never their own, always his

on my way home after a pride party i stopped to pick up some fruit for a midnight snack. i was wearing makeup + a dress, but that should be irrelevant to this story or any story about gender based violence. it’s not about what we wear, it’s about what they do. why is the focus always on our appearance, never their hands? i handed the shop keeper $1 for 4 bananas. he asked me if i had a penis. it was over 85 degrees outside but i froze. i am alone. it is dark. there are several blocks to my house. if i say something what if he attacks me? if i walk away what if he attacks me? if i don’t answer what if he attacks me? they keep calling me brave but i would rather be safe than that. so i smiled. this is what i do: i smile & keep quiet. i hope that this submission will allow me to leave. it is a sacred art form i learned from my mother who learned from hers who learned from hers. i learned early on how to charm to disarm. i carved this smile from stone. “do you have breasts?” it was past midnight. i had just come back from a pride celebration. at dinner i had talked about how rather than strategizing against public harassment, the lgbtq movement has conceded that we have to conform to gender binary to be safe. i talk about harassment & then i get harassed. visibility is traumatic. it is exhausting. it is the opposite of a party. no it is being at the party & watching people celebrate a victory you have never felt. it is being the only one who looks like you. not by circumstance, but by design. it is a Pride catalyzed by gender non-conforming trans femmes that continues to push us out. is this what it means to be out? not to be free, but to be made a freak? “are you a girl or a boy? i said “both.” then he reached to touch my chest. i ran out with the bananas. i only remembered to breathe when i got home. the bananas, they were stale. my mouth, it was dry. they stayed up all night sweating on a dance floor & i stayed up all night sweating on my bed. to each his own. never their own, always his. always his.

support the writer

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 4.04.08 PM.png

their glee, our impossible grief

panic attacks during pride. a new genre, an archival feeling. struggling to stay afloat alongside the floats. most lonely at parties. their glee, our grief. being harassed during pride month has an extra kind of sting to it. it’s not just adding insult to injury, it is also adding injury to insult. it is the injury as insult and the insult as injury. it is a movement unconcerned with our movement from point A to B. i look up + see so many rainbow flags. i look across + see so many people laughing at me. they keep talking about progress + i am just trying to get to the next building without being assaulted. rather: i am trying to get through the building without being assaulted. rather: i am trying to use the bathroom without being assaulted. every time i go outside i feel hunted. so hunted that the chase, it continues on the inside. my blood races. my chest, shivers. where can we rest? what is rest? the impact that this has on my body/mind is tremendous + soul/tissue/joint/disc/tendon/bone/dream crushing. it’s hard not to feel defeated by the daily ness of it all. how accustomed i have become to the pain. but that is their world & we are creating a different one. it’s not quite our own yet, but we have dreams here. we live in dreams, from dreams, with dreams. there is always simultaneity. multiple stories. and all of them are true. and all of them are not. today i choose to also tell the one of my hairy belly being embraced the sun. the one of my smile emerging from yet another sleepless night — like that stubborn sun, how it comes back somehow. the one where i walk outside in this city of unrequited love & ask it to love me back. the impossibility of that. the impossibility of this. the impossibility of me. we the possible impossible. the story of we — the possible impossible.

support the writer

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 3.59.21 PM.png

everything is modified

interrupt the narrative that we have a fixed destiny & trajectory on the basis of our bodies. the body never exists in isolation from culture. this idea of a “pure innate body” outside the matrix of social relations that give the body its meaning has long been used to justify racism & misogyny: ie the eugenicist notion that racialized & gendered people are innately primed for violence/degeneracy/predation/hysteria. this isolation facilitates the normalization of gross inequality which produces our disparate life chances & outcomes. social, cultural, and political factors physically shape & manipulate our bodies & lives. disrupt the hierarchy of “innateness” as more valid/real/truthful than “modification.” these polarities & dualities are false, misleading, and constructions themselves. everything is modified. everything is influenced. everything is connected. why is it when individuals take modification into our own hands it becomes a problem, but when governments disproportionately allocate resources it’s not? this is about power, not purity. or rather: purity is always about power. innate bodies are not as pure as they posture themselves. we are all influenced, contaminated, co-constituted, melded, shaped, co-produced. this continual intermingling of bodies, technologies, histories, sciences, artifacts is one of the only constants of life itself.

support the writer

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 3.57.02 PM.png

cis/heterosexuality is not the origin

we do not have an innate predisposition to be straight and cis. the most organic & original form of our body is not cis or straight. cis/straight people are not more natural or innate than we are. i have always been queer, always been non-binary, i was forcibly put into straightness & manhood and then told that these ways of existing were the innate & only ways to be. this pride let us commit to decentering cis/heterosexuality as the origin, the prototype, the norm. it is not: the idea that heterosexuality & the gender binary is innate is not a biological fact, it is a political construction that delegitimizes queer & trans people.

