How to Be a Trans Writer in the Era of Never-Ending Gender Wars

“To write is to claim the audacity to speak and the courage to yield, to dare for a moment to care for ourselves in speech, in writing, and in solitude.”

From Pat Mosley

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First things first, accept that everything you say or don’t say is wrong, too late, not enough, not relevant.

If you’re lucky enough to land an actual writing gig somewhere, disregard all indications of friendships initiated by your editors. Accept that you are filling a role, whether anyone will admit it or not. Your role is to be as trans as possible. And if you’re writing for a site owned by right-wing Christians, accept the impossible challenge that you must be both trans enough to make your owners look liberal, but not so trans as to make anyone uncomfortable by calling out their corporate affiliates.

Inevitably, you’ll fail and get booted. But don’t worry because everyone will be too busy blaming John Halstead to notice. You’ll find other gigs and they’ll publish you as long as it’s clear that you’re a trans writer, never just a writer, never permitted to be neutral in matters of being categorized-other.

You can write about bathroom bills, but not capitalism. Gender, but not climate change. Discrimination, but not civilization. Feelings, but never theory.

You will be an identity from now on, not a human being. You will be the trans writer, not the writer who likes to forage, the writer who likes to weave, or the writer who has suffered from depression for half their life so far and tried to off themselves more recently than anyone is comfortable with.

You will be trans, and trans alone, but never trans enough. In a crushed velvet dress, drawing Inanna down from the heavens while serving vintage witchy woman realness, it will still be a surprise, a gag, not real, not enough. Hunty.

Naked and in bed with your next lover, it’ll all seem like a far-off dream. But you’ll have internalized it—who could love you? Who could touch this body for pleasure? You’ll fight about gender, because of course you will. Of course this world must be material, not ecstatic, labeled, territories and border walls, from Palestine to monogamy, to our thighs touching and my eyes shut tight, trying.

The crackle of your laughter can light up a room, but in the digital world, you’ll be a howl on the wind of Earth’s darkest nights, a shot of pain, an assemblage of social realities, flattened, fixed in place.

Readers will mince your words, pulling apart some string of pronouns and ambiguity to determine which gender when and which gender now. Readers will gauge your truth, scrutinizing a filtered two-dimensional profile picture for their reality of who they know you must actually be. More will be gleaned about your life by your readers than you will ever have the platform to publish or the privilege to even draft.

Constantly outed, no consequence considered. Constantly demanded, no aftermath concerning. Singular. One-dimensional identity. Constantly roped back and down to your trauma, the trauma, of which you are never an adequate martyr.

You aren’t a storyteller. This isn’t the Stone Age. It’s 2018 and you produce content to be consumed, discarded. No one gives a fuck about your life, your interests, your passions, your growth. A few times a year, some well-established Pagan woman somewhere will dare to speak her mind, and then all of the sudden, you’ll matter again. Except you won’t. Your labor will.

The thing about writing is that there is never any way to be right. There is no correct way to write about trans issues. If trans people do it, always-helpful readers will chastise cis people for not stepping up and collecting their people. If cis people dare exit their lanes and write something, readers will complain that trans voices should be amplified! Centered! Yes! Rip us into the spotlight—we have no lives of value to protect, no agency in determining whether something necessitates a response, no worth beyond a good retort we haven’t typed out a thousand times already. This time it will matter, surely. Five more likes and shares and the Goddess will grant us a miracle!

To write about trans issues is to subject yourself to a full-on public examination of your gender, a scrutiny of your public presence, and a tallying of all the ways you are male, you are female, you are mad, angry, fossilized, and archaic. All of this—the scales for determining the value of your voice.

And why? Why is it always our voices? Why is it never allowed to be our bodies? Our minds? Our health? Our lives? Dare we ever get to judge a political theorist on the quality of their theories more than the sensationalism of their trauma?

