an exclusive interview with:
Q: Introduce yourself: Your name, preferred pronouns, how you identify in the LGBTQ+ community. Feel free to include or exclude whatever information you would like.
A: My name is Greta, I’m 21, I identify as a transmasculine nonbinary person, and I use they/them pronouns!
Q: Can you talk about your thoughts on the 'coming out' process, whether that be coming out to yourself or to the people around you. Do you agree/disagree this should be something Queer-identifying people should engage in? Is this something you did yourself?
A: It’s a long story, but I came out during an assembly in my junior year of high school. I was roped into doing it since I was part of my school’s “Gay-Straight Alliance.” I literally got up on stage with a few other queer people and came out as bi at 8:30 in the morning. That was my first coming out. My second coming out— as trans— was not as cut and dry for me. I told my close friends and family first, and then I think I made an Instagram post about it after being a few weeks on testosterone. It was more of a slow roller than a big bang, I guess. Coming out as trans also requires everyone in your life to change their language around you, which takes a while and is always pretty uncomfortable. Regarding the coming out process at large: We (speaking from the perspective of a millennial American here) live in a society in which you’re straight until proven gay, cis until proven trans, etc. And it makes sense that a performative act (such as a verbal declaration, an Instagram post, or even just announcing you’re dating someone with a certain gender identity) would be required to “undo” or negate our daily performances of gender and sexuality. I guess it’s just not surprising that queer people feel obligated to come out given the social expectations put on us at birth.
Q: Talk about your fashion. Does it relate to a certain way you identify? Has it changed over the course of your transition?
A: I think the way I dress is definitely reflective of my identity. I’ve always gravitated towards “masculine” clothing (an inclination, I should note, people of any gender identity can feel) and that hasn’t really changed since I realized I was trans. I’ve never considered myself a “fashionable” person, but I have always been picky about the clothes I wear. It’s hard to find stuff I feel really comfortable in, so I pretty much end up wearing variations on the same theme every day. It’s boring, but luckily I am totally fine with never straying from some combination of jeans and an XL band t-shirt. I guess I don’t like to call attention to myself, but I do like wearing band tees since they’re a great way to make friends and community.
Q: Social media and digital presence have become such a large facet of millennial lifestyle, can you discuss how it has impacted you positively and/or negatively as a trans-identifying individual. How does internet culture/clout relate within the trans-community?
A: I don’t know if I’d have realized I’m trans without the internet. When I was really confused about my identity, and trying to figure out if I wanted to go on hormones or not, I stumbled across this person on Instagram who was very open about being nonbinary and transitioning on T. It’s almost embarrassing looking back on it now, but I didn’t think I was allowed to take testosterone without identifying as male. This person’s posts also introduced me to the very concept of “nonbinary”, so I feel like I owe him a lot. I actually met him in person right before starting T at a community event in New York. It was so crazy, I felt like I was meeting a celebrity or something. That said, I do feel like social media is a bit of a double-edged sword for trans people. While you get exposure to people all across the gender spectrum, you also notice that the users getting the most attention and positive affirmation are those with white, cis-passing bodies. It’s very hard to not compare yourself to these trans social media darlings, and not feel inferior if you don’t look like them or identify as they do.
Q: To someone who isn’t familiar with the spectrum of the Queer Community, can you talk about what ‘passing’ means ? How do you feel presenting/identifying as a certain gender shapes you and what other people view as ‘transgender’?
A: When we talk about passing, we aren’t talking actually about passing as “male” or “female.” We’re talking about passing as cisgender. It’s like, how well can you blend in and fool the general population into thinking you’re normal, that nothing queer
– literally!– is afoot? It’s about attaining this status of unquestionability: no one will question you and your expression of your gender, which is a privilege that cis people have. I have a complicated relationship to passing, because I don’t think that presenting as either traditionally “male” or “female” should be the only two viable or safe options for people. However, I feel like they’re the only two things that people can technically pass as, because appearing as something other than traditionally male or female is immediately questioned, deemed abnormal, and othered. I didn’t start testosterone to “pass as male.” I started testosterone to feel more in control and comfortable in my own skin, which for me entails masculinizing my body. However, I realize that masculinizing my body ropes me into conversations about passing in social situations. For example, I feel uncomfortable when people I don’t know refer to me with she/her pronouns because that means my body is clearly not masculine enough for that person to deem me “male.” It’s not important for people to think I’m a man or treat me like one (in fact, I’m also made uncomfortable when that happens!). I’m very open about being a nonbinary trans person, which definitely tears the fabric of being cis passing a little bit.
Q: Can you discuss the intersectionality within your own trans narrative?
A: I’m mixed-race and identify as Asian, but I usually have no idea if people perceive me as such or not (the question of passing comes to mind here!). I think it’s a little corny, but there might be some worth in comparing being mixed-race with being nonbinary. I’ve thought of them both as “in-between” experiences, both of which can be destabilizing and isolating. I also recently read this essay for my thesis project called “Servants of Culture: The Symbolic Role of Mixed-Race Asians in American Discourse.” The main takeaway for me was that mixed-race people (not just Asians) in the States have rarely been allowed to exist as anything but a symbol for an idea, or evidence supporting an argument... whether that be “the horrors of miscegenation” or a “post-racial utopia.” I feel like trans people are also often made to stand for something larger than themselves, whether that be something as small as “resilience and bravery!” (from non-transphobic people) or something as huge as “the decline of Western Civilization as we know it” (from good old transphobic people. Little do they know I feel that decline can’t come fast enough)!
Q: Many allies today don’t exactly know how to support and/or talk about trans-identifying individuals. Are there any mannerisms, actions, or words you see coming from these people that, whether they know it or not, are hurtful or disingenuous towards trans people? (i.e. backhanded compliments)
A: I hear cis people use the word “transgendered” to describe trans individuals (“a transgendered person”), or using the word “transgender” as a noun (“look, a transgender!”). Both of these bug me: I think the former implies that the individual in question has “completed” their transition, which may not be true, and the latter is weird and pathologizing. Don’t do it. Transgender is an adjective (“a transgender person,” “She is trans”). I’m also trying to get in the habit of asking people their pronouns when I meet them. Even though I’m trans and would appreciate people asking me, I often forget because I assume. I think it’s just a good practice to get into. Also, contrary to popular belief, trans people do not get a kick out of correcting people when they are misgendered! It is not fun! Finally, I sound like a broken record, but… don’t ask people about their genitals?? It’s so weird??
Q: Similar to the previous question, are there any mannerisms, actions, phrases coming from within the trans-community you would like to see changed?
A: I have noticed that within the online transmasculine community, there is a huge emphasis on working out and bodybuilding. I totally get that people work out to relieve stress and feel good about themselves (I do it too!), but I think it’d be nice to see body positivity coming from more of these people, especially since they have such large trans followings. Many binary trans people also spew a lot of gender-binary perpetuating nonsense as well (“nonbinary people aren’t real”) and act as gatekeepers for transness (“you’re not really trans unless you do x, y, and z”). I honestly just hope these people can calm down and learn to live and let live, because it seems pretty exhausting to actively invalidate entire groups of people all the time. :)
Q: Do you have a role model?
A: I have ssooosssoososooo many role models. Most of them are queer, women, and of-color musicians. I endlessly admire Mitski Miyawaki. She’s my #1. I love Frances Quinlan from the band Hop Along, she’s an amazing poet and artist. There’s also Michelle Zauner, Ellen Kempner, Larz Brogan, Allegra Anka, Georgia Maq… I could go on forever. I’m also really inspired by Jeff Cheung, the artist and founder of Unity Queer Skateboarding.
Q: What is one thing that has worried you when it comes to your transition? Has it been the same from before you began? Do you think it will change in the future? What’s the thing that excites you the most?
A: A worry from pre-transition that has persisted is (because I’m nonbinary) the fear of being gendered as a cis man. So far, I’ve only had one experience where someone thought I was a dude for a prolonged period of time, and it was really uncomfortable. It was also the type of situation where I did not feel comfortable approaching the person and telling them to change their behavior, so that sucked. I think this is something I’m going to have to get used to, though, because if the hormones do their job, I will only appear more and more masculine. I’m still figuring out how to deal with this, but that’s ok I think? As far as exciting things, I’m getting top surgery in a week! This is something I’ve wanted for such a long time but never thought was possible. Thanks to many hours on the phone with insurance companies and amazing case managers, it’s happening. Very cool.
Q: Q: If you could impart advice, tips, or words of wisdom to a younger version of yourself, what would you say? Is there anything you would like to say to your future self?
A: “You have agency over your body! Don’t be scared!”