Being Genderqueer - What it Means for Me

By: Donna Lynn Matthews, October 2006

I’m 40+ year old male, married and have two daughters. I live in the suburbs, schlep my ass to work every day to provide a good home for my family and I'm as involved as I can be with my family. In many ways – a rather typical ‘dad’.

I’m also genderqueer – at least, that’s how I choose to identify.

There is a saying I absolutely love:

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice – but in practice, there is.
Yes, Genderqueer is rooted in Queer Theory which is itself rooted in Postmodernism – all of which are most at home within the walls of academia: one can almost make a career studying and arguing postmodern theory. And theory is important: understanding the theory allows you to apply it to and better understand real world situations – usually.

But with or without the theory, the real world still happens to us. This is where my quote above comes in. Quite often, the theory doesn’t help in our day to day, practical existence.

It is far too easy to get wrapped up in the theory and the almost impenetrable lexicon which accompanies it. And while debating theory can be an interesting intellectual pastime – it also has the chilling effect of alienating nearly everyone else who wants to get through life. In practice, the theory can almost get in the way.

From an operational perspective, I like the following definition: not a state of being so much as a state of mind – an admission that there truly are no absolutes about gender. It is for this reason that I characterize Genderqueer as operating at a meta level with respect to other gendered identities.

I see gendered identities as an attempt to define a set of operational boundries – a domain of actions and feelings – within which one can call ‘home’. From this perspective, Genderqueer can be thought of as the superset of gendered identities, of which man, woman, trans, etc are but a few.

So far in my life, I have identified as:

My ‘gender’ can and does change – day to day and even during the day. I ‘do’ or ‘am’ what I need to be, when I need to be it. People will gender me as they see fit: some see a man, some see a woman – and other aren’t sure what they see. I can shift their interpretation with something as simple as allowing then to see my purse – suddenly, I move from ‘man’ to ‘woman’. Yes, I fuck with gender – not as much as some – but I fuck with it nonetheless. And regardless of how I am ‘gendered’ by others, there is always something ‘queer’ about it. :)

With the exception of onlone forums, I rarely consider the theoretical side to Genderqueer. I simply use it as a shorthand description for my view of gender and my relation to the world at large. If you consider it from a practical perspective, there is no reason to not consider yourself Genderqueer. Because - IMHO - at the end of the day, we’re all Genderqueer... With some of us just slightly queerer than others. :)

Perhaps the main problem people seem to have with Genderqueer as an 'identity' is that at it's core, Genderqueer really is more a 'theory' or, more properly, a philosophy than an identity. It is more 'a state of mind, not a state of being.' Perhaps, it is more proper to state "I embrace the philosophy of Genderqueer as an interpretation of the world" than it is to make the statement "I am Genderqueer."

But this is respect, it is not unlike the use of Transgender: on the one hand it being specific to an individual who identified as the gender 'opposite' that which has been assigned to them - and on the other hand being a broader, more conceptual notion of being gender variant.

In practical usage, Genderqueer has been defined as "someone who identifies as a gender other than 'man' or 'woman,' or someone who identifies as neither, both, or some combination thereof." (from Wikipedia.) From a theoretical standpoint, Genderqueer recognizes the fluid and boundless nature of gender.

As a construct, Genderqueer (no absolutes with regards to gender) encompases Transgender (variations within a specific domain of operational boundries). As an identity, Genderqueer (both, neither or other) is distinct from Transgender (opposite of one's assigned gender).

Me personally - I see both the theory and practical definitions as being applicable: I do not identify as any specific gender and I view gender as something with no true absolutes.

Please Note:

The information here is copyright protected and is the exclusive property of Donna Matthews.

Opinions presented here are entirely my own and do not represent the opinions or policy of any other corporate entity.


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