A Reignited Love for Wikis

As a college student, I’ve experienced many of my class professors, upon touching on the need to evaluate sources, quickly disallowing the use of Wikipedia as a source for citation in research projects and essays, since, as an encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone (well, apart from locked pages), not all of its content is reliable. As such, I have come to fall out of the habit of even looking at Wikipedia. Until recently.

Wikipedia’s blackout in protest of SOPA got me thinking about how important the resource has been to me and about my love of wikis in general. Before high school, I found out about Wikipedia from my teacher (!) who found it to be a great starting point for research and learning. One should of course look upon articles with a skeptical eye, particularly those peppered with “citation needed”, but the content of a Wikipedia article may be enough to get the wheels turning on, say, refining a topic you had in mind for a project. What you can (often) cite are the references and external links provided, which can be a goldmine of resources to explore and potentially cite, depending on how well-developed an article’s section of these links and books is. Wikipedia has a host of hidden gems as well, one of which I found out about recently thanks to Mindhacker: the Unusual Articles section.

As TV Tropes (another fine wiki) puts it, a Wiki Walk is often the result of what may have begun as casual exploration or to follow some leads for research ideas. Maybe you’ll learn a new word or learn about a concept you never heard of before, find a new author, a new video game to play, a new way of looking at things, even. Now that I know how to evaluate sources, I appreciate what Wikipedia does offer more than ever.

Wikis apart from Wikipedia are also fabulous ways to collaborate with others on a specific topic that is broad enough to allow for many sub-topics within it, but includes certain areas of narrow specificity, or lack of “authoritative” citations, necessity of personal opinion being part of the content, or an abundance of trivia, for example, that Wikipedia would not be able to house. I’ve enjoyed the following in particular:

TV Tropes: All about tropes used in media (TV and beyond). You will get lost in here if you look up a favorite book, video game, or band. Trust me.

William A. Percy: This historian has decided to make his official site a wiki! Percy’s page is filled with info relevant to queer and sexological studies.

Megami Tensei Wiki: I have only since last year gotten into this video game series (Persona 3 and 4) – avoid if you don’t want spoilers, but if you don’t mind or already enjoy the series and want to learn more, dive in!

Nonbinary.org: This newly created wiki will serve as an information portal for nonbinary identities and practical resources – I have begun contributing here regularly and I’m quite excited to see this in development.

Wiki technology has changed our internet for the better and allowed the general user to become a participant in shaping encyclopedia-style content – how empowering is that for information access and development?

I’d love to hear wiki recommendations! Interested in starting your own? Check out MediaWiki.

MARILYN ROXIE: Postmodernism

I’m reading this book at the moment – A Teacher’s Introduction to Postmodernism, by Ray Linn and I want to get down some thoughts here while my mind is turning them about – I hope I’ve not gotten anything crucial misinterpreted. I feel like my mind is expanding / exploding at any rate!

I’ve already been getting into understanding this theory for awhile and have plodded along ambivalent on accepting its tenets in full, but interested nonetheless, particularly concerning gender and queer theory (Kate Bornstein and Riki Wilchins) in an attempt to uncover “the real me” and the potential fallacies surrounding the notion that there even is a “real me” to be uncovered. Some of the challenges (and practical applications) I see with postmodernism is in its stance regarding personal interpretations of creative works or things as they exist in nature, that is all up to one’s own opinion and even consensus found amongst the majority of a group of people is no guarantee that they have arrived at the “truth”. It is a critique of the seemingly insatiable truth-finding and often cold rationality of modernism and a project to reassess the ways that human beings use language.

This has a special purpose in constructing and deconstructing gender and sexual identity. As I have posted about here before and on GQID, I have grappled with confusion over gender identity since I was a teenager. Or, more like a certainty that I do know exactly what my interests and desires are in this realm – wherever they may have come from, which is still to me largely a mystery – just not in regards to what to “do” about them. Is there really anything to do but be myself? Or, rather reinventing myself whenever I see fit?

It would seem like, in a postmodernist world, whether I am “male” or “female” or something else entirely is up to my own interpretation and the interpretation of whoever interacts with me. How I am “read” or how I “pass” is based on social cues and symbolism which is only ingrained through repetition. If I did not see a clearly labelled world around me, would I have separated human beings into two sides only? (well, I wouldn’t have, but I have long been thinking of such things critically) Is there an innate need to label?

