By Ry X
Ry X (they/them) is an Asian-American genderqueer journalist and community organizer dedicated to truth, compassion, and using art to inspire and spark change. You can find them on Instagram and Twitter at @time2ryot.
When we talk about feminism, we often talk about shared spaces and community. More often than not, those communities are created from the intersections of our identities. And communities, just like our identities, are layered and nuanced; they are ever-changing, shifting, adapting and adjusting to what we need them to be. Just like we have multiple aspects of our identity, we exist in different communities also.
I’m a trans nonbinary* Asian-American, child of immigrants, community organizer, and activist. I’m also a student journalist, hobbyist painter, avid Twitter user, a lover, fighter, and so much more. Every single part of my identity has its respective community.
Now, I want to talk specifically about the trans community—a community that has simultaneously been incredibly accepting and exclusive.
A common mistake we make with communities such as this one is believing that they’re monolithic. We assume that everyone thinks the same, shares the same ideas, even when we know it’s not true. Even among the LGBTQ+ community in general, there are rifts, disagreements over who gets to belong and who doesn’t.
In the trans community, the distinction between who gets to stay and who doesn’t is often about bodies. Or, rather, the disgust and discomfort with one’s own body, otherwise commonly known as body dysmorphia (different from gender dysphoria, which comes from a mismatch between one’s biological sex and gender identity, though the two can often be felt at the same time).
But gender extends beyond bodies.
Gender is simultaneously everything and nothing; how we express and how we’re interpreted; something that informs so much of our lives and yet, something that often feels completely arbitrary.
I recognize gender as a spectrum—as do most queer people of color—while most white trans people view gender as the two ends of the spectrum.
Man or woman. Take your pick.
Discussions of gender among white trans people are often contained to these, never in-between or beyond. So they require dysphoria and dysmorphia or one or the other to be able to call yourself trans—and this kind of thinking only plays out if you think there are only two genders, or that our bodies are all that defines those genders. For them, being transgender is all in the transition.
Ironically, in a time where we praise breaking gender roles, this ideology only ever solidifies it.
It manifests in the way many trans binary* people talk about gender, too. There’s an absence of gender-inclusive language and the continued reinforcement of men and women, ladies and gentlemen. The truth is trans binary individuals have no idea how to represent trans nonbinary individuals or advocate for us.
The truth is they don’t think of us as trans to begin with, and that is something we need to confront.
We owe it to queer people of color to deconstruct the binary and to broaden the scope of how we talk about and define gender. For some trans nonbinary individuals like myself, the notion of being “other” is comforting and familiar. It’s a separate space made for us that doesn’t push us into the corner. For some of us, the goal isn’t to transition or to pass, but rather to exist in a separate space, defined by our own rules. Being trans is a separate state of being and less about transitioning from one state to another.
Other genders have existed in a myriad of different cultures, and the truth is for people of color gender is only made more confusing by the way western society chooses to confine it. Neither man or woman, or even a little bit of both; instead, gender for us isn’t defined by any notion of man or woman at all, and that, to me, is beautiful.
*The terms trans binary and trans nonbinary are used here to distinguish between those who specifically identify as genders within the binary (read: man or woman) and those who exist beyond it, otherwise commonly known as nonbinary or gender non-conforming individuals.