Opinion | So…I’m Genderqueer

“There needs to be more gender variant role models and I am so happy to take on that role and be genderqueer and gender non-conforming in a different way. I feel like there’s not enough representation of different trans stories. I consider myself trans in a genderfluid way and that’s just one of the many categories of the umbrella that is trans.”

That’s from my interview with Violet Chachki and it’s been in my head ever since. It’s been my starting point on what is gender, gender norms, and societal gender roles. And it started me on an unexpected journey inward to a result that has been right in front of me the whole time.

I’m genderqueer. It means I don’t accept or subscribe to society’s gender norms. I identify with a combination of both the male and female genders. So what does that mean for you reading this and for those of you who are my family and friends? More on that in a minute, but let’s backtrack a bit.

From the minute I hung up the phone with Violet in my car that February day, something stuck with me. I thought it was just how eloquently she spoke, but it was first spark of my new identity emerging. Violet’s words about what society is seeing as transand the very large gender spectrum available to the world got me curious. I began to take an interest in gender, in societal norms and behaviors.

And then Halloween came. Someone shared video from Nightline of Bob the Drag Queen surprising a young boy, CJ, who had dressed up as him for Halloween. I later learned that CJ identified as gender non-conforming. I bought the book his mother had wrote, Raising My Rainbow, and got a lot more information on the way society automatically assumes gender when it comes to birth and children. And a term came up that I had also seen when I transcribed my interview with Violet. Genderqueer. And the more I read from Lori’s book, her blog and from my now growing list of books, blogs and magazines on gender, the more I began to say “Yes, you have a masculine and feminine persona. OUTSIDE of your art.” And I want to make that distinction. Yes, I am a drag queen, this character helped awaken my true gender identity. But it is not completely because I do drag that I am genderqueer. But it definitely helped though make me a more confident and fabulous person in and out of drag.

As if on cue, self-doubt began to set in, as did a lot of internal questions. And it only got worse in the wake of the election of our next president. I was terrified and went straight to panic mode.I’d heard the stories from my LGBTQ elders about the camps in World War II, the pink triangles, the persecution, the death. That’s my greatest fear and it’s still with me. But I also saw so much hope that we as an LGBTQ community have been watching each other’s backs and made it our mission to be as out and proud like never before to remind this new administration we exist.

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I watched a beautiful wonderful friend of mine come out as transgender on November 9. Her courage to come out, even amid the blind hate running rampant through our country, inspired me.

Over the holidays I picked up the January National Geographic whose coverage is completely on gender issues across the world. When I got to their dictionary definitions of gender terms, there was that word again that Violet said in our interview, the same one Lori talked about in her book. Genderqueer. And when I read its definition, I said, “That’s me. That’s what I am.”

The last kick in the ass I needed to embrace my identity came from one of my personal heroes: Carrie Fisher. The week of her passing, I grieved by re-reading Wishful Drinking – and came to this quote - almost as if Carrie was encouraging me from beyond.

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

Like my friend who came out, I know it’s absolutely terrifying to look to the future with so many bigots about to take the reins. But it’s why I cannot be silent right now, cannot hide who I truly am and will not be told that my life, nor those of my fellow LGBTQ brothers and sisters, does not matter. I am a gay, genderqueer American and my rights matter as much as those of my heterosexual counterparts.

So, on the first Saturday of 2017, inspired one of my friends, and by Violet Chachki and CJ, I took a deep breath and made it Facebook official. (Because we all know it’s not official til it’s on the ‘Book.) I went through so many questions in my mind, but answered them very quickly, so I’m going to briefly share my inner monologue with you so you can also get the answers.

-What pronouns do I prefer?

Honestly I’m ok with either, “he” or “she”. I know how much a delicate thing pronouns are and how horrible and cruel misgendering can be. Basically it’s whatever you feel comfortable with for me, but please consider also that for others this is a big deal and to respect their wishes as well.

-Does this mean I’m transgender?

OK, so this one’s gonna take a little bit of explaining. There are some who feel that genderqueer is non-binary trans, meaning your gender identity doesn’t fit the male or female binary. Others feel genderqueer is its own umbrella for non-binary gender identity. For me, I see it as a YMMV (your mileage may vary) situation every oneidentifying their gender identity makes for themselves. For me, genderqueer is non-binary, but I feel it also falls under transgender because I am identifying with a combination of both male and female genders. So, long story short, yes, for me, genderqueer means I am trans, but another genderqueer or non-binary individual may not select that for their gender identity.

-What does this mean for you all and for me going forward?

Nothing really has changed, just my gender identity. What this means is that in my everyday life, I’ll be living who I truly am. I may wear gender neutral articles of clothing outside of work, but for the most part, I’m the same Matt Jamieson you’ve known, just able to be who I am inside and outside. Same me, new confidence and identity.

I am truly blessed by the biological and chosen families I have made who have quickly got on board with the same message: we love you, we’re proud of you, we’re here for you.All I ask is you treat me with respect and I will do the same for you. If you were my ally as I rallied for same-sex marriage, I hope you are as ardent of a fighter as we continue to press for full equality for the entire LGBTQ community, especially with so many anti-trans bills in the state legislature in Missouri and so many other states.

Many of these issues you may have said don’t affect me, do now, and I will be relying on your support, as will my trans brothers and sisters. I may have been afraid of embracing who I am, but now there’s no going and back and my voice will continue to speak up and out until we have beat back the oppression and inequality we’ve faced. And it will happen, because I’m in the fight now, and you can’t keep me from speaking out.