Genderfork.com — a volunteer-run community expression blog about gender variance that I founded two years ago — has exploded. In a good way. We’re getting far more submissions than we know what to do with, and the comments have started overflowing into tangential discussions. It’s time to grow.

Last week, we put out a call to the community, asking who’d like to help advise us on the creation of open community forums. We figured 10 or 15 people might raise their hands right away. When 70 did, we closed down the invitation and marked the group as Full. (Yep. Definitely a need for forums.)

Kicking off that discussion this week, we asked everyone involved a bunch of questions about where they’re coming from, what their interests are, and what they’re most inclined to talk about in a community forum about gender variance. We also included a question about how Genderfork has affected their lives and their own identities so far.

The responses hit me hard. This is the kind of site that has a big but quiet impact. To hear people put that impact into clear terms was hugely helpful to me, and moving.

Here were some of them….

* * *

“The biggest thing Genderfork has done for me is give me permission to not fit. For a long time I’ve felt like expressing an alternate gender without being trans in some way detracted or disrespected the life experiences and narratives of trans people. Genderfork has helped me embrace a gender identity that isn’t cis and isn’t trans and is still completely valid. Genderfork has helped me to feel real.”

* * *

“Genderfork is great! It’s helped broaden my idea of gender and taught me about the different labels we put on ourselves and each other. It’s a supportive little community that is very kind. I’m very glad it’s here on the Internet or else I think I’d be totally lost.”

* * *

“Genderfork hasn’t helped me with my identity formation, per se, but it has been crucial in how I’ve grown to accept it. Without the blog, I’d still probably be closeted about my third gender and feeling quite bad about it.”

* * *

“The blog helped me an amazing amount. I used to be just very, very confused. I didn’t even think it was possible that I could have a problem with my gender! Then I found the blog (I wish I remembered how), and it helped me a lot to figure out that I can be very happy even if I don’t present the gender traits of my sex.”

* * *

“Genderfork helped me to realise that it was ok for me to not be a woman or a man. I think before I realised that I was unhappy sometimes living as a woman but that I didn’t think I would be able to transition and live as a man full time either. I think genderfork helped me see that those are not the only two options and encouraged me to explore who I am a little bit more (still exploring, still having great fun doing it).”

* * *

“Genderfork has been invaluable, not in the formation of my gender identity, but understanding how that identity was defined. I already knew how I felt, but it took seeing other people relate to that, then label it, for me to understand what it was. If it wasn’t for genderfork, I’d still have that general feeling of ‘wrongness’ when acting or dressing as my gender identity.”

* * *

“Genderfork (along with the nudging of some friends of mine) opened my eyes and really gave me a safe space to examine and explore my own identity. I intellectually grasped the social construct of the binary, but was blown away by how many of the quotes and profiles here especially hit home for me. Seeing all the different labels or refusals of labels that people came up with was extremely educating in terms of showing me how wide this community really is. Also, being able to have a space where i know there are answers to the questions that answered anywhere else, and seeing, below every submission and profile, a flood of “Me too!” is really empowering.”

* * *

“As far as gender identity construction is concerned…well, Genderfork took me as a very confused individual and left me as a very confused individual. But it a good way! Knowing that there are alternatives to the oh-so-constricting binary is definitely an improvement from where I was. I’m still working through a lot of things, but it really helps to know that there are like-minded people out there in the world, and maybe even closer to home than I originally thought.”

* * *

“It’s shown me there are others out there who are like me and yet entirely unlike me at the same time. It’s helped guide me toward the ways to outwardly express my inner identity.”

* * *

“I wouldn’t say Genderfork has helped me form my own identity as much as it has shown me how diverse other peoples’ genders can be. It’s also helped to show me that it’s not abnormal to have a non-binary gender identity.”

* * *

*gulp* Okay. We’ll keep walking.

Two different people just asked me about this in the last five minutes, so it seems worth writing out.  And then I can link to this post in my GChat status message! Shortcut!

Here’s the scenario: Through the luck of the emailing, you’ve scored my secret gmail address, and I’m showing up in your chat list.  You’ve already noticed two things:

  1. I seem to be there all the time. Like, 24/7. Like, why the heck doesn’t this Dopp ever sleep?
  2. I am always, always, without exception marked Busy. Red. Unavailable. “Warning warning, saying hi is rude right now!”  Etc. Never green.

