Part Eleven of an interview with: Ren - Heroes

You’re talking about learing from other people and...who are your gender heroes?

 

Aw! That’s a great question. Um...Ivan Cyote. Philisophically, Judith Butler. Rae Spoon. A little bit of Ruby Rose. I know that’s kind of a cheap grab, but I think they’re fantastic and doing the best that they can in the circumstances of being a backwards Aussie in Hollywood. Who else...aw, how could I forget this one? I would say Leslie Fineberg to a bit of a degree. Kate Borenstien and I have had some shared tweets which have been really lovely. I asked her for advice when I was doing my show because that’s their trajectory as well. Kate’s trajectory is doing solo shows and stuff and writing books and kink and all that kind of stuff. Kate’s got a real sense of playfulness, of like, playing with gender. You know? Of letting it be play, and speaks really coheasively about-I think she uses her or they pronouns-about her experience. I guess those would be up there. Probably auntie Kate is pretty high up there because of the theatre background. Since what I do is theatre, it’s really nice. Not just academics but being brave and saying all kinds of things on stage.

 

I love that. I think one of the healthiest things I did in terms of decorating is put all my heroes on my wall. I wake up with my heroes every day. It’s an amazing process. What was the most beautiful thing is I saw these beautiful human beings have qualities that I never thought that transgender women could have. Fearlessness, intelligence, bravery, and things that I never associated with trans women before. It was so much more empowering of like, “I can do this. I can make it though transition.” For you, finding all those heroes, what kind of qualities did it bring out in you?

 

I would say very similar to what you’re talking about. I would say that those are the heroes that I can’t quite touch very easily. There’s also a number of heroes that I can. People in the Two-Spirit community, trans people that I know...even binary I know, even people I’ve dated who’ve already done it and who can speak coheasively about it to me. I think they just they’re all the greatest qualities of people. To be authentically themselves knowing that they’re life is harder than cisgender white anyone. They’re not deminishing their personality or their strengths. My friend ginger who’s an engineer for AT&T in the States is an expample of someone (who) completely owns being a trans woman. Completely owns being an engineer. Completely owns being a woman of colour, of Chinese descent. A wonderful example of somebody who’s really in tune with herself. And yes, spending time with these people brings out a profound strength of integrity. I think that’s one of the words that really appeals to me is their integrity of being precicely who they say they are and not deminishing themselves. It’s not that we don’t all do that at various times for various reasons. Sometimes there’s even good reasons, for safety or whatnot. To retreat. But they’re not giving up. If they can do that then how much do we have possible? We’re not alone. We’re not alone.

Part Ten of an interview with: Ren

When I look back at myself, even two (or) three years ago, it’s a different human being completely. That started to change really dramatically when I gave myself permission to just try things. ‘What will it feel like if I just try doing this?’ And I did and it felt right. The more it felt right and validating…

 

I’m wondering if this phrase would fit for you, because it fits for me: “Of growing into yourself.” This sense of-you couldn’t have even fathomed. But once you were discovering along the trail of what was possible, things developed and you do change. I tell people that the real choices made along the way weren’t to be this or to be that but to explore and to be willing to say “yes” to what feels good along that exploration. And then you just cointinue on and you wake up and you wake up and you go, “Wow! Yep! I’ve got a lot of milage or whatever on that journey of mine! From point A to point B.” It’s not even that we’re at point B; we’re just continuing on.

 

That does speak to me, because when coming out one thing that I couldn’t deny-I was okay being miserable as sad as that sounds. Misery was just something that was pervasive and was familiar. It’s like, “I know how to deal with this. This is just my life.” But then what I couldn’t deny, and the biggest reason for me to come out, I couldn’t deny how happy I was. That was the no going back point. I didn’t expect that. I honestly didn’t expect that: feeling more and more progressivley happy and then realizing, “Oh my God! Was I this miserable for this long?” You touch on that so eloquently in your work. Just the freedom and expression that all this play (has) offered you. It’s just amazing to see in the show. I feel like it’s a really deep, rich vein that’s common in every single person that’s gender variant in their experience.

 

Yeah. There’s this liberation of speaking your secret and knowing it’s true. I think it was a secret for me for a long time. It was like, “Aw, I don’t need to tell people. They wouldn’t understand anyway.” But then as there was (kind of like) more crowbaring a little bit of space, and a little bit more space, and a little bit more space...The first time somebody honored my gender queerness and used gender neutral pronous with me happened to me on an ongoing basis, in the whole conversation, happened to me this year in January. It requires more than two people to have that happen. Because when you’re just speaking one-on-one to someone you don’t use those types of pronouns. We just say “you and I” and soforth. They only really apply in a group setting. But when that happened, I remember feeling just like a tingly excitement. Like all of me was being acknowledged. For once I wasn’t being parsed down to one part that they were comfortable treating me. It was thrilling. This was kind of my coming out show. I sort of told a few people, but this was coming out publicly. I didn’t know any other gender queer people personally when I first wrote it. None. Zero. I met them as a process of starting to preform; comparing notes and getting excited. Just being with them and having them see me. I felt like I was seen for the first time. That’s the sort of euphoria that we have fought for in the greater queer community. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about who’s go the better parties during pride festival. It’s not about who can afford the nicest apartment in Yaletown. It’s not about even being married with the legality to prove it to someone else. Although, having rights to do so and having legal protections is a very important thing. It’s not about status. It’s about being absolutely comfortable with who you are and unashamed of who you are and being acknowledged that there’s no amount of nay-saying that prevents your experience from being true for you. And living it. Just living. I mean, life’s short. Why do we care about these things. I mean, we care because we want to live a quality life. But people who have a problem with it, their energy is spent in some pretty sad and silly things really. I don’t remember that all the time. I guess partly I wrote the show to remind myself of how I want to feel in my experience. I get down sometimes. Just today: a friend of mine started she and stuff, and I was like, “Please, please friend please. I know it’s been a while since we’ve talked, but people are getting on board with the they’s and the ze’s and the zir’s. And I know you know me. Can we get back to this?” She complied, she said, “Okay. Yeah, yep” It’s just a practice thing for some people. If people only knew how much joy they could give you and I to be acknowledged for our own experience. What it really comes down to is this: If we are seen, we can be known. If we can be known, we can have intimacy and connection with people. But you need to be seen to have that. All of us need people.

 

Part Nine of an interview with Ren - Talking to kids

I like to ask you...along those lines of parenting, you said that when you were living in Australia that you worked with kids.

 

That was actually...did I do any of that in Australia? Most of that was when I had a brief stint in the States between being here and Canada and going to Australia.

 

Oh! Okay. Sorry.

 

That’s alright. I’ve lived in four countries so getting the geography down can be complicated.

 

It can be. In that respect, how is your philosophy with explaining gender to children at that time compared to now? How do you-I guess I’m just curious what you like at that time, or what restrictions were you under compared to if you met a child now and you had the freedom to be like, “let me explain gender to you”?

 

That’s a good question...and I know it’s good because I don’t have a good answer for it.

 

I stumped you!

 

I mean the thing is I just don’t know. I’ve had children in my life the whole time and I have many young people in my life to whom I am sort of like a-I got sort of like a Godson in a way, but I don’t like being called a Godmother because that feels like an uncomfortable term for me. So I call myself their Fairy Raccoon, because I like racoons and I’m magical.

 

I mean, it’s just a name just like Godmother.

 

Yeah! Or their spirit guardian or something. Something sort of neutral. I am really excited to see them grow up and although we are using the parents for the sake of simplicity we are going with assigned male pronouns, etc. I’m always whispering to this baby, “but I know who you really are, and you’re everything.” That might be a bit subversive in a way because I suppose I’m sort of- I know that society is ultimately way more powerful that me to impact this child and being who they are. I will always be there as a reminder of one person that they get to choose in many respects what fits for them. They are the masters of knowing what’s the best path for them. None of us can know that. Now when parents say, “Oh, little boys do this. Little girls do that.” I’m just kinda like, “Well maybe...but maybe not.” And maybe they’re not even boys or girls, but parents get really irritated when I do that sort of thing so I just kinda go, “Oh really, is that’s what you think is going to happen?” And I sort of leave it open-ended. I’ve seen little boys and girls be the opposite of what they’re expected and they don’t actually care two wits about gender until someone teaches it to them. You can kind of see the subtle molding that happens by teachers and young child care workers when they’re making space for young boys to be more aggressive or whatever and excusing it just a little bit more. Even in a hyper-progressive-I worked in a fairly progressive child care space that is now probably is making space for any gender variance that they might notice-but parents aren’t really keen to lead that space. Even if they say, “Yeah, we’re really open. If there’s a kid acting, they can do whatever they like. The boys dress up in girls clothes at dress-up time and vice-versa. We don’t care.” They’re not quite as aware as I am now about the more subtle messages that they tell children regardless of that and there is certainly out in the world. I think that the biggest change between then and now is-the children really taught me. The children taught me about gender in a lot of ways and how little it matters to them.

 

How so?

 

You can tell that the main things that they say about boys that are friends and girls that are friends only really arrives when they get to five and above and they sound like adult words coming out of a child’s mouth. Honestly. Honestly. So little kids and old people-like, people above seventy and eighty, I think-we know from neurobiology that male and female brains beyond being an individual mosaic for each of them are most androgynous and hard to tell apart in early years and in the later years. The biggest gender variance occurs in those mating years and it kind of fizzles out a little after that and before then. Now I think I’m just more conscientious. If I were to have a child-I know that this really sounds, “Ah, really? Really you would do that?” I would raise them gender neutral. I would! I feel like they get enough from the world already. I know that’s super controversial but I feel that’s, to me, the responsible thing to do now.

