LEE

Gaithersburg, MD

What are your pronouns?

The pronouns that I use are “they/them.”

Where do you work?

I am building a not-for-profit called Trans Healthcare Maryland. We’re a liaison between the community and providers in the state of Maryland. We have a digital space that we create, a safer digital space that’s secured, and we essentially have folks crowdsource. So in the State of Maryland, outside of Baltimore city and then Washington DC, there’s also care available there. But, if you’re not in Baltimore city or Washington DC, or have access to those spaces, then affirming trans healthcare is not really an option for a lot of folks. Sometimes we’re advocating for folks with medical providers directly. Sometimes we’re having folks crowdsource because we don’t have an extensive network of options. So sometimes the best thing is someone who’s living in an area, [you ask them] “Where are you going?” and sharing information that way. And then sometimes we’re actually doing a training or panels for medical providers themselves, and working to raise the level of affirmation for care in Maryland.

I lived in New York City for 8 years and there’s a lot more care available there. Public transit is much more accessible in New York. Coming back to Maryland where I’m from, I realized when I got there and went through the process of legal name change and, in that process, discovered that the information available and sharing of information that was going on New York wasn’t quite happening as much in Maryland, and that some of the resources that I was directed to were not affirming for me. And I was like, Well, it seems like we have an opportunity, and got connected with some other folks who live in western Maryland and did not have affirming options at all out there. And some friends in New York had worked on a project within Planned Parenthood to help get them to offer HRT [hormone replacement therapy]. And so I wanted the same to occur in Maryland.

I thought it would be really easy and I would just, you know, post in the local queer groups. I’d find someone who worked at Planned Parenthood, badda-bing, badda-boom, it would be great. That was not how it has been. So, maybe three years later, I’m still working on that particular aspect of the project but, you know, the scope of the project really expanded after that and wanting to build the kind of networks that had held me. I realized that I had lived in somewhat of a trans and queer bubble in New York. While New York was imperfect and intense in its own ways for the community, I hadn’t felt like I had to do as much one-on-one. And when I returned to Maryland, I realized there was a huge opportunity to build the community that I wanted with other people.

Do you have any hobbies or special interests? What do you do for fun?​

Well, in New York I liked to ride my bike but not as much for fun, I was a bit more of a bike commuter, so it was fun while being purposeful. This is the hard part, when you’re building something, is it leaves a lot less time for fun. But I really enjoy what I do, so this is the time when I reveal myself as a workaholic.  [laughs] I still to like to do Zumba but all of the Zumba happens at the same time as every meeting. So, a lot of opportunity for more fun, but I really do like what I do and I find it fun and engaging, and I understand that building something of this nature has a time commitment that I am uniquely situated to have. I do have a dog and a cat and I like to hang out with them.

 

How do you handle the issue of pronouns and being gendered when interacting with strangers / mixed company / etc?

So, it really depends on the situation. I usually discuss pronouns a lot because I’m in this advocacy role so I’m using it kind of as a tool. Then also sometimes, you know, if I’m focusing on a specific point of advocacy and I know that it’s going to be a large lift, then I might just try to get a specific point across and avoid the pronouns issue. I use that selectively. So it depends a lot on the scenario. But I definitely have had to really assert them, and sometimes within trans community with folks who have not been as welcoming to all aspects of the community. That has been a bit of a thing that has occurred.

But I think, because increasingly now I’m often working with my core team, it’s been effective because we both can advocate for one another and model the language, so with two of us, it’s a lot easier. She describes herself as a binary trans woman who is very early in transition, so we are often experiencing different elements of mis-gendering based on appearance, and we’ll both kind of look out for each other that way so it’s easier to play off of each other. Kind of loop back around on the language, you know, find the way to work the other person’s pronouns into a sentence when it might not have been a sentence that you would be accentuating someone’s pronouns. “Well she did that the other day,” as a learning tool.  So, that’s really effective for both of us because both of us experience not being gendered correctly frequently even though we’re not using the same pronouns and don’t have the same lived experience.

