Exploring Gender and Queerness

By: Hollis Taylor

Recently as I am navigating through manifesting myself, Hollis Taylor, as a gender activist, writer, and publisher I have had to really find my truth on pronouns. I had to decided what it means for me and what is appropriate. I have been solid on being a genderqueer for several years but have yet to be really solid on my pronouns. I have decided that I agree with Kait Burnstein that attempting to use the proper pronouns shows respect for this person, regardless of what pronoun they are asking for, its a simple act of respect. I understand that its hard to use the invented pronouns like zi and zer, which I like in printed material. I also am delighted when people can avoid pronouns all together and for certain they, them and their also is appropriate for me. For me pronouns are most important when dealing with the public and people we are not intimate with. Although it matters how much “respect” we get from our most intimate of friends, family and lovers it is more exaggerated for me in public.

I have been working very hard on a special online publication that represents inclusive spirituality and gives voice to the GLBTQ spiritual community as a whole as well as sex positive people. We pull from individuals that prescribe to these basic values and then branch out from there. We have genderqueers, transwomen, gender benders, drag performers, gay men, lesbians, bisexual people, sacred sluts, sex positive activists all together to explore and discuss spirituality including raising children with these same values. So as publisher I am the sex positive genderqueer lesbian transman gender activist with romantic ideas about a world without gender roles that is enriched by evolved love and comforting peace. I had to decide how I wanted people to talk about me in print and verbally.

Overall my choice is to always remove gender from the conversation all together. But for many this is a tough stretch so I find to give them other alternatives when they MUST use gender pronouns what to use. Especially in print, I like zi and zir but am equally comfortable with them, they and their. Facebook has really mastered this in their updates, you will notice they normally use them – they – their. Facebook allows for more than two choices for gender when you fill out your personal information during your initial sign up. They are not only a great example of how easy it can be done and integrated, but they also have shown great respect to the gender variant community as a whole. Now if they could continue that trend to the polyamorous people in the world.

I have had numerous responses to my requests about gender pronouns. Some people ask what I prefer and respect it with ease, as if its as easy as asking if you like black or green tea. Others struggle with it but clearly make a genuine effort and those people are truly stretching and I respect them for that. Then there are some that get violently defensive and even aggressively violent when corrected in any way regarding my pronouns, even if handled in a peaceful way on my behalf. I have spent many hours meditating on both what pronouns are best for me and how to approach people peacefully. I want to bring clarity and understanding. Clearly this blog speaks my intention.

The next line I want to write in caps because it seems to a clear misunderstanding.

MY GENDER EXPRESSION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MY SEXUAL ORIENTATION! Other than the fact that by changing my gender expression would therefore change my orientation by our cultures standards. But for me gender expression is my way of expressing that gender is beyond the binary. Removing gender from our world would completely eliminate the need for sexual orientation. But when I gender bend I am not doing it because I am HORNY or because I want to attract women. I am doing it because I need to express the masculine side of me that feels oppressed by our very binary world. My gender expression goes way beyond the bedroom.

So here I am to the world saying – Please use Gender Non Specific Pronouns with me, even if you don’t understand, I ask for your respect that my experience is clearly different then yours. I am hoping to continue to find peaceful ways to ask for different pronouns. Some people will be like Facebook and others may be rather violent, regardless I can be sure that my reaction will always be peacefully active. My challenge here is to stay peaceful. I look to leaders like Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. How does someone remain peacefully active when asking for basic respect?

This is my peaceful request to anyone to please respectfully use the correct pronouns.

Here is a little video you might find helpful.

I noticed as time passes and Izzy, my drag king persona, does not have an outlet I am feeling rather oppressed and tense. I take time for myself all the time to be sure I do things that are good for me, such as yoga. But something is different about time spent on Izzy. I know that my expression as Izzy is also important and healthy for me. Often when I miss things I appreciate them more, creating gratitude for later on when I remember doing without. I think a lot of us are more grateful when we know what its like to do without, especially if you have had it and then didn’t anymore.

