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photoshoots make me feel safe

the world i feel safe. the presence of a camera makes people more comfortable with me. transmisogyny means that most people just see me as a costume — as if i am playing dress up for some sort of event or production. the camera makes people feel like this is ephemeral, something that i can take off and go back to “normal.” the camera makes them more able to consolidate me into their world view: oh it’s for some art project, some film, something... there always needs to be an explanation, a context. gender non-conformity is never allowed to just be, to exist in its own terms. we are always made into a spectacle. when people ask me what i want what i am fighting for us actually quite simple: to be. to be.

dress: @flintjmcdonaldmakeup:@ogrebabe photo: @matthewarthurwilliams


paradoxical lives

our lives are paradoxical. we are lonely together. we hate what we love. we fear what sets us free. we hurt to heal. we find ourselves through finding other people. paradoxes are invitations to new paradigms. there are no inconsistencies here, there are just opportunities to re-imagine. it took other people seeing me in order for me to see myself. we come into ourselves by coming to one another. we need each other to get free. we need each other to get free.

 Portrait by Mathew Arthur Williams (Glasgow 2018)

Portrait by Mathew Arthur Williams (Glasgow 2018)

we connect through difference

after performing this person came up to me & said that they cried for themselves through crying for me & i was so touched. i started writing poetry to send an SOS to the world like does anyone else out there understand that something had gone very wrong? does anyone else feel this way: like everyone is just playing pretend, like you love & miss everyone even the people you never met, like you keep on being told you are too much because people are afraid of their abundance? most of the time i feel lonely & like the type of intimacy i yearn for in the world feels impossible. & when i say intimacy i mean the borders between people irrelevant — like that stranger is my potential friend, like i do not know them but i love them. but there are moments like this person tonight saying where i remember that i have found my people: the honest people. the messy people. the too-much people. the naive people. the people who can’t do small talk at parties people. the people who are trying to remember something else: a way of relating to one another rooted in kindness and transformation, humor and vulnerability, depth and superficiality (!). & so it’s hard really performing in front of crowds when all i want to do is take everyone out for soy hot chocolate and fall in love again and again as we talk about our daddy issues & how old we were when we learned how to tie our shoes & experienced our first death & skinned knee. one of the first rules of writing i teach is that the more specific you are the more universal it resonates. the paradox is we connect through difference. so i want everyone to have a microphone & an audience & a chance to scream & cry & laugh — to have people say yeah i get it the world is falling apart but you are wonderful and make me wish it wasn’t. so when i feel lonely i remember the people in the audiences: think about their heartbreak & coffee breaks & missed connections. think about their moms & their moms, and their secrets & exes. think about their indigestion & to-do lists, their Netflix cues & favorite recipe. i think about how different we are & how we are all the same. how many words we have created to pretend this isn’t the case.

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why i love workshops

it’s always hard for me to come up with names or descriptions for workshops. workshops are where we come to figure “it” out together. and by “it” i mean our heartbreak, our daddy issues, our dysphoria, our craft. i learned long ago that school often doesn’t work because we are told that the “teachers” are the “experts,” and we are told that the “personal” is irrelevant. but shouldn’t learning warrant a scream or a dance or a poem? shouldn’t learning mean we are all experts & teachers & students at the same time? workshops is where we go to talk about the things we are not supposed to talk about — to figure out how to have a body, how to love a body, how to treat a body. truth be told i am terrible at doing things alone. i couldn’t tie my shoe until thirteen, i burn pasta, i don’t take breaks & i have been procrastinating on taking care of myself for 27 years. which is another way of saying workshops are where we bring all of that to each other say, “here is where i am at. can you help me?” workshops are where we remember intimacy & make friends in a world that have digitized them both. in other words: workshops are where we resist loneliness, practice need, remember how to trust. i don’t know who i would be or hell even if i would be if it wasn’t for strangers i met at workshops who said “i do not know you but i love you, let’s try, fail, and try again.” workshops are for trying. and here i am at another airport trying to communicate how i fell in love with a group of strangers like they were my best friends for three hours on an afternoon in Cape Town where we laughed and cried and probably farted and sneezed, too. and in those three hours i didn’t feel lonely. i didn’t feel lonely.

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they love their power more than they love us

they say that they love us but they only care when we are thriving. they say that they love us, but they do not care we are dying. they say that they love us, but they only celebrate us on stages, ignore us off of them. to be brown & gender non-conforming & queer & femme is to be reduced to a metaphor, a symbol, a meme for the collective empowerment. is to only matter for entertainment value. is to be laughed at & beaten & disappeared. is to not be allowed to talk about it. they say that they love us but they only love us when we are triumphant. but what happens when we no longer can? what happens when we reserve our energy for ourselves? they said that they loved us but then they called us bitchy, selfish, narcissistic. they said they loved us but then they called us ungrateful, predators, freaks. we want them to love us so we forget that when they tried to hug us their hands ended up around our necks instead. we want them to love us so we pretend that we are strong. to be us is to be unreciprocated. is to give & give & give and have them run & run & run and have them take & take & take all of our magic and have them forget & forget & forget your name. they say that they love us but they love their power more than they love us. & so we find our own: we, the unreciprocated. we: the people we have been taught to hate. but are remembering how to love.