Being that humans have the capability of using language to describe the world, this can come down to the individual’s terms and sense of purpose and does not necessarily have to correspond to an overarching “truth”. Postmodernism is not just another type of nihilism like some cynics over the concept would believe – it encourages playing with new potential meanings, new presentations. This means quite a lot in the realm of gender.

In my teenage years, knowing that I was not “female” (whatever that means) meant distinguishing that I was not like others who I understood as “female” for a multitude of reasons. Then again, I never felt “male” judging from others who I understood as “male” alone either. It is primarily through my attraction to gay/bi male sexuality and subculture that I thought that somewhere in me was “male” as well as an inability by and large to relate to “female”. Hence the potentially erroneous figuring of myself as “a gay man trapped in a woman’s body” and so forth. Arriving through to this conclusion produces sheer torture and desperation, as I can say from experience. All the same, I am still not entirely sure what role biology has in how one person may come to understand their own “gender identity” one way, and another person another way (physical sex is by no means the determining factor, and hormones probably aren’t either), in comparison and contrast to this social constructionist business – I suspect that they both play a part, though the scale (by my estimation) is likely tipped in social and individual determination.

A series of questions with the same answer –

Can I be as I “really feel” in this body, without having to change a thing unless I decide that Iwant to at some point, because of my own pursuit of new meaning? Must I take hormones or have surgery to confirm my “inner” “maleness” or only if that corresponds with the way I want to see myself? Can being “non-op / no-ho” serve as one way for me to see myself that I can be happy with? Can I play with how I present myself to others as I see fit, which is subject to change from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, decade to decade? Can I acknowledge my attraction and identification with a certain type of body and a certain type of presentation and sexuality common in my culture at this particular time, but understand that it is subject to change along with my own potential flux? Yes, of course I can.

This does not mean that there aren’t similarities between the kind of self-expression that can be found across humanity and how people form groups and common ground – but groups based on gender and physical sex membership are going to exclude those who “don’t belong”  – yet another way to segregate others and you’ll get those who want membership and aren’t granted it or are granted it irregularly, causing a problem despite the relatively positive original purpose of finding others with like minds and bonding through this.

Even those constants that one wants to hold dear for some kind of reassurance may topple over at the slightest crack in the foundation. Gender may well be one of them.

Websites and Free Software that Enhance Productivity

Lists and Storage:

Listography allows you to make color-coded and topically arranged lists that are public or private as you choose. Great for to-do lists, lists of on-going projects, lists of thematically sorted links or ideas, and sharing lists with others.

Listography is not so great for unwieldy collections of links and assorted ideas. Evernote is much better for that, which allows you to quickly ‘clip’ an article, a link, or a full page and assign tags to help you find what you’re looking for later. I use a combination of Listography and Evernote to keep my immediate to-do items organized, store wish lists, and share lists of links with others (Listography) and quickly (and privately) store lots of articles, pictures, and links to access later (Evernote).

DropBox is what I use for sharing files that I will need to access elsewhere or collaborate with others on since managing permissions is easy and I can access my files on my own laptop as well as on-line from anywhere else (on one phone, too, if one has that capability). I use OpenDrive for music links.

Research and Learning:

WorldCat.org“the World’s largest library catalog”. You can type in keywords, such as author and title names, and when you find what you’re looking for (easy since WorldCat has many options to help restrict your search), it will display a list of libraries near you that have the item in their collection and links to the catalogs of these libraries so you can find out the item’s call number and where to find it.

Google BooksProject Gutenberg, and Internet Archive

On the more explicitly learning-centric front, Anki is an excellent digital flash card program using a spaced repetition system (meaning, you’ll see flash cards more often that you’ve marked as not knowing or not knowing as well, and you’ll see flash cards less often that you’ve marked as knowing well).

Text: Creating and sharing text.

OpenOffice is the suite of programs I use on my laptop. Google Docs is what I use on the web and to easily access my documents (and make private or share, as desired) from anywhere without having to burn them to a disc, e-mail them to myself, or use a memory stick.

Creative Resources:

Audacity (sound recording and editing),COLOURlovers (for exploring colors, palettes, and patterns), and GIMP (a free alternative to Photoshop).

