Be(com)ing (Trans)feminist

Mutual Experiences of Violence Make You Seek Solidarity

/ by Anja Koletnik

Upon being asked to submit a semi-coherent piece of writing which would offer insights into what it's like to be a nonbinary activist, my mind immediately urged me to write about constantly being misgendered - due to an inability to escape the omnipresent gender binary system, never feeling comfortable when needing to choose a toilet, and just generally feeling unheard, unseen and unacknowledged in a society of dichotomies. Yet now that I am staring at my laptop screen, experiencing both excitement and anxiety with regards to (in)abilities of my own productivity, I am deliberately fighting those urges. I want to try to give way to something more than the painful and invisible, yet still at least partially normative and accessible, narrative of being a nonbinary person. I want to attempt to provide a glimpse into queer (trans)feminist struggles. Struggles of attempting to coexist with the excruciatingly restraining heteronormative and cisnormative matrix and, within this, trying to be a political actor, but also a caring and cared for person, while constantly being put in your place – from without, within and beyond the social dystopian imaginary that is referred to as “community.”

One of possible transgender flags.
It is several months that my native Slovenia had a national referendum on marriage equality. I will not go into details of the referendum, as this is not relevant for my message. The pre-referendum time, however, is a perfectly imperfect example upon which I can depict my thoughts about the immense instability of community. Referendum campaigns on human rights for members of minority social groups are rough, to say the least. If you’ve ever experienced one, from very up-close and personal, or even from a lurking distance, you know they are ruthless. Mutual experiences of violence being perpetuated by those who hold social and political power have effect, though; they make you seek solidarity, they position you on both the giving and receiving ends. It was thus during the pre-referendum period in Ljubljana, when occurrences where seen which otherwise generally aren’t; intra-personal boundaries were less present, people were less guarded. This manifested itself in an array of happenings; people who generally don’t socialize in the same circles put their heads together and worked side-by-side, some who don’t even speak exchanged greetings and hesitant smiles, people who have long left LGbt+ activism reemerged and offered their time and energy forgetting, or more likely temporarily suppressing, all the reasons why they left in the first place, or an exhausted activist getting up at 6 am to cook one-pot wonders, so that everyone in the campaign headquarters would have one warm meal a day. This time offered the ability to feel something which we would all desperately need in a constant form: mutual acknowledgement.

Poet of the Week
Anna Axfors
I hate nature

I hate nature

I can't stand looking at moons

night after night

 

Now the sun lies so smooth

over the mountains and the only thing that remains is

a rabbits gentle leap over everything

flat

 

And now something inside me comes loose

like ice during the global warming

when lots of ice falls into the ocean, becomes ocean

something inside me comes loose

and becomes me

 

Soon scene serenade

and bodies

arctic light over the sea and death

I have abandoned my old ideology and my new one is to try to create my own

dictionary

And I have also had a flower beside me

in bed

when they thought I was dead

I have been afraid of death for six years

but it is not until now that I understand that life is short and then again I become afraid of life itself, just like the dodo dances until the day ends and it makes me so happy when I think about that you can do whatever you want and I don't want to wait until they think I'm dead

with having a flower beside me in bed

arctic light over the mountains on the other

side

sane swing soft serenity

breath

arctic light over both lungs

I sigh, I fall asleep

I make a phone call

I'm tasting blood in my mouth and

it’s morning

she answers with hair she answers with tears

Time passes

Shame doesn't make you

mad,

but stiff in the

face

I don't like skincare

"constantly moisturize the skin"

I don't like that advice

Oh God

I can't do it

I lie on the ground and close my eyes,

slowly dying

even though I'm pressing my ear to the ground – I hear

nothing,

it seems like earth

doesn't have a heart

ha ha, I've always known that

that it's only the ocean that has a pulse

And I have stopped believing in

nature,

now I believe,

maybe not only,

but a lot

that

"A gene is a locus (or region) of DNA which is made up of nucleotides and is the molecular unit of heredity"

it is what it is – it doesn't eat

it feels good no longer being able to blame someone

I no longer need to think about if I'm

middle or under class

I only Am

and it's nice

I listen to Celine Dion and drink beer

that's nature poetry to me

My thought is a flower in my head

the pillow smells pee and I don't care

a full meadow soon blossoms there

I will walk on it when I fall asleep

I will walk barefoot because nature is not very hard

I'm harder

For a period in my life I only wore black clothes

that’s why I don't know what to wear tomorrow,

everything is black

When I look through the window I see all the way to

the underground clubs where I used to dream

I loved this city before it had walls

I loved this sea before it bled

and I saw it from

afar and it smelled

Orange

Cold

Wind

I felt it from all directions

Sway sweat sear promises amends

that comes in your mouth, my orgasm

falling asleep to the sound of animals

in flight

My lovely fate is to make sure that air doesn't enter the bread bag and makes the

