TEA

Oakland, CA

What are your pronouns?

I prefer “they/them” but I also go by “she/her.” I don’t have the pronoun conversation with everybody, so when people see what I look like, they go to “she/her.” It doesn’t really bother me what people say, but for people who are really close to me, I want them to respect what my preference is. Otherwise, I can go by pretty much anything.

Where do you work?

I work at a firm that does health and healthcare consulting. It is a small company, it has a couple offices across the country, and the office I’m at now is in San Francisco. I’m an associate there, and I help support the different projects they have like evaluation work of programs from different counties and things like that. [The commute from Oakland to San Francisco] is not fun. [laughs] I mean, I’m from New York City, so I’m used to trains and commuting. But it’s packed. It’s not fun, but I always get on my train. That’s what most important.

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

Well, I don’t know if sleep counts as a hobby. [laughs] I mean, it is what I’d like to do more of. I really enjoy reading fiction. Mostly I like reading sci-fi futuristic stuff a lot. I’ve been really getting into Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemison. I like to write too. I try to, I want to. I’m a writer at heart. See, the thing is, I feel like I don’t have time for hobbies, I just do things that keep me alive, like cooking. I used to like to cook when I wouldn’t have to do it all the time, and now I have to do it all the time. But I do like to dance, and I like binge-watching things. I’m a big anime fan. I play with my cat. Those don’t take a lot of energy. Sex, if it counts as a hobby, I love sex.

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

Oh. I don’t really. It depends on if I’m in a queer space or not. If I’m in a queer space, I definitely will say, “I’m non-binary, use the right pronouns.” But if I’m with random strangers, and I don’t know anything about them, and I’m going to see them once and then never have that conversation again – it gets kind of exhausting having to explain over and over again that this is a thing, and then there’s questions… I just bypass that because I don’t have time. I have low energy, and I am very busy, so I just don’t have time for that. [laughs] I don’t know. I feel like a part of me is kind of torn, because – the reason why I wanted to do this is because I feel like there needs to be more awareness about being non-binary. Part of me feels like, is it inauthentic not to proclaim that? But another part of me is like, I have to live my life. I have to live my life the best way that I can, and I don’t think that it’ll make me happy to have to explain that to people every time I meet them. That would just make me not want to go outside. So. Yeah. My authentic experience is I’m too tired.

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?

It’s not that different from my government name. People in my life still call me my government name. It’s not really a huge point of contention for me. I moved here 2 ½ years ago, and when I moved I decided to change my name, but not legally. So everyone here knows me by Tea. But everyone at home, some people call me Tea and some people don’t. When I told my grandmother she got really upset. I don’t know why. [laughs] She got really angry and [said], “Well how are your parents gonna feel?” I’m like, I don’t know, they didn’t ask me when I was named, they didn’t ask me how I was going to feel when they named me. But other than that, it hasn’t really been a point of contention. My parents try to remember. They’re trying. This whole thing is really difficult for them to understand, being non-binary. But it is kind of weird going around and saying my name is Tea, and thinking of myself as Tea, and then going to the DMV and being like, “My name is – oh, that’s not my government name, that’s not my name on my passport,” so I have to tell them my government name.

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

I’m Black. I’m Latinx, but that is complicated, since I don’t fit the mainstream understanding of what Latinx people look like. I’m non-binary femme-presenting. And I am…pretty fuckin’ awesome.

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

That’s really hard. So, for a lot of trans and non-binary people, I think it’s very important for them to be presenting as a particular thing, or a particular side of the gender spectrum. For me, I buy clothes that fit my body. It’s very difficult, even in the “women’s sections,” it’s very difficult for me to find clothes that fit my body. You can’t really tell in this outfit but I have a longer torso, I have shorter legs, I have really big boobs, and I have a small waist and big hips. It’s hard for me to find clothing point-blank period. So when I go into stores, I’m not really looking [with the idea of], oh is this going to make me look a certain type of way; it’s like, is this going to fit my body and is it going to be comfortable. That’s my process. Do I like it? Does it look cute on me? Do I think it’s a nice color? Can I afford it? That’s my process going in. Because of that I think I probably present as very cis-passing, just because, you know, I wear a lot of “women’s” clothing.

