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"My Genderfuck Origin/Death/Origin Story" by Andre (they/he)

The bat was metal, not wooden; pink, not brown, and this was the year I realized what it meant to be a girl. Given to me by mi abuelo, the gift held a lot of weight, especially when I think about how only 2 years later, we stopped playing, and 3 more years after that he had to stop visiting.[1]


It’s funny looking back on my childhood now because in so many ways it was very clearly a queer space:

  • Between the ages of 4 (ish) to 8 (ish) I walked like a drunken pirate—Jack Sparrow, or occasionally Oto, El Pirata. My pace was filled with zigzags, wobbles, and unaware, semi-oblivious smiles. Pirates are queer. That's their default setting. So is the ocean.

  • I imagined and acted out motherhood (parenthood?) without the pressures or confinements of heteronormative marriage. My barbie’s husband left her stranded with 5 children, and I lived vicariously through her. In the worst of it, he suffered a painful death and Barbie was sad for her kids but relieved, mostly relieved. My aunt and I built her houses and outfits out of old cereal boxes and felt.

  • I wore pink polos and pink skirts and pink long-sleeve shirts all in the same day and I didn’t give a fuck what that said about gender. I didn't even know what gender was.[2] I looked baller and pictures of that outfit make me feel better than I feel in anything today. I’d tell you that I wish I could wear it today, but I don't wear skirts now, lmao.

My childhood was inherently a queer space; it was gender nonconforming, gender neutral, malleable, meaningful and meaningless at the same time, and for a while, empty of any expectation and any assumption.[3] I had blunt bangs and a boyish grin.[4]

 

[1] At his age, my grandfather played only with me; he didn't have a team back home; team sports aren’t really what people like him do when their country is falling apart. It is however on my dad’s side of the family’s priority list. As for me, I only played with him because I was adamantly against softball and the school wouldn't let me play baseball. Should’ve seen it coming that I was something other than just lesbian. Lesbians love softball.


[2] I knew I was a girl but everything that encompassed was still not completely certain. I knew what I was not in some ways, but in many others, I was just a child.

[3] It’s not that my parents allowed or promoted this, but rather that the weight of womanhood had not completely set in yet.

[4] Blunt Bangs as referenced in bang style 1. Also see this link for more reference pics.


A note on childhood and queerness: boyhood

Here’s a list of things I’m struggling to put into well thought out academia; truths I’m trying to simultaneously hold:

~ Queer studies and gender theory are extensively and without fail tied to decolonial theory ~

  • There’s extensive reading on this topic but as pertains to this paper, my personal narrative and struggles with boyhood/womanhood, I am increasingly brought back to - christianization and mission work. Living in latinx diaspora with a complex settler and migrant identity complicates my thoughts around gender/sexuality constructions.[5]

  • What is mine to claim? What realities am I allowed to resent? How do I go about this ethically?[6]

 

[5]As stated, there is a lot of theory on this topic, one of which I will promote here. Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici touches briefly on the topic of pre-colonial gender and sexuality constructions. While not a full recount of the many different systems and constructions present in the pre-colonial Americas, Federici accents the way colonizers (the Spanish) constructed a tie between non structured/non binary gender and sexuality and witchcraft/satanism/sin. This process was mirrored by the Puritans of North America who saw also a proximity to nature and the wild, a proximity to Blackness and Indigeneity, a proximity to the sexually deviant and gender nonconforming as dangerous and magic. It is easy to then imagine how this translated into control of gender and sexual desire as a means to christianize, implement fear, and promote the eventual idea of the nuclear family.

[6] I have always lived in between spaces. My identity as a settler moves with me whether I reside here, in the US, or in Venezuela. I moved here at 3 years old speaking no English but with a German last name and protective white skin. There are complexities within my multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and hidden unclear mixed identity. I approach theory constantly questioning my positionality with no real “right” path. My latinidad has for much of my life been in contrast and combat with my queerness. Yet, in many ways they inform each other. Self-reflection that so often comes with queerness has without a doubt contributed to my ability to unpack my latinidad. I want to make a connection between the construction of queerness and the construction of latinidad, the mixed/multiethnic identity and the genderfuck identity but I’m never quite sure where to start.


~ Living in made up labels: Trans, Latinx, Lesbian, Butch, Dyke, the list goes on ~

  • I feel a sort of false attachment to all these words, one that exists because of the communities they encompass but not because I fit the box. I am both trans—trans-masc—and a butch lesbian. I am attached to womanhood as though it were a summer camp that changed my life, that I share with many people, and that I feel connected to, but I don’t work there anymore and am most definitely not a camper.

  • I don’t mean to say that these words are not real, but they are not real outside of the context of this reality. Identifying as something socially constructed is like that scene from Hook where the lost boys feast on imaginary food.

  • I am trans. I am butch. I am a dyke. I am latine.

