Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Border Territories.

A few months ago I wrote about feeling increasingly non-binary. That was largely because "male" has never felt quite right to me, and it was feeling increasingly not right, too binary. So I got off that train. But now I'm sitting in the station and the tannoy is announcing that two trains are about to leave: all stations to "male" and "non-binary". HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME. Aaarrgh.

It seems a bit daft to say this but "non-binary" is now feeling too binary too. The fact that "non-binary" is a definite thing sets up another (problematic) binary between "non-binary" and "binary" and insists that I choose between them. I don't want to. Although "male" feels restrictive, discarding it in favour of "non-binary" feels restrictive too. I don't want to choose. I want to catch both trains. Or, perhaps, catch a different one to the border territories, from Platform 9¾.

Actually, most of my supposed "core identities" are like that. My Twitter profile includes the words “on the nebulous border between cis and trans”. In other words, both cis and trans, and neither. On the border.

Similarly, I've often declared my sexuality to be Kinsey 1½. Because neither 1 nor 2 (on the Kinsey scale) has ever felt quite right either.

Straight, but not quite.
Bisexual, but not quite.
Male, but not quite.
Trans, but not quite.
Cis, but not quite.
Non-binary, but not quite.

On the borders.

Minnie Bruce Pratt has written powerfully about outsider spaces, border territories:

I see you and me and her on the edge of town, a place out of my view when I was growing up, like the Quarters or the Milltown, but this another kind of gathering. It is a world of those the world casts out, calls freaks, the women-men of the sideshow at the circus, seen as tawdry, pitiful, hidden, wasted, walking their path of reeking sawdust between the tents. Except the people there have lovers, marriages, children, poor-paying jobs. They have marigolds in pots, they play the harmonica, they write books. You live there, and now I live there too, with those who know they are both man and woman, those who have transmuted one to the other, those who insist they are neither. Outside the pegged tents people stand and peer in at us, no words for us, though just by stepping over the ropes they could join us. I could cross back into that staring crowd and be without question a woman amusing herself, Sunday afternoon at the carnival. But I would rather stay here and talk to you in this in-between place, sitting with a friend, our food spread out, savory, spicy, on the table before us.

That in-between place sounds nice. I think I'll stay there too.


  1. To quote a meme of the day: "Why choose? Why not both?"

    Populist 'comedy' aside, I think there's some truth in there. The simple fact of being yourself and thinking about labels later, seems to work for some.

    Maybe one day, the outskirts will be a regular suburb, and there'll be a new outer edge of people.

  2. Yes, I half wondered whether I was moving towards a "no labels" position. But I do still have labels that work for me:

    Genderqueer. Queer. Femme.

    Since I've always used genderqueer to mean someone whose gender is "queer" (non-normative) in some way, without specifying how (as I put it in this post), it's therefore a sort of "free" label, an unrestrictive one, which makes it okay. And "queer" (used non-pejoratively) is much the same. And "femme" is notoriously difficult to define, so that's fine too.

    Of course "trans" and "non-binary" can be used non-restrictively too, but they don't feel quite the same somehow. I guess we bring more (contextual) baggage to some words than others.

    Incidentally, searching for the above reference brought up two more similar instances: see the comments to you here and here – sorry for repeating myself all the time ;)

    1. Alternatively...

      I see I've featured at T-Central again, where Calie writes: “Binary. Non-binary. Sort of binary. In between. Whatever.....and that's not a bad thing.”

      I must say, I rather like the idea of using "whatever" as a label :)