My 2 Cents On Pronouns

Musings/Rants

 


I generally don’t use YouTube as a focal point of think pieces, but the video I just watched is so eye-opening that I had to jot down my thoughts.

It’s a three minute Youtube video posted by Cut Vid, a channel reminiscent of an indie Buzzfeed – less revered, more refined. In the video, a group of transgender people talk about what pronouns mean to them. They start with one word–“identity,””choice,” “liberty,” then elaborate with some pretty amazing analyses. The group is as diverse as it gets, with Caucasians, AAs, Latinos, and Asians of all ages. The answers drown in a storm of emotions, some in pain and disillusionment, others defiance and pride.

The two responses that carved the deepest impressions on my mind are from two middle-aged, white transgender women. In a coarse, masculine voice, the first said she see pronouns as a vocal validation of her identity and, more importantly, a symbol of sovereignty.

“If anything I’d be more hung-up on the need some people feel to attach ‘preferred,'” she says. “My pronouns are not preferred. They just are. My gender is not a desire that I have or a wish or something. It’s who I am. It’s just part of me.”

That response raises an issue, a question, we unconsciously dismiss: why are pronouns, a part of speech exclusively associated with sexuality and identity, regarded as a preference rather than a force of nature when we talk to or about transgender people? Why is it that, as a society that has grown so much scientifically, politically, and socially, we still see transsexuality as the revolting exchange of sex organs rather than a displaced soul’s yearning for a body, a home, it can never have? Preference implies choice. And with regard to sexuality, either assigned by birth or brain, there isn’t one.

Another response that grabbed me was the closing one. “You better get them right,” is how she sees pronouns. Yet the importance of pronouns rests not in sight but in respect.

“What’s more important: how you see me, or respecting how I see me?”

To the cis population, pronouns only take an offensive turn when someone identifies us in a different way from the way society does. That’s confusing, isn’t it? Think of it this way: you look, talk, act like a dude, you’ve been referred to as a “he” and a “him” your whole life, then this asshole comes along and calls you a “stupid bitch” because, I don’t know, you refused to spilt coffee on his shirt or something. That’s offensive to you because, what the fuck, you look nothing like a “female dog,” right? Maybe that’s a bad example, but my point is that cis people like me never had to deal with two perceptions of one identity. Society and I use the same lens when when looking at me. You’d never ask a cis person, “Do you prefer to be a ‘she’ or a ‘he’ today?” Because you know there can only be one answer, right? But what happens when the body you’re born into and the body you want to be born into fight for dominance in the mapping of your identity? What if both voices are legitimate in the eyes of society? You need pronouns to settle that conflict.

The disparity in the significance of pronouns between the cis and trans communities underscores the, perhaps unconscious, linguistic privilege we have developed as the prevalent gender identity. We don’t realize, having been fortunate enough to be born in a body we belong to, just how liberating and validating a simple part of speech can be.

Pronouns radiate a sense of selfhood and certainty for a group of people that knows none. When identity and appearance clash and struggle, pronouns are the torch that melts them from antonyms into synonyms, reins into wings.

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Craving Something I Can Feel

Music

Album Review: James Bay, Chaos and the Calm

Teenage Wasteland. Wild Youth. Roaring 20s. Our coming-of-age years have been romanticized to such an extent that destruction has become synonymous with desire, stability with stagnancy. You haven’t lived if you haven’t fucked up big at least a few times over. But the ugly truth is that the twenties isn’t such a glorious time. Those supposedly exotic years are more like a blissful purgatory, like a boat floating on a serene creek separating optimism from disillusionment. Your dreams have amassed too much force for the life you knew, and the life you will know hasn’t yet shattered your lofty expectations.

Navigating through the emotional traps of youth is like walking a tightrope. As long as you stare intently only at your feet, you’ll stay in that blissful purgatory and take life as it goes. But my eyes are always wandering, behind my shoulder down memory lane and up, way up ahead, into stormy skies and distant stars that spell nothing but disaster.

That’s why I can’t stop listening to Chaos and the Calm, the debut studio album by English singer-songwriter James Bay. It’s a twelve-track album bursting with desire, courage, excitement, loneliness, heartbreak, and love, the emotion more powerful and prevalent than any other during those complicated years. It’s an homage to all the joys and pitfalls of growing up. It’s an unfiltered, intimate portrait of a changing mind – confronting the uncertainty of the near future (Move Together) and the pain of separation (Scars); reflecting on relationships gone awry (Let it Go) and the claustrophobic frustration of being ensnared in a hometown he had outgrown (Craving).

