Sunday, May 10, 2015

What is Metagender?

NOTE: I wrote this a couple of months ago and thought I had published it! Ooops! And now I have even more to say about the metagender and non-binary gender and drag identities all swirling around in me—so… here's chapter 1:

When I was asked to describe metagender at the evening session of Dee’s roundtable discussion at PCON 2015, I realized that in many ways I don’t have the language—partly due to lack of experience in discussing metagender with people, or gender identity at all—especially with people who are both gender non-conformists and pagan. Only later did I realize the opportunity I’d missed.

If there’s one thing I learned at PCon this year it’s “practice and be prepared.” Have my elevator pitch ready.

I want to try and say what I’d wished I’d said when I had the opportunity to speak amongst a gathering of Pagans of many non-conformist genders.

Until I’d read PSVL’s Transmythology, I really didn’t have a satisfactory term for my own relationship to gender. I’d very casually been trying out genderqueer for a few years and half-heartedly considered “they” pronouns. Queer has been my default identity on many fronts—sexual, gender, spiritual and just about any other part of my life that needed an adjective. All of the available terms fit me like off-the-rack garments from a discount store—parts of me did not fit into them and hung out awkwardly— and often shamefully.  I’ve been wearing a gender muumuu for years! I have also thought of myself as a drag princess—I’ve often felt like a gay man dressing up for campy fun. However, my style of drag is less RuPaul (entertainment) and more Leigh Bowery* (performance art)—I often don’t resemble something that came from this planet! Let alone “male” or “female.” Seriously, it’s like saying there are only two kinds of ice cream.

I’d read PSVL’s blog and knew e was metagender and used Spivak gender-neutral pronouns, but didn’t personally relate until I read the story of Paneros in eir book that introduces the Tetrad++. Born of a MTF deity and an FTM deity, Paneros is the first non-binary deity of the group. Meta means “beyond” and gender means “type.” (The character actors of the gender world, who cannot be typecast?) Paneros is much like a mirror to every individual e meets. Eir mother calls em “she,” eir father calls em “him.” Even the few who know what e is, such as eir grandfather Antinous, cannot speak eir name or pronouns until the child speaks them emself. Pushed to the edge and beyond, the child finally releases all forms of sex and gender hatred from emself while simultaneously freeing the antidotes into the world. E is Paneros: ALL LOVE. (my synopsis is so bare and stilted, please read the original!)

So I’m reading this on a packed plane, laughing and crying and kissing the book and frantically underlining and circling and drawing stars and hearts all over the pages. After years of inklings and doubts, I’ve finally got some language that clears the air like a thundercrack. Like Paneros, I finally know my name and my pronouns. I never knew what a difference that would make until it happened.

To me, metagender opens up uninhibited freedom to be myself; a one-size-fits-me label that is no particular gender but neither is it agender. It is a slippery gender that evades every attempt to define it, a trickster gender. (Every person in this conformist culture who does not identify with their assigned gender is forced in some way to become a trickster, even if they would not be otherwise. Metagender is trickster to the core.)

*In my teenage years (the 1980's, folks), strangers would come up to me and say, "Hey, look! It's…" A: Divine's daughter! B: Leigh Bowery! C: Genesis P'Orrige! D: All that and more!
Me at 19 years old, wearing trash bags and duct tape.