Biking & The Gender Candy Store
April 26, 2013 10:31 AM   Subscribe

"Gender isn’t a toy store lined with pink and blue aisles. It’s a candy store, a free for all, a sugar-fueled shopping spree. Anything your heart can desire is free for the taking!" A primer on the gender spectrum, a guide to challenging the current culture and a pannier-load of biking references all in one.

From MeFi's own Juliet Banana.
posted by mikepop (48 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
Love her last section especially. I'm so sick of all the fucking norm-policing on everything (gender and otherwise) all the time, including from people who would like to think they know better.
posted by threeants at 10:40 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I totally knew precisely who wrote this before I clicked anything. Awesome.
posted by koeselitz at 10:45 AM on April 26, 2013

This was so entertaining to read and made me want to yell "Fuck YEAH!" after almost every sentence. And I'm cisgendered.

Fuck YEAH.
posted by jillithd at 11:16 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, today I discovered that I think male-presenting people with painted nails are crazy attractive.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:17 AM on April 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Wait, does that mean my gender workbook is outdated? Do I need a new one?

Hangon, Kate Bornstein might actually be updating it! And a memoir hits the shelves on Tuesday, May 1st.
posted by poe at 11:20 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yay Juliet Banana!

Gender binaries suck. I hate that I grew up thinking I had to make a choice between feminine and masculine. I hate that I spent so much time trying to work out what I was "supposed to be". I wish I had figured out earlier that I didn't need to make a choice - that I could just BE.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:24 AM on April 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Aww yeah, that's my girl! So proud to see how much work she put into this post (she's been working on it for months) and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves. I wish I could assign readings to people like I'm a 4th grade teacher because I would assign this essay to everyone on the planet. It's well written, informative without being condescending, and shows a way forward. I realize I'm biased as her friend and fellow Tiny Fix member but I just love it.

Tiny Fix Bike Gang previously on Mefi Projects
posted by misskaz at 11:26 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Maybe you want to change your name to Knuckles Firestone, buy a motorcycle, cover yourself in flaming skeleton tattoos, and ride your hog to knitting conventions on the weekends.

Go on...
posted by davejay at 11:28 AM on April 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

I remember that when I was a teen in Chicago in the 80s, I was wearing women's shirts because they fit my thin frame better and wearing eyeliner and doing all sorts of fun things to my hair because, you know, hair, and generally having a grand old time. I also remember walking with a friend, a fellow teen who occasionally did Boy George impressions at bars when they were having contests, who was running about 50% drag and 50% not at the moment, when a car drove by and men started shouting things at us. Of all my days in Chicago growing up, of all the actual fights and actual assaults and actual danger that I was ever involved in, that remains the scariest moment I ever experienced, emotionally, because it left me feeling like I was being attacked for something I was instead of something I did. This post brought those memories back, so I'm glad I read it, even if it does leave me feeling a bit like I've moved too far into suiting other people's gender-normative expectations over the years. It also reaffirmed that I'll be having my daughter help me reassemble my scooter this weekend.
posted by davejay at 11:34 AM on April 26, 2013 [16 favorites]

This made me so, so, so happy, and gave language to so much that I've felt and not really understood. Thank you!

(Time to fix my bike up this weekend, stat.)

(davejay, should we ever be in the same city, we should totally have a gender-bending ride around town.)
posted by kalimac at 11:39 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

(ZOMG new Gender Workbook! That would be awesome. I vividly remember gazing at the old one in a bookstore when I was like 15 — and being too scared to pick it up and read it because I figured it was gonna be all "Here's how you decide whether to transition" and I did not want to receive either a "yes" or a "no" answer to that question. Oh the irony. When I finally got around to reading some of Bornstein's other stuff, it was such a profound relief two hear someone say that there were more than two options.

It is so very wonderful that more and more people are taking that sort of non-binary approach to gender, and finding cool and creative ways to articulate it and things to do with it. This is a really awesome time to be alive.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

True dichotomies are rare in nature. Everything is a spectrum/continuum/n-sphere that is uncountable, for we all contain multitudes.

Oh, and btw, it's "Fuck Yeah, You" Friday. So be you, because you are amazing and wonderful.
posted by Eideteker at 11:44 AM on April 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

srsly overdue for repainting my nails. should probably wait until after I work on my motorcycle this weekend...
posted by Eideteker at 11:46 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, today I discovered that I think male-presenting people with painted nails are crazy attractive.
Brian Wilson
Catchers in the MLB coloring ther hands/fingers/fingernails is "a thing."
Russell Martin
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:58 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

True dichotomies are rare in nature. Everything is a spectrum/continuum/n-sphere

(Okay, I am really loving the idea of gender as a high-dimensional space. Even in a small finite region, almost everything is very far away from the center! Similarity judgments and clustering are surprisingly difficult! The more dimensions you consider, the harder it is to assign labels to your unlabeled data!)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 11:59 AM on April 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

This is such a smart piece of writing. Love it.
posted by mintcake! at 12:00 PM on April 26, 2013

Catchers in the MLB coloring ther hands/fingers/fingernails is "a thing."

