Genderqueer is an umbrella term?

This is something I did not know! From what I understand now (and maybe I should have been educating myself about this term a little earlier) it is meant to incorporate all non-binary gender identities. So, someone who is neutrois, agender, or androgynous could all identify as genderqueer, if they so choose. I feel like I should try to do a diagram of this. Because, this is all a wee bit confusing and occasionally busts my brain.

So… I made this diagram! I’m not sure how good or useful it’ll be, but it represents my current understanding of the lay of the land:

Map of Gender Identity Terms

Map of Gender Identity Terms

It is also pointlessly colourful and probably violates about five or six conventions for creating diagrams… Not that I give a shit.

Anyway. So this is partially a result of the recent post on trenderqueers. Also on this recent Tumblr discussion about a cis woman with a non-binary gender expression… Which fits perfectly into the notion of trenderqueer. This recent reminder that gender identity and gender expression are different things was very timely for me.

Anyway… So apparently I don’t really have much of a point to this post. Not really. I’m not sure whether or not genderqueer really is its own umbrella term or whether or not it really should be considered one. However, if it is *not* an  umbrella term, this still leaves me as unclear as to what it means, other than non-binary.

One thing I’ve become quite leery about as I see more and more discussions surrounding umbrella terms, is how efficacious they really are. This post discusses the political and strategic efficacy of it. This is, of course, important. Creating a community of people who stand in solidarity with each other is extremely important for gaining the kind of political and social recognition necessary to cis folk finally seeing trans people as human beings.

It seems a fragile balance to strike: creating umbrella terms for the sake of community building while also trying to respect all the nuances and variations that can exist within the umbrella. One of the reasons I continue to be troubled by the insistance to have these umbrella terms is they way that it appears inevitable that someone will be left standing out in the rain. Or be included when they feel no connection to the community as a whole (I’m thinking people like crossdressers or drag queens under the trans* umbrella).

I guess the real problem I have with this whole notion is related to the general issues I have with nationalism. As soon as we start decided to mark the boundaries of territory, we begin to police them. After we begin to police them, we become more concerned with inter-community debate, instead of focusing on the larger issues. But all of this starts from a troubled place: who has the authority to mark boundaries?

Because, ultimately, it will always be the people who have the most power and privilege who initially get to mark the boundaries. And when this happened with feminism, history has shown us that it left a great deal of people out to fend for themselves. This is an important lesson to keep at the forefront of trans* activism and identity politics, because I have already noticed how many of the trans* people I’ve seen given larger platforms, those that whose voices are amplified and become spokespeople for the community appear to be white. Or how, when trying to be inclusive, they end up simply erasing the history behind the words they appropriate (like bakla).

I know that some divisions within the trans community come transsexuals wishing to distance themselves and exercise a certain level of passing privilege. However, I question the almost slavish defence of needing an umbrella term in the first place. Mainly, because unless a movement is constantly questioning and checking its privileges it will simply end up replicating the same hierarchies as the rest of society. Again, I point to feminism. I also point to the queer community. Both of which continue to have whiteness problems. And creating a hegemonic discourse and term for a community without specific and overt commitments to intersectionality will simply mean replicating the larger contextual hegemony in which it is articulated.

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