TW: police brutality, racism
TRIGGER WARNING: We don’t live in a world with accurate media representation of trans people. If our invisibility and/or abysmal media representation triggers you, this piece may not be fab to read. Also, mention of misgendering and discriminatory transitions in schools/workplaces.
Wouldn’t it be kind of rad if a TV show portrayed trans lives, coming out and being out and living trans lives, in a suspense/drama style? It would have to happen in an alternate universe, where enough people cared enough about trans lives to want to consume the challenges we face in a popcorn-crunching, candy-gnashing thriller manner, complete with suspenseful music. Let’s be real, our lives are ripe for consuming and processing conflict and strife, overcoming challenges, and all the other stuff of slightly tacky TV.
I mean, it wouldn’t have to be tacky TV, but that’s how I’m imagining it right now… This could be a break scene in between a suspenseful moment of a person who has been birth-named after announcing their real name:
[SCENE: A darkened room. Two figures enter the room in dark trench coats, with large-brimmed black hats over their eyes, and sunglasses. They lean towards each other slightly and use low voices.]
Person 1: How’s the name change procedure going in Workplace A?
Person 2: The usual. She just got birth-named.
Person 1: It’s time to bring on the special forces.
Person 2: No, let’s start with the Initial Surge Plan—education.
Person 1: Well, be quick about it. Lives are on the line. In School J, we’re already taking executive action.
Person 2: I know what’s at stake. Godspeed.
Person 1: Godspeed to you, too.
The whole show would be interspersed with lush, close-up, dramatic scenes of basic trans lives and challenges. I’m sure a lot of it would be related to trans oppression, but I think I would particularly enjoy this show if it also talked about the daily struggle to make coffee in the morning, cook eggs with your sweetie, floss your teeth, tie your shoes, and get off of the computer in a timely enough manner to get to bed.
[SCENE: Back in the darkened room.]
Person 1: Bed at midnight again?
Person 2: I know, and zie has to get up at 5am.
Person 1: What kind of state are trans lives coming to?
I mean, for real, sometimes that stuff is a daily struggle. I was talking with my mom earlier today, who just doesn’t get a lot of this. She was trying to tell me to have a more positive attitude about the discrimination I’m facing, because my attitude is the one thing I can change. I told her that for many trans people, getting through the day is an accomplishment. She did come around a bit then and congratulated me on getting through my day.
Of course, trans representation in the media is often on cheesy TV shows, but it certainly is not usually as humanizing or sympathetic. Or it doesn’t portray us as alive or happy for very long. We need a show on our own terms, a show that displays all of these things, complete with cheesy music and a tinny intro tune. The range of our lives, on a weekly corny TV drama.
Or not. But at least I would be laughing in the back of the theater.
TW: transphobia, binarism, coming out
You all, being out is exhausting some days. It is a hard, long, heartbreaking slog. I remember when I was first finding words for my gender and reading about how rainbowgenderpunk wore name and pronoun tags everywhere, insisting that people respect their gender identity.
I was completely impressed and astonished at how rainbowgenderpunk went out into the world every day, insisting on being recognized for themself. Some trans people do not have this choice–some trans people simply do not pass as a cis person of either binary gender. They can’t revoke their own passing privilege with a nametag–they just live it, every day.
I pass as a gender-non-conforming cis woman, most of the time. It’s a wrong assumption, but it’s what people see when they see me: a queer woman. Just typing that makes me feel dysphoric. Coming out has meant dismantling that assumption whenever I am able/comfortable. And, the longer I am out, the more I clarify my gender in a larger amount of places and with more people. The longer I am out, the more I have the courage and confidence to insist on my right pronouns with people who already know them.
Now that I have been out publicly for a whole… hm, 3 or 4 months, I have to say that the excitement has worn off. The glow, if there was any, is gone. The apprehension and anxiety of “Will they accept me?” has changed to the apprehension and anxiety of “Should I be the ‘good trans person’ or the ‘angry trans person’ today?” The question is never, “Will my voice be heard and respected today?” This has become my real life, and it’s hard to swallow.