So that has been a lot easier than when I was doing a lot of the advocacy just by myself. That was a much harder situation to navigate because it creates the situation where I would have to correct someone myself, and a lot of folks don’t even know what transgender is, much less non-binary. And then we get into a discussion about grammatical correctness, and I’ve learned to memorize: “In 1375, the first usage – ” and, “You can also check-out the Oxford English Dictionary”. You know, if that’s something that I can tell someone really needs an authoritative answer, you can look that up in the dictionary now, and not just Dictionary.com, but the Oxford-English dictionary. There’s a specific respectability factor that someone needs a grammatical and linguistic authority – you know, they’re not going to take it from me, but the book has validated it.

I think the lift is less now for me in having an active team situation, and also places to process while doing the work. Because if my work is educating then I’m often going to be in situations where I’ll be mis-gendered, and I’m going to utilize that as a teaching mechanism. And sometimes, in order to understand the basic concept of transgender, I can’t get to my identity in that moment, and so having supportive community around that and a place to kvetch about it later is really valid. Although I’m kind of really getting into a space [where] after doing it for a while, it’s a little less intense, and I think because I’ve created community and connections that mean that I’m fulfilled in a way that I didn’t have at all when I first moved back to Maryland. Because I went from – not everyone knew, but I wasn’t the first non-binary person that most people knew, even outside of queer and trans circles. And I went from that to being where I hadn’t been in almost 15 years with family who struggle with pronouns and folks I hadn’t seen on any kind of a regular basis since almost 15 years ago. So it was somewhat of a navigation of: I needed to have some space to be properly gendered and referred to, and now the dire necessity of that is lower.

Have you had difficulties with changing your name and the way it affects you moving through the world, being recognized how you want, or being mis-gendered?

I definitely had difficulties changing my name, and that helped start the genesis of this project, really seeing the resources that were available. I saw the real value in queer and trans community in New York from sharing resources – once you did the thing then you would share that with someone else. And there were these clinics that were put on for helping folks go through name changes; there’s a name change clinic out of the DC program where it’s a partnership between TransLaw DC and the Whitman-Walker Clinic which is an LGBTQ federally qualified health center. There are a few of those around the country. That program was great, because I walked in, there was a trans woman with a clipboard, I was like, Cool I’m in the right spot. And they had a guide, because I think that one of the most stressful things about name change is things being in limbo, and so the guide was really helpful. They have a paper guide and a digital guide and those were so helpful because they gave you timeframes. So, if you go to the Social Security office, when the card is going to come in the mail, if the card doesn’t come in two weeks, that’s the time to worry. Because all of this is so stressful and I think that people are really worried, you know, depending on how they’ll be read, if they’re going to face transphobia or whatnot in the process. I wasn’t changing my gender marker because I didn’t have one to change it to that was ideal, and now, actually as of two days ago, we just got that ability, which is wonderful and that will go into effect in October of this year.  

So, I feel much more comfortable with my name now. My name was so gendered before and so it’s a lot more comfortable in that sense, although it hasn’t caused me really to be properly gendered unless I’m online and someone hasn’t looked too much at things. It’s very funny to see how when things are sometimes binarily mis-gendering, then people are like, “Oh no!” Like the dog. People are always mis-gendering my dog as a boy, and I love the color pink, so her leash and her coat are pink. And people are like, “This dog is a boy,” and I’m like, “Ah, no. Nope.” And then they’re like “Oh, so sorry!” People are so sorry when they mis-gender the dog. Or really need to know the gender of the dog. And I’m like, Dog doesn’t care as much, actually… It’s really just pats that she needs, not gendering. I had my own strange relationship with liking pink. I just really do like that color. So it’s not just because she’s a girl, it’s because I like pink. I once had some girls [say], “This dog is a girl because, pink.” And I was like, “Correct on the gender situation but, you know, actually, anybody can wear pink if they want,” and they were like, “Oh… Yes, yes that’s true.” [laughs] Kids are the best, you know, they were just like, ”Huh, yeah, okay, yeah, that is factual. True, true.”  That’s why it’s so ridiculous, this extensive “What will we tell the children?” and I’m like, You’ll tell them the answer to whatever question it is that they have because they just want to understand the world and then it will literally be a 30-second conversation and then they want to go play. Adults is the whole, “Ah… it’s going to be a whole thing…” “Aaahh, my own gender is complicated, I don’t want to think about my gender. Nooo.”