I've always been curious about whether this actually works. In the 80s (I think, maybe early 90s) there was a fad of catchers spray-painting the edges of their gloves bright orange that apparently ended because it didn't do anything. But the occasional catcher has painted his nails for at least 15 years, if not since the dawn of time (or whiteout).
posted by hoyland at 12:17 PM on April 26, 2013

Okay, I'm raising an eyebrow at 'the difference between "transgender" and "genderqueer" is that people who identify as trasngender transition (socially if not medically)'.
posted by hoyland at 12:21 PM on April 26, 2013

(To be clear, that's me paraphrasing and not quoting. The quotation marks are there because I'm talking about the statement.)
posted by hoyland at 12:21 PM on April 26, 2013

Hoyland, I hope you give me the benefit of the doubt that I was trying very very hard to be sensitive and not say anything wrong. If you think there's a better way for me to phrase the point I'm making, I would love to hear it.

There's no "difference" between genderqueer people and trans people; I was just stating that not all genderqueer people are transgendered. And while I think trans people likely qualify as genderqueer, the choice to identify that way is obviously a personal choice and I'm not pasting labels on anyone.

I think transitioning is a pretty accepted part of the transgender narrative, though obviously everyone's experience is different and the steps one takes to transition is always a personal choice.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:26 PM on April 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

srsly overdue for repainting my nails. should probably wait until after I work on my motorcycle this weekend...

So, this weekend I am going to give this whole gel manicure thing a try. Great reviews from other tool-using folks in my life.
posted by mollymayhem at 12:28 PM on April 26, 2013

Even in a small finite region, almost everything is very far away from the center!

Years ago, I read an interview with a librarian at the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison, WI. His responsibility was maintaining what was essentially a zine archive, collecting thousands of specialty small publications from around the country. At the end, they asked him what he took away from his work on the collection. He said something like "There is no 'average American.' Everything is fringe. It's just piled higher in the middle, so it looks like a majority." And I have always loved that pure certainty that there is no normal, just a bunch of people trying to make sense of what they have been given and what they love.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:30 PM on April 26, 2013 [16 favorites]

Need to repaint my nails for the Magic the Gathering prerelease tonight, chipped like a mofo.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:31 PM on April 26, 2013

"This deserves a high-five. Can I give you a high-five?"

pls wait til my nails dry
posted by Eideteker at 12:38 PM on April 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think the the second-most in-your-face gender policing I ever got (as an adult, at least) was when I was heading into my local deli to get a sandwich one day. I was living in DC at the time. It was summer; I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I had long hair then, did not shave my legs, and have not-very-small boobs. As I was walking in, a guy was walking out. He stopped in his tracks, looked me up and down, and said "Why are you trying to be a man?"

If I had known how to say "what" in That Tone back then, that's what I would have said. Instead, I was silent for an astonished minute, and then I said, "What?" He said, "Why are you trying to be a man? What's the matter with you?"

Then I said "Fuck you." Then he said "Fuck you, bitch!"

I so, so wish I'd had the presence of mind to ask him how he knew to call me a bitch if he had such a hard time telling I was female.

We got in each other's faces for a minute, and then he left, muttering. The deli guys gave me a free sandwich.

The first-most gender policing I got was when I was heading in to the Dupont metro one day with a friend who was waaaaay butcher than me, and I accidentally bumped a guy with my backpack; when I turned to apologize, he screamed "YOU WANNA BE A MAN, BITCH, I'LL SHOW YOU HOW TO BE A MAN" and he chased all the way down the escalator. It is a very long escalator.
posted by rtha at 12:38 PM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I love the "gender is a candy store" idea. :)

I've been identifying as genderqueer for a few years. Definitely makes me feel better about myself. I don't feel like I "fail" at being a woman anymore.
posted by luckynerd at 12:41 PM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mollymayhem - you will LOVE gel manicures. They're not great for your nails, so I only allow myself a couple a year, but they are almost indestructible.

And also, Juliet Banana is my hero. This essay is so clear and easy to understand... I wish I could write this well. Everyone should have to read this.
posted by bibliogrrl at 12:50 PM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Everyone should have to read this.