A friend of mine asked me this weekend, “Do you want to fight?” I said “no” with the core of my being. No, I do not want to fight. I do not want to fight for a space in this world where I can be myself. I do not want to fight, but I have no choice. I must fight, in almost every space I am, every minute of every day. I have some havens, unlike many trans people. I have friends who are totally affirming–I’ve ditched the ones that aren’t. But outside of that small circle, the world erases my existence over and over, and I am pushing so hard to keep myself intact.
I wish I could choose when to turn on my fight, at least, but that is not an option. I wish I could find a job where I was physically and mentally safe. Maybe that will happen. Settling into non-binary social transition means apprehensive faces on the people that have heard about you, but don’t know what to do with you. It means faces that have turned from friendly warmth, from asking how you are doing and how your job is going, to an “Um, hi.” Coming out means being seen as angry when you ask for people to call you by the right words. Coming out means no matter how good a worker you are, how fancy your resume, you will be unemployable.
Because coming out as non-binary means coming out as a revolutionary. There is no other option. I am radical, and I care about our movement, but I want to take off the cloak once in a while. I want to just be me.
Here, though, we are revolutionaries, day in and day out. We are revolutionaries when we insist on respect, over, and over, and over. We insist daily on what others have for granted. We are revolutionaries, too, when we simply keep on breathing. We are revolutionaries by being here in this world, this world that has erased us over and over into dust, still stuck in rubbery threads to the page. We are revolutionaries when we stay stuck to that page no matter how they try to brush us off. When we slowly, slowly, piece ourselves together from the indentations that were left by those that came before.
We are, too, revolutionaries if we never come out. Coming out–and then being out–is the hardest shit, sometimes, a lot of the time. Being yourself and alive inside of your skin–no one even knowing–that is a radical act. Because once you are out, you can never stop fighting.
Who are you when you transition to “neither” or to “both”? What are the social expectations for non-binary people? We talk about transitioning to male or female and what the jarring disorientation of that looks like–but what happens when we insist on non-binary gender?
Our experiences vary even more widely than for binary social transition. Please feel free to share your own stories, here or on your own blogs. Keep on going, keep on going, whether you only live on the private insides of your skin or you wear a nametag every day or you wake up fully visible as trans or non-binary. You are giving love to yourself and love to your community every time you wake up.
Thank you. The world does not thank you, but I do. Thank you for sticking tight to the pages of the world, and filling in the painstaking drawings of our lives, again and again and again.
…And stay tuned for Part II, where we get out of the downer end of things and into some highlights of my own coming-out process. AKA “In Which Coming Out Is Actually OK Sometimes.”
TW: binary clothes shopping experience, suppression of gender expression at work
I was certain for weeks that I wanted to be a ninja turtle for Halloween. I haven’t actually seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a long time, but somehow all the new-movie advertising reached the insides of my pop-culture-insulated cave, and I remembered them and thought they were cool. A random person at a party informed me I was Donatello, as I chose “bookish” as the best adjective for me. A teacher I used to work with offered up one of her kid’s old ninja turtle shells. Things were set. I haven’t had an opportunity to wear a costume in a few years, so I was pretty excited.
Then this past Extra Hellish Week rolled around, and I didn’t have time to find a costume until today. I haven’t been expressing anything particularly frilly at work, because I don’t want anyone saying, “See?? I told you you were a girl!” It might sound odd, but even though I only sometimes wear “boyish” things, and never really identify as masculine or butch (or feminine or femme for that matter), and certainly don’t want to be seen as a butch woman, I’d rather be read as gender non-conforming in some way than not at all—even though, right now, I’d probably more consistently say that if I had to be perceived in a binary fashion, “fancy boy” would be what I’d prefer.
The result, though, of suppressing all other expressions at work except “dapper,” “bookish,” “flashy,” and, sometimes, “surfer dude,”—basically, suppressing my fairy/pansy self and my glam “lady” side—is that I have become increasingly desperate to express those parts of myself whenever I can. Usually meaning, whenever I care less about if people see me as a girl, or if I feel like most people around me won’t make assumptions about my gender.
So I suppose that I shouldn’t have been too surprised this morning when I woke up, and after the usual half-hour of what-to-wear panic, I determined that I wanted to be something frillier for Halloween. By the time I got off of work, I knew I wanted to buy all the flouncy, sparkly fabrics on Halloween sale at the fabric store, and safety-pin them together. (I haven’t sewed anything since our pillow-sewing project in seventh grade.)
