I feel like I haven’t written in a long time, so I figured I’d share something I wrote today. I wrote this as a response to someone’s question about what the difference between the terms “cissexual” and “cisgender” is, and I rather like it.
I subscribe to this idea: [www.gendersanity.com] where a lot of descriptors are separated from one another. To use myself as an example: I am biologically female (biological sex–far right); have a gender identity that is close to woman (gender identity–right of center, but not far right); express my gender in a way that on average is sorta androgynous (gender expression–near the center); and have a bisexual orientation slightly favoring women (sexual orientation–slightly left of center). I am both cissexual and cisgender.
Cissexual: my mental and physical sexes are aligned (biological sex and gender identity). I am not transsexual.
Cisgendered: this is a little more complicated. It also means gender normative. By the strictest definition, I am not 100% cisgendered, but I consider myself to be. My gender expression does not exactly line up with society’s expectations of how I should perform my biological sex. Society is conflating bio sex with gender expression in the term gender normative.
From what I’ve read this is a pretty common idea. Some people don’t like the use of the word “queer” because of past negative connotations, so they may use GLBT, LGBT, gay, or some permutation of those to describe the same idea.
The queer umbrella started out with just gay men, then expanded to include gay women. There is some argument about this however, because those people who participated in the events that started opening this umbrella, Stonewall being the most obvious one, were possibly trans as well; a lot of them were “cross-dressed” and that’s part of the reason the cops bust in on their scene. Bisexual people were the next to come in under the umbrella, although it probably wasn’t until after the time that the trans- people were included under the umbrella that people who identified as loving/being attracted to a wider spectrum of people than the term “bisexual” usually encompasses were included. There are, of course, many people who are queer or identify as such that don’t fit under these labels or don’t want to be labeled and arguably these people fit under the umbrella too.
The point of an umbrella is to provide coverage and protection for all people who can fit underneath it, whether from rain, snow, or sun. Any lack of inclusion means that there are people who feel queer who aren’t protected in the way that everyone else is.
There are people who have more privileged spots under the umbrella. First, I would argue that those (arguably straight) people who identify as queer, but have entirely straight relationships partake in straight privilege, but still, because of their identification, which may come from any host of reasons, belong under the umbrella. There is a thin line between these people and bisexual people who never engage in relationship-style behaviors with people of their same-sex. Sometimes people of the first group acknowledge that it may be possible for them to be attracted to someone of the same sex, but they never are. Sometimes people in the second group are the same way. I do not place myself in this category, although others who just look at my recent behaviors, would place me there.
Second, I would argues that gay men have a privileged spot under the umbrella. They were the first to be under the protection of the umbrella and for a long time they controlled who the umbrella protected. They are often still considered the voices of the queer community to the straight community. They also get to partake in male privilege.
Third, I would argue that gender-conforming LGB people have a privileged spot under the umbrella. Femme lesbians are what the media presents as representative of the lesbian population. Most of the time they dress and act like they are expected to as women in this society. Anyone who is not gender-conforming is seen as abnormal or deviating from what is accepted by “society” and are treated in accordance with that. It is also easier for people who are gender-conforming to pass as straight if they are in a society that does not look kindly upon queer people or even passes the death sentence upon them.
The discussion of a federal ENDA brought up the issue of whether trans- people are or should be included. After all, many trans- people identify as straight. Does the state of being outside the sexual orientation part of the queer bubble mean that these trans- people should not be included under the queer umbrella? There are ramifications for not having a trans-inclusive ENDA for LGB people. If a LGB person is not gender-conforming enough in their dress or attitudes for a certain employer they can still be fired for that reason. I have read some people argue that most GLB people are also trans- because they don’t conform to standards of gender-based behavior for “society”, and while I think that this is an intriguing idea, it is one for another post.
This man says a lot of things I want to say about being bi and bisexuality. He talks mostly about male bisexuality, but it is fascinating to read his stuff. I have more than once found myself nodding along, going, I know what you’re talking about, this is an experience I’ve had or something I’ve noticed. I am adding this to my links in the sidebar, so it doesn’t get lost as time goes by.
(Oh, and as you may be able to tell from the URL, he’s British)
This post is long overdue. It has been in the works for quite a long time, I just keep procrastinating and procrastinating on it.
