Ryan Elliott

I’ve been thinking about changing my name for a while now. It’s interesting how much a name can mean — how much emotional and cultural significance can be attached to a name. I don’t really have much of an emotional attachment to my given name: it’s what I’ve been going by for most of my life, but that’s about it. However, people make assumptions about me — specifically, assumptions about my gender — based on my name in a way that makes me really uncomfortable. My given name generally causes people to immediately put me into the “woman” category, regardless how I present myself, and that is immensely frustrating. Furthermore, my given name doesn’t actually feel like me; it’s a distinctly feminine name, and it’s just not something with which I can happily associate myself.

As much as I’d truly like to have a different name, the idea of changing my name is also a definite source of anxiety. I think my biggest worry has to do with my parents. I love my parents; they’ve been the best parents I could ask for. And they gave me my given name. I don’t want to appear that I am rejecting the name they gave me, and I don’t want to hurt them, but I don’t think I can keep the name I now have.     Continue reading

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A Call for Gender-Neutral Restrooms

I’ve been thinking a lot of restrooms lately — public restrooms, in particular. It’s such a strange topic: it’s completely innocuous to some, yet it’s absolutely a source of anxiety and tension for others. For me, it’s definitely the latter.

There are so many reasons why restrooms are so stressful for a lot of trans folk and gender-nonconforming people, but I’m not trying to speak for anyone other than myself. Personally, it’s not as though there’s a particular gender-specific restroom that I want to use. I realize that for many people, using a particular public restroom is hugely important — using the “women’s” room or the “men’s” room is essential — but that’s not the case for me. Continue reading

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GenderQueer: Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary

I refer to GenderQueer: Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary (Edited by Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins), and the collection of essays in the beginning by Riki Wilchins, constantly. I referred to it last night, actually. It’s a wonderful anthology, and it shows — in real people’s voices, not just academic theory — that there’s so much more to gender than merely “man” and “woman.”

Perhaps one of my favorite quotes about gender is in Wilchins’ essay “A Continuous Nonverbal Communication“: “In fact, throughout our entire waking lives we are carrying out a continuous nonverbal dialogue with the world, saying, ‘This is who I am, this is how I feel about myself, this is how I want you to see me‘” (12). To me, that statement sums up why it is so important to allow people to identify and express their gender as they will — to do otherwise would be to deny who they are. Continue reading

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References and Recommendations

I love words. I love books and essays, song lyrics and screenplays. I love how words can evoke emotions and cause us to think in new ways.

I’m constantly referencing books and essays in conversation. Unfortunately, I never remember the actual quote of which I’m thinking, and without the actual quote, the reference does little good when people haven’t read the same texts I have. So, I thought I’d have a series of posts about various books and other things that I recommend, perhaps actually including my favorite quotes and the reasons why I reference them so frequently.

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Meeting for the First Time

This week, I went to my first GenderQueer Chicago meeting. While no group, or meeting, is perfect, it was . . . exactly what I needed. And even more, it was something I hadn’t quite been conscious of needing.

Since coming out as trans, I’ve never been in a room with so many trans/genderqueer/otherwise gender-nonconforming people in my life (I feel fairly safe in saying this, despite the general confidentiality of the meeting, given that it’s stated plainly on their blog that they have meetings). Before I really came out, I attended the annual Trans Health and Wellness Conference in my home state, and that was also a really amazing experience. The conference was really the first time I’d met an adult–someone who wasn’t a current student at an uber-liberal, elite liberal arts college–who identified as genderqueer, and it really brought it home to me that a gendered existence beyond the binary is possible, even after leaving the comforting bubble provided by my college. Continue reading

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A Week of Looking Like Someone Else

I started today on a roughly week-long family vacation. Destination: Florida. More specifically, that happiest place on earth, Disney World. I am, of course, really excited and absolutely do not want to seem ungrateful for the no-doubt fabulous vacation for which my parents are paying.

I am, however, also apprehensive about the trip. It’s Florida (which means hot); it’s Disney (which means we’ll be outside a lot); and it’s my family (which means that there are some things, gender-wise, that I’m not yet sharing). More to the point, my wardrobe is drastically different from what I would otherwise wear (mostly due to the fact that it will be extremely hot out, but also partly because we’re sharing luggage, and that calls for a bit of self-editing). Continue reading

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I Feel Like I’m Losing Myself

I feel like I’m being pulled in so many different directions. I don’t know how–I’ve never know how–to deal with multiple identities in a way that doesn’t cause one of them to be neglected and ignored. I’m a Korean adoptee, but I’m also queer and trans, and I haven’t yet been able to figure out a way to unite those identities, instead of simply pushing one to the foreground and the other to the back.

I was at the Dragon Festival today. My old dance group (Korean traditional dance, mainly for Korean adoptees) was involved in hosting an exceptional group of professional Korean dancers, as well as two b-boys, all from Korea, at that festival. It was an amazing performance. Despite the heat, the sprinkling of rain, and the outdoors location, it was one of the best Korean dance performances I’ve seen (including several in Korea). Continue reading

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