To write is to trespass a thousand million unspoken, presumed laws we will never know of until it is already too late. To write is to claim the audacity to speak and the courage to yield, to dare for a moment to care for ourselves in speech, in writing, and in solitude. And for these sins, every fiber of our existence will still be determined wrong in some new, pseudo-nuanced way.

We are disposable conveniences to you.

Nearly one hundred thousand people read an article I published a couple years ago. Yet not one person is ever within reach when I plunge into the depths of depression and existential horror. Where are you, dear readers? Who are you to make any demands of me or anyone mantled by any identity?

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I know you aren’t my allies. I dare to proclaim you aren’t my community either.

You don’t want resolution, you don’t want healing.

You want blood. You want a fight.

You want rape and slow, brutal, verbal murder. You want the chance to scavenge our still-breathing corpses for every wrong word, wrong deed, and wrong idea. You want to choke out the life of young trans people, filling their heads with fake statistics about their alleged lifespan until they succumb to a suicide you can count with glory in your spectator martyrdom. You want to keep repeating that bullshit no matter how many times it is explained to you that it is wrong. You want to silence whatever anarchic spirit rises contrary to your pleasure, your comfort, your conceptualization of us, the writers, givers, power-shakers, the disabled, the whores, the mad.

You are insatiable.

And in your demand, there is no liberation. There is no break from the trauma in your consumption of us. We will perpetually be rape victims and sex workers, permitted only ever to be destitute survivors or proudly empowered feminists in this trade, never trafficked, never coerced, never self-hating, never grown-up traumatized children working through toxic relationships to sexuality and capitalism. For the duration of a Facebook thread or a five minute speech at your weekend rally, we will be fabulous and stunningly feminine, brave and on brand, centered and amplified, righteous and fuming—or we will be no one remotely of value. Never are we allowed to heal, to not care, to decline, to merge with the Ohr Ein Sof, to love drag culture, to just move on or dare to politic differently.

Your concern for trans people is limited to an abstract rendering of our lives into a consumable text format or sound bit for you to like and share and boldly critique without ever having to consider the author as a human being who breaks, who cries, who has limits, who has boundaries.

You are a hammer. You demand a nail. You demand to crucify.

You don’t want to hear trans voices. You want to hear yourself echoed and applauded in a lifeless metaphor embodied by a trans person you couldn’t give two shits about.

You want to share a witty piece about emotional labor, but you wouldn’t dare interrogate your own unceasing demands for it.

You want to conjure us out like personal Jesus goddesses every time there’s a conflict in the community, as if our whole lives begin with every moment you need us.

You want another battle royale, angry dykes vs. angry trannies, angry feminism, blood and hormones, a performance for your entertainment and never our own resolution. I think it was Utah Phillips who asked Ani Difranco why don’t you write angry feminist songs anymore?

You want to catalogue our identities so you can catalogue our sins.

You want clearly MALE or clearly FEMALE, clearly CIS or clearly TRANS, because you still cannot handle the glorious, radiant biology of intersexuality, the sex of angels, the holy mystery of ambiguity and the tidal movement of life between continental bodies in a shimmering ocean.

God/dess bless you. Bless all your hearts.

I am finished anchoring my politics in the trauma of my identities for the sake of people other than the fiery spirit within my own heart. I am finished being called up like an enslaved Goetic daemon to pen whatever it is the readers demand to dictate this time.
I am not going to identify myself for you anymore.

WO/MAN HAS THE RIGHT TO WRITE WHAT S/HE WILL.


Pat Mosley

smallerbio.jpgPat Mosley is a bodyworker and writer based in the Carolina Piedmont. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth’s children in mind. Connect with him at
https://www.pat-mosley.com/


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On The No-Gender Drag

“Reading this may cause you to think “Oh, I see where they’re trying to get. They’re a trans person. It’s all over the media now. I’m well informed” and although you’re not mistaken (I am talking about misplaced gender roles and you could easily be right) this one specifically is not about trans identity. It’s about something that’s even less talked about and understood.”

