What are your pronouns?
Where do you work?
Home. [laughs] I’m a writer and a life coach.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests? What do you do for fun?
[laughs] I feel like when you’re a freelancer, your whole sense of what you do for fun and what you do for work is all hopelessly blurred. So, I read a lot, but that’s research. I watch TV, but that’s research. I take long walks through Central Park after therapy, but that’s self-care, and because I’m a coach, self-care is also part of my job. So I don’t know how to answer this question. [laughs]
When I’m with my friends we do…all kinds of stuff. We just went to Philly because a friend’s looking at grad school there. We go see movies. We have potlucks at each other’s houses. We go see plays together, because a lot of us met each other through theater.
We go to Coney Island every year together for my birthday. We do a group outing to Far Rockaway Beach. Just kind of whatever excuse we can find, especially because in New York people get so busy and tied into their track that sometimes it feels like you need an excuse, and we all live kind of far apart from each other. Something that I’m definitely going to miss when I leave New York is all the public parks, but the reason we have to have public parks is because we don’t have our own green space. There are some lawns in L.A.* There aren’t really lawns here. [laughs]
How do you handle the issue of pronouns and being gendered when interacting with strangers / mixed company / etc?
I have a hat with a “they” pronoun pin on it. It’s my third pronoun pin. One I lost and one is too small to really be useful. People largely ignore it, especially if they’re strangers. I tend not to bother getting into it unless it’s someone that I’m going to be spending some time with. I would wear the “they” pin hat to the coffee shop I used to go to all the time, but I wasn’t really expecting the baristas to pick up on it and use it. So I tend to only really talk about it if it’s someone I’m going to have some significant experience or time with. And then I tend to just be like, “Hey, by the way – ” or, because it’s on social media, it’s in my email signature, I’ll be like, “Just a reminder.” I don’t broach it with my clients when we’re getting started – my pronouns are also on my coaching website, and my email signature – if they do use “she/her” for me, then I say, “Hey, just to let you know – ” I mean, I think people aren’t searching for a feminist life coach and signing up with someone who says on their website that they’re non-binary if they’re not down to at least try to accommodate that. So it hasn’t really been a big deal, which is really nice. I have a book coming out next month, and my editor for that and the people at the publishing house [FSG with Macmillan] have been super great about using my pronouns. The name on the book is my birth name, and I think I’m still using that as a professional name, but once I started to put it out there online that I was going by Rae, they just started addressing emails to me that way without me having to ask.
I really appreciate when people catch themselves. I don’t mind when someone messes up and then self-corrects. Because your conditioning and your auto-pilot is doing its thing, but you’re aware enough that you’re noticing it and catching it and correcting it. I have nothing against your auto-pilot as a reflection on your character. My auto-pilot is still doing things too. But if you’re keeping it in mind enough that you can notice when the auto-pilot does a thing, it’s really meaningful. I’m completely whatever about it when trans people mess up my name or pronouns, because I know that it’s not for lack of trying on their part, and I know that it’s not a lack of awareness, and I know that it’s just a system bug. I get it. I’m not bent out of shape about it. But if a cis person does it, I’m like, “Um, excuse me – ” [laughs] It bothers me a lot less when trans people mess it up.
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?
The name change is very new, and I think that all of us including me are just figuring out, “Okay, what are the parameters around it, what are the rules around it?” For the moment I’m fine with Mariah MacCarthy still being my professional name. But I’ve put on my website, “I’m Mariah MacCarthy, I also go by Rae.” A former student reached out and asked, “Hey, I’m applying to grad school, what name should I put for the class I took with you on my resume?” And I told them, “You actually should probably put Mariah so that they can Google me.” There’s little things like, you can put parentheses on your name in Instagram and Twitter but not on Facebook and Gmail. There are rules about special characters. So on Instagram and Twitter, it was really easy, because I just put “Rae” with “Mariah” in parentheses – and then not being able to use parentheses on Facebook and Gmail made me take longer to change it on there. I thought, Do I actually want to go by Rae Mariah? Or do I want to get rid of Mariah? That doesn’t feel great. So it says “Rae Mariah” right now, but I kind of think of “Rae” as a shortening of “Mariah,” so that feels a little funny.