I do know some families that wanted to raise their kids not in any gender stereotypes. I’m thinking of one family in particular. They had a young assigned female at birth girl. They said, “Oh, we’re going to put her in all kinds of clothers not just pink and stuff. Then she got to be age five or six and she’s like the prettiest peach princess, pink loving, everything has to be pink and red and purple and all these things. And they said, “Oh, that’s just who she is.” I kinda have two responses for that. One: regardless of what you do as parenting, society is going to play a role. Especailly television. Television is gonna tell that kid, “Here’s a girl’s Lego set.” You can’t undo that part unless you completely shelter them. They need to know that out there-the world is kind of insane about gender still and patriarchy is a real thing and it’s very gender essentialist. If you want to read about that, look up Judith Butler. The second thing I say to that is: I was a pretty pink princess between the ages of, I dunno, maybe five and ten? At ten, I did a complete, “All the pink had to go!” I refused to wear that or ruffles or lace or anything and was very stereotypical tomboyish until the age of maybe...twenty. Then I went through another hyper-femme couple of years. Now I’m more trans-masculine. You can’t predict an entire person’s trejectory based on even their obsessive girliness or boyishness at a young age. For me, it’s all been gender play. It’s all been costuming. If you’re really truly genderqueer they’re equally costumes. Then you’re just like, “Oh well. There’s the girls suit, and the boys suit, and the middle suit. What do I feel like playing with today?” It doesn’t change who you are; whether you’re wearing a bra or a binder. I guess that’s the changes now with kids and my philosophy.

 

https://michellelunicke.com/ze-queer-as-fuck/

Part Eight of an interview with: Ren

I think shows like yours are so important and so wonderful to have as not just an educational tool, but a celebration. When I see you on stage, you’re celebrating so much; just the energy that you have there is just so vibrant. I really admire that. It’s made me questions the conventions and things that I’ve been coming into my own as a woman there’s this, “Okay, who am I really putting the makeup on for today?” All those things that I’m having a conversation with (myself) I thought were-I had to raise to this standard of women...pass this threshold. Even when I did, even at that point, a person may misgender me or not take my gender seriously. It’s (about) understanding where that threshold is for me.

 

That’s unfortunately a part of what I understand about the culture of being a woman in a patriarchy. Which is that...there’s no limit to the number of things that society tells you that you need to do to be woman enough, and there’s no limit to the amount of things that you’re not supposed to do to be man enough. That’s where I think those cultures and labels can be prisons. We really all have to be brave and women or men or non-binary in our own way. I think we’re really on our own adventure. We just take comfort when we see other people go on a similar nearby path and leaving memories and milestones along the way that we can recognize. I really do believe that we’re all a part of this amazing family and if we put just a little bit of effort we could experience empathy and understanding on a great number of things that we share. The experiences we have while some are much more extreme than others in terms of the push back of being who we are and there’s lost of people who don’t put a lot of thought into being their authentic selves, they’re just...managing the recipe they’ve been handed.

 

They’re on autopilot.

 

They’re on a kind of autopilot. And it may or may not hit them someday and that’s their life to live. This is the birthplace of responsibility. If you know that there’s something true about you that maybe doesn’t quite fit what you’ve been told that you are, and that I think is universal. Because we’re all told who we are from a very young age by people who have no idea who we are unless they’re saying, “You are everything. You can be everything.” Parent’s aren’t really keen to do that. What does that mean for them? There’s very practical reasons why they limit us. They want us to be manageable and pleasant...palatable. All these other things. It’s an unlearning. It’s a great unlearning and relearning. For those of us who can do it, as difficult as it is, I do think that we attract each other and find each other and create community around that. And that is revolutionary.

Part Seven of an interview with: Ren

I feel when I came out...as difficult as it was, when I met gender variant people who- they’re gender non-conforming, non-binary, genderqueer- I’m getting to know a lot more friends like that. I feel that they have a path that is a lot more nuanced than mine because when I came out, I’m like, “I’m a woman.” In people’s eyes, I can see see that switch go. It kind of goes from the man dial to the woman dial, and just be like, “treat me like a girl.” I love it, and I feel way more comfortable with that, but also realizing that...talking to one of my friend to came out to me as genderqueer, I asked them, “Do you have kind of a fear? Like a greatest fear inside?” And they said, “That people wouldn’t understand.”

 

Oh! well that fear is probably confirmed for them constantly. One of these days I’m going to start taking a tally of how many times I am incorrectly gendered in a singular day, because it’s almost like-I’m talking about this in my new bit of the show-but it’s almost like if people don’t know if I’m a man or a woman, then I’m presenting the way I feel. If they’re confused...because there’s no paradigm. There’s no set of markers to determine if someone’s genderqueer or non-binary. You just kind of go, “Oh well, they look mostly like a girl, so we’re going to go with girl or whatever. I’m pretty sure that they’re this.” Because they want it to be a certain thing. We’re not understood. Most people don’t understand, and most people are not open to being corrected in the same way yet that is now okay to correct other people around orientation. When I was identifying as a lesbian woman, people would assume that I was straight fairly often because for a good amount of the time there I was pretty high femme, and they were like, “Oh yeah! If you got a significant other, you can bring them over. What’s your boyfriends’ name?” and I would say, “I have a girlfriend. Her name is (this) or (that)...” And they’re like, “Oh!….okay.” And then it was like nobody was embarrassed about that after a while, but people are still embarrassed when I say, “Oh, actually, I’m not a she. I’m a Ze, or a they.” And they go, “Gasp! Oh my goodness. Oh, I am so sorry. You know- I didn’t know-I had no idea.” Of course you didn’t know. That’s fine that you don’t know. It’s okay that you didn’t know, but I’m telling you so you can live in my world with me and maybe even know me, and if I don’t do that then I’m not even giving you the opportunity. There’s a lot of practice all over the world that needs to be done on both ends on making space for non-binary gender variant people, and we all have to develop some collective guts. Both being willing to correct people-and once you correct people once or twice they’ll figure it out, they’ll come along. Hopefully. But then I also have what I call my ‘gender pronoun warriors’, which are the people who are around me who do the correcting for me, and that is lovely. It is the most wonderful thing in the world to just have that break, to just know that there’s that one person next to you and say, “Oh, actually, it’s a they. Or it’s a ze.”, and you just want to hug them because you know that they care about you. I’ve had friends ask me, “How much do you care if I mispronoun you?” And I’m like, “Well...I care about the intent and the motivation, for sure.” If it’s coming from laziness I think that’s kind of crap. Because if I weren't acknowledging you for something that you found out about yourself, that would suck. If you want to be close to me that’s what you do. I understand that it takes practice and a little bit of effort, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I think we just collectively got to…put in the practice, the time, and the effort as a society. I’m think that we’ll get there. Because I’m just seeing more and more non/variant people all the time. Now, in fact, I almost default they until I know. Because there’s lots of people that say, “Oh, well, I’m genderqueer but I tend to present in my femme. I’m assigned female, but I know who I am.” I’m like, “Okay! Cool.” I don’t bind everyday, it hurts! It causes back problems, so I don’t do it everyday. I don’t feel like I owe my presentation to anyone to know who I am and to defend who I am because my experience is different that what you might see on the outside.

 

(I don’t tuck everyday)

 

LAUGHTER

365 days later...

 

A letter to myself 365 days in the past….

 

Hey girl,

 

So, you’ve finally did it. You came out! I couldn’t be more proud of you. I know that’s funny to hear from your future self, but I know more than anyone else how hard this was for you. I know how much effort, sacrifice and perseverance you put into your transition. Hell, I can’t think of one thing in your life you worked harder at than your gender. But you did, and oh my God was it worth it.

 

I know that the lead up to this was terrifying. All the long hours working on a higher pitch to your voice just so you will be taken as feminine on the phone. All the fear of building a wardrobe from scratch just so you can be seen as feminine. All the time having electrolysis done just so you don’t have the horror of a five o’clock shadow on your face. All the anxiety of what make up will work for you. All the knowledge that you had to gain to be able to explain yourself as a trans woman.

 

It. Will. Be. So. Worth. It.

 

Your open letter at work goes down really well, and everyone emailed you such nice things. The kudos that you get and the heartfelt congratulations will certainly be more than you expected. I think it spoke to a lot of the staff directly and you reached out to all of them in such a considerate and heartwarming way. It broke down a wall and connected you with people you would have never suspected. People who share their experiences coming out, friends of theirs who are trans, or just the admiration they have for your experience. After a while, people just start to treat you like a girl and you can finally talk about all the experiences about being a woman that you always wanted to have. Even the board of directors were congratulatory and the couriers were giving you high fives. Needless to say, you breathe a sigh of relief. It does take a while for you to be gendered correctly on the phone. Once that happens though, you know that you’ve arrived. So work goes well, and dare I say you pioneered things there. If anything else, they can’t ignore the visibility of gender variant people anymore. Never forget, just having your be the first one to come out in that company the way that you did will create an opportunity for someone else in the future. Hell, someone puts the pride flag on the outside of their office shortly after you come out. Just saying.

 

You will finally be able to discover your heroes. All the transgender women that have informed not just your gender but what’s possible living out authentically. Women like Laura Jane Grace will show you that you don’t have to conform to what people expect women to look like and especially sound like. You find someone that allows you to be a little bit punk yourself. Women like Gwen Harworth will show your parents (yes, they do meet her in person) what can be gained when you can shed the pain of living in the shackles of conformity. Women like Imogen Binnie will give you literature that finally gets you...really gets you. Women like Hari Nef will show you that femme can be validating, empowering, and whatever you want it to be. Women like Janet Mock will show you the bravery of a trans life, filling your spirit with determination to be seem as a woman of colour. Women like Jen Richards will show you trans characters you can pour yourself into and connect with. You will finally have heroes on your wall and in your life and in your heart. Heroes that inspire your spirit. For the first time in your life, you will be able to see transfemininity as something to aspire to. I promise you, there will be more to add to this list. Many more.