From Nathan There

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Photo by Ahmed Carter

“As far as I’m concerned, being any gender is a drag.” – Patti Smit

Ever since I was a young child I felt something’s inherently different about me. I never felt I could fit this invisible but already established role I was supposed to fulfill. Humanity chose to shove people in these tight boxes so they can feel comfortable and experience the sensation of something recognizable (consequently safe). This can stretch to several categories of human conditions but here I’m talking about one in particular: the chart which people are obligated to follow when it comes to identity and gender. Reading this may cause you to think “Oh, I see where they’re trying to get. They’re a trans person. It’s all over the media now. I’m well informed” and although you’re not mistaken (I am talking about misplaced gender roles and you could easily be right) this one specifically is not about trans identity. It’s about something that’s even less talked about and understood. I’m talking about non-binary gender. Now, while you may think I will try and give you a crash course on the matter, even if I educate a bit here and there, this time I’ll tell you about something palpable.

When I was about seven, I had my first kiss. It wasn’t very glamorous, it wasn’t particularly memorable. It was a regular kiss between a seven year old child and a girl about the same age. It didn’t feel right or wrong, so I jumped to the next girl, then the next one until I was seventeen, never quite filling a void I could feel existed within me. At first, as taught by Brazilian culture, I assumed it was something to do with my sexual tastes. This is tricky, so I’ll elaborate: society burdens us with the assumptions and choices of our ancestors. If your society is structured to believe that blue is for boys and pink is for girls, you’re undoubtedly expected to abide by these rules. In this case, binary rules. So, if you’re a “boy” (Which specifically here means having a penis – assigned male at birth), and you like pink, then you’re a sissy at first. If you happen to identify as a female, the burden is not lifted, so you are still a sissy boy, with just further need of attention. If you’re a girl you’re not even entitled to have an opinion so let’s not get into male privileges just yet. So, back to my past – this void lead me to believe I was gay. And being a gay boy in the 90s was the most dreaded thing in Brazil. You’re not a capital letters MAN (Male) and you are not just unlucky to be born under the fragile gender (Female) – you’re choosing to misbehave, you’re choosing to go by the pink book. That’s just despicable, so you can imagine I was terrified.

At the age of seventeen, I kissed my first boys (Yes, two. That’s a story for another time), this way I could follow the role I understood I was obligated to follow: the gay one. That didn’t quite feel right either because it was crystal clear to me I was into girls too. I assumed I was bisexual and felt content with that even though I could feel there was something still uncanny about myself and I couldn’t quite grasp it. By that, I don’t mean bisexuality is something out of fairy tales. I just understood, later on, it does not apply to me.

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Photo by Douglas Barros

Now fast forward to a few years later (Yes. I quoted Alanis Morissette. I’m entitled to have musical preferences). I started reading, debating, and I became an activist on the matter of human and animal rights, understanding that I should raise awareness to the issues I fought for. Then I came across a concept that literally changed my whole perspective on life and shaped the way I would understand myself from that point on. In an article about Judith Butler, I read the terms queer and gender performativity. At first, I couldn’t quite grasp it, but that is expected. My body and mind were always colonized, so I had to strip myself from the prefabs of past generations to actually understand what I was reading, and when I did… everything changed. It was a mirror. Not the hazy one I always saw my shapes and colours reflected on but a true mirror. I existed. It was the most freeing experience I have ever felt so far and I would understand more and more about myself and the restraints I put myself under all the years prior to that moment. I wasn’t bisexual because I had no gender to identify with nor needed to. That is an amazing feeling if you ask me.

