Who am I? Who are you? A baby stab at identity politics
Head: Not ready to write this blog post. Words are tough me thinks.
Heart: Full of the prospect of what the future may hold. Nervous for how folx may respond to my words being out there.
Body: I have a rib out which is limiting my movement which annoys me
I feel I must disclaim that I do not consider myself a “writer.” Allow me to dramaturg your words, but as for my own? Who am I to say anything? Then again.
Who am I not to say anything?
In a world of complacency, the least we can do is try and make a little change. Maybe apologize after, but not act with action in one hand and an apology in the other. Maybe if we fully committed to our actions, and equally commit to accepting the repercussions – apologizes included - that change can make a difference.
This brings me to the topic of today’s blog: Identity politics.
This idea that you need to be a certain something to create something from a certain community. Let’s not get didactic, I don’t claim to know what’s correct or inappropriate, in the same way I don’t believe in a binary way of thinking. But the function of language insists on categories, and so let there be categories.
This conversation arises with Chromatic Theatre’s recent addition of gender in their YYC Theatre Stats, an action that aligns with their commitment to The 35//50 Initiative. I think this is a brilliant example of how difficult it is to quantify identity, especially intersectionality, and how important it is to remain compassionate and to adapt to the developing conversation around identity and representation. The YYC theatre stats (inspired by YEG theatre stats) started as a way to shine a light on the BIPOC folx being hired in the Calgary theatre community.
I want to take a moment to say representation will only ever matter if we centre anti-racism and anti-oppressive practice. We need to be training our beautifully talented marginalized folx to take space unapologetically as much as we need to dismantle oppressive structures. Think of it this way, stereotypes can be harmful. If I believed all queer media as true, I’d believe that every lesbian was either just taking a step out of their normally hetero lifestyle, or that any sort of lesbian relationship will result in death or severe pathos. Also, they’re all white. Also also, if you’re the BIPOC in the relationship, you’re likely the one that’s going to die. Representation needs to centre anti-racism and anti-oppressive practices. #KillTheLesbianDeathTrope
With the way The 35//50 Initiative is growing and, of course, me advocating for my own visibility, the addition of gender was added November 07, 2020. The intention was to shine light on the gender diversity within the Calgary theater community. Stats were collected via numbers offered by companies or through our own research. Research often consisting of looking up each individual and learning the way they chose to identify themselves. Often, folx will use their preferred pronouns to address themselves in their bio which is a fairly accurate (but not always) indicator of how they identify. The difficult thing about that, is that gender is a construct, and gender is fluid. Unlike race which can often be deemed visible or perceived (if not self-identified) gender is arguable far more difficult to “pin down.”
For example, I was Filipinx 5 years ago, just as much as I am Filipinx today. Sure it wasn’t until a few years ago that I first visited the Philippines, and since covid-19 I have been learning Tagalog on and off. But that doesn’t change the fact that I am still simply (which all the complexities of colonization in the Philippines) just Filipinx.
But 5 years ago, I use to have long hair, wore almost exclusively push-up bras and tried really hard to fit within the socially constructed idea of “girl.” Today, I couldn’t be bothered to try to fit into anything other than my own pants. Life changes, the way we understand ourselves changes, and as such, I want the agency to decide how others construct their understanding of me as well.
Friendly reminder: TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN. TRANS MEN ARE MEN.
The fact that I identified as a girl for most my life doesn’t change that fact that I have always been non-binary. I just didn’t have that sort of vocabulary to understand that there was more to gender than just “boy” and “girl.” But this may not be the case for every person. I won’t go too much further into this because then I would have to bring up adaptive language and the different ways an individual can identity etc. If there is one thing you can get from ready this, is JUST ASK. Offer your own pronouns and offer space for the other to offer theirs. No one owes you an explanation, no one owes you the same pronouns. If their pronoun changes the next day, then use the pronouns they have chosen for themselves.
All this to say that non-binary as a “category” suggests any individual’s identity that rests outside of the cis-gender-norms. It’s a step towards disrupting the cis-is-default narrative within our communities. And the fact that folx are exploring outside the gender binary should be celebrated! Consider it just a friendly reminder that we have and will always exist, even if you don’t see us. And believe me when I say, we are far friendlier if you actually believe in us.