One of our Trans Justice Working Group members, Curtis Espinoza wrote up about their experiences as someone who identifies as genderqueer.
I’m Happy Now
Learning to live being genderqueer
By Curtis Espinoza
When people ask me about myself, I usually list off the following: queer, genderqueer, avid lover of BBC and Glee. These are just a few of the things that make me who I am. People typically understand me when I tell them I love BBC and even when I say I love Glee (Lea Michele is amazing, don’t deny it). Living in Portland, most people usually also understand the definition of queer. But one thing people can’t seem to wrap their heads around, no matter how hard I try to explain, is what being genderqueer can mean. For me, being genderqueer means that sometimes I like to wear dresses, and sometimes I like to wear pants. I don’t enjoy being called male or female and I use plural “gender neutral” pronouns, like they.
There seems to be a belief that a person is either transgender (and that being transgender means taking hormones and having surgery, which is not always the case) or that they are cisgender (someone who feels comfortable with the sex they were given at birth). Now, while I do fall under the transgender umbrella, I do not identify as what some people would typically classify as transgender, but I am also not cisgender and I am not just doing this for fun. For many people they often conflate being transgender, with taking hormones and/or surgery, along with transgender meaning that people identify exclusively as either male or female, or assume that there is only one way to be trans. There are so many ways that a person can identify in regards to gender (if you don’t believe me, ask Facebook.) I am in a constant state of flux and transition. I live outside what society at large deems to be accurate, and I refuse to fall into or be a victim of other people’s gender stereotypes.
I remember the first time I came to understand that my identity didn’t fit the ideas that most people have in regard to gender. I was standing outside a bar downtown when someone asked me what my name was. When I said, “My name is Curtis,” they said “No, what’s your girl name?” I think they assumed I was a drag queen. Now, I understand that some people when presenting in a different way than what they were assigned at birth, they might use a different name, but I don’t. I like my name. My mom gave it to me and I kind of like my mom and think she pretty much knows what she’s talking about most of the time, so I’ve decided to stick with it.
Now, while I just said I like my mom, she doesn’t always understand me and my genderqueer identity. In fact, I think the hardest thing for me is accepting the fact that the majority of my friends and family don’t understand my gender identity and gender pronouns. They still see me as what many folks identify as someone who is male. They don’t understand the struggle it is for me, every single day, to wake up and look at myself in the mirror not having a definition for what I am and not knowing who I want to be that day. When I’m presenting in clothes people deem to be feminine and my friends still use male pronouns, it can be a humiliating experience, and also can put me at risk for my safety. The most ironic thing about this whole thing, I suppose, is that I’ve been told by people very close to me that if “I just made it easier to understand, if I just wanted to be a girl” then they’d all use the right pronouns because that they could understand. If I fit into a box as either female or male, or even if I fit their definition of transgender, they think it would be easier for them. But it wouldn’t be easier for me.
Being genderqueer has allowed me to liberate myself in the way I dress, talk and act; it has given me the freedom to live. In a world where we are defined by the labels we carry, I have chosen to be myself and to work towards a point where I don’t let other people define me. Because I have liberated myself and have begun to define myself, I have arrived at a time in my life where I am, overall, pretty happy. It takes time for people to change the ideas that have been ingrained in them since birth. But my identity, and the act of talking with my loved ones about it, has allowed the people in my life a chance to open their minds to new things. Even if all of this takes a while, I’ll keep living my truth, because there’s no turning back now.