After walking through the girls’ section and sheepishly trying on too-tight XL Frozen and My Little Pony shirts, and bemoaning the fact that people only seem to put glitter on “girls’” clothing, I wandered through the too-cute toddler dresses and high tops, wishing myself baby-sized again. By the time I tried on a girls’ pink flouncy dress that didn’t button in the back, and saw at least 30 princess Halloween dresses, I knew what I wanted to be: a fairy princess. The problem was, I wanted to be this 20 years too late, according to society. At the Halloween store, they even had a unicorn costume! And a RAINBOW FAIRY costume! But only for people 8 years old and under, or for very small others.
I am just small enough to be tempted by some of these costumes, but no luck. I am still cobbling together some sort of costume (I vetoed the LED-light tutu because it was $30, and I did get some girls’ rainbow fairy wings), but it’s looking like my dreams of full fairy-princess glory will have to be put off for some other time. Why do “women’s” fancy dresses come only in darker, more “dignified” colors? What, may I ask, is wrong with bright pink, lavender, and tulle? I am here to demand glittery clothes in all sizes! Go glitter or go home!
Just some basic fashion questions here on Genderqueer-oween. If you celebrate, hope you all have a genderfabulous evening!
TRIGGER WARNING: cissexism, trans exclusion in “women’s” spaces, binarism, suicide statistics
Cis women do not have a monopoly on gender-based oppression.
Let me say this again, louder: CIS WOMEN DO NOT HAVE A MONOPOLY ON GENDER-BASED OPPRESSION.
One thing we talk about is how any oppressed group has a “dominant”–a more discussed–subset. In the case of gender-based oppression, it can be tricky to determine who has the most privilege. There are all sorts of gender-based privileges: cis passing privilege, the privilege of passing as your actual gender, binary privilege, cisgender privilege, male privilege, masculine privilege. Many or most people who experience gender-based oppression also hold one or more of these privileges.
What is very clear, however, is that the movement for gender rights that has the most institutional power is the movement for cisgender women’s rights. I’m not saying they have a lot of institutional power. I’m not saying they have it as good as cis men. I’m not saying any of that. I’m not trying to say that sexism against cis women is unreal. All I’m saying is that they don’t have a monopoly on gender-based oppression–yet they have a near-monopoly on the resources and spaces to combat it.
There are times when any and every subset of people that face gender-based oppression need their own space, or their own moment to speak out against wrongs done to them. Closed spaces are important. However, there are times when closed spaces become exclusive spaces. There are times when that closedness is oppressive.
It is oppressive many of the times that cisgender women close their doors to anyone else facing gender-based oppression. The exclusion of trans women from closed women’s spaces is egregious. It is vital that they are included in closed women’s spaces. I fight for that right whenever I can.
What hurts, though, is when people don’t recognize this fact as well: women–trans and cis–don’t have a monopoly on gender-based oppression, either. It’s not solely trans women that are struggling to gain access to the resources and support that the cisgender women’s rights movement has long hoarded to themselves. And it’s not solely a dichotomy between trans men and trans women, too. (Although trans men and boys also need access to empowering resources and space.)
We exist, you all. We exist and we are a part of this conversation. We are non-binary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, A/G, genderfuck, bois, grrlz, birls, pansies, and everygender else. We experience gender-based oppression for our gender identities (or lack of gender). Womanhood is not the only gender identity that is oppressed. We are so marginalized that our existence doesn’t even occur to the wider societal mind.
And I, for one, and many others that I know, are tired of being excluded from the conversation. I am tired of my gender not being listed when we are talking about inclusion in “women’s” colleges, in girls’ after-school clubs, in every space that is a closed women’s space–but that holds institutional resources or power I cannot find elsewhere. Yes, there are times and places for all specific subsets of people who face gender-based oppression to have closed spaces. But when one particular subset holds most of the institutional power (in this case, cis women), they gotta share a little. Given that there are no educational institutions that support trans people of all genders, women, men, and everyone else (and those without genders as well)–“women’s” colleges need to take a good look at their resources and stop being such bigots. Given that there are few to no other institutional spaces for trans people specifically, certainly not at the (small, not enough) level there is for women and girls (trans and cis, although trans women and girls are often excluded or only have lip service paid to them), all spaces that provide resources solely to women need to look at how, why, and if that is necessary.
