The Kids Aren’t All White: Diversity in the Genderqueer Community
I know we’ve only just met, but you seem super nice, so I’m going to tell you a few things about myself.
Firstly, I am profoundly embarrassed by the terrible pun in the title of this post. Reader, I am sorry.
Secondly, I’m genderqueer. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you probably know this already, because I hardly ever shut up about it! I dress in men’s clothes, have a short, barbershop haircut, and I usually wear a binder. I’m thin. I’m able-bodied. I’m white. I like to think that if you made me a bit taller and a lot more handsome, I’d make a good Ben Whishaw or Cumberbatch-era Sherlock; realistically, I’m currently rocking more of a pre-puberty Justin Bieber look.
This isn’t a lonely hearts ad; I’m not about to tell you all about how much I love independent coffeeshops, Murakami and long walks on the beach. The reason I started this post the way I did is because I want to demonstrate something about the way people perceive the genderqueer community.
Be honest. Did the description above sound kind of familiar?
It should have done. Not because all genderqueer people are white, transmasculine and able-bodied – we’re not. But despite the massive diversity of genderqueer community, when it comes to non-binary folk, the media is absolutely dominated by people who look like me. Whilst queer-run blogs and online resources tend to be far better than print media, if you read an article in a major newspaper or a post on a mainstream website that focuses on non-binary identities, a lot of the time, the accompanying picture will be of someone who is white, able-bodied, thin, and conforms just slightly to certain standards of masculinity – short hair, men’s clothes, maybe a binder. When it comes to genderqueer celebrities, those that adhere to these standards are far more likely to be given air time. There is a reason why the media is happier to focus on the genderqueerity of Rain Dove and Ruby Rose than that of Angel Haze.
Folks, none of us are stupid. We all know why “flesh-coloured” usually just means pale peach, why gay kids have to come out but straight kids don’t, why “androgyny” so often just means masculinity-lite. It’s because we live in a society that considers some attributes “normal” and some attributes “other”, and in this society, the most normal human being – the standard model, if you will – is a straight, white, able-bodied man. I’m no anthropologist, but I’d be willing to bet that the reason why the media focuses on genderqueer people who are transmasculine and white is because – by their standards – we are the most “normal”-looking. By using pictures of people like me, media outlets can get their gold star for inclusivity without the risk of alienating their mainstream audiences. The average person can look at me without feeling uncomfortable, because I – as a vaguely androgynous, transmasculine, white, able-bodied person – don’t really transgress any of their “norms”. My personal appearance isn’t likely to offend anyone; but show a trans person who is visibly disabled or who doesn’t adhere to the traditional “masculinity-lite” form of androgyny, and a thousand Guardian readers go clutching for their pearls.
It’s bullshit, of course. There is nothing about being a person with a disability, say, or a PoC that is offensive, abnormal or shocking. We all know this. We’re all well aware of the fact that the reason the media consistently favours white, able-bodied people is because both our media outlets and our society as a whole is deeply, profoundly bigoted. The idea that there is any such thing as a “normal” human being is in itself bigoted.
Intersectionality is important, no matter what community you’re a part of. Being genderqueer is hard, no matter who you are, but the fact is that some of us do have a rougher deal than others, and all of us need to be aware of that. Acceptance that depends on people adhering to these damaging and arbitrary rules is not acceptance.
We need to support each other, folks. No-one else is going to do it for us.
Feature image comes courtesy of examiner.com, and also looks a lot like most of my selfies.