You probably already know about Goodreads, a great website for finding books to read. In case you don’t already know about this feature of it, though, let me point you to Goodreads Giveaways, where authors and publishers post titles of books to give away to interested readers. You opt in for any books you’re interested in, and then when the giveaway ends, winners are randomly chosen from people like you who expressed interest. Then, if it’s a Kindle giveaway, the recipients get a free electronic copy, and if it’s a paper book giveaway, they receive a free copy in the mail.
We’re down to the last four days to opt in for a chance to receive a signed copy of Bi-Gender: A Candid Nonbinary Memoir, which you can most easily find on this page: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/genre/Gay%20and%20Lesbian . If you don’t already have a Goodreads account, you’ll need to create one (free and only takes a minute or two) to participate. Good luck!
Before I speak to more specifics, though, I want to point out how broad and inclusive the spectrum of gender identities in these stories were. While I’m quite interested in fiction about what you might call “traditional” transgendered people, who each identify as just one discrete gender (which doesn’t match their birth sexes), being nonbinary, I’m keenly interested in stories about characters who are not strictly male or female, whether trans or not. To my surprise and great pleasure, Transcendent 2 offered a real wealth of stories like that.
Because so many of these stories are written by non-cisgender people, the trans and nonbinary characters in them are not used as gimmicks or tokens: by and large, they’re complicated, diverse people whose genders are not the most important or most striking thing about them. To go from reading about almost no trans/enby characters straight to full-fledged ones, without having to go through an intermediary stage of diversity for diversity’s sake, is a privilege.
While my enthusiasm for the individual stories was mixed, there was no lack of good writing, and I imagine another reader might well pick other favorites. A few of mine included
A. Merc Rustad’s “This Is Not a Wardrobe Door,” about childhood friends in other worlds
“Three Points Masculine,” in which An Owomoyela opens up some of the complex issue of a trans person’s own response to other kinds of trans people
Keffy Kehrli’s queerly and engagingly imaginative “The Road, and the Valley, and the Beasts”
Toby MacNutt’s “The Way You Say Goodnight,” with its half-metaphoric delving into individual burdens, disabilities, identities, and hidden strengths, and
“Her Sacred Spirit Soars,” S. Qiouyi Lu’s beautifully evolving story of transference of spirit, oneness, loneliness, and layered identity. While this felt like the least trans stories in the anthology to me, it had one of the most unusual approaches to the idea. For fans of literary rule-breaking, it also is one of those rare pieces of fiction that uses the second person well.
Some other stories caught my imagination less, but the variety and the consistently high quality of the writing prevented any from being stories I skipped, which in such a varied anthology is a real accomplishment for me as a reader. I generally stop reading books or stories the moment I decide they aren’t likely to have anything I really want to offer, and that didn’t happen once in this book. Take a look, and see for yourself.
My experience is that bi-gender people tend to be very isolated from other bi-gender people: bi-gender isn’t a well-known or widely used gender identity. I have yet to meet another person who definitively identifies as bi-gender face to face, even though I’ve met many other people who identify as nonbinary and have connected virtually with dozens of other bi-gender people. For other bi-gender people, the gulf may be even wider. That’s why we’re lucky to have at least two supportive and well-established bi-gender communities (and if there are more, please let me know so that I can list those as well)!
The first place I found online to connect with other bi-gender people is bigender.net (no hyphen). This is an old school online forum, and while the interface isn’t exactly up to the minute and it’s not swarming with people, there are always at least a few long-term participants available to connect with. The forum format makes it possible to have extended, in-depth conversations. I’ve met several good friends on this board.
By the way, if you join, don’t try to later log in through http://www.bigender.net without the /forum at the end of it. The home page for the site is for a journals feature that uses a completely different login system and is slated for retirement.
I’m newer to the second community, but it’s a lively group of Facebook users called Bigender Support . Here too, members are strongly supportive and worth getting to know. You don’t have to be bi-gender to participate; the group is for both bi-gender people and allies. It’s a closed group: you must apply first to participate.
I’m conducting a survey of bi-gender people to help learn about and spread the word about what it means to be bi-gender. If you haven’t read about it elsewhere on this site, “bi-gender” (also written “bigender”) means having two genders, often but not always male or female, and experiencing them at the same time or at different times.
In other words, some bi-gender people experience their gender as a combination of two, others experience them separately, and still others sometimes do one and sometimes the other. That’s the topic of one of the questions in the survey.
For anyone who has read my book, you’ll know that I’m in that small green section, people who pretty much go back and forth between two genders without really ever finding themselves in the middle. As it turns out, that’s unusual among my survey sample: most people sometimes or always experience both genders at the same time.
The one response under “other” was from someone who wasn’t sure if the question meant to ask about gender identity or gender expression. My intention was closer to gender identity, though I meant gender identity in terms of how it feels at different times rather than in terms of how we define ourselves overall. Of course, I can’t say whether other respondents got this intention from the way I phrased the question.
There are other terms that can encompass the idea of being two genders at once: “genderqueer,” sometimes “genderfluid,” and just plain “nonbinary,” for example, could all potenitally cover it. Yet I don’t think it makes sense to try to insist that the term “bi-gender” not include people who might also be described in other ways, even if it were possible to make that change. First, “bi-gender” emphasizes the duality of our genders, which for some of us is a central point. Second, while for some of us, our gender experience may be consistent over many years, for others the experience of being bi-gender can change over time: gender proportions can shift, and the way we experience our genders can change as well. Not expecting the term “bi-gender” to give a specific account of exactly how we feel and present our genders leaves latitude for a range of gender experiences. There’s no point getting out of the gender binary box only to be trapped in another box of expectations.