 

I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I can’t wait for you to finally experience the fashion you’ve been missing out on your entire life. All the new things that you’re going to be experiencing for the first time, all the things you wanted to do but were scared. It will all be a reality for you. For instance: You’ll finally be able to shop for clothes with other girls, and you’ll also have found your fashion (more or less). In the summer, you will rock the hotpants. That’s right, I said hotpants (you got legs for days, girl). You’re going to look fabulous in heels! You’re also going to have pink hair. I know, right? Who would have thought that pink would be your new favorite colour. Basically, you’re not going to have a hard time passing as femme. Although, after a while you begin to realise that you don’t want to pass as badly as you did before. As much as you like reveling in your femininity, it’s going to be more about being seen as yourself. Slowly, just a little bit, you will find that you won’t have to sacrifice yourself just to fit into femininity.

 

Oh my God, and all the friends you’re going to make along the way. You’re going to have so many friends you don’t know what to do with yourself. You’re going to join a transwomens volleyball team. Believe it or not, you’re going to meet Toni and Ariel who will take you for your first photoshoots. Hot damn, do you ever look good. The empowerment to see your beauty in a way that’s only reserved for fashion models will be yours. And those pictures will be a wonderful gift just to simply see yourself as a woman. You get to find more friends who share a queer, trans or gender variant experience with you. From them, you gain insight to your own self as they gain insight to themselves. You can share your inner worlds and struggles in a way you never could have before. That will be a treasure. Believe it or not, you will have moments with younger trans women where you can act as a elder to them. Even though you’ve only been out of the closet for a year, you have a life experience and knowledge that will be a resource to them just as other trans women were a resource to you (don’t let it go to your head, it’s a big responsibility).

 

You also legally change your name. Your full name. Like, first and last. I know that’s not something you were expecting to do, but it was something that you eventually had to do. I think that journey is so nuanced that I can’t really explain in words how you got to that resolve. Just know that it feels right and it makes sense to you. In time, you’ll see. I shouldn’t forget: You finally change your gender marker as well! Now you can finally tick female off on government forms and have a drivers license with your name, gender and face on it. It’s not going to feel good; it’s going to feel right. That’s what it’s all about.

 

Over the year, the laws and advocacy for trans people significantly increases and we are drawn into the limelight in a very big way. The Liberals get voted into office (good riddance) and the justice minister introduces new legislation to enshrine gender identity into the charter of rights and freedoms. And BC updates it’s human rights code to reflect that as well. What a time to be alive.

 

There’s also dating other queer women, and now you have the opportunity to explore that in your life. It’s going to come with it’s own set of complexities, but trust me when I say that you’re going to love being seen as a woman by other women. There will be femme parties you’re going to go to that will be off the hook. In that, you’re going to find a massive sense of belonging. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to come with it’s own significant ups and downs. It will come with the challenges of unrequited affection. It will come with it’s own desires to fit in to someone elses expectations again. There will be heartache for sure. But that’s how you know it’s real, and that’s how you know you can still love again. I think you’ll find that your greatest struggle will not be finding someone to love, but being open to being loved again. I know you’ve been hurt and that’s why it takes guts. It’s not going to be about the women, it’s about your ability to be with those women. That, is what’s going to change for the better.

 

I know that all of this didn’t come without its sacrifices. I know that you left a whole life behind just to live full time. People that you loved, people that you cared about, and being someone for those people are no longer an element of your existence. I know that kept you from coming out, and I don’t blame you for that. I know who you cared about and what they meant to you. I know who you were and what it meant to be someone for somebody else. In time, you’ll learn to understand that maybe it was a life, but it wasn’t your life. Right now that might seem like cold comfort, but it’s true. You will also find that as much acceptance there is in Vancouver and living in Canada, there’s a whole world out there full of danger and violence targeted against you. So far, that’s something you haven’t had to worry about. Just don’t forget that it’s always there.

As well, your progress will be filled with challenge. You will still be misgendered by people in your daily life (albeit you’ll have more fortitude to correct them). You also leave your job for new opportunities. It wasn’t easy, but it was the right choice. You will have to deal with grief in a way you never have before. You will fight for recognition like you never have before. You will struggle, and I mean struggle, with acceptance of yourself like never before. It will be painful. It will be tragic. It will hurt.

 

After all that, I don’t know what the future holds. At times, it feels bleak. I question why it’s so hard. I question what I will do and where I am going to go. I question if it will get any easier, or if everything will get worse in a way that I’m not prepared for. I can’t promise you that your life will be any easier living authentically; or that you will be free form torment. I can’t promise you that it will get better or that you will come out of this like a phoenix from the ashes. I can’t promise you a good life.

 

I can promise you one very important thing: You will be alive.

Part Six of an interview with: Ren

I have seen in the past two or three years, especially in the last year, humungous progress in the transgender community. Can we say the same for gender variant people who haven’t had the same limelight?

 

Well...I do think that especially non-binary identities-and non-binary is actually a broader category that a lot of people think it is. Because it includes agender people, third gender, gender neutral, androgynous, genderqueer (which would be my identity and the reason I like that word is because it says something about the community of queerness that I belong to as well), and then there’s gender variant and then there’s all these groups of people who are in the middle that are culturally specific. Like, I live in New Zealand and some people might say, “Takatāpui”, which is a Maori word. There’s Two -Spirit people here in North America. I reference this in my show that there’s all these culturally appropriate things for people who are in the middle and there’s been lots of cultures that have acknowledged more than two genders; So in a historical sense, this is not new ground. There have been times when things were good for them and they were acknowledged and even revered in some cases. In terms of Western society now, I think people are more comfortable with binary gender and becoming more comfortable with transitioning into a binary gender because that still kind of plays-it still sort of playing along the rules of society that’s set up. But you’ll notice that they still have a hard time when a cisgender man, for example, wants to wear a dress and still identify as a man or a transgender woman who feels no need for make up or wearing super femmy (sic) clothes and is maybe kind of a biker chick or whatever, but just doesn’t feel the need to be a femme woman but nonetheless is a trans woman. And people have a bit of a block for that too, because there’s so much overlap in people’s minds between presentation and identity which is your internal experience of who you are. Until we get those two things a little bit more parsed out they don’t need to be completely separated. We just need to look at it more than just a Venn diagram, if you know what that is. Where there’s overlapping circles and there’s places in between but the two don’t negate each other. Then, I think, it will be easier for gender variant people, because we can then just go, “ You know, let’s just be done with it. Let’s just not assume? Let’s just wait.” It’s easy as a trans person because you just listen to people or you wait to hear or you ask them and get over the embarrassment of how they prefer to identify or whatever…and then we’re off to the races. Then we’re doing alright.

Part five of an interview with: Ren

I understand that treasure of being able to have that freedom to let go of those old labels, and going through a transformation when I had to let go of a lot of labels that were holding me in a place that made me miserable. I didn’t feel it was easy, I don’t know how you felt? Like, it was a struggle? Or if it was something you just had to work at?...

 

Well, I mean the...between coming out as not straight...as queer...and going through a bunch of labels there to coming out about three years ago as gender queer...there’s nearly a decade in there. I was out as a queer person for nearly a decade before I realised I had-I mean, I sort of knew. I mean, like a lot of people say. But I had wrapped it up in my sexual orientation because there’s room in the lesbian community for male presentation, for butchness and all these sorts of things. There’s a lot of butch women who will come up to me and say, “Ah, just-you’re a butch woman. That’s cool.” You know? It’s like, “Yeah...that’s cool for you, and that label works for you...but that’s not actually my experience.” I don’t feel like I’m a butch presenting woman. Although, I sometimes do find comfort collecting in communities of women; I also find comfort in collecting in communities of men in a lot of ways too. And trans men, in particular. Because there’s parts of my experience and struggle that only they seem to understand. So I see myself in having these different chapters and different parts of myself in these different communities. I think the hardest part for me was realising that I wasn’t done. That coming out as one label or one identity wasn’t the complete package and I don’t know that the picture’s complete now. Fortunately, now I’m using labels that give a lot of breath and room. They’re an acceptance of my exploration and fluidity and queerness, etc., but I honestly can’t say what my presentation might be four or five years from now. I do have plans to change my appearance, my physical appearance to make myself more comfortable in my body and that will change how the world sees me in some ways. It’s nice to have that flexibility in the current labels...but I’m not finished. That’s something that people don’t understand a lot about transition or coming to understand yourself as non-binary. It’s not like you’ve got a set map of things to do and you got to check off every part of the journey and then you’re done and you’ve arrived! No, in fact-even cisgender people are still-they’re still are still sorting in and checking in. You think that women now are the same as women were fifty years ago? They’re not, they’re not. They’re constantly checking in with the media and other women and their culture and society of what’s the right thing and wrong thing to do as a modern progressive woman today. Whatever kind of woman they think they want to be, they’re comparing and contrasting themselves to others they perceive as women; we’re all sort of doing that, it’s just that I have less...I’m more on a ‘Make your own adventure’ sort of path than a lot of them are. I don’t have as many points of comparison. Which in some ways is easier for me, but certainly not as easy as something handed to me and being able to just swallow it.

 

Please make sure to visit Ren at ze's website:

https://michellelunicke.com/

Part four of an interview with: Ren

How have you seen some audience members change after the performances from beginning to end, or if…I don’t know if you have met people before the show and (you’ve) talked to them after, or they’ve talked to you about what they experienced after.