What word(s) would you use to describe your identity?

I’m a non-binary trans and queer person. Those would be the ones.

Are there ways that you dress / act / speak / etc. to specifically make a statement to others about your identity? Why?

That is complicated, because I think again about the things that I like and about the messages that I send and then the lift of understanding from most people about a non-binary identity. I think I default to some sort of stereotype – the white western androgyny stereotype is one that I feel I visually fulfill for people, but I know the ways that I am unable to convey the nuance of my gender through my expression. I can tell that by how I’m gendered and referred to by others.  So it often feels like I’m playing a game that I can’t win, unless I have a conversation. That’s not always what I want to do. Sometimes I want to be able to just not be in an educational space with my identity, constantly, even though I’m committed to creating that space and I do recognize and enjoy the aspect of social change because of it. So it’s somewhat complicated. I’m kind of aware that there’s a limit to my own ability to convey exactly what I’d like to convey. And most of how I dress is, I think, to make myself feel comfortable, and comfort over style has long been an issue in my life. So I think actually giving myself the freedom to be comfortable over trying to always send a specific message has been something that I’ve been able to access through what I would describe as stopping really hard trying to be a woman because I really gave it a good try for a long time. I tried really hard and not doing that anymore is so great. But I recognize also that there are certain things about how I’m comfortable that are somewhat stereotypical, and so allowing myself to still be myself; I’m not actually responsible for all elements of social change, and I get to make sure that the way that I show up and present myself, that being comfortable, means that I am much more capable of doing the work that I need to do, and that is very important.

How early on did you know or suspect that you did not identify within the binary?

I think from a really young age, because I remember looking how girls were being dressed, and my mom was not into dressing her kids in that way. I wore a lot of my boy cousin’s hand-me-downs. I remember trying to kind of copy and mimic those presentations. And I was very aware that the tools that I had to work with were insufficient based on what society expected out of “being a girl.” So for me, it was often really hard interacting with my mom because femininity was something that she looked at as very frivolous, and I was like, No, that is absolutely required to fit into the paradigm that society expects of me. But also kind of knowing that when I tried to do it, I was like, “I just don’t have the frilliest dress or the most princess-y shoes,” or whatever and that was the problem. But you could put me in those clothes and I still was going to be uncomfortable, and then what did that mean?

It was a rather long process. I’ve had a lot of traction describing this to cis [cisgender] women and saying: “Imagine if you had never seen a man until you were twenty, and everyone was like: ‘You’re a funny little man, you’re a weird man, I don’t understand why you’re like that.’ And then you saw being a woman and you were like: “Oh… Right, that’s me.’” And so for me, not seeing non-binary people and having identity, language, for myself, I think it was very confusing. The first time I saw trans people I wasn’t like, “Ohhhh…” That didn’t resonate, it didn’t make a connection, you know, talking to trans friends of mine, that wasn’t matching. A light bulb didn’t go off. And language has been an evolution. Non-binary didn’t really exist for a long time so it’s kind of like, “queer” was a word that I liked, kind of a catch-all, and I could go into more detail about gender of I could just leave it as is. It was a long process to figure out. And I guess that’s of course, why many of us do specifically this work, is to kind of bring things back to our younger selves; be the one that you didn’t have when you were little. Really, that resonates a lot for me.

Do you think anything about the way you were raised or where you grew up affected how you drew conclusions about your identity?

I think it took a lot longer and it was a lot rougher because I feel like I benefitted in so many ways from the other elements of diversity; racial diversity, ethnic diversity, religious diversity. Those things enriched my life, and I see people who didn’t grow up with that richness in their life having a much harder time connecting to other people and have a lot larger lift in terms of understanding other people’s experiences; but nurturing my own specific identity was so much harder. Because there were not people out in my community. And so that made it much more difficult.

