What are your pronouns?
Any of them are really fine. I mean, that’s not to say that anyone ever really calls me “she.” Maybe some people who I’m friendly with do. But I’m really fine with anything.
Where do you work?
I work for a non-profit personal care agency in Jamaica Plain.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
Yes. Well, what I consider my real and primary job as much as my day job I would say definitely is, I’m an artist. I mostly am a film maker and a painter. And that’s my main concern. I just don’t really make any money doing it. Every once in a while, I’ll sell something, but I don’t try to make money either.
What do you do for fun?
I don’t know. I socialize a lot. I mean, just like drink and hang out and smoke. I like going out. I don’t go to that many art openings or social events or musical shows. Or even movies. I’m kind of a homebody. But I do like trying to go out when I can.
How do you handle the issue of pronouns and being gendered when interacting with strangers / mixed company / etc?
It all depends on the situation. I mean, if I feel like I’m in the middle of an interaction that’s not going to impact my life, then I usually just treat it like any other meaningless thing. But I also grew up in a working-class Boston family, and a lot of gender theory is just beyond lost to so many people in my daily life that… there literally aren’t enough hours in the day to struggle against every single person who insists on their stupid opinions. You wouldn’t have time for anything else. So I handle it. I can be an aggressive self-advocate, I guess. Yeah. I can get nasty to people.
What word(s) would you use to describe your identity?
That’s the thing, is that I’m non-binary because I don’t really identify. And I’m also autistic and have other various mental health diagnoses. From one minute to the next, not to exaggerate, but at any given moment, I don’t really identify any one way other than I am one person and my consciousness is like a continuing thing. But other than that – in terms of how I feel like presenting myself, it’s hard to pin down. Because it changes a lot.
Are there ways that you dress / act / speak / etc. to specifically make a statement to others about your identity? Why?
Yeah. I mean, I wear things that I think look good. Which doesn’t necessarily mean things that I think I look good in as much as I just like those garments. I kind of struggle with presenting myself, so I have to be kind of obsessive about it, because I’m kind of an all or nothing person in terms of the way I’m able to engage with things is either with lots of enthusiasm or I just can’t. So, yeah, I have to present myself just very obsessively. But in terms of whether it’s masculine or feminine, y’know, I definitely wear things that annoy my dad or something. And I definitely shop in the women’s section often enough where most people would consider me a man, definitely. So I guess that is a statement. There’s no “proper” way. But I guess in my case it’s more about how I feel like looking than how I want to be perceived. I actually get kind of annoyed when people take it as a statement, because it’s not like art where you’re in a gallery or something that’s designated for looking at this stuff.
Like if I’m wearing a certain hat – for example over there, this is one of my favorite hats. [Gets up and grabs Scooby-Doo hat from across the room] And I love this hat, and the only reason I like it is because I like it. It makes me happy to wear this hat. But I don’t want to discuss the hat every time I wear it. So I’ll be out and everyone sees that hat and they think, Oh, must talk to this person in the Scooby-Doo hat.
So I actually don’t like having attention called to myself. Anything I wear is about my personal comfort first and foremost. And I feel like with a lot of people who don’t identify in a kind of two-gendered, old, traditional way of thinking about gender – I mean, of course your personal comfort and the way you present to other people are linked, but I feel like people might not consider enough how gross it feels to not just present the way you feel most inclined to.
How early on did you know or suspect that you did not identify within the binary?
Well, I feel like if certain things hadn’t happened early on in my childhood, I might even identify and present more femme than I do now. But very early on, I really felt like I was a girl, but then I feel like when people picked up on it, they attempted to “correct” it and kind of take away from me the various tools a child might use to express those inclinations. So there was that, but – it’s really hard to say. I was raised Catholic, and MassArt was the first not only non-Catholic school, but even the first public school I had ever been to. So the idea of me being non-binary is – I guess I could ascribe the feelings I have to what people consider being non-binary. That’s the way I would describe it.
Do you think anything about the way you were raised or where you grew up affected how you drew conclusions about your identity?
