the good, the bad and the… beautiful

It’s only when you look at it all that you understand why nearly every variation of a queer symbol has a rainbow on it—a rainbow is a spectrum of light that’s only visible when you look up to see the sun through the rain, and it’s bright, and beautiful, and (to borrow a story from my highly biblical upbringing) it’s a miracle.  
Rowan McBride, Pondering Rainbows, 17/2/2010.

Have you ever been journeying somewhere and suddenly, sometimes out of nowhere, springs this amazing rainbow?

Something I’ve done since I was a child has been to watch a rainbow until I could no longer see it.  I love the way the light of a rainbow always seems to play.  The way the colours and the shapes of a rainbow seem to change from where ever and when ever you look at them.

Rainbows are such a miracle, don’t you think?  

I certainly do.  However, it wasn’t until I read the above quote and the rest of the article that I realised how much of a miracle they really are, but, more significantly, how hard they are to grasp or define.  

Rainbows are constantly changing.  Rainbows aren’t fixed.  Even when an artist tries to portray them in a photograph or something similar it is only one moment in time they are capturing, not the full journey of a rainbow.

It was this particular imagery which really hit home with me, because I realised how very little I know about intergender and intersexuality and how much I wanted to talk about this issue on my blog.

You see, and as I said in my previous post, one of my biggest regrets about the current situation in the m/m romance community was the part I played in ‘perpetuating an over-simplistic or binary view of gender/s and sexuality/ies’.  

I have to admit I didn’t always think like this.  

Picture me sitting in front of my computer with my ‘The Trevor Project’ shirt on, reading a few comments people had sent me links to, and getting more and more upset because ‘HOW VERY DARE THEY?! I’M NOT TRANSPHOBIC!’

Yeah, talk about being a self-righteous douchecopter.

Maybe I wasn’t necessarily transphobic, but, geezus kerrist, I was as ignorant as fuck.

It wasn’t until I saw a Twitter mate expressing hir frustration at the ‘binary mind-set’ of those participating in the, erm, discussions that I began to sit up and think to myself ‘Kris, there is so much more to this than you realise and maybe you need to actually find out about it before opening your big, fat mouth… again…’.

So I started asking questions.

Lots and lots of questions…  and those of you who were on the cemetery tour with me in NOLA know first hand how nosy I can be…  oh, yeah.

I was – and am still – extraordinarily lucky to have found two people, who have very generously shared their thoughts and experiences with me about being gender fluid *crossing my fingers that a certain someone won’t kick my arse too badly for using that label* and answering my, no doubt potentially offensive, queries. 

It is because of their willingness to share their stories that my so-called understanding about what transgender meant has been unbelievably challenged over the past week.  

I came to realise, despite my vehement disavowal of choice being anything to do with whether you were gay or lesbian or transsexual or transgender, I was continuing to think in narrow terms whenever transsexual or transgender identities were discussed.  I still thought within the boundaries of a binary system where people had to choose their gender or sexuality.  It was one or the other.  Black or white.

However, it is not that simple, but then again, as one person pointed out to me, why does it have to be?  Why can’t gender and sexuality be more fluid?

Why indeed.

It made me think.  I hope it encourages others to think too.

For this binary mind-set is one which needs to be challenged.  No, more than that.  It MUST be challenged.

Not only in the broader community, but in spaces like the m/m romance community where people should feel safe to freely be themselves.

Whoever ‘they’ might be at that particular moment and whoever ‘they’ might be in different moments in the future.

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
This entry was posted in glbtq, intergender, intersexuality, serious randomness, serious shit. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to the good, the bad and the… beautiful

  1. Chris says:

    Please thank your friends for us. And I thank you for sharing what you've learned with us, because although I met and talked to a number of fabulous people at GRL who identified themselves as trans, I hadn't really thought about what that MEANT to them and for them.

  2. Kris says:

    Herewith some further reading for those interested in learning more:

    Kit Yan's '3rd Gender' –

    From Emilie:
    Intersex in the Age of Ethics by Alice Domurat Dreger
    Lessons from the Intersexed by Suzanne J. Kessler
    Intersex and Identity: The Contested Self by Sharon E. Preves
    The Riddle of Gender: Science, Activism, and Transgender Rights by Deborah Rudacille
    Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality by Anne Fausto-Sterling
    The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male by Max Wolf Valerio
    Just Add Hormones: An Insider's Guide to the Transsexual Experience by Matt Kailey
    Transmen and FTMs: Identity, Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities by Jason Cromwell
    From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond by Morty Diamond
    Sex Changes: Transgender Politics by Patrick Califia
    Transgender Warriors and Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue by Leslie Feinberg

  3. Emilie says:

    Other good books I read were: Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green, Butch is a Noun by S. Bear Bergman, Body Alchemy by Loren Cameron and GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary.