After a few years of tweaking this and that on my understanding of my life and my relations with others, I understood that my sexual tastes are entitled to be fluid and that does not constrain me inside any “sexual orientation” category. So, if I decide to exclusively have sex with women from now on that can’t make me straight because I’m not a man, or lesbian because I’m not a woman. Consequently, if I choose otherwise, same idea applies but in reverse. OK? Ok. The thing is, there is such a thing as gender performativity. People still perceive me as a male, no matter what I say or do so I have implications on that matter. The fact that I am conformed under certain male performativities (eventual beard, no makeup, pants and tank tops, some normative male mannerisms and the fact that I view myself as a cisgender person) makes people question my gender. While this is reinforced by the media, the problem is further structural rather than individual. If the media allowed people like me to exist through narrative and storytelling, if the fact that we are non-binary was not treated as exotic or eccentric (in other words, sensationalist material), if through narrative we were given stories outside our identities or if non-binary people were cast to play non-binary characters, society would be acknowledging me. Making normative people’s inability to fit a person in a gender into jokes or belittling non-binary people’s experiences contributes to this invisibility, and therefore to a confusing and negative journey throughout life.

My experience led me into some conclusions – First, I understand that no theory or self-perception must ignore my “male” privileges. For this reason, I can’t pull the “non-binary card” to bend situations in which others can’t grasp non-binary concepts. Example: I’m not either man or woman, but I can’t go into the “lady’s room” under this premise. They’re not obligated to understand me as anything else other than a male performative person and a potential rapist. Male oppression. Not difficult to understand at all. Second, it’s my understanding that non-binary people are not oppressed. The LGBTQI+ community is oppressed. I’m not killed for being non-binary. I don’t lose my job for being non-binary. I don’t get raped, molested and abused for being non-binary. I don’t get beaten up or excluded or shunned or threatened in any way for being non-binary. I suffer all of the above because I fall under the category of LGBTQI+. This oppression is towards our community and engulfs all of us. That’s why I’m oppressed, not because I’m non-binary. And that’s actually a blessing. Although invisibility is a form of oppression, when people start talking about us, we’ll probably get there. Third, there is such a thing as non-binary invisibility. That is the reason why people don’t understand my gender (and why I must understand I enjoy male privileges) and it is also the reason why my gender is oppression free (To an extent. I only mean by that what I discussed in the second topic). Fourth, being non-binary is an innate sense within a person. It’s not a lifestyle choice, a trend or a phase. It’s something that resonates inside you and makes sense when you put the pieces together. In my case, I understand how gender roles are burdened upon people, I understand some people are gladly abiding by and fitting into those categories and I understand that they’re not inherently bad per se (its praxis is). I just can’t relate to the category. In most cases, other people’s perception of my
gender won’t be something that bothers me in any sense (sometimes even the opposite). Sometimes it will but not because I can relate to it, but because I understand their concept and/or can apply the experience of the concept negatively in my life. For instance, you can call me a sissy and I’ll enjoy it, but I can understand how belittling being called a “good girl” can be while being a bottom during sex, because of the way women are belittled (even in oppressed niches such as the LGBTQI+ community).

All in all, the subtleties between gender, gender identity and gender performativity must be understood and stressed enough before people can understand non-binary existences, maybe even fitting into one of the multiple categories this gender understanding comprehends. But that’s for another time.

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Nathan There

2Nathan is a musician from Brazil, a queer non-binary vegetarian person with interest in game design, tattooing, and combating social disparity issues.


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White Privilege in Dutch Anarchism

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi, on race, colonialism, and identity

Author’s note: “De Pinkster Land Dagen (Pentecost days in dutch) started in 1927 by young anarchists from the Netherlands. In 1933, they bought a potato field from which they made a camping site, and where they organize a drug/alcohol free Anarchist festival every year.”

At Pinkster Land Dagen 2017, University of Color gave a workshop on white privilege and “post”-colonial identity as an attempt to start a conversation about decolonizing anarchism. The workshop and talk was difficult and many of the responses were problematic to many different degrees. We don’t believe this was due to a few loose cannons in the audience, but more likely illustrated the systemic problems in these circles that we aimed to tackle with the workshop.

This attempt requires a tremendous amount of emotional labour on the part of the UoC members, and here we would like to outline why.

