Bois and Grrls

Genderqueer: Straight or gay, these kids refuse to play dress-up by the rules

 One girl was called Jane Marie

Another little girl was called Felicity

Another little girl was Sally Joy

Naomi Toledo jokingly calls herself a gay man trapped in a lesbian's body.
Dan Kramer
Naomi Toledo jokingly calls herself a gay man trapped in a lesbian's body.

The other was me, and I'm a boy --The Who

Everything was fine until George Jorgensen Jr. came along.

In 1951, surgeons in Copenhagen turned the Bronx-born George into Christine, and a nation scratched its head.

"Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Bombshell," the New York Daily News trumpeted. Jorgensen made a successful career in show business, but she also tried to familiarize the public with new nomenclature. She wasn't gay. She wasn't a transvestite. She was a transsexual. She made right what nature could not.

How ridiculous was that? How could nature be "wrong"? It's really quite simple: You've got a penis, or a vagina and breasts, and those tell you all you need to know: the clothes you wear, the person you fall in love with, the job you take.

And if you want to get technical, whip out the microscope and check the genes. XY gives you the testes that make you a man, and XX gives you the ovaries that make you a woman.

As far as anyone knew, Jorgensen was born with the right ingredients: XY, testes, penis. Sex is straightforward, and if you can't see that, you're out to lunch. This "transsexual" business must be a psychiatric disorder.

It's simple. You can't be an XY and be a woman. Right?

And if you're an XY attracted to other XYs, you must be gay, right?

And if you're a gay XY, you wouldn't call yourself a lesbian, right?

And if you're a gay XY, you'd wear men's clothes, right?

And if you're a nelly gay XY, you'd wear really gay men's clothes, right?

But what if you're XY with a natural vagina and breasts, you wear a dress and makeup every day, and you're legally married in Texas to an XY with a penis who wears really gay men's clothes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays?

What do you call yourself then?

Does it really even matter?

For most people, it does. Society likes labels. And if Christine Jorgensen had trouble explaining one new label 50 years ago, she'd have a hell of a time with the labels some people are inventing for themselves every day.


Here comes Dick, he's wearing a skirt

Here comes Jane, y'know she's sporting a chain

Same hair, revolution

Same build, evolution

Tomorrow who's gonna fuss? --The Replacements

Here are two labels everyone agrees on: Sex, as noted researcher Milton Diamond puts it, is what's between your legs; gender is what's between your ears.

Here's a label that might take some getting used to: genderfucker.

Twenty-six-year-old Naomi Toledo calls herself a genderfucker. She calls herself a faggy boi dyke. She jokingly calls herself a gay man trapped in a lesbian's body.

For clarity's sake, the catch-all for this gender-exploding is "genderqueer." Genderqueer is a little of this, a little of that and none of the above. You can be a straight genderqueer, but for the most part it's an anti-label teens and young adults are using to carve out a niche in the increasingly politicized GLBT community. For years, gay men had to be butch or nelly. Lesbians had to be butch or femme. Each role dressed and acted accordingly. But what if you didn't feel comfortable in any of those roles? What if you're a lesbian who wants to dress femme, act butch and spend most of your time with nelly gays? What if you're a gay guy who benches 300 and likes to wear a purse? What if you're that same guy, only you're straight? That's genderqueer. It's not just crossing the lines, it's erasing them.

Toledo, of Houston, wears her black hair in a Mohawk, with two long, thin blades of hair jutting past her ears. Her delicate face is free of makeup, and her ears are pierced. Left eyebrow and spot under her lower lip too. She sings and plays guitar in an industrial band called Leatherbal. She has a pit bull named Sid Vicious.

On a brisk February night, she sits outside the Starbucks on Montrose, chain-smoking and gamely discussing her underwear. She wears a black sport coat, a purple button-down shirt and blue jeans. And, as will be revealed, buttoned boxer-briefs.

A few years ago, when she lived in Austin, she was buying shirts at Express Men and stumbled into underwear-land. That's when the boxer-briefs called her name. She knew she wanted a pair, but the thought of the trip to the checkout counter terrified her.

"I remember that day, being so scared," she says.

But she made it, and she's grateful she did. There is nothing more comfortable, she says, than buttoned boxer-briefs.

On a trip to her parents' house in Houston, armed with a load of dirty laundry, she figured she had better warn her mother about the underwear, lest they wind up in her brother's room.

"Just to let you know...these are mine," Toledo told her.

She recalls her mom's exact words: " 'They're cute. Throw 'em in the wash.' No questions asked. And that's the reason I love my mom."

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