  4. I think I love you a little bit hard right now.

    Beautifully done darlin'.

  5. Jason says:

    I have some trans friends but I have found that everyone is different so I'm ready to learn more. Teach me!

  6. Tam says:

    I worked with someone for two years in a sister division who was mtf. When I worked with her a few years ago she was a guy, suddenly I realized why she looked familiar. I have no idea when or how she decided to make that complete switchover, I was not “friends” with her, we were just work colleagues. I know she took several weeks off for medical reasons once so I assume there was some kind of surgery involved, but we were not friendly enough that I would have ever broached “so, what did you have done”, but beyond just treating her as I did all the other women in the office, I really don't know anything about it beyond the basics.

    I think it's human nature to want to classify things to help us understand the world. It's our brains way of coping. That animal is safe, that animal is dangerous. So I don't think our propensity to put people in boxes necessarily stems from some kind of negative reaction, it's just kind of an ingrained response to the world around us. Of course as more advanced humans now who know some pit bulls will chew your face off and some will simply lick you silly, we are able to stop the instinct, at least most of the time and really think about whether we need to classify something. Most of the time now we probably don't and it's a good exercise to stop and look at a wider picture.

    Despite the bourhaha that this all stemmed from, causing a few people to stop and go “hmm, I never thought of that” and look at the world from another perspective is not a bad outcome.

  7. Kris says:

    Chris: I think I might be a PITA to them more than a friend, but I certainly have Teh Crushes. 🙂

    I hadn't thought about it either, which is when I was really stopped in my tracks when I saw one of my buds' tweet about binary systems and wondered 'WTF is that?!'. Of course, I had to ask and received a major wake up call. That in turn made me ponder whether anyone else had/had done the same thing as I had, hence the post. 🙂

    Em: Thanks for all the book recs, Em. And thanks too from one of my 'sources'. Ze said that ze recommends Transgender Warriors and Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue as well.

    Amara: You're one of those who have also helped me to increase my understanding so thank YOU.

    Jase: I'm still learning and in no way an 'expert' if there is such a thing.

    In all seriousness, the one thing I have come to understand is that the fluidity of gender and sexuality means that there is a constant questioning and learning curve for some. As much difficulty as there is in defining intersexuality and intergender means that it is equally as challenging as setting an end date to this understanding.

    But then again the argument against this binary supposition is why should there be a definition or a label? Why can't it just be as fluid as it is?

    When you think about it it's actually fucking awesome. 🙂

    Tam: “I think it's human nature to want to classify things to help us understand the world. It's our brains way of coping.”

    I think you're right. I think the main danger in that is accepting that the known is all there is, to keep thinking linearly, to only understand things through their definitions.

    I know I'm pretty much speaking to the converted ;), but I think we all need to remember to open to further knowledge even when we think we know everything.

    That is the lesson I certainly learned from this experience and I'm thankful for that.

  8. nic b says:

    Thanks for this Kris. You've certainly made me think more broadly on the topic. I spent a good long time on Rowan's website reading hir experiences. And I'll probably spend the next few days reading more stuff,

  9. Kris says:

    Nic: I figured that I was not the only one who didn't realise it was just so much more complex than I'd imagined. Beautifully complex. 🙂

    It worries me, though, that this message of challenging your thinking on transgender, transsexuality, intergender and intersexuality is not being more broadly and, importantly, more meaningfully discussed in the m/m romance community.

    Unfortunately, I have heard that some people are saying to trans* authors 'why not come out now? the timing is perfect'.

    In their ignorance, they have no idea that, yes, they are being transphobic and, yes, their questions are incredibly emotionally and mentally distressing for these trans* authors, who are not only dealing with the challenges of their own identities, but believed themselves to be in a safe space.

    Heart breaking and so not right.

  10. That's great to know that this whole episode has been prompting people to think and learn. The noise-makers have rather obscured that this last week, but let's hope that more tolerance will come about as a result.

    I once had the privilege of observing one of my colleagues who transitioned from male to female. She was fortunate to work alongside fairly open-minded people, but I know she found it difficult at times.