Given that there are ZERO schools that provide a closed, safe space for trans people, I say that “women’s” colleges and other exclusive “women’s spaces” have a feminist/civil/moral responsibility to step up. I am so tired of this conversation having no nuance.
We need to distinguish between identity and expression. Where do we draw the line? Why is it that FAAB transmasculine genderqueer people aren’t allowed in some rubrics, but cis women with a masculine expression are? Both are claiming masculine expressions, which, by some estimations, shouldn’t be allowed at a “women’s” college… at least if they aren’t on a woman. But genderqueer people face so much discrmination based on their genders, so why can’t we share this space? What about someone of any birth assignment who’s almost a guy, but not quite? What about someone who’s genderfluid? What about a trans guy who doesn’t medically transition or who doesn’t pass? What about MAAB non-binary people? Their bodies and voices belong in this space. They face so much oppression and censure. And if some of those MAAB non-binary people don’t physically transition, then there are typically MAAB bodies on campus that may never become more “feminized,” even if trans men aren’t there. What about trans men who do physically transition, but have feminine gender expressions? Why would we allow a MAAB non-binary person but not a femme trans man, given that their treatment based on gender perception might be similar? Where do you draw the line at, not kicking someone out, but at judging them for being at a “women’s” college and asking for basic recognition and respect?
I say, you don’t. You don’t draw the line at judgment. You say, you all are dealing with severe gender-based oppression, in different ways. You all, or many of you, also have various privileges from your gender even as you are being oppressed. We can process that in a community that’s committed to gender justice. I would like to say that “women’s” colleges are one such community, but they clearly aren’t, given that MAAB trans people of all genders (or lack thereof) aren’t part of the conversation, and given that FAAB trans people of all genders (or lack thereof) are marginalized when they do attend. What’s the bigger evil? Of course—it’s not even being allowed to attend. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to do to make our schools inclusive as well. Both things are important; including MAAB trans people of all genders (except cis male, of course), and agender people is the priority.
Of course supporting trans women is important and vital. I’m just saying that supporting non-binary people is vital, too. We’re killing ourselves at a higher rate than the general trans population; we face higher rates of most other forms of oppression as well. It’s time to count us. It’s time to include us. It’s time to recognize us as part of this movement. Use words for us when talking about gender equality and trans inclusion. Say the phrase, “trans women and non-binary people.” Say the phrase “all gender-oppressed people.” Say, “all forms of gender oppression”–and mean it and include it in all the work that you do.
TRIGGER WARNING: hopelessness around being trans (and hopefulness too), trying to make yourself be a gender you aren’t
I’m baaack! Last week I left my laptop charger in another state, so I didn’t have a computer on me. So so many blog post ideas have come and gone since then. I’m going to write tonight something very straightforward:
Hold on to hope. There will be a time, maybe more a moment, maybe an era, when you are settled in to who you are. There has been for me. Now I feel like it’s me that’s living in my body. I can look inside my ribcage and feel myself inside my heart, instead of walls imprisoning… what is it that had been inside? The shrunken, light-deprived prune of myself, kept locked and guarded from my mind. There will be a time, wild as it seems, when all of that self has grown and taken up nutrients and soil and it is full, in full bloom.
Yes, it is an uphill battle, many days, most days. Yes, there will be times it all feels like too much. But, as you settle into yourself, you will realize that you are living the life you never imagined possible. You are living life as yourself, even when you see so few others like you in your daily world. You are alive and surviving, sometimes thriving. No one said you could do that, not for the longest time, but here you are, living. I think, here I am, living my regular genderqueer life, and for a few minutes there, life felt normal. Life felt regular. We are told that we are so abnormal that this is never a possibility–but it is.
When I first started on this journey, I thought I’d never even fully hold myself, have my own full self in my heart and mind and body. It would flit in for a moment and feel like the sweetest settling in, the sweetest relaxation–then it would go. I can’t be that, I have to always force myself to be whatever they’ve said I am, whatever I’ve said I am, for so long. With the whole world whipping harsh wind on my real true self, it is easy to forget what was like, when I was hiding my gender from myself. But that is what I was for so long–a shadow. This is why I am carving a ledge for myself each day: this way, I am me.