I don’t really think I do anything in particular to signify me being non-binary, because it means so many things for so many people, there’s so many different ways of being non-binary. There’s so many different ways you can express yourself. You can be assigned-female-at-birth and be high-fucking-femme and still be non-binary. That doesn’t change anything. I mean, I shaved half of my head because I thought it looked more queer, but it was mostly because I didn’t want to do my hair as much. I do think about how I present to the world, but looking at me – unless I took testosterone, just with my body there isn’t really a way I feel like I could present more masculine. I would just look frumpy.

For me, being non-binary – it’s just that I don’t feel particularly drawn to any category of gender. So if I go out into the world, I’m just being who I am. And I don’t think how I dress should assign me to being a certain type of way, gender wise. Even though that’s how a lot of people do express themselves, and that’s how a lot of people differentiate themselves, and confirm their identity. That’s just not the case for me. I mean, I think people should have the space to do both - I think people should have the chance to be like, “I am going to wear these types of clothes or do these types of things because it means I am xyz,” and I think we should also have the space of being like, “These things don’t mean anything besides the value that we give them, I don’t want to them to mean what society says it does.”  I think there has to be a balance.

But I don’t want any assumptions about my gender based on my appearance, because you will probably be wrong. Gender is a construct anyway, and that goes for presentation and clothes too. If you look at a skirt, it’s a tubular piece of fabric. Why does it have to have a gender assigned to it? Because for a long time, tubular pieces of fabric were things that anyone could wear. And high heels. Just anything. We’ve assigned these values to these things, and they can be very important to people, but we should also just as easily deconstruct them too.

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

I think that it’s a two-parter. I think that it was when I was very young, and also when I got into college. I remember reading Sailor Moon, and there is a character, her name is Haruka, or Sailor Uranus. She’s my wife, I love her – she’s super badass, and canon lesbian. I actually have a tattoo of her symbol on my back. It’s my first one! But anyway in the translation I was reading, there was a scene where one of the characters asked her if she was a girl or a boy, and she replied, “Does it really matter?” And I remember being like, 5, and really resonating with that at a very deep level in a way that I didn’t really understand at the time. Then as I got older, you know, my family is kind of – I mean I don’t think they would agree with me, but I think they’re very traditional in terms of gender and gender expectations, and things like that. You know, in high school, it was just very rigid, and I felt kind of being forced into becoming a woman, and feeling uncomfortable, but not really knowing if there was an alternative for me. Because I did know about binary trans, I knew about people transitioning, but that didn’t feel right to me. I don’t want to be a man, I just don’t really feel like a woman. And I was like, well, I guess that’s just where I’m going to be, a reluctant woman because I was born assigned-female-at-birth.

"I just have general problems with the construct of gender in the first place. I mean, people can disagree with me, but it’s basically just built to oppress people, and I’m just not into systems of oppression. At the very basic level, the biological deterministic framework, it’s there to organize types of labor. And I don’t want to live my life based on labor."

So then when I got to college, I met my first non-binary person, and they were explaining it to me, and if I’m really honest, the first time someone told me that, I [thought], That sounds like some white people shit. That was what was in my head. Because there’s a lot of things that white people have access to in exploring their identity that people of color don’t. And I was like, “That sounds really interesting, but I don’t think that that could ever be me.” And it wasn’t until I went away, I went abroad to Spain for a semester – it was really great, I loved it – it was another person from America who was in my program, and at the time, he identified as non-binary, and he was a person of color. I went to a very white school, and the queer scene there was all white. So he was my first person of color that I met that ever talked about being non-binary, and he had other POC non-binary friends. And it was really eye-opening for me. Because it allowed me to understand that about myself, and kind of put a label on the things that I had been feeling for a really long time.

