Like so many other gender non-conforming people I’ve grown accustomed to having to explain myself to others. My body has to come attached with a caption or else I am denied meaning. So many of us inhabit realities that are constantly regarded by both our cis and trans peers as too “complicated.” So many of us have to bear the burden of the theoretical, of being regarded as unpractical and idealistic. My interactions with media tend to be fraught and discouraging — from having to argue for the legitimacy of gender neutral pronouns, to defining “non-binary” — and even worse — “colonialism.” I’ve learned how to sort of tune out and resort to the political answering machine that I have pre-recorded in my head.
Recently I had the opportunity to work with a journalist who finally got it and I left our conversation in tears because for a moment — I think — I felt appreciated for my complicatedness.
I started think about what it would mean for us to acknowledge and appreciated our mutual complicatedness — to truly commit to the sticky and uncomfortable collage of history and feeling and body that constitute each and every one of our lives. The world I want is one in which we constantly transformed by one another’s complicatedness. The world I want is one in which we do not allow language to constrain all of our infinite possibilities. They tell us that our narratives have to be digestible but I wonder what parts of us are left after we have been consumed?
As gender non-conforming people we are rarely allowed to compose our own stories and feel our own feelings (let alone on our own terms). We have to continually make our stories and experiences referential — defining our narratives always in relation to the concepts people are more likely to understand and agree on like “woman” or “trans” or “minority.” So that every time I speak I am already mourning the things that I could not say. So that every time I am asked to “identify,” I am already compromising.
Today I began to think about what it would feel like not to have to be referential.
For the first time in an interview I was able to move beyond a word and actually speak about the “me,” that’s often buried beneath the layers of justification, theory, and history that I’m required to offer to even legitimize my existence. I also started to think about a world where gender non-conforming people are allowed to have our own stories and not have to define ourselves by *the* story that the media continually regurgitates: that our mere existence outside of the gender binary is either delusional or earth shattering (or both).
Because the truth is there is not one story for gender non-conforming people — there are hundreds of thousands. For so long we have had to cater and censor and edit our stories in order to be coherent to others. For so long we have had to filter our experiences with a language that was never meant for us. Our genders are stories that are constantly in flux — shifting, crescendoing, unraveling, screeching, pausing, rewinding.
You can’t stop the conversation about gender with a word. Knowing someone’s pronoun is not the same as knowing their story. Gender is not a destination but an invitation. It is an opening of a mouth. Let us continue speaking.
Grant us our complicatedness.