Everything Else:

SourceForge: Over 300,000 open source software projects are included here which range from celestial simulations (Stellarium)to FTP Clients (FileZilla). Narrow down your results to find exactly the type of software you’re looking for.

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: Labels vs. Self-identification

gqid:

Who wants to be labelled as something one isn’t? Not me. Is there a value to putting a name to one’s own identity, or identities? I think so. I was doing research for the Genderqueer History and Identities project I’m working on and while at the library I came across a book called Understanding Transgender Diversity by Claire Ruth Winter. In the back, there was a glossary and amongst the words included was “label”, defined below:

Label: Name or category applied by someone else, as opposed to self-identification.

The image of labels I have in my mind tends to be of someone putting a sticker on a jar to show what is in that jar or how much it costs. This kind of labeling is useful for possessions, but not so useful for people, as a mental labeling of others’ attributes can at its worst lead to prejudiced, harmful behavior, while letting others label you and being content with the labels that they administer on their terms is relinquishing your power to define yourself. As I better understand myself, I can use my own self-descriptions to my advantage by claiming words that matter to me, that I feel are to my benefit, and utilizing them for empowerment.

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: Labels vs. Self-identification

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: “It’s just a phase.” So what if it is? And, so what if it’s not?

gqid:

Genderqueerness, gender fluidity, bisexuality, and pansexuality, quite different identities that they are, are all sometimes are confronted with the assumption that the above are “just phases” on the way to another identity, generally cisgender status and heterosexuality. Perhaps because these identities appear to exist in the in-between or on the outside. However they’re interpreted, I’m sure many of us have had experiences of doubt as to the validity of our identities, not only an initial or continuing lack of understanding but the assumption that we will at some point “grow out of it” or cease being this way. Assumptions that we’re confused or are still questioning ourselves and will at some point figure it all out.

What I say to that is…why should it matter so much if I do drop one identity description for another one that fits me better later on? That doesn’t mean I “never really was” . Additionally, what if these identities remain valid and important to me for life – does that make mine somehow more valid than someone who acquires them later or drops them? Isn’t that what is most important and powerful about self-description? I certainly think that people should take identity descriptions very seriously, especially in the way of activism and personal fulfillment, while I also acknowledge that not everyone is going to have the same gender and sexual identity forever. The stigma that comes both with the assumption that genderqueer-related identities, bisexuality, and pansexuality are invariably stepping stones to another identity, and also the assumption that if there is change or questioning along the lines of any identities, it is somehow more spurious, are assumptions that only cause harm.

Why are these identity groups somehow more likely to be seen as confused about themselves than cisgender or monosexual identities? Members of these groups often take some time to question and find out what they want and what they want to be sexually as well. Again, what about people who have such identities for life? Are they somehow more ‘really’ than those who transition from one identity to another? I don’t think so.

What’s so bad about someone taking some time to figure themselves out anyway, if that’s the case? What about gay men and lesbians who thought they were straight or were encouraged to be straight until they realized it wasn’t for them? What’s so bad about identifying one way and then another way later on? Identifying the same way for the rest of your life? Couldn’t any identity be a step to another later on, a personal exploration? Or not. Neither a fixed nor fluid identity are inherently bad things. It’s the assumptions that certain identities are more changeable than others, and that if changeability exists that it is suspect, that I take issue with.

I personally doubt that, as my life goes on, I will identify much differently than I have since I was a teenager. I have always been attracted to men and as soon as I was old enough to conceive of it and develop a more concrete sexual identity, I have had a very strong gay male identification (while not identifying as a man). I already knew I didn’t identify as a woman when I was younger, and “man” doesn’t fit me either, so genderqueer and androgyne are the most accurate descriptors for me in the way of gender. I feel very comfortable with identifying as an androsexual / gay-male identified gq androgyne. The relief the understanding of these identities brings and knowing that other people out there exist who I share similarities with equals immeasurable comfort. All the same, I can just hear the reactions of people in the future, should I decide other words are more appropriate, or perhaps if I make a transition-related move like wanting hormones and surgery. “Aha! They were really an all along.” I know that is so, so, so not true. I know I am very much what I am right now and I am prepared for that to either stay very much the same, or even to potentially change, down the road in my life.

