It’s Mercury Retrograde, and though I know very little about astrology, I’m going to take this time to do the most. Why not? Blame it on the stars.
Let’s get it…
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My new pet peeve is this recent practice of discussing gender like a triangle: man vs. woman vs. nonbinary.
There are more than three genders.
Now, I backed away from the term "nonbinary" a while ago because…
The audacity of colonialism to create two tiny boxes in which every human must fit and then co-opt a marker that is the counter to those boxes, only to make it so that mainstream culture pictures queer (still acceptable) whiteness when imagining the term. Wild. I want no parts.
I don’t like the idea of existing as the antithesis of a thing.
Especially of a structure I think shouldn't exist. What happens when it doesn't? Is that not the goal, that one day it doesn’t? Then, who am I? Who am I outside the confines of this cell that is westernized gender?
Nonbinary vs. binary are like democrat vs. republican. Two legs coming out the same ugly ogre.
And that’s on imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy (shout out to bell hooks).
I’m on my bs today, ya’ll. Cause I don’t think trans vs cis does what we want it to do either.
Technically speaking, I am trans. I do not identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. But odds are, you don’t either. Not fully.
Not me shaking the table.
But for real. I’d argue that trans vs cis is still a trap. It is still a binary.
But I’ll pause here because we are not there yet. And by “there” I mean this new reality where we all may exist how we please without repercussions. We cannot simply dive into a reality that is not supported by those in power without risk of harm.
Because laws, cultural norms, and mainstream guidelines around gender have not caught up to the growing undercurrent of frustrations around it.
Instead, I believe we’re in an odd in-between time where so many of us are fed up with gender rules but unsure how to navigate our own existences within them. Hence: the rise of the term nonbinary.
Labels are important. They’re necessary. It’s so easy to deny the existence of a thing without a word for it that you can speak out loud.
But is that word nonbinary? Is this really where we want to land? Is nonbinary really the key to gender freedom its been touted as?
I don’t think so.
What I’m getting at is gender expansiveness. Gender freedom. Especially for Black and brown people of which western gender has never been accessible.
Freedom in that we all finally accept that there are as many gender expressions as there are people in the world.
One more time for the nosebleeds: There are as many genders as there are people in the world.
What if there was no one word to signify every bit of dissonance against a binary system? What if there were an endless list of labels for all of us that we can choose for ourselves?
Imagine how that’d reshape everything for the better. Imagine how much freer and healthier sports, dating, mental health, on and on and on would be.
And not just gender expansiveness. But that gender expression can grow and change and evolve over time. We are afraid to say this because those who hate trans and GNC people shame us for our evolutions as if these heauxs don’t also evolve.
Have you heard of aging? Self-discovery? Have you considered the fact that your plastic surgery is also gender-affirming surgery??
I dream of a day when we can call ourselves whatever we feel.
Right now, today? I’m Black, soft masc. Gently strapping, never mannish, always femme in my communion.
And I’m glad to be here as I am.
Appreciate you hearing me out. We’ve now reached the chill section of this two-part email (peep the irony on that one).
Welcome. Take a breather. It’s all smooth sailing from here on out…
I love comedy.
I love comedians that get it, that respect and honor the craft, who’ve taken the time to shape and mold their own voice.
Back in NYC, I tried doing stand-up because I love the art form just that much.
Ironically, the pomp and circumstance around stand-up are what caused me to stop.
I am chronically introverted. I can’t keep up with the mingling, the drinks after your set, the traveling from city to city, all the necessary ingredients to a long-standing comedy career.
But even after retiring my stand-up aspirations, I’m constantly seeking good comedians who continue to push boundaries while still punching up.
A lot of the old-head girlies are STRUGGLING with this right now. We won’t even get into the trainwreck that is former greats ruining their legacy in real-time.
We’ll, instead, focus on the many great comics out now, killing it. Mainly lesser-known folks, but bigger names as well.
So here are 3 new specials from the last few months I’ve watched that really seem to get it.
Sweet and Juicy - Sheng Weng
This special is new new. I’m talking not even a month old, but please know—Sheng Weng’s been in the game for more than a minute.
Sheng Wang has the sort of humor I’d recommend to just about anyone. Observational, smart, goofy. He’s found a way to talk about seemingly arbitrary things we all think about in a way that feels fresh and hilarious.
Feels simple. Good simple. The kind of simple that is not at all simple to create. And there’s not even a hint of a lull.
I belly laughed from the first joke to the very last. His transitions are smooth like butter, his delivery is so chill it’s like you’re watching a best friend perform.
The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous - Catherine Cohen
Fair warning: If you loathe humor latent with song, this is not the set for you.
She, quite literally, breaks into song within the first 30 seconds. But if you’re open to it, give her special a try because she somehow makes it all so endearing.
Her special weaves through straight-up stand-up and original, funny tunes till the very end with a sharp, witty sort of cadence that feels playful yet perfectionist.
There’s something really comforting about this style as a viewer. To know that the person on stage is more than prepared. You need not worry. You’re in good, comedic hands.
Thank You, China - Nimesh Patel
Okay first of all, why is his voice so sexy? Is Nimesh actually not funny at all and I’m just too bedazzled by his gruff New Jersey nonchalance to notice?
Hahah, no for real. This dude is classically, effortlessly, funny. Just funny. There’s a coolness to his delivery that almost makes it seem like he’s coming off the dome with brilliantly crafted jokes. And he’s quick.
A lot of his comedy is crowd work. He has an ongoing conversation with audience members, and it’s wild watching him bounce joke after joke off random folks in real-time. Then return to his set as if he planned that detour!
Especially fascinating to see when he’s dealing with a heckler. It’s like watching a magic trick (highly recommend watching his shorts on YouTube).
By the way, Nimesh’s full special is free on YouTube. Linked below…
That’s all folks! Thanks for reading.
Till next time,
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I feel like it's important to note that terms like man, woman, or nonbinary, as well as cis and trans, aren't meant to be perfect descriptors of our internal landscapes around gender. Like you get at here, if we wanted words to describe those things then each person would have to either write an essay or come up with a new word. Labels exist to provide a category that people can identify with, and helps build community amongst people who share experiences and the like. It's why the word "queer" is so great, in my opinion.
I'm black as well, but I still like the nonbinary label (even if most people expect the "default" there to be a white person, that's true of most things in my opinion (the first google images results for "gay man", "lesbian", and "band" are all white people, for example) and so I don't see any reason to move away from a label I like because of that.
To address your second note, I feel like it's a bit sticky to try and abolish the two genders that make up the gender binary, as there are many people cis and trans alike for whom "man" and "woman" are complete enough descriptors of their gender that they're satisfied with that. There are other words that don't have the antithetical nature you dislike, like genderqueer, but I think it's a flawed hope in general to hope for an endless series of labels because they stop serving any purpose at that point. If everyone has their own label, there's no community of people identifying with that shared experience anymore.
Anyway, those are just my thoughts. Respect and love to you for writing this and I hope to see more interesting takes in the future.