I’m genderqueer and have support from my friends, but some of them are really pushing me to start transitioning. I know they’re trying to help, but I feel like they don’t get that you can be in-between instead of ‘male’ or ‘female’.
I just want to start off by thanking you for your question.
This is a tricky situation because obviously your friends care about you and want to help, but are maybe needing a little more education about sex and gender and more importantly, how they can best support you.
It sounds like they are accepting of trans folks and have good intentions, but are maybe hung up on the gender binary. This is a common hang up for both hetero and non-heterosexual folks, because we all grow up with the idea that there are girls, and there are boys, and the notion of the “opposite” sex.
The thing is, sex and gender aren’t as black and white and our society likes to think it is. We all grow up with this dichotomy, and often find ourselves enforcing ideas about what’s appropriate for men, and what’s appropriate for women. People who violate the norms of what’s ‘appropriate’ behaviour for the body they were born with, by identifying as gay, trans or genderqueer, are often punished or policed because it violates the strong expectations people have around gender roles and gender expression. Our society likes the notion that you have to be one or the other, and not both, not neither, and not something outside of those categories.
Maybe your friends are under the impression that being trans* means that you were born in the wrong body, and just need help accepting the process of transitioning towards a new one. They may believe that your genderqueer identity is just a stepping stone to ‘full blown transliness’, in the same way that some people mistakenly believe that bisexuals haven’t made up their minds. A binary transition, like female-to-male or male-to-female is one way that trans folks may experience and choose to express gender, but it isn’t the only way. Lots of folks prefer to be in a middle space (or an entirely different space), this may be folks who identify as genderqueer, agender, bigender, third gender, or neutrois. What’s important is what your gender identity means to you, and that you hold true to yourself. Your gender identity and the way you express it are your business, go at your own pace and do what feels right for you. If occupying an in-between space is where you’re at and where you want to stay, that’s perfectly alright. Identities are complex and dynamic, they don’t need to be stable or have to have an end-point. Be yourself!
One thing that may help your friends understand this is getting them to check out The Genderbread Person. This adorable infographic can be found online at It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, and it explains the differences between a person’s biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and who they are attracted to. This is a super accessible way to educate anyone about the diversity and complexity of sexual and gender identities.
The second thing you might find helpful in your interactions with your friends is the Platinum Rule, which suggests that we treat others the way they want to be treated. This means that we need to ask or tell people about their/our needs in order to treat them well. This sounds a little laborious, but I think it’s important because it improves communication so that everyone gets the support they want and deserve. It sounds like your friends may be operating on the Golden Rule, Treat others the way you want to be treated. If your friends are cisgender, they may have a really hard time imagining what will be helpful and supportive for you, and their guesses may miss the mark. It might be helpful for you to think about how your friends could support you better, and then ask them for that support.
Lastly, I’d encourage you and your friends to check out the PaTio, which is a confidential, non-judgmental group for trans, genderqueer or questioning people and SOFFAs (Significant Others, Friends, Family and Allies) to meet and share resources, stories, experiences and support. Contact them at email@example.com for more information.
If you want to rant, to chat, or brainstorm about this issue some more, feel free to chat with us! :3
We’re open everyday except Tuesday from 5-10 pm at qlinks.ca/outline.
UPDATE: There’s a new monthly social meet-up for trans and non-binary folks. Gender Intersect meets the 3rd Monday of every month at the Red Brick Café, 8 Douglas St., at 7 pm.