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 3.55.30 PM.png

double standards of transmisogyny

transmisogyny lives in the double standard. the things they say about us they would never get away with saying about cis women. the things cis women believe about us they would never believe about cis women. telling non-binary people that we do not exist is a form of sexism. dismissing the forms of discrimination we experience is a form of misogyny. mocking the way we look is a form of patriarchy. at a fundamental level gender variant people are still having to fight for the right to exist in a world that requires us to be binary in order for us to be real/legitimate/worthy. how are we going to be believed for the violence we experience if at a fundamental level they don’t even believe that we are real? i am heartbroken not only for being tormented every day on the basis of my appearance, but also by people not believing it is happening. or rather: people believing it & being okay that it happens. they tell me that people don’t harass me because of my gender but because i have “bad style.” they go out of their way to suggest that it is my fault that i look like this (why would anyone want to look like this?) that because i look like this i am asking for it. the double standard. that what makes me the most sad: that i can say almost every where i go in the world i am afraid of being bashed for looking like myself. and for us to go on as if nothing were wrong. business as usual. the unremarkable tragedy of living when you are marked for dying. if you believed that gender non-conforming people were legitimate this would not be okay. the constant mockery we face would not be okay. this administration gutting protections against us would not be okay. scapegoating us for your anxieties, projecting on us would not be okay. how do you survive being the visible invisible? how do you live when you know that the world would rather you dead? you find & make your kin. you mourn the dead & fight like hell for the living. you refuse to go do quietly. you wail like the wind is yours. because maybe it is. you have always been that which they do not see. but feel.

support the writer

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 3.52.47 PM.png

my body belongs to me, not heteronormativity

Heteronormativity is different than heterosexuality. Heteronormativity is when heterosexuality is assumed to be the normal default for everyone, it is fortified and naturalized by institutions like media, schools, healthcare, etc. Heteronormativity is a cultural lens which makes us recruit everyone and everything into it. The opinion — not fact or “biological truth” — that all people are inherently predisposed to heterosexuality needs to be ended. So far mainstream lgbt politics has not posed a challenge to heteronormativity, but has instead participated in it for legitimacy. This opinion makes it so that we have to “come out” as anything other than straight, but more insidiously it maps on to our bodies and instrumentalizes all of their parts in service of heteronormativity. What I am saying is that the only way we are taught to view our bodies is insomuch as their heteronormative reproductive capacity. This is why trans exclusionary feminists dismissing trans women & trans femmes on the basis of our parts and “inability to give birth” is not okay. The gender binary exists because of heteronormativity. Institutions produce two distinct & oppositional genders & sexes as part of the project of heteronormativity. This is why the dismissal of non-binary people is so absurd and contradictory: you say that you aren’t straight but you are still thinking straight!! What would happen if rather than seeing gender non-conformity as something that we transition into, we see it as something we already were and were disciplined out of? What would happen if we didn’t see gender non-conforming people as an aberration or an exception, but instead recognize that we are inherently outside of the binary...and we become binarized? This is why I am skeptical of the rhetoric of transition. I did not become something new, I reclaimed what was. I re-assumed the form of my body outside of heteronormativity. I design clothes & model & remain visible to document what this ongoing process looks like: what it means to attempt to live a life that celebrates creativity not conformity. One in which my body belongs to me, not heteronormativity.

support the writer

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 3.50.18 PM.png

anatomy is possibility

our bodies are not fixed & static — they are in perpetual motion, oozing & tap dancing outside of the words that we use to confine them. there is no one sequence to its choreography. there are infinite. how dare they speak of the body as if it is stuck? how dare they use it to justify their bigotry they disguise as biology? how dare they make me my body? my body is greater than me. and i am greater than my body. our bodies are not confined by skin, they are tremendous & worldly. they constantly spill over & outside, they find intimacy & allegiance with everything — utterly polyamorous. i am currently occupying more space than vision & reason & logic can allow you to see. (so are you). i created this garment because i wanted to expand the contour of my body. my body it shimmers. incandescent & prone to spontaneous creation.
support the writer

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 3.47.53 PM.png

anatomy is not destiny

the lines of where we draw a body are cultural & particular, not fixed and universal. So often heteronormativity shames queer & trans people as “lacking” the appropriate kind of anatomy. But this neglects the magic of queer & trans people. We redefine the borders & boundaries of our anatomy. We use technologies to expand, confine, edit, hack, emancipate our embodiment. We are deeply ambivalent about the borders we inherit — the ones between us & our happiness, us & our people, us & our genders. In this way: we reject the myth of anatomy as destiny. We reject the moral & cultural foregrounding of our births as the only point of origin. We originate new bodies & new births every day. We make our own origin stores. Transition was giving birth to myself was forging my own anatomy. This is why we are so persecuted. In a world that is death dealing, we are life giving. They mark us as lacking the ability to create life, of having the “wrong” anatomy. But what kind of life are they living when they cannot appreciate our abundant anatomical joy?