I just have general problems with the construct of gender in the first place. I mean, people can disagree with me, but it’s basically just built to oppress people, and I’m just not into systems of oppression. At the very basic level, the biological deterministic framework, it’s there to organize types of labor. And I don’t want to live my life based on labor. [laughs] One of the very first things I remember, even early on when I was a teenager, was wondering if you’re saying that women are like this, and men are like this, then why within those two categories there are so many different types of people and there’s a lot of people who may fit into one category but they act like the other category? And the fact that my life was shaped by a lot of Black and Jewish women – you know, I grew up in Harlem and I went to very white schools growing up, and a lot of the white people in New York are Jewish. So I grew up around that, and that is a very different type of femininity than what the grand white colonial idea of what femininity is. So it was really hard for me to reconcile that even in my own brain when I thought, like, well how can I become a woman when it means being docile and submissive and soft, where that’s just not the experience I’ve seen with anybody in my life? Anyone who I admire. What I admire in the women in my life is the strength, and the endurance, and the leadership. And the nurturing, yes, and the compassion, but the idea that I think society was trying to sell to me was kind of a backseat passenger, and that’s not how I saw any of the women in my life. It was kind of hard to reconcile that even then. So that was something I had thought about for a long time. And then I got to meet my friend, and he opened my eyes to something else. So that’s where I landed with that.

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

[laughs] Everything about the way I was raised and grew up. Okay. So, my family is from the Caribbean and Latin America. They are very religious. My nuclear family, my two parents, I think they’re more progressive than the rest of my family, but it’s still a work in progress. I’m still working with them. I think that when I was growing up I consistently got this gender education that I was rebelling against, always. Like [being expected] to do certain things because I was a “girl”, or not being able to do certain things, supposed to like certain things, supposed to act a certain way, supposed to be a certain way… And I think I was constantly rebelling against that. It just felt really wrong. It felt wrong because of the misogyny and also because it’s just not who I am. So that definitely impacted the way I was, and how much of a relief it was when I was able to refer to myself as non-binary. And then just living in New York, it’s – a place. It gives you fire. I’m from Harlem. I lived there my entire life until I went to school and then moved out here. I think a lot of people when they realize they’re queer in any type of way, I think they feel a lot of fear, and I really didn’t. And I think it’s because I was just exposed to a lot more queerness and a lot more different types of people and a lot more different types of lives than a lot of other people get to be exposed to. Even though New York is a very harsh place to live, I also think it gives people a lot more space to experience life that’s not the standard American ideal. So I think that also helped impact me.

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

What misconceptions aren’t there? No one knows what non-binary is. No one understands even what binary trans is. There’s the basic misconceptions; people think that you’re either just gay, or you’re confused, or you’re rebelling, or trying to be edgy, or whatever. But I just feel like there’s a general lack of understanding about non-binary and the gender binary. I don’t think I’ve ever met a non-trans person who understood what non-binary was. [laughs] I don’t know that there’s any reactions people towards about non-binary people besides, “What?”

"Some people say bi is inherently anti-trans, and all this stuff which I think is bullshit. I don’t think we’re going to get very far with pretending like transphobia doesn’t exist. Right? There’s definitely transphobic bi people, just like there’s definitely transphobic straight people, and gay people. But there is so much focus on bi transphobia, and I think it is rooted in biphobia and that doesn’t seem fair. There are trans people who identify as bisexual and I feel like we shouldn’t be gatekeeping."

In your own words, how would you explain the differences and/or similarities between gender identity and sexual orientation?

I mean, they’re different. They’re different lanes of your brain. It’s interesting, because I feel like for a lot of people, their sexual orientation comes from a place of their gender identity… Not me. [laughs] I think that, for me, sexual orientation is about a relationship or an attraction. Not a relationship like you’re in a couple, but a how you relate with another person. And gender identity is a relationship with yourself, and how you relate yourself to the world. That’s how I see it. I identify as bisexual, and the way I define bisexual is being attracted to my gender and other genders. And for me it was really important, because it was confirming of my own gender, to see it as something that is also in others. I’ve tried on other labels, like pansexual, but it didn’t feel right since it is kinda shrouded in biphobia. Some people say bi is inherently anti-trans, and all this stuff which I think is bullshit. I don’t think we’re going to get very far with pretending like transphobia doesn’t exist. Right? There’s definitely transphobic bi people, just like there’s definitely transphobic straight people, and gay people. But there is so much focus on bi transphobia, and I think it is rooted in biphobia and that doesn’t seem fair. There are trans people who identify as bisexual and I feel like we shouldn’t be gatekeeping. Pansexual doesn’t necessarily mean biphobic, but it still felt wrong to me. So that’s how I got there.