I knew that re-establishing in a new city would be a challenge. I reached out and some of those people HAVE helped me, several others are no longer active for a variety of reasons. Now I am trying to reach out and find the drag community so I can be involved once again. Its also about circumstances because in my normal every day life I must work and establish a stable life here. A stable regular life supports a good drag career in most cases. So its just a matter of circumstances why I am not involved in a drag show right now in Denver. It’s happening but slowly, slower than I like.

In my daily every day life most people see me as female and of course imply gender roles around it. I work with the elderly and they struggle with the fact I am legally married to a woman. So approaching any gender dysphoria is non-negotiable. Although I have met people out here that identify as allies, never to be underestimated to have a straight person on your side. Regardless, my masculine presentation here certainly gets the eyeball like in most places but out here not for long. Most people get past it fast or are really good at pretending it doesn’t effect them. Still the group most offended by me being masculine is men. Sometimes they are aggressive and purposely bump into me, to show their strength. I don’t bother to participate in the competition because its never worth it. I am a peaceful soldier and a lover, not a fighter. Still I am left with a feeling of being a freak in our culture, even though I realize its our cultures insistence on the binary that keeps my dysphoria alive. I am just too stubborn to comply and I refuse to put my body and soul through changes in order to fit into the binary. I refuse to ignore the masculine or feminine side – I want space for both. I need people to see me as both! Drag does that for me.

I notice that my gender dysphoria worsens when I am not spending time with the drag community. By gender dysphoria I mean the anxiety and depression that affects many of us. Its like we feel a certain way and then someone does something that highlights our sex organs rather than our gender expression. At this point I feel oppressed – the binary is so frigid. I believe early on, before I was a king, I attended the shows because I felt a level of kinship with the queens. When I became a king myself it was always about the art and the expression of my masculine side. I spent a year with regular shows, sometimes several a month. I began to feel well balanced and even reached my limit with performances. I found that my dysphoria began to dissipate as I performed more and more.

Then as time passes and I am not able to perform I notice my dysphoria coming to the head again. I began to become more and more sensitive to pronouns and phrases. It feels like the more I am oppressed in daily life and my gender is assumed, the more I need to express as a masculine. Then the more I have a balance the more androgynous, free and natural I feel. Its a very liberating feeling and frankly its priceless to me right now. I began to resist my monthly cycle as an insult to my body rather than a blessing from the goddess to celebrate my femininity. I feel more and more cast aside and find my struggle to get more intense. This is my reminder of just how big of a problem gender roles are for a lot of us. This is what could easily lead me to want to transition but I am determined to honor my full self! I am determined to find a middle place where I can celebrate and love both the male and female side of me. As I have time for both I find myself better balanced in the middle, committed to supporting both sides of myself.

As I watch the Drag Kings I helped get started in PA grow I am nostalgic at my experience in PA. I love that all the kings has emerged and many of them are pretty dam good. Maxwell Treats looks amazing! His costuming and performance are top notch! I love the way he bends gender so much you can’t decide, yet he is masculine enough to be a king. Mykel Bono is an amazing make-up artist with a talent for looking DAMMM good! His performances got better right before my eyes, just before I left for Colorado. When I left he had won the amateur drag race, he really is an amazing king! Then to see Chase grow with the new kings is inspirational from my perspective. Of course then there is Justin Her Fontaine whom I have always supported since they showed interest way back when I first started. Today I am happy to support any king, in any city, anywhere. I want to increase the kings just like what happened in PA. I want to bring them out of the woodwork and have them bring their best to the stage just like these kings do today in PA.

Drag has changed my life! It is part of my gender expression. Being a Drag King is part of who I am.Not only has it introduced me to some pretty dam amazing people but it has also given me an outlet. A real honest to god outlet that feels good in a way that leads me to more balanced places. Izzy keeps me sane! For now as I try to get involved in my new city I know that I will be lead to good places. Maybe this whole experience will help me understand myself on a deeper level. Either way it could support my journey in some way that I don’t see yet.