I changed it a lot faster than I expected myself to. I had a series of experiences all in the same week that led me to start using it. I had done this presentation of a new piece I was working on, and there was a character who – when we cast the role, I had not been clear or ready to admit that that character was non-binary. And we cast a cis woman in the role, and then it became really painful to realize what that role was, and that it wasn’t cast authentically. And some other trans people involved with the presentation very lovingly but firmly took me to task about it. And I wrote myself a letter about it in my journal, and I think because I’d been in so much pain about this expression of myself being out of alignment, out of integrity, the name “Rae” just leapt onto the page. This name I’d had in the back of my mind for myself for, like, a decade or longer, but never thought I was allowed to ask people to call me.
I also went to this trans and non-binary healing circle, where I was asking other trans people when they knew it was time to change their names. And I was also part of this love party in Bushwick that was running for a month. It was a sober intentional barefoot potluck and dance party with optional sleepover. It was so amazing. We did it every weekend for a month. And it was just the most holistic, “let’s take care of everyone’s souls” creative space I’ve ever been in. So there was one night where before the party, Diana, the woman who created it, said, “We’re all gonna go around and declare our names.” And I had been rolling around this name in my mind, and so when this happened I was just like, I think this is the moment when I’m supposed to do this. And I put it on my nametag at the party that night, and had people address me that way that night for the first time. And that felt right, and really scary, because – I think when you do something like change your name, people have this expectation that you know what that means or all the rules around it or everything about it, and I’m just like, I don’t fuckin’ know. [laughs]
People have been using my new name. And if they’re not sure, they’re checking in and asking if they should call me Rae now. I think also the fact that I’ve changed it in social media and my email has helped. But before I rolled it out there, I was doing it privately with a few people that I knew I could count on.
What word(s) would you use to describe your identity?
For my gender: non-binary, boygirl, ladyboy, part-time boi, gender cyborg. Writer, birth mother. For some reason I’m okay with words like “mother” and “sister” and “daughter” and “aunt.” I don’t know why. But “ladies” drives me nuts. Like, if you’re sending an email to me and a female collaborator, you don’t have to address it “Hey ladies,” just say, “Hey you two,” “Hey all,” “Hey folks.” I feel like cis women use “ladies” to address each other as a way of establishing, “We’re all in this together,” but in a way that feels really cheap and inauthentic to me. I think that’s part of it. Because there’s more to it than just, you’re mis-gendering me.
There’s something specifically about “ladies.” I haven’t quite put words around it. But the whole, “How you ladies doing tonight?” – there’s sort of this subtext of, “You’re havin’ a girls’ night, good for you, wink wink, girl power, martinis and manicures,” and I’m probably reading way too much into it, but it feels like that is part of the connotation of “ladies.” I identify as a femme, but it is easier for various reasons to dress more masc [masculine], and there’s part of me that feels like, when people give me “ma’am” or “ladies” or whatever, I feel like, “Why are you assuming that’s what’s going on here? Why don’t you see all the fucking boy clothes?” I know that Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry have almost the same haircut as me, I get that women are allowed to do a lot of stuff with their presentation and that doesn’t take away that they’re a woman, and that’s fine and great, but why are you assuming? Just, “How are you folks doing tonight?” “How are y’all doing tonight?” There’s so many other options. I just get really annoyed by the assumption, especially because when I briefly worked in the restaurant industry, part of our orientation was: Don’t make assumptions about the people coming in and what their situation might be or what they might want. Maybe you assume that older people coming in just want coffee and aren’t going to order food, but you don’t know that. Or maybe you see a black man come in behind a black woman and you assume that they’re together, but don’t assume that. You don’t know. And I just wish that that had expanded by now to: You don’t know what gender people identify as, and there are so many ways to not include that in your language. Just do that. But it seems like a lot of places have not gotten to that level yet.
Are there ways that you dress / act / speak / etc. to specifically make a statement to others about your identity? Why?
