Why are Communities Crucial?

Being apart of the LGBTQ+ community isn’t just about being publically in the streets at a Pride event – it’s being able to be yourself in other areas to – like at work/volunteering place. But not everyone has that opportunity, so I wanted to write about other ways of being in the LGBTQ+ community.

But what is meant by the term community? Well, to me, it means that a group of people that have something in common – whether it be sexual orientation, gender, hobby etc. To me, it means that the things that connect them them together is the core & the most important part. Cool – but why are they important?
Good question! Well, communities should be a familiar place used to bring people together to advocate and support each other in the fight to overcome oppression or stigma normally associated with a certain sexuality and/or gender identity. It’s also where we find comfort in difficult times – e.g. if someone is questioning their gender/sexuality, then the LGBTQ+ community can offer (in good faith) resources where one can find labels. or just offer words of support or encouragement.

Especially during the pandemic, communities are crucial because having someone to digitally talk to – whether about LGBTQ+ topics or otherwise – can improve ones mental health, or just make one feel happier.

Gender Expression is a Human Right

Gender expression can be defined as the way in which every human being expresses themselves in gendered terms – the way in which all persons express themselves within the different possibilities that the gender spectrum offers -like masculinity, femininity, androgyny, etc.

Unlike one’s sexual orientation (who someone is sexually attracted to – so terms like bisexual, lesbian etc) and gender identity, gender expression is eminently social in nature and constitutes a fundamental part of the way in which we are perceived and the way in which we perceive others.

So why is gender expression a human right? Well, it’s a human right because the notion of gender expression allows us to bring to light a wide variety of human rights violations that are committed on account of the way in which people express themselves socially in terms of gender, regardless of their identity. Certain legal regulations, such as those that penalize one’s dressing in clothes of the opposite gender, or certain habitual interpretations of regulations on public scandal, prostitution and vagrancy effectively criminalize those people whose gender expression goes against the cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, thus putting them in a position of social and institutional vulnerability.

What gendered words do I like?

Gendered language exists – and while some may find some words that they like, being a nonbinary person (for me at least), means that finding words that are typically associated with the gender binary difficult.

But what do I mean by a gendered word – well, to get technical, gender in languages is just one way of breaking up nouns into classes or categories. A noun is a part of language that names a person, place, thing, idea, action or quality. For example, nouns can refer to an individual name of a person. Like Mike or Amrita. Also, it can refer to a place or thing. 

So here are some of all the “gendered” words that I like: sibling (as opposed to sister), spouse/partner/significant other (as opposed to girlfriend or wife), person (as opposed to girl), handsome, cute, uncle

How would I Like to Dress in the Future?

On Monday I wrote a piece on gender identity vs gender expression, which is something I believe to be deeply personal to everyone regardless of gender identity. So how do I, a trans nonbinary person, want to express my gender going forward?

The answer is more simple than you think – generally, I want to dress the same as I currently do – i.e. wearing traditionally masculine items of clothing (e.g. flannel shirts, jeans etc). So for me, I still want to feel extremely gender neutral and androgynous, & this is the best way for me to express that (bear in mind that I’m only one person and every nonbinary person is different). Other than that, I would like to wear more dramatic pieces of clothing (e.g. floral shirts).

Furthermore, I’m still pretty certain that I want to socially transition – meaning that I want to change my name to Casey and replace “Ms” with “Mx” (Mx is basically a gender neutral title that replaces “Mr”, “Mrs” etc). Though in terms of my physical transition, Testosterone is still something I don’t want to take, & top surgery is still something I’m still unsure of.

On Being Bisexual & Nonbinary: A Look at Gender & Sexuality

I want to start off by saying that I’m only one person who uses both of these labels – so obviously I can’t speak on behalf on anyone else’s experiences. Secondly, this post isn’t meant to invalidate pansexual peoples experiences. Anyway, as you are aware – I’m a nonbinary bisexual person. This may seem contradictory seeing as bisexuality is typically seen as a sexual attraction to men and women – but continues to be — defined as an “attraction to all genders,” “attraction beyond gender,” and “attraction regardless of gender” in addition to “attraction to men and women.” 