  • This is not a philosophical discussion about subjects we read in books. It’s about the pain we are still feeling now, and struggle with every day. Books can help white people learn about this, and for people of color to find the vocabulary to express and process this pain. If you are a white man and you don’t listen to women of color on issues of racism and sexism, don’t be surprised when they choose not to listen to you. If you think you understand racism better than people of color then you are exercising white privilege, white supremacy and reproducing colonizer’s attitudes.
  • If white people are hurt or offended when they are called ‘white’ this is called White Fragility. This means that they experience the issue of ‘race’ so rarely, that when they are confronted with this statement, the situation itself is the worst version of discrimination they have faced. People of color are confronted with this so often that if they reacted extravagantly every time someone pointed out their race, they literally would not be able to do anything else in life. It would also probably lead to arrest or death.. One person calling you white is not the same as a whole world, institutions, governments, policies, armies, physical violence, history and so on constantly labeling you and controlling your life. Color-blindness is an offensive exercise of white privilege and does not help people of color, or lead to the eradication of racism. Denying the problem because you get to does not lead to solving the problem for those who actually suffer from it.
  • There is no such thing as ‘reverse racism’. Calling someone white is not a racist act, it’s only a statement of a fact, the fact that there is Institutionalized racism, there has been for hundreds of years, and white people just do not experience it. It’s called white privilege and this is not a racist statement. Racism is not discrimination based on skin color, it’s systematic institutionalized oppression of people of color and the ‘global south’ since the genocide of our people and our culture by western European entities.
  • Equating colonial violence in Latin America to the Dutch struggle between Catholics and Protestants: Don’t. Color blindness/white privilege at play again.
  • Equating culture to nation states: Culture is something people in colonized countries had to fight to preserve in-spite of European nation states. We are proud of our culture and we fight to preserve it, it does not mean we are proud of our Government. It’s also problematic that the anarchists that present this argument don’t acknowledge the existence of the anarchist culture they so cherish.
  • What’s wrong with white European men leading indigenous, feminist, and other Latin American movements? Everything. Indeed white men can be aware of the issues, but they also need to be aware of how much space they take, and to allow the space for people to speak for themselves. We don’t want to need the validation of white European men because this is just another exercise of colonial attitudes. Even with the best intentions, white dutch anarchist men acting like they know better around people from the ‘global south’ creates an incredibly unsafe environment for people of color. They can try, but they just don’t understand what it’s like for immigrants of color, and how we often feel like we need to ask permission to be somewhere, or to say or do something.
  • If you are a white person and you truly feel like you know better than a person of color when it comes to racism, or you know better how to communicate ideas on the subject… stop and think ‘Where is this feeling coming from?’ ‘Where is it rooted?’ ‘Is it valid?’. It’s coming from entitlement, which comes from being a white European. It’s rooted in white supremacy, it’s not valid and it can create an unsafe environment for people of color. For instance, it is very problematic when Dutch people try to educate a Brazilian woman on Brazilian ‘post´-colonial identity.
  • As a white dutch anarchist it’s important to realize that disagreeing with a person of color doesn’t just mean philosophical differences with any other fellow comrade, but a very real and practical exercise of racial power. Because white dutch anarchists have the access to resources, spaces and history in the Netherlands. These disagreements lead to alienation and series of racial micro-agressions that make it virtually impossible for people of color to stay in a white dutch anarchist space without feeling subjugated.
  • For instance: Tone policing. ‘We agree (in theory) with what you are saying but we don’t like how you are saying it’. That is to say: you are probably right because I’ve read it in a book, but I don’t like it that you are so emotional about it because it’s not ‘gezellig’ or respectful to us. The thing is that of course we are emotional about it because we are still suffering and our wounds are still open. Many white people are willfully ignorant to this because it’s in their best interest to maintain the [racist] status quo, while also maintaining the “not racist” label.

Decolonization and Identity

Almost every time I tell someone they are white or Dutch, they respond defensively with: “But you are kind of white too”, or “you’re not black,” or the best one “How would you feel if I called you Latina or Brazilian?” It’s laughable and worrying that they take such a statement as an attack. Yes, I am Latin American, and I am Brazilian. No, I am not black. That doesn’t change the fact that they are white and Dutch.