    It can be especially challenging for those people who don't identify as either male or female, and having access to any kind of hormonal therapy or gender reassignment surgery over here in the UK, means people have to choose a distinct gender to present as.

    Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides, is a great novel for learning more about gender issues, and particularly about those who are intersex or third gender.

  11. Kris says:

    Jo: “That's great to know that this whole episode has been prompting people to think and learn. The noise-makers have rather obscured that this last week, but let's hope that more tolerance will come about as a result.”

    That is my hope as well and I think it can happen.

    There are some Q&A groups beginning to start up in the hopes of answering people's questions and increasing understanding. I'll try posting them when I come across them.

    In the meantime, and for a different POV, I strongly recommend that people go and read this extremely brave and honest post:

  12. Kris says:

    Author Rhiannon Etzweiler's has a discussion group at goodreads at which she talks about book-related topics but also has several threads relating to trans* awareness.

    The information is extremely informative and I encourage you all to go forth and learn!

  13. Janna says:

    Thank you for making me aware of my ignorance. I've read quite a few of the posts about this topic and I feel there's much more to learn.

    Btw, today the Dutch government announced the start of a wide national research project to find out more about transgender people and their social conditions in order to improve their situation.

  14. Kris says:

    Janna: I'm learning everyday. It's been eyeopening, challenging and, above all else, thought provoking. I think we will all be so much better for this in terms of increasing our awareness and understanding.

    “Btw, today the Dutch government announced the start of a wide national research project to find out more about transgender people and their social conditions in order to improve their situation.”

    If only other governments were as tolerant and inclusive as the Dutch. *sigh*

  15. Kris says:

    A thread just opened at the m/m romance group at goodreads aimed at 'healing the rift' by having constructive discussions about trans* people in the community.

    Go here if you are interested in keeping an eye on it:

  16. Jaime Samms says:

    Hey, Kris, I'm off to read some links and think some more. Thanks for all this, Jaime.

  17. Kris says:

    Thank YOU, Jaime, for being so willing to increase your understanding and think about this more.

    It so great there are a number of us openly discussing this now and that is fucking awesome. 🙂

  18. orannia says:

    Thank you SO much Kris for sharing what you have found. I read your post a couple of days ago, but it has taken me (unfortunately) till now to comment. I want to learn more so am off to read your links. See, earlier this year I got myself all twisted around with labels. Like Tam said, I like to classify things. As I was explaining to the unnamed expert yesterday, if I understand something then I feel safer. I know where the boundaries are so I won't go over them…won't get into trouble. But…so many things are fluid. And that's something I'm still getting to grips with, so the more I read the better. So thank you.

    Oh, and while perusing a medical student forum (as you do 🙂 I discovered the following link:

    I haven't read through the article completely, but I found the beginning very insightful so thought I would share it 🙂

    And douchecopter? That's a new (to me) term 🙂

  19. Kris says:

    Orannia: Thank you for the linkage, hun. The article looks really interesting from the quick glimpse I had.

    My OCD likes things to fit neatly into place too, Orannia. Similarly, the way I deal with my anxiety is to try and control everything around me and put things neatly under labels and in boxes.

    Sometimes, I am sure that the only reason I ever question some of these things is because I am incredibly nosy as hell and, once my curiousity is aroused, nothing seems to stop me from attempting to get to the bottom of it.

    My being a Libran also seems to help. LOL.

    “And douchecopter? That's a new (to me) term :)”

    It's my word of the week. It just says it all really.

  20. orannia says:

    I read through the article last night, and it was very interesting. (I also watched an amazing news story last month that followed a number of transgender children.)

    I so hear you on putting everything neatly into boxes. What gets me asking questions isn't curiousity but knowing that I haven't got things right. And I want to get things right. Partly because the OCD won't let me do anything else and partly because I wouldn't want my views to in any way, shape or form adversely affect anyone. People are people, and that's how I see them. But if I can try and walk a little bit in their shoes, then so much the better. Does that make sense?

    I love 'douchecopter' as a word 🙂

  21. Kris says:

    I'm not sure how many of you are aware, but this happens to be Transgender Awareness Week, which culminates on 20 November with the International Transgender Day of Remembrance for those who have been the victim of hate crimes.

    For further information of just some of what a trans* person may go through please read this article:

  22. Kris says:

    Orannia: “But if I can try and walk a little bit in their shoes, then so much the better.”

    It makes perfect sense. ❤

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