I cut my hair off, that felt really good. I’ve had the undercut for a couple years now, but I was letting the top grow out really long, and once it got to a certain length, it felt like a burden. And when I cut it off I felt more myself. Most days I don’t wear a binder, but sometimes I do. I’m wearing one right now and I really like it. I really like how my silhouette looks in it. I don’t wish for no breasts, but I wish for smaller breasts. And there’s a little part of me – this is my deep-down gremlin voice, and not at all the way I wish to politically be in the world, but there’s part of me that thinks I’d be more into the idea of no breasts if I had a flat stomach. The idea of a flat chest and a round belly depresses me. For some reason, breasts and a round belly, that’s fine for some reason. It’s totally the patriarchy. [laughs]
It’s funny because I am totally fine with the way I look naked. It’s the way clothes fit, and the fact that my breasts gender me when I leave the house that makes me feel so – ambivalent about them. And I used to say my breasts were my favorite part of my body. There’s probably some unpacking to do of where that came from. But – they’re very nice. They’re very aesthetically pleasing, I just find myself annoyed with them, and I feel like they’re in the way, and there’s just too much of them lately. So I definitely dress to de-emphasize them. Which doesn’t always feel great, but when things are that particular kind of form-fitting, it just feels itchy. I also have stopped wearing bras. I just – I hate them. [laughs] The bras that I’ve had, they either stretch out and do nothing, so why am I wearing it, or they’re too constricting and I’m uncomfortable all day, so why am I wearing it. So I just stopped. I was like, “Cis men don’t have to. Why do I have to?” But none of us have to.
Since I started dressing more masculine, men in public mostly just don’t randomly talk to me anymore. And that’s great. It’s so good! And I know that you can be wearing anything and get catcalled or harassed, but this has made a significant difference in my own life. I just feel so free. But it also feels like armor. It also feels like a wall. I’m free in one way, but I wonder what I’m going to do in the summer. I think part of what has been helpful is that sweatshirts and masculine clothing are just prudent for the weather right now. So when that changes, I don’t know. We’ll find out. And the pin on the hat. I don’t wear the hat every day, but I’ve been playing with pin placement. No one looks at the pin if it’s on my chest. People just gloss over it. I have a “they/them” shirt; people will just not read the shirt. But for some reason people will see it if it’s on a hat. I think people just aren’t paying attention. It’s not occurring to them to look for it or think about it.
How early on did you know or suspect that you did not identify within the binary?
A year ago. [laughs] But I mean, there were signs. Signs for days. For years. Decades. I think my gateway drug was Bob Fosse. He’s the director and choreographer of musicals like Chicago, Cabaret – and I was obsessed with his choreography in middle school and high school. That’s all bowler hats and kind of a more androgynous style. Joel Gray in Cabaret, in a role that Alan Cumming would later make his own – it’s white cotton undershirts with suspenders and a bowler hat, that style. With the fishnets, and the eyeliner, and the androgyny, goth fashion, I was super into that. I was super into men in eyeliner. I didn’t really understand attraction to butch women at the time, and I think that was part of the hold-up of why I wasn’t seeing my entry point. Because I feel like I always identified way more with femme men, or femme assigned-male-at-birth people. Jude Law’s character in the movie A.I., Gigolo Joe – oh my god, he’s so dreamy in that. They’ve definitely femmed him up a little bit, and I resonated a lot more with that than with butch women.
There’s this character in Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Desire. I thought Desire was amazing. And Desire’s whole thing is, “Desire’s never been satisfied with just one gender. Desire’s never been satisfied with just one of anything.” [laughs] And so you could look at them and project it in a number of different ways. You could just see them as truly genderless, you could see it as a femme-leaning masc energy or a masc-leaning femme energy. You could see it in an Annie Lennox direction, or you could see it in a David Bowie direction. Or you could just see them as beyond any of that. So I thought Desire was the shit, but there were a lot of characters in that series that I resonated with for different reasons. But I was always like, “I love names like Taylor and Devon and Jordan because they’re androgynous!” And it was years and years and years ago that the name Rae first occurred to me. My senior thesis project was called “The All-American Genderfuck Cabaret.” [laughs] I’ve been writing about genderfucking, and I put a trans person in my book before I realized I was trans. I’ve just been doing that for…ever.
And so you can look back and be like, I was my own prophet and I couldn’t hear my own message. But you look back and you think, This is very obvious, why didn’t I know, why didn’t I put the pieces together?