James Bay isn’t a household name, but he’s soaring to superstardom faster than Stay With Me hit number 1. A year ago he was busking at Brighton, playing at open mics, and opening for Hozier. Now he’s selling out arenas across the world and opening for Taylor Swift in front of 50k fans. It won’t be all that surprising if he follows the same Grammy-sweeping path as Sam Smith.

An acoustic powerhouse who blends bluesy riffs with confessional lyrics and plaintive vocals, Bay effortlessly weaves soul, blues, and indie rock in an album full of heart. Nowhere is his composite style more evident than in Hold Back the River, the gem of the album and the highly anticipated closer at concerts. The preachy, uplifting single is highlighted by progressive tempo and seamless transitions from a smoother lower register to rougher aching falsettos.

Just as compelling as its preachy chorus is the tinge of nostalgia prevalent throughout the album: “Once upon a different life/We rode our bikes into the sky/But now we’re caught against the tide/Those distant days all flashing by.” It’s echoed in the sense of yearning from Let it Go: “Trying to fit your hand inside of mine / When we know it just don’t belong/There’s no force on earth/Could me feel right.”

You leave a past you’re sick of to pursue the future of your dreams. What if you get lost chasing those dreams? What if the road gets too tough and all you want to do is return to the home you escaped? Maybe feeling lost and confused is what we twenty-somethings have in common.

Maybe we’re all just craving something we can feel.

Worlds Apart

Musings/Rants, Writing

My titles have gotten progressively dumber over time. I apologize for that. If I ever write a book I’ll probably have to improve on that. Oh well, don’t judge a book by its cover, amiright?

Anyway, I briefly mentioned in my last post my discomfort with showing my blog to people I know, and I’d just like to explain that a bit more. It has nothing to do with the possible backlash or indifference. I’m used to both of that, especially from friends. If indifference is what I will receive then I’d be more than willing to share this blog on Facebook. A reaction is what I’m nervous about.

Imagine wearing a skanky dress to a club in, say, Ecuador or somewhere far and exotic. It’s miles removed from all the judgmental assholes back home. You feel free and loose for the first time in years. You flirt with everyone and drink everything that smells like it can fuck you over. You’re happier than perhaps you’ve ever been. And you just don’t give a shit because you know no one’s gonna treat you any differently after tonight.

What an awful analogy, but that’s exactly how I feel with about blogging. It’s like wearing a thong in a club and knowing that no matter how many lap dances I give my life in the real world is still going to be the same. You know, holding a secret identity with no strings attached.

Why do I care so much? Don’t I trust my friends or family? Honestly, I’m not sure. Some of them, some of the time, absolutely. But once I show them my blog – all these darkest, truest thoughts I’ve ever had – I’m not gonna be same. I’m not going to write without reservations. I’m going to be haunted by dumbass questions that I just don’t want to care about. What will they think if I say this? Will they be okay if I say I’ve never agreed with them on this thing? What if she thinks I’m attacking her? These are bullshit problems I have to deal with in real life. And the blogosphere is a much simpler, quieter, happier world. It’s a place where I can just write in peace and discover the person I want to be.

I don’t want to censor myself for other people’s sake. That’s not what good writers do. They may be sensitive to public response but they know it’s less valuable than being true to their visions. I’m not there yet. Maybe when I get there I’ll be able to fuse these two worlds and reveal my most private thoughts to the people I consider most important to me.

Dream as if you’ll live forever, Live as if you’ll die today

My Awesome Life

We’re responsive creatures, always yearning for some kind of carnal or spiritual fulfillment. So many of our conversations are dedicated to that one question: What makes us feel alive? For me it’s neither people nor adventures. It’s the shapes and colors that make up a city I love.

When I took a semester off in Cali, all I could think about was how much I missed NYC and how exciting it would be to blog about college life there. But four months after I returned to NYU I’ve only written four posts on my adventures here in the Big Apple. Ostensibly it’s because I just haven’t had the time. In reality it’s because I’ve kind of lost confidence in my writing. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good a writer as I would like to be, and I certainly don’t think I’m good enough to capture the sense of wonder I feel every time I step out onto the streets.

I’ve experienced no shortage of epiphanies walking on the same blocks, seeing the same things in different ways. Paradoxes run riot: tattoo parlors next to corporate banks, museums sandwiched by takeouts, apartments stacked atop liquor stores, and chains of buildings in alternating colors – black, tan, maroon – adorned by staircases twisting like rusty vines. It’s homogeneous yet dynamic, indifferent yet inviting. None of it makes any sense yet it all feels so right.

