Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Essay: "ENGAGING MY TRANS" by j/j hastain

[Previously published in the relational elations     of ORPHANED ALGEBRA, collaborative poetry book by Eileen R. Tabios and j/j hastain (Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2012)]

Engaging my Trans
By j/j hastain


In no way do I claim that this essay will be a linear one. We will need to morph together—to pass through the viscous. We will need to progress, reflect, evolve out loud. We will need to regularly alter direction based on our needs. I want to say that I am here to continue the conversation about Trans. I am here to add my body as a space—to this space and in that action make this space more transparently Trans.

I identify as Trans/ Genderqueer (both in terms of physiology as well as text). In this essay I speak my own philosophies of Trans as someone who identifies as Trans. By Trans I mean that I have never felt solely like a woman. I have never felt solely like a man. By Trans I mean never only feminine nor only masculine. I mean that I need you to not need me to be solely a woman or a man. I mean embodied-motility. I mean morphability. I mean mutability. I mean please inquire tenderly before assuming. I mean please have your desire to contact me be rooted in our working collaboratively to create future spaces that can include and even celebrate all bodies that in any way transgress the social norm.

I do not need you to identify as I identify in order to understand Trans:

Trans as an interpreter, Trans as an interjector, Trans as an inter-locutor, Trans as an instigator, Trans as passage, Trans as port, Trans as portal—

And let this act as a working definition of Trans:

Having two or more genes each carrying a mutation.

With this definition of Trans we are able to consider that Trans may in fact be an alternate to the patriarchal binary-based categorization practices upon which many branches of human historicity have previously depended.

Let us begin with some basic considerations and questions in order to intentionally open the
conversation about Trans:

-In the context of the consideration of Trans/ the variant, we must subsequently consider and analyze what is non-variant and why. What is “normal” and by whose standards? Who decides what that normalcy entails? And further, we must consider the pressure that normalcy places on all bodies within a system.

-How as Trans bodies and Trans advocates can we work to rebel against expectations to assimilate to norms?

-What are the ethics involved in considering a body that is different (be those textual bodies, physiological bodies, communal bodies, bordered bodies, refugee bodies, bodies without accurate historical representation, diasporic bodies, etc.)? By different, I mean not part of the typical shapes and structures of privileged or dominant positions within patriarchal society.

-What are some possible repercussions in assuming that all bodies have been given a place in the world and thereby that they have place?

-What are ways that we can re-imagine or renovate illusions of the inherent presence of equality in order to truly address and inhabit equity practices concerning which bodies are supported by norms and which are disempowered or oppressed by norms?

It is time to deeply consider these types of questions. It is time to make this type of seeking our
own. I ask that we look at how non-normalized bodies are socialized to comply and assimilate with norms—and I ask that we work together to imagine extreme renovations of space and traditional systemic function so that the focus (concerning inhabitation, embodiment and existing) can be based on celebration of the variant rather than diminution of the variant.

I am asking us to decide where we will exist on the continuum of equity concerning
underrepresented and non-supported bodies that do not uphold the social norm concerning
polarity and binary traditions.

Polarity and Binary are defined as follows:

Polarity: Diametrically opposed parts.

Binary: Consisting of, indicating or involving only two.

Polarity and binary are nearly impossible limits for any body—but particularly for Trans identified bodies who are inherently transcendent of those norms. As a Trans identified person I am interested in how we as a human species can collaborate to come up with entirely new
imaginations, as poultice to the damages and violences inflicted onto Trans by polarity and/ or
linearities concerning “social acceptability”, space, texts and bodies.

I live and enact my body in ways that make the binary systems and methods transparent as obsolete and outdated (concerning them being representative of any sort of ‘universal’ fact).

Not everyone has a Trans identity—but everyone crosses. Therefore if we are able to amplify our view of our own thresholds and junctures, perhaps we can better track the moments where we do in fact cross and fuse with something ulterior to what we were previous to that crossing. This too (in the context of my identity) is applicably Trans—and in this action of recognition, it is my hope that we can begin to claim our moments as our identity, thereby more deeply solidifying ourselves in our own integrities of visage (rather than regurgitating others’ narratives and forms which inherently have within them a base in limit of idea, perspective and/ or intent).

It is my hope that you will hear what I am saying and feel it as a possible logic—that you will make your own forms for recognizing and enlivening what you truly are. I hope that you take pride in ever engaging your own accurate tendencies toward fusion, in ways that allow you to continue as a textual body, and as a physiological body. In doing so, you make yourself
that much more luminous, that much more vigorous, that much more embodied and bold,
that much more unable to be colonized.

Until everything within its radius is left soaked by its exudations—and if I know I will never again have to forge these transfers alone—oh the sweet allowance. Oh neoteric health. And possibly even a sure joy.


In Kelley Winter’s essay Maligning Terminology in the DSM: the Language of Oppression she states:

“I’m speaking of affirmed Transwomen being called “he” and Transmen being called “she.” I use the term Maligning Language to describe this specific kind of verbal violence.” (1)

I wonder what an authentic replacement to this verbal violence (concerning gender and identity) would look like. I wonder what types of spaces would necessarily evolve if we as a species were somehow more precisely able to focus our gestures and efforts on the continued re-structuring and imagining of the places where these violences take place.

The following outpour is a phantasmagoria built off of questions. It is a document to dream through. It is a grouping of inquiries rooted in belief that it is possible to proceed in our work with gender and embodiment practices, in ways that are more involved, more evolved, more interested and more creative.

The following is a place to begin.

There will always be some sort of a future to reckon with–to recognize through. I find that there are some very real questions that need to be asked concerning how to create a future that makes beings want to be here for that future.

What would it mean if we were to truly gesture toward the future of health for all persons?

In order for this future to truly occur, there need be inquiry into what and how gender variant bodies can most accurately be referred.

This future would also need to obviously use accurate pronouns. By accurate I do not mean correct in terms of the polarist options of typical patriarchal category related to bio/ birth sex
(e.g. he/ she). I am speaking of an accuracy that would be dependent on the person utilizing the pronouns (as reference) actually inquiring (of whom they are referring) how they wish to be referred. For example:

Do you wish to be referred to as he or she? Or is there something else that allows you to identify in a deeper way?

What would it be to engage intimacies or creations that reify accuracies rather than binary induced categorization? What would it be to replace traditional notions of categorization with fundamental openness and curiosity? And what effects would these particular revolutions have on our bodies as we continue?

Perhaps the authentic replacement that I am referring to would look like many spaces of uninhibited imagination, overlapping and commingling—spaces that are not typical or traditional. Spaces that emphasize specificity and precision concerning the vitalities of the individual.

Perhaps this replacement would emerge as spaces wherein the body is no longer seen in terms of how an exterior position would categorize it–but instead is seen as a space for forms to move through. A space that needs to be seen, acknowledged, and named in terms of awe and enigma.

Imagine what it would be like if we were to treat each body as if it were an ever original,        non-debatable conglomerate. An always developing compound. Always perfect. Always amidst. And always continuing.

I propose that it is possible that we make a neoteric future. I believe that a future such as this will need be based on extreme invention and vision. It will require new realms of interactivity where language is engaged in as action, activism and opportunity to touch the most inner places in/ of bodies.

In this future we will name our own realities based in what it is that actually animates us–what it is that brings us to life. A future where we reach to understand others’ self-named realties with excitement and vigor rather than with fear or complacency.

This will be a future that requires that we not fear differentiation. In this future we will necessarily transmogrify the polarizing issue of exteriority. Traditional categorizations and misperceptions will be further specified because there will be space made for variant bodies to speak their accuracies concerning them.

In this future, in the place of patriarchal history we will implant shining, myriad glossaries of exactness.

As Lyn Hejinian states:

“a work that is not a closed symmetrical whole, but an unfolding dynamic integrity.”(2)
This future would no longer be dominated by rhetoric that incites fear or exteriorly deterministic frames of acceptability that demand social normatively. This future would be a place where we as a species, take pride in the study and active progressing of axiological tendencies concerning aptitude.

This future, where previous histories and categorical imperatives are seen and understood as insufficient (in their representation of all bodies) and are thereby in need of extreme imagination. A place of beautiful distinctions and descriptions where we admit to one another:

I know you are not solvable. I will not try to control you or limit you.

A place from there we engage the following questions together:

What is the body capable of?    What is the body for?

“I can only begin a posteriori, by perceiving the world as vast and overwhelming; each moment stands under an enormous vertical and horizontal pressure of information. Potent with ambiguity, meaning-full, unfixed and certainly not complete. What saves this from becoming a vast undifferentiated mass of data and situation is one’s ability to make distinctions.”(3)

This is my hope for a future of personal, infused sites for accurate, limitless imaginations and motilities. This future engages languages which attend and adhere to the body as a multifarious site of motions along an unending spectra. This future that prides itself in the urgencies of inclusion, which honor and recognize gender variant or “gender transcendent” (4) bodies: bodies that are not currently, thoroughly or accurately represented in the context of patriarchal historicity.

Our future that sees the body as subjective matter in desperate need of spaces to declare itself, within a social context that allows those declarations to be accurate, full and visible. To consider our bodies as one would the following question:

Is there an answer for bread?

In this future we would become the work we engage in. A work that is reaching to itself by breaking open/ discovering and accumulating spaces for its future.

This future would be the inherent reversal of Dylan Scholinski’s question:

“have you ever been so false your skin is your enemy?” (5)

At cadences of ritual and nourishment, honor and vivisection where we become what it is that moves us. Our voices are increasing halo, supplying new types of verdant as ever unconditional fields for us to plant in.


The following is a basic way that I think that the difference between Transgender and Genderqueer can be elucidated—(to be clear, my particular self-specification within my Genderqueer identity is Trans: Trans as spans, not Transgender). 

Transgender is the state of one's "gender identity"(self-identification) not strictly or simply matching one's "assigned/ birth sex" (identification by society). “Transgender individuals may have characteristics that are normally associated with a particular gender, identify elsewhere on the traditional gender continuum, or exist outside of it as "other," "agender," "Genderqueer" or "third gender". There is a more traditional transgender continuum (M to F) or (F to M), and there are also encompassing continuums which have been developed in response to comprehensive studies done in recent years.

Genderqueer (Trans as spans is my particular specification within my Genderqueer identity) “is a catchall term for gender identities other than "man" and "woman". People who identify as Genderqueer may identify as both man and woman, as being neither man nor woman, or as falling completely outside of that gender binary. We can express a combination of masculinity and femininity, one or the other, or neither. Genderqueer people may or may not identify as

Transwomen and Transmen. Some Genderqueer people see their identity as one of many possible genders other than man or woman, while others see Genderqueer as an umbrella term that encompasses all possible non-normative genders. Genderqueers are united by our rejection of the notion that there are only two genders.

In the context of currently extant Genderqueer/ Transgender/ Transexual pronouns generally accepted by society (regarding Trans experience) the pronouns Xir and Xe (though they do have some potential toward epicene, which is not my gender) feel like pronouns I can relate to (though I will mention my ultimate preference of reference regarding pronoun(s) later in this essay).

A historical pre of Xir and Xe is Sie/ Hir. Sie/ Hir are a bit too historicallyTransgender/ Transexual specific for me to feel comfortable in (as I refuse to appropriate Transgender/ Transexual space regarding more strict M-F and F-M spectrum travels). I feel that Sie/ Hir also relate to a social era/ effort to liberate from social norms regarding birth/ bio sex and gender roles (that are rigidly attributed to birth/ bio sex) by normative society. Additionally Sie/ Hir is an inherent part of the beautiful legacy of vigilances that have made many of my friends’/ mentors’ genders accurate for them.

Related to my own identity, Sie/ Hir are too close (in sound) to attributed/ ascribed femininity regarding the pronunciations "she and her" (and in that way only ostensibly defy binary pronouns). Defiance of binary categorization is key to my gender identity/ ies as the accuracies that I am seeking/ embodying are as much about inter-planar, inter-relational travels/ inhabitations as they are M-F/ F-M travels/ translations.  My identity is Trans/ Genderqueer which itself is focused more in motility/ motion and correlation.

For me, the problem with binary oriented pronouns (that are strictly relegated by social norms) is their lack of flexibility, and the way that they are rigid (based in stricture and limit) does not account deeply enough for my entire identity in any of the realms (masculine, feminine and other)—

The place that I would consider my ultimate/ most preferred mode of reference (regarding my own gender/ pronoun needs) is one that is not yet socially extant or accepted. It is a space that is not created until the pronoun that I propose as my most accurate ("pleth") is actually used regarding me. The pronoun that I have invented (“pleth”) is a monosyllabization (pronouns are monosyllabic jolts) of the word plethora:

Plethora as both description and place. A place to call out to______. A place to call out from______. Call me turgid, excess, florid, profuse, abundant, surplus. Not epicene. Not gender-neutral—but desperately in need of a gender with historical neutrality. A gender wherein I can name myself and be considered by that/ those names.

Call me what I call myself and you will have made a non-debatable home for yourself in me.

(1) Winters, K.  Maligning Terminology in the DSM: The Language of Oppression.  GID Reform, Dec. 16 2008.
(2) Hejinian, L.  The Language of Inquiry.  University of California Press, Dec. 2000.
 (3) Hejinian, L.  The Language of Inquiry.  University of California Press, Dec. 2000. 
(4) the following italicized term is a term used in both essays and conversation with Kelley Winters
(5) Scholinski, Dylan.  The Last Time I Wore a Dress.  Riverhead Trade, Oct. 1998.


j/j hastain is the author of several cross-genre books including the trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press), anti-memoir a vigorous (Black Coffee Press/ Eight Ball Press) and The Xyr Trilogy: a Metaphysical Romance. j/j’s writing has most recently appeared in Caketrain, Trickhouse, The Collagist, Housefire, Bombay Gin and Aufgabe. j/j has been a guest lecturer at Naropa University and University of Colorado.

1 comment:

  1. Edric Mesmer’s micro-review of _the relational elations of ORPHANED ALGEBRA_ by Eileen R. Tabios and j/j hastain may be of interest, elsewhere in this issue at