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GENDERQUEER THE NEW FRONTIER

in AUSTRALIA, 29/07/2012

In our postmodern world of understanding gender, it would seem ‘labels’ should eventually become irrelevant. While historically queers have played with gender for hundreds of years, is it really fathomable that one day we could do away with the terms male and female?

Genderqueer Australia is for people who don’t subscribe to conventional gender definitions. They are an organisation who are exploring and questioning the boundaries of current gender identities and the infinite possibilities of what gender could actually mean. Rachel Cook spoke to Lisa Sinclair from
Genderqueer Australia about what it is to be genderqueer.

“Genderqueer is anyone who doesn’t identify as strictly male or strictly female,” Sinclair says. “They feel they are between or something else entirely, it’s very gender diverse.”

Genderqueer Australia (formally Melbourne Genderqueer) began in December 2010. It formed out of the realisation that there was no support network available for people who not only don’t identify as male or female, but who also felt separate from transgender groups.

Sinclair says some people hold strict views about what being transgender actual means. For them the journey from one gender to another is the goal, and those genders only exist within the binary of male and female, masculine and feminine.

“There are individuals in the community who have a very black and white idea of what trans actually is,” Sinclair says. “For them it is that you start as one assigned gender and you are definitely going to change that gender through surgery, full stop, that’s it for them, but within the community there are people you could consider moderate, who feel that that there are people who don’t want to go all the way.

“And this is personal opinion now, but, trans tends to be the move from one gender to another - it has entered the public consciousness as this. Genderqueer tends to be the term that is now beginning to be used for people who don’t want to transition from A to B or vice versa.”

Sinclair adds: “We get people coming through all the time who have felt alienated from other groups because they won’t be undertaking all of the surgical changes and there are others who have actually been actively rejected as not being ‘trans enough’.”

The term ‘genderqueer’ was coined sometime during the mid 1990s, and while there are some people who identify as genderqueer who would prefer a world where no labels are required, it seems impossible to escape gender classifications. And even though the term is still not widely known, there is a growing number of people who are adopting the term.

“The term has slowly been gaining traction since the early noughties,” Sinclair says. “All of the labels are actually ironic in that in trying to get away from heteronormative labels you then suddenly have another label. It is impossible really to escape all of the pigeon holes ultimately, but people who tend to fall into the genderqueer spectrum of gender identity have a tendency to identify just as people – you don’t have to say I’m a male, I’m a transman, I’m a female, I’m a transwoman or I’m a cross dresser, you can just be a person. That’s our philosophy, ultimately.

Last month the group changed their name from Melbourne Genderqueer to Genderqueer Australia. Sinclair said the change was due to the fact that they didn’t find any other group in the country that was actually specialising in the support of genderqueer and gender questioning people.

“There didn’t seem to be a voice, or information for that matter, for genderqueer people.”

Sinclair adds: “The main aim of the group is to act as a social support network for people who identify as genderqueer and gender questioning. It’s about providing a safe space for people who feel they have not fitted in anywhere else before.

“It’s about people’s experiences and normalising people’s experiences,” Sinclair says. “So if someone comes and they have suffered for years and they haven’t been able to express themselves in any area, we say to them, you are not alone, and you can express yourself in any way you see fit.”

For those who are interested in finding out more about Genderqueer Australia the group is open to all.

“We are welcoming to everyone, it’s not just genderqueer and gender questioning people, we get all sorts of people along to our meet ups, female to male, transwomen, cross dressers,  and that is the nice thing about the genderqueer moniker, it seems to be more inclusive.”

For more information: genderqueer.org.au

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