Genderqueer - The Minority among minorities

ISSN 2349-6207

Gopi Shankar
Gender Trouble Tinpahar

“Gender” is related to physical and emotional perception of an individual. Restricting gender in the binary categories of female and male is erroneous as we have to be aware about the existence of more than twenty categories of gender. The same is also true for the sexual orientation where the dominant public knowledge is only limited to the heterosexual orientation. Here we do not want to narrow down our emphasis on homosexuality, rather here we emphasize about Gender-variants, which transcend the binary categories. Gender and sexuality are the rights of an individual and interfering to those refers to the interference in personal freedom.


In India, thanks to the colonial legacy of shallow Victorian values, we have come to see this as a deviant behaviour or violation. Indian culture is originally abundant with legends and mythologies where heroes and heroines have chosen various genders without guilt and their choices have been accepted and respected. Ironically, today the western nations are progressive in researching and educating about gender and sexuality expressions, while us, despite our rich cultural heritage respecting and accepting gender variations and choices are lagging behind and even lacking that sensitivity.


While the students of medicine, engineering, law and literature specialize to practice their own functions, what we lack is that there are no studies or synthetic discipline to study the biological, bio-ethical, legal, psychological, social dimensions of the very basic emotions concerning sexuality and gender. Though the Indian universities can offer worldwide recognized studies, we certainly lack any basic axiomatic framework pertaining to gender and sexuality, while the foreign universities have even started their own departments and research activities. The most painful condition is that even psychologists are mostly unaware of Gender-variants and their localized issues pertaining to Indian conditions. India’s pre-colonial traditional as well as various localized folk traditions have taken a far healthier attitudes in dealing with sex-education, that may surprise many people on both sides of the fence of sex-education who want to map Indian culture with dominant Victorian male value system. Various folk deities and traditions emphasize fluid nature of gender and mythologies have stories that reinforce this idea. So a child growing up will not have a strong shock value or guilt feeling in relating to one’s own sexuality or others as gender-variants. Devi Mahatmya and Mahabharata are two such examples. Koothandavartemple festival in Tamil Nadu is another example of local folk tradition organically linked to the pan-Indian culture in dealing positively with creating awareness for and empowering gender-variants. These cultural possibilities need to be taken up and explored to create democratic social space for gender-minorities.

Hence a very comprehensive solution for this problem is the induction of social awareness starting from the school days with stories, and progressing into the high school curriculum with a biology and psychology of gender issues over the whole spectrum of gender variance. And then initiate healthy debates and open minded discussions on the issue at the college level.

However this social responsibility has been neglected by both government and social organizations for decades even after independence. Our social and political institutions still suffer from gender bias and colonial mind set of the Victorian era. Hence we demand that efforts be made and let the governments and institutions come out with what efforts have been already done in understanding and creating an awareness about the Gender-variants issues in any field, such as law, education and medical sciences.

Generally the terms gender, sexuality and sex are taken to be the same. But they all mean different things. Sex is a biological definition and gender is the self-identity and it also means the sociocultural and behavioural perception, while sexuality refers to the sexual attraction towards a particular sex. That even within the mainstream LGBT community in India, the existence of these many genders is largely unknown. Some forms of genders don’t even have a proper word in the dictionary and we have coined terms both in Tamil and English for a few, there are more than 20 different types of genders other than male, female and Transgender.

Who are Genderqueer ?

Genderqueer is an umbrella term covering non-normative gender identity and gender expression.

The label may also be used by individuals wishing to identify as holding queer or non-normative gender without being any more specific about the nature of their gender.

As an umbrella term, Genderqueer has similar scope to nonbinary with most nonbinary-identifying individuals also considering themselves genderqueer. However the terms have different scope and connotations. The term genderqueer predates nonbinary by at least a decade.

Genderqueer was originally coined in the 1990s as 'Gender Queer' and was for a period written as 'GenderQueer' before setting to a single word. The original meaning was literally queer gender, including anyone who felt the way they experienced or expressed gender was queer. The term carries the non-normative and anti-assimilationist connotations of the Queer Movement and applies these to gender rather than sexuality.

The earliest known use of the term is by Riki Anne Wilchins in the Spring 1995 newsletter of Transexual Menace. Genderqueer is simply looking beyong the binary but not a Nonbinary or Transgender issue.

Difference between Genderqueer and Nonbinary:

Genderqueer means non-normative or queer gender while nonbinary means gender that falls outside the gender binary model. Both of these terms are extremely similar in scope; however in practice their connotations are significantly different.

Genderqueer comes with the anti-assimilationist political connotations of Queer, which is a reappropriated slur word (still actively used in some regions) with strong associations with a countercultural sexuality movement that sets itself apart from the mainstream LGBT community. As such genderqueer implies a similar counterculture, setting itself apart from mainstream transgender discourse. Most genderqueer people also consider themselves to be queer and there is a strong trend of rejecting the gender binary and normative gender roles with in the Queer Movement as a whole.