 

It’s just...a variety, a huge variety. But I don’t really know directly after because usually directly after a show people are having a think, they’re processing. Sometimes they don’t even know to clap because they’re like, “Oh...okay yes that was good but I’m not sure why yet and there’s a few things in there that I’m going to have to think about.” And a lot of people do say after seeing my show that it’s given them something to think about, and they were going to rethink their labels and their identity. And some of them have put a lot of thought into it, and some of them not any at all. It’s just been assumed and that’s not necessarily the people you would think it was. We tend to think that the cisgender, heterosexual people are the ones who never put any thought into it and that is often true. But sometimes it’s also like a lesbian woman who’s just like, “I never considered these aspects of myself.” My theory is that we’re all quite broad in who we are and we have ways that we prefer being in the world, and ways that we feel comfortable being in the world. And it can be really hard to own those things, especially if we’re told that they’re contradictory to how we look or who we’re told we were etc. And that’s way beyond gender and sexuality. If I ask I have a friend of mine who identifies as a parent or whatever and I say, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” (not that I don’t know them because I do,) but if someone else asks that they would say, “I’m a proud parent. I’m a mother. I’m a schoolteacher...” or whatever, they go down the list of describing who they are by what they’ve invested in. And they’ll gather based on those identities with other people who also identify that way. At the end of the day, or in the universe, none of us are just those things. We are...we have infinite potential. So long as we’re alive to express ourselves in so many ways and people don’t have a problem with them being kind of contradictory or complimentary. Even when they’re not along a binary system like male or female, like we consider heterosexual or homosexual...we have no problem with someone who is both a mother and a teacher. But we do have a problem when someone says when someone says they’re both male or female or in more than one attraction community, or maybe a bit more flexible or fluid. That uncertainty thing really gets under people’s skin. So I’ve seen a number of people change just around kind of shifting what they think is possible is probably the easiest way to sum it up. I’m inviting people to expand what they think is possible.

 

Please make sure to visit Ren at ze's website:

https://michellelunicke.com/

Part three of an interview with: Ren

I love how you got the audience involved and having them take risks with you. Does that feel like a risk? What do you feel is a risk to you when you’re doing that performance? When you’re doing that show?

 

Well...telling the information is always a risk, but it’s not as big of a risk as I thought it was. It felt when I was first doing the show like a huge info dump. As time went by, I realised how much that information was necessary to give context to who I am. And the whole show exists because I was so tired of explaining myself. And it takes a good long time to explain who I am in the context I’ve come form, and even an hour is probably not really sufficient. But I feel like I’ve said everything that I need to say at least once in it, that somebody who is really paying attention and has a little bit of an idea when they come in there could possibly see me by the end of that for who I am. So that’s the info,...just handing over the info is a bit of a risk. There have been times where I have been scared for myself after a show because someone came in who didn’t realise what it was about and was clearly very homophobic, or transphobic, or whatever. And really did not enjoy themselves or the show. But fortunately, I haven’t felt like I have been in any danger. In terms of taking risks with the audience, I am sort of tricking them to out themselves a little bit in the musical part because I’m getting them to play with me. But most people have a block when it comes to saying revealing words about themselves that if transmuted to another form they’re okay with. Like if you ask someone to do...somebody who is completely drunk in a bar to do a thirty second interpretive dance of the very first time they encountered pornography, or something...like...people do these things! They do. Especially in a performative theatre-like setting, some people are really afraid of audience participation. But I think people also like to feel they were with it. Especially in a city like Vancouver. They’re sort of progressive, and they want to be with it. So getting them to play an instrument or sing a note is easier than saying the words because a sound feels more flexible than a finite word. And it’s really fun to see people do that.

 

Please make sure to visit Ren at ze's website:

https://michellelunicke.com/

Part two of an interview with: Ren

I really enjoyed parts were you illustrated the spectrum of gender through music. I actually never saw it expressed that way. How did that Eureka moment come for you?

 

I was trying to think of all kinds of ways to try and explain the sort of intersectionality of gender and sexuality, because I think they are overlapping and related categories. I think that they’re not the same thing, but they are connected to each other. The easiest example of that is how do you define someone as homosexual or heterosexual if they’re non-binary? In gender, that gets really complicated to answer because without a stable binary gender you can’t say whether someone else’s gender is the same or different. Unless you’re saying the same equals also non-binary and different equals binary. We’re just not trained to think that way. We’re trained to think of everything as being an on or off system rather than a spectrum system. So I had all kinds of other things that I tried before I got to the music thing, but I don’t know. Something just clicked for me when I was like “Ah, we’re all on the Kinsey scale! It’s called a scale.” And I was raised with music, and learned to play instruments as a kid and still can somewhat. And I was like, “Oh, that kind of makes sense.” The only part that was difficutlt after that was figuring out which end of the scale was homosexual, which end of the scale was heterosexual. Like, ‘I wonder if this is going to be...I might be playing a little bit with a stereotype here going up for the homosexuality or whatever, and then all those other little scales as well.’ All those scales tend to come out of our latest, sort of, diagram of the genderbread person. Which, anyone can google. I think it’s on meterosexual.com. And you can just google genderbread and see a lot of the different images that I use as little felt cutouts, which is an homage that I use to my Sunday school days when we used to learn all of our lessons about stories and the way the world works with felt cutouts on a feltboard. So I made these felt cutouts for the show for all of these different parts of our expression, and who we are in terms of gender and sexuality. I dunno, it was the one that worked. I had other ideas and that was the one that worked and clicked for enough people. I even have on my website (or it might be on my facebook page) a copy of the page where people can figure out their own cord, and they can figure out who they are musically for any individual day and draw it out on a little scale and then play it out at home. If they want to or something. Just for fun. Just for fun.

 

Please make sure to visit Ren at ze's website:

https://michellelunicke.com/

Part one of an interview with: Ren

As promised, the beginning to a wonderful interview with Ren.

 

Part One: Making the show

Akira:

Making the show, I saw the show it was amazing I really enjoyed it can you talk about how you translated those feelings onto a stage presence.

Ren:

Um...I will do my best.

I think the only thing that’s really being translated...it’s more that I’m concentrating, defining moments in each of those parts of my journey, distilling them to a few moments or a scene or whatever, even a few minutes because there’s so much breath that happened in reality to have to experience and so much thought and emotion and feeling up and down a roller coaster over and over again that I had to really just get a little bite of it in the show and then hopefully each of those bites together creates a journey as well. So in terms of translating it to a show, I had to concentrate it a little bit and also think cohesively from stage to stage or sene to scene what things are going to also bring the whole audience on a journey with me so that we can come to a similar place at the end of...I guess getting over our labels used as prisons rather than empowerment. And get over our need to judge other people in order to make ourselves and our communities feel succinct and safe and certain and complete and good enough, which I think is something that we suffer from in the queer community in all of our little permutations. And I got a lot of help. I have a very fine director, Peter Larsen, who helped me do some dramaturgy as well of developing the story and asking the right questions of me so that I can produce the part of the writing that wasn’t more true but was more complementary to the rest of the script. So that’s just an ongoing thing and there have been drafts and drafts and drafts and drafts of the show and lots of experimentation of making things funny and finding funny in the horrible stuff that happens to nearly every queer and gender variant person at some point or another.

 

Please make sure to visit Ren at ze's website:

https://michellelunicke.com/

Good news, everyone!

I just had an amazing conversation with Ren who is performing at the Vancouver Fringefest this weekend. Please check the link below for more deets. 

http://www.straight.com/arts/778956/vancouver-fringe-festival-review-ze-queer-fuck

This is an amazing opportunity to see an energetic, powerful performer. 

Ren uses the pronoun ze to refer to zirself. Ren and I had an amazing conversation that lasted well over 93 minutes, which is 5 minutes less than the full running time of Mean Girls (I checked). So I will be parsing the interview over the next few weeks as a transcript and a podcast!

That's right! My very first podcast series is coming up very soon. So watch out for that. 

In the meantime, please connect with Ren on zir website: 

https://michellelunicke.com/

Thanks everyone who goes out to support artist like Ren in the community. And if you aren't able to make it to Ren's show, you can always offer your support online or at future shows! 

 

 

Close encounters

So this story is not an exact verbatim, court transcript style account of what happened to me. I did my best to tell this story with the highest degree of accuracy I could. In all fairness, it is told explicitly from my perspective, and I want to make that clear when the other person in the story is not able to respond themselves to anything I wrote. Having a platform where I share things online means that I have to be responsible about the things I write. Take what I have wrote with a grain of salt.

 

Alright. I have a story...

 

So I was coming back home from a electrolysis appointment this morning, and I was waiting for the bus. As I was waiting for the bus there was someone who, to me, appeared as a cisgender heteronormative woman from what was presented to me. She commented on one of the workers cleaning up a mess at the bus stop. We talked to the worker and she gave us insight to how hard she had to work for $12 an hour with no benefits all while taking care of her mother. I took pity on her, respecting the work that she was doing.

The worker continues on her way, and the woman and I sat next to each other in tense silence as I tried to make small talk about the weather. She seemed to me awkward and I was questioning if I should make conversation with her or just throw my earphones back on. You can probably gather, especially after my stated resolve from my extrovert post, that I continued to be open to a conversation. It did bother me that she kept looking away and had a little bit of trouble making eye contact. I just took this as her being shy and tried to think nothing of it. So I continued to put out innocuous small talk topics that must have felt as awkward to her as it did to me. Finally, after having stilted silence go on and off between us, she asked were I was coming from. I told her I was coming from a electrolysis appointment and I'm going back home. It surprised me how ready I was to be open about that, but it was the truth and I had the hive like appearance to my face. I didn't feel any shame in telling her that. When I told her that, she nodded in almost a knowing way. She then asked me, “I see. Are you a transgender?” My initial internal thought was, 'Oh wow, it's going to be one of those days...'