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 3.46.27 PM.png

sex + gender beyond the body

conventional western frameworks which rely on a sex/gender split have never and will never map onto my experiences. the idea that gender is “cultural” & exterior and sex is “biological” & interior neglects how biological sex is also cultural. the sex/gender split relies on a particularly western historical conception of the body as individually bounded and enclosed by skin, “the body proper.” in this particular worldview clothing is something that we put onto the body, it is not part of the body itself. in many other cosmologies adornment is not supplementary to the body, it is foundational to its constitution. the lines of where animate & inanimate, deadness & aliveness, object & subject are not given, they are produced & maintained. this is not costume, it is my being. i am not dressing up as, i am being myself. i am enmeshed in my surrounding, not isolated from it. there are so many other more ambitious & i think more beautiful understandings of embodiment. gender variant people are punished for our insistence on a different & vibrant embodiment. my being surpasses my body proper. the objects that i adorn myself with become myself. the sex/gender split & the western body proper require policing to work. in the US it used to be illegal to wear articles of clothing different than your assigned “sex.” they would throw gender variant people like me into prison under charges of “cross dressing” and “female impersonation.” sometimes people would even be criminalized for just wearing makeup “female impersonation from the neck up.” but my transcestors they continued to dress as themselves by which i mean their commitment to the look was about a different imagination of the body. they were saying this makeup, this clothing, is integral to my personhood, not separate from it. they were saying my essence does not have to be internal & contained within — it flows outside into the public, or rather the very idea of inside/outside is already the problem to begin with. my spirit cannot & will not be divided into inside/outside, exterior/interior, private/public. when i get dressed i become myself. this is my corporeality.
support the writer

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 3.44.37 PM.png

trans is natural

when the british imposed sodomy laws they criminalized homosexuality because it was “against the order of nature.” they would forcibly strip “women’s clothes” off of gender variant people & force them into “men’s clothes.” they did this in the name of hygiene, in the name of protecting nature. colonialism shaped what we have come to understand as natural & unnatural. it naturalized heterosexuality & a binary gender system making it seem like the only option, not one of many options. it minimized the millions of forms of intimacies required to create & sustain life outside & beyond normative heterosexuality. gender variant people — who had long maintained an intimate relationship with nature — were demonized and made to seem foreign & threatening. we see the legacy of this in mainstream feminism which continues to uphold cis women’s bodies as natural and trans feminine bodies as wrong & disorderly. what is natural isn’t given, it’s a political decision. heteronormativity is naturalized by discrediting, delegitimizing, & ultimately disappearing intersex & gender variant people. in order for their nature to work we have to be eliminated. our existence is threatening insomuch as we gesture to another world outside of heteronormativity’s grip. we model & template forms of living that exceed the confines of their natural. we ambition beyond the manipulation of our bodies in the service of a security that is so tenuous & brittle it breaks with the slightest view of our artful becoming. it is so important that we reclaim the natural that they weaponize against us. that we remember that gender & sexual plurality & fluidity is natural. that there are as many bodies as there are bodies. infinite expression, variability, transformation. this is my NATURAL.

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 3.42.58 PM.png

keeping trans at a distance

so much of trans & gender non-conforming acceptance is accompanied by a simultaneous distancing. cis people are ok with accepting “trans issues” as something separate from them, but once TGNC people get too close to home & they have to reconsider their language/practices then we become “too much” & we are put back in our “rightful” place (the stage, the other bathroom, the private) & time (pride, TDOR, history/future never present). the grammar of anti-trans violence is cis inconvenience. our existence requires them to reflect & dream more expansively & that is a terrifying prospect in a world where perception of security comes from conformity. when we speak about our experiences they are regarded as a threat not an invitation to another way to live. we are only allowed to speak about our issues as “trans issues,” when we express them as women’s issues or racial justice issues we are seen as infringing on terrain that is not ours. in the cis imagination TGNC people are already always latent threat: one that requires daily maintenance to keep at bay. so they monopolize the rhetoric of the natural to displace us elsewhere: outside science, outside woman, reason, public, truth. it’s the intimate mirrored institutional: “i accept trans people, but i would never want to look like or be perceived as them.” it’s not enough to only regard TGNC life when it’s convenient. in fact, it’s most important to precisely when it is inconvenient. during groundswells of empathy & action, whose bodies are trampled beneath? what blooms from our submergence?

support the author

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 3.39.24 PM.png