Coming out is such a tumultuous time that it feels like life will never be regular again. But after that earthquake, grass begins to grow up from the broken earth. My world and shifted surroundings start to make sense. And this time, I find my feet in a way that I never did before–I am wearing boots that fit me now.
This is possible. This is real. Many days are hard for me. Many days are days when I can’t imagine my life being bearable for the afternoon, let alone next week or next year. But the days when life feels normal, life feels calm–those are gifts. They are gifts that, in my fear when first realizing who I was, I thought I would never have again. Hear this, please–yes, life is fucking hard, in general, let alone when you’re trans. But there can be days like this. There will be days like this. Some days you’ll be able to look around you and see your life as normal again.
I know that not everyone’s coming out story is the same, and that others’ oppressions affect this in different ways. This may not be true for everyone. But I can say that if you stay true to the course your gender lays out for you, it will eventually get smoother. Being yourself is often worth the struggle.
Hold onto those days, even if they haven’t yet come. Hold them close to your heart as you break down the walls that have held your true self in for so many years. Hold it close in your cells as you nurture them with the you that you have deprived them of for so long. They are honey in the bitter black coffee of the world.
TRIGGER WARNING: Cissexism/transphobia in therapy, saneism, suicidal ideation
This letter is pretty self-explanatory, but I want to give a brief introduction. I had been seeing this therapist on and off for six years, and it was only after we stopped seeing each other, mostly for reasons unrelated to the content of this letter, that I realized the full extent of what had happened in that office in terms of my gender. This is something that is still very painful for me to process, but I am sharing this (slightly edited) letter with you all because I hope that sharing my story will help other people in similar situations, or other people who are considering therapy. If any providers are reading this post, take this post to heart and consider if any of it applies to you. If it does, make changes to your practice now.
Dear [Former Therapist #1],
I have realized in the past few weeks that there is something more I need to say to you. Feeling both anger and loss, caring about and valuing much of our therapeutic time together while realizing how you hurt and utterly failed me in this way–it isn’t an easy combination of feelings. When someone has both given so much and also deprived me of something so important, the emotions are not easy to navigate. I know that you have always had good intentions for me, but good intentions and positive effects are, as you must know, not the same, often. I am going to give you some feedback here that I hope you will take to heart, so that you can have a positive impact and a practice where all clients are treated equally. Although I am angry about this, and I wanted to show you that impact in this letter, I also wish you the best in implementing these changes. Please get in touch with me if you need further input, or if you otherwise want to respond.
I talked with you in one of our sessions a few months ago about my doubts and worries about us working together again. I told you that you had shot me down years ago when I had first brought up questioning my gender to you. What I didn’t do then is remind you what you had said to me.
I don’t remember every detail of those conversations we had when I was 18, but I do remember the traumatizing parts. I remember that, back in what must have been our first or second session, you asked if I wanted a penis. Uncomfortable, and confused as to whether this was the only measure of trans* ness, I said that I didn’t think so. Shortly afterwards, I think you must have concluded that I wasn’t trans*, or I must have concluded that I didn’t want to repeat that uncomfortable conversation, because we stopped talking about it for a while.
Later, maybe months or a year later, I worked up my courage and brought it up to you again. You said that you thought I had penis envy or wanted a grab at male privilege. (At the time, I was too clueless about feminism to know what you meant, so I mentally shrugged.) You said that I wasn’t trans*. “But you’re so feminine!” you said. (This was especially hurtful, given my current gender identity. I don’t identify with the word “feminine,” but me having some characteristics that get categorized that way doesn’t mean that I am a woman.)
I didn’t talk with you about it again until five years later, this current year, when my internalized transphobia and gender dysphoria (among other things) was making me suicidal. (Partly, I had buried it for some time, but I found a journal entry that showed that even in the midst of that fog, I was aware of my dysphoria. Besides, a lot of why I’d buried it was because I hadn’t been met with affirmation from you at all.) When I brought up my gender identity as one of my concerns about working with you again, you showed that you had evolved in some ways. You told me that you had been naive then, and that you were sorry. (But I don’t think you remember what you said! At least, I hope you didn’t, with that response.) You said that one of a therapist’s most important jobs is to eliminate their prejudices, and now you have no personal investment in your clients’ genders. You said that you understand that for people who don’t fit into the binary, trying to fit them into the opposite-gender box can be just as damaging. (Here, given that I hadn’t talked about my gender with you in five years, I felt you were subtly gendering me again.) Then you said, “Given all the evidence, I think it’s time for a reevaluation.”