There weren’t super strict gender roles in my house. I know that there’s this line, and I know growing up being assigned female at birth means that I had much more wherewithal to play with gender expression and gender than my friends who were assigned male at birth. And I think that unfortunately that is something that our society still has such a large lift to go. So I recognize that there’s a certain amount of wherewithal, like I can wear pants and it wasn’t like, “Ooooo... what are you doing there?” [laughs] And with some folks who were assigned male at birth, now it’s kind of becoming more of a thing that some parents are trying to raise their children with less strict clothing rules and things like that. And some folks did that when I was growing up, I imagine, as well, but the consequences for breaking those rules are so much higher.

And I know that there’s a limit, like I could play with it to a certain point. I know that there’s a cut-off; live that cut-off, understand it very well. There’s a plane, or a line that you cross where you know, “Okay, pants... Okay to wear a suit… Hmmm... No, this is bad.” But I think that for other folks and certainly for folks assigned male at birth we’re just now getting to a place where, you know, Billy Porter wearing a dress to the Oscars is going to change the landscape especially for young black boys and young boys of color, and young men and young men of color. 

And he knows it, and the community knows it, and it’s awesome to see because that’s not a lift that I can do in any of the work that I do. Billy Porter wearing that dress is so many more things, so much more of a lift to society than any trainings. 

Can you give any examples of misconceptions people have about those who identify outside the binary? Have you personally dealt with them?

I guess I’d probably just say that the largest misconception is that you’re confused, or not done deciding, but that’s not really a mis-conception. I feel like it’s like, everything. It’s like general, total, flapping-about confusion. 

In your own words, how would you explain that gender identity is different from sexual orientation?

So your gender is your sense of your self and your sexual orientation is who you might be physically, romantically, emotionally, connected to or want to be intimate with. Or, if you are asexual, not interested in. I think the way I see interactions be sometimes challenging is through transition. Especially when people have a marginalized identity, so someone is connecting in community as a lesbian, or gay person, or bisexual person, and a partner transitions, or they themselves transition, what space might be available… In general society we might think of femme erasure in a lesbian space, and then if folks go to Pride after one partner transitions, they might be read as a het [heterosexual] couple.

One of those things we discussed about rural spaces – sometimes when there are less people, you don’t get to divide yourselves up into hyper specialized and specific identity spaces. Sometimes I tell folks that, other than considering medical transition aspects, I sometimes have much more in common with someone who is non-binary but assigned male at birth than somebody who is binary trans and assigned female at birth, because the lived experience of being non-binary connects me more. I enjoy being in general community spaces and I think that it is really important to have discussions and get into nuance that not everybody wants to get into.

I’m much more here for the larger umbrella conversations sometimes, up to a point. Boundaries are really important and if a conversation can’t have a basis in respect than it’s not really worth continuing on, generally. So it can get complicated for folks, and I’ve watched people struggle with, Where is the space for me? And I worry about these hyper specialized and specific spaces, especially when we’re trying to think about working together. I do see there can be specific needs for folks who need to connect through struggle, facing so many aggressions and microaggressions that they really need to experience a non-violent space to continue their lives. So I understand that that can be a factor. I think about “people of color only” spaces or “black only” spaces and I understand the need and validate that absolutely. But otherwise, I think we’re much stronger when we can be together and advocate together, especially when we’re a smaller group of out folks than the general population.

How do you feel represented in media and society at large?

[laughs] Not so much. I was trying to think if we had a famous out non-binary person. Famous famous, like People Magazine famous, mainstream media famous. I have a million critiques, but I can look to some of my experiences in community in New York and – this is said with lots of love – you might live in a bubble, and be able to be hyper, hyper critical about that, and that might be what you need, and that space might rejuvenate you. However, there’s a lot of growth and learning. I’m explaining [to people in my work] that trans and gay are not the same, and this space is in the suburbs, and having mainstream media is an imperfect, totally flawed, problematic thing – and also sometimes really, really helpful for people. And I see mirrors and how powerful they are, and we can have generalized critiques, and talk about nuance, and all of that is super important. And there are non-binary folks that are well-known in community, and maybe in some other larger but not mainstream community. We’re not quite there yet.

