What are your pronouns?
My pronouns are “they/them.”
Where do you work?
I have 2 jobs. My first job is teaching TOEFL and Academic English at Kaplan International in Harvard Square, and my second job is doing one-on-one tutoring with international students at Northeastern. I have a degree in Linguistics and Psychology, and my father at one point was the director of a language school and [told me], “You have a degree in Linguistics, and language schools are literally always hiring English teachers, so you should get a TESOL certification.” So I did that, and it was really great, and I’ve been doing that for 2 ½ years. I’ve always been really into international things. I just always thought it was really interesting. I’ve traveled some, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in helping people come here.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
For hobbies, I used to paint a lot. Now my hobbies kind of just turned to makeup. Instead of painting canvases I just paint my face a lot. It’s sort of gender-less.
It’s not drag makeup, it’s just sort of glam makeup. Instagram makeup, if you will. It’s really fun, but it’s also just part of my daily routine at this point. It started off as a hobby, but then it became regular. I do extra when it’s for an event or something. So that’s my hobby these days. Mostly just makeup, makeup, makeup and work, work, work. I work a lot.
[When I’m trying to relax] I really like doing face masks. Lush is great. Watching TV is fantastic. Netflix is great. Music too. I think music is my biggest way to calm down. When I’m not in my house, when I’m just in the world, I always have giant Bose headphones on and have music playing all the time. I feel like it helps soothe me as I wander through the world. So music is helpful. I drink a lot of tea. I have a ton of tea. Mostly I just relax, consume media, drink tea. Play with makeup.
I also use a lot of tarot cards for relaxation. I have a collection. I’ve been doing tarot since I was 13 or so. I do readings for myself or for other people. I think most people just assume it’s like fortune telling, and I don’t see it like that. I see it as a way to analyze, like holding a mirror to yourself. It just is a way to process your life. The world doesn’t give you space to introspect. I never ask, “What’s your question?” I just kind of go and let people make their own judgments because I think it’s a better way to let people self-analyze. I don’t think it’s saying what the future holds. I believe in it more that it’s a way to evaluate oneself.
How do you handle the issue of pronouns and being gendered when interacting with strangers / mixed company / etc?
I don’t. My friends know me. With my students, they don’t know. I wear a lot of makeup to work, and they just say “he” and I kind of grin and bear it; I don’t really want to cause a fuss at work mostly. But my friends all know, they do it well. With strangers, though – I don’t know, I don’t really talk to strangers that often. Or they just don’t gender me. I feel like they kind of just avoid it usually. But most of the time, I just don’t talk to strangers, or if someone does misgender me, I just sort of ignore it and move on. I’m not too bothered by it, but at the same time it’d be nice if people would just stop assuming a gender at all. I’m not mad at it, but I’m also not – enthralled with it.
Usually if I’m at a party, I’m more likely to correct someone, or I’m with someone who is willing to correct someone for me. It’s nice because it takes the burden away, because it’s stressful to do. Sometimes if I’m just by myself I won’t correct anyone. I’m also not mad at them. I have a lot of [queer] friends who just use “they” as a default for talking about almost anyone unless they know them personally.
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 misgendered?
Just socially, not in any legal setting. I actually really like my birthname. It’s very long. It’s Matthew James DuPont, and I just like the whole thing together. I like that it’s attached to me, but I just don’t use it. [I’ve never had difficulty going by Mati.] I just use Mati for everything, and people just go with it. At work it’s easy to do that, because no one sees your legal documents. I just say, “Call me Mati,” and everyone does. Same with students, anything like that.
What word(s) would you use to describe your identity?
I think I’d definitely be a workaholic non-binary witchy person. Really queer.
Are there ways that you dress / act / speak / etc. to specifically make a statement to others about your identity? Why?
Yeah, I feel like I kind of genderfuck a little bit. I wear a little over-the-top makeup sometimes as a statement. Sometimes I wear dresses, but more often I’m pairing masculine and feminine together.
I also wear pretty much all black all the time, which in itself is a statement of A) don’t fuck with me and B) I’m really cool, but I feel like it’s kind of a combination of those two things. Mixing that with mixing gender up, I feel like it actually tells people not to question it. I love necklaces and jewelry and makeup and fingernail polish, but I also mostly just wear sweaters and jeans because those are pretty gender-neutral if I’m honest. So I think it’s my accessorization that sort of tells a gender story. Also I’m wearing all black all the time, so you get this sort of “don’t fuck with me” vibe, but also I’m very sweet and nice with my voice. [laughs] I don’t worry about it.