I think they do this because they think that me labeling them what they are and pointing out their privileges implies I don’t have privileges and therefore I’m better. It’s actually the opposite, I point out their privileges because I see them in myself.

This wrong assumption is a serious aggression to people of color because Western Europeans have always felt comfortable labeling others while remaining neutral, and this has been paramount to the persistence of white supremacy. It’s also very telling of how unusual and repulsive it is to them to feel subjugated based on their skin color or nationality, which people of color are way too used to. Having to admit they cannot be the objective voice of reason on a subject for once is incredibly painful to people suffering from white fragility. And when it comes to racism and decoloniality, they are not the voice of reason that should lead the movement. For once they will not be the center of attention, and we do not want a seat at their table.

I’m an incredibly privileged person, and I’m always trying to deal with this privilege carefully, critically and consciously. It’s tricky to recognize when you are being treated differently or being discriminated against, because you can’t switch passports or skin color freely. Sometimes we don’t see the micro-agressions and oppression because we know nothing else. This leads to a lot of gaslighting, paranoia and many even believe black people are collectively suffering from post traumatic slavery syndrome.

Ironically, I learned a lot about what it is like to be Brazilian/Latina, and be treated as such, only after I became European. At borders, at clubs, with partners, with other Brazilians, it completely changed. Traveling was so much easier, at borders I felt confidence and entitlement as opposed to anxiety and fear. Strange white men didn’t flirt with me as aggressively or asked me to dance and shake my ass.

After 10 years outside of Brazil my skin became lighter due to less sun and my hair straighter due to less humidity, which also made clear the difference between being treated as a white girl or a Latina. People were inclined to think I was in Europe to study as opposed to ‘work,’ both implying I was in Europe to ‘better’ myself, and implicitly expecting gratitude from me. Brazilians started talking to me as if I lived like a princess and knew nothing of the turmoil and struggle of Brazilian life. I was always fierce and political as a kid, but the European passport in particular was a radicalizing turn of events.

The alienation from all sides pushed me to take the issue of Identity and belonging very seriously. White Western European people have lived sheltered from these kinds of experiences so they haven’t had the unavoidable motivation to explore their whiteness. So, white people, take this into consideration because a revolution is coming and you need to decide, you are either with us or against us. “decolonization is always a violent phenomenon” (Fanon)

I’ve never felt safe in this space (PL and the Dutch white-anarchist-activist scene). Even though it’s wonderful that so many people to some degree acknowledge the problem of white supremacy, and want to make this community safer, it’s been an uphill battle for me in the last 7 years and I’m tired of it.

It’s great that people see the need for these kinds of discussions and aim for diversity in the community. However, it’s not great to rely on people of color to do the work for you, and we hope white anarchists find ways to address and solve this problem themselves.

References: Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Gloria Wekker, bell hooks, Frantz Fanon, Paulo Freire and Maria Lacerda de Moura.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Intersectional feminist and decolonial activist

Oh, Sorry…I’m a Faggot

I‘m gay, or so they say.  Others call me a faggot, a queer, a homosexual. Sometimes, I use these words to describe myself, too. I’m really fond of using faggot. I like the way it sounds. I like being a muscular, hairy, deep-voiced punk guy who doesn’t fit other people’s expectations of what a gay man’s supposed to be, and when a woman flirts with me or a guy tries to engage me in a conversation about ‘chicks,’ I growl a bit and say,

“Oh. sorry. I’m a faggot.”

Occasionally they’ll argue with me.

No, you’re not!”

That’s not funny, bro.”

Or whatever.  This is often funny, sometimes not, especially when they try to convince me otherwise.  It happened a lot more when I was younger, women grabbing my crotch or rubbing their breasts in my face, men assuring me that I just hadn’t met the right sort of woman. As I’ve gotten older and more aware of my power, I tolerate these reactions much less, but they still irritate me.