Just so you know that soon to be born will be a new large Group blog for Queer Spirituality with a sex positive tone to it. Its announcement is soon to come but if your interested in contributing please contact me. Soon to come some interviews with local queens…

Pronouns

By Hollis Taylor

Now that I have gone through so many transformations and healings I feel like I am finding myself underneath of things. I noticed when I had time to express as a man, Izzy Ahee, I felt more balanced. I have recognized the need and made plans to go out as Izzy. Thank goodness for a Queen friend from Harrisburg, her name is Destiny. Since she is trans she totally gets my desire but often assumes I want to transition. I still don’t want to transition for a variety of reasons but I still want to be a man sometimes.

I noticed that I am going out more and more with my binder even to regular errands and so on. I find myself wanting to be mistaken for a man more and more. I recognize this imbalance, its a lot of how I felt before I started Drag in 2013. When I first embodied Izzy I fell in love with that expression of myself.  I loved, adored, and celebrated drag with a passion. I loved being Izzy and loved my life as Izzy, even though it wasn’t full time. For sure it was refreshing for me to be treated as a man. People automatically used the male pronouns for me and assumed I was male. Until I let a female voice out or they realized I was a performer, then as a King it is assumed I am crossdressing. At a drag show its all about gender bending so its a safe place for me to genderbend.

Pronouns are interesting because we only really have binary pronouns. Without pronouns people have to repeat your name over and over again. Its awkward speech without pronouns and its awkward with pronouns. I started noticing that I was bothered by strangers using female pronouns all the time. I was refreshed when people have to look at me a couple of times to determine if I am female or if I am male. I found myself hurt that almost no one uses male pronouns with me. I almost never hear male pronouns. With my lovers I ask that they try to mix up my pronouns, although that’s hard for them. Even as Izzy they both struggle with using male pronouns. They don’t impose gender roles but for sure they struggle with using male pronouns. Maybe its their own struggle with understanding sexuality and gender….what lesbian loves men? I know that they try to balance the two with me but I realize our culture doesn’t support gender variance language.

I realize that our culture doesn’t have room for two spirted people, genderqueer, gender benders, gender variant, gender neutral, and gender fluid folks. It can be hard to change using pronouns and I know that I struggle at times myself. I want to correct people but I don’t and I know this doesn’t help anyone’s cause. I don’t know how our culture will find our way through this but for sure the binary can corner gender variant and transgender people in a way that feels isolating and trapped. It certainly feels lonely in our binary world, at least for this two-spirit person. At times I feel like no one understands but I know there are some of us that do. Many us struggle with this every day. I feel like as a genderqueer I don’t fit into either side of the binary and instead I don’t fit in except with other gender variant people.

At times a transgender person fills that gap but for sure with them I feel the pressures to transition, as if that will conclude my gender struggles. I am not convinced of that. I think my gender struggles are rather unique although I know there are others out there like me. I know that these silly little words like girl, boy, he, she, her,  lady, maam, and so on seem to hold so much power over our psyche and over our souls. But who is the one that needs to change? US?

We were born this way…and I know trying to dismiss gender dysphoria is next to impossible. I believe in the spiritual perspective that TRANS people and GENDER Benders of all kinds are here to change the world. Native Americans regarded two-spirited people as deeply spiritual shamans although I would NEVER call myself a shaman. I might do shamistic work but in no way could I honestly wear that label. There are many cultures around the world that regard two-spirited, transgendered, and gender variant people as spiritually generated souls specifically brought into the world to change the world, minister people, and get in touch with deep spiritual embodiements. I do firmly believe this to be true, which might explain why Drag feels spiritual. At least when your behind stage and in the community it feels like we are all following some profound spiritual path. It’s intense and I have witnessed it among transpeople as well. But this spirituality is recognized by very few. First we need to get past the idea that sex and gender are different. But discussions about my gender experience is uncomfortable for most people. Even my lovers don’t get it, although they try to be sympathetic and sensitive. But even in the spiritual world Two-Spirited people are often still outcasts. Spirituality for me though is very personal so I rarely share it with anyone, maybe because I am two-spirited. In our culture though, functioning as a gender bender can prove to be very challenging.