I think part of the thing is I’m just a big person. I’m very tall and huge, which can be kind of annoying, but I think that I don’t get [harassed] because they’re freaked out by the fact that I don’t look normal, and I’m also just very tall. I think it’s [an advantage].
How early on did you know or suspect that you did not identify within the binary?
It’s funny; looking back – hindsight’s 20/20, right – I didn’t really start identifying with it in a conscious way until college. I have an older sister who’s trans, and she’s way cool, and in college she was using “they/them” and she was identifying as nonbinary back then. So she was kind of a catalyst for my own transitioning. She kind of flipped the switch on that. Now she’s a cool butch lesbian living in New York City, and I kind of stayed where she started and find it very comfortable. That was when I first became conscious of it, but if I look back it’s always been there if I pay attention. I never had friends who were boys. I always just hung out with girls. I loved my mom’s makeup, and she had wigs, and I would play with all that stuff. But I also really liked Power Rangers, and Digimon, and Pokémon. I liked both.
I also for a really long time just identified as a really flamboyant gay guy, which is not necessarily the case any longer, but I remember telling my girlfriends, “Why don’t you invite me to girls’ nights? I don’t fit in at boys’ nights. I don’t know what they do there. They don’t invite me either.” And that was sort of where I was like, Oh. Neither group accepts me for who I am. And just realizing it not only in myself, but by society, being pushed there. I also have a memory from high school: I was in the choir, and there was these two rooms, the choir room and the band room. Whenever we did the boys’ number and the girls’ number, the girls would go over here and the boys would go over here, and in-between there was a little vestibule. When they would all go [to their respective chambers], I would hide in the vestibule literally in-between. There were tables in there, and I would just hide under the tables until someone found 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’m a die-hard New Englander. I think that I was allowed to be more free because New England allows people to be more free. “As long as you’re not hurting anyone, who cares” in some ways. Just being in the Northeast. I also feel like my parents’ divorce had a lot to do with it, because they were vying for attention from me and my sister. They divorced when I was 4, so my whole life was them trying to please us versus us trying to please our parents, which I feel like for most people who don’t have divorced parents is the case. They’re trying to make their parents proud, but it was switched on us. Our parents were trying to win our affection over the other parent, which is kind of shitty, but because of that, I feel like it allowed us a lot more freedom. We weren’t forced to really do anything ever in some ways.
Divorce was annoying and kind of got in the way, but in some ways it allowed me a lot more freedom than a lot of my other friends whose parents were together. I think I had more freedom gender-wise too. [My parents] are very supporting. I think they’re very supportive of whatever. Only my stepmom knows that I use “they/them” pronouns and I identify outside the binary. But I think everyone else knows, but they don’t get it, or we don’t talk about it. I’m not close to my family though.
Can you give any examples of misconceptions people have about those who identify outside the binary? Have you personally dealt with them?
I guess there’s like the whole Internet “special snowflake / they just want to be unique” thing, but in real life, not really. Just what I’ve heard people say about it on the Internet, but not to my face. I have shown videos to my students that happen to have gender-nonconforming people, and the worst thing that’s happened is someone’s said, “That person’s kind of ugly.” And I’m like, “Okay, let’s move on.” I don’t know. I don’t deal with people who have things to say negatively about me. I try to avoid it.
In your own words, how would you explain that gender identity is different from sexual orientation?
There’s a really great saying: Gender identity is who you go to bed as, and sexual orientation is who you go to bed with. I’ve heard that said before. I think that makes a lot of sense. You can be a queer person but also be a total dude-bro. Like masc-for-masc gay dudes have a really masculine gender identity, but are gay, but also are douchey dudes who I still don’t want to talk to. So yeah. Who you go to bed as is identity, who you go to bed with is orientation.
How do you feel represented in media and society at large?