This final sentence shows how much further you need to go. You do not get to evaluate my gender. You do not get to tell me who I am. Not any more than you get to tell your cis clients who they are and what genders they should be. Not only had you led me away from my true self for an extra six years, invalidated my gender identity, and used pathetic tropes to degrade who I am (trans men don’t just transition for a grab at male privilege! And the words “penis envy” should never be uttered with any kind of seriousness in a gender therapist’s office)–not to mention that you seemed to think inquiring about my thoughts on my genitalia was a good way to both break the ice and determine my gender–you now were judging yourself professionally fit to make those calls again! Instead of realizing the significant damage you had wrought on me (and probably many other trans* clients), instead of working tirelessly to correct that damage, you simply said that I might be able to convince you, the ultimate authority on my gender, that I am trans*–this time around.
As a first-year in college, I specifically sought out gender specialists so I could start exploring my gender identity. I naively thought that it was a safe space to do so, and foolishly bought into the idea that I could trust my therapist over myself. While I know that your statements don’t hold complete power over me, and, of course, they don’t determine my gender, your authority played a large role in squelching my shy early feelings of my true self, feelings I’d been conscious of as trans* since high school, but had been waiting for a place to show. It is true, also, that especially in the early stages of gender formation, we tend to listen to others over ourselves. You have a huge responsibility!
Had I received nurturing and competent care when I was 18, I might be in a very different place today. Many of my mental health issues would at least be different, if not lessened or resolved. I might have been exposed to less or different trauma. I might even be a few inches taller, if I’d decided that testosterone was the way to go! I’d already be myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have gone to the point of considering suicide to get here.
I think that you still don’t understand the gravity of what you did five years ago. You still don’t understand the danger of labeling yourself an expert on others’ genders, or the absolute destructiveness of the gatekeeper model of trans* care. In many ways, you taught me how to advocate for myself in therapy, and how to break down the barriers of authority between therapist and client. Yet you still cling to authority in this way. I shouldn’t have to convince you of who I am. I am certain that you don’t ask your cisgender clients to do so. I should be able to simply be, in therapy of all places. I should be supported in all ways to become more myself!
Your discouragement took away six years of my life as myself. It likely took away many others’. Please look deeply into yourself and your practice to see what amends you might be able to make with other people you have harmed through your prejudice. You have a responsibility to your current and former clients to do so. If you fail to do this, you continue to fail the trans* community. Reach out to former clients and apologize, and ask if there is anything you could possibly do to connect them to resources or help now. Check in with current clients to be sure they feel affirmed. Never “evaluate” anyone’s gender again. Ask for accountability and feedback from the trans* community and other gender specialists (maybe them, but having met many of them, a lot of them seem as or more messed up). Please look deeply into yourself and your practice, in these ways and/or others (it is ultimately your responsibility to figure this part out) to make changes now for affirming, egalitarian care. You know the stats–lives are on the line
One more thing. I am telling you all these things, taking this time and energy, because I have seen you walk the walk of eliminating prejudice before. I hope that my trust that I have placed in you is not ill-spent. I have faith that you will take this feedback seriously and do your best to right these wrongs.
Your former client,
Still fucking known as,
*Since this letter was written, I have started trying [current name] and using they/them pronouns.
TRIGGER WARNING: saneism, ableism
Note: This is a summary of various ideas from a conversation I had a few months ago with the person I was dating at the time. Sometimes there are direct quotes, sometimes there’s paraphrasing. Thanks so much to them for agreeing to make this available for other people to browse, and for their contribution!
Say yes to “craziness” in our lives! Break yourself free from the control saneism likes to exert on all of our behaviors! Why? How? What does this mean? Take a look below…
- It makes us more comfortable with each other.