Yes, I was going to add "Required reading for the human race" in the post, but I didn't want to seem too editorializing.
posted by mikepop at 12:55 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

This reminded me of an interesting article I read a while back. Even as a 70s baby, I hadn't realized all the over-the-top BOY / GIRL stuff was a fairly recent occurrence, and I certainly didn't realize that the gender assignments for pink and blue used to be reversed.

I must say I've never given the gender identity thing much of any thought other than occasionally wondering if it might be cooler to wear a skirt on really hot days, but I guess it's something that I've just never struggled with enough to notice.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:03 PM on April 26, 2013

Tangentially related, but can I just talk about how awesome Jinkx Monsoon has been on this season of Ru Paul's Drag Race? For a genre of performance (drag) that already plays with gender, but also has its own weird gender-type policing (for instance, all the shade that Roxxxy's been throwing this season), Jinkx has been doing some amazing things, not just in the contest, but with the genre itself.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:10 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

As I understand it, while "transsexual" is a pretty specific term, "transgender" is fill in the blank: transform, transgress, transcend. It doesn't require dysphoria. But at the same time, I don't want to stick labels on anyone who don't use them.

I don't want to be bitter about this article at all, but it's happening. I often feel left out in many discussions of genderqueer stuff -- partially because it's an image thing, and partially a matter of "strongly gendered" vs. "weakly gendered."

I'm not a young adorkable hipster, nor a highly fashionable androgynous beauty. I just look like a middle aged bald fat guy with an epic goatee who has more purple and more toe socks in his wardrobe than seems normal.

I don't perform gender, I just am me and that falls about 70% outside the two expected gender boxes and I don't care.

I absolutely do not want to be perceived as effeminate. At the same time, I absolutely hate macho bullshit and want nothing to do with it either.

My identity is something like two-spirit and something like agendered. I'm not dysphoric but I daydream about having a generally female body.

So it's kind of a case of "Not Trans Enough" I guess.
posted by Foosnark at 1:11 PM on April 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Blush and Mumble's comic about gender socialization.

Also, Foosnark, you sound pretty awesome just the way you are.
posted by jillithd at 1:21 PM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

What I'm hearing is Foosnark has more toe socks and therefore a more awesome wardrobe than I do.

You and I are now mortal enemies.
posted by Eideteker at 1:24 PM on April 26, 2013

I used to think I hated performing femininity, since as a kid/young adult there was so much pink/blue, judgey, women's-magazine type baggage that went with that. The husband found me feminine no matter what I wore, and I had other things to worry about. I thought about what I wore as little as I could get away with, and swore often that I longed to move to the country and wear nothing but ragged t-shirts and overalls every day.

Lately, though, it's like the genderqueer writers and artists I follow on Tumblr and other places (people like Erika Moen, KateorDie, Jess Fink, and Rosalarian) have kind of healed feminimity for me. Because to them it's absolutely a chosen, not an imposed, thing. And they look so interesting and not all like each other. I really don't look good in pink, but I no longer hate it. My wardrobe has gained some color and I've found myself thinking of clothes as something that reflected my personality, instead of just necessary drudgery.

I wonder if the cosplay culture, which has widened the acceptance of things like corsets and hats and retro-ish looking clothes, hasn't had a lot to do with there being more interesting things to wear out there, unattached to one's gender (since cosplayers often genderswap).
posted by emjaybee at 1:24 PM on April 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

PSA: You can ride most bicycles with most skirts and most dresses. To avoid getting material caught in the rear brake with long skirts, you can tuck up the extra fabric into your waistband.
posted by aniola at 1:41 PM on April 26, 2013

Eh, I think I am just having a mood. I realize none of my "complaints" are actually critique of the article. And that my words came out sounding a little less bitter than I worried they would.

Eideker, can heal the rift.
posted by Foosnark at 1:53 PM on April 26, 2013

I think transitioning is a pretty accepted part of the transgender narrative

Minor quibble, but "transsexual" is probably a more precise term for what you're saying here. "Transgender" is usually taken to be more of an umbrella term encompassing transsexuals, (non-transitioning) crossdressers, genderqueers, and plenty of other folks.

Loved the article!
posted by key lime guy at 2:40 PM on April 26, 2013

To avoid getting material caught in the rear brake with long skirts... you can ride a really long bike. :) Sadly, I don't have any pics of me in a skirt on that bike, tho I do it all the time. (Like today.)
posted by epersonae at 2:46 PM on April 26, 2013

It turns out my true self is half dirt bike punk and half adorable tiny girl.

