A Primer on Non-Binary and Transgender

Rainbow

Gender identity is becoming an increasingly prevalent matter as transgender and non-binary individuals are more visible now than ever before, banding together, campaigning for fair treatment, and asking people to question the binary that has been touted as the end all of gender in western society, despite examples of people who have broken the mold throughout history across the world. Younger generations especially are becoming more open to the idea that gender is not one of two options assigned at birth, but rather a spectrum.

Who is transgender? Well, anyone who identifies as a man if he was designated female at birth (a transman), and anyone who identifies as a woman if she was designated male at birth (a transwoman). Non-binary people are those who identify as neither man nor woman.

How can cisgender people (those who are not trans or non-binary) accustom themselves to the existence of transgender and non-binary people? Ultimately, it comes down to respect, and acknowledging that everyone’s reality is subjective. If somebody tells you which pronouns they go by, and what name they’d like to be called, use those pronouns and that name for them (as you would for someone who goes by a nickname). Do this all of the time and not just in front of them; it is not respect if you use the pronouns they were given at birth and their birth name (commonly known as a “dead name” in the trans community) behind their back. When people do this, it indicates that they actually don’t respect trans and non-binary individuals. Closeted children who hear their parents misgender and dead name people who they know are trans or non-binary come away with the impression that their own identity will not be respected by the people who are supposed to unconditionally support them.

It is also essential to disregard any stereotypes concerning trans and non-binary individuals. Like everybody, trans and non-binary people are unique and have their own experiences relating to gender and society. Just because there are certain ideas of how trans and non-binary people should present, does not mean that they are obliged to fit with society’s expectations, which often coincide with the gender binary. Like color, how a non-cisgender person presents themselves exists on a spectrum. A transwoman can have a beard and is still a woman, a transman can have breasts and not desire to medically transition or bind and is still a man, transwomen can dress traditionally masculine and transmen are free to wear dresses as they please. Not every trans person or non-binary person defies expectations, but some do, and their identity as trans or non-binary is as valid as those whose experiences more closely align with typical gender norms.

Empathy in Difference

Books

Though modern culture continues to grow away from traditional mediums; replacing the journal with the phone and intimate conversation with online chat, the art of telling a story will always be a new concept. Not only does literature serve as storage for scholarly findings or political developments, it also works to express ideas and personal thoughts of the individual. As such, there is more to the book than cold facts for our own personal gain. What creative literature provides is a way into foreign living and interpretation. This is how we understand other cultures, how we empathize and relate to one another regardless of the fact we’re not the same.

In telling our personal stories, we share our individual view of the world. We inspire and shape new culture with our ideas for a better future and bring light to our unseen lifestyles. I’m not strictly talking biographies, I’m referencing the concept that within our creative works we share a bit about ourselves and how we view the inner workings of our society. Take any fiction novel, series, whatever, and find what makes that story relatable to you. In my case, Homestuck, a story about nerds who get trapped inside a game as the Earth is obliterated. Alien creatures called trolls band together with them to beat the game, and they’re able to create a new home planet for everyone to share. It’s very engaging, and the plot makes it easy to empathize with each character. How can this be? The story is fiction. The universe doesn’t exist. The characters aren’t even human. Yet I found something I could relate to. This is because the writer included a bit of their familiar world within their work, many times simply for the reason that readers would be able to follow along. No matter how hard we try, our own values and perception of life creep into our work. This is how we expose ourselves to our audience, how we let others in and help them understand our backgrounds. This goes for the conflict of our characters down to the way we write.

Everything we do is influenced in some way by culture and society. This is why fictional literature is just as telling as biographies. Just because it’s not factual, doesn’t mean it’s clean of personal experience. And this is what I’m getting at. Literature tells our story. It’s how we interact and empathize. It’s important. It’s us. It’s all we know. And we need to learn from other people. We need to become aware of foreign cultures, and different ways of thinking, and how to improve as one big family, and just how to get along. We can do all these things by reading and writing creative works. And the concepts within the works will always be relative to modern concepts. This is how literature stays current, how it stays alive amongst the frequent turnover of technology. Like paper and pen. What happened to that? Now it’s all typing. But who cares, that’s not what I’m talking about.

So what about me? Let’s change the subject for a minute. I consider myself to be a fiction writer. I spill beans about myself and my culture with every word on the page. This is how I input my experience, this is how I express my background. What do I write about? Little things like culture, love, and people. That’s what I’m passionate about. I like to write about embracing our differences, and sharing our views of the world, and finding hope. I was raised to believe these things, so my writing reflects it. Just how someone who was raised in a poor environment, and longs for more money, might write about finding success and how their characters struggle with their financial background. Or maybe they’ll write about rich people who don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. It’s all relative to how we’re raised, where we come from, what we believe.