My sample size is still small, although it’s growing. As of this writing, there are 18 respondents, which seems small unless you consider how difficult to find we bi-gender people currently are! I’ll post more results from the survey in posts going forward.
Having been assigned male at birth, and having taken several decades to come around to getting my gender identity correct, there was never a point at which I read Teen Vogue–well, until today, when I was pointed to this useful article, “4 Things You Should Stop Saying to Nonbinary People.”
This is actually worth reading whether you’re learning about nonbinary people or are nonbinary (or “enby,” a word I learned very recently and love) yourself, even if only for the affirmation. This clear and useful little article gets to the heart of these problematic statements:
Gender Rebel Press has just released my new book, Bi-Gender: A Candid Nonbinary Memoir, in a print edition (258 pages, $9.95), following up on the eBook edition ($2.99) released at the end of February.
In June of 2016, an Oregon judge ruled that Jamie Shupe, a 52-year-old Army veteran, could legally change their gender to “nonbinary” in the eyes of that state. This seems to have been the first time in the U.S. that a person gained legal status as neither male nor female, which is a little astonishing, considering we’ve always been here–though I admit, for a long time nobody considered our gender identities might be legitimate (least of all, oftentimes, nonbinary people ourselves).
Since then, the motor vehicle departments of Oregon, the District of Columbia, and California have all added a nonbinary option, X, on driver’s licenses, and Ontario, Washington state, and Vermont are now considering doing the same.
One thing that surprises me in all this is that for the most part, this welcome change isn’t based on new laws. California passed a bill to recognize a third gender option, but everywhere else I mentioned, it’s the department of motor vehicles getting things done. Apparently, there being no law that driver’s licenses have to say “male” or “female,” adding a third option isn’t a legal issue: it’s just administrative.
Even as a person who’s only partly out, I would love to see this option available in my state. The idea of having a license that doesn’t require me to say I’m something I’m not (or at least something I’m not a large proportion of the time) is hugely appealing, and I imagine preparing for my new photo by making my face look as androgynous as possible, hopefully leaving anyone who ends up needing to check my ID with no need to be confused or figure anything out.
But then, the bigger issue for me is the name. Even if I can get ID that is more or less accurate in terms of gender and that never presents a jarring contrast between my presentation in life and my presentation in my photo, I still need to be able to refer to myself somehow. Yet it’s already possible to get a legal name change, so all the tools are there.
What about you? Does anyone else out there have or want a non-binary designation on your license or passport?
I’m enthusiastic to spread the word about this book, and I’m happy to provide reviewer copies for anyone interested in writing about the book on their Web site, in publications, on Amazon, on Goodreads, or elsewhere. Reviews don’t have to be positive if you get a free reviewer copy: just lay it on the line. I’m taking the chance that you’ll like the book just because it’s entertaining and, I hope, a little mind-expanding.
If you know of any blogger, reviewer, site, publication, organization, or anyone else I should get in touch with to spread the word about the book, could you drop me a note through the contact page or in comments?
I’ve also moved my blog to a more full-featured Web site here at bi-gender.com from its old location at JamesBethMerritt.wordpress.com. Here I hope to offer expanded FAQs as well as a gathering point for nonbinary folks and Bi-Gender readers. The old site will still be accessible, but it won’t be updated further, so come here instead: this is where all the cool new stuff will be happening.
Trans Book Reviews has a unique proposition going on at their site. It’s not just that they review only books and stories that are non-cisgender (so transgender, non-binary, agender, or anything else that isn’t strictly cis); they also have a cisgender and a non-cisgender person review each one and post both reviews together. In terms of fostering understanding and support, I think that’s fantastic. Check out their site at https://transbookreviews.wordpress.com.
This past weekend, I had the very unusual opportunity to connect with other non-binary people as part of a larger event, in a closed discussion that didn’t include any mono-gendered people (well, except for one woman who wandered in, not knowing what the discussion was about. Once we realized she wasn’t non-binary, we had to send her on her way, which felt rude, but which was absolutely necessary).
There were about a dozen of us, sitting in a circle and just asking and answering questions. Most there were younger–college age or early twenties–but there were also three or four forty-and-up people, myself included, and age seemed to be no barrier in the discussion. There wasn’t anyone else there who definitely identified as bi-gender, but that didn’t really matter, either. The uniting experience was of being neither strictly male nor strictly female.
It seemed to me that it was a relief and an empowering experience for everyone there to be able to talk to other people who shared something of their experience. The other opportunity I had to participate in a group like this, the experience was very similar: mostly younger people, no one else who identified as bi-gender, and everyone delighted to be there.
To follow up on this, I’m going to look into organizing a one-day non-binary conference, perhaps in Massachusetts this summer. I don’t yet know exactly what we’ll do apart from having open discussion, but that will develop over time. If you’re interested in this conference, please drop me a line. If you’re interested but wouldn’t be able to make it in person, please still get in touch: I want to look into ways that it might be possible to include people remotely through some kind of private videoconferencing.
If anyone has suggestions for the conference or (better yet) is interested in helping plan or organize or staff it, I’m enthusiastically interested in hearing from you. I don’t know that anything like this event has happened before (though I’d love to hear about it if it has), and regardless, this has the opportunity to be a singular event for those of us who feel a little marginal sometimes.
By the way, this site is now also accessible through the address bi-gender.com. I may do more with that domain in future, or create a more broadly focused non-binary site.