Not very. On Adventure Time there’s a character called BMO who’s a robot, who throughout the show has different pronouns thrown around constantly. It’s very subtly done. It’s never made a point of. Adventure Time is a pretty mainstream show. Steven Universe is pretty important in the world right now, I’m glad it exists. There are these aliens who can fuse together; they can make new versions of themselves with other people. Steven is the main character, and he is sort of genderfluid. He’s very non-caring about gender roles, mostly because he was raised by three alien women I think. His dad’s around too. So there’s an episode where he and his best friend – who’s kind of his girlfriend, it’s ambiguous because they’re too young to date anyway but they’re best friends – fuse together into one non-binary teenager. (They somehow age 10 years.) I think they mention that they’re not a boy or a girl, they’re an “experience.” Cartoons are important. Children are cool, they get it. Adults don’t.
What improvements would you like to see happen inside your communities, and in society at large?
I think just less assuming is good. Like if we started off with a gender-neutral assumption and built from there. That’d be kind of cool. But that would kind of ignore the way people were presenting, too. I don’t know. That’s such a big question. Intersectionality should be taught everywhere all the time. We should understand how racism and sexism and ability and mental privileges and all these different things all go together. I wish that were taught to children from the beginning. There are many identities, they all go together, and there’s unintentional ranking systems that happen in society that make it easier for one thing to go above another. It’s important to look at them and know that it’s complicated from the beginning. So intersectionality should be taught to small children, and also should be practiced within our community.
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.
College was pretty cool. I went to school at UMass: Amherst in the Pioneer Valley, which is a very queer part of the world. College was pretty impactful. I learned a lot about the world and people and that school has people from all sorts of class backgrounds and races – well, it’s pretty white out there if I’m honest – but more than I grew up with in New Hampshire. That was an impactful time period in my life. I learned a lot about the world. Obama was President then, got re-elected. That was cool.
Who in your life do you feel you can trust or depend on?
Right now I think my boyfriend is my big one. We’re pretty close. We have been dating almost a year now. But mostly, just myself. Me. I feel like I’ve been very independent from a very young age, because it’s easier if you can be, so I’ve kind of built my world around being independent and not relying on other people. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job at it so far. I rely on my boyfriend for emotional support, but mostly I feel like I’m very self-sufficient. I kind of do everything on my own. So, me. Me!
How has your identity played a role in your relationships, romantic or otherwise?
It’s kind of crazy, I feel like my relationships were always so unsuccessful because I wasn’t being honest with myself. Now I’m probably in one of the most successful relationships I’ve ever been in, and I think part of it was because from day one I was open. I [told him], “By the way, I’m nonbinary, I use ‘they/them’ pronouns, this is who I am” and that openness has sort of gone through all of it. So I feel like that’s a big part of it. In the past it’s been kind of tumultuous because I just wasn’t good at opening up to people. It would just be very fickle and one-sided, or just be very hookup-y.
Also, once again going back to the self-reliance, I don’t really ever feel like I needed a relationship. I’m glad I have one, but I don’t really feel like that’s a necessary part of my life. I feel very whole in a lot of ways. And to quote RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how can you love somebody else?” RuPaul’s super problematic, but that’s a great line. It was something that helped me, but I don’t think it’s something everyone should live by.
Are you able to find adequate medical care?
Yeah, Fenway Health is amazing. I can’t say that more. I’m so sad for anyone who doesn’t live in Boston. It’s just the best. It’s the best place. They’re great. They can be shitty, but if you correct them, they fix it. They actually get it. I was getting work on my shoulder at a “normal” hospital, and they literally just came in going, “Mr. DuPont!” just from the chart. [So I said], “Why do you use ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’? Why?” And [the nurse] said, “I don’t know.” Even if you’re just saying “Matthew DuPont,” that’s better. Of course names have genders associated with them, but less so than Mr., which is pretty specific.
How has your view of yourself changed since you were younger?
I just have a view of myself. I feel like when you’re a kid you don’t really think about who you are too much. It’s really easy to avoid thinking about who you are because you can think about Harry Potter and who Harry Potter is, or who Buffy Summers is, and it’s really easy to just avoid thinking about yourself. But there comes a point where your frontal cortex develops a little bit and you’re like, “Oh, I should probably figure out who I am.” So when I was a kid I just didn’t think about who I was. I didn’t have to think about who I was because I grew up in a very privileged community of middle-class white people. I didn’t need to think about things. So then I kind of left that and went to college and moved to the city. I started thinking about who I was, and then I realized, Oh, how I see myself isn’t how I want to be. I think discovering intersectionality helped me have a sense of identity, whereas before I didn’t really think of myself as having an identity. Because I didn’t have to, because I was a middle-class white person. Didn’t really need to think about it, but now I do think about it.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To ignore it if anyone told you not to do it because it’s a girl thing. Not that I ever really heeded that, but maybe ignore it more. I think that’s relevant advice.
