I'm thinking about the power I've worked for-- power I've gained mostly through writing, and developing my 'voice' specifically. My voice is power. I can speak my ideas clearly. This creates more honest, accurate expression, ensuring my relationships are more authentic. When I came out as lesbian, this was power in a similar fashion, as it affirmed an organic feeling, included it in my personality, something to be proud of. I became more when I allowed myself to be more. And it was power when I changed my name to Max, without expectation, just because it felt good.
There is much power I have been awarded through privilege, born of systemic oppression, that I do not deserve, that nobody deserves. It is privilege because I am white. It used to be privilege because I appeared cisgender. My long hair was a shield in more ways than one-- it granted me access to cisgender spaces, it protected me from most microaggressions and verbal harassment, and it reinforced the idea that I was beautiful. When I was young, I tried so hard to be pretty by living up to mainstream standards of feminine beauty. Re-conceptualizing myself as a lesbian allowed me to engage with my femininity in a way that felt free. Self love came naturally.
On the brink of adulthood, I take in the world around me, and feel powerless. I sense what the world wants-- for me to pick a side, to reenter the race as a man, a woman, so I can speak freely again, so I can live without the constant questioning and doubting what I am. I know that the binary is power, but to benefit from the privilege of picking a side of the binary when it does not feel quite right would be the greatest disservice to myself.
How do I return to power, then, and simultaneously reject one of the most powerful social systems of all time? How do I engage without fully aligning, without the obsessive censoring of self in order to fit more neatly into a gendered box? How do I return power to my voice?
I cannot grow back my hair without fear of ridicule and harassment. I cannot start T without fear of ridicule and harassment. And I can't stay here, because I've lost touch with my emotions. But without a relationship to my emotions, how am I supposed to know what to do?
There was a moment last week that felt like clarity, a brief respite from the dark tangle of analysis of my future gender identity, because it was emotion. I was walking with Madeline past a construction site and I don't know what we were talking about but I kissed her quickly. We kept walking but I heard a man yell "Thanks, girls" just before we turned the corner. I have never felt more confident that I am not a girl than in that moment. I spent the rest of the day calm, comfortable in my masculinity.
Forget for a second I could be girl or boy. In the future I see myself in a faded blue suit, a man with short hair and light stubble, holding a pink flower in my hands, pink so bright it is almost angry. In the future I see myself in a body coded as woman, hair loose and long as always, soft fabrics, the faded flowers all over. In the future I am 16 again in my leather jacket and jeans and my gender is only a matter of light curiosity.
I want to belong to this world, in all its ugliness, because it is the only one I have known, but I am afraid everyday. I am paralyzed by the choices; they no longer feel like choices but concessions. Changing my name to Max was supposed to be about freedom. Now it is about indecision and fear, dysphoria and confused looks on the street.
I am grateful every day for trans people. I am grateful for Marsha P. Johnson, for Sylvia Rivera, for Leslie Feinberg, for Janet Mock, for Silas Howard, for Darkmatter, for Natalie Reed, for Morgan M Page, for Buck Angel, for Aydian Dowling, for Bailey Jay, for Tyler Ford, and for the moment Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore shook my hand and smiled and for a moment I think really saw me. Thank you for showing me all the ways to live in power in a hostile world. I can only hope I return to power with such ferocity.
Here's to Max one day shedding this skin of panic and apology, to feeling beautiful and powerful again. Have some music.