Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gender Identity and Medicine, Or Why I Love Queer

This submission is from guest author Amanda Davis, an MS2 at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA

I almost took it for granted. “Do you have genderqueer patients?” I asked the physician. There
were murmurs around the room, not everyone knew what I meant, but the physician did. He
was talking about transhealth to a room full of healthcare professional students who had elected
to be there.

I didn’t take it for granted though. I asked the question because I already knew the answer was
probably yes. I asked because I knew many people would not know what “genderqueer” meant,
or had even thought about the spectrum of gender. I asked because I wanted to expose them. I
also asked because I wanted to know what the evidence shows on the safety of going on and off

“I suspect not everyone here knows what genderqueer means,” the physician said. Some shook
their heads. It was only about two years ago that I was really introduced to the term myself.
For those who have not been exposed to this lovely idea, here is a definition from wikipedia1:

Genderqueer: catch-all term for gender identity other than man and woman. People
who identify as genderqueer may think of themselves as being both man and woman, as being
neither man nor woman, or as falling completely outside the gender binary. They may express a
combination of masculinity and femininity, one or the other, or neither.

For kicks, here is the wiki definition of queer2:
Queer is an umbrella term for minority sexual orientations and gender identities that are
not heterosexual, heteronormative or gender-binary.

I get all warm and fuzzy reading both these definitions. How lucky am I to be a part of a
community that has exposed me to these ideas, spectrums, and wonderful people?

I reflected on the evolution of my understanding of gender. I came out as bi when I was 15.
I knew one transperson in high school. I understood gender as a binary, but for a white kid
growing up in a republican suburb, I was progressive. You could identify as a man or a woman
and be attracted to men or women or both. Gender identity and sexual orientation were
separate. I was not sexually interested in transpeople, although I had thought about it. I liked
girls or I liked boys. I supported people whose bodies did not match their minds, but I did not
want to make out with them.

Fast forward to college – why do we have words like lesbian and gay for those who might
otherwise be called “homosexual,” but only bisexual for people who are attracted to more than
one gender? That emphasizes the sexual, and let’s not even talk about all the biphobia (actually
yes, let’s talk about it). I prefer to be “unidentified.” It’s about the person, not the genitals
(although, let’s be honest, genitals are fun).

Post-college: Oh yes, finally a word that makes sense to me: queer. My queer is different
from your queer. If I have to identify myself, and our culture loves labels, queer is what I am.

Sexuality is fluid. There are no absolutes. Dykes, queers, lezzies, butches, femmes, androgynous
bois or grrls, in betweenie weenies. What’s your type of girl? I just like girls, and sometimes
boys, and definitely bois, and boys who used to be girls (yeah, I got over that idea I had in high
school of not wanting to make out with transpeople).

The idea of anything more than the gender binary makes some people’s heads explode with fear
and rage. I find that so sad. Sad for all the trannies, queers and homos that cross their paths
and encounter hate. But also sad for those haters who will never know the joys of a whole range
of genders.

I only see beauty in the gender and sexuality spectrums. Beauty, sensuality, art, intrigue,
satisfaction, love. Anything else would just be… boring.

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