I think about Janelle Monáe being out as pansexual, and that’s paradigm-changing. It is a process and a lift. We’re just in new territory. Young folks are going to grow up and have access, and to older folks, Janelle Monáe is something that didn’t exist when we were young. And that will be awesome, and that non-binary person is going to come, and I’m sure that there will be all the same hyper-visibility for some and erasure for others. All of the same power structures that currently exist in the world will continue to exist. We’re kind of still in [this space where there is] maybe a random movie here and there, a TV show, but nothing on that hyper-identifiable, mainstream level. And a lot of folks don’t want that because they enjoy having something that feels personal and intimate and they have a connection to, and I get it.

What improvements would you like to see happen inside your communities, and in society at large?

Massive social change. [laughs] Yeah, massive social change on all the fronts addressing all the -isms. And then, community; more intergenerational spaces, more broader umbrella spaces with folks who have the ability, at times, to have difficult conversations that we have avoided, or dodged, or worked around, while being intentional about that process and how it goes and peoples’ own capacity, being respectful of that. And really, massive, social change. [laughs] I think it’s something that’s already happening. You can watch it; younger folk are so fluid and have so many less hang-ups. I talk to young folks who are legions beyond where I was as a teenager; they just have language. I mean, I’m from the generation that had the Internet at a certain point and so there is a difference. I’m like that micro-generation that grew up with an analog childhood and a digital teen and adulthood. The younger folks who have had access to videos and speedy Internet and all those things, they’re just so far ahead. I feel like those conversations are coming and they’re having them, in bold ways, and it’s really exciting. Sometimes [I feel like I have to] up my game significantly after talking to younger folks. I’m sorry, maybe you want to teach this. [laughs] I feel like a lot of adults are doing great, especially with what we had to work with. [laughs] I want to validate that too. I’m not here for romanticizing strife and struggle. That’s not really my department. But I think there’s just a lot that we have to offer because of some of the experiences that we’ve had, and we’re down for it. It can be a team/collaborative effort.

It’s very romantic to be like, “Oh, they’re all brilliant and they’re all fucking gender. It’s going to be amazing and we’ll just wait for them.”  I think that there’s a lot that we can do now and we’re not hopeless and it isn’t hopeless until they get here. And also they still should have some space to be kids. I think particularly about young college kids who are sometimes saddled with an enormous responsibility, and I’ve watched folks struggle with that and feeling that they are expected to be a personality at a certain age because of an identity that they hold. Or pressures that are placed because people are like, “Everything is broken, you’re brilliant, fix it.” And I’m like, Also, you should play and be irresponsible and maybe not have to, you know, run a training organization at 20 or 21. And that’s really valid. Having folks still have space to be kids or young folks.

Could you tell me about an experience or moment in your life that was very impactful for you?

It’s not a really profound moment. I think my enjoyment of gender fuckery was really apparent looking back to me now and thinking, I had a lot of hamsters and gerbils when I was little because I wasn’t really allowed to have a dog or a cat, because I think that my parents knew that that meant they had a dog and cat to take care of. Smart of them. 

So I had all these hamsters and gerbils and I remember, I had this hamster and he was a boy, and I named him Meri, and I would proudly announce to random adults that I have a hamster, and he’s a boy, and his name is Meri, and then wait. [Because it sounded the same as the ‘female’ name of Mary.] And I felt like that was some sort of test for me to see what adults did and how weird they got. It was me navigating gender through the lens of my hamster as like a foil to [say], “Are you gonna to freak out? What do you think of that?” In retrospect, I’m, like, wow, that was what was going on there. So nothing groundbreaking besides, like, gender-wiggly hamsters.

Could you give me an example of something difficult that occurred in your life how you dealt with it?