Now, I am a person who prides herself about being open about my gender. Yes, I understand that the question was incredibly rude. Yes, I understand that I could have declined her question or even moved away from her. I would have been well within my rights, considering if someone asked me “What race are you?” or “So, are you gay or something?” in such a direct manner after just meeting them. W heather it was me being fearless or me being stupid, I'm not exactly sure. I didn't shy away from the question. I answered in the affirmative, “Yes, I am transgender.” My assumption is that she understood what electrolysis is, and she also must have clocked me. I wasn't exactly trying very hard today. To be quite frank, I've been trying less and less lately to blend into heteronormative perceptions of “excessive femininity” because I just don't feel like it. I was just in a hoodie and a pair of jeans with no make up on today. I was like, whatever.

I can hear some of you behind your computer monitors shake your heads at how I see that standard of womanhood in my mind as the “standard”. I know, trust me when I say I hear you loud and clear. I also have to accept the fact that there's a whole world out there who is going to make trouble for me for not fitting into that standard. It's not just, I don't like it, I would never treat someone else like that, but that's how the world of cis people treat me. I have more or less prepared myself for interactions like this one. I have come to peace that I will have to do the work of explaining my gender expression to those unfamiliar with who I am. This is the work that falls on the shoulders of gender variant individuals. This is what I got to go through.

I understand I can't be in a safe queer, trans bubble for the rest of my life. There will be times where my identity will be interrogated. I either shrink away from confrontation, or I rise to the occasion. Luckily, this interaction was relatively banal from potential transphobic confrontations. I'm not trying to compare myself to trans women who deal with the spectre of violence on a daily basis. So I look at this as a conversation I had with someone who didn't fully understand me.

 

Anyway, after I answered in the affirmative, she asked me, “So you're a man who wants to be a woman, right?” She seemed to ask with a tone of excitement as if to say, 'Ah-ha! I've figured you out!' I didn't get angry, although that was very tempting.

I took a tiny pause and told her. “Well no, that's not who I am.”

Then she says to me, “I know someone who was a man and they wanted to be a woman. And they told me that they wanted to be a woman their whole life.”

I then clarified, “ And if that's how she identifies, that's great. For me, it's not about that. It's not about 'wanting' to be a woman. It's about going from one gender expression to another. I was expressing a gender expression before that made me feel so uncomfortable and now I'm expressing one that is much more comfortable to me. It's not about going from a man to a woman, it's about what's finding what is comfortable in your own body.”

And she said, “Right, but you were a man, right?”

I think I winced, “Well, no. How can you be anything that you don't feel fully comfortable in? How could I have been a man if expressing masculinity made me so miserable? I've always had this expression, these feelings deep down inside my entire life. It's only when I let go of expressing myself masculinely that I could embrace what feels right and true in my life.”

I believe (and my memory is admittedly fuzzy here) that she said, “Right, but that's what you chose to do.”

This is getting frustrating. “No, I didn't chose to do this. Trust me, If I could have chosen, I would have chosen not to go through transition. It was hard. It was a lot of sacrifice and it still continues to be a challenge for all the thing that transgender people have to face in society. All the dangers. No, I didn't chose to be transgender or feel this way. If there was a choice, there was a choice to stay absolutely miserable and sad, or to embrace a new expression and show that to the world. After I came out, it was liberating. It felt like a relief. I could chose to stay there or not. And no, I didn't chose to be trans.”

Her expression on her face has stayed at what seemed to me like a Mona Lisa smile. A slight, placid grin was on her face constantly as she spoke. It almost appeared as if that itself was some kind of mask she was putting on to appear friend an congenial. There was a preconception and tone that she was hiding. I could feel it. Even though she may not have felt that her questions were invasive and downright rude, I believe to her she felt that she was well within her rights to ask me these questions. I think that I may have enabled her in this sense because I kept responding. The thing is, I didn't feel the need to shy away. She was asking questions, I was doing my best to answer.

I have a spirit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to these conversations. In no way am I obliged to have them, and yet I feel obliged to be a good ambassador for trans people. A trans friend of mine told me very early on in my transition, “If you're not making us look good, you're making us look bad.” I would never put that pressure on another gender variant person, but I understand the wisdom in that. I want to represent my community in a positive way. I can't do that if I shut down in front of people out of anger. I have to have some kind of dialogue for the potential of progress to blossom. Also, by no means should this be how any other trans person should interact with cisgender people. These are my actions and my actions alone, and this is what I did.

She responds, “So who are you attracted to? What's your sexuality like?”

Um...that caught me off guard. “Well...I date feminine people. I like to date people who express femininity. In the past, I've dated...mostly women-”

At that point she interpreted me, “Because you're a man!”

Wow, I cannot believe you said that. “But, I'm not a man.”

She replies, and I swear this is word for word, “Right, but you have to admit that you look like a man.”

 

(Okay, side note on my appearance at the time of this story. I was wearing a pink and purple hoodie sweater that was a tiny bit baggy, my favorite purple jeans, and chunky black and white sneakers. No make up. Pink hair tied back in a pony tail. While my appearance is not the end all be all of my gender identity, nor is it an absolute aspect that is required to feed my well being, I felt I looked pretty femme.)

 

That was the question that made me subtly bite my lip. I broke my eye contact with her and stared off into the ground for a second. For many reasons, that question got to me at the core of my being. The funny thing is though, that I felt like I would be enraged, outwardly emotional or downright vindictive in response. Probably a younger version of myself would have been deeply wounded. Yet there was something at the core of my being she struck that I was not expecting. It felt calm, purposeful, and at the same time disappointed. It felt...deeply mature.

 

I turned to her and this is what I said, “That really hurts to hear. While you may see a man, I can't control that. I feel that I put so much effort into bringing what's inside to other people that it's so hard and takes so much effort. I work so hard on that. When others cant' see that, when I can't connect with people like that, I feel very, very hurt.”

 

Again, her expression did not change. I could see a distance in her eyes I hadn't noticed before. I had looked her directly in the eye and told her all that with all the vulnerability that comes with it. I didn't really know what to do, I just felt that those words needed to hang there and have space. So I stayed silent and looked at her as she broke her gaze with me and stared at the ground. I couldn't tell if she was taking in what I had said. I don't know if she understood. I don't know if we connected just then. I don't know what was going on in her mind. I had not attacked her, nor did I say that with the intention of attacking her. I think I discovered when I reflected on it, that no good would have come to the conversation if I had attacked her, if I had gone on the defensive or verbally assaulted her has a bigot. Believe it or not, the temptation never crossed my mind. Looking back on it now, I'm surprised I wasn't in an enraged fury of malcontent. I felt that I was being interrogated for the foundation of my gender identity. So I look back on that interaction with almost a sense of pride. Not because I was more calm or cool headed. It was because I focused on what truly mattered. I could have had a fight with her and gone back and forth about what a “real” woman is, and I could have continued to face her with negativity to tear her down. It wasn't important to me to be proven right, the only thing that was on my mind that became clear was, 'How do I reach you?' I felt that having facts, a lived experience and challenging her perceptions of gender wouldn't achieve that. So I decided to open up. I calmly expressed myself and in a very raw manner. I was vulnerable. I think in a discussion like that, people don't expect vulnerability. Perhaps it took her off guard, who's to say. In that moment, I didn't have to say anymore and she didn't have anything to say. I would say in that sense I was very effective.

 

After a few seconds that seemed like eternity, I feel that some part of her internalized my vulnerability in a way that maybe she didn't fully appreciate at the time. Maybe I'm reading too much into it too. However, I could feel something, very minute, shift in her. It didn't look like shame. It didn't look like embarrassment. It looked like something more...profound. She raised her Mona Lisa face back to me and said, “You have really nice teeth!” I smiled (appropriately) and thanked her. At the very least, I believe that she had enough good social graces to know when to change the subject. After that, we had a very friendly and congenial discussion together. We talked about coffee vs. tea, what our favorite flavors are, and it turned into two stranger getting to know each other. I admit, to me there was a little bit of tension. I just thought that I could just let that go and get to know this woman. Eventually, the bust arrived and we continued our conversation seated near the condensed window.

So I found out that her name is Patricia, and I introduced myself likewise. She is a nurse, but not an RN from what she told me. I'm not exactly sure, but there's a lot of different kinds of nurses with varying degrees of certification. I listened to her talk about her work, and she takes care of patients who have severely limited mobility. Patirica told me that she had to have a lot of patience with people. Although, she did mention that she learned new recipes from a patient who was very good at cooking and apparently very skilled at instructions. I remarked how that must take a lot of dedication and care. I also said how wonderful it must be to have a job where you can learn just as much from others as you can put value into their lives. Patricia held her mask and nodded. She told me she wanted to take distance learning to continue her education. But because she's not working at the moment, and she still has outstanding student loans she said that she wasn't going to do it yet. I said that there's nothing wrong with that, and she needs to feel like it's the right time, whenever that is. I'm forget how it came up, but she disclosed that she has ADD. It didn't change how I treated her, but in full disclosure I did see her in a different light. So there I go in my own mind with my own judgments about her mental health, probably in the same way she had preconceptions about my gender. How human. I told her that while she deals with ADD, she also is a person who has a lot of patience, dedication and focus when she wants to. That much was clear to me if you're going to be working with people with declined mobility for eight years. I said to her that it's just another component of who you are, just like all the other components I just described. I remember her smiling. I changed the subject to asking her if she watches any tv shows. She said no, and she doesn't watch a lot of movies. Patricia asked me about movies I've watched recently. I told her about Kubo and the Two String and Swiss Army Man, both of which I enjoyed. As we closed in on the bus loop where we were to leave, she told me that the rest of her day would be spent at Metrotown, shopping for a good non-fiction book and going to Starbucks. I excitedly told Patricia to have a good time. We left the bus, shook hands and went our separate ways.