- Alone or with others, do something in public that your inner social norms tell you that you aren’t supposed to do. Jump, dance, skip, hum, wiggle! Cry! Shout! Rock! Don’t conform to expected behavior when you want or need to do something else! Keep in mind, though, that this should be something that comes from you–this isn’t a chance to “make fun” of how “those people” look or act.
- Remember that, although saneism directly oppresses people with mental illnesses, everyone is shoved into a box of behavior because of trying not to look “crazy.” If it wasn’t seen as “crazy,” how many behaviors would people engage in that they don’t engage in now?
- I’m not talking about skydiving or revolution or starting a new business or whatever else people put the word “crazy” inaccurately onto (although that linguistic/psychological divide is there too, and you should do those things that you want but don’t allow yourself for, too). I’m just talking about those things, literal behaviors that mark people as crazy, that are “against social convention.”
- Remember also that “crazy” is more often applied to people who experience other kinds of oppression as well, as a way to discount them. People can be considered “crazy” due to their defiance of norms/oppressed status, people who may not have mental illness. Just think about stereotypes of “crazy women,” or racialized stereotypes that also include “crazy” somewhere in that list of bigoted adjectives. Remember that refusing to police your own behavior based on this list of norms can be lessening this divide too. (That’s not to discount the fact that people often non-consensually read or label others’ personhood or behavior as “crazy,” and that there are many different ways that people try to survive in a world that has this reality. Stay safe, everyone. As safe as possible in the moment, anyway.)
- You may feel frozen even thinking about stepping outside of the “sane” behavior box, a box you likely have tried very hard to conform to. That’s OK. Start small.
- When we say yes to “crazy” behavior, in the literal I-don’t-mind-looking-like-I-have-a-mental-illness-right-now way, and in the figurative, bigoted way it’s used as well, we are saying yes to ourselves and others, just as they are. We are saying yes to the needs we may have to sob or shake or lie in bed all day or rock or hum. We are saying yes to our dreams, to the impossible, the fantastical, all these things that we deny ourselves and relegate to the supposedly illegitimate, impossible, unintelligible, ridiculous, even magical/exhilarating world of “crazy.” These are our realities, our literal realities as mentally ill people. These are also the realities of the world around us, who has closed its doors to literal insanity and anything else it doesn’t want to welcome with that word, thrown casually, “crazy.” “I cannot love crazy things,” we say. “I am unlovable if I am crazy, unhearable, illegitimate, not worth listening to or having around.” We say these things when we say the word “crazy.” Not only are we being saneist in terms of shutting people with mental illness out, we are shutting ourselves out too.
- When we hold ourselves to these confines, it hurts us and the people around us, people we care about. We feel closest to the people we can be really genuine with—and that includes being open about our mental illnesses and being free to express parts of ourselves that are otherwise labeled as “crazy.” Make room for others, too, to be like that around you, to be their genuine selves.
- It hurts others when they feel like they have to apologize for their craziness, when they feel lucky to have people that tolerate craziness. Don’t simply tolerate it! Celebrate it! It is about treating people decently, about treating everyone as whole people with entire selves that contain so much. It’s not a favor to do this. At its best, it’s a deeper, more loving holding of everyone around us. At minimum, it’s treating everyone like a person—which hopefully is loving! Haha, you aren’t getting out of love on this one!
- Keep in mind that at all times, this is a practice of being true to yourself—not of appropriating, imitating, or making fun of others’ behaviors. Set yourself free from the grip of saneism on your life—but don’t make ugly imitations of what that might look like for people with mental illnesses that are not your own.
- All of this has varied intersections and relevancies to physical disabilities and autism, but as that is not a part of my experience, I don’t want to delve into it more. I just want to recognize the closeness of policing of behavior and bodies and how it relates to other forms of ableism.
Also, check out this picture (source below):
TRIGGER WARNING: misgendering, dysphoria, trying to make yourself be the gender assigned at birth
When I first accepted that I was not a girl, I took a whole bunch of online quizzes, mostly for fun, just to see what would come up when I asked a random internet survey about my gender. One “gender expert” survey asked what my assigned sex was, and my result was, basically, “You seem sorta androgynous, but we think you’re a girl.” I was devastated. Were they right? I knew not to trust some creepy people that also were asking about autogynephilia (or, for that matter, anyone who claimed with any kind of seriousness that they could tell me my gender, whether they were linking it to my sexuality or not), but some part of me was doubtful–maybe I was wrong; maybe I really was a girl.
