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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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?

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on gender inclusive language

Inclusion rhetoric often ends up re-inscribing the norm, rather than challenging it. For example: When we say gender non-conforming & non-binary people need to be “included” in feminism what ends up happening is that the core paradigms which created the exclusion in the first place are left un-checked and the same paradigm is just expanded to incorporate a few different bodies. It’s not enough to include us, you have to shift your analysis to challenge the gender & sex binary. So often non-binary and GNC people are accused of being “politically correct” when we ask for recognition, but actually we are just being correct (period.) The reality is that people who are not women get abortions. People who are not women experience gender based violence. This is our lived experience, not some postmodern conspiracy. We are not asking for language that respects this as a matter of principle, but as a matter of profound truth. When you just speak about gender justice as just “women’s rights” you are not addressing all the people going through the very issues you profess to care about. Calling for language that reflects reality isn’t about erasing women — it’s about making the work more precise & effective for everyone. Feminism benefits from a recognition that the non-consensual gendering of everything — including pregnancy — is a root cause of so many feminist issues. Fighting patriarchy with the gender binary is like fighting fire with fire. It doesn’t work and it just makes the problem even more dire. Listen to intersex, non-binary, and gender non-conforming perspectives not just to learn about “our” issues, but your own! All people deserve bodily autonomy, including the right to name their own identities, bodies, and experiences. There is a double standard operating that needs to be named: when people with power call for recognition it’s not seen as political correctness, it’s seen as a logical demand. When those of us without power call for it, it’s seen as us being overly-sensitive & distracting from the greater cause. This is misogyny.

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photograph from @hiwildflower campaign

photograph from @hiwildflower campaign

re-imagining body hair

the stories they tell about us, they are not our stories. oppression is about the organizing of stories: the narratives we are exposed to & the narratives that are deliberately & furtively concealed. there is nothing common about “common sense.” “common sense” is the consolidation of the feelings of powerful people made universal (& feelings are everything but democratic). reality then, is a political project. if you look behind the screen there is a protest happening (come & join). look harder & the protest is a dance party. harder & it’s us: we the people on the other side of shame. the screen is the shame. shame: the original instagram filter? narratives have always been material — as in, the words & images we make always have bodily consequences. when did we first learn that body hair was wrong, dirty, unhygienic? when we were primed to think that women & feminine people could not have beards? what images, what words, what stories facilitated this? this is why we need artists: to make different stories & images — to inundate us with different possibilities, flood us with them, until we realize we are not drowning we are — in fact — breathing for the first time. the stories they tell are about restricting our infinity. i want us to cherish our infinity. art is about world making. we are living simultaneously in different worlds, aren’t we? they see dirty, i see magnificence. my body hair is cursive written across my body: a love letter to you & me. it is my infinity: my renewable resource: a constant presence that keeps coming back when everything else, it leaves me. my arm hair is a built in blanket, my beard is a natural contour, my chest hair is a crop top. my body is so fabulous it accessorizes itself. my body is so beautiful that beauty, it spills out of me. it cannot be contained by this skin. for so long i was made to believe that i had no power. but then i thought about whose language i was speaking. i started to write poetry — another way of saying, i started to speak my own language — & then i looked at myself & i no longer saw dissonance, i saw something else. i saw this. do you witness what i do?

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art by @zhkdesigns

art by @zhkdesigns

body hair + transmisogyny

trans feminine people should not have to remove our body hair in order to have our genders respected. trans feminine people should not have to remove our body hair in order to be safe. the thing about gender norms is that they are always aspirational. almost no one actually looks like normative men or women. but norms circulate at a symbolic level that doesn’t take our lived experiences into consideration. people of all genders have body hair. there are women with lots of it and men with none of it. we continually rehearse the idea that “women are less hairy,” despite all of the evidence against it. this is because norms do not care about evidence, about the lives we are living, the bodies we inhabit. norms exist to make us feel as if we are never enough. we naturalize our lack, become fluent in it like it’s a language we have always know. but we are not lacking, we just are. .