I don’t think WE need to change, I think our culture needs to change. I think our social language needs to change. I think socialization is hard for many of us and we need to make big efforts to accept, understand, and love all people. I think WE need to stand up and insist on the eradication of the binary. How do we fight something so deeply ingrained that just the discussion confuses people. I can’t even converse about it, right now, which is why I am writing. Is it simply one person at a time? I ask for both pronouns but only get male as corrections. Do I correct strangers? Maybe I should start with those closest to me. I know they love and support me but how do I explain how stupid 3 & 4 letter words mean so much to me. How can I help those closest to me understand the complexities of being GenderQueer.

I am going to recognize that I question my choice to NOT transition at this time. I find myself wondering what it would be like to be on Testosterone and have larger muscles. Imagining I had facial hair I had to shave and take care of it. I imagine how it would feel to be treated as a man all the time and then something happens… my mind stops me and says “But then you will no longer be a woman.” This is what makes me Genderqueer, not transgender. Although I am a transman that is finishing transitioning to a more masculine expression of myself through weightloss and exercise. Speaking of exercise its time for me chop wood! Physical movement improves my ability to work through things like this when I am doing all I can to make it better. Next Saturday Izzy….we got a date! Maybe I need to find a way to ask for more “he” pronouns from those that love me most.

By Hollis Taylor

Masculinity

By Hollis Taylor

In my every day life I am often assumed to be female. I have to go out of my way to be assumed as male. Since I moved to Colorado there hasn’t been a whole lot of time to socialize. I been spending a lot of my time getting work and adjusting to some very big changes. Lots of things have changed in my life, particularly my focus and dreams. I am committed and serious about becoming a journalist. I am also living way on top of a mountain, which is great for my soul but it makes travel and timing complicated. I want to keep my schedule wide open in order to be available to travel but still need to make an income at this time. So I am piecing together all my skills while still trying to make time to write. In all that, time to express my masculinity has been pushed onto the back burner.

This month my period was overwhelmed with gender dysphoria and I could feel myself mentally rejecting the time to spend feminine. I felt like I barely had any time for the masculinity. I feel like my masculinity has been oppressed. Its not that I always want to be seen as masculine but for certain I need an outlet. The more I thought about how I was feeling and what was missing or what had changed the more it all made more sense.

As Izzy I have a spotlight on my masculinity. I am taken as nothing less than a man both on and back stage. Being treated that way has brought me to a more balanced gender expression in my everyday life. At work and among friends I am seen as butch and in most cases people are not even aware of my gender variance or are highly uneducated. I work to speak out more but in day to day life it can become overwhelming to talk to every person about what pronouns to use or how to treat you. I find that if I ignore the masculinity it gets louder and louder until I am faced with increased gender dysphoria and social anxiety. I need to find time to express my masculinity in a healthy way that supports a gender balance.

Writing about my gender variance is certainly therapeutic but a couple performances as Izzy helps me feel that my gender expressions are fairly balanced. My spouse recently asked me that if I was to have a social group in which I was treated and understood to be male, would that take the place of Izzy or help balance my need for gender expression. I will be experimenting with this very soon with a LGBT friendly community here in Boulder.

I still don’t want to transition traditionally but I noticed my drive to change my body has increased with my move to Colorado. Maybe its the healthy environment or maybe its that I need to feel more masculine. I am paying attention to my drives and motivations in order to keep in touch with how I feel about transitioning. Right now exercise and eating for testosterone boosts is my focus.

At this point I don’t think synthetic hormones are WRONG, but I don’t think I should have to take them in order to be seen as male. Rather I believe in other options and I don’t want to be seen as male ALL the time. Still there are times I like being a woman and truly appreciate my femininity but only when I have plenty of masculine expression. Finding a way to fully express my masculine side is the struggle. For some unknown reasons living every day as simply a butch female just isn’t masculine enough.

Just as I arrived in Colorado.

Just as I arrived in Colorado.

Then of course my life long dream of the eradication of gender and its roles all together. I truly think its would be a gorgeous evolution for the human race and I still hold out hope to see it some day. I know it seems so far away but I know that as humans we can evolve past our genitalia and what roles that might put us in. The evolution of love is happening all around us, take a look at the evolution that have already happened!