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gender non-conforming people are the vanguard of fashion

trans & gender non-conforming people of color have always been the vanguard of style, beauty, and fashion. it’s just that our aesthetics made it into the covers, not our actual bodies. our aesthetics are decontexualized from our (gender)queerness — whitewashed & ciswashed — to make “mainstream culture.” queer culture is not fringe, it is the mainstream darling! the ways we style & adorn ourselves are deeply and inextricably linked to our self-birthing & perseverance in a world that constantly punishes us for being. our fabulosity is a tactic to generate self worth in a world that regards us as disposable. rather than waiting for the white/cis beauty & fashion industries to acknowledge & tokenize us, fetishize us as *new* — even though we have always been there (behind the scenes as makeup artists, designers, stylists, hair dressers, mood boards, culture) — we are doing it by ourselves for ourselves!

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my gender is my race is my gender

shuffling between family dinners & queer parties, disparate spaces & paradigms, where often it feels like all the indian people are cis & all the queer people are white. the collapse of history & language & memory that engenders this moment. the relentless & exhaustive ritual of asserting that we have always been — to the white queers who call their genders new, and the indians who call heteronormativity home. but i know my gender is my race is my gender is my family is my queers is my soiled makeup wipes in the car on the way to my mother is my lipstick, fecund, ready to bloom on the way back.

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nonbinary is the present

Nonbinary people are not just the *future* we are the present! Relegating us to the future erases how we are here NOW living & creating. It absolves people of their complicity in our active erasure. We are not theoretical or metaphorical, we are real! With little to no institutional support we design our own fashion & make our own media & write our own scripts because the beauty & entertainment industry remain wedded to the #fakenews that there are only two genders & sexes. What (little) progress trans representation has made has been by appealing to the gender binary & actively suppressing gender non-conformity. All the while our aesthetics are mined for the mainstream while our bodies continue to be maligned. We are not the problem — a society which disappears & demonizes gender non-conformity is! When will you see images of us beyond your news feeds? When will you see us beyond your jokes & memes & projections? When will you recognize our beauty, our history, and our worth? We have been here. Now it’s time for you to catch up darling.

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affirmations for trans & nonbinary people

there is no such thing as “fake trans” or not being trans “enough.”

gender is not necessarily what we look like, it is so much more expansive than our appearance. there are infinite ways to be & your narrative and body belong to you. harassment, discrimination, and violence are very real so no one has the right to judge you for the decisions you make regarding visibility & safety.

you do not have to take hormones, have surgery, change your name in order for your identity to be legitimate. you do not always have to have known, you do not have to dress a certain way, you do not have to wear makeup (or not wear makeup).

there is no one way to transition, there is just your way!

clothing, shoes, accessories, makeup, hair, pronouns, names should mean what you want them to mean, not what other people say. you are allowed to be confused, you don’t always have to have known. you can change your mind, your identity, your pronouns any time you feel like it.

i love & admire how complex you are & how you contain multitudes. you do not have to downplay your masculinity for your femininity to be legitimate; you do not have to compromise your femininity for your masculinity to be legitimate.

you are not a fad, trend, or aesthetic. there have always been people like us. you are not an imposter, joke, or prop. you are not a delusion, burden, or mistake. you are not a problem — the gender binary is. you are not a joke — gender norms are. you deserve people in your life who experience you for you & respect you for your entirety.

you are the way you are & that’s enough! 

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perfection is loneliness

i am ignorant & superficial & sentimental (& that is my intelligence). i am insecure & needy & scared (& that is my strength). i am confused & contradictory & chaotic (& that is my truth). i am imperfect & irrational & insufficient (& that is my beauty). i do not know who i am. i do not know what i am doing. but what i do know is that i am honest. which means what i do know is that i need you. which means what i do know is i don’t want to be perfect because that would mean i didn’t need you. what i do know is i don’t want to be perfect because that would mean i didn’t need you. 

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alternatives to "you're beautiful"

things to say to femmes after we tell you about being harassed that are not “you are beautiful”

1) i am sorry that this world punishes you for existing.
2) this is unjust & unacceptable.
3) i will fight for you.
4) what support can i provide you with right now?
5) here is what i can do right now:
6) i will do my best to combat (trans)misogyny everywhere
7) this is not your fault
8) this is not about your appearance, it’s about their hatred.
9) you do not have to endure this alone.
10) how are you getting to your next destination? can i support you in getting there?
11) i will try my best to make you feel safe.
12) i am here to vent, cry, process, strategize, hold you.
13) you shouldn’t have to change what you look like in order to be safe.
14) you are so much more than your body.
15) you are so much more than your body.

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