Cameron Morgan, Chattanooga, Tenn. — I should tell you from the beginning that this piece is not about me, but it’s a decent enough place to start.
My perceived and projected ‘identities’ give me discomfort.
I thought being dimensional and adaptable were pluses, if not expected. But I’m finding more often that I reach for consistency — I want to hang my keys on a hook instead of finding them in my couch cushions before class.
And when I told my counselor about this — that I found myself fractured between journalist, 20-something, friend, queer enigma, activist, intern, Pisces, etc., and those assumed traits that come with those labels — her response was to show me a video from the Art Assignment.
The video asked, “Can you become someone else?” The task: take a selfie, then, using a transitional item, take another selfie and see how you’ve changed.
In the video, several women used makeup as a transition item between their ‘before’ self and ‘after’ self. Yet one focused on a bra as a form of presentation. They* said the bra made them feel disgusting after wearing a binder for almost a year and a half.
And that’s when it hit me that I had been so boldly misunderstanding my own problem and co-opting struggle and words that, while accurate, fit too loose around my feelings. It was abundantly clear that I was not in the midst of finding my identity nor transitioning between those identities.
For consistency: it’s a luxury to have keys and to know what they unlock. Metaphorically and physically, many trans people do not.
The average life expectancy of a black trans woman is 35 years old. On average, I’m asked 3 times a day, ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years?’ What a privilege to say, ‘I don’t know.’
While it’s unclear whether the person in the video is currently transitioning, or simply does not choose to present themselves in that manner, their words embarrassed me, and forced me to see that my identity grew from me as wild and as true as each hair. The rest was product.
And not to harp on hair, but in continuing to question and to read, I was struck by writer ChernoBiko’s post on Medium about her dreads allowing her to find her identity as a black trans woman.
She writes: “In that moment, I realized that my attachment to my hair was more than just a superficial one: wrapped up in each coil, were the stories of my past, present, and future — kind of like the rings of a tree trunk.”
What I understood my struggle to be was about identity; what it is is a reconciliation of traits. And in taking the rhetoric of an ‘identity crisis’ I did an injustice to many women and men who must challenge their sex and their society to express their identity.
So I should tell you, this piece is not about me, but it’s a decent enough place to start.
*The pronoun they is used out of respect here, because the video uses this pronoun.