I think when I was younger one of the things that was very confusing to me was being attracted to women, and not understanding. “Well I’m a girl, what does that mean?” And I guess as I got older and as I got a more complex understanding about myself and gender and sexuality, it kind of all came together like that. But to me they’re very different things. 

I have dated cis men, but as I came into myself as a non-binary person, I realized that I was very much attracted to that in other people. And then you get in that place where you’re like, Okay I am non-binary, and I’m in a relationship with someone who’s a cis man, what does that make them? Or even someone who’s a cis woman, anybody. That queers the relationship for a person who might not necessarily view themselves as queer or who would view themselves only in a certain way. And so it makes it a little bit more complicated. And it might make people feel certain types of ways. And it also might make you feel like your gender isn’t being respected if the person doesn’t take it seriously enough, and if they don’t do that work to process the context of your relationship. It actually is different; you have to think about this. You have identity, and then you have attraction, and love. It’s interesting. I date people based on their hearts, not their bodies, but bodies are very important for some people. I have been lucky. I have dated very open-minded people who don’t have their masculinity or other identity threatened by every little thing. I think that has more to do with who I attract and who I repel, but it is a thing that you have to take into consideration.

I think that when you think about relationships, you really have to find a person that matches you. You can’t make yourself someone else, and someone else can’t [either], which is why I don’t get too angry at the people [who put things on dating apps such as] “Women only” because it’s like, if that’s what you want, if that makes you happy – I can’t be that for you, so I’m just going to swipe left, and it’s okay. I actually don’t think it is automatically transphobic just to want to date cis people. Let them be. I think we get caught up in trying to be who the people we want wants, and that’s not good. You have to put yourself first. You have to be true to yourself. You’re not going to make the other person happy if you’re not being your authentic self. There are so many people on this planet, you should find someone who wants you for you. I know it’s hard, trust me I know, but we inflict so much more damage on ourselves when we don’t live authentically. I was bullied through my entire younger life, I felt so ugly, so unwanted. I shudder to think what I would have done to change myself or what I would put up with just to feel wanted by someone. That’s not healthy.

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

I don’t. [laughs] I don’t. Actually, the most represented I have ever felt was – there was an “emotion picture” that came out last year on YouTube that was called Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae. That was the most represented I have ever felt in my entire life. And Janelle Monae, from what I understand, is a cis woman. It’s about this future where if you’re the wrong type of person, “dirty computer”, they take you to away, this facility where they drain your memories and try to “clean” you – like if you’re queer, if you look different. Janelle Monae is the main character. She has this relationship with both this man and this woman, and she’s running away from these robo cops – anyway, the point is that it’s beautiful. Black, queer, poly, sex positive. Not exactly hitting all my identities, but it comes close! It is also just great music; I highly recommend it. That is the most seen I have ever felt. Everybody out there, if you haven’t seen Dirty Computer yet, you have to see it!

But other that, I mean I have never seen or read anything about a Black/Latinx bisexual poly nonbinary person or character. Ever. So no, I don’t.

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

I mean where do we start? Dismantalization of capitalism! [laughs] That’s the improvement I want to see. Taking down the prison industrial complex. I think the dismantalization of capitalism is the thing I’m going to stick with, because I feel like there’s a lot of issues that come from that, and I think there’s a lot of things we can help if capitalism wasn’t in the freaking way. More realistic improvements? I think it is a more realistic improvement to want to dismantle the prison industrial complex. I think that hurts lots of people of color and trans people. I think that we should have really wide-sweeping immigration reform. I think that we should have laws that protect people from gender discrimination, including genders that are non-binary. And not even just laws – I think that people get really concentrated on laws, because yes they’re important because they’re the backbone, but I think we have to move as a culture, I think we have to move as a whole body. Because you can have all the laws that you want, right – on the books, everyone could vote in the 1950s. On the books, technically. But the way it [panned] out was, a lot of people couldn’t vote. A huge chunk of people couldn’t vote. And that was because there were other laws to help loop around the stuff that was supposed to be innate for everybody, and that was because of the culture. That was because of the general mindset.