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: “It’s just a phase.” So what if it is? And, so what if it’s not?

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: “Isn’t everyone genderqueer?” No.

gqid:

I just had to address this search query I noticed that directed someone to Genderqueer Identities. Here goes:

Short answer is no. Implying that everyone is genderqueer is similarly incorrect (and even harmful) as implying that everyone is “really” bisexual or pansexual. Monosexualities,…

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: “Isn’t everyone genderqueer?” No.

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: The Non-Binary vs. Genderqueer Quandary

gqid:

Recently, I have noticed a tendency for non-binary to be used as the go-to umbrella term for non-normative gender (gender not along the lines of man or woman, specifically) and as an alternative to genderqueer, and a tendency to perceive genderqueer as a specific identity rather than as an umbrella term. Currently, both of these terms are being, and have been, used in an umbrella capacity, and in the case of genderqueer only, as singular identity as well. Genderqueer, when used in its wider sense, is also meant to be a much larger umbrella than non-binary; queer gender (identity or expression) covers a lot of ground; non-binary refers to non-binary identities specifically. They’re not exactly interchangeable.

I have seen some assertion that genderqueer is/should “not” be used as an umbrella term, even at the generally great Queer Dictionary which claims that genderqueer is “sometimes also incorrectly used as an umbrella term”. This bothered me particularly because of the overwhelming amount of research and pouring over books and websites that I’ve done to uncover the history of “genderqueer” and its usages, many of which have defined genderqueer as an umbrella term. It would be more accurate to say that the usage of genderqueer may be shifting away from being used as an umbrella term in favor of non-binary when used in reference to identities rather than expression only, not that using it in this way is somehow wrong, or worse, that it never was used this way. Remember, the terms you prefer are entirely up to you! What you feel describes yourself best and considering the utility of umbrella terms are what is most important. I am writing this piece primarily to find out the relationship and differences between these terms.

To put this complicated issue as simply as possible: non-binary refers to gender that is not binary (not man nor woman) and genderqueer refers to gender that is queer (non-normative). Because gender that is not binary may be regarded as “queer” because it is not normative, it becomes easy to see why these terms have been used interchangeably. However, queer is also often used in a radical or political context, so some who may otherwise have considered themselves genderqueer may feel distanced from the term, or more closely aligned with it, due to this association. In short, genderqueer is often non-binary (except for in the case of referring to expression / performance exclusively), but not all non-binary identified people may consider themselves genderqueer for a variety of reasons, which I will discuss. 

An excellent example of an individual at odds with the notion of genderqueer as an umbrella term can be found in Nobody Passes (2006) in this essay by Rocko Bulldagger, excerpted here:

From Time Out New York, February 3, 2005: “Genderqueer: This umbrella term refers to anyone who doesn’t fit into the traditional binary male-female system-from androdykes to trannyboys.” My own personal definition of genderqueer: (1) A person who is painfully deliberate and consciously political in their gender expression. (2) Someone who identifies with efforts to subvert oppressive power dynamics by undermining traditional gender expectations. (3) A person whose gender presentation is over determined by traditionally gendered signs—somebody who displays excessive femininity or masculinity.

In my research, both academic and personal, I have frequently encountered genderqueer in these capacities, sometimes overlapping:

  • as an umbrella term for identities “other” than man and woman
  • its political/radical implications
  • to refer to “queer” gender performance / expression
  • a stand-alone identity

As a stand-alone identity, genderqueer may cover the “it’s complicated” arena of gender, refer to presentation as well as personal identity, and/or be used in place of or alongside more specific identities that may be considered non-binary (androgyne, bigender, and so on). The clearest way I’ve found to describe genderqueer is using a 5-pronged definition: genderqueer identities may include those who identify as 1. both man and woman, 2. neither man nor woman, 3. moving between two or more genders, 4. third gendered or other-gendered (includes those who prefer “genderqueer” or “non-binary” to describe their gender), 5. having an overlap or blur of gender and orientation and/or sex”. The downside to this is potentially incorporating individuals who would not identify themselves as genderqueer; when this may be the case, it is generally better to use the specific identity in question rather than a term that the individual or group may not prefer.

