Genderqueer: falling between the boxes
By: Jacob Thomas
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Queer rights have made a big leap forward in Australia. In a short space of time, a number of legal advances have been introduced including recognition of relationships, alterations to identity documents, and a broader tolerance towards some sexual practices.
Despite this, queer youth are still among some of the most likely Australians to suffer from mental illness, and attempt suicide.
When accessing mental health services, upon arriving at a clinic you are often required to complete a form providing your personal information. This typically includes questions relating to sex and/or gender, usually with only two available options: M or F. We live in a world where not everyone falls into these fixed binaries.
When I explain this to administrative staff, the most common response is “We’re too busy to make those changes.” So I grimace, tick the box labelled ‘M’, and wait for my name to be called.
As a genderqueer person who has been through the mental healthcare system, I often question whether I should give over my identity when seeking support. I have to weigh up whether I have the energy reserves to deal with a derailed conversation, discussing how I came to this identity, who I am attracted to, and what kind of genitals hide between my denim-clad legs; all so I can have a one-hour session to deal with my depression and anxiety.
When I have come out to say that I don’t fit the gender binary, the conversation shifts away from what I need: that is, to be seen and heard.
The privilege I have is that I look like your typical cisgender white dude. It would be easy for me to avoid explaining my gender, and why it bothers me that I am excluded from the binary tick-boxes. I don’t perform my gender as often as I’d like, out of a mixture of fear and apathy.
I’m thankful and lucky that I have a supportive community around me of colleagues and friends, who are equal parts understanding and accepting. But it’s still frustrating to silence one part of myself in order to make another visible. When I have to fit a gender norm I don’t bring myself to the discussion, I just bring what I feel I am expected to give.
Queerness holds a respective place within each self-identifying individual, and must be recognised in its entirety. The implementation of safe spaces and focused services, though important and marked improvements to the system, are limited to those who can access them. We all need to feel safe, that we belong, and that the person listening to us is doing so without judgement.
My experiences do not speak for everyone, and not all people in the mental health sector are dismissive and ignorant. This is just one gap in a system that can be improved. When I go to see a professional, I want all of me to be seen. I need to be respected as a whole person, and not limited to my gender or my diagnosis.
Let me be seen, and let me be heard, because I am here.
Jacob Thomas is the Manager of Business Development at It Gets Better Australia. They live in Melbourne, and recently graduated from Monash University with a BA in Sociology and Gender Studies.
Image via Instagram
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