I’m thinking once we read a variety of works by a variety of people, we’ll start to understand one another, and even though we may not agree, we’ll grow closer as human beings and learn to accept those who differ from us. That’s what it’s all about. With the current topics in creative works like gender, sexuality, politics, all that stuff that makes up who we are as individuals, it remains in public interest. This is one art form that will never die. It’s just too much of an outlet for people. Humans are going to tell stories, it’s what they do. And hopefully those stories will open our eyes to each other. And I don’t know, maybe we’ll let live.

 

By: Stephanie van Schijndel

THERE’S NO TITLE HERE GIVE IT A TITLE PLEASE

Image Credit: Melissa Hood

Image Credit: Melissa Hood

In junior high, I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. I would listen to music, wear clothes, do things because my friends were doing them. My friend liked Britney Spears? I listened to Britney Spears. My friends watch Invader Zim? I started to watch Invader Zim. I felt like I was different but not genuine. I couldn’t find my place, wherever that was.

For Christmas, my sophomore year of high school, my dad bought me a bass guitar. It came in pieces, a kit to build yourself. He put it together for me just the way I wanted it; covered in purple glitter, with roses engraved in the pickup frame. My sister already owned a guitar, and we started to play together, slowly creating dreams of finding a drummer and starting a band.

As well as playing music myself, I also started to listen to music a lot more. I fell in love with a lot of bands that weren’t the ones my friends listened to; Fall Out Boy, Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Brand New, Muse, among others. I didn’t know any other person in school, other than my sister, who had the same taste in music in me. There was absolutely no one else who had the same passion for music.

I also started going to a lot more concerts. I had seen Rush and Jethro Tull live with my dad multiple times already by the time I was halfway through high school; my dad is a huge fan of these bands, so naturally, his daughters fell in love with them as well, more than willing to go to concerts with him. Throughout high school, I added more concerts to the list: R5, You Me At Six, Seether, Fall Out Boy, and Warped Tour.

Warped Tour, started in 1995 by Kevin Lyman, is a music festival that travels around the United States. Among the most famous bands that got their start at Warped include Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and even Katy Perry. Although many might think that Warped Tour reached its peak in the early 2000s, it continues to be an anticipated event by alternative music fans every year, including me.

The first time I went to Warped Tour was in 2014. Our mother took my sister, our friend Kyle, and I up to Portland to attend. I was immediately staggered by what awaited me. Before the concerts even started, as we were standing out in line, I saw people with their hair spiked up in mohawks and dyed all sorts of colors. Tattoos. Piercings. Crazy makeup. Pop punk fans in tie-dye, metal-heads with dreads, punks and spikes. Normal looking kids in flannel. So many band t-shirts. I wore a My Chemical Romance tank top, shorts, black tights, and converse, and I had a few streaks of purple dye in my hair. There were so many other people there, mostly young, but definitely spanning all age groups.  It was all something I’d never experienced before; I was ecstatic.

The entire day, I ran around the parking lot of the expo center, seeing as many bands as I could, buying CDs, meeting musicians. Most bands who tour during Warped are still fairly unknown, so it’s not uncommon to approach their booth and find them sitting there, selling their own merch and having conversations with their fans.

I met people, and I met bands, who were very nice, and shared interests with me, and even though I’ll never meet any of them again, the interactions still mean a lot to me. I learned that there are people out there who aren’t all like the kids I had been going to school with all of my life. That there were actually many other people who love music and bands as much as I did.

My second Warped Tour, I met a newer band known as False Puppet, who I had known about when they only had a few recorded songs up on YouTube. I was actually one of the fans who helped vote them in as an up-and-coming band to be able to play Warped. I met with them, talked with them about tattoos and music, and bought a button for my jacket and had them sign the sleeve. The next year, 2016 Warped Tour, the drummer for that band was now drumming for a band called The Heirs. I met him again, and he was absolutely thrilled to see my False Puppet button and the autograph from the previous year. It felt amazing to be recognized by a musician, a musician in a band who was getting to play shows on a tour that meant so much to so many fans of music.

I think about my band, the fact that we have one song, and only one song, home recorded. We haven’t played our own show. Yet. But we all love music, and we all love playing it. I know I’m not going to stop. All the other bands out there, the ones that play Warped Tour, like False Puppet, and even the ones that play arenas, like Rush; they all started with only one song. They all started by listening to the bands that their parents listened to, playing in their houses, finding where they belong in the world by using music. Going to concerts and watching bands play, until they became the bands on the stage.

 

By: Melissa Hood