Oh my God. Everyone’s obviously influenced by their surroundings, but there were other forces than just my surroundings. Or just the culture of where I grew up. But I grew up, y’know, in a working-class white family from South Boston in the 90s. And anyone who’s from Boston knows what that means. It means a very, very specific thing. The fact that I turned out as I did at the age of 29, the fact that I’m able to be even remotely comfortable in my own skin, I find shocking every day. And I don’t mean that to sound self-pitying, it’s just a fact. If I had any clue that I would be able to let go of all of the oppressive forces from the early part of my life as much as I’ve been able to, I would have been surprised. That’s all.
Can you give any examples of misconceptions people have about those who identify outside the binary? Have you personally dealt with them?
Yeah. They immediately assume that you have a personality that can’t be trusted, that you’re inherently dramatic, that you’re inherently eager for attention, that you are just generally a screwed-up person. And that doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t screwed up, I don’t think there’s any such person as this exemplary person. Whether it’s as a queer person, as a non-binary person, as whatever, or as an artist – everyone at the end of the day is really culpable in the huge sort of movement of issues that defy race and gender completely. I’m extremely interested in those things too.
In your own words, how would you explain that gender identity is different from sexual orientation?
It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sexual orientation. The only time gender identity might have to do with sexual orientation is if you find yourself in a situation where you’re hoping that you might be able to present yourself in a way that someone else might find attractive because you know their tastes. Of course, that’s deceptive. I’m just speculating. I think that the idea that feminine means being attracted to masculine is extremely false, and it all goes back to cis-hetero normativity. It’s like people think that the obvious conclusion of masculine men being with feminine women is feminine men being with masculine men or something. But really none of that matters. For every person that’s attracted to someone who has opposite qualities, there are people who are attracted to people who they see themselves mirrored in. I personally am attracted to all sorts of people.
So I don’t think how you identify necessarily has anything to do with who you’re attracted to, but I think those are two issues that just aren’t being talked about in the mainstream enough. When you get down to brass tacks, these are just to me obvious issues, and the only reason some people might say that they’re not obvious is because they’re kind of hidden from a bigger conversation. Not that I’m saying that I think that anyone should have to wait, but they’re thankfully making their way into bigger conversations. I’m 29, and I can say whatever about people my own age or around my age, but I do feel like people who are 10 years younger than me or even younger are being raised with a much broader understanding of these issues than I was, and so that makes me feel somewhat hopeful. And also, I hate to sound negative, but some of the most oppressive-minded people will thankfully be dead soon enough. It’s the natural sort of order of things. Ideas die with people.
How do you feel represented in media and society at large?
Not at all. I feel like people – even when they talk about representation, they want to even pinpoint and put labels on representation.
There’s not enough gay representation, there’s not enough representation of people of color, there’s not enough representation of trans people – but it’s so much deeper than that. I feel like most human beings who live aren’t represented. I feel like a very small number of people are represented in the media, and what ends up happening is the rest of the population sees those people, and they try to emulate that. So really no one’s represented in the media, if anything, the media is represented and emulated by the people who consume it. And then what really makes a person queer is their not being able to relate to that need of emulating the media. I mean, there’s almost no queer thought without the mediated experience.
What improvements would you like to see happen inside your communities, and in society at large?
I can’t even really answer that. Everything. There’s like a million ways to approach that question. When it comes to politics, that’s where I’m the least hopeful. I don’t think there is a single political power that represents the interests of almost anybody in the United States. I mean, there’s obvious sorts of ideological things where at the end of the day you could say that my ethics are slightly more in line with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, but at the same time – it doesn’t mean much to me anyway. At the end of the day, basically I think that society and a huge part of the economy needs to be Socialized. I think that we should start working towards a plan of global economic Socialization and de-militarization. And it’s completely possible. Look how insane we are.
Could you tell me about an experience or moment in your life that was very impactful for you? It can be in regards to your identity, or not.