 

I think what I took away from that experience was that it could have been much worse. What more, I'm just happy it turned into a conversation where I could enjoy someone else's company. Yes, we got off to a rocky start, and no we're not friends for life. I just see how both of us opened up in our own ways. Yes, I felt she was rude and ignorant. Very rude. Was I sincerely hurt by what she said? Yes, but it's nothing I can't learn to deal with. I don't think I could have every made her take me legitimately as a woman. I don't think I'll be able to increase her sensitivity with gender-variant people. I don't think I necessarily won anything. In the pursuit to include ourselves as equals in the presence of society, I could have gone insane and let myself be bogged down in the negativity of ignorance. In other words, I could have hit my head against that brick wall. I did finally see that I could rise above that by focusing on what was important: connecting.

 

 

But I am curious: what would you do?

Colour of your skin vs. The content of your character

I am a creature of shame. Shame has manifested in my life in all forms. Shame of my body, shame of my emotions, shame of my expression. There's also the shame in the characteristics of race, something like many elements I had no control over and yet has come to unfold in my life in a very private strife. It's a strife that does not lend itself to a dramatic realization, only a drawn out progress. Although, that progress has more to do with me that it does with the factor of my race. The same can be said with most things in my life. 

I grew up in Steveston: a residential suburb of Richmond, BC. You would think that a neighborhood that was rich in Japanese Canadian culture and also home to a Japanese Canadian community centre would allow me to find a home in my roots. It would, had I been willing to travel down that path. I was not at that time ready, as I have come to understand. Much like coming to terms with being transgender, I held myself back from a development that would have left me a broken human being had I started any earlier. I continually learn to forgive myself more for that and understand that I am ready now. What more, I can come to the history and culture in a way that I never could before. What I do now and not what I did is what truly matters now.  

Yet now that I am ready I look at all that lies ahead of me in understanding my roots. What do we, as young people who do not share even the same exact racial identities as our parents go? Many of us in this generation have grown up in households where English was the dominant language. Where interracial couples were what we woke up to everyday. Where we were essentially provided membership to two worlds, but never feeling at home in either. These are barriers all to common that I hear about. When children of interracial couples try to find their roots, especially in a climate like Canada where the presence of cisgender, heterosexual, white people are still considered a standard, we can feel lost and alien. I know that having a father who is of European descent and a mother of Asian decent gave me consistent crisis in my identity that I learned not to share because my parents and family members didn't seem to share those feelings. I thought that was just me and there was something wrong with feeling that way. (By the way, I go through so many identity crises that I should make a career out of it.) Slowly but surely I came to discover that other people of colour were also from mixed backgrounds outside my family, and that we shared a great deal of struggles within our own souls for not fitting in perfectly to any branch of our racial identity. I have talked to friends who felt they weren't black enough. I know people who have told me they were ashamed to admit that they share aboriginal blood . Not because they are ashamed to be aboriginal but because they pass as a white person so effectively that they have lived with that privilege while their bothers and sisters have not. When you're not enough of anything, sometimes you can feel too much of nothing.

 

So when I talk to people in my family about race, the only ones I can reliably talk to are my cousins, as we share the same anxieties of not being enough of anything, and still being enough of something to be labeled as “other”. That act of othering is still a barrier that people of colour face even if they're mixed. And when they're not then there's the opposite problem of not being taken seriously when you say you share the same blood ties as another. For instance, if I were to go around to people and introduce myself as a European Canadian, that wouldn't exactly fly. When being judged by appearances we always judge people on the basis of things that we are not. So when I meet someone with lighter skin, they see my darker skin. When I meet someone with lighter hair, they see my dark hair, and so on and so-forth. So if I were ever to describe myself as a European Canadian, that would technically be correct. But let's face facts: Do you think it would be taken seriously? Take a look at my pictures. I don't the first thing that comes to mind is European. When I try to explain myself as a person descended from Irish/German roots, I would get a subdued response. When I mention my Japanese Canadian heritage, people (mostly white) light up and say, “I knew it! That makes sense.” I don't know why you think you've unlocked a secret here, or that that one piece of knowledge provides you with a discernible amount of information to make your own judgments about me. I have not met one person, not one, who sees me as a European Canadian. At least not yet. Even people of direct Japanese decent always gravitate toward my Nikkei heritage. Granted, we have something to share and talk about in a genuine fashion. However, I never feel Japanese when I'm with them. Not fully.

 

Japanese Canadian is just that, a person who is descended from Japanese people and is ultimately Canadian. That's also a barrier that people of colour face. I get described as if my family hasn't been living in Canada for four generations. It boggles my mind when I think of how long it takes or how much assimilation it takes to be seen as Canadian always eludes me. For instance: I still think of people that I'm talking with on the phone as white when I hear them speak in a specific accent. It's a terrible habit, and it goes to show to at least me how ingrained white patriarchy is in North American psychology. On the phone, I have a typical West coast Canadian accent. I learned to speak like that because that's how everyone else around me spoke when I was growing up and I wanted to fit in. I would imagine most people take me as white when they speak to me on the phone, regardless of their own ethnicity. I don't blame them, I understand where that preconception comes from. There were, and sadly still are, very few Japanese Canadian people that I interacted with when I was growing up. Yes, the Lower Mainland has the highest percentage of Japanese Canadians in the country. But the ratio of those people compared to my white acquaintances is eclipsing. I saw that in a subversive way, that Japanese Canadians may have been treated as equals when I was growing up, but we were not the same as white people. And we were not seen the same as other white Canadians. Not in the least. If you want proof of that: When was the last time someone who appears white put a prefix on themselves? Such as Russian-Canadian, Welsh-Canadian, Greek-Canadian, Swedish-Canadian? Why is it always the people of colour that must endure and take ownership of those labels when white people don't do the same? I can assure you that I have never heard my father refer to himself as a European-Canadian. Why does my mom have to put a prefix on herself, or have a prefix put on her? Why am I then subjected to describe myself in further detail on a form that asks if I identify as a person of colour? I can only take this to mean that white people do not see themselves as settles or occupiers or colonialists or descended from another land...they see themselves as Canadian. How nice. Is it any wonder I feel out of touch with my ethnicity? And is it any wonder that I'm still ashamed of having those thoughts pop up in my head when they come? It's not something I'm proud of. The more I recognize that habit the more I can learn to let it go. I have learned we all have a part of our minds that leap to judgment. A coach of mine asked me if even in the face of seeing those judgments in yourself, that you can learn to let them go and be present with someone? A tall order to ask, and one that I learned to preform for my volunteer roles. Yet that judgment will always be an obstacle if I allow it to have power and never give it space. The more I can learn to be forgiving of myself for something so ingrained in me that it's almost impossible to escape. I do feel that it is possible to accept, and that might be more worthwhile.

 

Having said all that, I do find it hilarious that when I was growing up, whenever the topic of race would come up, white individuals would say to me, “It doesn't matter to me what race, religion, sexuality, gender, political affiliation, income, education level, age, language you speak, how you look...it don't matter!” I always felt uncomfortable with that and I never understood why. Then I made the conclusion, “Wait, what else is there to a person? That's like, everything!” I think what people try and mean when they say that is, “I don't judge you for the things that make you different from me. We are and always will be one humanity.” I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt on that one. Because the truth is that it matters to me. It matters to me what MY race, religion, sexuality, gender, political affiliation, occupation, income, education level, age, language I speak is because...well...that's me! It took me a long time to build up the courage to even say the words that, “I am transgender.” And it still is difficult to say, “I am a person of colour.” because I don't know what that exactly means to me yet. I know that there's a part of it that holds truth to who I am. As with all the other components of who I am they are changing and developing in ways I need to constantly learn from. Learning about those things have made my life more fulfilling. Understanding them has made it easier for me to be around others. They do matter to me very much because they feed my drive as a human being. What more, they're the things I'm most interested to learn about in another human being. I think, perhaps, it may be more useful to say, “Whatever makes you different from me will not hold me back from understanding you. And I accept you for who you are.”

 

Even though I'm from a mixed background, I'm seen as Japanese Canadian primarily and not my European side. As well, when I look back at the oppression and racist policies my grandparents had to endure, I keep very much in mind that if I were alive at that time I would be treated exactly like them. That bears repeating: I would be treated exactly like them. I would get labeled as an alien enemy, I would have my basic rights taken away, I would be monitored constantly and invasively, I would be restricted to curfew, I would have my property and livelihood taken away in a blink of an eye, I would be forced to live in an environment akin to a prison, I would be forced into labour I did not want to do, I would be called racist slurs like Nip, and after all that I would not be allowed to return to the place of my birth and have to build my life from scratch. I would also live in fear that this culture of distrust against people like me would continue forever. That's what I would have to endure, if I were living in Vancouver during 1942. They wouldn't care about who I was, just how I looked.

 

I look at my side of the family who was able to slip under the radar of wartime Canada and live a quiet life with other white Canadians. I often reflect on how they themselves were Irish and German. Ironic that the German descended Canadians were never subjected to the same treatment as Japanese Canadians. I have not read any books on the matter, my family has never talked about it, so I am to assume they were seen as safe because they were seen as white. And that's all that mattered. I feel bitter when I think about that because I would not have been treated like the Fasers or the Rolheizsers were, I would be treated like the Imais and the Isomuras were. So no, I don't consider myself to be sharing both sides of my family equally, because I was not nor ever will be judged equally by a society that treated my loved ones so poorly. I don't consider myself to be sharing both sides of my family equally if I would be judged then as now by just one branch of my family. Life is not fair, and neither is how humanity acts when we are faced with difference. Fairness doesn't keep people “safe” against ambiguous threats. Prejudice does.