The two identities also have more in common than one may think – for example, people who claim that attraction, for example, to men and women is impossible (which isn’t true – because as any great bisexual person will tell you – “why not both?”) reveals a lot about how we view & understand ones sexual orientation – as something that is binary (i.e. you’re either straight or gay with no wriggle room). But it can also reveal something about gender – we see it as binary (which it isn’t. So why are they then similar? Well, because, they both challenge our view on gender & sexuality.

I’d like to show you this quote from the American Institute of Bisexuality:

Please also note that attraction to both same and different means attraction to all. Bisexuality is inherently inclusive of everyone, regardless of sex or gender.

Bi.org

Before you retort, “but ‘bi’ means ‘two,’” click here). We’ve been describing our sexuality in terms of attraction to all genders for decades – some Bisexuals are already drawn towards all the genders for which society teaches the framework, which remains two – which isn’t true because gender exist on a spectrum.

If you don’t already know what the term nonbinary means, it’s both an umbrella term & identifier that refers to anyone who isn’t strictly male or female – it’s all the identities in between male and female. So if we accept that nonbinary identities are an element in sexuality, then bisexuality essentially includes all gender identities. It isn’t merely a simplistic model of half attraction to men, half attraction to women — it’s a complete identity in its own right, where no particular identity is a dealbreaker.

Furthermore, unlike straightness and gayness, however, bisexuality resists this gender link. In her article, “Playing with Butler and Foucault: Bisexuality and Queer Theory,” April S. Callis explains: “Bisexuality, on the other hand, cannot be so easily matched, because it does not allow gender to be wholly tied with sex object choice“. So, in my opinion, being both nonbinary & bisexual is something I take great pride in because my identities destabilizes the categorization of sexuality & gender itself. 

Nonbinary vs Gender Non-Conforming

Yesterday I wrote about the difference between one’s gender identity & gender expression, but today I wanted to talk about two terms that people can use if they fall outside the gender binary – gender nonconforming & nonbinary. Now, I want to say that I actually use both terms, because they both describe the fact that I don’t vibe with the gender binary (male & female), but I do understand that some may prefer one term over the other, which is fine. But one thing always remains true: If you are going to refer to someone’s identity, you should always ask what label they prefer, and stick to that one.

The dictionary definition of “non-binary” as something that is “not consisting of, indicating, or involving two.” (i.e. the gender binary, referring to the idea that there are the idea that there are only two categories of gender experience (male & female). While I like the term gender nonconforming, I greatly prefer the term nonbinary (or gender neutral) because I don’t gel with either binary gender.

Gender nonconforming, on the other hand, refers to people who have a gender expression that does not conform to traditional gender norms. Similar to both “non-binary” “gender non-conforming” is also often used as an umbrella term—although it is sometimes also used to refer to people who identify as cisgender but who dress or behave in ways that defy gender stereotypes (e.g. cisgender women is suits) – I like this term because honestly, I might not have the time or energy to give an in depth explanation of what being nonbinary is like (especially since university has started again), so it serves a quick way to somewhat explain my gender.

But these two umbrella terms are just some of the words people may use to describe their gender, because as our language grows, our understanding of gender continues to expand, and people are identifying with an ever-growing and increasingly fluid group of labels – some of these could be “gender-fluid”, “genderqueer”, “demigirl” & “demiboy” etc.

Gender Identity Vs Gender Expression

Gender is a complicated thing – in most societies, there is a basic division between gender attributes assigned to males and females. Gender can correlate with someones biological sex (cisgender) or differ from it (trans) – and one’s gender expression can also differ or conform to whatever gender you identify as. But what’s the difference?

Let’s start with gender identity. Gender identity is the sense of one’s own gender – so it ecompasses terms such as transgender, nonbinary, cisgender etc. But gender expression is a bit more complex than gender identity – gender expression refers to a person’s gender identity, but this is not always the case (e.g. my gender identity is nonbinary, but I express myself in a typically masculine way, while someone with the same gender identity may dress in a typically feminine way).