There are good explanations for this.

Why are you always there?

I have a Google Android-based cell phone that gets Gtalk.  So as long as my cellphone is on, I’m pokeable.  (Note that if you send me a chat message when my computer is off, I’ll get it on my phone, it will feel like a text message to me. Our communication paradigm will have shifted, and you won’t have any way of knowing. *cue scary music*)

Why are you always busy?

BECAUSE I’M ALWAYS BUSY!  I usually have at least 10 projects going at once, and if I’m at my computer, I’m probably working on one of them. The Internet is my office, and my business hours are Whenever I’m Awake. If you want to hang out with me when I’m taking a break, you need to come meet me at Dolores Park in San Francisco. I’ll be the one stretching, wandering around, enjoying the sun, and not looking at my phone or computer.

So… can I gchat with you?

Sure!  (Maybe.)  Here’s what I’d love:

If you’re working with me on something, you can always send me a message. It’s a good way to get a quick answer from me. If I’m there, I’ll respond.  If I don’t respond, please send me an email.  (Gchat messages are known for getting lost.)

If you’re not working with me on something, please don’t open with “hi” or “hey” or “what’s up?” and wait for me to respond. I probably won’t. Just start with the thing you want to talk about. (And if I don’t respond, follow up over email.)

If you don’t have anything in particular you want to talk about, but you want to talk to me, please ask me if we can get coffee sometime.  Don’t try to catch up with me over gchat.

If you have something funny or interesting you want to send me, go ahead and just gchat me the link.  I may or may not be able to look at it, and I probably won’t have much time to talk about it, but I’ll appreciate the thought.

I know, I know, this is me being weird again.  First I don’t answer my phone, and now this.

But think of it this way: at least I’m reachable.  Remember when I shut down IM completely for four years?  You hated that.  This is my compromise.

Love you,
Sarah

It’s here — the holiday of all holidays — Geek New Year.  The intersection of the end of SXSW Interactive and St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone who made the annual pilgrimage to Austin, TX is wandering home, rubbing their eyes and thinking a thousand new thoughts about how the coming year will be. And drinking.

I skipped SXSW this year, and didn’t miss it much.  But apparently, 2009 Me took some steps to keep 2010 Me in the loop just so I wouldn’t feel left out.  I woke up this morning to an email I’d sent myself a year ago using FutureMe.org. The subject line read, “listenupmotherfucker.” (And I’m such a nice person to everyone else…)

If you’ve watched me twitter on New Years, you know I make a grandiose attempt to discourage everyone in the world from making resolutions.  Resolutions are often about picking something really hard that you feel guilty about, and throwing yourself at it drunkenly with all your might, only to fail in about a month. What does that really do, besides pull a few muscles and prove your incompetence?  We need better traditions.

Mine is writing a letter to myself a year in the future.  I include reminders, predictions, ideas, requests, and stories I want to carry forward.  It’s me having an ongoing, ritualized conversation between the past, the present, and the future, and I love it. I love watching my own story unfold in a correspondence with myself over time.

Except last year I fucked it up.

Last year I forgot to write myself a letter on New Years, and it bugged me for months.  So on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day and the end of SXSWi, after two weeks of traveling, I decided that despite being too wrecked to move, I could see the whole timeline of my life Very Clearly and had a LOT to say about it.

Here’s the letter I received this morning (with a few light revisions to make it more bloggable):

From: Sarah Dopp
To: Sarah Dopp
Date: March 17, 2010
Subj: From me to me, listenupmotherfucker.

Dear FutureMe,

It’s the last night of SXSW and I’m a fucking zombie. I’ve been traveling for two weeks — first a week in Portland and now this. Roomed with Melissa, Boffery’s a madman of vision, and Genderfork is exploding with passion. I want my Dopp Juice voice back. Queer Open Mic is getting its sea legs again, and occasionally I think about book deals and self-publishing. I’m speaking soon on gender and sexuality ambiguities, and in general, my life’s pretty fucking cool.

So why am I so stoned on exhaustion that I can’t even pack my fucking suitcase?

Okay, listen up. I skipped the letter from New Years so this one’s a few months late. Here’s the deal. You’re reading this in 2010, right? Shut up and keep talking. That’s my brilliant plan. Just do that, and you’ll be fine.

