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Somerville, MA

What are your pronouns?


Where do you work?

I work in recruitment part-time; [I work at] Isaacson Miller, it’s a search firm for mostly higher-ed non-profits. And I’m a composer freelance for the rest of the time. Mostly chamber music, but also orchestral / classical. And then I also do some other stuff. Right now I’m working on a short film score for a horror film. Creepy. [laughs] I was a Violin Performance major initially in college, and then took a composition class at the beginning of my junior year and was like, “This is it. This is the thing I’m gonna do.”

Do you have any hobbies or special interests?

I used to do a good amount of swing and blues dancing. Dancing and visual arts. It’s pretty much all artsy stuff. I write some, as well. I’ve also been kayaking this summer.

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

I am usually gendered female. Even if I’m dressed pretty masculine, I think most people read me as a lesbian. So, I will bring it up sort of early in a conversation, especially if people are introducing themselves, if I feel comfortable at that particular moment. I came out at work relatively recently. But at work I tend not to bring it up repeatedly. If I tell someone once, I usually don’t say it again. I think it would probably be good to correct people more. I’m getting to a point where sometimes my friends will correct people, which is nice, and I have asked people to do that if it comes up.


I would say, at least here – I live in a big city and most of my friends are either progressive or queer or both – I mostly get people [saying], “Oh, that’s so interesting, can I ask you 5 questions about that?” and I’m like, “[sigh] I guess.” That’s a lot more likely than people actually being difficult about it. Every once in a while, someone will just be berating themself for getting it wrong. I think it’s fine if people say, “Oh, sorry,” and move on, but I’ve had people smack themselves in the face, and that’s not necessary. Please don’t hurt yourself. [laughs] 

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 changed my last name. My last name used to be Smith, and I made my middle name my last name.

My first name actually is already a male name; most people in America don’t know that, but in Italy, it’s all men. If you look up Mattia on Wikipedia, it’s all men. So even though people don’t know that, I’ve been very happy about that since I was a little kid. So I like my name.

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

I usually say genderqueer, or non-binary, or non-binary trans, or trans. [laughs] It just kind of depends on context. If I’m talking to somebody and I’m making the point that I am not cis, I’m more likely to say non-binary trans or non-binary. I use genderqueer also. I think of them both as kind of blanket terms. I’ve thought about using agender, because I don’t feel particularly gendered.

When I first started to come out, I would say genderqueer was the first word that I used, and I’d been talking about it pretty seriously for over a decade. I don’t think anybody really took me seriously for a very long time. Because when I was talking about maybe being trans, it was kind of like, “Yeah, but I don’t have a ton of dysphoria,” and that was kind of the narrative, when I was in college at least.

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

A year and a half ago or so, I started definitely presenting more masculine. Part of the reason I wore these leggings, besides that I just really like leggings, is that I used to wear a lot of bright colors, and when I started buying men’s clothes, I’d been wearing a lot more muted colors and grays and stuff. Partly because when I was buying stuff I thought, Okay, I should get stuff that’s sort of versatile because I can’t afford to get a ton of stuff, and also because men’s button-downs tend not to fit, which are like the fun thing that exist. [Binders help make the shirts fit better] and I have more now, but I’ve definitely noticed that sort of swing in the way that I dress.

​I already speak at basically the bottom of my range, which is to say, not low. I’m a high soprano. I would have to take T to get my voice down at all, which is something I’ve thought about and may do at some point. But as it is right now – this is it. If I were being very gentle on my voice, if I were performing more, if I had a regular gig, I would really need to be easier on my voice and probably talk about right up here [brings voice up] which is more comfortable, but also, blegghhh. [laughs] I’m squeaky enough as it is. So I pretty much just keep it down here [brings voice back down]. Bottoming out.


I would say my voice is my primary reservation [about going on T] even though I think I probably really would like it. Because I am a singer, I’ve been using this voice for some time, and even though I don’t do opera at all anymore, that’s what the high end is for. For example, I’m applying for more school right now, and I’m probably going to be singing one of the pieces that I wrote, which is very high. I don’t know if I’d be able to do much in the way of classical [singing] if I was on T.

I also would love top surgery at some point. I personally most of the time don’t hate my breasts; I think if they weren’t read as feminine, I wouldn’t give a shit. And that’s the thing. Other people read them as feminine, and I’m like, Okay, I don’t really have a great solution for this. Binding is fairly effective, but I don’t do it all the time. I would love to be able to just have a flat chest, and then wear the shirts that I want to wear.

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

I’d say probably in the 8 or 9 range. I knew I liked girls when I was probably like 6. I didn’t have really any information about gender. Nobody talked about it. I encountered one trans woman as a kid who came to my church, and that’s about it. I didn’t really know anybody else that was significantly gender-nonconforming until probably theater in high school. Then even in college, like I said, most of my trans friends, as far as I knew [and] as far as they talked about, were pretty binary trans. Actually one of the women I went to college with is Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who was the first out trans staffer in the White House and was the LGBT liaison. She’s super awesome. I feel like I had these really awesome people who were so great and so confident, but I didn’t know anybody that identified as genderqueer or used non-binary pronouns until probably, I would say, 6 or 7 years ago.


I conflated gender and sexuality quite a bit – through college, pretty much. Because I [just thought], Oh, I must have these feelings because I’m gay. When I was a kid, I grew up pretty religious and I was just not exposed to a lot of – and they weren’t on TV. I mean trans people on TV are still sex workers and dead.

