LGBT Friday: Being Queergender by Gabriel Belthir

We all know about gay, lesbian or transsexual people. But there is way more to the gender-sexual identity than these categories. Today Author Gabriel Belthir is stopping by to talk a bit about being queergendered. I don’t know about you, but I learnt a lot of new words from this post!

Guest Post

Everyone wants genderqueer fiction right now. They say it’s the next big thing, and that it’s the most important place for fiction to be right now. But there’s a strange relationship between the gender fluid movement and GLBT fiction, and it’s often not very correct to talk about.

A genderqueer or androgynous identity is an idea of gender, not an idea of sexuality. Most GLBT fiction is regarding cisgendered peoples who like other cisgendered peoples. Genderqueer identities tend towards not seeing other genders when it comes to relationships. So how is this identified? To give a personal example, I was born female. I identify as genderqueer. I am married to a bisexual cisgendered man, who adores that I run the gamut of gender identity. To the world at large looking in, we are a man and a woman, loving each other in a very heterosexual relationship. Inside the boundaries of our relationship, we’re about as queer as you get. These subtleties make classifying genderqueer fiction very difficult.

The very idea of being an author in this genre, however, lends itself to gender neutrality. We write stories about men who love men, and the bald-face truth of it is that, for those of us born female (and there are many of us), there are parts of climbing into our boys’ heads we will never understand. We lack the equipment and the experiences. We still try, and we’re attracted to these wonderful men, and we give them happy endings. By attempting to climb into their heads, by fantasizing about the hot mess we’ve written, we accept a little about ourselves that is neutral. I learn something new each time I write something, about the tiny and yet interesting differences between males and females. It stands to reason that most of the QUILTBAG author community has an element of gender fluidity, so perhaps there is an audience for genderqueer fiction.

The audience may be the problem, however. Will a reader understand a truly androgynous protagonist? Could it trip them up to read zie and hir the whole story and realize that not only is the character ‘playing another gender’, they’re truly something distinctly different than we expect inside their souls and skin? It’s a sensitive, dangerous climb that can be really terrifying for me personally. I’ve barely begun understanding how I myself fit into my world. Do I have a distinctly male and female side that are balanced? Am I both, or neither? The definitions of gender identity are endless, as multifoliate as the people who’ve begun to understand them on a very personal basis. So, to project this struggle, and especially the struggle of finding someone to love, can be a deeply personal experience littered with sneaky pronouns, faux pas, and awkward silences. Being at peace with your gender identity is one thing, but finding someone who understands and embraces this can be complicated, since sexual identity is something else altogether. I find myself lucky that my spouse is attracted to all the bits and pieces of me, the whole me. When I decide to finally indulge in writing genderqueer fiction, I want to give that same understanding to them, though it might be confusing and scary for me.

Genderqueers are the ‘red-headed stepchild’ right now, the new kid on the block in the QUILTBAG. I’d never heard that term until I was with Storm Moon Press, and they’ve been nothing but encouraging. Many of those associated with Storm Moon identify as genderqueer or other terms under the gender fluid umbrella, and I’ve found it comforting in a lot of ways. They’ve gone out of their way to be respectful with pronouns and identities. When I hear the term, I always think of a quilt. You can’t help but do it. It’s like genderqueers are the ones that are from that pair of jeans you skinned your knee in trying to sew themselves into the lining. Are they a subset of Trans* (transtar)? They have yet to find their place because it’s still so new. We forget that fluidity, just like the other sexual and gender differences, has been around forever. We should thank the Spartans, or the Greeks, or my personal hero Hatshepsut, who ruled a whole blasted country under the mantle of gender fluidity with the most fantastic beard ever invented. We must stop being scared of being rejected like the stepchild so eager to please, and just write what we know. I know genderqueer on a personal level. When I use the word ‘we’, I mean me. I have to stop being scared of it, and I truly look forward to others who can come out of the QUILTBAG too. We have so many opportunities with publishers like Storm Moon, who want examples of all experiences. It’s time we used them.

Gabriel Belthir is a freelance author who lives with a husband, a cat, and a dog in Ohio. After forays into poetry and game design, zie has decided to begin exploring the worlds of fantasy, science fiction, and alternate history. Between an active academic life and running hir own photography business, Gabriel enjoys all kinds of creative pursuits, including graphic design and painting. Hir short story, Lily of the Wastelands is now available from Storm Moon Press.

Giveaway

This interview is part of Storm Moon Press’ 3rd Anniversary Blog Tour! Comment on this post or any other post on the blog tour with your e-mail address, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win the Grand Prize of receiving 1 FREE e-book each month of 2013 from that month’s new releases for a total of 12 free e-books! Runners up will receive a $25 gift certificate to their choice of Amazon or All Romance eBooks. For more details and to find out about our 3rd Anniversary, head over to Storm Moon Press’ Official Blog. Thanks for joining us!

Footnotes

I still had some questions after reading this post – that’s why I asked Kris from Storm Moon Press to explain a few of the concepts Gabriel uses. Here is part of the email I got back:

Cisgendered is an adjective used to describe those who identify as one of the two traditional binary genders: male or female. Cisgendered is the opposite term from transgendered. This is one of those cases when Wikipedia does a better job of explaining than I do. *laughs*
 
With the pronouns zie and hir, they’re mimicking what we would normally use for cisgendered individuals. Consider the phrase, “I like him, and he likes me.” That would definitely mean the person I’m talking about is male, just like the female version of the same sentence would read, “I like her, and she likes me.” Stepping away from cisgendered pronouns of he/she and him/her is difficult in English because there typically aren’t any other options in the pronoun pool, which is where zie and hir came from. Zie is an alternate for he/she; hir is an alternate for him/her. There are a lot of other invented pronouns that various people use, but the zie/hir system is the one I’ve heard used.
  • Ashley E

    Fascinating post, Gabriel. I admit to being somewhat oblivious to gender fluidity, but I certainly learned a lot today! Thanks for being so open today and sharing with us.

    ashley.vanburen[at]gmail[dot]com

    • http://www.nyxbookreviews.com/ Celine

      Thank you for stopping by Ashley!

  • Trix

    I still don’t get why gender is still so binary for a lot of people in this day and age.  Great post.

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

    • http://www.nyxbookreviews.com/ Celine

      It’s mostly just ignorance. I consider myself pretty open-minded and live in a open-minded country, but there’s just so little info out there unless you know where to look

    • http://www.facebook.com/angelia.sparrow Angelia Sparrow

      Because sex is pretty binary for the majority of people. And for most people, gender and sex are the same.  I am Gabriel’s con-spouse (an interesting concept in itself) and even I don’t quite get genderqueer and gender fluid all that well.  I mean, I grew up in the 80s, so I get androgyny, but there was no question that this was a woman in a suit or this was a man in lace.

  • http://sharinglinksandwisdom.blogspot.com/ Emily

    Thanks for the post, I’ve only recently heard the term queergender, so it’s nice to learn about it and hear such a personal story. One of the things I love most about sexuality and gender is that they’re both so diverse. Part of the problem with acceptance is that most people are raised to think of sexuality as well as gender in black and white terms (male and female, straight or gay) when both are chock full of gray areas. Thanks so much Gabriel for sharing, it’s people like you that help break those barriers down and inform and educate others. I know I for one am looking forward to your books and to learning more about this topic.

    tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

    • http://www.nyxbookreviews.com/ Celine

      Thank you for leaving Gabriel such a wonderful comment, Emily!