A few weeks ago I started a Tumblr blog and so far my Ask box has been quite full. It’s awesome! But I’m having a little trouble keeping up. Some of the topics covered are overlapping a lot, so in order to cover more ground in one place and get to everyone faster, here’s a Summary Recap.
First of all, a big thanks to all those who have engaged me in thoughtful questions. You’ve had the courage to voice your doubts and question yourselves and others, and it’s commendable you are making an effort to understand. We were/are all uninformed and confused at some point. Ask questions when you’re ready, and no question is too stupid as long as it’s honest. Furthermore, thank you for keeping a respectful tone, even in the face of disagreement. Everyone has the right ask about something they are genuinely confused about, and it’s ok to have your own opinion, especially on topics such as gender identity, which are still very new and unexplored.
Lastly, thank you for letting me know this is helpful to you. I’m a person just like you (maybe shorter), and I need a bit of encouragement once in a while to keep going.
This is probably the most common question I’ve received. It’s mostly wondering about how one or another term is defined, but also in comparison to other similar terms, which at times are confounded with each other. My first point of reference would be a definitions list I made here, although this was written a few months ago so it might already be out of date (things move so fast nowadays, with the internets and all). So, if that still doesn’t satiate your curiosity, here’s the expanded version, stitched together from what I’ve been answering on Tumblr.
To preface, there is no “real” definition of any term, so whatever I say below is my general interpretation, gathered from different sources, experience, and deep thought.
These definitions are clear to me, in my head, but that’s because I’ve built my own cognitive schemas from bits and pieces of other information. They may help you clarify things/terms/identities, or they may not. Labels and definitions help me organize my thoughts and ideas, and have helped me define my identity and the course of its expression. If you feel a word describes you best there’s no reason not to use it. And if you have an alternate definition or use of a word (I know a few of you do), put it in the comments so we can all learn from it.
Of course, labels are just words, and in the end what matters is how you see yourself and what you really are, and no amount of labeling or mislabeling can change that.
Neutrois are agendered or neutral-gendered. Neutrois are the transsexual of agendered. They experience a sense of gender dysphoria – discomfort at being in “the wrong body” – one that doesn’t correctly reflect their internal gender, and they have a strong desire to change their body to reflect this internal gender. Transition is a process of subtraction: a neutrois wishes to get rid of any and all gendered characteristics so as to achieve as neutral a body as possible. Physical transition may consist primarily in the removal of primary and/or secondary sex characteristics.
Neutrois is not genderless. While the prefix a- in agender may hint at a “lack of,” neutrois is not a lack of gender. Just like a neutral color does not mean colorless, or a neutral opinion does not mean without opinion, a neutral gender does mean without gender. Neutrois do have an internal gender, it just happens to be neither male, nor female. It’s neutral.
As for the origins, I don’t know where the word comes from, but when I saw it I knew it was me. I pronounce it new-troice, because to me it sounds like a derivative of “neutral” so it’s more like “neutru-ois.” There’s probably no right or wrong way to pronounce it. Others pointed out they pronounce it like new-twah, as if the “trois” was “three” in French, and that it may have derived as being a reference to a neutral third gender. I had not thought of it being related to “three” as a third gender. (Personally I’d rather not use the term “third gender” because it implies there are only two genders, and this is a third, when in actuality there are many genders, and infinite expressions of them. But that’s just my personal feeling towards the term).
Agender vs Neutrois vs Genderless
Agender is identifying with neither female nor male, and not both – a neutral gender. Neutrois is the transsexual of agender, in that they have a desire to modify their body to be agender. I’ve read recounts of agender people who just want an androgynous look through clothing, hair, name, etc, but their body does not bother them, it does not cause them any dysphoria and they don’t feel a need to alter it.
One follower on Tumblr remarked that “neutrois seems to suggest neutrality and agender, thanks to having a- there, says ‘no, absence of, without, lack of, not’ [and] agender describes me more than neutrois and i have dysphoria and hope for top surgery.” This is what I would call “genderless” as opposed to agender. Of course neither are right nor wrong. Evidently there’s still room to wiggle with these terms, as we are defining them as we go.
