Adapting to Queer Language

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Hello, hello!

Right now I’m stuck in midterms (sob) but I’ll be travelling to Malaysia next week! Of course I still have to write about visiting the southern Thai island Koh Lanta, and Nan a province and city in the north of Thailand!

For now though, I’d like to wander off the trail this blog is blazing for a second.

This topic may not interest my current readers but perhaps it will help some people with their perception of the changing gender climate worldwide.

This blog was originally established so I would challenge my perspective and grow in my observation and storytelling skills. I think this personal journey is worth sharing, so here it is.

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Adapting to Queer Language

So lately I’ve been drawn to articles discussing gender terms and sexual orientation. There’ve been a number of factors contributing to this interest.

The first factor is the influence of my Facebook community. My friends use a vast spectrum of gender and sexual preference terms to identify themselves. I know people who have transitioned from male to female and those who’ve transitioned from female to male. I’m friends with some who dream of being drag queens and many individuals who are afraid to tell their parents they are gay or lesbian.

Every day I scroll through a line of scattered articles cheering on acceptance and openness and booing maps revealing oppression and hate.

With the introduction of a “custom” option for gender identity on Facebook I noticed a wave of quiet changes—the most significant one coming from my boyfriend.

Boyfriend’s about page:

Gender: Gender queer and non-binary.

Immediately I went to an online dictionary to find out what these two terms mean.

“Gender Queer: denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.” – Google Dictionary

According to the Queer Dictionary on Tumblr, non-binary is an umbrella term for individuals who chose identities that do not fit into the conventional system of man/woman. They do not identify as either a man or a woman.

In a way this new development meant nothing. My boyfriend had already asked me to stop using pet names that directly infer masculinity (like Lover-man) and I was already doing my best to comply. It didn’t mean our relationship had changed or that my boyfriend had transformed into an entirely new being. Trust me I asked. I was worried that I’d lose my boyfriend to the woman he was to become.

But my boyfriend laughed and said don’t be silly, I’m not going to transition into a female. I’m a male but sometimes I’m a woman, but sometimes I’m neither man nor woman (note the complexity of sex and gender).

In that way the relationship between two people was no different. The basis of enjoying each other’s company and characteristics was the same. In another way however I was to find myself facing some personal battles.

 

Boyfriend or Girlfriend?

“Can I still call you my boyfriend? Girlfriend? Should we use a new term? Isn’t partner usually used by gays and lesbians?” I wrote on our Line thread.

“You could use date-mate, that’s a popular new term on the Internet for people who identify as gender queer,” my boyfriend sent back.

“I’m sorry but I’m uncomfortable with date-mate, was my immediate reply. It sounds too much like date-rape.”

“Now I’ll never use that term again,” was the answer I received back.

“Whoops sorry XD.”

“You can just keep calling me your boyfriend. Or girlfriend if you want to.”

“Ok!”

 

Them, Themself And They

Later another question would arise and a change that would be much more difficult to implement in my head.

“So what pronoun should I refer to you as from now on?” I said to my girlfriend one night over the phone.

“Is ‘he’ improper? But is ‘she’ proper? What about something new?”

“What about them, themself, they?” he/she responded.

“No, those imply a group of people,” I said back.

But in Europe them, themself and they are being used as a singular pronoun for queer gendered individuals, pointed out my boyfriend.

“It’s grammatically incorrect! In journalism class we were taught not to do that!” I shot back.

 

He/She

“Then how did you write about people whose genders you don’t know?” she/he responded.

“We write he/she or we make the subject plural. For example, if we had, “a kid could hurt himself/herself if she/he fell into that hole,” we’d turn it into “kids could hurt themselves if they fell into that hole.”

Non-binary was proving to be unconventionally abstract within my perspective of the English language.

However, as stubborn as I wanted to be about sticking to he/she it was proving unsuitable for what my girlfriend imagined himself-herself as.

Twice my boyfriend asked why I was using he/she. I began to smell a hint.

“What’s wrong with it?”

Well some gender queers do not identify as either man or woman, so he/she isn’t right. It implies both rather than none, he/she pointed out.

 

She-He

“So how about if I write he-she with a hyphen in between so I can suggest both genders but also neither because I’m cancelling them out by subtracting them.”

I was still seeking a pronoun I could use to satisfy every gender queer out there. It was growing into an interest not only fueled by my hopes to satisfy my girlfriend, but also my inner journalist.

However, writing, “there was this individual who loved to read so much they could read forever” made me shudder.

“The English language doesn’t make sense,” he-she said back.

“But I’m referring to you, only you. Not a group of people. You.”

I was adamant.

 

Hx, Xe, Xs

“Well there’s hx, him, her; xe, he, she; xs, his, hers,” xe wrote out.

Mmm, I started thinking about it as xe kept on writing.

“But I don’t really like it,” she-he finished off. “We’ll keep thinking and come up with something.”

With that communication glitch on the shelf for the time being I had a breather.

 

Gender Variance

Then a new article caught my attention on Facebook.

It features 27 photos of individuals in the queer community who don’t conform to emerging mainstream labels of gay, lesbian, trans and bisexual (LGBT). Suddenly here was an example of people who displayed more complexity than even the world-shocking maze of LGBT labels.

Gender fluid? Queer Butch Trans Top? Three spirit? Pinay? Gender blind? Gay Masculine of Center?

I had to pull out the online queer dictionaries for this piece.

At number 10, a photo of an individual identifying as a pansexual gender fluid tomboy, I was struck by a memory of another discussion with my boyfriend right after them revealed their gender identities on Facebook (see how awkward that is?).

As an aside, in mainstream speak a pansexual gender fluid tomboy is someone who is attracted to people fitting under any label (male, female, queer, trans) and considers themself (ugh, I still dislike using this term) to be outside of the traditional woman/man identity though I guess leans toward conventionally masculine traits.

I certainly lean towards masculinity, but what does that mean for my identity? Only a few weeks ago I was angled toward my inner woman.

“Nothing changes for me!” I wrote to my boyfriend after reading her-his new gender status.

“huh?”

“Oh, I’m happy with being labeled a woman so I don’t feel the need to change my gender status.”

“Ah, ok.”

But was that really true if gender identity could be broken down into a string of queer words? I now found myself wondering if I should reconsider.

Was I in fact something of a “bi-curious gender fluid tomboy?”

No, I guess not because I’m fine with being called a she. Tomboy might fit since I like to consider myself a conventionally masculine woman. But did that just make me a semi-feminist? Shoot, maybe not, because a woman can be tough but still in a skirt right?

 

What Does It All Mean?

This of course just led to general frustration as my mind shifted to divert from a possible identity crisis.

Was there a point to all this labeling? I’m a human being who likes to dress-up as much as I like to get muddy.

Give me a dirt bike and then a candle-lit dinner.

Let me be the knight but as a woman.

Let me gush after that cute girl down the street while I hold the hand of my complex lover.

I’ll openly admit that I don’t get it. I’m still working it out within my sphere of friends, my relationship and my self. And I’m not even in the tough position of trying to explain a personal new label to the world.

From all this all I can offer is a sincere “good luck” to those trying to break free of convention. I hear you. I’m willing to listen. I’ll love you as a person even if I don’t understand how you see yourself.

 

Besides:

If,

men are from Mars,

and

women are from Venus,

shouldn’t it follow that the rest of humanity is from Earth?

 

Or deep space if that’s what you want.

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