Around puberty, I was very upset about getting shape. By the time I was 13 or 14 I was saying things to people like, “Oh yeah, I’m more of a guy,” or I felt like I had more of a masculine brain or approach. I think I wouldn’t really say that now, because I think it’s not necessarily the most useful way to think about it. But I definitely said that to a lot of people when I was younger.

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 if I’d had more support I probably would’ve come out younger, but as it was I still came out when I was 18 I think. I probably would’ve come out a little bit younger, other than that. My parents are very religious.

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

I think the idea that gender and sexuality are the same, and that if you’re genderqueer you must be into everybody or something. That gender and presentation are inextricably linked. That however you’re presenting, that must reflect on your gender identity. And I don’t really get mad at people about that, because like I said, I feel like conversations about being non-binary are relatively recent, even though I’ve been in the queer scene for some time now. I’m not offended that the general population is not aware of stuff that I’ve only really been talking about for the last 5 years.

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

They are just different. [laughs] One of them is about the way that you interface with a particular social construct, and the other one is about who you are attracted to. And I think probably if you’ve really examined one of them for yourself, if you’ve really thought about your sexuality a lot, you’re more likely to have thought about your gender than the average person. If gender doesn’t matter very much or isn’t as big of a deal, what is sexuality even?

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

Pretty much not. Actually, mostly by children. Jaden Smith, he did a modeling campaign with women’s clothes, he wore a dress to prom, he went to prom with Amandla Steinberg, who is also bi and non-binary. So I think there’s a lot of cool teenagers who are coming out and being awesome and not giving a shit. I saw one study recently that said that just under half of current teenagers that they polled identified as both exclusively straight and cis. So yeah. What I said at my work when they were asking me, “What can we do to make you feel completely comfortable?” and I was like, “Well, that’s not going to happen while I’m here. You can’t fix everything. However – ” and I brought up this study, “ – they will be your employees in 10 years, so get ready for that.” [laughs] The gay generation is coming.

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

In my communities, I really wish people would be better about pronouns generally, both in asking for them and remembering them. People will apologize if they mis-gender my cat. Because people say “she” all the time. I don’t correct them usually. If at some point I say “he,” they’re like, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” And I’m like, You don’t do that with me. Fuck you. [laughs] I just wish people would make an effort. I definitely feel like people are not trying. I assume that people are catching it a lot more than they’re actually correcting themselves.

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

I’m super close with my next sibling in age, and I would say solidly close with all of my siblings. I have, I would say, probably a solid 10 people in Boston, which is probably the most I’ve had anywhere, who I feel I can just go hang out with them and tell them anything. I feel comfortable telling them what’s going on. I was really close with my grandma, but she died a few years ago.

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

The first person that I really started using the word “trans” with was somebody I dated in college. I was in a relationship for the last year with someone who was also trans. We talked about gender a lot and he’s now using male pronouns, and I feel like we both sort of helped the other one come out. Because it’s not just that we were super supportive. I think at one point he was like, “You’re the first person who’s ever just treated me like I have a dick, not being weird about it,” you know.

Around that time, I went through a period of not having that much sex, because I was getting really annoyed with people just assuming, “This is what we do with these body parts,” and not really asking me what I wanted. Not in a weird non-consensual way, but just, people don’t usually think about it. It’s not like I necessarily want something super different, but I just felt like a lot of people were not taking my gender into account.

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

I think I’m nicer to myself. I was going to say I’m more confident but I don’t know if that’s true. I was a very confident child. I just went through a lot of shit.


And now I feel okay – even just wearing a binder sometimes, feeling like people are taking me more seriously. I don’t think about my body as much, and I’m a lot more relaxed in probably every way, and that’s something my sister has commented on several times in the last year. She’s like, “I’ve never seen you look comfortable with your body before.” I always used to just hunch over or just be really, really self-conscious all the time about the way I was moving.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I don’t know. “Be less fucked up.” [laughs] I was going to say, “Be more relaxed. Take things less seriously,” and at the same time, working hard is how I got my Master’s and wrote a lot of music. So I think the regular working hard part of it was good, but just be nicer to myself. “Be healthy.” I guess the thing that sort of distills that specifically is, “Don’t take responsibility for things that are not your problem. You have enough shit going on, don’t take on additional stuff. Just focus on you and what you need.” I’m giving [that advice] to myself for tomorrow. Myself in the very near future.

What are your concerns for the future?

Being able to make enough money to be able to focus on composition. I have to live either in a state that has good insurance options, or have a job that pays insurance. I used to work all the time. Whatever job I had, I would come home and just write for a few hours, and then I would write all weekend, and then I would go back to work. And that’s not do-able long-term.

What do you look forward to in the future?

Well, I am very close to writing the music that I want to be writing. I can definitely feel it.

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

A lot of bad things have happened, but other than having a morbid sense of humor, I’m pretty positive, I guess. Because I’m okay, which is good. The reason I stopped being a violinist is because I was in a car accident, and I couldn’t play for a while, and had really bad back pain for a while. I used to get injured a lot, actually.


And then successes, I guess – I don’t really consider myself to have had any big success yet. [laughs] I think finishing my Master’s felt like a big thing, even though it hasn’t really gotten me anywhere yet. I was pretty happy with the two pieces that I had premiered right at the end of that. Which, if you go to my Soundcloud, are the String Quartet and two-piano two-percussion piece called Smackity Bang-Bang. I really like the last minute and a half of both of them.

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

Be gentle with yourself – and also other people. I don’t think of that as being just about kindness, but just approaching things in a more gentle way and not getting hard or closed off or not starting from a defensive place, because that doesn’t work, and other people react badly as well. And do art. I think everybody should do art.

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