But Mom: What’s a Gender Queer?

*This is a little informative piece I threw together for a party and now for the Interwebs, to simply breakdown what it means to be gender queer. Heads up, chins out, glitter gun locked and loaded lets do this:

So you aren’t trans? But you’re not a girl? But you pee sitting down? Sometimes you pack and sometimes you don’t? You look like a guy though. But a lot of what you say is kinda feminist like. I’m really confused. Are you confused?

No. I’m just gender queer.

Lets break this down:

Gender is that thing that was slapped on your birth certificate determined by what was between or not between your legs.

Queer is that wonderful word that we can consider an umbrella term for many LGBTQ people.

Now when I slap the words gender and queer together. I am telling you that I am a little bit of both. What is between my legs is not thoroughly who I am. If gender is black and white I am gray.

“So what gender pronoun should I use when addressing you, or people like you?”

No person is the same. No gender queer person is the same. GQ folks range from accepting and being comfortable with words you’ve heard all of your life like: Mr. and Miss. too some other words you may not have even known to exist like: ze/ hir

Zir? What is that about? Think of it this way: he, she, ze / him, her, hir / his, hers, hirs

Names work too. So instead of saying her or him insert said persons name and ta da no need for an awkward moment. They and them are also pretty common.

“So who do you date?”

EVERYONE. And no by that I don’t mean that every gender queer person dates every other sexuality automatically. What I mean is, gender queer people can fall into any sexuality. Because you see, gender and sexuality are separate.

For some of us gender has always been pretty clear. While for some of us gender has been much like sexuality – a question. Anyone who falls under the gay umbrella knows what it is like to question who they are, and question what it is society expects from them, and looks at them. Being gender queer is just another one of those things.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. To stay curious. When done so with respect, there is SO MUCH TO LEARN.

<;3 Ryley


Change Clothes & Go

Fashion is something so very personal to me. Growing up it was fashion that I felt restricted by, as someone who didn’t feel comfortable being confined to the “girls” or “juniors” sections I struggled with the image I saw in the mirror. I knew that, the clothes I was wearing, were what was expected; I was passing to a world strict with gender laws. I had more room to play with fashion than I ever could realize as a teenager. I used to see my clothes as a restriction, I saw my hair the same way. Every few weeks I went to the hairdresser and got it “touched up” chemically processed so that it was straight and manageable. Every morning I would plug in my hair straightner, open my dresser drawers and get ready for my day. I felt like I was constantly playing dress up, I wondered if anyone else could realize how awkward I felt, how out of place. But I played the game, even when I came out and was happily dating girls I had not come out in a another aspect of my life. My sexuality had really never been a question to me. I grew up in a very liberal town, with a very liberal family. I dated boys when I was younger, but I knew that it wouldn’t last. By the time I had made it to high school I was out, and had my first girlfriend at the end of my sophomore year. She fit, we fit, but I felt like something in me still did not. That one thing was my gender. Who was I really?

It is amazing what a pair of jeans can do. I had one pair of GAP jeans that were boyfriend cut. They were the only pair of pants that I owned that did not show off my extremely long feminine legs. I could sag them a bit past my hip bones and all of a sudden saw something that I had always felt. I saw myself as more masculine, not as a man per se but all of a sudden I wasn’t a teenage girl. I felt edgy. I did not know then about what it meant to be transgender or gender queer, but with that one pair of jeans I finally felt right. Those lead to me venturing into the mens department for the first time when I entered college. Being 6’1’’ I had always hated shopping, womens clothes are for the most part not meant for such long skinny legs and such big feet. With mens clothes I suddenly wasn’t seeing how big my feet were, or how lanky my legs and arms felt. I asked myself what the hell had taken so long? This fixed seemed so easy, it all felt exactly perfectly right, but in truth there was no way that years earlier I would have felt comfortable dressed as a boy. I would have felt like I was in drag, which funny enough is how I felt when I was in girls clothes.