People asked me point-blank and I said, “No, I’m a woman, thanks for checking.” I think it just didn’t occur to me that I could. Then I ended a three-year relationship with a cis dude, and I suddenly had all this space to ponder my existence and identity and what I wanted for my life that I hadn’t had before. And he moved out and a non-binary roommate moved in, and this person was AFAB [assigned female at birth] with long hair and not trying to hide their femininity or female-ness at all, but just quietly going by “they/them” pronouns, and identifying as super fuckin’ queer and genderweird. And I was like, oh, I see a way that this can look that’s different than what I assumed. I also started spending more time in environments where everyone would get asked their pronouns, and maybe the majority of the people in the room would be non-binary. And feeling really good and really drawn to those spaces. And then just quietly Googling, “How do you know if you’re non-binary?” It just kind of snowballed from there. But something that I didn’t want to admit when I heard it but which has turned out to be true is, if you’re wondering enough if you are, you are. Because cis people aren’t sitting around being like, “What’s my gender?”
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 delayed them. Because my parents are super Catholic, and Republicans, and I was too, up until college. It’s funny because everyone in my family has cross-dressed at some point. Probably multiple times. With some people it was more of a joke than others, but all of us have done it. All of us have transgressed gender in that way. My brother really wanted to be the Wicked Witch of the West when he was 4, so he would just dress up as her all the time. Which, like, fair. Fashion icon. And my parents didn’t shame that or shut it down, which is super cool. I was a half-man half-woman for Halloween one year, it was my sister’s old costume, she had done it before. My dad just went as a woman for Halloween one year. He made a joke of it, but he still did it and had a great time. I mean my dad has literally written a book about Joan of Arc. I mean, we have very very different opinions about her. But – it’s hilarious and fucking cool that my very conservative father is obsessed with this cross-dressing peasant girl badass. So on the one hand, you know, when I cut my hair, my dad said, “You know I prefer you with long hair, right?” or my mom said, “You know most guys prefer – ” blah blah blah, and I was just like, OK, bye. [laughs] They had that very weird expectation. And also, what world do you think we live in? This is not 100 years ago when it really would have been bizarre for women to have short hair. Like why haven’t you noticed that women just have short hair now and that’s a thing?
But I think that my parents are sneakily subversive, in ways they may not even totally be aware of. When I came out at the time as bi to my dad, my parents and I had taken this trip, and a female friend had gone on the trip with us, and my friend and I had slept in the same bed and been very cuddly. So I tell my dad that I’m bi, and his first response is, “Duh,” and then we keep talking and he says, “So what’s the nature of your relationship with Emily?” And I said, “Dad, she’s straight and I have a boyfriend,” and he says, “Doesn’t mean anything.” [laughs] So, little things like that – there are levels on which they don’t not get it. And sometimes that’s very hard to square with the fact that they think that homosexuality is a sin, and that they do not believe that trans people are a thing. But I see the points of entry, and I haven’t figured out how to or if there is a way to use that to reconcile these with the things that aren’t making sense, to get them to see, “Hey, you know how you do understand this thing over here? Just bring that over here.”
"I think people assume that if they ideologically agree that people should be able to express their gender however they want, that they’re just going to be able to treat us correctly without doing any extra work. I think that comes out a lot with names and pronouns because people are like, “Well yeah, I think you should be able to use whatever pronouns you want.” But it never occurs to them, I’m going to have to practice to change this."
Can you give any examples of misconceptions people have about those who identify outside the binary? Have you personally dealt with them?
I think people assume that if they ideologically agree that people should be able to express their gender however they want, that they’re just going to be able to treat us correctly without doing any extra work. I think that comes out a lot with names and pronouns because people are like, “Well yeah, I think you should be able to use whatever pronouns you want.” But it never occurs to them, I’m going to have to practice to change this. So then they just keep messing it up, and then don’t even realize they’ve messed it up, because they’re not thinking about it. And then they’re like, “Oh, did I mess that up?” and I’m like, “You’ve literally never used my pronouns. Ever, in my presence. Once.” I think also people assume that their reasons for messing it up are unique or remotely of interest. People say, “Sorry, it’s just that I’ve known you as this for so long,” or, “I’m old, I’m still adjusting,” or, “It’s just because I’m a copy editor, the ‘they/them’ pronoun.” Do you really think I haven’t heard any of this before? Why do you think I care?