So we need to move towards a culture that is more inclusive of different types of people and isn’t so restrictive and isn’t so…evil. People are really closed, and people are just not compassionate, they’re very closed-minded, closed-hearted, very vindictive, very “us against them,” and I think that we need a culture that holds people accountable for the bad things that they do, and also prioritize healing and how to grow forward.

"It was just very impactful, being Black in another white country that wasn’t America. That was an interesting experience. People will say to me, “Well it’s like this everywhere,” – no, it actually isn’t. There’s anti-blackness everywhere, but America’s is very specific, and it’s very insidious, and it’s very persistent."

I think a part of doing that is giving power to people who haven’t had it. Giving power to people who haven’t had it to shape the reality they want to make for everyone, and to listen to those people who have been doing the work in smaller scale, and give them larger scale work to do. And making sure there’s a universal income. [laughs]

There’s a lot of things I would change if I could. I think we really need to worry about climate change. That is a thing that I am really strong about. Climate change and sex and sexuality work are where my heart is, and we are not going to have a planet to live on. We are really not. That’s something that really is concerning for everybody. And we all need to be paying attention to that.

Could you tell me about an experience or moment in your life that was very impactful for you? It can be in regards to your identity, or not.

I like to travel a lot. I’ve been to a lot of places, 23 countries. I think that an experience that really impacted me was going abroad in college. I think that that was a really good idea for me. It was beautiful. I got to travel a lot, and I got to learn a lot about myself in a really short period of time. There were so many different things that impacted me, but the whole experience of going abroad – I am very big on people traveling. I think that people should leave the United Sates. You need to get your blinders off. You’ve got to see other things, other people, other ways of life. It was just very impactful, being Black in another white country that wasn’t America. That was an interesting experience. People will say to me, “Well it’s like this everywhere,” – no, it actually isn’t. There’s anti-blackness everywhere, but America’s is very specific, and it’s very insidious, and it’s very persistent. And there are better places to live, we can do better. So I think that had a really big impact on me.

There were other things too. In particular, I remember going to the museum in London, and they have all this stuff in glass cases. And it was cool until I realized like, ya’ll just stole all of this. This is all theft. This doesn’t belong to you. You went into Egypt, and you raided people’s graves, and you brought it here for people to look at. You took it away from the people whose heritage is this, after you colonized them. And then I remember going to the Vatican, and there’s all this beautiful art, the Sistine Chapel, and there’s these cases full of robes that are made of gold, and there’s literally homeless people outside the Vatican walls. Really? You are a fucking church. Why doesn’t that enrage everyone? I don’t feel like people can see that. They can’t really make the connection between gold robes and not doing anything about the people outside your door, and that bothers me. That really bothers me. Everyone was so focused on the Sistine Chapel, and where the cardinals sit, and is that really important? Or is it really important how you treat people? It says, in your book, it’s important how you treat people. Material things aren’t important. And that doesn’t translate, somehow. So those are the two really impactful things. It was really nice to meet the other non-binary person that I met there, that was super impactful, and forming that friendship.

Could you give me an example of something difficult that occurred in your life how you dealt with it? It can be in regards to your identity, or not.

It’s weird because when I tell people about things that happened in my life, they always react really strongly, like my life has been so horrible, and I don’t feel like that. Feel like I’ve been very lucky. In a lot of ways I have, but I think if I heard from another person’s mouth the things that I have gone through, I probably would react the same way. I think I’ve had a hard life, at least in part. I think I was a lot luckier than a lot of people I knew growing up, and I’m in a much better place now. But I had a really difficult time with my mental health when I was a teenager, and just a child, too, from like 8 to – 20? 21? I had really bad depression and anxiety, and it took me a really long time to learn how to manage it. I went through a lot of pain… It was difficult, just being in a family that didn’t know how to deal with it, didn’t know how to talk about it, actively discouraged me from talking about it to other people besides my therapist, and kind of building this attitude of shame around it. It was hard just being in that much pain all the time for so long; so much self-loathing, and just despair, and hopelessness, and loneliness. That was really difficult.

