Question: How do you know?

Meike asks…

How do you know if you’re genderqueer? I’m biologically female who prefers to dress and appear androgynous, but I’m reluctant to take on any labels for fear of being wrong and having to change my mind later. I used to secretly identify as a lesbian, but half of the time I just feel like a straight person who happens to have a girlfriend.

I’ve never really strongly identified as female, never tried to accentuate my female body, but never thought of myself as male–I always just thought I was a butch, tomboy-type of girl. I tend to be anti-label, yet I just want to find a name for who I am as an individual – what should I do? I’m tired of feeling so lost and confused.

Please post your response in the comments below.

» Ask Genderfork «

Posted by on March 1st, 2010 at 04:00 pm

Category: questions 32 comments »

32 Responses to “Question: How do you know?”

  1. Josiah

    I have this question as well… I’m still trying to figure it out, really. I’m biologically male– I never cared to identify that much with my own gender but never ventured much into identifying or presenting as something else either.

    Very, very interested in the whole genderqueer and androgynous stuff, though. I just never can seem to figure out what my place in all of this gender stuff is! :)



  2. Josiah

    Correction, actually– I’ve *thought* a lot about presenting differently but never went that far with it. Like Meike mentioned, I suppose androgynous might be more accurate.

    Very interested to see people’s replies here! As much as I love the whole concept of genderqueer, the ‘labels’ have always confused me just a tad.



  3. Leah

    It’s hard to give advice. We all have such different experiences with life, sexuality, and gender that what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. It’s also hard not to give advice, because I know all too well how painful it can be to feel lost and confused.

    Remember: you _get_ to pick a label, or labels, but you don’t _have_ to. If a label you choose doesn’t feel right, pick a new one. It’s not about being wrong and changing your mind later, it’s about finding out who you are now and who you want to be. People constantly change, and the labels used to describe them can change as well.

    Identity is fluid. Go with the flow.


  4. Anonymous

    You’re genderqueer if you feel genderqueer. Today you might not be, tomorrow you may be… Honestly, I’m not sure… I believe that whether or not I feel like identifying as something matters much more than if someone thinks that label should be attached to me… The only thing that’s going to be consistent is that I’m going to be me, even if me is not the same person every day… (This is Andy from the boidyke thread, not anonymous. I think I put my name in the wrong box.)


  5. Chase

    Genderqueer is a very nonspecific label. It’s more a philosophy or a way of life. Identifying as genderqueer simply means that you see no reason to conform to traditional ideas of gender, and other than that there aren’t any guidelines(even though what I just said is more of a liberating thing than a guideline).
    You can feel free to dress, act, and live the way you want without your reproductive organs choosing your path for you.


  6. honey

    I am in complete agreement with Leah. It can be fun to choose new labels you never imagined using and identity is extremely fluid. There is no way for me to know for sure who I’ll be in five years, and I’m glad I don’t know.

    It can be scary to commit to a label and then to ask people to think of me differently sometime down the road. I’ve found that people actually don’t mind so much, and my fear was really a reflection of my own insistence that I remain rigid. Why do I have the expectation of myself that I will never change? Am I afraid that people won’t trust me if I am a different person tomorrow? Do I trust people who change?


  7. Leah

    We are often more strict with ourselves than we are with others. Looking back, it’s hard to understand how I could be supportive of anyone and anything trans/queer while at the same time denying myself the freedom to express my own gender identity. Why was it OK for everyone except me?


  8. Chris

    Don’t allow “Genderqueer” to be another box. It’s not black and white, there is no “genderqueer” and “not genderqueer” binary. If you are comfortable with the term as a good, semi-good, or exact match to your feelings about your gender, then you may claim that identity for yourself, if you wish.
    And the best part is… we’re not gunna give you an exam to make sure you are genderqueer enough every single day.
    <3 Chris


  9. Samson

    I’m with Chase! I’m biologically mostly female (my hormones kind of do their own thing sometimes) and sometimes I feel like every day, I’m somewhere else on the “gender map.” I say I’m genderqueer because (a) I don’t think anybody should have to conform to what “people” think they should be like, and (b) I DON’T conform to what “people” think I should be like. I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your gender “matching up” with your sex in an “expected” way, but if you’re not feeling it, be free–that’s what genderqueer is to me.

    I dress mildly androgynously, but most days I don’t bind or bother to hide anything about my biological sex because I just am who I am, and sometimes I get looked at sideways for that by some queerfolk, like I must not really be genderqueer if I’m comfortable leaving my body as-is.


