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  • Jo

For Old Times' Sake/ Never Change

This piece was written for Mush

I’ve only been an out and proud queer, trans person for the past 2 years of my life. I know that when someone goes over my instagram, it looks like I’ve known for the past 26 years. Truth is, I have. I just didn’t have the words for it. Instead, I had words for how to love a man, internalised and read out like a manual from every place I looked and heard from. I had the language to cause hurt to friends who showed any love for women. I had words to convince myself I was just a different kind of girl, and I had just the right word thrown at me to tell me I was dating too many people (for the record, only 4 and it’s actually been pretty great). When I started (not very gradually) talking about my many identities, it probably looked intense. Hell, sometimes I look at my work and wonder where all these thoughts are coming from. I know it's intense. I understand intense and I embrace intense- this is the life of someone walking squarely outside every single norm that was set for me. And for someone outside of my mind, it probably looked like I was in happy heterosexuality one day and on the next, I was gay and radical and screaming. And they probably felt left out of this monumental change. This new life, new me, new flags, new words, new pride- when nothing changed for me. It just became less fogged up.
I’ve never really come out. Not to a lot of my friends. Those who know always knew, and those who didn’t were mostly caught by surprise(?) or didn’t care. All of these scenarios are okay, but it does make me wonder about a lot of things. It makes me wonder about my 8th grade friends that I notice, lurking around my instagram page, liking my posts but never texting me. It makes me wonder about the words I do get on my messages- usually those about being proud of me. I assume these words need to be said so that my friends who sent them can come out of their own closets as allies. I wonder about those allies who have remained in my life, calmly floating in my posts, messages and through visits- stumbling with using the correct pronouns and smiling at my smiling face as they try. I wonder about the hesitation before messages are sent to me- what do I talk to this queer trans(?) person about? Like my queerness stripped me of the identity I had before it-existing as only a transcending force of the norm we had all learnt together- as though they did not have the same responsibility and right to break these norms that seem to imprison me more than them. I receive (and wonder about) new articles on trans trauma. I post a picture on trans joy after every one of these news articles has been seen and consumed by me. I type out a message saying ‘I know, please don’t send these to me, they are triggering’ and quickly backspace- what if these doors close? I occasionally get connected to other trans people in their lives, other queer people in their lives- but what about connecting- the both of us? I get tip toes on a line that surrounds me that I did not want to exist.This line, caused by insurmountable pain- a collective pain borrowed and lent throughout a community of margins slashed across each of our lives. I get silent reactions to stories about my partner, and with that sometimes, my partner is wished on their birthday.
I wonder a lot about knowing my older friends as new people, but baggage is not easy to keep down. It is heavy, and picking it up from the shoulders sometimes takes more effort than lowering it to the ground. I once put up a story that said ‘Friends who have known me in school, I’d like to connect again’ in the hopes that someone would want to get back in touch- they did, but a few days and months later to connect the dots on ‘the trans issue’. I wonder if they felt angry, that I didn’t tell them when I came out, that I didn’t know what I wanted to call my feelings, that I didn’t connect these dots for them- or that I didn’t hide like they wanted me to so that life was easy, and comfortable and so that they could keep me alive when they spoke about their friends to their parents. I wonder often, about why I don't have school friends like so many others do- but then I also realise that those of us who were closeted in school eventually found each other. The glue of heterosexuality and interests relating to being cisgender didn't exist with me, and so, I couldn't keep these friends. We have nothing in common if you have too, made your entire life about being heterosexual and cis- very much and on the "opposite" end of me.
So count this little write up as a coming out, because I (or any of us) don’t have to. This is a reflection, not a letter of repentance on not coming out to my straight friend list earlier. I just didn’t trust anyone enough to talk to you about the insides of my mind. I have also never found you attractive, for the record (who’s keeping the record btw?). I have dated the people I found attractive- yes, even the men. I figured that I really liked the men I was dating, I just didn’t think I could marry them while I was dating them. A lot of it was settling for something that was always sold to me as the normal way to behave, and go about life and I mostly took it sitting down- until I didn’t. I loved the men I dated for 9 years of my life, yes, even the one that didn’t respect my ‘no’. I later understood that I am possibly pan-romantic, which means I romantically can be around all kinds of people. Before this, I found the language to say that I’m gay or something more to my liking- that I’m queer. Non normative. Not normal. I thought I knew love before I met Teenasai, but I did not. If you asked me what it feels like, I don’t even think I could describe it. I have never felt the love that I have felt for my Teenasai, not in the 9 years I tried to fit inside a box that was encouraged, even by you. I didn’t fall in love like I stomped into a book store and chose a book that would make me seem cool. Teenasai is not my rebellion, Teenasai is my love. They both might be the same, but that is not what I wanted. That is what you want of me, so that you can be proud of me, you can hold me up and you can tell me that I’m doing my best with the limited amount of space that is afforded to me on this earth. About my gender, I knew way earlier. I knew about my gender just not 'being it' when everything I did wasn't the right way to do it. I was still in a "girls' school', surrounded by teachers who asked us not to hug girls, but that it was okay to hug boys. We were all taught the same thing, and we all learnt this language of being the best, most achieving girls. I did everything right, but I also didn't do anything right. I wonder about the teachers on my (ultra sanitised) Facebook profile commenting on the wedding pictures of my heterosexual friends, and I wonder about the silence that surrounds a whole part of my identity. I did everything right, but I also didn't do anything right.
I often reflect on the signs in my autograph and slam books that said Never Change. Written page, after page, after page by acquaintances, friends, best friends and people I had just smiled at once in the hallway during my board exams. I wonder if they really meant it, and whether they kept that prayer on their lips as they went through their lives. Never Change. A whisper to every new person they met, every person they let go. I wonder if the people who heard those syllables took these words to heart, did it haunt them like it haunts me?
Never change. Don't change (realise) your gender, or our memories of what we assigned to you Your appearance Your problematic sense of humour What binds us together Your understanding of the world How much you can tolerate Never change Your straight lines Drawn into a box that's not even Three dimensional Around you Neatly Without any colour Never change Stay in these two spaces Same Speed Same Tempo Same Rhythm Come, dance this dance With us You won't be alone As long we sound the same Never change, Never change. My closet is in those two words. Never Change

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