By contrast, nonbinary is more politically neutral in its connotations. Nonbinary was coined as a descriptive term, originally simply 'non-binary gender', used to describe the range of experiences that fall outside of the binary gender model. There is no countercultural anti-transgender discourse connotation, nor is there a connotation of association with the wider Queer Movement. Nonbinary is intended to simply cover the widest range of identities and experiences without intending to describe their political or cultural philosophies and affiliations.

 Observed differences between people who hold each identity

While genderqueer and nonbinary are theoretically extremely similar in their scope as umbrella terms, in practice genderqueer slants more towards those who identify as queering gender while nonbinary tends to attract those who hold specific trans* or transgender identities that fall outside of the gender binary.

Genderqueer-identified people seem to be more likely to hold binary gender identities (eg, 'Genderqueer Woman') while considering their gender expression or gender performance to be queer or non-normative, while nonbinary-identified people are more likely to consider their gender identity (or lack of gender identity) to fall outside of the binary. Genderqueer-identified people seem to be more likely to consider themselves to be queer or a member of the queer community.

Nonbinary-identified people generally seem more comfortable with considering themselves transgender and more likely to use the language of gender dysphoria. The adoption of the term 'nonbinary' by parts of the genderqueer community may reflect a trend of adopting the language of the transgender rights movement in order to make use of and expand on the legal protections now afforded to transgender people in some localities. Nonbinary-identified people may be more likely to be seeking access to transgender medical care or legal recognition

Some nonbinary people reject the term genderqueer as an umbrella term because they are offended to be associated with queer sexuality, or still see queer as an offensive slur word.

Despite these trends and connotations, both terms are used by some members of each group and so may be considered as wide inclusive umbrella terms. Some genderqueer-identified people have sought 'transition', some nonbinary-identified people hold binary gender identities and consider themselves to be nonbinary by gender expression, and it is currently common for nonbinary-identified individuals to also identify as genderqueer (especially as this term predates nonbinary by at least a decade).

Is Genderqueer Transgender?

There is controversy within the genderqueer community over whether genderqueer people fall under the transgender umbrella. Despite the work of Leslie Feinberg in the 1990s to coin transgender as a wide and inclusive umbrella term covering all forms of transgressive gender, the term genderqueer developed out of a frustration with the association between transgender and transsexualism, gender dysphoria and the dominant transgender narrative.

It is common for genderqueer-identified people to consider trans and transgender to be synonymous with transition and so to claim genderqueer as a non-transgender identity. This is especially true with people who are genderqueer by gender expression only, but also applies to some genderqueer people who are comfortable with their body and see transgender as synonymous with bodily gender dysphoria.

As such, it is important when talking about genderqueer and nonbinary people to recognise that not all people who hold these identities consider themselves to fall under the transgender umbrella.

Later in 2012 Genderqueer was also known as Gender-variants, Srishti Madurai the first literature and resource genderqueer students circle in Madurai, South India did many research on this particular topic and creating resources for Genderqueer in Indian Contrast.


 Trans-women and Trans-men



1.      Androgyny

2.      pan-gender

3.      Bi-gender

4.      Tri-gender

5.      A-gender

6.      Neutrois

7.      Retransitioners

8.      Appearance gendered

9.      Transbinary

10.  Transcrossdressers

11.  Binary’s butch

12.  Fancy

13.  Epicene

14.  Intergender

15.  Transmasculine

16.  Transfeminine

17.  Demi girl

18.  Demi guy

19.  Girl fags

20.  Guy dykes

21.  Genderfluid

22.  Tomboy

23.  Sissy

24.  Non binary Butch

25.  Non binary femme

26.  Cross Dresser


A total positive transformation will at least take another 20 years, the government, educationists and social activists should put an effort together and the change should start from the education system. I insist that gender and sexuality education should be part of the main syllabus in high school and college. “People are ignorant about the existence of various genders and sexuality and due to this, for over a century, women & queer people have undergone a lot of ill-treatment and abuse.” 


  1. Lack of awareness about genderqueer issues from the side of physician, leads the patients with genderqueer identities treated with prejudice and misconceptions which results in the inappropriate medical services offered. On the other hand, awareness only about the existence of binary transgendered identities allows the physicians to reduce genderqueer issues as a subset of binary transgendered issues.


  1. Apart from the medical services offered to the binary transgenders(transmen and transwomen), for transition, genderqueer identified transsexuals have different medical services and currently there exist no recognition for such  transformation in medical sciences or as in law and hence the non binary transsexuals(eg.neutrois) people are led with the choice of non-transitioning or transitioning to a binary category like transwomen or transmen.



  1. The lack of awareness, claim of inexistence, claim of passing, claim of extreme mental illness and claim as abnormal gives genderqueer people psychological , physical and sexual trauma and hides every chance for their self acceptance itself. They are compelled directly or indirectly to fit themselves within the binary gender categories which results in incorrect decisions of sex reassignment surgeries


  1. Genderqueer people exist as “minorities within minorities”, with the lack of awareness about themselves, and face the discrimination from the other sexual and gender minorities as well as the mainstream heteronormative society. The issues of genderqueers are considered marginal, inexistent and suppressed to enter the social activism by the dominant binary transgendered view that their issues must be taken into first and genderqueer issues comes second.