No, seriously, though. Here’s what you need to know:

1) Stop calling yourself an entrepreneur. It’s bullshit.

2) Don’t go back to school, even if you know you can. It’s bullshit, and you have better ways to spend your time.

3) If you forget the different between following your heart and doing what seems right, go read XKCD’s Fuck That Shit again.

4) If you get stuck, go read the Cult of Done Manifesto again.

5) Genderfork Book. Build the community. Meetups, volunteers, whatever.

6) Go talk to [redacted] about representing a community that you don’t see yourself as a complete representative of.

7) You can do this. You have to. You don’t know how not to.

Stay alive. I love you.

Sarah

p.s. I really like The Squeeze right now.

I must have been very tired, because I have absolutely no recollection of writing this.

I’m particularly fond of the line, “Shut up and keep talking. That’s my brilliant plan. Just do that, and you’ll be fine.”

And aside from that… yeah… this is how I talk to myself.

Go write your letter now.  It’s a new New Year.

Sometimes I email people.

Like, a lot of people at once. I do the “bcc” thing, and I hand pick the people who I think want to hear about something, and then I remember after I sent the email that I forgot a bunch of people. But it works well enough.  Sometimes an email to a lot of people is the right medium for what we’re doing.

Then again, sometimes blog posts are the right medium. Or tweets. Or personal emails. Or facebook wall posts. Or text messages. Or (gasp!) a phone call (but let’s not talk about that). I try to stick to whatever medium is right (except when it’s a phone call, and then I’ll try to come up with something else, anything else, that will substitute. But again, let’s not talk about that).

When I send out a big email, it’s usually because:

  • Someone sent me a really cool job or gig that doesn’t fit me very well, and I want to pass it on to other good people.
  • I want to hire assistance for something, but I don’t really want the whole world to know about it.
  • I want to tell people what’s changed recently in my consulting work, so they know what I’m a good fit for and what I’m not interested in.
  • I want to tell the story of my consulting work — what I’m learning and doing and accomplishing and messing up along the way — without feeling totally public and naked about it.
  • I want to talk about a new personal project I’m working on (usually relating to gender or sexuality or queer culture, or maybe creative writing) and see what people think before I make it public.
  • I want to announce something I’m doing or hosting or organizing or traveling to (or whatever) to people I care about.
  • I want to pass on information about something amazing that I care a lot about.

And… as you can probably tell from that list, these emails are starting to feel a little bit like having a newsletter… just, minus the “consent” part.

So let’s get consensual about this.

If you would like to be part of my inner circle of advisors, or if you want to hang out within catching range of the job/gig leads that I pass on, or if you find the neurotic journey of a consultant interesting, or if you think the stuff I do for the queer world is making a difference and you want to know about my next big thing before it happens, or if you’re just my friend who never gets to spend time with me and is looking for some insight into why I won’t answer my phone…

You can sign up to get emails from me here:

Google Groups
Subscribe to Sarah Dopp’s Brain
Email:
Visit this group

After you hit “Submit” above, Google will probably email you to make sure you really meant to do that. Just tell Google, “Yeah, I did,” and then you’ll be done with it. (And if you have any problems, tell me.)

In exchange for your consent, interest, and trust, I vow to:

  • …not send you things that feel impersonal or spammy.  If I’m sending you something, it’s because I think it really, really matters, and I will tell you exactly why.
  • …never ever ever sell/trade/share your email with others, or let anyone else hijack my list to use it for their own agenda.
  • …not email you more often than I think is respectful. That’s subjective, I know. In reality, it will probably only once a month or so — maybe less.  I’m not setting a schedule.  If it starts getting more frequent than that, I’ll be extra careful.
  • …keep it a one-way announcement list.  This isn’t a big huge discussion group. If you respond, you’ll be writing directly to me, not to everybody.
  • …never take it personally if you want to unsubscribe.  In fact, I probably won’t even know.  I don’t keep track of that stuff.

Past and current clients, friends, family members, genderfork fans, queer open mic regulars, conference acquaintances, former lovers, co-conspirators, and total strangers are all welcome.  Just remember: this is me talking about what I care about.  If you don’t share the same interests, you might not find this very exciting.

But if you do, you probably already think this is awesome.

(Sweet. Me too.)

Love,
Sarah