Oh, here’s another thing: people think that they need to apologize very profusely and give you a whole long thing if they mess up your pronouns, and that’s more of a burden. Just apologize and move on. Now you’re putting me in the position of having to take care of you and assure you that you’re a good person. And that feels terrible, and it’s not my job. All I need to hear is that you’re sorry and that you’re going to work on doing better. So I’m very fortunate in that even the cis people in my life are very supportive of this as a thing. So it’s these more microaggression-y problems that are surfacing, as opposed to someone else in a different environment who’d be dealing with violence, fearing for their lives. So that’s a way in which I have very real privilege.
I think there’s just this assumption that if you have a trans or non-binary person in your life, that if you support them, that’s it, you’re done. “Oh, I think it’s awesome that you’re trans,” end of work. It doesn’t occur to you that maybe you should practice this on your own, and put in some work so that you can take care of the other person. Because they’re working all the time. They’re correcting people all the time, maybe they’re paying the expense and putting in the time to legally change their name, maybe they’re putting in the time and expense to get electrolysis or HRT [hormone replacement therapy], or even if they’re not, they’re just having to deal with getting constantly mis-gendered, or having to take actions to literally keep themselves safe. They are putting in work all the time. You can put in that little bit of work so that you won’t mis-gender them.
In your own words, how would you explain that gender identity is different from sexual orientation? Do you think that they ever affect each other or relate to each other?
I know that they are separate but they don’t feel separate for me. I’ve known that I was queer in some fashion since I was 16. I mean, I’ve known since I was 12, but I articulated it when I was 16. But I was still putting cis dudes on a pedestal for the longest time. That was most of who I had dated and been in relationships with and slept with. And around the time that I was questioning my gender, I became really proactive about not putting cis dudes on a pedestal. If I was in some space where I was really connecting with one, I would just really intentionally breathe, and tell myself, “This is not the only person here. A romantic or sexual connection with this person is not the only way this event can be a success. This person also might end up being a really awesome friend. Just fuckin’ breathe, and don’t obsess about this person just because they’re looking at you.” That’s really, really hard. It’s so engrained. But I feel like having the language for my gender helped me realize that to a degree it is a choice. I could default to cis men. I’m just not interested in that anymore. But I have been for a very long time. Not that that had been the only people I was romantically or sexually involved with, but it was the majority of them. By a lot. I would explain it as a numbers game. “There’s just more straight men than queer people numbers-wise.” My first few years in New York I had not particularly felt at home in lesbian bars, so I had just kind of given up on going to explicitly queer spaces, because I didn’t realize how much more expansive it was than that. How many other spaces were available to me besides Cubbyhole. Cubbyhole’s fine, but there’s nothing that feels particularly utopian about it to me. But I have been to queer spaces in the past year that do feel very utopian.
I just realized that my last relationship, he was such a good guy. And the patriarchy still had his hooks in him. It has its hooks in all of us. But he was not showing up for me in ways that were specifically rooted in the shame that had been instilled in him because of how men are socialized. And there was just nothing I could do about it. So after three years of banging my head against the wall I realized – a cis dude has to literally be like, Superman Jesus for me to be interested at this point. Because here was such a good guy, who was so above and beyond in terms of: he made space for me, he never ever made me feel like I was too much of anything, he never mansplained to me, he never told me I was wrong, even. He was just so embracing of everything that I was, and so open to and interested in expanding in certain ways. And it still didn’t work out. So after that I figured, it needs to be the most amazing man on Earth. Because the baseline of women and trans or gender nonconforming people, the baseline of communication, of self-awareness, of engagement with their own shit – that baseline is so much higher than it is for cis men. I’m missing out on a lot of good stuff by just focusing on this one category of person just because that’s how I’ve been socialized. So I became super intentional. I’m very into the “T for T” magic, because there’s just all this explaining you don’t have to do. So I know that sexual orientation and gender identity are two different things, but they’re not separate for me.
How do you feel represented in media and society at large?