I remember when my grandmother, my father’s mother, died, it was very impactful, just because no one I cared about ever died before. And she was also really sick in our house for like, a week. The whole family was there. And as much as I love my grandmother, it was not a sweet sort of experience. I was just annoyed by everybody. Because I was going through this really intimate, devastating experience, but at the same time I was surrounded by all these people who I did not want there. The whole family, y’know. So that was a very impactful experience. I was like 14. So it kind of matured me. And I remember that I also lost my virginity during that period, so it was just like this very impactful time in general.
Could you give me an example of something difficult that occurred in your life how you dealt with it? It can be in regards to your identity, or not.
I don’t know. I was addicted to cocaine for a while, and also just binge-drinking. And I ended up staying for like, 9 days at my mother’s house with some mild benzos and detoxed. And that’s how I got through that, I guess.
Who in your life do you feel you can trust or depend on?
My husband, the most. And then my cats. And then just various friends I have. I can depend on my parents for various specific things, and I trust them to say and do things that they say they’re going to do, but they don’t always relate to me the way that I need people to. Because it’s important to me to surround myself with people who I know that when I talk to them, they understand what the fuck I’m talking about. And that’s kind of the most frustrating thing with a lot of general social interactions, is some people, you just talk to them and they’re looking at you like, “You’re a crazy person.” And that’s a big thing is, generally speaking, people’s families don’t always understand that you can’t always surround yourself with people who make you feel marginalized just because they’re the people you’re “supposed” to be hanging out with.
How has your identity played a role in your relationships, romantic or otherwise?
I don’t know. There are my good relationships that I have with my friends and partners and things like that; those are all mostly based on people I have a mutual beneficial relationship with where I like them and they like me, and that’s why we’re friends, because we share qualities. But then when it comes to other relationships like parents and family, I mean, I don’t know – I tend to just avoid people. Obviously if you have a day job, sometimes you’re going to have to deal with people who you have no real interest in speaking to, but then there are also the other people who, you’re close with them, but you don’t have anything in common with them. Sometimes you avoid just talking about certain things for the sake of it. And then other times you’ll be in the mood to give someone shit back. Sometimes I’ll meet with someone in my family, and they’ll be saying this or that; sometimes you let it go, other times I’ll be in the mood where I don’t want to let it go.
Are you able to find adequate medical care?
Presently, yes. But I have struggled a lot in the past. I had a psychiatrist just basically refuse to treat me and give me shit – he couldn’t get past certain physical qualities, and things I was wearing. He kept asking me about them. It was really kind of creepy. So yeah, I’ve had to switch doctors and things like that. But my current doctor’s fine.
How has your view of yourself changed since you were younger?
I don’t feel guilty about most of the things I do and think. Whereas when I was a child, I felt guilty about a lot of things. And more than guilty, I was afraid of my own impulses.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Oh, I don’t know. Don’t trust people as much as you ended up doing.
What are your concerns for the future?
I feel like I answered that with my whole rant about global Socialism. I have a lot of political concerns. My husband and I are doing well, and I hope that the people I care about and me do well, mostly. [laughs]
What do you look forward to in the future?
Every once in a while, there’ll be like, an event that I look forward to, but generally, I don’t know. I’m trying to accumulate certain experiences for the future and go into the future through those experiences. I just hope to do as well and be as happy as possible without, y’know, being irresponsible in terms of how I consume resources.
What have been the important frustrations in your life, and the most important successes?
I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to say what frustrations were important. I feel like all my frustrations were important. I don’t really think of myself as a successful person. And I don’t mean that to be self-deprecating. I just try to build on wherever I’m at. I’m inclined to self-sabotage in a lot of ways. I guess maybe being that way less is a sort of success. But in terms of some great, what you would think of as like a real American success, I don’t have anything like that.
Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice?
I don’t like advice. I definitely wouldn’t give anyone advice if I didn’t know them really well, mostly just because I have no interest in anyone else giving me any. But if I’m really close with you, if you ask me about a specific thing, then I’ll give advice. But I don’t know how trustworthy I necessarily even am. [As for a philosophy of life] – I don’t know. I like to read a lot of philosophy books, but I don’t have a real philosophy. I’m not religious or anything like that, but I guess I’m kind of like an existentialist. I have my political beliefs, but in terms of finding meaning in life, I don’t know. Not really. [laughs]