. It’s an identity that doesn’t seem to fit in people’s boxes. We all carry around our little sets of categorical boxes within our heads; it’s how we make sense of our world. Me, I’m spending my time going into people’s heads and doing some necessary cabinet-work on their boxes. Adding some additional storage space. I’m male, that’s my sex; I’m a girl, that’s my gender; I’m attracted to female people, that’s my orientation. I’m genderqueer, specifically a gender invert, nice to meet you.
Transgender activists say to me: “Oh, but, you know, you don’t have to be transitioning, or planning to transition, in order to be transgender”. Yeah, I know. I read the definition and, hey, don’t get me wrong, I deeply appreciate the gesture of inclusiveness. But in the real world for me to call myself transgender is like referring to a tortilla chip as a “corn chip”. It’s technically correct, since the tortilla chip is made out of corn, but when you say “corn chip” everyone thinks you’re talking about Fritos, not Tostitos, know what I mean?
And my bigger immediate concern is visibility, not inclusion. I’ve got a whole closet-full of umbrella terms available for me to use. I can say I’m part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I can say gender-atypical or gender-variant. Or even genderqueer, which is, itself, an umbrella term. (I’m not genderfluid or agender or a demiboy. Some other genderqueer people are). So I could use umbrella terms all day long. Especially if I wanted to stay in this closet. But like I said, I’m on a campaign to modify those boxes that people carry around in their heads. Raise awareness about male girl people who intend to remain male girls and present to other people as male girls. (And female boy people, too, by the way). I need to use terms that don’t erase us by including us without explaining us to other people. So thanks for offering me the use of “transgender” and inviting me to the transparty, but, umm, no thanks. Count me as an ally, and as a different component in the LGBTQIA+ rainbow, but please don’t participate in erasing my difference. It’s my identity.
Derek is a girl. He wasn’t one of the boys as a kid; he admired, befriended, and socialized with the girls and always knew he was one of them, despite being male. That wasn’t always accepted or understood, but he didn’t care: he knew who he was.
Now he’s a teenager and boys and girls are flirting and dating and his identity has become a lot more complicated: he’s attracted to the girls. The other girls. The female ones.
The Story Of Q: A GenderQueer Tale is a 97,000-word memoir — a coming-of-age (and coming-out) story — set in the 1970s but aimed at today’s gender-questioning world.
Junior high to college, the stage on which Derek’s adolescence and early adulthood takes place, is mostly hostile to gay people; transgender isn’t a word in common use yet. Derek seeks friends and companions and someone to love in a world that has no name or concept for who he is. Years of painful questioning, vulnerability and confusion are interspersed with fragile optimism and hope and a willful determination to survive.
In 1980, 20 years before the word “genderqueer” would roll off anyone’s tongues, Derek takes a close look at himself and finally comes out: “I’m a girl, that’s my gender; I’m male, that’s my sex; I’m attracted to females, that’s my orientation.”
Thirty years later, the average liberally tolerant person who knows about “genderqueer” may think—if not necessarily say to our faces— that if there weren’t already a subgroup of people already out there “doing genderqueer”, we’d never come up with it on our own; that it isn’t a real gender or sexual identity the way that being lesbian or gay, or even trans, is, with real suffering and alienation anchored in the way that who we are isn’t what is expected based on our bodies. This is a first-hand story in which genderqueer as a sense of identity is *emergent*, displayed for the readers to see for themselves, as Derek lives and grows and interacts in a social world that has no such identity available.
This story will appeal to fans of Dhillon Khosla’s Both Sides Now, Daphne Scholinski’s The Last Time I Wore A Dress, and Jennifer Boylan’s She’s Not There, and it will be a resource for anyone exploring questions of identity and questioning their own sexuality.
Coming November 2017
Allan Hunter received his BA in American Studies with a concentration in Women’s Studies from the State University of New York (SUNY)/Old Westbury and an MSW in Social Welfare and an MA in Sociology from SUNY/Stony Brook.
He has written the manuscript of a memoir with the working title of The Story of Q: A GenderQueer Tale. While names have been changed and other aspects of the story have been fictionalized, to a slight degree, it is the story of his growing awareness of his own gender identity and how it affected him, his family, classmates, and friends. It begins with his elementary-school years and continues into adulthood.
He is a resident of New Hyde Park, New York.
Allan has published the following articles:
- “Same Door, Different Closet: A Heterosexual Sissy’s Coming-Out Party,” in the journal Feminism and Psychology 2 (3), 1992 (and reprinted twice in subsequent anthologies, including Sexual Lives: A Reader on the Theories and Realities of Human Sexualities, Heasley & Crane, eds., McGraw-Hill, 2002)
- “The Radical Feminist Perspective in (and/or on) the Field of Sociology,” in Readings in Feminist Theory, edited by S.M. Channa, Cosmo Publications, 2006
- “Sexual Objectification and Visual Aspects of Sexuality,” Sheffield Electronic Press, 1994
Allan has given the following lectures:
- Feminist reading group, Boston College, discussing gender issues introduced in “Same Door, Different Closet,” 2011
- LIFE (Long Island Fetish Exchange), Nassau County Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Center, Woodbury, Long Island, New York, on the topic, “Gender Inversion, Being Genderqueer, and How Kink Facilitates Stepping Away from Gendered Assumptions,” 2015
- Baltimore Playhouse, Baltimore, MD, “Gender Inversion, Being Genderqueer, and Living in a World of Gender Assumptions,” 2016
- EPIC Lifestyle Conference, Lake Harmony, PA, same topic, 2016
- Long Island Leather and Roses, West Babylon, NY, same topic, spring 2017
- Podcast, OffTheCuffs (http:/offthecuffs.libsyn.com/), 2017
- 20something, LGBTQ youth group, 13th St LGBT Center Manhattan, “Gender Inversion, Being Genderqueer, and Living in the World of Gender Assumptions”, Feb 23, 2017
During his undergraduate days, he was an active participant at the campus Women’s Center, edited the student newspaper, and wrote many articles about sex roles, gender, and feminism; he also did a psychology research project on sex-role nonconformity, where he profiled male sissies (male girls) and female tomboys (female boys), differentiating them from either sexual orientation or studies of transsexual people seeking sex reassignment.
In graduate school, he completed social work internships at the Sayville Project, an advocacy-and-empowerment service for people with a psychiatric history. His Master’s thesis, which also served as the Review of Comparable Literature “Track II” paper in Sociology, was the assemblage of a 3,000+-page reader for teaching the history and perspective of the psychiatric patients’ liberation movement, providing a critical perspective on psychiatric practice.
A second “Track II” paper, “The Radical Feminist Perspective in (and/or on) the Field of Sociology,” was critiqued favorably by Verta Taylor of The Ohio State University’s Sociology Department and Sheila Ruth, professor at Southern Illinois University, and author of the reader, Issues in Feminism. It was later published, as noted above, in Readings in Feminist Theory.
Allan has often been at odds with other academics with his views on gender identity and on feminism. He has brought a fresh perspective to these discussions, which have not always been favorably received, yet they have added to the scholarship in an area that has been greatly lacking in researching and writing. Beginning in 1996, Allan began offering his own theory papers on his own website,
His employment history includes work as an elder-abuse case worker in the Bronx, applying his knowledge of feminist topics to the cases of family violence. Skills learned on that job have been used since as a FileMaker Pro database programmer, including work as a programmer/analyst, solutions programmer, and solutions designer, at various corporations in the New York area.