The term queer is near and dear to my heart. It means odd. It has also meant homosexual. The term has been retaken by the LGBTQI movement to mean something more full and inclusive than simply “homosexual”. A queer person may be of any sexual orientation, but they realize that they are not simply defined by that orientation; they know that their sexuality can be fluid and they are accepting of this. They are comfortable in their otherness, their oddness.
I have a friend who identifies as queer. He is pretty much exclusively heterosexual, but there is something else about him, a comfortableness with being, a bond with the idea of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, without necessarily being fully one of the above. Like me, he knows the sex and gender binaries and what can be damaging about them. He is one of the few other people I know who objects to the use of the term “gender” on forms; gender is not male or female, but one’s gender identity as feminine, masculine, androgynous, or any combination of the above. To put it simply, there is no correct answer to the question of “male or female”. But most people do not understand that and I believe, do not care. I always put “female”, simply because I believe that my biological sex mostly matches up with my perception of myself in a sexual way, and that most forms do no not leave space for an explanation of how I believe I differ from that. And my assumption is that they are really asking about that. This is where my friend may be more queer than me. Often if there is an option he will indicate “other” on the form, perhaps at an attempt to address the difference between how he feels about himself as a being and the stereotype of “man” in our culture. I greatly admire him for this and may do this in the future, simply because it is a way that appears to work pretty well without preaching or getting upset at every little form or incident.
There are privilege issues at stake here too. As I have said before, as a bisexual woman, I do not have some of the privileges that heterosexual women take for granted. As a queer (mostly) heterosexual man, my friend can come from a position where he acknowledges that there are privileges he does not wish to partake in that he could claim simply by not also identifying as queer. I think queerness addresses privilege in a way that heterosexuality (or homosexuality) cannot, by coming at the issue from a different perspective
There is so much more I could say, but it is getting late, so I will potentially save that for another day.
P.S. I apologize to my friend if this seems to imply that I am saying something about how you feel that is not true. Feel free to leave me a comment and I will change it if need be.
Am I any less queer because I do like some things that are considered “normal”? That sometimes I like things that are pretty vanilla? That the only sex I’ve been having for the last nine to ten months is heterosexual?
I don’t think so.
I love the fact that queer encompasses everything about me, from the way I like my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (on sourdough bread, creamy peanut butter and homemade raspberry jam), to the people I think are attractive, to the way I like my sex (with occasional hints of dominance/submission). The term bisexual, which is what I normally call myself, encompasses only the people I like, see as attractive, would like to have sex with. Queer is an identity I’m just getting used to. It doesn’t force me into a tiny box labeled “likes men and women”. Yes, I do like men and women, and see both as attractive in their own ways, but what about the people who don’t consider themselves either or simply don’t believe they fit into society’s narrow definitions of gender and sexuality. Just because I have not yet found one that I like/want to have sex with does not eliminate the possibility that I might. I like to keep my options open. Yes, I still do describe myself as bisexual, because that is my sexual orientation, I will not disagree with that, but it does not describe my whole self, like the sex: female does not fully describe me. Yes I am female, in body and mind, but I am not that feminine, nor have I ever been, and I am fully comfortable with that.
To me, trying to fit into a prescribed gender role is restricting and it just feels wrong. I wear a skirt or dress when I want to, not because I have been forced into it. Make-up, nylons, hair-styling make me feel like I’m in drag. Sometimes being in drag is a wonderful thing, messing with people’s perceptions of my gender. I like challenging the assumed norms. That’s what makes me happy and comfortable. There are times that I just want to hide myself and I do, something I learned how to do very well in high school. That ability to hide means that only the people I like and respect get to see the true me, my true colors as they say.
I am working my way into a role I feel comfortable with. I would like to be completely open with everyone about who I truly am, but I know that society will not let me be that. So here at school is the only place I can truly express the full me: my sexuality and my queerness, and the truly great thing is that it doesn’t really matter to that many people. College is full of variations, that’s what makes it so wonderful.
I am a queer lady. Queer mostly because I choose not to conform to what people consider normal. A lady because that’s what my mother has taught me to be. Funny how that works out. I am also a queer lady in the sense that I am a bisexual woman. Two ways to understand me, but nowhere near the complete truth.