That sounds kind of like "I don't want my sexual attractiveness as an adult woman to define me" but genderqueer fashion is awesome, so.
posted by subdee at 3:14 PM on April 26, 2013

Yes, I think there was some confusion on my part on transgender vs. transsexual; honestly, I never hear transsexual anymore, so I thought it was like, the old fashioned jerk way of saying transgender. I hear transgender used to describe someone who is at some point (before/during/after) of the transition process that makes sense for them 99% of the time. However, using it in that way may have inadvertantly excluded people who identify as transgender but do not feel that transition is right for them.

Thanks to key lime guy & the mefite who memailed me for clearing that up, and hopefully it's taken in good faith that offending anyone wasn't my intention.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:39 PM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

So you hit "post" right as I was about to, but.... yeah, there are a lot of people who really strongly prefer not to use the word "transsexual," even though a dictionary would tell you it's the right thing to call them.

As I understand it, there's two parallel traditions here. On the one hand, doctors came up with a set of clinical definitions under which people who had (or wanted to have) SRS in order to transition into a traditional binary gender role counted as "true transsexuals," and everyone else got sorted into some other category. On the other hand, going back at least as far as Christine Jorgensen back in the 70s, there have been a lot of actual trans* people saying "Sorry, we don't like that terminology. We'd rather call ourselves 'transgendered,' and we aren't going to exclude anyone from that category based on some medical procedure that they have or haven't gone through."

So nowadays I think dictionaries are more likely to list the medical definitions. Whereas actual trans people, in my experience, are way more likely to use the Christine-Jorgensen-style definitions — to say "I'm transgendered" regardless of what they're up to medically, and regardless of whether they're transitioning into a traditional binary gender role or into some other role entirely.

I'm sure there's exceptions, and probably somewhere out there there are people who cheerfully self-identify as "transsexual." But in my little corner of the world it sure isn't common.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 3:55 PM on April 26, 2013

It's rambly anecdote time! I figure the following anecdote is mostly appropriate as it's largely about gender gender, somewhat about Chicago, and tangentially about bike culture, in the sense that me and the other person involved wouldn't have left the house if we had to walk or take public transportation.

The setting is Logan Square. I'm not sure about the actual demographics these days but depending on your perception it may strike you as a cute little Mexican neighborhood with a lot of shitty houses, a yuppie enclave full of ugly half full condos, bro bars and expensive restaurants where they serve the weird parts of the animal or some sort of bike punk Disneyland full of authentic taquerias, dive bars, and cultural institutions.

My friend SM and I were at a pet-store-slash-bodega called Jules Five & Dime, looking at baby rats, because I wanted a new pet.

A little Mexican boy walks up and is just incredulous that these two goofy looking white kids are straight up handling vermin, even more so when we tell him we don't own a snake, which would have made sense. So we're letting rats crawl from one hand to another holding them up to his face and squicking him out and all of a sudden he looks us over and gets real serious and asks, "So are you two guys or ladies or one of each?"

I am an occasionally-pretty dude with big eyes with long lashes and I talk with big expressive frequently-limp-wristed gestures (or you could just say "East Coast Jew"). At the time I had longish hair flat-ironed over a receding hairline I hadn't come to terms with and painted nails (because PRETTY!). SM was (/is) a beautiful young woman who rocked (and continues to rock) a very comfortable thrift store noise-music-fan look that i always thought of as ugly-on-purpose: glasses that covered half her face, a bird's nest of tangled curly hair and a lot of oversized sweatshirts (definitely a look that showed off my tits more than hers, if I wanted to be super-self-critical.

So I looked at the kid and told him that I was a dude and she was a chick and a look of realization came over his face and he proclaimed, "Oh I get it, y'all are some ROCKERS!"

Which remains my gender identity to this day.

[Great article, JB!]
posted by elr at 4:09 PM on April 26, 2013 [42 favorites]

That anecdote was 169% appropriate.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:47 PM on April 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

So mostly now, when I'm talking about myself or others I use trans* and don't get into anymore detail but keeping up with the latest language is something I regularly fail to do

[Another yay for the article JB]
posted by Z303 at 6:30 PM on April 27, 2013

PS: Kate Bornstein's memoir was released May 1 of last year, which is to say you should go and read it yesterday.
posted by sonika at 7:03 AM on April 28, 2013

I get some of where you're coming from Foosnark. I'm older, and overweight, and 6'4". And this body is just so male. I've heard people say that "trapped in a man's body" doesn't feel right, and that true for me as well. I don't feel trapped, I feel damned.
posted by Ambient Echo at 2:27 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

elr's story reminds me of one of my favorite comedians -- Cameron Esposito, and her gender, fighter pilot.
posted by garlic at 9:13 AM on May 3, 2013

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