One does not have to be obsessed with fashion to want it to work for them. I think my love affair with clothing actually started because of how much I had hated them for so many years. The minute I realized that I could wear menswear and own it as my own, was the minute I started my love affair. I always hated the word tomboy when I was growing up. It never was said as a compliment, more so as a descriptor for someone who did not fit into one of societies two gender boxes. The editorial fashion world has always played around with androgyny, but I always saw it as fantasy. I never felt like fashion houses were celebrating female masculinity, but instead producing something they felt was daring. Much like with many of the black models you see in fashion who have what I can only peg as a “tribal” look. Most of the highly successful black models are dark, and come from Africa. Which part of me says good for them, good for us, good for society. But then the other part of me knows, that the fashion industry’s obsession with these dark skin beauties is a form of exoticism and can sometimes also seem like fetishism. I do not feel a celebration of the black model, in the same way I did not feel a celebration of the masculine female. The latter is definitely changing. As a black masculine presenting person I do at times struggle with identity. As an aspiring model I have heard out of the mouths of casting agents, and heads of agencies that they just didn’t know what to do with me. Because for better or for worse agencies are still putting people into boxes. Which is why it is so important for both the queer community and racial minorities to take a stand and instead of assimilate; create.

When you are being restricted, it is your biggest opportunity to grow. To exceed expectations and to break molds. When I go out and see queer people dressed exactly how they want, on their terms, presenting to society as an individual who is breaking down walls and destroying the norm, my heart swells. Would it be too Goonie like of me to say something like: This is our time? Well it is. I have never seen so much talent out of a generation then out of the bubbling queers that are coming up. From art, to fashion, to music. We are queering up the mainstream, and it is about damn time.

*This piece is also featured on dapperQ and Dapperfy Productions




Gender Bell

When I was younger my grandpa would take me to Home Depot and I would run directly towards the aisles that had all of the doors and doorbells on display. I loved opening and closing the different doors, ringing doorbells to imaginary houses in an imaginary world that I had cooked up. Yes these were doors that led to nowhere and no matter how persistently I rang those bells no one would come answer. Yet it didn’t matter. This was my world and in it I could and go as I wanted.

Now at 23 I feel the same way about my gender. The doors I open these days have more weight. When I’m out I have to make the conscious decision whether or not to open the door of the men’s room, or the woman’s room. In my mind I tell myself over and over that no man realizes my feet turned towards the door as I pee squatting down in the usual one and only seedy mens room stall. I tell myself they don’t see the missing bulge in my pants. The lack of Adams apple or stubble.

Sometimes I stare at the door of women’s rooms and wish I could enter. Yet I know that to a female a bathroom is sacred. It is a place for makeup and gossip. It is not the place for a man or in my case a woman in men’s clothing – a sheep in wolfs clothes.

But I am as much a woman as I am a man. I am neither, I am in between. To those who don’t know me they see a young man. My height and my shoe size are deceptive. Never mind my shaved head and my apparel. When I look in the mirror I see a person who took twenty two years to emerge. Something inside me was always more masculine, but my face, my long slender fingers, my high cheekbones and my laugh they gave away a flirtatious girl. Sure to grow into her lanky arms and legs and giant smile. Sure to dangle off the arm of some charming and dapper man one day. Yet surely enough, that dapper man is who she dreamed to be.

Gender isn’t talked about much when you’re growing up, or in mainstream society much at all for that matter. Girls and boys are put into boxes from an early age, you are pink or you are blue. Sex is discussed, it is over analyzed. You take sex ed, you are educated and that’s it. A few years later you will meet the man or woman of your dreams, you’ll have kids and that will be that. But what about those kids in that health class who are wondering what sex with someone of the same sex is like? What about those kids who are wondering what sex will be like for them at all? Because they were born in the wrong body or aren’t a girl or a boy. That was me. Not only did I not want a husband but I certainly didn’t want to be a housewife. I did however like the idea of those two figures merging.

And now they have. My body has always felt right, but my pronouns and my name always felt entirely wrong. I have friends coming out and living their lives as transgender all around me. I identify with so many of their anxieties, feel so many of their truths, yet I know that we are not the same. We are fraternal twins sharing some of the same traits but we are not identical.

My brain is not confused. It is not searching for a pink or a blue blanket. My brain is just as its always been happiest opening as many different doors as possible. Playing with gender the way I once played with doorbells. I’d like to think that I have found my perfect doorbell though. I’ve been waiting all of my life for the one that sounded just right.

* This piece is part of an ongoing series by trans, gender queer, and gender non conformist for Work Those Pecs.
Work Those Pecs