In light of recent discussions at Radical Routes, the definition itself of "Radical Social Change" has come into question. Since I feel like a bit of a freak, and not for want of trying to be otherwise, I thought I'd pop in and say a little bit about my radical social change at the moment. (To recap: as members of Radical Routes we're required to do 16 hours of radical social change per week.)
The thing is, I don't really feel like I have a choice. (Technically I do, in that I could just lie back and stop trying to have basic rights, but there we are.)
I'm genderqueer. I feel a bit weird saying it out loud even now! Everyone has a different definition of this word, but for me it means that I feel like I don't have a gender at all. My preferred pronoun for myself is singular "they/them" and I'm happy with anything that's not he, she or it. Don't get me started on a genderqueer wardrobe when you're committed to secondhand clothing, you're on benefits and you've got a chronic illness that prevents shopping.
I did a Google image search for "Queer bra" to break up
the enormous block of text that is this post.
This is my favourite of the results.
No, I don't understand either. Why are they lying on a car?
So, all that is fine. Having worked out yet another thing that is freaky about myself, I feel relieved for having worked it out. But when people say things like this are a choice, I want to stab them with forks (perhaps a Genderfork?). And when people imply that I would want to choose it in order to be difficult, I want to stab them with rusty forks. To do so may count as social change, and on their part it may count as suicide to disrespect me in this way, but despite these motivations I hold back. I think time spent not stabbing people with rusty forks maybe should count towards my social change.
People who're out and proud speak of coming out as being not one big event, but as infinite smaller ones. The same is true of being genderqueer, only more so, because I have to come out to many people more than once. I'm female assigned at birth (FAAB, dahling), and basically look (at the moment) like a tomboy. I'm really trying to look less like a woman, but most people don't realise that there's anything aside from man and woman. Upon meeting anyone I'll be seeing often, or who needs to know these things, I will explain that I'm not a woman but I'm not a man either. I will explain the pronouns, and about not using "she." My new acquaintance will appear to understand and be sympathetic. Some time later, unless the person is queer-savvy or particularly thoughtful and respectful, they will use "she" or refer to me by my feminine birth name.
My bank insists on me having a gendered title on record and on all correspondence. Don't you think it's strange that there's one title for men, three titles for women dependent on marital status, i.e.: relation to a man, but NONE at all for people whose gender is unclear? In written communication, that seems pretty lax to me. I have asked to change my name from GenderedName to Cassian Lotte, but they refuse because I want either the title Misc or no title at all. (Edited later to add: They've now changed my name, and this is some kind of awesome stuff they say about titles.)
When I go to a restaurant or cafe, chances are there won't be bathroom facilities I can use unless I want to wave the disabled card. Underwear for FAAB people assumes that I want breasts to be big and obvious, or at least supported, but I want mine to be not there at all. (I had to spend a lot of money on a chest-binder from overseas.)
For something like gender that's so basic to human life and yet irrationally has so much meaning, every moment of my life is radical. Every time someone makes an assumption about me I am committing an act of radical social change to speak up and be myself. Why yes, you're right, I do have a vagina. What does that have to do with what we're talking about? Oh, I see, it means that the clothing I buy, the TV shows I watch, the people I fall in love with and the food I eat is affected by my vagina. Thanks, I'm glad you let me know, because here was me ignoring my vagina in my day-to-day life. And now I can tell people about my genitals through the act of dressing, watching TV, falling in love and eating. How kind of you to tell me over and over again when we've only known each other for five minutes.
Fortunately, there is a bright side.
The phone rings. It seems to be a telemarketer.
Them: "Hello, is this the lady of the house?"
Me: "Not exactly. Who's speaking, please?"
Them: "Is your mother or father in?"
Me: "I'm 24, I live alone. Who is this, please?"
Them: "Could I speak to the lady or the man of the house please?"
Me: "There are no men or women living here. WHO IS THIS?"
*beeeeeeeep* as they hang up.
I'm accosted in the street by a Christian who wants to talk to me about God.
Them: "Come into this church and listen to my talk! You'd be very welcome."
Me: "Thanks for the offer, but I am Pagan and very happy in my faith! I hope the talk goes well, though."
Them: "Even more reason to come on in!"
Me: "Well, I'm not exactly resistant to hearing what other people have to say, but why not give me a bit of an overview before I head in, so I can decide if it's something I might like to hear?"
Them: "Okay! Well, finding a common ground might help. Do you feel that there are some things, some acts, that are fundamentally immoral?"
Me: "No, I think we as human beings ascribe morality to meaningless acts."
Them: "But there are things that everyone can agree are wrong. Take, for example, adultery."
Me: "I'm polyamorous."
Them: "But that's deceit!"
Me: "No, I'm very honest in my relationships. A basic part of polyamory is the idea that everyone understands what's going on and everyone is consenting. There's no deceit. You could argue that there's less cheating than in monogamy, though that's not always true."
Them: "But you must, in your lifestyle, feel that sleeping with two people is dishonest, and you can never truly love someone and be happy."
Me: "You can, but for the most part that doesn't apply to me. I'm asexual."
Them (with anger/disbelief): "So you're polyamorous and you don't have sex??"
Me: "My sex life is none of your business, but for asexuals in general, relationships are very much not at all about sex."
Them: "Hang on, talk to this man about religion."
They then refer me to someone who proceeds to tell me that I am doing everything wrong and I am wrong as a person, that I shouldn't want to be the way I am naturally, that I can change who I am, and that his entire way of life is correct and right and good because he believes it is and that makes it true.
It feels like a battle, but it's one I'm happy to fight, because it's harder and more painful to pretend to be a straight, sexual, monogamous woman.
Edited to add:
I was joking earlier at Golem HQ about how this post is a block of text that needs pictures, so I added the photo above that I found on Google Image Search for "queer bra" - it was my favourite result. :D However, I also found this excellent Autostraddle article on buying bras when you're a great big queer. I thought you should know.