Surprisingly because of that realisation, I've begun to see the value in investing into your own identity. That essentially has to do with me coming out as transgender. Investing in your identity can mean many things, and the most important thing it can mean is to be at peace with yourself. I've been lucky enough to have heroes, resources and experiences that have informed the component of me that is trans. However, that only goes so far as I realise that there is more territory to my identity that I have not explored. That territory is my ethnic background. The one I have been shying away from when I touched it's outer layers. Peering in I could see in a faded cloud all the heartache, loss and isolation my ancestors had experienced. Then as I grew older I could feel it. When I became mature enough to embody human suffering when faced with it, the imperative to understand became compelling. Life changed for me when the feelings of being transgender went from being a feeling to my feelings. Likewise, those feelings of diaspora, confusion and loss have gone from a feeling to my feelings. That is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road. Being with new friends has allowed me to align myself in that way. Learning from Jeff Chiba Sterns from his documentary (One Big Happa Family), I saw that I was not alone in my confusion. When I went to New Denver to visit the Japanese Canadian museum, I learned that I was not alone in feeling diaspora. When I joined the Japanese Canadian Young Leaders, I learned that I was not alone in my adversity in the face of internalized exclusion. After a lifetime of others telling me who I was, feeling like I didn't belong, it became more and more refreshing to come to others who met that same personal challenge. After sharing all that I was bolstered enough to go out and find what being yonsei means to me. I allow other Japanese Canadians to inform my growth, but not to drive my personal growth for me.

 

I would not have been ready for any of this when I was younger. Understanding that, it makes it all the more clear that not only am I ready but I also have the power to influence my community as I grow into my own. I have seen it in members already well established in the Japanese Canadian community as admirable young leaders. I hope that as time goes on I can see that in myself too.

 

So yes, race always hit a nerve for me when I was younger. It hits and even bigger nerve now. The difference being is that I do not shy away from any ownership over expressing that I am Japanese Canadian. When people see my name and say, “Oh, Akira! That's Japanese, isn't it?” I reply, “Damn straight.” I have that sense of ownership because, similar to my gender, I learned that I am the one who ultimately has authority. I'm not going to continue letting myself get bogged down in being enough of something. I'm not going to allow others to set the agenda for my own identity. I know what feels right and wrong in my own spirit, and that's all I need. For a long time I didn't feel that I was Japanese enough, and that I'll never be seen as white. I learned through much struggle that I can be seen as myself.

Inside out

I have a confession to make: I am an extrovert.

 

You are most likely, understandably, impossibly underwhelmed. I on the other hand have only come to this knowledge quite recently. When I let it sink in, it rocked my world.

 

There is much debate and speculation from minds much more educated than mine about the introvert vs. extrovert dichotomy. If you were to look up definitions and information about introverts vs. extroverts online (don't), you'll come across a vast amount of opinions, analyses and definitions. All of them are somewhat different in their interpretations. The dictionary definition is the simplest one I could find: an outgoing, gregarious person. I guess that helps? Well, not really. It doesn't feel conclusive. To actually understand it, I might as well write about it.

 

I like the definition of extroverts as people who get energised and are motivated when they're around people. Likewise, introverts are energised by being alone and motivated by being able to figure things out for themselves. That's the best definition that I have at least.

 

As a transgender woman, I don't feel the pressure to be stuck to binaries. Nor do I feel it's healthy to reinforce any kind of binary that may serve to separate people. However, I do feel that there is great value in using language and analysis to better understand myself so I can lead a more enriching life. The life unexamined and junk. So with that said I don't think I 100% go into the extrovert camp because I don't think that anybody is truly 100% anything all the time. What more, thinking about individuals in absolutes is a surefire way to limit your perception of others. So I feel like using introvert and extrovert like I would use words like femme, queer, or person of colour. It's a huge blanket statement that begs for refinement, and only the person who individually identifies with those words will be the best authority. It's really about defining things ourselves.

 

There's a thing that happens as a queer person (at lest people I've talked to) when you look back on your life and play a detective in your personal development. When did I have the first feelings of feeling queer? Did I do anything that transgressed gender norms? How did I interact in interpersonal relationships and how did that change once I came out? What were the signs? All very common questions one may be answering for the rest of their lives. However, it's the feelings that when you connect them to your experience now and understand them through a different lens do life events become clearer. For me, I look back at my own life and look at how I acted around social situations and people when I was younger.

 

To say that I was a shy child was an understatement. I had so many feelings that were alien to the people around me and I never thought that I would be understood. It took me a long time to come to terms with how many of those feelings were transgender feelings. I thought there was something deeply, fundamentally wrong with me as a human being. As if everyone else on planet Earth got an instruction manual on how to interact with others that I didn't get. What more, whenever I would have a chance to be the centre of attention I wilted away from the opportunity very quickly. Having others watch me felt like they were judging me. I would build up an image of who I was so much that I didn't know I was holding myself back. It just felt like I was keeping myself safe. But when I look at videos or remember things from my past there was a spirit of being an outgoing person at a very young age, but also being a very sensitive person. I believe those things aren't mutually exclusive. I believe you can be sensitive, shy, and a little bit anxious as a extroverted person just as much as you can be a bold, direct and confident introvert. It all depends on one's experience with putting out their true nature into the world.

 

I feel like I incline more towards getting more energy from others. I look back on my life and I see ways I lead groups and connected to a community. I would sometimes join clubs, seek community work, or just wander around the city looking for adventure. The trouble was that I still had to carry all that baggage of self-loathing and devastating dysphoria wherever I went. Looking back on it now, how can any extrovert expect to be outgoing or gregarious if they have to contend with that being in their face on a constant basis? It's a lot to ask. But as I got older it became easier and easier to be a person that I constructed and I felt safe presenting to others. And when that person was validated more and more the easier and easier it came to being more outgoing and gregarious. Granted, social skills are skill and they have to be practiced like any other ability. Whether or not your are extroverted social skills do not come out of a vacuum. But it wasn't me, and what was worse is that it didn't feel like me. Not truly. I felt that I looked at elements that people expected out of men and I tried desperately hard to fit into that the best I could. When I eventually did come out though, I was engrossed in a world of emotional expression that even a few years ago would have seemed completely foreign to me. When I looked at what kind of job I had I was the social butterfly of the company. The role I had was one where I did interact with every member of the company but it was the fact that I made the effort to interact with as many people in the company that I see my extroversion showing.

 

I think what happened when I look back at my younger self is that I felt soul crushingly lonely feeling so different on the inside that I couldn't handle it. I see a kid in pain. I thought that makes you an introvert, not wanting to be around people and feeling safer by yourself. But that's not true. Introverts love having deep personal connections with people and they like having company. Introverts can be very expressive people. It's just in the way that they show it is different is all. We all have the basic needs of connection and inclusion that feeds our well being. I was denying that to myself believing that me being introverted meant walling myself from others in a very emotionally unhealthy way. That pathos came from a deep seeded mistrust of others. Something that does not mean you are an introvert, because introverts can be very trusting people. They just develop trust in a different way. Perhaps at one point or at some points in my life I was introverted. And I do things today that may be interpreted as introverted behavior. However, I look back at my younger self and the time I spent alone didn't feel like I was gaining energy to feed into my own well being. It felt lonely, absent and miserable. Now I can wrap my head around more of why it felt that way. I wanted to be around others. More importantly, I wanted to me myself around others. My true self in all her glory. That was not something I was ready for at the age of 9. That was not something I was ready for last year. But sometimes there are events in life you can't possibly be ready for. You just go through it.

 

I reflect on the person that I continue to become after coming out and it's a whole new person. I can communicate with greater ease and immediacy that I once could. I can develop more fulfilling friendships with those I share my values with. I can finally write without the crippling self criticism that consistently held me back. Or at the very lest less of it. I can find a quality of leadership inside me. And I can finally learn to value myself so that I can extend self-care to myself. The love, understanding and insight I have cultivated for others can now be directed towards me. I finally enjoy being with other people. More importantly, I enjoy being myself around other people. The feeling of liberation of finally feeling seen puts a part of my psyche at ease. I can be the expressive extrovert I always dreamed of being deep down in my heart. I just never thought I would allow myself that exploration. Strange how a small amount of time will change someone given a big enough life event.

 

It surprised me when I was coming out that there were people around me that said that I was still the same person essentially deep down inside. In some ways, behaviors and habits I exhibit I before transition continue even after beginning transition. But I am not the same person I was before I came out, and I mean that in a very literal and all encompassing way. At the core of my being, so many things have shifted in a direction I was not prepared for. I went from being an introvert to WAY more of an extrovert. Part of that may be me being more comfortable with myself, but a bigger part is accepting myself. The changes that I feel that were monumental were the intangible things. Things like how emotions feel like inside me, how I approach problems, what I think is important in life, how I see myself, and how I relate to people. There's most likely more things that have and will change. For now, I feel the biggest change is that I'm finally comfortable in my own skin. That's a rare gift, and I don't take it for granted.

 

It's going to take some time to get used to being an extrovert. I don't want to be completely dependent on other people, and I do view myself as a very independent individual. It's not healthy to be needy for the attention of others and their validation for your own sense of self-worth. I have felt the limitations of that experience first hand. However, I do need to cultivate or tap into a community of people I can gain energy from. I got energised when I gave my time to others, when I helped them accomplished their goals, and when I could be there for them. I get energised from adding value to the lives of others whenever I can. That's who I am and I'm not going to fight it anymore. But I want to do it without compromising my own identity. I am still apprehensive of being my genuine self in a world that still doesn't understand me. There are those that still wish ill will upon me. So it's all the more important to develop friendships with queer, trans, and individuals of colour. Why would I keep subjecting myself to more isolation? It's essential that I reach out to those who struggle as I have struggled. It's also important too to interact with people I can draw those qualities of positivity from even if they don't share any components of my identity. I need the momentum in my life to be people power. The opposite has only felt draining and dis-empowering. I expect setbacks, I expect to get shy, I expect it to be awkward maybe. I just see it so clearly that it's the way I navigate though the world and what I'm naturally drawn to that I was totally caught off guard with how right that realization feels.