I think not having language was really difficult for a long time, and just being confused because everything was so close. It was like, you know, “lesbian” – in the ballpark. And then I knew I was really bisexual. I prefer to use the language of “queer.” I know that can be complicated generationally, and even currently, in my generation, folks have a lot of feelings about that. That’s a word that I use for myself. So this was the 90’s and I knew that it was going to be some sort of string of questions, and so I liked to cultivate a lot of ambiguity about things because I just didn’t want to always have to like, go in. And then meeting trans folks there was still not that lightbulb moment. And so I think having so much ambiguity around gender and not having language for myself… It’s destabilizing when language and identity are such a huge part of things, so it always felt challenging to share my full self. And having the language has not made that specifically easier in explaining, but it’s like a home for me to put myself, and that’s nice to have.

I’m going to turn 37 this year and it is interesting watching how fast things move. I’m pretty tapped into community and try to stay up on things, and [sometimes it’s] like, “Sorry, what are we actually talking about? I did not get my language update. Whoever is in charge of mailing, please send it around.” [laughs] And, I think that’s a way, when I’m training people and we’re having these discussions or doing this outreach, I can be like, “Hey, I am in this and still confused, so we’re all confused, it’s confusing and new,” and there’s hyper-specified language which is super important and it’s okay to not have that all the time. I sometimes don’t.

Who in your life do you feel you can trust or depend on?

I’d say chosen family has been a huge part of things. My parents and I never had an outright terrible time of things. They were those 80s parents, right, who wanted you to be well-rounded and went to museums and did science experiments. So there were these ways that society told them to cultivate their tiny humans. It got a little rocky around the gender part. The sexual orientation part was like, “Whatever,” but almost in a brush-off way that at the time I [thought], Oh, my parents are so cool, they said whatever, and then it really was, upon reflection, dismissive and a bit weird.

People have their own feels, and so yeah, people are sometimes projecting their thoughts and feelings and discomfort on you.  I feel like being the canary of other people’s discomfort is a common theme for me personally where I somehow always become involved in highlighting someone’s discomfort. And I think now, at the age I am, I’m like, “Okay, this the thing. Let me make that a job.” And so I had to be very active and very much an agent in my own life to make sure that I had space to understand myself, and folks who were going to fulfill me and/or push me and/or hold me in a specific way.  And sometimes that was and wasn’t in queer community. The one thing about really dense queer community is that people get all their hierarchical things, and so it’s not a perfect trouble-free experience, I think. And I always like to stress that, especially when I’m talking to folks who lack dense queer community. Chosen family is still family, and who can hurt you worse than your family? So it wasn’t always specifically queer family. “Cool, you’re weird? Great. Same.” Those were touchstones for me in connecting to other people and that’s always been an easy place for me to make authentic connections.

 

How has your identity played a role in your relationships, romantic or otherwise?

It’s confusing to try to be yourself when you don’t have language for yourself. So I feel like my comfort in myself is really only coming about in the last ten years, certainly with a strong uptick in doing things like legal name change and aspects of medical transition for myself. So part of that comfort means that I’m able to connect with people in a way that’s kind of in the progression of, Oh, I don’t have to try to be a girl? Oh okay, I can be more comfortable. Oh okay, I’m going to be referred to by my new name or change my hair in a way that would feel like I can be more comfortable in myself.  I think that sometimes I’ve had experiences where being myself led me to not be able to really connect with someone, either with a romantic partner or with relationships. I think at the time that felt very personal, and I think with time between that and now, and being that much more comfortable in myself, it feels a lot less personal and more just that sometimes two people might not connect. I guess that’s just being closer to forty than thirty and having a little more time on the planet to care a little less, and be more comfortable in my own self and more confident in myself and the work that I do and, to use the line that a friend says, “Who it is that I am.” Then if you don’t like it, cool, see you later.

Are you able to find adequate medical care?

