Are You A Gender Criminal?

Are you guilty of gender transgressions? As a child, a teen, a youth and as a young adult, how did your family and community react to your expression of masculinity or femininity? What did you decide in response to their reactions?

How was your gender expression policed? Did you get corrected, teased and put down? Did you feel safe? What about the subtle and indirect messages? Were you told that you need to act like a boy/girl/man/woman, implying that you weren't doing so? When did you learn that part of the responsibility of being your sex was to suppress behaviors associated with the opposite sex? When did you find out that there were people who failed to do so? What were they called, what are some of the names? What happens to them? Are they loved and taken care of? Are they even considered human? How long have you been afraid that you might be one of them? Are you still aware of that fear or is it pushed down deep? Maybe it's turned into something else, like an in-your-face attitude or wooden Republicanism.

How were others treated while you were watching? What was said behind their backs? What were you willing to do to avoid being treated like that? Did you learn that you could pass more easily if you joined the gender police? If you agreed with the gossip, joined in the taunting? How far did you go to pass? Did you conclude you were OK because you could pass, or did you simply feel like you were a deviant in disguise? If you failed to pass with the in-crowd, who did you hang out with? Did they let you be yourself or did you construct an act to please them too? How do you make yourself acceptable in your current community? What are you afraid to do/say/feel now?

In our established queer spaces are we free to express ourselves? The original Stonewall Inn was a hangout for nelly and straight acting men, fem and stone butch dykes, fag hags, bohemian straights and drag queens. In the early gay liberation movement the word gay included bisexual and transgendered people and lots of queer folk were happily married with children. Are you comfortable around all of these kinds of people? Are they made welcome in the bars you frequent, at the meetings you attend at The Center? Do you avoid some kinds of men or women, because they act too [fill-in-the-blank]? Are you afraid it might be catching or do you admire those who express what you feel you can't?

However you are being, you are always being yourself, and are therefore always being appropriate to your sex. It's time to reclaim your right to explore your gender:

What are the elements of your gender expression? How have you learned to walk? Move your hands? Do you use your full vocal range or keep your pitch and volume under control? How do you dress? What colors and accessories are OK? I think you'd look great in that pair of chaps, that full skirt, that corset, that pirate shirt, that sailor suit, that fabulous hat and those shoes -- are you afraid to try them on?

Who is it OK to lust after? Who is it OK to be caught lusting after? If you consider yourself gay or lesbian, is it OK to sometimes be attracted to someone of another gender? If you consider yourself straight (yes, I know you read this newspaper too), is it OK to be attracted to someone of your own gender? If you consider yourself bi do you question that? Do you resist labels? Why? When you feel an attraction that contradicts your identity what do you do? How far will you let yourself go? Would it be OK to experiment?

Have you trained yourself to act appropriately? How well do you think you do? Can you let go of the act? Do your strategies leave you with the freedom of a young child who's just being and expressing? Could you exercise the freedom of a performance artist exploring and adding more dimensions and richness to the expression of your gender? How will you express yourself today?