 

I'm an extrovert, and that's okay.

 

 

 

Keep it in the family

 

I just had a long discussion with a friend about being a gender variant person in a family. Specifically the only gender variant person in the family. While it is not my goal to air out dirty laundry for the whole world to see or speak about my family in a conversation they're not involved with, what I can say is that there are certain patters that I see happen in most families with adult children who identify as LGBTQI2+. To those common experiences that queer (and forgive me, I use queer in the most broadest of terms) family members have to deal with, I don't need to involve my family and in no way does this blog represent anything they've done.

 

Also, I cannot speak to experiences of parents who are gender variant themselves. That discussion should be left to people who have lived that experience. I cannot speak as a parent, but I can sure as hell speak as a child.

 

However, no matter how tragic each family may be in their own way, the greater tragedy is to see your family in others. I still see common behaviors that families exhibit when confronted with a family member who expresses their gender or sexuality beyond the conventional cultural norms. There can be a mourning with said family member like people processing the stages of death. Although to reduce the trans and gender variant experience down to denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance loses the specific nuance only we in the community can feel. For my friend, everyone else in their family identifies and conforms to cisgender herteronormative standards. I have heard from other people that transgressing said standards is exhausting. How do we transgress those standards? Simply by living out as our authentic selves. That is the struggle that I see too often. The desire to be accepted and seen in the family as your genuine self is challenging because it is not something you see any other family member work for. The art of trying to fit in, pleasing the perception of your caregivers, all the while standing up for yourself often transforms from the gentle grace of a delicate ballet to the chaos of a monster truck rally. At least that's what it can feel like inside.

 

Ultimately I have seen individuals slowly but surely let go of their desires to gain the love and affection from their family. It is a liberating exercise, and allows oneself to come to terms with what is truly important. We spend so much time on fostering love in our families that we don't stop and consider that other qualities are more fulfilling: Understanding, recognition and respect to name a few. Love is a abstract and arbitrary word that is tossed around sometimes very poorly and without consideration. “I'm doing this because I love you.” doesn't sound like love to the listener, just an excuse for malicious actions. For this reason, I see people realise that love is unobtainable from their parents because the parents define love in a much different way than the child. Living up to the expectation of love from both sides is a recipe for disaster. Young people grow up but as adults coming out we feel the inner tension of drifting away from our family as well as drawing closer to a profound realm of self realization. And when your identity embodies such radical forms as trans, genderqueer, and pansexual, parents are left to wonder how they can reconcile this newly discovered dimension of you to the child you once were. Sometimes I hear about parents being stuck in a perception of their child from the past. What I don't think a lot of parents appreciate is that the child is going to grow at breakneck speeds and leave that perception in the dust. The tragedy there is the child growing into a more fulfilled human being who is more whole and capable, while the parents are left holding on to someone who doesn't exist anymore or at the very least exists in an entirely new capacity.

 

I notice that of all things holding desperately on to the past keeps individuals from growth. It keeps them from expanding what they're capable of and keeps them from challenges that uncover even more amazing potential they can contribute to the world. I know that when I kept holding on to the image of myself as a boy tighter and tighter, the deeper my anguish tore into me. At one point, I discovered that holding on to a past that didn't feed my well being was one best left forgotten. That was hard.

 

Most parents, I don't think, recognize that they hold onto those expectations so deeply. By proxy, us queer kids hold onto those exceptions ourselves. The beautiful thing is that you don't need your parent's permission to let go of that. While there is an understandable nature to parenting, that doesn't excuse any malicious, callous or downright indifferent behavior to a child's true identity. I don't think that most family members appreciate how difficult it is for us to come out to them. It takes a gargantuan amount of courage simply to have the first conversation. For people who have families that are disrespectful or worse, the courage comes from being consistent in your ability to express your true self. The sense of belonging from asserting your boundaries is a much healthier alternative than to have a sense of belonging through spiritual compromise. It takes work to come back to a family time and time again where you are finding a deeper commitment to your own truth that is different from their constructed view of you. It takes strength to dress how your feel comfortable, to explain your pronouns, to put your foot down when someone says something that makes your feel hurt. This is a strength drawn upon by us because cisgender hererosexual people have never had any of their norms questioned or challenged. By nature, any person in the queer community challenges those things simply by being. Simply by developing our character puts those who have the privilege to live never needing to justify their feelings in a challenging position. They never had to dig deep down inside to be sure of themselves. We do.

 

To the people who do struggle with the things I wrote about, I have and most likely said things that you've already heard before in some capacity or another. Even so, there are affirmations of support that bear repeating. I want to say to you that it's not your fault. There's nothing wrong with you, and it's not your job to figure things out for your parents or family. You live your life. You assert yourself when you're feeling wronged and disrespected. Wear what makes you feel comfortable. Talk about the issues near and dear to your heart without worrying if people are going to get it. You have the ability to engage with your family in a way you nor them ever could before, and there is real power in that. You live life with all the potential that comes with embracing your true self. If you struggle with that, trust me when I say the act of trying in and of itself is noble. For in that act, there is freedom.

 

To the parents of gender variant and queer children: I don't think it's the job of parents to challenge their children, but I do believe that it's the job for children to challenge their parents. Because, let's face it, if you took on the responsibility to raise a human life in an insane fragile world...you asked for the challenge. But imagine the challenge that we have to face in our daily lives simply to exist and be who we are. Sometimes it's a struggle for us simply to accept ourselves. The challenge that you have is to understand, support and embrace your child in all their unabashed self. All we're asking you to do is to step up to that challenge.

 

For us.

A new year

I recently celebrated my birthday. This is the first year I felt the need to reminisce and reflect on the past year. Now that I think about it, I don't understand why January is the most popular time of the year to reflect on things and look forward to a new future. You would think that the day you were birthed into this world would be the moment that you would peer into your soul and your place in this universe. I suppose this goes to how arbitrary human beings are when milestones occur. But seeing as how this is my first year out, I feel the need to look at my life from the perspective of a person who is now a full year older than myself from a year ago. You would think that I would feel different, more mature, more well rounded, more solidified in my own identity, more wise. Whatever. The truth is that I feel different. Way different. I believe that is what I am reflecting on so much.

 

A year ago I was very much in the closet, and scared about all the challenges that would happen when I finally did come out as a transgender woman. This is truly something that when it happened I was not prepared for how profound the dynamics of my life would change. Simply put, I have discovered a undercurrent of confidence from having a year to make mistakes and put myself out there in a way I never had to before. Above everything else, that's what feels like the biggest difference. I've lived a very cloistered life and now having all the feelings I've been withholding from the world be unleashed is not something that I thought would ever happen in my life. Having a period of my life where more has happened in one year than in a decade is a testament to the relentless force of life. Without warning, your life can be upended. Your whole concept of safety and belonging can be called into question. Most importantly, challenges that you would never think of having to confront let alone be able to rise to the occasion can give one pause to the very essence of human capability. I know for me that's what happened.

 

Having being pushed to such a strong weight of momentum only took me further and further the more I kept myself focused on what was important: being whole. Living a fragmented reality is something only people who have ever had to live in the closet due to societal pressures or even internal dread will ever know the pain. Coming to terms with that pain was what kept the momentum throughout my transition. I was quite content to live the rest of my life feeling dead inside. Then when I found life inside of me I knew that something phenomenal had happened. It's one thing to live your life with a zombie-like malaise, it's another to finally discover something elemental to yourself that gets your up in the morning at the same time keeps your awake at night.

 

Because of that awakening in my humanity I look back at my life to the person that I was a year ago. Then I look to the person that I was a year before that. And the year before that, and the year before that, and so on. It troubles me to see a picture of a person getting younger and younger and having less and less relation to their state of mind or internal emotional landscape. I am unsure if that is a healthy aspect of growing up, or if it is simply a way my mind copes with what seems like to me a vast amount of time through extreme personal strife. I look at the individual in those pictures and even though it may be two years, three, four or even longer, the fact remains I have lost what power that identity had in my life.
 

Perhaps it was a feeling that my identity, my name, my gender, my sexuality, were all immutable forces of nature that were just as unchanging as the rhythm of the seasons. Things that I never had to forge for myself and were simply applied under the assumption of my appearance were things I didn't know how to articulate myself. One thing I am lucky for is to look back at that younger person with increasingly more forgiveness as the years pass. I feel that it is a part understanding others and their struggles as well as it is honoring mine, but the fact is that providing myself with that forgiveness is a relatively new muscle I'm growing and it takes finesse to be effective with it. Recognizing that I tried so hard to not embody the feelings that have come to define my presence in the world is something I've also struggled to forgive myself for.

 

I hope as I grow older that I won't necessarily grow wiser, or more intelligent, or even wealthier. Even though all three and more would be absolutely welcome, acceptance has been the most under-appreciated virtue in my life. There may be a time when I'm older, wiser, smarter and wealthier and have forgotten to be accepting. Beginning to write and put my craft of writing out in the world like this will come with it's own form of self-criticism, angst and doubt. Undoubtedly there may come a day when I look back at this moment with the same critical eye I look back on who I was before transition. When that day comes, I also hope to be able to let go of the self-conscious anxiety that holds me back from simply expressing my own humanity. In the same way that I held myself back with transition and only now I am able to inherit a sense of well being in seeing myself as a individual with great capacity and potential. Holding myself back from transition only robbed myself of any happiness that I have gained with others. In the same way I loose the opportunity to develop a craft I never had the confidence to build.

 

The future holds so much potential. The past has taught me so much about myself and enriched my life through the practice of persistence. Persistence not in the face of challenges, but in the pursuit of uncovering growth. I hope that I can look back at this post one day and say one thing:

 

“Hell yeah.”