  1. Systematized and organized research about genderqueer people and their issues are almost inexistent in the fields of medicine, psychological sciences, humanities and social sciences etc. Academic schools of gender studies solely focus on studying about binary genders and hence the specific needs and problems of genderqueer issues remain almost unknown.



  1. Genderqueer people require protection by law from the psychological, physiological and sexual abuses and the need to accept themselves and their identity. Moreover the specific requirements of genderqueer people must be recognized for the civil, medical and other rights.


  1. It is quite impossible to predict the number of people affected by such conditions because these issues are repressed and unknown even to the people who experiences violence because of being genderqueer people. 


"The marginal Genderqueer person is one whom fate has condemned to live in two societies and in two, not merely different but antagonistic cultures....their mind is the crucible in which two different and refractory cultures may be said to melt and, either wholly or in part, fuse."  Social exclusion of Genderqueer even among the mainstream transgender community in India is a multidimensional process of progressive social rupture, detaching groups and individuals from social relations and institutions and preventing them from full participation in the normal, normatively prescribed activities of the society in which they live. Breaking the system of binary, hetronormative, homonormative or transnormative  will create problem in social system the society thinks and so called self-proclaiming modernist and postmodernists   of Indian society are not opening their mouth on Genderqueer issues.


The Absurd is everywhere: Gender Theory, Sexuality and Existence


Gender theory refers to contemporary investigations of what it means to “have” or “act” a particular gender. As described above, there is no fast and ready theoretical rubric for what constitutes gender itself. In fact, in recent years the entire conception of gender has been dissected for various reasons. With the rise of Western feminism, or more specifically feminist uprisings in the United States, there have been questions about the roles of men and women. These quests into what it means to be a woman or man led inevitably to what the words “man” and “woman” mean. Of course this is not an entirely Western or US America project of the 1960s sexual revolution; this type of questioning from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in the US to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in France came with long time correlates from a variety of cultures. As the West shook during the 1960s, waves of lost ways of being and new interests in Eastern, Native American and multicultural practices opened up even more spaces for identity creation.


The effects of sexual and gender revolutions in the 20th Century are still being felt as we – that is genderqueer theorists – begin to take up the confusing work of identity promulgations. As diffuse realities break up into even more nebulous circuit boards of cybernetic and capitalist choice, the neoliberal ideology of the self-made self melts into the abyss of its own creation. Economically gender is a category that imbues various matrices of power with asymmetry. The feminization of poverty raises questions about whom and what determines wages, health care, basic services like sewage maintenance and street cleaning. Although the category of “woman” exists as a stable, recognizable and generally agreed identity, it is not entirely connected to femininity or feminization. As the proliferation of identities under patriarchy grow many genderqueer individuals self-identify and/or are labeled as feminine. The consequences of this identification are both economic and sexual.


When a subject, or simply a person, interacts with the symbolic order of the other(s) they take on certain aspects of it. Desiring subjects, who include most Homo sapiens, are driven to be in place that they are not. There is a constant need to be outside oneself, yet secure within oneself, why? Because of various factors that include our perception of choice, agency and activity engaging with structural paradigms that limit the spectrum of the acceptable. What is proposed is an opening of structural paradigms, but not just any opening will do, for the genderqueer person needs not only rights and liberties under the aegis of the Law, but to be able to inscribe within the law its own instability. In other words, queer, genderqueer and so personas show what the Law of the Father is, or what patriarchal capitalism is already has. There is no need to radicalize the law, or create prescriptions for its enhancement within this first assault on patriarchal capitalism because the very notion of “man” and “capital” are queer and absurd within themselves. Like all lived identities they are both concrete subjectively, but become chimeras the further from the site of the individual. Paradoxically, the further one leaves oneself, the closer one retains oneself for one cannot leave home without first being at home. Home is here literally where “the heart is.” To leave is to enter in a more radical way.


When the straight homophobic male expresses his rage, exerts himself and even tries to destroy the fragile identifications of new neoliberal subjectivities, he is actually showing his impotence within the new voids created for him. He himself is the neoliberal subject, and therefore he needs to latch himself onto the queer dynamic to disprove or disavow his own absurdity. The beginning of any queer analysis should be to show the entire sexual and gendered matrices are themselves absurd. All categories, taxonomies and identities are imbued with absurdity. Absurdity is enhanced when we related identity to death. Death is the ultimate marker, or end point of all identity relations. It is here, at the moment of death that all sexual, economic and gendered subjectivities, personas, animas, beings, and affectations submerge into the unknown (able).


So, let us start with death when we analyze genderqueer identities in relation to the heteronormative systems of patriarchy and capitalism. All of these categories categorically fold into a Zero Point through the midnight of the Self, for the Self cannot contain itself despite its struggle for recognition. At some point the body reveals itself to be a monster, a demon and a pain. The sheer physicality of bleeding gums, broken limbs, sweaty palms etc. unite the proletariat and the bourgeois alike. This physicality also sweepingly unites, but does not make same, the heterogeneous, diverse and multiple genderqueer realities, identities and monstrosity.






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