white bread hard

Then you will be disappointed

And in everything they want to remove

It doesn't live

it's not possible

It doesn't eat

it doesn't collect

It's raining violently, drops are whipped

against the windows, and explode and explode and land on rivers

I’ve never heard of, never been to

It feels like someone is touching my hair, fondly as if life is already over and will

be summarized

don't worry

but the Day that this weather is warning us

for will come

that brownness

has already come

"what can't happen" happen everyday

How I love the sound of

tv

because it's useless and unbearable

Once I watched a documentary about Christiania it was about that kids who

grew up there were traumatized for life b/c all the sex and drugs (just another day in

motherfucking paradise). I could smell the smell of abuse and ashtray through the tv

screen, the edge of dirt under the nails

Someone said that I will never be right in the head and that I was and angel, a small animal.

I sat on Medborgarplatsen today and felt

the winds of change

whatever can happen whenever

you never know when the next thing will happen

I pray to the predictable god that I will be

like a jellyfish floating in the water, that I won't

know what will come later that I won't be ready

because it doesn't have smell nor color but it must

be good

Come the dark days, after the pitiful falling of the referendum (63 % of the voters rejected the bill which would enable marriage to be inclusive to all people, regardless of their gender, and reinstated that marriage remains an institute solely between a man and a woman), the distances between us reappeared. I am not that naïve that I wouldn’t be aware of the fact that they were never not-present. What saddens me the most about this situation is how committed we seem to be to producing solidarity merely when under direct vile attack. Are we not all aware that we are constantly under attack, just that some battles might manifest themselves loudly, and others are perceived as silent?

I pointed out that I want to speak from the stance of a transfeminist. Being (a) transfeminist is essential to the constitution of my being. Yes, pun intended. I consider feminism as an immensely poignant ethical and political stance, one that should be ever-present, whenever considering and/or deliberating on anything that has to do with any of life’s instances. Simply put, I believe feminism to be a central and undeniable indicator of one’s politics, self-reflexivity, awareness of privileges and humility. Being (a) feminist is also about accountability. Accountability referring to responsibility towards oneself and others, with aims of safekeeping one another and be(com)ing guardians against sources of heteronormative, cisnormative, queer and (trans)misogynist community, based shaming and ill-thought moralizations. Unfortunately, feminists aren’t really desired or acknowledged within mainstream LGbt+ communities, but are rather frowned upon for striving to be intersectional, politically correct and all else that stems beyond the “happy go lucky” attitude of homonormative gay activism. Writing this sentence immediately associates me with a concept introduced by a gay activist, one that, like feminism, centers accountability. I’m talking about Crimp’s “queer responsibility,” introduced in “The Melancholia of AIDS.” Queer responsibility is a positive form of accountability within LGBTQ+ communities. People that are exuberant of queer responsibility manifest these pains and struggles which derive from moralism of the social hegemony by transcending their attitudes into genuine care for themselves and others. Such queers actively engage themselves in beneficial social and political positioning; they become resources of experience and knowledge for their community. Queer responsibility can, therefore, be a source of these crucially-needed actions, and also a source of regaining the sense of a - currently lost - community. Such responsibility withholds possibilities for queer communities to have remembrance of their ambivalent – joyous yet painful – past, and to create nuances of attachments to this past; attachments that will allow intimacy and enjoyment, yet will not abide to nuclear hetero and cis norms for being oneself and exceed shame that wants to ascend from hetero and cisnormativity. This is what I believe (trans)feminist and simply self-reflexive activism should be. This is what I believe we have the potential to be. And this is what I believe we yearn for. I know I do.

These very yearnings make me (naively?) believe striving for mutual accountability and responsibility should be openly expressed, not only during a time when the attacks on us are visible to all, even in the majoritarian society, but rather take the form of a stabile presence, an ethical value. Interconnections with instances of queer responsibility and consequently enabled mutual support can result in community (re)building and accessing community belonging. This is the imagery I believe in, while I can’t help but asking myself if this isn’t only an image, but an imaginarium? Experiencing pain and solitude, which are regular instances of a nonbinary transfeminist life in a rigorous binary everything social matrix, leads to creating images of others; others, who will be like them, others, who will provide intimacy and security and, mostly, calm their intense yearning to belong. Upon encounters of the imaginarium with reality, arrays of experiences emerge, from unification to disappointment. Regardless of these experiences, I can’t help but, mostly silently, believe, that there is more, that there are radical potentials for self-critical, honest, ethical and caring communities. If nothing else, for me they remain one of my striving forces for my work. Don’t we all need a (secret) symbolic space?

....
Anja Koletnik

is a transfeminist queer activist and freelance academic from Slovenia. Anja holds an MA in Gender Studies and they are particularly interested in the fields of transgender studies, queer theory, fat studies, embodiments and feminist new materialisms. They have years of experience in LGBTQ+ activism and are the founder and director of Slovenia's first transgender specific NGO Institute TransAkcija.