Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

Author: spacegirl

The Deep Complexities of Coming Out as Transgender

In Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality, by Sarah McBride, Sarah explains what coming out as trans felt like to her. She says, “I was about to jump feetfirst into a world that I wasn’t sure I was prepared for” (McBride 2018, 4). The words in this sentence hold a lot of meaning to the truth of what coming out as trans entails. Saying “I was about to jump feetfirst” evokes sentiments of suicide. When someone is typically jumping off of something tall (as jumping into a world would appear to be), they typically don’t plan on continuing to live. This provides symbolism for how coming out as trans would be like living a completely new life, in a new world. Everything from how someone perceives you and treats you, to the opportunities that you have in the job market significantly change as a transwoman. In a study conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, they found that one in four trans identifying people report being fired from their job on the basis of their gender identity (McBride 2018, 4). I could only imagine how scary it must be to lose all of the protections of stability that one experiences in their life. Sarah knew that she identified as a woman, but didn’t know how her life would be altered based off of how others perceive her. While Sarah’s life as a man ended, her life as a woman was just beginning. In this sense, “death” represents both renewal and loss. It represents renewal in Sarah’s connection to herself, and the alignment of her outside persona with her identity, and loss in that she is losing all of the privileges that she knew to have as a man. This statement allows the reader to see that coming out as trans is a deeply complex thing, that has much bigger life altering implications than just changing one’s personal pronoun.   

Additionally, the words “into a world I wasn’t sure I was prepared for” are significant to a reader’s understanding of Sarah’s experience. Specifically, the use of the personal pronoun “I” has a large effect on the reader’s understanding of being trans. Often times, society chooses to focus on the experience of others who are affected by someone’s transition, while truthfully the person who needs the most attention is the trans-person themself. In Sarah’s experience coming out, when she told her mom, her mom said, “I can’t handle this! I can’t handle this!”(McBride 2018, 26). The “I” in this statement, being her mother shows lack of acknowledgement for the experience of Sarah during this transition. When Sarah referenced her personal feeling of lack of preparedness for the life ahead of her, it allowed the reader to recognize that this transition is really about Sarah, and not the lives of the people in her life. From analyzing this quote, the reader can gain a deeper understanding that coming out as trans is something that alters every aspect of that person’s life. it is scary, new, vulnerable, and completely personal. Coming out is about the individual, and by thinking of how oneself, independent from the person coming out is affected, that person is completely disregarding the difficulties and challenges faced by that individual coming out.

 

McBride, Sarah. 2018. Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality. New York: Crown Archetype.

Understanding Geryon’s Lived Experiences Through Delegitimizing Law

In Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, Geryon, the main character, is a boy growing up in a world in which he does not see representations of himself in the people and spaces around him. The novel takes the reader through Geryon’s life through his perspective.  When Geryon went to Buenos Aires, he met a man who was visiting for a conference. When this acquaintance was talking about his education he said, “I was looking at the sociology of ancient law codes. [Geryon responded] You are interested in justice? [and the man responded] I’m interested in how people decide what sounds like a law” (Carson 1999, 88). The word choice in this interaction is very significant. Using the words “how people decide,” brings about the idea that laws are initially decided by people. I believe that oftentimes people forget that at some point in time laws didn’t exist. This language allows the reader to take a step back and acknowledge that society has been created by people, and this can make the reader question the legitimacy of these laws when thinking about how people have different viewpoints and ideas. Additionally, by using the words “what sounds like a law,” Carson is invoking the idea that laws in themselves can be illegitimate. While society defines laws to be something in which people have to follow, the speaker questions this. Autobiography of Red is inventive because the novel slips radical and thought provoking ideas into casual conversations such as the one above. This serves great purpose for the rest of the novel because by normalizing difference and questioning societal norms, the reader is able to think about how these norms have an effect on Geryon, and is able to better identify how he questions the norms in his life within his existence and through his life experience.

 

Carson, Anne. 1999. Autobiography of Red. New York: Vintage Contemporaries – Random House. 

Pain as the Measurement of Love

“Why is the measure of love loss?” (Winterson 1993, 9)

Reading this quote in the beginning of Written on the Body I didn’t understand what Winterson meant by this. As I read further in the book I began to understand what she meant. When the narrator was breaking up with one person to get with another, they were seeking love by leaving what they thought love could be (with that person), but realized was not. With each person that the narrator broke up with, they were entranced by someone new. Each time that they moved on from someone they felt pain from the messy breakup before. This is how they knew that at one point they had loved; the feeling of pain told them that they had loved. They were confused with themselves, knowing that the relationship that they left was no longer love, but also uncertain about finding love with the next person.

Another time in the book where I saw a connection to this quote was when the narrator left Louise. They claim that they left out of an “act of love” for Louise’s health and wellbeing, but she had no input in their decision to leave. All the narrator ended up with was pain and longing to be reunited with her.

When reflecting on what this all means, the “so what,” I found that for the narrator, pain is the measurement of love. Consistently throughout the book the author recognizes their love through pain, and in the end pain was the only way that the narrator could feel, remember and relive their love. In the first example they couldn’t measure the love that they had so they jumped from relationship to relationship quickly, hurting after each breakup. In the second example they realized that leaving Louise was as mistake when they could no longer bear the pain of being separate from her.  Pain gave clarity to love that the narrator could not previously identify. 

Who am I to define beauty? A Close Read on Defining Beauty in WOTB

Quote: “I don’t lack self-confidence but I’m not beautiful, that is a word reserved for few people, people such as Louise herself. I told her this”(85).

This passage caught my attention by its distinction of self-confidence and beauty. Often times people associate self-confidence with beauty, and by separating them, they are left in a state that makes one question what beauty is and how it is defined. The author narrows down the definition of  beautiful by saying that it is only a word “reserved for few people”(85). By doing this, the author made me feel a sense of intention behind the word. I felt as if when the word was used again in the text, there was deep meaning behind it.

The author also defines beauty to some extent by saying that beauty is not self-confidence. Reading this passage in the context of the book, I feel as if the word self-confidence is a blanket for the word boldness. I use the word bold to describe unthoughtful action. The speaker is bold in their decisions for who they sleep with and how they interact with the ones that they “love.” Time and time again throughout the novel the speaker lets down important people in their life by showing a pattern of attachment, cheating, and deserting relationships.

The word “beauty” is ambiguous. It can mean many different things to different people. By allowing the definition to be up for interpretation, allows for somebody to step in and out of feeling “beautiful.” Given the context of the book, and parts of the definition being already framed (as beauty being limited to a select few people and as being kind and thoughtful (the opposite of bold)), I think that the definition for beauty within this book digs deep into describing devoted love. Everything is confusing and clear, defined and undefined, wavering in emotion, but always grounded in intention. Louise embodies devoted love because from the start of her relationship with the speaker, her relationship with Elgin was clear in that they were not in love. I believe that in this stage of the book the speaker does not feel beautiful because they had just messily broken up with Jacqueline. They had many components that might have embodied characteristics of beauty, but they did not have grounded intention in the way that they treated Jacqueline. They acted with confidence, but not with beauty.

Reference:  Winterson, Jeanette. 1993. Written on the Body, 85. New York: 1st Vintage International (Random House).

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