Trigger warning: In today's Isn't it Queer? I will be discussing transphobia and gender discrimination. In some of the content, I pull from examples of parents or loved ones who make judgments of gender which may be triggering for some individuals. There is a painful beauty in the necessity of social deviance and in breaking gender norms in order to become our authentic selves. Many individuals experience years of excruciating gender conditioning, especially when we brave the gender "deviance" necessary to become who we feel we are on the inside; i.e. "You look prettier in a dress," "I don't know, you just look too...girly...can't you wear the baggier jeans honey?" "I don't know what you are trying to prove by not wearing make-up, it just makes you look like an angry bitch." The early conditioning, littered with misogyny and gender discrimination, plants seeds of shame and fear in our ideas of self. Members of the trans community also face degrading judgment in the form of outright transphobic statements; "You are my daughter, you can't be a man," or "ewww! that is disgusting, what happens to their genitals?", creating a foundation riddled with fear of isolation from family members, and the very real possibility of not being able to find work and stability because we want our inner gender identity to match our visible exterior.
"When the Japanese mend broken objects they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold, because they believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful." - Barbara Bloom
So here is my light bulb moment! We can and are finding ways to take care of ourselves and our communities using art, self care, therapy, yoga, and human connection. We are finding our fissures and breaks and casting them in the gold of our authenticity. All corn aside, we need to celebrate our painful transitions into our real selves as being gorgeous acts of androgynous alchemy. Taking our traumas, processing them, and using the hurt to fuel or drive our passions and pursuits can turn the tables on systematic oppression for our own self empowerment. In further tangential pondering, this artistic thinking can help us reframe concepts such as 'transitioning,' to be so much more substantial, and less black and white, than "getting a sex change." How powerful would it be if we viewed transitioning as being lucky. What other humans get to watch their coming of age, and transition into becoming their authentic selves, physically as well as emotionally? Explicitly said, the function of this reframing is not to invalidate the immense pain of being repudiated by a culture or to play down systematic oppression, but instead the reframe is meant to be a function of empowerment for the individual's emotional growth. To help us feel healthy and whole, we need healthy and whole perspectives on what it means to be who we are, whether that is trans, bi, gender queer, etc.
These are some artists, performance artists, and photographers that are busy demonstrating the earthy, real beauty of gender fluidity, trans identity, and gender non-conformity. I hope these pieces move you to tears, like they did for me:
Jana Marcus's Transfigurations, is a photography-interview project that aims to illuminate the Trans perspective, using insightful information from the personal anecdotes of trans individuals. These personal accounts are movingly penetrative and offer a more complex depiction of fluidity in the identities and experiences of trans individuals. To view the project visit Jana Marcus's website: Transfigurations.
So to leave on an alliterative note, the world of trans, gender non-conforming art and activism is alive with variety. New bold spirits brave enough to turn their pain into inspiring testimonials and social commentary, emerge every day.
So my lovely gender warriors, one last question: In what way can your pain power your passion?
-To your personal revolts and riots and especially to your learning,
Cory is a poet and novelist in the Los Angeles area. They have worked in mental health, education, social justice and fashion blogging and they aim to lead by example by bravely living an examined lifestyle.
"The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot."