The past week there have been a number of changes for me. One of the biggest is that I packed up and moved to the Northeast, where I will be teaching two graduate courses for the next six weeks. Although I have been looking forward to this summer for some time, the notion of ‘coming home’ has always been one that is a bit difficult for me. I have written elsewhere about what exactly ‘home’ may mean, but suffice to say, I feel a number of dis/connections about the geographic area in which I was raised. Part of this has to do with the vibrant communities of queer people I have become a part of over the past three years while in Ohio.
It’s hard to put into words how much my queer family has meant to me, especially the trans* people I have had the absolute delight to be amongst. When I first came out, I was living and working in rabidly gender-dichotomous spaces, and the only real trans* community I developed was through literature. I felt cut off from people, save for one dear friend who was by my side, and I was eager to move to Ohio, where I thought there was a chance for me to meet and be with other trans* people.
The past three years since my move to Ohio has been exactly what I needed. Although not perfect (wanting/needing any place to be perfect is a bit unreasonable, really), I have found, developed, and maintained a number of terrific relationships with queer and trans* people. The past year especially has brought into sharp focus just how very important these queer communities and spaces are for me. From the ending of a meaningful relationship to the passing of my grandmother, with whom I was very close and was my last living grandparent, it has been my queer and trans* communities who have been there for me, no questions asked. Living out the advice of one of my mentors, I definitely feel like I have ‘found my people’ in Ohio.
This weekend was yet another striking reminder of how very important ‘my people’ are to me. I traveled to New York City for a family wedding, which was scheduled (unintentionally) for the same day as the NYC Pride March. As I got ready that afternoon, sat in the limo with the wedding party on the way to the ceremony, and took part in the festivities, I felt so torn. I wanted to be there with my family, the people who I grew up with and who I love with all my heart. But I missed my family, the queer communities and people who allow me to ‘do me’ in ways I can’t with my most of the people at the wedding and are committed to creating a more just and equitable world for highly marginalized populations. I kept thinking of the trans* women of color throughout the decades who have been so important to the opening up of spaces. I kept recalling the faces of the trans* participants with whom I have worked the past two years, remembering our stories and moments together. I kept thinking about the powerful reminders of trans* resistance to genderism, both within and outside of LGBTIQ communities. I tried to keep it all with me as I floated through the night, but there were so many reminders that I was very likely The Only One at the wedding. I was very likely the only trans* person and queer person. I was also one of the very few single people, which meant there was pressure from others to ‘seek out’ someone to dance with, chat up, and whatever else folks expected me to do.
I felt then (and still do as I write this) so confused and conflicted. I was so happy to be there for my family and to see so many people so very happy. I was glad to add to the joy I saw, and be there in a way I often am not able to due to my living far away. However, I also felt very much like where I was, the people who I was with, was not my ‘home.’ My home was with my radical queer and trans* family, who were resisting oppression in Manhattan. My home is with ‘my people’ in Ohio, who are mourning the loss of one of our trans* sisters of color right now. My heart was (and still is) heavy with these conflicting feelings, and I sat in the limo heading to the hotel at the end of the night feeling like an imposter, like a nomadic trans* kid who had lost hir way. I wanted something I knew I didn’t have at the ready; I wanted my family, my community, my home. I wanted my people.
In one sense, the weekend was tough as hell. It was hard to miss and (hopefully) be missed. It was hard to feel cut off, lost, and adrift at a specific moment in time when I felt so badly like I wanted (and needed) to be elsewhere.
In another sense, though, I realized how very powerful ‘my people’ have become for me. Thinking of their faces, remembering those who came before me and with whom I am working alongside of now, and remembering our stories together got me through an otherwise very discombobulating experience for me. Going back to my community, although only in an imagined and disembodied way, was my strategy for getting through and processing a tough time for me. This strategy resonated with what I have been talking about with the participants I have been working alongside of, too, as many of us have realized that a way of successfully navigating our gender-dichotomous worlds depends heavily on the development and maintenance of a variety of coalitions. My use of the word coalition here is intentional, in that these groups have been consciously constructed as a way to mediate the overwhelming presence of the gender binary. These groups, although not always political in nature themselves, aid in the ability to deal with social expectations around gender, which is itself an inherently political (and oppressive) set of norms.
And so I go on. I may not have all my people here with me, but I have a few. And those who are not with me in body are there in memory, through social media, and by emails, phone calls, and texts. To them I say thank you for being my people, and allowing me to be one of your people. I miss you all like you wouldn’t believe. And even though I felt like The Only One this past weekend, I know that at the end of the day, I wasn’t. Because you were all there, too. And you will be in the future. Just like I will be there for you.
And so we go on. Together.
This blog is a space where I share my thoughts on trans*-related issues. I also will share my own research as it develops, including papers, presentations, and the development of my dissertation study with trans* college students.