Well I think Asia Kate Dillon was the first non-binary character played by a non-binary performer. I think? Their character on Billions. I don’t know when that was. Less than five years ago? So this kind of representation is super duper new. Where do I feel represented? I read lots of content by non-binary people. Do you know the Numinous Tarot? It’s this deck, the creator is non-binary, and they took all the gendered language out of the tarot. And the representation is so diverse in terms of age and ethnicity, and ability, and presentation. Everyone just looks super queer and beautiful. So I feel very represented by this tarot deck. It’s pretty affordable too. I feel like there’s becoming this trend of sticking a non-binary person into a fairly cis/het [cisgender/heterosexual] story, and everyone is cis/het and then here’s a non-binary person, and they’re just kind of over here on the side, correcting people about their pronouns. And I get it, and thank you, but I’m trying to remember the last story I saw where it was the non-binary person’s story. So the next book I’m working on, it’s a high school pride club – everyone’s queer, and there are multiple trans characters, and multiple non-binary characters, and if someone shows up in this world and they are straight, we have to explain why they are there.
What improvements would you like to see happen inside your communities, and in society at large?
I want trans people to be safe. Which means being trans has to be normalized, and a very easy way to do that is just ask someone’s pronouns when introducing themselves. I don’t even necessarily do that because I feel like I’m being the one taking up space if I’m asking for that. I don’t always want to put in the effort of making it a thing. So I don’t always ask. I just kind of assume that if it’s important to the other person then they’ll tell me. But I hate that too. I just want us to go around not assuming people’s genders. That’s really what I want. Even if the person looks like the femmiest female femme feminine female, or the most masc masculine manly man masc man. Still just – don’t assume. But I also assume.
Something that I find kind of heartbreaking is when I get to know someone as a guy, and then that person comes out as a trans woman, and all these things I had assigned to them, now I have to re-contextualize. I think what makes me so sad about it is, if they’re in these socially aware spaces – the best term I feel like I’ve found for it is “erasure privilege.”
Where because you’re being experienced as the thing you’re not but the thing which is more socially acceptable – if you’re a light-skinned person of color being experienced as white, or a trans woman but you’re not [doing any physical changes] yet and people are experiencing you as a man, and there’s male privilege in that – but that’s also traumatizing and erasure. I don’t know the name for that, but I’m just going to go with “erasure privilege” for now. But if they’re in these socially aware spaces, there’s a way in which they have not been given the benefit of the doubt, or had certain things assigned to them or assumed about them that were never true for them. And you know, people come out whenever they gotta come out. But because I was assuming that this person was a guy, I was not assuming good faith on their part. And inside, we had so much more in common than I realized, and so I had been dismissive in a way that wasn’t fair to them. And I find that really sad.
Could you tell me about an experience or moment in your life that was very impactful for you?
Giving birth to my son. The actual day he was born was one of the best days of my life, and two days later when I said goodbye to him was the worst day of my life. But at the time, I was just like, This is awesome, he’s awesome, my friends are here, they’re awesome, the nurse was super lovely, she stayed two hours past the end of her shift to wait for me to finish with my labor and meet my son… I think that my whole pregnancy was an experience of people expecting me to be more upset than I was because I decided from the beginning that I was choosing adoption. That included giving birth, because at the time I was just really happy with that. Then once the separation happened, it all hit at once. And it’s weird being a non-binary birth mother because I know exactly one other non-binary birth mother, and they had a totally different experience with adoption than I did. So there’s this thing with intersecting identities or intersecting experiences, where – no one else actually gets the cocktail that’s me. No one else has this combination. And that’s sad and alienating. Being a birth mother is already sad and alienating, because there just aren’t very many around me. And even the ones that I do know have such different experiences and situations than me. Because I was very, very public with my adoption and intentions from the beginning, and they placed their children in such secrecy. And so there’s just a different experience there.
So, if I’m filling out a medical form, or a survey, and they ask, “Do you have any children?” I don’t know what to put. It’s definitely not designed with me in mind. But I do feel like being a birth parent is more alienating than being non-binary. I find a lot more community in being non-binary than in being a birth parent. It was a surprise pregnancy. It was accidental. I was not a surrogate; people ask me that all the time. Surrogates get paid. [laughs] Surrogates get pregnant on purpose and they get paid for it. And none of that applied to me. I got to pick the couple my son got placed with. The birth mother has a lot of power up until the placement, and then basically loses all of it. I mean, we have, as open adoptions go, a really good relationship. It’s very open, I see my son all the time, even since he moved to L.A. But they have the power in the relationship. They are the gatekeepers to my son. If I ever did something that pissed them off, that made them want to end that relationship, they very very easily could. I liken it to: you might have a really good relationship with your boss, but they’re still the gatekeeper of your paycheck. They still have more power than you, they still decide whether you eat or not. I’m very excited about being closer to him when I move to L.A.