  • I am a person that exists outside labels but in a reality that requires them.


~ If queer is made up, childhood is not queer, but also, it is ~

  • What I mean is: if queer is constructed as a label because it had to be put in opposition to the confined ‘straight’ identity, then queer is the natural order of all things gender, sexuality, behavior and was only identified as “queer” to point out a difference between the natural state and Western ideas/desires to surpass the ‘animalistic’ non-structured gender/sexuality.[7]

  • So, childhood is inherently queer because its lives pre-socialization, pre ideas of queerness and heterosexuality and cisness. Childhood is the epitome of rebellion against structures and constructions. Childhood is the process of loss through socialization but a time where saying “I will not wear a dress” is a tantrum not a reason to count how many articles of clothing pertain to your sex. Until it is.

  • Childhood queerness is accepting human sexuality and defying assumptions of heterosexuality and gender as a whole.

 

[7] The Western settler loves to surpass nature. Dominate nature. Domesticate nature. Separate from nature. Be human as in above human. Be human as in not animal as in reaching divine-like. We must not be wild. We must not be wild. Build a house. Community for God, for after this life, for structure, for surveillance. Reproduction to prosper, to regulate, to make lineage.


Sexuality and gender confusion: the boy crush era, a short pause, and the one that continues

In second grade, I told my classmates I was in love with Noah R. We, the girls, were standing at a crafts table talking about them, the boys. Making sure I went last, I was able to choose the final “respectable” choice that nobody else had said. Today, I could tell you I envied Noah’s ability to make people, even the teachers, laugh in that boyish carefree way. Whatever though, now he’s a jerk and will hate-speech you without prompt at his next “comedy” performance in an unimportant talent show. The real boy of my dreams was Tyler. He was everyone’s first crush; he had the hair I have now and the most American-white-boy carefree voice I, to this day, try to make my own. He was kind and still is.[8]


4th grade is when we became the big kids 1st block and Santiago ruled the soccer field. Looking back, I know we all wore our catholic school uniforms, but he is only in my memories wearing an FC Barcelona jersey (a point of contention between us since I was adamantly for Real Madrid and later Bayern Munich).[9] Our recess rules and norms gave the utmost respect to the soccer goalie and so I chose to become a goalie. Hardly 4 foot 5in, slightly below average height for my class, it was a pretty funny choice. Michael also chose goalie, a tall lanky nerdy kid who I would never choose to admit a crush on. He’s gay now too, went to a neighboring high school, and I haven’t talked to him since I left that school in 6th grade. I saw him with his parents last time I went to mass. He was wearing a striped button up and khaki dress pants and he didn't seem out of his element, but I’ve never seen him in anything else other than khakis, at mass.


Today, I have one Straight™ friend. We have this habit of seeing a cute fluffy haired boy and pointing him out to one another. This unlocked gender aspiration number 2345235: be the kind of boy Priya would point out to you on the green. Other gender aspirations include: I do not want to be a Man but I want to be a Boy, a man, a Butch, a genderfuck confuse the hell out of your grandmother, be called sir at the vdub (a dining hall) and hate it but love it, be called a questionable ma’am at the ratty (another dining hall) and laugh on my way out. Basically, I have crushes on a lot of boys; I am attracted to a lot of boys. But it's a different type of crush. The second you start deconstructing gender, you have to deconstruct sexuality. I very much think of myself as a lesbian.[10]

 

[8] Or at least in my brain he is. I saw him a few years ago, the first time I’d seen him since the 2nd grade. He said hi, somehow remembered me and my sister, and had the sincerest face. But also, this town creates utterly awful people. He’s never seen me this queer, this trans, this other.

[9] Santi was the first boy that made me feel “in on it.” We played Wii Sports and I beat him at everything, but he always beat me at Fifa. At school we didn't talk about how our parents were friends and we saw each other outside of the classroom. Or at least he didn't. Maybe it was the girl/boy thing or maybe it was the Colombian-Venezuelan thing he didn’t want to bring any more attention to. He was there and part of the first time a teacher made me (and him) feel less than for being first-gen: “Santi, Andrea, and Marianne might have more trouble on this (grammar) section since you don't speak English as well.” We’d been fluent in 2 languages and had been for 3 years, at least.


[10] People who gatekeep lesbianism 1) don’t know lesbian history and 2) have a special place in hell reserved for them (and that’s not for the sinful same-sex gender attraction). Also, I’m so butch-masc-butch it doesn’t even matter (this is from a random tiktok and it runs through my head constantly)


Wanting more, wanting less: womanhood and what to do with it

I think sometimes, in an alternate reality, without the pressures to perform, I wouldn't feel such a disconnect from womanhood. But then again, what even is womanhood with the expectation to perform taken away from it.[11]


When I talk about my gender, I put myself in proximity to boyhood; at times, I even claim boyhood. Not really caring about the aspect of youth or too much about the physical, I think a lot of this stems from wanting a semi-gender-neutrality only granted in childhood; the ability to be without as much of an expectation on performance; something leading towards manhood but not quite there and not necessarily going there. A desire for an ignorance of the expectations of gender.


