CN sexual violence, transphobia.
I feel that I’ve been sitting on this post for a while – there have always been more important things to think about and/or I have always felt too shy to write it. But now it`s Leo season and I am really feeling my rising sign, so hey.
Before I continue I want to say that I am writing this just to reflect on my own thoughts, I am not speaking for anyone else. I am part of many beautiful communities that have inspired me and I know that I would be a very different person without them. We are more interconnected than we could ever understand, but we also have to remember how vastly different our backgrounds are.
What is going in the world right now reminds me daily that there is no time to loose when it comes to creating the relationships, environments and ideas we believe in. That there is so much more to do, so much more to question and so much more to unlearn and dismantle. There are many things I don’t want to be a part of anymore – a binary, oppressive and restrictive system of gender norms being one of them.
As of now I am asking for they/them to be used as my pronouns in the English speaking world.
As a white, cis passing person with educational privilege and no current desire to change much about my appearance (definitely getting more tattoos though!) I get to make this decision from a really comfortable place.
My cis-passing privilege and my whiteness allow me to navigate everyday life with a lot more ease and comfort than many trans people get to experience – bus drivers let me get on without tickets, I don’t usually feel anxious in bathrooms (at least not about my right to be there), I can access women’s spaces without anyone wondering about my genitals and I can blend into supermarkets to go completely unnoticed as a small, seemingly non-threatening human.
Many of us choose or are forced to choose a medically supported transition, which comes with obstacles I will never have to face. Accessing healthcare can be a rough, challenging and heartbreaking experience at the best of times and the effects of this struggle can alter lives in ways that cause severe disadvantages on many levels. To openly challenge gender expectations in public also puts lives at risk, especially those of trans women and trans feminine people of colour. This is not my experience – I am coming from a different, much safer space.
For these reasons I often felt like I didn’t need to speak about my own gender or ask for different pronouns, but I am wondering now if there is a way to take this space without taking it from someone else. To use the platform I now have after 15 years of blogging to speak about this more publicly and to get more people to engage in dialogues about gender that maybe haven’t had a chance to do an MA in gender studies. Creating spaces for gentle, more accessible introvert activism is something I care about a lot.
I sometimes worry that people would think I have abandoned womanhood. But gender is still real, its happening everywhere and people don’t get to walk away from that. Words are powerful though and we do get to choose which to decorate ourselves with. I don’t think that reworking womanhood for myself from within is something I am up for doing right now. This reminds me strangely of a key requirement in any large creative project – the willingness to kill your darlings and start from scratch. My hope for a golden future for humanity really fluctuates on a day to day basis, but overall I feel really sure that this willingness to scrape a lot of what we have become so used to will be key in moving forward.
I’ve also been a part of the alternative healing world for more than a decade now and had the luxury to be able to do various trainings in bodywork, herbalism and magic making. These things have given me new life in more ways than I can count and I care deeply about passing them on, especially to queer communities. But in addition to the cultural appropriation that is incredibly prominent in these spaces, there is also the fact that women-only (healing) spaces are more often than not trans exclusive and infused with ideas based on gender essentialism. I can see this changing and there are many things that give me hope – the wonderful Dori Midnight writing about healthcare for trans communities for example. I am hoping to add my voice here, to continue to learn and to be able to create more safer spaces that reflect all our lived experiences. And of course to create an accessible queer healing/back to the land project in Portugal so we can all climb trees and get safe massages while we brainstorm the many revolutions yet to come.
Something I’ve been thinking a lot about too (especially after reading Queering Sexual Violence edited by Jennifer Patterson) is how much sexual trauma (at a young age) can alter our experience of our own bodies, our sexuality and our gender. This is of course a really personal and individual question, but it has felt helpful to read both stories from people who feel outraged about straight people pathologizing their gender while using past trauma as an easy explanation for gender and/or sexual deviance and from people who acknowledge that yes, it might be that their queerness has made them more vulnerable to experiencing sexual trauma or that experiencing sexual trauma has caused them to explore their queerness. My thoughts on this are really far from being fully formed right now, but I want to say that I really respect both these perspectives and that I think we all have our own, often hidden, stories around these aspects of ourselves that are worth being explored without judgement from third parties. Essentially, straight people really don’t get to have an opinion on where queerness is coming from and I want to learn more about the intersection of gender and trauma is what I am saying.
I remember a phase when I was about ten for example in which I really desperately wanted to be a boy and I don’t think that it is a coincidence that this was also the time that my body and the attention I got started changing. I had already experienced sexual assault at this point and I had a strong sense that womanhood would be difficult. I wore huge men’s shirts, cut my hair short and made some feeble attempts at playing basketball. Once puberty really hit the need to belong was bigger than the urge to question though, so I became one of the straight girls and stayed in that place for quite some time, accepting the harassment that often came with that. But that was compulsory heterosexuality, not the liberated choice I am now making to express softness as a queer femme.
There are many ways of practicing resistance and this is far from the only one. You do you. All genders are valid.
This not a special snowflake thing millennials have invented because they got bored of taking selfies when actually babes with non-binary genders and gender non-conforming witches have always been around in many cultures across the world. The idea that there is a universal, essential truth about femininity and masculinity is a myth. The way we live these concepts today is real and worth talking about, but it is not all there is or all there has ever been.
The way I express gender has changed many times since and will probably always change a bit, as creative, fluid things tend to do. I know that getting covered in tattoos and having breast reduction surgery last year has been incredibly healing and wonderful because it has, amongst other things, reduced the ways in which I am being sexualised by straight cis men. Finding a femme space in queer communities has had its own challenges, but it has definitely always been more beautiful, rewarding and inspiring than trying to fit into heterosexual womanhood. Being in femme spaces, creating femme magic and rethinking what radical softness can be is a big part of want to do with my life and I want to distance myself further from gender norms to make that happen.
I want to learn more about herbalism and other healing arts that have enabled my ancestors of both blood and spirit to find their place in the world and I want to develop more ways of nurturing the resilience we’ll need to bring down the binaries that patriarchy and colonialism have imposed on us. I want to experience other humans through the beauty of their minds, the textures of their skin and the colours I see when they speak to me and I want to sit in bath tubs filled with love and rage and be touched as another human without heavy expectations rooted in cultural norms.
Thanks for reading.
As I said there are many people who have inspired me with their gender magic and I want to name and thank a few of those here: