A Coming of Age Coming-Out Story
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
GNDR 367 01
Critical Response Paper:
Alok - Beyond the Gender Binary
To me, an element of human growth and evolution on a physical, mental, and spiritual level is in Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon. With under a hundred pages, each page contains content that brings understanding of ourselves, each other, and humanity beyond measure. Like its title states, this book explores beyond the gender binary. It focuses on how both trans and cis people can learn to understand differences and similarities, respect to all, and debunk ignorance and hate. It’s an expressive view into the challenges and struggles that so many trans and non binary people face in their day to day lives, starting from early childhood continuing through adulthood. The book also emphasizes the importance of how a person’s identity is not a choice. But that the only choices we have is to choose to live in our truths without shame or fear, and how we respond to the people brave enough to do just that.
While every single persons identity and the experiences that come with it are different, there are so many of us who share similar tribulations and triumphs. No conscious argument can be made for the oppression of trans and non binary people that is factual or formed from solid evidence. All of those arguments are created out of ignorance and fear, which then becomes hate, and quite frankly are completely baseless. I was personally impacted because it validates my personal story and experiences with gender, sex, and relationships. It served as a guide, resource, and reassurance. While I know my story is still being written and told, this book has provided me with evidence, vocabulary, and support to continue, carry on, and pay forward the compassion, strength, and knowledge to lead.
As a natural born leader, teacher, survivor, and entertainer, I will continue to move forward and advocate for all of my brothers and sisters. I will stand in my blackness. I will blossom in my femininity. I will embrace my queerness. I will lead by example. I will teach every time I learn. I will continue to survive no matter what is thrown at me and I will thrive because of it. I will continue to entertain because life should be fun and filled with happiness for everyone, especially for those of us who have had fun and happiness taken from us for centuries. I am a non binary human being with a gift, and I will share that gift of love, knowledge, and courage with others. This book, this course, and this year have solidified that.
“The days that I feel most beautiful are the days that I am most afraid.” (Page 9) I relate to this sentence on a very heavy level. I’ve been fortunate to always been able to express myself. Fashion, style, and androgyny has always been in my DNA and I have photos to document the many “lewks” (looks) that I’ve turned. But every time I’ve put together a new outfit or way to present and express myself to the world, I’ve always had the fear that others will not understand and will attempt to hurt me (verbally and/or physically) because of it. Maybe even folks who do understand but are envious of my freedom and love. I know that this is also a fear my mom has. She’s never tried to shame me and she’s always supported and loved me. But at times, she’ll question or second guess due to fear of how cruel the world can be and her “baby” becoming a victim of that cruelty.
“Power can be defined as the ability to make a particular perspective seem universal. Control is how power maintains itself; anyone who expresses another perspective is punished. Arguments against gender non-conforming people are about maintaining power and control. Most can be grouped into four categories: dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope. These are strategies that people use to make the gender binary seem like a given, not a decision. It’s important to understand how they work in order to imagine otherwise.” (Page 36) - In this context, power and control have a negative connotation because negative people who continue to have and have had power and control, use it in negative ways. I strongly believe that power and control in the hands of positive people and used in positive ways is the route to “world peace” and ultimately the notion of a “Utopia”. Second, this paragraph is relevant to not just Gender, but also intersectionality within the concepts of sex, race, religion, citizenship, and so many other facets of humanity. Lastly, I would be lying if I didn’t believe in my own power and control. My hope is to continue to develop and hone it so I can be that example of a positive person using the power I have to advocate for, protect, and love myself, and others like me who often are not advocated for, protected, or loved.
“Why be nonbinary? Why can’t you just be feminine men or masculine women? Things are just getting unnecessarily complicated with all these options.” (Page 44) - This quote stood out to me as well. For a long time, I did believe this to be my truth. I came to terms with “being gay and feminine”. I accepted the breadcrumbs that society told me I should “gratefully” and “happily” accept. But I wasn’t happy and I definitely wasn’t grateful. I wanted more. I felt and believed I deserved more. I am more. I am not a “man”. I guess I am also not a “woman” either. I’m more. I’m me, I’m loving everything about me and accepting all the facets that make up me, including my femininity; and THAT is what I am grateful for and happily accept.