I think there were other things that were going on that kind of compounded it, but I don’t think an 8-year-old should feel like they want to die. I don’t think that’s a good thing. And feeling like that for a prolonged period of time. It got better, you know, there were times when it was worse or better than others, but it’s definitely better now that I finally found the right mix of things. But that was really difficult. I think that I’ve had a lot of what I feel was unpreventable suffering, like something that I couldn’t help. Even if everything in my life had been perfect, I still would’ve been absolutely miserable. I think that’s why it makes me really angry when I see preventable suffering. That’s not fair. It’s not fair that I have to suffer, but it’s also really not fair that people have to suffer for things that we can actually change.

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

I feel like I’ve been very fortunate, because I do have a lot of really wonderful people in my life. I think that I have a really great group of friends, I have great partners… My family, for all their flaws, they do definitely care about me, and they generally want what’s best for me. I think that I have a really good support system in general, so that part of my life is really solid I think. It has been hard finding a strong community in the Bay though.

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

I kind of feel like a pretty straightforward open book. You kinda get what you get. [laughs] I feel like if you meet me and spend any amount of time with me, you know what you’re getting into.

Before I moved to California, I was in school a lot with white people, around mostly white people, and that was interesting to navigate. There have been friendships that I’ve had that have had to end because of that part of my identity. It is an impact. It’s really funny, because sometimes I forget that Blackness is a thing. Because I’m a person, right? I’m a person that has a soul, or a spirit, or whatever – this body is a shell. And the shell directly impacts your soul and your spirit, but it also is a separate entity. So then you forget that you have all this baggage that comes with your shell sometimes. Like I don’t like to go around thinking, How am I navigating the world as a black person? I’m thinking, How am I going to live my life? And that’s part of it, but you forget until people show you who they are. People have opinions about things, and people have misconceptions about things, and they don’t usually start off telling you about their bullshit. You have to peel back the layers of it before people get really honest with you, and then it’s like, ooh I don’t know if I like what’s underneath there. I thought you were cool but you’re really not.

And working, too, and being perceived as different in different ways. I think that’s what I really think about. I have a strong personality, but a lot of people I think perceive me a different way than I try to present, within relationships at work, or relationships with classmates, or whatever – that has become very apparent.

Are you able to find adequate medical care?

Here, yes. It’s not perfect, but it’s adequate. I mean I have health insurance, so that is helpful. California has one of the better medical coverage policies, if you’re uninsured, if you have an income level below a certain amount. There’s so many other places in the country where there’s just nothing for people. But I have it through by job- it’s adequate, it’s fine. My providers respect my identity. I feel like if I had a provider that didn’t, I wouldn’t see them anymore. But this is my world, health care, so I know how to navigate it. It is harder for other people.      

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Stop comparing yourself to other people. Stop doing that, that’s not helping you. I’d also tell my younger self, fight back more. I was bullied quite a bit, and I was really buying into this “well if you’re just nice to them they’ll stop,” and that was not true. And I would’ve told myself, “The thing you wanna say, say it. If they’re being nasty, go ahead and be nasty right back.” Because they’re not going to stop if you’re nice, so you might as well not hold this anger in you, you might as well tell them to fuck off. Who cares if they don’t like you? I definitely would’ve told myself that.

And I also would’ve told myself, “You have time to figure yourself out.” I think when I was younger I was very confused, and I [thought], I gotta figure it out, I gotta know what I am, I gotta label myself. And now I’m just like, you know, you can be in a gray area forever. For the rest of your life. If that’s how you feel. You don’t have to put yourself in a box just because it’s easier for other people to understand. You can figure it out, you can take your time.

Intersectional feminism, too, just kind of validated my experiences. I think a lot of times, for me personally – I think this is the experience of a lot of people – I noticed things, I felt things, I observed things, and then people would tell me, “That’s not real.” Or people would tell me, “Well, you know, maybe he didn’t mean to sound patronizing. Maybe you’re just oversensitive about that racism. Maybe you’re getting too emotional about it. You’re reading too much into it.” And I think that intersectional feminism was really important to my development and being like, no, you are seeing what’s real. You’re not just oversensitive. You have a right to be angry, too, and don’t let anyone try to take that away from you.

