Below is an interview with a genderqueer individual living in Portland, Oregon. The answers correspond to the questions, but are not in order:

1. How does gender play a role in your life?
2. How has your sexuality been shaped, if at all, by your gender identification (assuming you have one)?
3. How do you feel about gender identification in general: do you see it as a necessary tool for providing order in the world or is it a hindrance to your own, and the rest of the world's, liberty?
4. Is your gender performance something that you think about often? What has the evolution of your consciousness on the matter looked like? (i.e.: pre college, during college, post college gender awareness)

Throughout my life i've been constantly been "bumping heads," so to speak, with gender. I refused to wear dresses before I could form full sentences and was considered a tomboy throughout grade school, at one point insisting that my parents refer to me as "Bradley James." I don't remember whether or not I considered myself a boy, at that age I probably didn't really think that I needed to choose sides.

Puberty was a wake-up call. I was most bothered by the fact that it wasn't acceptable for me to wear swim trunks anymore. I presented myself as fairly feminine in high school and didn't really question my gender as a girl. I think the message that people are either boys or girls based on physical attributes had finally sunk in-- there certainly was no one else in my life challenging that idea. However, as I began to identify more strongly as a girl, I became more aware of how differently boys and girls are treated. I hated being treated as what I felt like was less and was bothered even more by the fact that everyone else my age was oblivious to the differential treatment.

It was a relief to be in a same-sex environment at Smith College, gender became a non-issue for me, both internally and externally. Without having 2 distinct groups for me to compare myself to, I sort of floated back into a gray fuzzy gender somewhere between man and woman. This seems like a more natural fit for me and I do believe in the whole idea of gender as a spectrum although I'd probably agree that most people fall closer to one end or the other rather in the middle like myself.

I feel like there's a lot of pressure within the genderqueer community to choose a gender if you are somewhere in the middle... to make it easier for yourself and everyone else around you. There are a lot of reasons why I'm pretty content to stay in the middle at this point in my life. The first is that I honestly don't know which gender I would prefer if I were to pick one so I'm not willing to make any drastic changes like surgery, hormones or pronoun switching to be perceived as more male. Why choose to transition when I don't feel any more like a man than a woman? However, I would like to have chest surgery in order to be more ambiguous, not necessarily to identify as a man, and also for the freedom of not having to cover/strap down a part of my body that men don't have to deal with. I want to be able to wear swimtrunks.

Another reason for me to stay in the middle is that I feel like just by being hard to place I have more impact on how people think about gender in general. Even though most people clearly categorize me as a woman, most recognize that they interact with me as they might with a guy and that I'm not the same as other women. I try to make it clear that this difference isn't simply due to being gay but sometimes that doesn't always work... but sometimes it does.

Gender performance is a tricky thing because after you finally have people perceiving you as differently gendered, you have maintain that image. Because people are accustomed to viewing the world with two genders only, most are constantly trying to "categorize," even if they aren't aware of it. It’s so easy to slip up and do something "feminine" and then worry that it will reaffirm the belief that you actually were a girl all along. I know a few FTM guys who feel like they have to hide all feelings of sensitivity in order to be perceived as masculine.

I would argue that my sexuality and gender identity have developed separately. I was a pretty sexual kid and didn't discriminate between boys and girls when I was practicing kissing. When I started to seriously wonder if I was attracted to women was during highschool, the time in my life when I actually stopped questioning my own gender and fully identified as a woman.

How I feel about gender identification in general? Yes, I think it has become an important tool for providing order in the world but not a necessary one. Gender identification outside of my own is such a huge issue that I don't even know where to answer that because I haven't been able to get a firm grasp on it. I think gender is the single most effective form of social organization and that we have become so very dependent on it that it will never disappear. It's actually sort of sickening to think about how early people are stereotyped in life based on their genitalia, which most people associate with gender. My co-worker just found out that she was carrying a boy today. People immediately started talking about clothes with footballs and how it will be so much easier for her than a girl might be because she can send the kid off to the park with his dad. This kid will be ushered into a world that has expectations for him that he may or may not have any interest in fulfilling. I can only hope that gender will become more fluid as more people are open about being differently gendered, more people in general will start to think about gender as more than a "2 box option." It's pretty rare for people to question their own gender; it's just too unsettling.

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