  10. Anonymous

    In my opinion a person should label themselves as trans if they feel like their body isn’t in congruence with their mind. The clothes you wear are simply fashion choices, whether you spend hours contemplating or throw something on, they’re just clothes. For me, trans or genderqueer makes sense as a label if they make sense for you, if your anatomy doesn’t match what you feel, if you feel like your gender is more fluid I suppose, but I don’t think it should be based on clothes or what you do in your life. You can be a butch woman, or a femme woman, or genderqueer, or just a person loving person. Your femininity can be strong and powerful and cars and construction and bikes, or it can be soft and gentle or it can be both. I think we get too wrapped up in what’s “supposed to be” Feminine or Masculine.
    Before I started my current job I bound my breasts every day and 50% of the time was called “sir”, I don’t bind as often now because my job is very active and it makes it very painful but I still get called sir 50%. People get embarrassed when I start talking because I have a really high voice, but I just calmly let them know it’s not a big deal. I don’t really care about the pronouns. I know who I am and that’s what counts for me. In the end it’s about who you are, and how you want to be perceived in the world.

    But that’s just my opinion and your body is yours to do with what you please. Label or no label.


  11. Mercury Mars

    i disagree with the anon on genderqueer being about bodies and incongruence. it can be that, but you can have a genderqueer identity and be fine with your body. in my opinion, if you feel non-female and non-male, this is a type of genderqueer. you do not need to call yourself anything, unless you feel the need. if you feel androgynous, or your own gender, call it that. if calling it genderqueer validates your identity, go for it. there is not shame in changing what you call yourself or identify as. that’s pretty damn normal.


  12. Chase

    I don’t think the anonymous was saying that it was a requirement to feel a body-gender incongruence or whatever.

    It really doesn’t matter, some GQ people feel a need to transition, and some don’t.


  13. Astra

    I also disagree with the anon on this one. Being genderqueer doesn’t mean you have an incongruity with yourself. It just means there’s something outside of the ‘norm’ with your view of yourself and your gender. Can be as much as the transgendered gentleman who finds comfort defining himself in that way as much as it is the girl who calls herself her father’s third son.


  14. M

    I lived for a long time expressing my gender in a non-normal way, but without labeling myself in any way. At some point I realized that I could identify as something and it was helpful. I feel like it helps me legitimize the way I feel and know that I am not alone. I also feel like it helps legitimize some of the pain I have always felt about feeling different, that I haven’t just been making it up, and its not my fault, or something. So I guess I just think that labels are only as good as they are helpful, and only you can know if it is helpful for you or not.


  15. M

    Like others have said, it’s totally cool to live without a label. But if you find that existing without a label makes you uncomfortable, then try on one after another until you find the one that fits! And remember that it’s okay if that changes down the line.

    Me, I currently identify as a Gender Clown, because I like to “clown around” with gender. I think it falls under the genderqueer category, but it’s a more specific description of what I am/do.


  16. s.a.g.

    hey “anonymous” commenter here. I didn’t mean to post it as anonymous… sorry for that fail. What that long-winded comment basically meant was that you can label yourself, or not… just be proud of who you are.


  17. J. Sandy

    Anonymous says in part: “I know who I am and that’s what counts for me. In the end it’s about who you are, and how you want to be perceived in the world.” I would add that labels also help define who you are or are not, but mostly how you relate to the rest of the world and viceversa. Sometimes labels are useful for this reason, but mostly you should celebrate who you ARE, and the uniqueness of being YOU… That is the part that will never fit exactly any labels. It is the part you have to live with, and the part which is yours to build and treasure. Don’t let this part get lost in the search for the “perfect label.” “I know who I am and that’s what counts for me” is the ultimate answer.


  18. Leah

    We accept that gender isn’t defined by anatomy or clothing. We know that gender roles are a social construct. What’s left?

    If you take the stereotypes away from gender, how can gender be defined? Many stereotypes contain at least a small grain of truth. Gender isn’t the enemy, a forced gender binary is. A gender fork has lots of tines in the middle as well as one on each end.

    We need more labels. We need a label for anyone, not everyone.


  19. Chris

    Holy crap. We need more labels like a bunch of holes in the head.
    Gender doesn’t need to be defined. Who told you that?
    Neither does sex for that matter.
    all I’m saying, cause i could seriously go off on that comment.


  20. Leah

    Everything needs to be defined. Anything that exists can be defined.

    Please, go off on my comment. Let’s take it to Queeries, since we both seem to be on the site. Don’t get me wrong, I love Genderfork with every ounce of my being, but this comment section isn’t the best place for large posts or long conversations.

    For anyone that isn’t already a member, it’s . Chris, feel free to message me or start a post or something.


  21. nick

    Not choosing a label can be a label as much as choosing one. One of my favorite labels is homoflexible/heteroflexible, or bicurious. It implies leaving your options open, NOT choosing. A person could be genderflexible to.


  22. Lyn Aven

    It’s good to see more genderfluid people; I don’t see much of the world so sometimes I feel like I’m the only one.


