(This is an open letter to Jacob Tobia, the person featured in the video above, who is an activist for genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and transgender issues and has been featured on the website I’m From Driftwood.)
You enchanted me with your jet-black hair, the perfect red lipstick, the afternoon shadow beard, so gorgeous and authentic. But the freedom shining in those dark eyes – that made you the most beautiful. Even though our situations are different, and your struggles with gender surpass mine in many ways, I see in you the same fierceness that’s grows in me as I continue to bust out of the cage of the cultural expectations and toxic “rules” set up for women. I was born female and I gender identify as a woman, but reject the narrow definitions of what that should mean about what I do, say, and believe. I’ve miserably tried to fit into the “proverbial neat little boxes” for so much of my life, and the freedom I’m finding outside of those boxes makes me giddy and scares the hell out of me.
There’s the part of me that embraces you just as you are, and there’s another part that balks, not because I think it’s an abomination or any of the other usual condemnations. That part of me balks because it wants order, predictability, permanence. It wants either/or, not both. It wants everything and everyone clearly defined with no grey spaces. It wants you to choose between him or her and wants me to conform to my assigned roles as a woman because it makes my life predictable, without confusion or the hard work of making choices. It’s not the greater part of me, but I have to acknowledge that it exists because if I don’t that mind-set can sneak into my life while I’m not looking.
I believe we all have a feral impulse to escape the captivity of culture and traditions that distort our truest self. Hearing and following that impulse has taken me an awfully long time and
I can’t I won’t risk ever losing that.
You reminded me of the truth: there’s absolutely nothing in this world that is static, orderly, and always predictable. Everything is flux and flow, everything exists on a continuum – whether it’s the range between masculine and feminine or the one between sweet and sour. Even more, dual truths can exist together in the same space at the same time. You can be ‘they’ and I can be giddy with freedom and scared witless – or the thousands of other combinations that make up our complex human psyches.
That freedom shining in your eyes helps me remember that every minute of living out of the illusion of static predictability and into the reality of flux and flow is worth it.
Thank you. Sending much love.