By Hollis Taylor

After the past year I was ready to welcome a break from drag. I didn’t put any time limit on it or anything and just figured I would return, because drag had enriched my life so much it was hard to imagine not returning. But part of me was really tired of the whole process from binding and jockstraps to wigs and makeup. Its been about a month now and all I have done is borrowed a shirt or two from Izzy’s wardrobe and wore the binder for a function I presented as androgynous at.

I feel it nagging me as I get to work here in Colorado. I found full time work, of course I am still taking care of elderly people. Now as I realize what weekends I have off I want to start checking out drag shows in the Denver area. I can feel it itching at my soul. Its like I gotta bring Izzy out, drag is the easiest venue. Of course I have also considered searching the local theaters and present myself as a male impersonator. I really thought this through as I listened to a cross dresser I encountered here in the Boulder area talk about the need to express that side of themselves. I also feel like its a great outlet for some of my rather crude masculine traits and a way to express some of my creativity, especially in dance. 

So yes I have safely arrived in the Boulder, CO area, settled into my new home, found a full time job and now find myself itching for Izzy. So stay tuned to see how it begins here CO.

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By Hollis Taylor

In the past year I have been very busy doing drag all over the state of PA and have been learning a lot about the art in the process. The deeper I get into the scene the more I realize just how impactful it has been on the evolution of equality as a whole on our society. Drag has been around for a long time and as more and more gay bars hosted drag shows in the past 20-30 years I have been watching. I have always felt a kinship with drag queens and always respected their art. First of all doing drag is dangerous, less these days depending on where you are in the world, but in the past it has proven to many that hate for those that are different certainly exists. We have all heard tons of stories of drag queens, cross dressers and transpeople of all sorts being the victims of violent crimes related to their gender expression. This is a scary thought when your on stage in front of 100’s of people at a public event like pride. Or how about late nights in the gay bar when some creepy guy seems to be stalking all the drag performers. Drag takes boldness, bravery, and strength. My respect for the art has increased in the past year to a point that I find myself more and more passionate about it. Even as I look to my future, after I move to Colorado at the end of October, I realize that Izzy will need to be brought to a new community in Colorado. I cannot abandon this amazing art.

When I brainstorm what I would like to do I must ask myself what message I am carrying. As a title holding drag king it is my responsibility to carry certain messages. I often like to carry songs that encourage sex positivity, discouraging the shaming of sex. Sometimes I carry the everyone is beautiful message other times I challenge gender roles, my personal pet pieve. Another message I like to bring to the stage is to spread the love. When it comes down to things we all want love, everyone, even so called evil people. I have been in the darkest corners of our world and I have witnessed love among the darkest people in our cultures, if nothing else they love each other. Love, Peace, and Happiness is all everyone wants when you remove all the bullshit. So when I considered what message to bring as a I ran for the Mr. Lancaster PA Pride 2014 – I carried this very important message in my talent number for the pageant. So why leave that number just for the crowd that attended the pageant (which is usually just drag performers, pageants are drag for drag fans) Instead I decided to bring that message to the Amateur Drag Race during a time that I made life choices that challenged other people’s values. I might be different but in the end you can choose to love me instead of judging me. It can be hard depending on what values someone challenges but in the end it is the only way to achieve peace, and we all know that the drama, violence, and war is not something anyone wants. So just loving someone removes the escalation to things that no one wants. Loving is hard because it makes us vunerable, leaving us feeling as if we can be hurt. But once you find deep compassion you realize that feeling the pain, forgiving, and moving forward simply powers your own evolution to a peaceful happy human being. The vulnerability simply opens you up to a deep evolution to what we all want, contentment and a life full of love and happiness. The entire process completely eliminates drama, violence, and war. So love really is the answer we all needed, I warn you though, its not always easy. There are times and situations that I struggle more than others but at other times I find it easier and easier. Drag, I have simply loved everyone. At times it was hard but with practice it got easier and easier. I was led to a drama free drag career that has been full of all sorts of love. From a loving drag family, to loving drag friends, a loving drag wife, and a loving community that supports all I do. Really it has been a pleasure doing drag with Central PA, although I am looking forward to the more progressive Boulder, CO area. What a fantastic foundation I have had and all the connections I have made have amazed me again and again. Simply the love in my heart flows heavy in the drag world, no matter where I am.