What are your concerns for the future?

That climate change thing is real. I am very concerned about that. Concerned when I turn 26 and I’m off my mom’s health insurance, I’m going to have to get my own. I’m going to have to maintain my own and not switch jobs every 8 months. [laughs] I’m concerned about being happy, and making choices to insure my happiness. If I’m making the right choices to ensure my future happiness. And you can’t really know what the future holds, you can’t make the right choices to ensure future happiness – you can make the best educated guess of a choice. I have immediate concerns, like how am I going to finance the rest of my education, but I also have been trying not to worry about the future so much. I think that was one of the things that really fueled my anxiety. Trying to plan to live in the moment more, and enjoy the moment more, has been one of the things that I’ve learned to do that helps me not be so nervous all the time. It’s an attempt, you know, but I’m getting better at that.

What do you look forward to in the future?

I look forward to living in a place where I can have more cats. [laughs] I mean, to be perfectly honest, for a really long time, I didn’t think I would live this long, and it’s kind of amazing that I am here, and my life is the way that it is. I don’t know. Beyond going to graduate school, I don’t really know what my future’s going to look like too much. I don’t really have a lot of down-the-line plans besides right now; I just want to live.

Oh! I want to write my book. I have a couple book ideas, and I want to write them, and I want to try to get them published. That’s what I’m looking forward to. It’s having the time to do that, that’s what I’m looking forward to. I think I just don’t have time. I get very tired at the end of the day. I’m looking forward to having more time to do things that I want to do.

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

Moving and making a life in California was an important success. It was something that I’d been wanting to do for a while. And I did it, so that was good.

And I think that that has been really good for me, just being on my own and kind of forming a new life where I get to decide who’s in my life and who’s not in my life, and I get to decide what I want to do and how I want to live and who I want to surround myself with. Living with my family, I had no control over that. Whoever my family said I had to be around is who I had to be around. And I have a really large extended family, and you know, I love them, but from afar. [laughs] And being able to sleep in till whenever and not have someone knock on my door and [say], “You’re sleeping too long, get up.” Being able to make my own decisions. Having my own money. That’s been really important.

Important frustrations? I think struggling through figuring out my gender identity, struggling through figuring out my sexuality, those were very important things that I had to figure out for myself. Understanding my place in the universe has been very important. One of the frustrating things is I can’t really see myself in the future very much, and that can be frustrating, and something I’m working on. I’m trying to apply to grad school this year, and all these essay questions [ask], “What do you want to do after you graduate?” I have no idea. I don’t know. Did you know at 24 what you wanted to do for the rest of your life? Maybe you did, lucky you, but I don’t know, and I’m going to have to lie because I know you want to hear something. Whatever, you need to do what you gotta do, but I really have no idea. And I have no idea what I want my future to look like. I mean, I’m pretty chill right now.

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

Don’t compare yourself to other people. That, and also you have to prioritize yourself. I think that is something that I learned that was very important. You cannot make other people happy at the expense of you. That’s never going to work out. It’s not going to work out for you, and it probably won’t work out for the other person to be perfectly honest, so you should just really make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Even if that means saying “no,” even if that means disappointing people; you have to make sure you’re taking care of you.

I love my family very much, and I knew they did not want me to move out here. They really didn’t. But if I didn’t move here, I don’t know where I would be. I’m not even sure I would’ve stayed alive, honestly. I really don’t think that I would’ve been able to become what I am right now if I had stayed at home, and I probably would be back in a really dark place. And because I said, “This is something that I have to do for myself, and I have to take care of myself,” I brought myself out here, and I’m in a really great place now.

That, and gender is a construct, don’t let it bind you.

"I think a lot of the times people get really caught up in the struggle they feel because of their experiences, which is valid, but we also have to remember that we are all beings outside of our shells. We all have feelings, and we all have emotions, and dreams, and aspirations, and a lot of it has been crushed out of us. A lot of our hearts have been heavily damaged, and as a community we have to try to heal. Because we’re going to keep damaging each other if we don’t start taking steps to heal people."

