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They are such a genderqueerdo.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we lived in a world where our identities didn’t need to constantly be explained and validated? Well, I’m going to attempt to partially explain my current identity anyway, and then take a trip back to la-la land where an explanation of who I am is not necessary. I feel like I am rewriting parts of my life, scribbling in the margins, crossing stuff out and adding stuff in. It’s a project that will never be complete, but certainly an adventure worth working on, worth attempting to capture moment by moment, and maybe even make some sense out of it at some point.

I mentioned in a previous entry that I identify as genderless, meaning I no longer identify as female, though I will note that I do, of course, still relate to the gender I was assigned at birth, considering I’ve spent the last twenty-five years being perceived as, socialized, and medicalized as a girl. If you want to know about genderqueerness, I recommend reading the wikipedia page, which is basically Genderqueer 101, and if you want to know more, take the time to search out information, whether that means searching online, heading down to the bookstore, finding local groups, reading zines, or talking to your friends. I’m not an expert, either, and I’m working on all of the above, too.

I have slowly been integrating a new pronoun into my life, using ‘they’ instead of ‘she’. Since telling my friends about my genderless identity, I have felt both more free, and more bound. I have become hyper-conscious of the excuses people use to attempt to fit folks back into the gender-binary that they/we are trying to escape. I am even more uncomfortable with clerks & strangers on the street calling me “ma’am” and “miss”, something that annoyed the hell out of me long ago. I have already lost count of the times I’ve heard people say that they refuse to use a genderless pronoun because it is “grammatically incorrect.”

To them I say, Fuck you and your grammar. Well, that is my gut reaction, but of course it is much more complicated than that.

I admit that there are times when it’s hard to remember someone’s preferred pronoun, especially if you have known them as ‘she’ or ‘he’ for awhile, and we all have those moments where we stumble over our words and our pronouns. I’ve done it a few times. Then I go back and correct myself. It doesn’t have to be the most awkward moment in the world. I’ve also become aware that, for me, one reason I have had slight trouble referring to folks with their preferred pronouns is that, as I’ve mentioned before, I often prefer writing to speaking – and it turns out, writing ‘they’ is easier than saying ‘they’. Because writing gives me the time and ability to think and to backspace, whereas speaking, I might just blurt out something I wish I hadn’t said. One solution, I think, is simply to think deeper before we speak, and allow ourselves the time and patience to come up with the right words. This brings me back to something else I wrote about a little while ago, about mindful communication. Perhaps if we practice communication mindfully, and listen actively and with compassion, we won’t fuck up so badly.

There are, however, those who choose to refuse to use someone’s preferred pronouns all in the name of The English Language. Oh my gosh, it’s grammatically incorrect! It makes my brain hurt! And those are the people I have a problem with. When you choose to continue to use a gendered pronoun after someone has stated their preference for you not to, you are actively choosing to erase their identity, and that is a very privileged position to take (incidentally, it is also a privileged position to be able to identify as genderqueer, and to be able to tell people about it. Fancy that!). Although you may perceive someone as female, or may have known them to identify as female in the past, for example, it is not okay for you to continue to label them as a specific gender. If you’re having trouble with learning and remembering pronouns, it might be a good idea to ask yourself why. Because your odd respect for language & grammar over actual human lives is not a good excuse. I also fucking adore language & grammar, but I also adore playing with it and changing it and participating in its constant evolution.

The first time I applied the term ‘genderless’ to myself was while I was at Homewood last Spring. I had kept it to myself while I was there, because I just knew that announcing that I have no gender while staying at a mental health treatment centre would probably make me appear more Crazy to those who wouldn’t understand. I was dealing with so many varying issues, and didn’t want to add a new one to the list, even though it turned out to be interconnected with a lot of the shit I was attempting to discuss and deal with anyway. I wrote about it in my diary, wrote about it in a letter to a friend, and then I brought it up during one of my process group therapy sessions, in which about ten of us were seated in a circle talking about whatever we needed to talk about with other residents of the treatment centre, a therapist, and a psychiatrist. I briefly talked about my various identities and my need to integrate them into one being, instead of constantly separating and compartmentalizing all these core aspects of my life. I talked about being genderless only the tiniest bit, and then I moved on, but I was glad to get it out of me. I was angry about having the letter ‘F’ for Female stamped on my hospital bracelet.

This is yet another transitional phase of my life, something that is preoccupying my mind and my conversations. Although I often get angry and frustrated while discussing gender identities, especially when dealing with so many attacks and misunderstandings, it’s also a discussion I want to continue. I think these conversations are necessary.

Genderlessly Yours,

Maranda