  23. Drew

    For me genderqueer pretty much means being outside the binary. That you can feel this or another way within hours,days,months,years etc.. That you don’t need to be necessarily this or another gender.
    I may identify myself as qenderqueer (genderfluid, whatever),queer and/ or androgyne/neutrois but on the other hand I just don’t care about labeling myself. It’s just too stressful to search for a label you want for yourself to put in. Call yourself whatever you feel comfortable with. Ok,sometimes you need time to know where you stand with yourself. So take the time for it ;)


  24. Anonymous

    These questions are always difficult, but I believe people are beautiful the way they are, no matter how they look. Sure, sometimes I do give weird looks, or maybe change my behavior when I see something out of the norm, but given time, I always try to process and understand. Sometimes it is difficult to understand someone, when you only see them once, but I try to make the attempt.

    Regardless of my sometimes hypocritical behavior, I find people to be fascinating and stunningly beautiful no matter how they look or what their gender is. More important than finding a label,is finding the beauty within yourself. I wish you the best of luck on your journey to self discovery and truly hope that you find what you are looking for.

    Here is a website that I found with varying definitions. I don’t know if you have already looked at such things, but just in case you find something that resignates.


  25. Gene

    Genderqueer is kind of a catch-all. It’s hard to go wrong with it. Basically, it refers to any non-binary gender.


  26. Jessica

    I agree with Chris about the labels, but good luck. Once there is a word for something, it’s a box. There’s no getting around that = it’s a part of the human condition. Saying you don’t believe genderqueer ought not to be a taxonomic classification is like making a rule that you’re not going to have rules.

    I feel most sorry for people who decide on the basis of a feeling or an experience that they must swap boxes… like being straight and having one gay sexual experience makes you gay for ever after. In my opinion everybody is omnisexual and omnigendered. We tend to take the most convenient, easiest, most advantageous labels as our own. “Normal” is a big umbrella – its a defense against strangers. Being marginalized is scary, lonely, and legitimately dangerous.

    Many, many people are what they are because being that makes them feel safe. It’s nothing to do with reality or happiness. It has much more to do with comfort and fear.


  27. Jessica

    Leah said: “We accept that gender isn’t defined by anatomy or clothing. We know that gender roles are a social construct. What’s left?”

    One of my favorite films is “A Man for All Seasons” in which one character says to another… “I will not give in, because I oppose it. Not my pride, not my spleen,
    nor any other of my appetites, but I do.
    Is there, in the midst of all this muscle, no sinew that serves no appetite of yours, but is just you?”

    I am what and who I am, which is always changing, always growing, always finding and confounding definition. Some of who I am is woman, some is man, some is neither or both. Or as Lao Tzu said:

    “Whether a person dispassionately sees to the core of life
    or passionately sees its surface,
    the core and the surface are essentially the same,
    words making them seem different
    to express appearance.”

    If I am not what I appear to be, then whose fault it that? If you are disappointed, confused or threatened, it is not because of any aim or appetite or harm that is within me. You have found those things in your own heart and projected them on me.


  28. Meike

    Wow, thank you all so much for your amazing and varied responses–it’s certainly given me a lot to think about! And more importantly, it’s helped me feel better about where I am in life right now. Thank you all for that.


  29. Leah

    I hope I’m not beating the issue to death here. But what’s wrong with boxes? Not all boxes are the same shape and size. Some boxes are small and narrowly defined, others are large and inclusive. Some boxes have cookies in them!

    Different things aren’t always opposites. Gay isn’t the opposite of straight, and male isn’t the opposite of female. Someone posted a picture of a gender color wheel here several months ago that I really loved. Each color had its own place, except for the places where each color blended together with other colors.

    The problem isn’t boxes or labels, it’s when those things are forced, not chosen. We are all alike in many ways. We are also different in many ways. Those differences don’t divide us. Instead, they give us the opportunity to celebrate the variety and diversity of the human experience. Saying that everyone is omnigendered and omnisexual is just as bad as saying everyone is cisgendered and monosexual.


  30. Anonymous

    Human is a label. Person is a label.


  31. Marion

    One thing I love about the label ‘genderqueer’ is that it’s very loose. A lot of more detailed labels (bigender, agender, pangender, etc.) can fit under the broader label of genderqueer, but you don’t have to define it beyond just ‘genderqueer.’ Basically, I would say that if you feel like you don’t really fit into the male/female binary, you can call yourself genderqueer. Genderqueer is a term loose enough that if you learn more about your gender identity, you can evolve but still probably fit under the genderqueer umbrella.
    But you don’t have to choose a label at all. I would say, though, that if you want to call yourself genderqueer you’re entirely justified in doing so.


  32. Lilybean

    Idly research or look in to a couple of terms and ‘labels’, but first of all be yourself, and ‘labels’ will come later if you want them.


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