Whether or not you can fully understand what it means to be genderqueer, what matters is that for many people, this is who they are.This may be a very quick primer on what the word means, but it's also very important. I hope it will at least make you think about how we split people into "man" and "woman."
From a young age, we grow up learning that the world is divided into men and women. But it's not that simple.
When we think the world is full of people who identify as either a man or a woman, this means that we believe in the gender binary.
The truth is gender is not a binary for everyone. Some people identify as both man and woman. Some people identify as neither man nor woman. Jacob is one such example.
Jacob doesn't identify as man or woman. Jacob identifies as genderqueer.
Jacob's gender pronouns are they/their/them — which means that we should refer to them in this way, because that is their preference, rather than refer to them as "he" or "she." The pronoun "they" is just one of the many gender-neutral pronouns that exist.
Being genderqueer can mean different things for different people.
There is no one-size-fits-all experience. For Jacob, it can be as much about what you wear as how you feel inside. In a Huffington Post article, Jacob wrote:
"As an undergraduate at Duke, I spent four years learning to love and appreciate myself as a gender non-conforming person. Going into college, I thought that my desire to dress androgynously and adopt a feminine gender expression was shameful; and for the first few months of college, I hid it from others and from myself. But after years of work unearthing internalized oppression and masculine shame, I finally learned to keep my head high as I stomped by the frat boys in my five-inch heels."
It's important to note that how you dress doesn't determine your gender identity. However, dressing up a certain way *can* be a way to express your gender identity.
Besides genderqueer, there are many different terms to describe gender identity.
Like transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, bigender, agender — just to name a few. Sometimes they are used interchangeably. Sometimes they are not. Gender is very complex, and so are the terms to describe it, which is why it's important to do our research before we assume what a person's gender identity means or before we make fun of the words they use to describe it.
Jacob hits the nail on the head by saying the following:
"At the end of the day, if you want to understand the words, go on Wikipedia and read them. ... Go read the Internet, go read some trans blogs. Is someone genderqueer? Are they trans? You don't need to know by looking at someone because the bottom line is you should respect them and love them regardless, OK?"
Watch the video below to find out more about what it means to be genderqueer.