Maybe you've overheard it in conversation, or seen it plastered to a telephone pole. It's a word that seems to be getting more and more popular, but remains a mystery to many: genderqueer.
How does one go about understanding what it really means to be genderqueer? Well, speaking from personal experience, it's not all that simple.
It was a word I didn't even know a couple years ago, but I was definitely aware that my gender expression didn't match my biological body. I tried a combination of many words in order to find something that made sense for me. I was a boi-dyke, a queerboy, a masculine female, a trannyboi, or just a plain old boi (that little "i" changes everything!). But none of these seemed to allow me to truly flow in, out, and around the boundaries and labels that surround gender.
So, at some point along my journey through this gendered world, I was introduced to the word genderqueer. I don't have a clear memory of how I first learned of this word, but I do remember finding the book Genderqueer in my college library. I felt like I had struck gold, but I remember being nervous to check the book out. I was entering uncharted territory.
It's funny to think back to that time, because my understanding of my own gender, gender politics, and gender labeling was so basic. I really had to sit down and think about what this word truly meant. Even after many hours of pondering, processing, and breaking it down, I still didn't have a clear definition in my mind—but it let me put the battle of defining myself to rest for a moment. Now I had a word that meant I could wear whatever I wanted, act how I wanted, say what I wanted, and there was no need to put any gender label on it. What a relief!
But now, a few years later, as I've begun to transition into looking more clearly male and walking in the world as a male person, I have really developed a greater appreciation and understanding of the word. I move through my daily life presenting as a male person. I very rarely get interpreted as female anymore. But I cannot deny that I have lived the past 26 years being socialized as a female.
No matter how much facial hair I grow, how low my voice gets, or flat my chest appears to be, I will always have very specific social cues in my personality and psyche that simply do not match up with what society says is right for my appearance. And, quite frankly, I have no desire to pretend that those 26 years didn't happen—and that those social cues of how females are "supposed" to act didn't infiltrate my brain. Now, as I'm in the middle of experiencing this society as a perceived man, all the male social cues I wasn't given are suddenly being expected of me.
The simple act of crossing my legs has been an interesting experience. There was once a time when I was told to cross my legs and sit like a "lady" and now I am being told to uncross my legs and sit like a "man." I am expected to know something about everything. But I don't know how to fix a car, or build a house. I don't know random sports trivia. I do know how to sew, I like arts and crafts, and one of my favorite movies is Sixteen Candles.
Some might say these are not typical male interests, and yet I still consider myself a guy. But I am a guy who will never be able to forget what he has experienced in the last two decades. And it is because of my past experiences and present ones that I find comfort, familiarity, and boundless understanding in the word "genderqueer."