Well, that’s part of the genesis of the work that I do, and I am able to access care that is not exactly affirming. So it’s…medically competent, to an extent. Trans Healthcare Maryland has this tagline that was created by one of our core team members at the time that says, “Because you shouldn’t have to know more than your doctor.” That’s a funky power-flip that happens with community a lot where a doctor will say something like, “Well, that’s actually not how that works,” or “Here’s an article,” and “Here’s the published data on that,” and “I see where you’re going – unfortunately, not true, that isn’t actually true.” And it really messes with that dynamic. I know now everyone’s like, “I’m on Web MD,” and, “Doctor, have you hear about this medication?”  I think that boundary has somewhat already been broken, but for trans folks it’s been shattered completely. People walk in and [have to be like], “Here’s how to treat me,” or, “Here’s the dosing protocol,” or, “I need you to sign this letter, I already wrote it, I printed it off.”

So I guess I have technically somewhat medically competent care at somewhat of my own instruction. I’m not gendered correctly, my pronouns are not used. And I chose that because that care is a 10 minute drive from my house. 

And being non-binary, I know that the likelihood of being mis-gendered in a medical space is extremely high. So that’s how I navigated it, and it’s not great. We’re kind of overdue where I’m going to send [my doctor] a letter, or an article, and be like, “So, mis-gendering in a medical setting creates distrust.” Cool, I’m just going to send my doctor an article about how to how to interact with me. That’s weird.

Trans Healthcare of Maryland is largely driven by folks who are literally living the challenges of our own advocacy. Like the need of our own advocacy is very well lived by all of us. Sometimes I say that and folks don’t actually believe me. The county that I live in is called Montgomery County in Maryland and I think sometimes there’s this Pleasantville effect where they’re like, “No, we’re good, we have all the things, everything is here,” and I’m like, “Not exactly.” It’s something that the folks almost can’t believe. It’s very hard to solve a problem if people won’t admit that there is a problem.

How has your view of yourself changed since you were younger?

I guess [from] lots of confusion to, especially now, again, being older, I’ve kind of done some things that are very affirming to myself or for myself and now am much more confident and comfortable in myself. I think that would be the largest, was accessing a great deal more confidence and comfort and ease in being myself.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

[laughs] “There will be some further information that will be very helpful.” Yeah, I think that would be it.

What are your concerns for the future?

I mean, besides complete environmental collapse… I feel that, if we look historically, we’ve had a lot of these scares where people were like, “The world is going to end, can’t see a way out of it.” And then people come together and they’re smart people who have solutions to things. It’s hard to know that things are changing when you’re in the middle of it and it seems bad. So I guess that’s my positive self-talk about the situation. I mean, either we get through it or we don’t. [laughs] Bring on the chaos, I guess. All the concerns, really. Everything is concerning. But also, I do really strongly believe that we’re in the middle of a massive social change movement, and it’s very hard to see it while you’re in it. But I definitely see significant signs that that is what is occurring.  And that feels very positive, while imperfect, and it’s going to require a great amount of work and continued work and collaboration across people, identities, physicalities, location, on a worldwide basis.

What do you look forward to in the future?

All of those things. I guess seeing how it all turns out, you know.  Someone was saying something recently about, “What would trans work look like in thirty years?” I can’t even exactly imagine in a year from now based on how quickly things are moving. Thirty years seems almost unfathomable. I can’t quite process that. “What would the world look like in a million years?” is how that question feels. So I’m looking forward to us hopefully figuring this out or, you know, seeing what happens in the end of the world. [laughs]

What have been the important frustrations in your life, and the most important successes?

I guess the important frustrations were having so much ambiguity and confusion around identity and   where I fit and who I was. And the challenge in relating to other people that comes from that. I think it’s very destabilizing to not be able to comprehend yourself and your place and where your place is in society.  Yeah, maybe I’ll just go with discerning a line between the amount of fucks given and personal growth. That those are not always the same, and yet both necessary for it to be less fucks given. [laughs]

Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice?

My life’s motto is, “Let’s get awkward.” Because again, eventually, at almost 37 everyone realizes a certain amount of talents, and things you’re not talented at, and I have a unique talent for finding the discomfort either in myself or others around something. I think it would be understanding that and really knowing that that is a talent that I can utilize, both for my own growth, and in the work that I do that makes it especially valuable.