Who in your life do you feel you can trust or depend on?
Depends on the day. I have two – I would say they’re my best friends. But we kind of go through cycles with each other where sometimes they just really need to be in their own shit, and aren’t as available to be there for me, and sometimes I go through a period where I’m not as available. So I don’t actually know if there’s anyone in my life where I know that this person will show up no matter what. And that’s kind of sad. I do feel really blessed in my relationship to community, and I have a lot of amazing people in my life, and there are so many ways in which people have shown up for me and taken care of me. I have so much amazing queer energy in my life. But I don’t know if it’s New York, or getting into our 30s, or all of the above, but people get increasingly in their own stuff. There are people that I know I could ask for anything, but – the degree to which they’re going to get it, and get me, is limited. So it’s hard. I think the world is hard, and we gotta take time to nurture ourselves. I think in your 20s the way you deal with the world being hard is, everyone congregates and drinks a lot and commiserates and is like, “Let’s just make things!” And then after a little while people just get tired. And it’s not even as though we’re moving out to the suburbs and having kids and that’s why we’re distant from each other, I think we’re just tired.
How has your view of yourself changed since you were younger?
I’m not as focused on my achievements as I used to be. I spent many, many years just being like, “I’m gonna be the best, and I’m gonna win the things, and I’m gonna be very famous and successful, and that’s gonna be me.” And my whole sense of myself was that I was a person who was going to do these things. And I do still want to make a very very large difference in the world. I still wanna win the things and be the best! But my identity is not as tied up in that as it used to be.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You’re trans. [laughs] And seriously, stop putting the cis dudes on a pedestal. The world is so much bigger than that. You’re wasting so much time focusing on that, and so much of your sense of your worth on that. And you will never get that time back. Just stop trying to make shitty dudes love you or fuck you. Just stop. Stop. [laughs]
What are your concerns for the future?
"I’m just proud that I’ve made art that’s true to me. And I think that any success I’ve had is because that’s what I was doing. Not just because of that, but I don’t think it would’ve been possible if I hadn’t been doing that."
Global warming. New York being underwater. What if we don’t vote Trump out. What if we can never undo the gag rule that was just instated – this is just in the past week. You’re no longer eligible for Title X funding if you even say the word “abortion” to a patient. What if I never feel satisfied with my life? What if we never stop being as bigoted as we are? That’s a sampling.
What do you look forward to in the future?
My son being old enough that I can embarrass him. [laughs] I’m not even looking to, you know, humiliate him or anything, but I just want to be playing my music too loudly in public and for him to be rolling his eyes, and I’ll be using antiquated slang and he’ll be like, “Mom, no one says that anymore!” I’m so excited for that. [laughs]
What have been the important frustrations in your life, and the important successes?
I think my anxiety is really important because it’s like a big neon sign arrow pointing to all the stuff I haven’t healed from in my childhood. So I think that my anxiety is a gift, and I have to remind myself of that because it takes a lot of managing. As far as my successes – I’m just proud that I’ve made art that’s true to me. And I think that any success I’ve had is because that’s what I was doing. Not just because of that, but I don’t think it would’ve been possible if I hadn’t been doing that.
Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice?
[laughs] Nothing is permanent and stability is a myth. I just feel like there’s this tendency to think, “Whatever this thing is, that’s how things are gonna be from now on,” even though we know intellectually that everything changes. But we just really convince ourselves and tell ourselves a story, like, this is how it is now. No matter what it is, good or bad, we just are like, “This is my new reality.” Indefinitely. And then we get really disoriented when that’s not true. I think we could save ourselves a lot of trouble if we stopped believing the myth that anything is permanent. It will change. It will 100% change. And it’ll change before you’re ready. Just stop thinking that anything’s permanent.
Are there any other questions you would have liked me to ask, or anything else you would like to talk about?
I just think everyone should read Brené Brown. Read her books, they’re so good. They’re so important. Her Netflix special is really fucking good.
*Rae will be moving to L.A. this year
"I think we could save ourselves a lot of trouble if we stopped believing the myth that anything is permanent. It will change. It will 100% change. And it’ll change before you’re ready. Just stop thinking that anything’s permanent."
Learn more about Rae at www.mariahmaccarthy.com
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