You Don’t Need to “Come Out”!

Today is National Coming Out Day – a chance for the LGBTQ+ Community is possibly tell the world who they are. While that’s all fine and dandy, you don’t have to come out if you don’t want to – or for a variety of reasons. Now I want to start by saying that I have the opportunity to be myself, because I have an accepting family & chances to hang out with other LGBTQ+ people – but I’m aware that not everyone has the same opportunity as I do.

So this first point isn’t about or for me – it’s for the people who can’t come out – and I just wanted to say that you’re still a part of the community & that you’ll be able to get out of the shitty situation someday. You don’t have to settle for a family members homophobia, transphobia etc and its more than OK to cut them off completely.

Secondly, it’s not as simple as being “out” or “in the closet” – because like most things, it isn’t binary, because many of us spend our entire lives coming out, like for a new job, a new school/college/university, or a new group of friends- having the same old conversations, expect with a new group of people.

But it’s still true that its YOUR choice when and who you come out to – and you are no less apart of the community if you choose not to come out or if you’re not out to anyone.

Happy 25th Birthday Freedom Youth!

Freedom - OTR

Today marks 25 years since Freedom Youth started in 1995! I’ve been going since year 10, so during secondary school – so this awesome organisation has been a big part of my life, and it’s been a massive honour and joy to be a member that supports LGBTQ+ young people. So it’s exciting to say that Freedom is turning 25!

For those who are unaware of what Freedom Youth do, it’s a place that is open to anyone questioning their sexuality or gender and is supported by a team of friendly and knowledgeable LGBTQ+ youth

workers.When I found Freedom, I had come out as bisexual to myself and other people. But I didn’t know anyone else who was in the LGBTQ+ community. But Freedom acted as a place where I could be myself, no labels attached. And going every Tuesday, and now Wednesday, was the best choice – I’ve met so many amazing people who I now consider some of my closet friends. Another plus is that it has helped me become more proud of myself, and it’s all because Freedom is such an awesome space that’s free of judgement.

So happy 25th Birthday Freedom Youth – you’re such an awesome, amazing and supportive place and you’ve helped me make some of the best friends imaginable! Here’s to another 25 years!

Normalise Identity Exploration & Change

Identity is complex, fluid and confusing – and everyone has the right to explore it. Trust me. But part of learning and understanding that both gender and sexuality aren’t so black and white means that sometimes these labels – and as a result of your identity – will change – and that’s OK.  Let’s use me as an example – I didn’t know I was bi until late into my secondary school experience, and I didn’t know I was transmasculine until December of 2018. I also didn’t realize I was nonbinary until late August 2018. What this means is that I discovered my queer identity in three (3) different parts, and I discovered my gender identity after my sexuality – which is 100% ok and valid. So no matter what stage you may be at, please know that you are valid – and even if you come to realize that you are cisgender and heterosexual, guess what? The fact that you were brave enough to explore your identity was super cool! 

Though while the labels I currently use have not changed, the way in which I define them has – and this is especially with my sexuality. When I first started using the term bi to describe my sexuality, I used the traditional definition (‘sexual and/or romantic attraction to both men and women’), and while that was valid for a time, I then discovered my gender identity. And though my label hasn’t changed, the way I define it has – I now define it has, ‘sexual and romantic attraction to multiple genders’ – this includes men, women and nonbinary people. Could I qualify as pansexual? Yes! But I prefer the label ‘bisexual’ because it makes me happy and comfortable! But I’m also aware that I could wake up and realize that I’m actually a completely different label, and that would be perfectly OK!

Questioning your gender identity and/or sexuality is hard – and that’s ok, and I believe that you’ll find the right labels that suit you – and even if you come to the conclusion that you don’t like labels, that’s also fine! But unfortunately, the existence of gatekeepers means that someone may feel unable to explore their identity due to these gatekeepers being quick to judge and erase the idea of exploring your identity. 

You are valid and brave for exploring your identity. I’m very proud of you for doing so, and you deserve all the love, validation, acceptance as well as support that is available to you.