It’s a convoluted maze with a constellation of neon lights and no exit. Horizontal and vertical lines converge to make intersections that look exactly the same whether you’re in FiDi or Dumbo. You’re lost every time you’re out, but you never feel more at home. Last night I was strolling through Washington Square Park in the nicest weather in a long, long time, and I see the arch–silver silhouette inked against the black sky–illuminating the fountain and everyone around it. It was just so liberating. In that moment I actually felt so blessed to be alive. And I just couldn’t help wondering: Why then? I’ve seen that sight countless times in the past year and a half, and I’ve walked through the park in every weather, every hour. But that moment last night was the only time I’ve felt that kind of relief, the only time that those random bursts of sadness and rage I experience everyday felt so far away.

Despite the incurable bleakness of life and the shittiness of human nature, the world itself is still as sublime a vision as you will ever imagine. That vision alone is worth the effort of waking up every morning with a smile. It’s far more beautiful than life is ugly. It’s far more sincere than people are fake. Loving a place is far more satisfying than hating everything else.

Live with hope and live with love, if only for your surroundings. Find somewhere you love. See as much as you can before it’s too late.

Disillusionment, Love Potions, and that Obsession with the Unattainable

Musings/Rants, Relationships and Shit

So I just read this from a NY Times article:

“A few months ago, I read several articles touting the health benefits of writing in a deeply personal way. Studies had shown that writing introspectively on a regular basis can lead to lowered blood pressure, improved liver function and even the accelerated healing of postoperative wounds. The study’s subjects had been told to write for short periods each day about turbulent emotional experiences.”

Interesting. I know from experience that writing in a personal, introspective way can exorcise the darkest of demons, but I didn’t know it has been confirmed by science. That’s encouraging, I guess, because part of me thinks it’s kind of toxic to ponder so deeply and frequently on all the bizarre and bleak truths of life. ANYWAY. That was a passage from the Times’ Modern Love section, which features some of the best essays I have ever read. 1500 words, packed with the optimism of finding love, the relief of losing it, the joys and misery of fighting through it. And those stories – bitter, furious, grateful, and so, so raw – just made me realize that I’d never been in love and never felt anything nearly as beautiful or devastating as they have.

Is that a terrible thing to say? I sure feel a bit guilty writing it down, considering that I’ve had memories and experiences that warranted those feelings. Deserved them. Demanded them, even. But everything is relative, and compared to people who wrote those stories, I really don’t know anything. I thought I did. I thought I knew what love is, how it feels like, and what it could do, but the problem is just you don’t see shit when you’re in the middle of it. It’s hard to know that you’re letting staccato bursts of joy overtake your ability to see how glaringly toxic your relationship really is. And maybe that’s a good thing, because I know that the best is still ahead of me.

Assuming that everyone has some epic love story written into their palm lines ofc. I’m not sure we all do. We speculate on the future with a dizzying mix of dread and excitement. They’re so closely interwoven that it’s hard to define one without mentioning the other. And with them there’s always uncertainty. Am I going to get into Yale? Am I going to make it into the music industry? Am I going to get knocked over by a scooter

Yet when it comes to love, questions don’t start with “am I going to.” Instead you get the 5Ws. What do you look for in a guy/girl? Where do you want to get married at? What kind of person do you see yourself with? Who can make you happy? 

They’re not bad questions, but what right do we have to feel so sure that love is meant for everyone? It’s not even about finding the Harry to your Sally. What if some of us never meet anyone, never fall in love, never know what it feels like to hate someone so fucking much that you’d shove a champagne bottle up your ass and fake your own murder just to ruin his life (yeah, my inner Amy Dunne’s back)? What if we really do die alone?

If that’s the case, do we only have ourselves to blame? Is it because we’re too shallow or too idealistic or too indifferent? It’d be easier if that’s the case because at least we have control over our flaws. I don’t believe it’s all about us. It takes a lot to foster connection and turn spark into fire. Circumstances have to work with you, chance has to work with you, people have to work with you. Not everyone can get all three on his/her side. I certainly can’t. Maybe that’s because I’m awkward as fuck and freak out every time I have to socialize with people.

I’m not saying I’ve given up on pursuing that intoxicating whirlwind romance that everyone should experience at least once per lifetime. I’m going to chase it, and I’m going to believe that it’s still in the cards for me because that’s pretty much all we have. Chasing is living. That briefest moment just before yearning becomes fulfillment is pure euphoria.

But I don’t expect it to happen. I just hope it does.