I enjoy messing with people’s perceptions of what a ‘gay’ person is supposed to be. We’re supposed to be flamboyant, or enjoy shopping, supposed to have fashion sense and like certain kinds of music. We’re supposed to shave certain places, live for the gym and spend lots of money on our homes. Or, alternatively, to be a complete failure at life, shoot meth into our anuses,  have long strings of abusive relationships and die an early death from AIDS.

I fit none of those, of course. And certain aspects of my personality and presentation fit more the expectations of what a ‘straight’ man is.  Because of this, I’ve been been accused of ‘internalised homophobia,’ failing to liberate myself from societal expectations of “heteronormative masculinity.” I don’t ‘fag out’ enough, my refusal to buy expensive clothes is a sign of self-hatred, or my utter cluelessness about pop-culture shows my disdain for other gays and thus myself.

Gay, you see, is an ‘identity,’ one I often fail to perform to the collective groupthink of the gay or straight ‘community.’

Queer is another identity which I adopt but don’t perform very well. I am too male-presenting, not non-binary enough, and too ‘exclusive’ in my choice of sexual partners to qualify for my queer card for some people. Yet at the same time, I don’t fit into what most consider middle-class white gay man behavior, so that’s another category where I’m often seen as an imposter.

Why call myself gay, then? Or queer? Or adopt the derogatory ‘faggot’ when describing myself?

Sometimes it’s to make up for my lack of conformity to social expectation. Not ‘coming across as gay’ gets me in awkward positions with both men and women. Because I don’t correctly ‘signal,’ it’s easier to get that out in the open before I have to explain it to a woman who’s propositioned me or a man who attempts to include me in discussions about his sexual activities:

 Oh, Sorry…I’m a faggot.

Identifying as ‘gay’ gave me something else, though.  It gave me a feeling of community. Because I have sex with men and not with women–and because men in America mostly have sex with women instead of men–being ‘gay’ made me feel like I was somehow in solidarity with all the other gays in the world. I liked to imagine I shared similar traits, feelings, experiences, emotions, sufferings, and joys with all these other people I’d never met.

Some gay men do share similar experiences that straight men and women don’t. Most straight men and women don’t have to scan their general vicinity before kissing someone they love in public. Most heterosexual couples don’t fear getting attacked or spat on while holding hands in the streets. That fear and alienation is definitely shared amongst many gay men, and also lesbians, and bisexual folks, and trans people. And because it’s common to all those groups, you imagine a sense of community, forged by pain and trauma and the need to feel not alone in the world.

This sense of community certainly helps you get through much of the alienation of society. Imagining that there are thousands and thousands of others who know what it’s like to fear and love as you do? That gives you the sense that there’s nothing actually wrong with what you’re doing. And in gay bars or queer spaces, as well as in cities and especially during Pride parades, that imagined community manifests for a few hours.  Thousands of people ‘just like you’ celebrate how they’re not like like others, and you feel safe, full of hope, and most of all, not different from everyone else.

Such moments become a break from the relentless trauma of being not-like-the-others. They can be so welcoming, so comforting, and so relieving that you forget that the whole thing is imaginary. You also forget it’s a really tragic thing to have a ‘community’ founded on pain, suffering, and the sorts of people you prefer to have sex with.

As I mentioned, I actually have little in common with most gays, and the differences between us are sharpest when it comes to politics and economics (and music, but that’s another matter entirely). I don’t think anyone should register their sexual partnerships with the government (marriage), I don’t want to own a home on stolen indigenous land, I don’t want a government to protect me or punish people who hurt me.

Actually, I don’t want to identify by who I have sex with, either. My lovers are amazing and wonderful people, but what we do together doesn’t actually make me part of a community of people doing the same thing.

