Note: This post is part of the #Trust30 challenge. I wrote it in response to Mary’s prompt. Nothing is too scary to write about, but many things are too scary to post online where people who know me can read it. Here is one of those things.
I am genderless. I thought you might like to know.
I used to call myself agender, but then a blogger said that we should reconsider the word agender because grammatically it means “no gender,” and that’s confusing, they said, because everyone has a gender, even if it’s not male or female. If you have a neutral gender, you might use neutrois instead, or genderqueer. It’s good to be precise. So I switched to something more precise, more obvious — I don’t want there to be any confusion. I do not have a gender. And there is no way you can misunderstand the word genderless. Sometimes in my more whimsical moments, I say gender-free.
If you don’t know what on earth I’m saying, I highly recommend “Not Your Mom’s Trans 101“. If you have an inclination toward complicated gender theory, I also highly recommend reading the entire comment trail.
That could take a while. I’ll give you some time.
Okay. So. The reason I am careful to differentiate between having a neutral gender and having no gender is laid out nicely in “Gender Neutral = Genderless?” The writer, Dreki, is neutrois (meaning they have a neutral gender) and gets just as annoyed as I do when people can’t tell the difference between neutral and non-existent. At the end of the post, they say:
There are people who don’t have a gender, people who genuinely are genderless, I don’t know if they really identify as such or if it’s just something they see and go “hey, sounds like me” or “oh, so that’s why I don’t get trans people” then go on with their lives label-less. From what I can tell, they generally feel fine in their body, don’t really understand gender and assume it’s just based on sex because that’s the only reason they identify as anything (get really confused by trans people) and the only problem they’d have with waking up as the opposite sex is that they’d have to re-socialize themselves. But I also don’t really know.
I know there are genderless people who do feel like this, but I’m not one of them. For one, I actually identify as trans because, as I understand it, transgender means your gender identity doesn’t match your assigned sex. Mine certainly doesn’t. To me, gender feels like some huge oppressive system to which people innocently chain me. I’m uncomfortable in my body because people use it to assume incorrect things about me (and because the clothes I like aren’t made to fit on it, but I find ways around that, and anyway, cis people have this experience, too). People see a certain set of characteristics and assume I am a woman, so I have a desire to rid myself of these characteristics to stop people from doing that. If I woke up tomorrow with a new set of body parts that made people think I was a man, I’d enjoy the confusion it caused everyone else for a while, but then I’d get sick of people assuming new and exciting incorrect things about me and want to change the offending parts.
It’s kind of like… let’s say I choose to vote Republican, and someone puts a sign in my yard that says “Vote for Nader!” I’m going to want that sign gone. It’s not like I hate the sign itself — it’s just a piece of paper on a stick. I don’t hate a piece of paper. But it makes people think the wrong thing about me, so I take it off my lawn. That’s how I feel about the characteristics and mannerisms that make people think I’m a woman.
Dreki guesses that trans people might confuse me, but I wouldn’t say that is the case. People are different from me. That’s not confusing. But anyone who has a gender is experiencing something that I do not understand, whether they are trans or cis. What does it feel like to be neutrois? What does it feel like to be a man? What does it feel like to be a woman? (When I was a kid I listened carefully to this song to try to understand. It didn’t help.)
In fact, I understand gendered trans people more than I understand cis people because I know what it feels like when your assigned sex doesn’t match your identity. The only people who confuse me are those who sincerely believe that there are two mutually exclusive types of bodies that humans can have, and that these bodies match up neatly with two types of personalities. This, my friends, baffles me.
All of that being said, I wouldn’t think about gender if people didn’t chain me to it. It might not even cross my mind at all, and if it did, I wouldn’t be upset about it. If you would like to help me achieve this happy state, there are a few things you can do.
- If you talk about me in the third person, avoid using pronouns if you can. If you can’t avoid it, I’d prefer “they”. “She” is okay when you’re talking to people who don’t know about my lack of gender and you don’t feel like getting into a discussion about it. As for titles, avoid them until I get a doctorate. Then you can call me Dr. Cottle. Bwahaha.
- Avoid using gendered terms when referring to groups — even if you think the whole group is one gender. You might be hurting someone without knowing it. Instead of saying “ladies” or “girls” or “guys”, try saying “everyone”, “folks”, or even “y’all”, if you can pull it off. I like saying “friends” if it applies. I know that “guys” is supposedly okay to use for any gender, but it’s just as bad as using “he” to mean an anonymous person. It makes male the default. I still occasionally hear myself say “guys” out of habit, but I’m working on replacing it. Until it becomes okay to say “girls” when referring to a mixed group, “guys” is sexist.
- Please stop assuming that you know what body parts people have. Unless they are naked or they tell you themselves, you don’t know. (Packing, tucking, padding, and binding can be very effective.)
- Please stop assuming that it matters what body parts people have. Unless you are giving a medical examination or having sex using those parts, you don’t need to know.
These are some simple examples that would make me happy. I don’t like turning my identity into an angst-fest, which can sometimes happen when I think about it a lot, so I’ll just end by saying that I enjoy being genderless and the people I’m closest to are wonderful about it. Now I recommend checking out the photographer J.J. Levine, especially the gallery “Switch”. My favorite is the third down on the left column. Sometimes gender is really cool.
Huh… Does “gender” look like a collection of incomprehensible gibberish to you? It’s funny how words fall apart after you see them too many times.