That night, after turning off my computer, I tried to fit myself back into the gender that had never worked for me. I could just move back into “woman–” I could already feel the familiar contortions so easily. I just had to squeeze into it, in the room of my gender, the room I held in my ribcage near my heart. As a “woman,” I felt metal beams constricting my breathing, before I even got inside that room. It’s OK, though, I could be a woman. All I needed to do was just make myself a cup of tea and curl up in that armchair, in my “girl” room. It all felt tight, tight–just thinking about it felt tight, and I hadn’t even walked inside of this wrong girl-self yet. But I was resigned to feeling the same as always.
When I walked into the room of my gender, though, I was amazed. I hadn’t been back inside recently, and the place was bare. Lackluster boards made up the floor. A faded curtain waved in the breeze through an open window, which shone on a mug with a dried-out tea stain in the bottom, sitting on a bookshelf cleared of books. There was little or no other furniture. One or two books lay scattered, maybe a pen. I realized I had cleared out of “woman” fast.
Feeling what is right for me has been a process. I have been slowly moving into myself, moving into my gender, in a much brighter, fuller room. It is a relief to be free of those metal beams and a room that I had never realized was so drab for me. I hadn’t even noticed I’d sped out of there at the first sign that I could.
Part of this moving has been internal, and part of it has been about others’ affirmations. Some of it has been a search for the right words for myself, and then having others try it on. This is perhaps my favorite way of moving.
Hearing my right pronouns, or hearing someone call me by the right gendered words, is ice cream melting in my mouth. It is the feeling of hot chocolate pumping warmth through my veins. It is as if my whole gut was a rock warming in the sun, filling my body with solidity and lightness all at once. It is a fitting of that last puzzle piece. With the right words, I suddenly become more solid than I knew possible, and yet more ready to skip and twirl at the same time. My wholeness takes its rightful place, from my gut to my elbows. I am simultaneously as excited as a hummingbird and as unperturbed as a smooth lake.
When someone uses the right words for me, finds the right words for me, says those right words, a settling-in takes place. Leaves fall into piles and bud on branches all at once. I am real, I am real, and someone sees me. Thank God someone has finally seen me. Oh, and, here! How about this? Trying this new word–they see something I have been afraid for even myself to notice or become. But now, with a new word echoing from others, I am here at last.
It is so rare to find these right words; it feels like such a journey, especially for non-binary people. But they are there, sometimes. We make them, sometimes. We search high and low and try on everything from hither and yon. This one fit halfway, this one fit for six months and now feels tight. This gender felt OK this morning and not later, or now a few of them are here at once. That word never felt right, except for a few hours last Thursday. But sometimes a glistening Right Word comes, and we move in. We move into ourselves. Moving into ourselves is the best kind of moving there is.
Wow, I am so flattered and fluttery! Last week, two of my favorite blogs, janitorqueer and Valprehension, included me in a chain-style blogging award under the descriptor “Lovely/Inspiring.” I feel so cool! *puts on orange sunglasses with black stars on them*
I’ve been waiting on this post because there are so many excellent blogs to recommend to you all and give an award like this, and I needed to participate in the agonizing task of choosing. In no particular order, here are the blogs I would like to include for this Lovely/Very Inspiring Blog Award:
Some of these are blogs you may be familiar with, some not–I tried to include a good mix of new and long-standing, and of a variety of topics that I write about here on my blog. Also, there is a blog that seems to be defunct since last year, but which is a lovely read about non-binary things: http://rainbowgenderpunk.wordpress.com/.
And now for a few facts about me…
- I have a pair of gold Keds-style shoes, about which a student has actually written a haiku.
- I spent a good portion of my teenage years and early twenties farming, but I have recently discovered that I am allergic to grass (whyyy so many allergies?), so that’s out for me, unless, I suppose, I wear some kind of environmentally impermeable suit. Despite this and the fact that I am a FAAB queer person, I am not, contrary to popular assumption, a vegetarian. I just like vegetables a lot.
- I love to sing! I sing for myself and my friends all the time. In this vein, I have a past of participating in over 40 productions, mostly musicals, from the ages of 8-16.