"At the bar, dykes smile and nod my way, connecting butch to butch. Gay men cruise me hard, then look away. The bouncer cards me, surprised when I'm not a 15-year-old boy. The bartender calls me “cripple” and “girl” in a single glance.
In another world at another time, I would have grown up neither boy nor girl, but something entirely different. In English there are no words. All the language we have created – transgender, transsexual, drag queen, drag king, stone butch, high femme, nellie, fairy, bulldyke, he-she, FTM, MTF – places us in relationship to masculine or feminine, between the two, combining the two, moving from one to the other. I yearn for an image to describe my gendered self, not the shadow land of neither boy nor girl, a suspension bridge tethered between negatives. Rather I want a solid ground with bedrock of its own, wish for language to take me to a brand new place neither masculine nor feminine, day nor night, muscle nor bone, stone nor wing."
-From the essay “Neither Stone Nor Wing” by Eli Clare, as published in From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond, edited by Morty Diamond © 2004, Manic D Press.
I read Eli Clare’s “Language” and I found myself connected. Connected is an interesting term to use, but it is the only one that occurs to me. I love how ze writes about the namelessness of feeling neither male nor female. The words we use to describe gender variance play off language that determines one’s relationship to male or female. As if binary was the only thing that mattered. What this does is create an oppressing feeling of “otherness” to individuals who describe themselves as neither. It ostracizes people who do not fit within male or female or in-between.
I loosely identify myself as gender queer. I realize that the definitions of this term vary person to person. In some ways that is both why I love the phrase and hate it. I love the fluidity of “queer”, but I hate the otherness of it. To me, it feels like gender queer is the miscellaneous category. All the extras go here. Do not get me wrong, I like identifying as gender queer. Saying it is delicious. Queer. I love that word. To me it is fantastically eclectic, interesting, intriguing, wonderful, exciting, diverse, eccentric, fascinating, and inclusive. I love the word queer. I only wish that it was not the only option recognized for people who do not fit within the gender binary.
When people look at me, they see a woman, albeit a young one, a teenager. They see long hair, and skirts. They see me smile at strangers, and cross my legs. I am a woman. I identify as such. I am female biologically and I’m happy with that. However, I am also gender queer. I feel myself caught somewhere between and outside of male and female. Growing up, I felt uncomfortable in both the male and female sections of any department store. Now, I have come to feel alright in both, though I shoot for androgyny when I can.
Generally, I do not seek labels. I think that boxes are limiting and that individuals are more than categories. However, I agree with Eli Clare when ze says that: “I yearn for an image to describe my gendered self, not the shadow land of neither boy nor girl, a suspension bridge tethered between negatives” (“Neither Stone Nor Wing” by Eli Clare). Labels give stability and community. When a person finds themselves floundering without labels, they can feel lost and alone. Where is the security for the unidentified and unaffiliated?
I suppose one way to overcome this identity struggle would be to create my own. My hesitation here is that there is strength in numbers and until others adapted my label, I truly would be an outlier. Because of this, I have settled on gender queer. It is an experiment. I like it so far. I am hoping that I can find that this identifier fits me.