So when I did this talent number again at the Amateur Drag Race I was sharing my experience in life with a very boosted ego. I often allow the ego to come out in Izzy Ahee as long as he doesn’t bend basic values, like hurting someone. I have seen the world from the eyes of RadioActive and felt the chemicals and poisons of the world. I completely consumed it. Then I took a dark moment, made a few adjustments and emerged with love of diversity in my heart. The rainbow represents diversity, not just “gay” – Here I also know that the first step to changing the world is to change myself. So yes I think we should all love each other unconditionally but this evolution must happen to me first. I must love everyone unconditionally first, then I can show others. So Yah! I am gonna “Save the World” because I am working to love everyone unconditionally.

Amateur Drag Race 2014

By Hollis Taylor

I was honored to be asked to be a coach for the Amateur Drag Race 2014. First of all, the drag race was where I started a year ago. I was excited to see the newest amateur drag queens and kings and also to have a small piece in helping them develop their personal drag persona. My love for drag has a long history into my early adulthood even before I was out of the closet as a lesbian, butch, gender variant, and now drag king. Drag’s gender bending nature combined with music, creativity, and strong heart has kept me passionate about drag for many years.

In my personal drag experience I started at the drag race in order to explore the idea of being a drag king myself. I was in the race last year and I learned so much. I learned about how to dress, how to interact with my audience, and how to get their attention. I made a bunch of great friends also entertainers of all sorts. My performances led me to other places like being adopted into the DeAire family and performing at all sorts of family shows. I am part of a cast at a bi-monthly show that includes great benefits and even better friends. I have been invited as a guest performer at many shows in the area. I have been in 3 competitions and won 2 of them. I have the title of Mr. State Street 2014 and Mr. Lancaster PA Pride 2014. I am the first alternate for Mr. Hope 2014.  The amateur drag race was a launching point for my drag persona, Izzy Ahee.

Now I have the opportunity to give back to a wonderful opportunity for new performers. I have been given the opportunity to help guide the newest kings and queens in the Central PA area. I was so happy to encourage two new drag kings to be part of the drag race. As I returned to the drag race, this time as a coach, it felt a little like being home. I get to see my drag mother, drag wife, great drag queen friends, and get to know the newest talent. Behind stage is fun and becoming a really great place for both kings and queens. Lots of cooperation and less competition, keeping it fun and educational for all of us.

The first week I was coach for Robyn Innocence and Maxwell Treats. Robyn Innocence has been so exciting to work with for the past 6-7 months and we have had many fun times together. I witnessed Robyn’s first experience and have been by her side for many of them. This time I got to support her in her search for the perfect performance and runway dress. I was so happy when she finally got me the pictures and I was confident in her ability to deliver the Spanish version of Frozen. I almost cried as she performed on stage and I was so proud. I feel more like a big brother than a nephew to Robyn but our family is special for many reasons.

Maxwell Treats had me inspired to stand and cheer! His performance of “Rebel Rebel” was amazing and it totally floored me. I was so proud of him and can’t wait to see what he does next. I was happy to show him a few tricks about make-up, packing, and facial hair.

Both of them had great attitudes about the competition and drag in general. They are helpful to other performers and have a back stage presence that is welcoming and fun. I am so happy to have supported them in their win!

I was also so happy to do a performance with my drag wife, Belladona. Of course we did something totally freaky “I Fink you Freaky” by DiAntwood. It was my first time doing techno rap and it was certainly a challenge. Those lyrics were tough to grasp and I didn’t perfect them in a week but the performance and live snake seem to make up for my lack of perfection in the lyrics.

Overall the drag race is proving to be so much fun as a coach, even more fun than it was a performer. My nerves were so out of hand in the competition that as a coach they are largely lessened, making the drag race tons of fun! If you live in the area I strongly suggest coming out to the show because the entire show is packed with excellent entertainment!

Every Sunda

Stallions Club in Harrisburg, PA

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