Are there any other questions you would have liked me to ask, or anything else you would like to talk about?

There is something I do want to talk about. I think it could be relevant. I wanted to talk about how my experience has been being non-binary within queer spaces, where there’s a particular type of non-binary person that’s accepted, or you’re expected to look like, or expected to dress like. Kind of like what we were talking about before. And I don’t want to take away from anybody their expression, especially when people fight so hard for freedom of that expression – but I do want to say that my experience, even here in the Bay, has been really kind of disheartening and heartbreaking. Because I feel like people don’t take me seriously when I say I’m non-binary. And this is other queer people. I really genuinely feel like there has been more non-queer people I’ve told that I’m non-binary who have been trying to understand and accept, than people who are in queer spaces who just brush it off. They don’t care, they don’t think it’s real. Especially because I’m not transitioning, and I’m not masc-presenting. It’s kind of invalidating for your own community to do that to you. And it’s very hurtful.

I think that we have to move past this idea that your image is what your gender is. We have to move past this idea that what your clothes are or what you look like indicates who you are as a person. Because it really doesn’t, and I don’t think it ever really has. You can be a biker and love ballet. It doesn’t really matter how you’re dressed. You can’t make all these assumptions about people based on how they dress, and – this is even with other trans people. I feel like I’ve been very judged, invalidated, excluded, people have been very clique-ish. I don’t fit the bill, so I don’t get to sit at the table. And that’s not the type of community we should be building towards and reproducing. I think that it’s another system of oppression. It’s not fair. Especially being assigned-female-at-birth and presenting femme and being non-binary. I think that’s a particular thing that is very erased. I don’t know why, and I think that maybe the solution is moving towards more of a space where you listen to people’s words, and you trust what people are saying to you. And also accept that things can change, that people can have a certain identity and not have that anymore, and that’s a process, and be accepting of that. And be accepting of the fact that none of these are concrete. Because they’re all constructs. None of these are concrete things. So I think that is one thing I want to talk about.

I also think, again in the queer community, we have to be very conscious of checking our other biases and checking our other privileges. I think that there’s a lot of ableism, there’s a lot of fat-phobia, there’s a lot of misogyny, and there’s a lot of racism. Especially white queers, they don’t feel like they need to examine that. Because they’re queer, so they get it. But they don’t, and they perpetuate all these things, and they don’t want to be self-reflective. They don’t want to check their own privilege, and they don’t want to be part of the solution, and they alienate these people, and then they [ask], “Why don’t they come to our events, and why don’t they show up here, and this and that.” Are you trying to make things equitable? Not even just inclusive, are you trying to fight for things to make it better for everybody, not just you? That is something that people really need to be looking at. Especially within the queer community, because it’s so small. We don’t really have that many – I mean there’s a lot of us in the Bay – but there’s not that many of us in the country, you know. You also can’t just say you understand, that means you have to do the work. You have to make those decisions when you can to elevate voices, people, whatever.

 

And there has to be more of a focus on taking care of each other and healing. Everyone under the system of white supremacist heteropatriarchy capitalism is broken. And I think especially queer people have so much damage from being told that they’re wrong, and they’re evil, and they’re sinful. They have a lot of internal heartbreak damage, and I think that everyone tries to put on a brave face, because you can’t just sit there and dwell on the pain you have. But I really want to see more people counteracting the damage [they’ve] gotten and taking care of each other. I think that happens kind of organically within friend groups, but I think there should be more of a structural thing in the community around it. Because I think that’s really important for people to live their best lives. I think a lot of the times people get really caught up in the struggle they feel because of their experiences, which is valid, but we also have to remember that we are all beings outside of our shells. We all have feelings, and we all have emotions, and dreams, and aspirations, and a lot of it has been crushed out of us. A lot of our hearts have been heavily damaged, and as a community we have to try to heal. Because we’re going to keep damaging each other if we don’t start taking steps to heal people. In a small insulated community, you’re just going to keep damaging each other. Which is why things like talking about consent is really important, things like talking about your biases is important, so you don’t keep damaging other people. So those are my three.