What are your concerns for the future?
I’m just scared about Trump all the time and everything he can do, not only to hurt the queer community, but all the communities. Immigrants. I’m scared about what he could do to black people, I’m scared of him starting World War III… I’m concerned about that.
What have been the important frustrations in your life, and the most important successes?
Graduating from college with honors was a pretty cool success. I love school. I feel very lucky that my brain works really well with standardized testing and tests and homework. My brain just works well with that type of thinking. I always did really well in school. Finishing college was really great. That was my biggest success. Working after school has [also] been successful. Having my own apartment that I pay for by myself I feel is very successful [even though I still have roommates]. I just feel very successful even though I know that I’m young, and I don’t make that much money compared to a lot of people who are older. [But] I have my shit together. And I feel very proud of that success, of just being an independent adult living in a city, which is what I’ve always wanted to do.
Some frustrations? When I first moved to the city, I was a live-in nanny for this lesbian couple. That ended up really terribly. I joined it thinking I was going to be part of this queer alternative family structure, it’d be amazing – and I ended up just feeling like “the help.” I would have to pick up the kids twice a week in exchange for cheaper rent for the room I was in. I was still paying them something but they paid for my food. So they would just cancel and [ask me to] clean the house. So 6 hours of me babysitting versus me scrubbing your kitchen because you don’t want to? No. So I just left. That was a big frustration on my way to being an independent successful adult. But I think it was necessary because it got me here.
Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice?
I feel like this whole interview is just me [saying], “Intersectionality!” but intersectionality is my philosophy of life. Just recognize all the struggles people have and also the fact that you don’t have to deal with certain problems. So I guess my philosophy of life is just to follow intersectionality as best as you can, and just be aware of all the things as often as you can. Also, absurdism – I think everything’s kind of silly and made up, and it’s better to laugh at it than to wallow in despair at the fact that it’s all made up. Absurdism is: “Everything is all fake and made up – but isn’t it funny? I think it’s funny.” I’m just generally a very optimistic person.
The world’s better once you realize that all of it’s made up by people. People have made up all of it. So you don’t have to necessarily follow it. You can just do whatever you want once you realize it’s all made up. It’s real, but it’s not real. It’s constructed by society.
Are there any other questions you would have liked me to ask, or anything else you would like to talk about?
The only thing on my mind is – within the trans community, people are mad that drag exists sometimes. I hang out with a lot of trans women these days, and I feel like a lot of them just hate drag queens. And I don’t get it sometimes. There’s definitely drag queens who are trans women. I think that a lot of trans women think that drag is making fun of trans women. But I don’t think it’s that. I’m coming from the place where it’s all made up and funny, so for me, drag is just highlighting the funny made-up-ness. Drag is not inherently transphobic, but it can be transphobic, for sure. It can also be really misogynistic, it can be really racist, but also everything in the world can be misogynistic and racist. So the whole thing in general isn’t inherently transphobic. At the end of the day it’s about people being able to express themselves.
Men are also constricted by the patriarchy and hegemonic masculinity. Men shouldn’t have to be masculine. [Drag queens] are able to be feminine, and I think it’s really important to leave space for that. Their identity doesn’t match their expression in the way that [people] want them to. From a lot of trans women’s perspectives, they see the drag queen being a dude in a dress and people making fun of a dude in a dress. And they feel bad because they don’t want to be seen as a dude in a dress. But I feel like a lot of people who really appreciate drag aren’t laughing at it because it’s a dude in a dress, they’re laughing because they’re a funny human being who’s a great performer.
Drag queens, at least when they’re in character, are so confident, and I think there’s a lot that can be learned from them in that realm. And I know a lot of trans people who discovered their identity through drag. I feel like drag’s a really important part of society and it has really allowed us to push it forward in some ways. So that’s my one thing that we didn’t talk about that I feel like has been on my mind lately, is the conflict between the trans community and the drag community. They’re very different communities, because trans is an identity and drag is a performance. I feel like they’re both pushing society forward, but at different angles and with different communities, and I don’t see why they’re so at odds with one another.