There's often bickering and conflict in any community about where to draw the boundaries for group membership. For the trans community, such as it is, one central debate is whether genderqueer people belong under the trans umbrella. Some trans folk believe that the boundary for who "counts" as trans should be easy to cross: anyone who self-identifies as trans on any basis that matters to them should be welcomed. Others define the "truly trans" around formal gender transition: anyone, genderqueer or binary in their identity, who seeks to take some transitional steps legally and/or medically can stand under the trans umbrella. Yet others are much more restrictive, seeing only binary gender-transitioners who transition surgically as "really trans," and others as confused people who deserve to stand out in the rain until they "make up their mind" and follow the medically-normalized, binary pathway to "sex change."
I'm inclusively-inclined, and don't feel marginalized communities do themselves any good by trying to define people out of the group. I hate it when people turn to a community for support, and instead face gatekeeping checks: "Prove you're intersex. Prove you're trans. Prove you're disabled. Prove you're Asian." So I accept as part of the trans community anyone who says they belong. However, I believe community membership entails duties to the community, and central among these are understanding the diversity within any community, recognizing one's own privileges, and working never to marginalize the most marginalized among us.
So it's from this position--full inclusion, celebration of gender diversity, and a demand that all of us be respectful to community members--that I address the issue of genderqueer people as members of the trans community.
I believe that sometimes genderqueer people are among the most marginalized of trans people, and other times, among the most privileged. As someone who ran the gauntlet of legal transition and seeking access to hormone therapy I can testify to the fact that this process is much more difficult for someone who tries to assert a genderqueer identity. I didn't have the strength to do it. I kept my lack of allegiance to the gender binary a secret and tried to answer all the gatekeeping questions in a traditionally masculine way and present myself as a standard guy. There's something very ironic in having to pass as something one is not (a manly, manly man) in order to be permitted to stop passing as something else one is not (a woman). And it makes passing through the gatekeeping system more complicated and nervewracking. However, I'm sure my experience was much easier than that of a person who tried to, say, assert a totally neutrois identity while seeking access to hormone therapy. I can but salute anyone who attempts to take the difficult path of seeking openly to transition to a nonbinary sex, and recognize that the barriers they face make them among the most marginalized of trans people.
At other times, however, genderqueer people are privileged in comparison to other trans folk. I acknowledge as having the right to trans community membership anyone who identifies with a gender other than one conforming to the sex they were assigned at birth. But it's important to distinguish between gender identity, gender presentation, and seeking to access gender transition services.
Anyone who doesn't identify with the gender society pushes on them suffers the pain of gender dysphoria. Our psychological suffering is equal and deep when we are misgendered by others, however we dress or groom ourselves and no matter what our transition status. A FAAB person who identifies as genderqueer but who presents as a gendernormative woman shares the emotional pain of a MAAB trans woman who has just come out at work when the two are called by the wrong pronoun by a customer. However, the material consequences are likely to be very different for the two individuals. The first person gets to go to work without facing transphobic harassment, while the second person's career is endangered.
There is a huge difference in the levels of harassment and marginalization faced in everyday life between those whose genderquerity is always visible to cis people and those who identify as genderqueer but who generally pass as cis people. Again, I can testify to this personally as a trans man who identifies as genderqueer but who is now often perceived by cis people to be a generic guy. I certainly enjoy wearing eyeliner and fishnets to a queer party, but most of the time I dress like a standard metrosexual male professor. I can teach, go shopping, attend my kid's school play and just go about my business. When my more androgynous trans woman spouse does the same things, she has to endure a barrage of stares and whispers and binary-enforcing confrontations ("Are you a dude or a chick?"). It's clear that because I can choose to present as genderconforming and I usually do, I am privileged. True, my privilege can evaporate in an instant when my trans status is revealed (and I've certainly had the experience of having a guy touch my chest and realize what I keep bound up in there). And there are plenty of circumstances in which I can't try to present as a cis man--any context requiring disrobing, for example. But by having the choice to be able to present as a binary man and by taking it, I enjoy privilege--albeit discreditable--that I need to acknowledge.
Genderqueer individuals who pass as cis people in a way that can't be discredited by a random touch enjoy even more privilege, and must acknowledge that too. People who are usually perceived by others to be members of the sex they were assigned at birth, whose ID cards all match that sex, and whose bodies present the expected genital configuration enjoy cis privilege. They may not want it, any more than I desire male privilege or white privilege, or any more than a MAAB individual who wishes to but is afraid to transition desires male privilege. But we all have to acknowledge each of the privileges we have, and how we benefit from them. To deny I get many privileges from being white would be racist. To deny I enjoy male privilege would be a sexist act. Not acknowledging one's privileges makes one complicit with marginalization.
An analogy: I had an acquaintance who identified as a person of color due to being Jewish. She was deeply aware of the fact that Jews were considered a “dark race” by Europeans a century ago, and how 6 million were exterminated as racial others in the Holocaust. She didn't identify with the experiences of Anglo Americans, and so she refused to check off “white” on forms and instead marked “other” and wrote in “Jewish.” She had an absolute right to identify as she did, and to seek to subvert our current definitions of race. But she was fair-skinned and blue eyed. When she would speak of her “experience as a person of color” and fail to distinguish between her lived experience in the contemporary United States and that of, say, a dark-skinned African American, I considered her way off base. She might not identify as white—but she enjoyed white privilege. By failing to acknowledge the difference between her nonwhite identity and the fact that her daily lived experience was one of a person perceived as white who was not trailed by store security, presumed to be in grad school due to affirmative action rather than merit, or any of the thousand other indignities faced by people of color, she was acting in a way I'd deem complicit with racism.
What I ask of genderqueer-identified people who are not seeking to transition legally and who pass as binary cis people in their ordinary daily lives is that you acknowledge the material cis privilege you enjoy, and how great it is, even if you suffer from the emotionally painful dysporia all trans people share. Don't equate your experiences as someone whose gender identification isn't reflected back to you by the cis masses to those of people who have gender transitioned and are often misgendered. Both of you may feel psychic pain, but the material consequences of the misgendering benefit a person who is not perceived as trans, and endanger a person who is. Use that privilege to speak up for your trans siblings and fight transphobia. But don't presume to judge a less privileged trans person who doesn't report an act of police harassment against them, or doesn't refuse to use the basement bathroom their boss orders them to use, or doesn't correct a teacher who misgenders them in front of a classroom full of people. Actions that may be safe for you may not be safe for them.
What I want from binary-identified trans people is that you accept genderqueer identities as equally valid gender identities. Don't presume that someone who says they are genderqueer is just "taking the easy way out" or "going through a stage." And please acknowledge that your genderqueer trans siblings who seek transition services are treading pathways even more difficult that your own, that put their access to transition services at risk if they refuse to keep their genderquerity in the closet.
What I want from everyone in the trans community, as a genderqueer-identified trans man, is that we do our best to walk under the trans umbrella together, being as careful as possible not to tread on one another's toes.