the gender binary is a particularly insidious norm: we exaggerate differences between men & women & ignore differences among them in order to fabricate the myth of binary gender/sexual difference. the stakes of this are particularly high for transfeminine people. our bodies are where they come to draw the lines of binary gender, we are collateral for this project. when i first started my transition people told me i shouldn’t even try because i was so hairy that no one would believe me. but here’s the thing: there *are* hairy women & feminine people. there always have been & there always will be. trans feminine people are held to an impossible standard to *prove* gender, meaning: we are often coerced into having to adopt the most normative (read: white) standards of beauty & gender in order to be believed for what we already are. in this way it feels impossible to own our own bodies when we know that our appearances will be scrutinized to confirm their norms. every day i remind myself that body hair has no gender. the gender binary — a social & political construction — dupes us into believing that it does. this harms everyone, but especially us. especially us 💔

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race + policing body hair

policing of body hair has always been about race. the classification of body hair was foundational to defining race in the nineteenth century. in 1854 peter browne wrote Trichologia Mammalian in which he divided human species on the basis of hair. after Darwin (1859) race was often seen as an evolutionary continuum: racialized people were seen as closer to animals & white “civilized” people were seen as developing beyond us. body hair became seen as the lingering remains of animality/racial difference & removing body hair became a civilizational imperative. in 1876 the american dermatological association created a study on hypertrochosis — a medical condition to pathologize extensive body hair — & focused specifically on white women. white men became increasingly fixated on regulating white women’s physical appearances as a way to mediate anxieties about race. maintenance of white women’s proper physical appearance was about maintaining the “health” of the white race in the face of migration & racial unrest. magazines promoted models of hairless, white feminine beauty & campaigns talked about hair removal as “remedying evil” & removing racial markers. let me be clear about the implications of this: body hair is not “disgusting” because it’s “unhygienic,” but rather because it was & is still associated with racialized people. everyone should be able to do what they please with their body hair, but regarding those of us who don’t remove it as “unhygienic” is cultural racism. indeed, much of what has come to constitute “women’s beauty” & “women’s health” is actually about distancing from racial difference / gender non-conformity. yet another example of how gender is a racial construct & race is a gendered construct. for more info read “situated technology: meanings” by rebecca herzig.

art by @atsaidraws

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non-binary isn't new

There have been gender variant people for hundreds of years prior to the advent of western science. Requiring trans people to take hormones or have surgery to be “real,” is a form of cultural racism which invisibilizes thousands of diverse gender systems, transition rituals, & bodily practices from across the world. Let’s be clear: a racialized aesthetic of gender (read: white masculinity & white femininity) are being made to appear as natural & universal, when they are cultural & particular. White womanhood & white manhood are being generalized as “woman” & “man,” even though there have been & continue to be millions of people expressing out of these racial norms. “Gender non-conformity” only exists because you are evaluating (surveilling) our bodies with a white gender & sex binary. We aren’t “failing” to look like men/women/trans, we are existing outside of your particular white cultural definitions of masculinity & femininity. This is part of a historical project of disciplining racialized peoples into white gender binaries. Policing of gender non-conformity has & continues to be part of the colonial project of making gender & sex binary. They say that there are only two genders & sexes, but they don’t tell you about the work they do to kill, criminalize, disappear, and discredit everyone who exists outside the binary all the while delegitimizing our knowledge systems. Sex & gender are complicated & diffuse entities which vary among bodies and collapsing them into a bifurcated model of male/female is a recent cultural/racial project, not some fixed & ahistoric “biology.” This hierarchy we create of “scientific” or “medical knowledge” as an authoritative & dominant over all other ways of knowing & being is part of a long history of discrediting and erasing Black, indigenous, & PoC cosmologies. The “scientific knowledge” that gets used against us was produced by white people (often by forced experimentation on racialized people) as a means to justify their cultural worldview. Rather than accounting for this, trans politics has largely perpetuated it: establishing hierarchies of the real that reject gender non-conformity as failure. This must stop.

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