I would consider androgynous as a combination of both genders, while neutrois is an elimination of them. But the term is also often used to denote gender neutral in the sense that one can look androgynous by looking like neither one nor the other gender. Some people do use androgynous in the same way I use agender. On a first guess, I’d say this is a terminology issue (as Nat from Practical Androgyny pointed out), in that the term neutrois took off from the asexual community, and the term genderqueer, or even androgynous, took off from the sexual/queer circles.
Transgender and Transsexual
Transgender is an umbrella term for anyone who feels their body does not match their gender. Someone is transsexual when they have a desire to alter their body to match their gender. The keyword (for me) is desire: some people may not want hormones or surgery for health reasons, or financial reasons, or security reasons, etc, but they would still like to modify their body to reflect their gender. Some people are genderqueer or transgender or trans* but are OK with their body and don’t want to add/remove parts.
Being transsexual is not better or more legitimate than being transgender; there’s no hierarchy, implied or otherwise (as per someone’s comment). It is definitely a distinction though, because some people are genuinely comfortable with the sex of their body, and some are not, so the struggles each one faces at some point diverge and become unique to each. For instance, an agender person who does not mind having breasts, and does not want to surgically remove them, may face the challenge of how to present as agender while having breasts. A neutrois person in this case may face a similar challenge, but is likely to be concerned with the matter of surgery as well, and if surgery is achieved, then this will no longer be an issue.
Just like queer is an umbrella term for everything not heteronormative, genderqueer can be the umbrella term for anything not gender normative. I guess in a way I am genderqueer, but I feel agender or neutrois more accurately depicts my gender identity, so I prefer not to identify as genderqueer (but that’s just me). While I don’t identify as genderqueer, it definitely encompasses a variety of identities; probably many who do are still working it out and some would identify as agender or neutrois once they discover the term.
I use the term “gender variant” to denote anything that strays from heteronormative gender expressions, even though this is probably more related to expression rather than identity. For instance, a boy wearing pink nail polish can strongly identify as male, but that behaviour is still considered gender variant.
Genderqueer vs. Transgender
Genderqueer and Transgender may or may not be similar, depending on who you ask. I’m gonna say that genderqueer is queering gender, so anything or anyone whose gender identity falls out of the “norm” could be said to be genderqueer, while transgender is more of a mis-match between your body and your gender, whatever gender that may be, and is usually accompanied by body dysphoria. At the same time, trans—gender is to cross gender [boundaries], in which case genderqueer would fall under that. I’d go with the former definition, not the latter, but again, there’s no “real” definition here. And the more we nitpick at similar terms, the harder it becomes to find differences rather than similarities between them.
Demisexuality and Gray-A
I didn’t know what that was because I’ve seen multiple definitions of it, but thanks to clarifications from multiple contributors here’s what I’ve come up with. Demisexuality is part of the grey zone between sexual and asexual. It means you experience sexual attraction, but only after an emotional connection has been established. Gray-A is more of ‘usually asexual’ with some exceptions. Or, as one commenter put it, “Gray-A is a huge area of the between-ness of asexuality… Just ask people who identify as gray-A and you will hear very many definitions… it’s really hard to tell, as many things in the gray-zone are.”
What’s important is to have these labels in the asexual community, so that people who fit into the asexual umbrella but are not “strictly” asexual can still comfortably identify as such. I myself am not “strictly” asexual, as I have a romantic and sexual partner, but am unsure as to whether I’m demisexual, gray-a, or something else. Nevertheless, I would not hesitate to say I’m most certainly, definitively, asexual, and I’m very reassured at knowing that.
Also, the approximate term for not caring what you look like would be nerd or dork. A geek is someone who derives abnormally high enjoyment from math and/or science. That’s just a joke, in case you didn’t find it funny…
From what I’ve seen so far on Tumblr, I know you guys still have questions and/or comments. Don’t be afraid to click that little textbox in the comments area, or the big red Ask button. Even if it’s just to say “Thanks!” – messages in my Inbox make me happy!
2 thoughts on “Tumblr Recap: Definitions”
I used to say, in my genderqueer identity workshop, that the genderqueer umbrella fit under the transgender umbrella but have since learned that it’s not true for all genderqueer people. It is for me, but some who queer gender do not feel mismatched with regard to gender.
Indeed, I used to think the same thing. But there are people identify as their binary, assigned gender, but just not quite and feel much more at home saying they are a genderqueer girl or a genderqueer guy, or just genderqueer.