Here are a variety of definitions and mentions of genderqueer that I’ve come across that point to meanings of the concept; they vary and you may not identify with some or all of these definitions:

“People who identify as genderqueer or intergender may consider themselves as being both male and female, as being neither male nor female, or as falling completely outside the gender binary. Some genderqueer people see their identity as one of many possible genders other than male or female, while others see genderqueer as an umbrella term that encompasses all of those possible genders…Genderqueer people are united by their rejection of the notion that there are only two genders.” (Serving LGBTIQ Library and Archives)

“Genderqueer is also a colloquial or community term that describes someone who identifies as a gender other than ‘man’ or ‘woman’, or someone who identifies as neither, both, or some combination thereof. In relation to the male/female, genderqueer people generally identify as more ‘both/and’ or ‘neither/nor’, rather than ‘either/or’. Some genderqueer people may identify as a gender and some see it as a third gender in addition to the traditional two.” (Creative Encounters: New Conversations in Science Education and the Arts)

“Genderqueer people-those who choose to live their lives somewhere between the usual gender roles-are softening the boundaries of gender and demonstrating what life without the binary might look like.” (Dossie Easton, The Ethical Slut)

“Genderqueer: 1. A term which is used by some people who may or may not fit on the spectrum of trans or be labeled as trans but who identify their gender and sexual orientation to be outside of the binary gender system, or culturally proscribed gender roles. As with any other groups that may be aligned with transgender identities, the reasons for identifying as genderqueer vary. 2. People who identify as both transgender and queer, individuals who challenge both gender and sexuality regimes and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.” (Trans* and Queer Wellness Initiative)

Although there are nuances with these definitions, they largely cover the same region of gender other than man and woman and illustrate that some may consider themselves genderqueer and see genderqueer as the gender that they identify as, while others understand it and utilize it in a broader sense. While the meaning of genderqueer as a concept may be relatively clear, what it means to individuals will vary and, particularly, where political and radical concepts may be applied will create variation and divergent reactions to the potency of a term like “genderqueer”. It is important to note that the earliest usages I’ve come across are all utilizing genderqueer either as an umbrella term or a term with a meaning of something along the lines of “not man and woman”.

What about non-binary, then? Non-binary gender is a term I’ve encountered most often in academic texts, though less often overall than genderqueer and (so far) never encountered in a glossary (check out these Google Books results for a sampling). It needs to be understood that the widespread usage of this term as an alternative to genderqueer’s umbrella capacity is a relatively recent development.

There are pros and cons to the umbrella usages of these terms. Genderqueer is problematized by (mis)understandings of the implications of queer and that some people use it as a stand-alone identity as well; non-binary is only recently gaining currency as an umbrella term of choice for a wide range of identities. The discourse around these terms seems to indicate that non-binary is more inclusive somehow because of the association of genderqueer with female-assigned individuals and the United States. I would challenge that it is more of an assumption than association, because many of the pioneers of genderqueer identity and “gender outlaws” themselves were actually male-assigned (Riki Wilchins and Kate Bornstein, for example) and, from the two surveys I’ve conducted right up to the Genderqueer Health survey I’m scanning through now just completed a couple of days ago, people who identify themselves as genderqueer are an incredibly diverse bunch and are not strictly from the U.S.

I am divided personally about where I stand with this issue. Genderqueer is the term I’ve encountered most often in my research and is the initial word that really clicked in my head and made me think “This is me!” I think queer itself is a term with fantastic utility, as well as recognizable limitations, although I think many of these perceived limitations come from assumptions rather than actualities. Non-binary, however, doesn’t seem to have the baggage that genderqueer may carry and thus may, in time, end up being the umbrella term of choice in reference to identity. As an exchange I had with Nat (@quarridors) recently reminded me, not all genderqueer people identify as non-binary, because the term is also used in reference to their expression rather than identity. 

Ultimately, I would like to make it clear that, historically, genderqueer has frequently been employed as an umbrella term and is still being used that way, although this usage is increasingly being questioned (a great thing, I think) and the alternative of non-binary is more often being brought to the table when it is applicable. Again, the distinction should be made between the wide-reaching purpose of genderqueer, and the identity specific utility of non-binary.

GENDERQUEER IDENTITIES: The Non-Binary vs. Genderqueer Quandary