This hit me particularly last month. I had a first date with a really amazing guy (who’s now a lover who I like lots).  We went for pho and then coffee and while he waited for his ride we made out on the sidewalk of a Florida strip mall. We both looked around us to make sure it was safe, but he had another reason to worry. He is Black, I am white.  I was just a faggot; he’s a Black faggot, doubly fucked when it comes to both straights and gays.

In fact, there are many, many white gays who don’t have sex with Black men. Or if they do, they heavily racialize their sexual relationships (I recently learned “BBC” doesn’t just stand for the UK propaganda engine). Scroll through any dating app and you’ll see “I only like white guys. Sorry, just a preference.”

I have nothing in common with those men. Also, I refuse to be part of an imaginary community where their racism and exclusion is still included and something I’m supposed to be okay with because they’re gays like me.

Being ‘gay’ doesn’t accurately define me–it only describes something I do. It’s not something actually inherent to me, regardless of how much scientists and gay activists try to prove I have some gay gene that forces me to love men instead of women. Also, gay is an identity only useful in describing how I am different from others. Those others are the ‘majority,’ and I’m a minority. And gay is supposed to explain why I suffer more than others.

Worse, that sense of community? The idea I’ve got some kinship to others who love people of the same gender? It isn’t just imaginary. It’s an illusion that’s easily manipulated by the powerful. According to politicians, ideologues, advertisers, and the media, being gay is supposed to make me do stuff.

I’m supposed to furiously vote against one particular candidate in the American election and vote excitedly for another. It’s supposed to make me support foreign wars against Arabs and Muslims, elicit my support against both immigrants and conservatives, celebrate that the military will now accept me, and desire to buy certain things and hate certain others.

This pressure to conform to gayness, to an illusory community, doesn’t just come from the outside, but it gets repeated by other gays. Gays tell me I’m betraying gays by not voting, taking the side of people who want to kill me by not supporting the military, spitting in the face of all the gays who came before by not supporting marriage.

That identity built on shared suffering, one I once thought was liberating and included me in a vast community? It becomes a bludgeon that others use against me, to limit me, define me, and most of all control me.

Do I need to identify as gay?  Not really. It does little for me at all, and it certainly doesn’t describe much else about me except who I have sex with. As an adjective, it gives me hints at what sort of bars I’m likely to be safe kissing another man in while drunk. And it’s useful to signal to others that I’m potentially sexually available.  But all that can just as easily be accomplished without the shorthand of sexual identity and without the false myth of community.

There are other false myths of community that likewise do me no good, both those that have been used as protest and those created by the powerful. For instance, I’ve never identified as ‘polyamorous,’ even though all my relations would fit into that category. Why accept the idea that my way of loving needs a label?  “American” also comes to mind pretty quickly. Nothing good has ever come of that one.

Even the stuff I believe doesn’t really describe me. I’m a Pagan, but not like lots of other Pagans. I’m a polytheist, but definitely nothing like some of them. And I’m a Marxist and an anarchist, but I’m not like lots of either of those categories either.

But where should I get my identity from, then?

Myself.

I’m human–I possess the same skills of creation as everyone else on this planet. I can name myself, and change that name at will. I can decide who I am, and change my mind the next day or even the next minute. The need of other people to pin me down, label, box, and shelve me shouldn’t be my concern. And I don’t think I’ll let it be.

If I’m not part of an imagined community based on shared suffering though, where do I belong?

Everywhere.

The earth cannot be owned, no gates can last forever. Nations and races are human illusions just like gender and sexuality, just names we came up with to exclude some and preference others. I can and do choose who I fight alongside, who I support and who I reject, who I hold close and who I push away.

But if you’re a boorish lout or a handsy drunk woman, I’m definitely gonna growl at you and say,

“Oh, sorry…I’m a faggot.”

Because the look of shock on your face will be pretty funny.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd WildermuthRhyd’s the co-founder and managing editor of Gods&Radicals. He has sex with men, drinks lots of tea, and misses Europe a lot.

Also, he writes here and elsewhere.

Pagan Anarchism, as well as our other great publications, can be ordered here.