This desire seems almost like a fantasy. The reality we live in, the series of events and institutions that have happened and been created allow for little chance of public and individual queer boyhood from an adult female. I have dyke, butch, even trans-masc as labels to exist with. But the real euphoria comes from gender imaginaries. These come from communal spaces like a queer as heck pod and classes like Mapping Desire. I am drawn to think of the stories I was brought up with, ideas of islands or secluded magical places where youth and community and boyhood was so central. I imagine sharing space with Davi and Amelia and an urban neverland sort of queerly liberated home. Notions of metaphysical escapism not necessarily cottagecore move to the woods type.


It’s not totally fair to throw a blanket statement that childhood is a queer space, especially a gender queer one. But in terms of my childhood, it really does feel like my path was a queer one constantly blocked off by walls which were influxes of information on expectations of sexuality, gender identity, gender performance, and positionality. I don’t know if I feel inherently queer in a way that “proves” I was born queer or rather that “queer” is the blank slate and thus childhood is queer and at odds with hetero and cis-normativity. My ability to name a male character I wanted to be lessened as I got older (at 12, I no longer wanted to be Jack Sparrow) and as a 14 year old I held hands and slow-danced with a fluffy blonde haired boy at the school dance and cried. Five days later I had my first kiss, with a girl.[12]


Conclusion: trying to regain your sight/a return as boyhood

In some ways, my reflexes are no longer queer. Socialization, catholicism, latinidad, they all take their toll. But more and more, I feel like my reflexes are returning innately queer. It seems juxtaposed to think of reflexes as intentional, but I have rebuilt myself to respond with queerness; innate, emotional, and many times painful queerness. It’s funny to write this and think about how transness ~gender queerness~ is something new to my active thinking. It’s funny to think about how passively, queerness and gender have been at the forefront of who I am since childhood. Today, much of my queer expression centers around reliving and restoring that childhood state: watching cartoons with my friends, playing foursquare, and sledding down hills.[13]


Queerness is a cycle that mirrors life where birth is followed by death is followed by birth. We are born queer, or at least I’ll say I was born queer. I felt this socialized out of me, a death of my queer child, and once I was reborn, queerness came with structure and labels and boxes I am just now dismantling. Queerness is rebellion is love is the only real thing.

 

[11] An expectation specifically in contrast to an assumption which presumes some choice and some level of normality. Gender doesn't fit with normality. It’s experienced in too many varied ways. To say a gender is assumed or gender performance is assumed erases the violence that comes from a societal, at times familial, expectation that you perform. To say assumption erases the feelings of shame, disappointment, guilt, and otherness.


[12] This first experience with queer love has its own story, its own lessons on queerness, adolescence, and socialization. Most of me wishes it hadn’t happened. An old man saw us kiss that day and I felt only fear, and later resistance. I’m not sure if I feel like I should feel some sort of resistance. An act of lesbianism, of queerness, is always kind of an act of rebellion. In a way it was and it is, but it was also just stupid fourteen year old hormones and emotions and wanting and ultimately tragic.

[13] See Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts and She-Ra and the Princess of Power


Critical Introduction

Throughout this course, I was most inspired by Carmen Machado’s style in In the Dream House. This memoir was hard to get through as I mentioned in my review of it. Having had similar experiences of first queer, specifically sapphic, love that mirrored many of the toxic and emotionally abusive moments in Machado’s recounting, I hold the memoir in a special place. I felt community and strength and a new rawness around my own period of trauma. This piece was in some ways a tribute to her recounting. As a sort of queer take on a memoir, I used subtlety mixed with blatant thought; a mixture of leaving things unsaid and finding depth where it might not appear obvious.


As a trans narrative, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl was influential in both content and style. I reflected a lot on my own dealings with multi-cultural and undetermined mixed-race identities in cohesion with a fluid trans identity. This book was essential in my first thoughts around comparing fluidity and construction of gender/sexuality and race/ethnicity. I was also inspired by narratives of young queerness, coming into your queerness as opposed to coming out, and the fluidity of identification. In regard to gender and lesbianism, Lawlor makes interesting subtly placed remarks about lesbianism and gender both in the painting of TERF lesbians and gender nonconformity. This inspired my intentions of writing through frustrations with fitting into the label of lesbian as a box it was never designed to be and historically has not been.


Finally, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong similarly to Machado affected me strongly. In a way both were very triggering although in I think productive ways. The piece I have written is filled with reflections from our class discussion on diaspora and queer space specifically in the weeks we read Vuong. Recounting of my young queer love, queer tendencies, and complexities were directly influenced by Voung’s depictions of himself in Hartford, Voung and his mother.