Art by Sophie Labelle (Assigned Male Comics)
I am a white, queer, middle class, nondisabled settler on Coast Salish land in the United States. As a genderqueer person, I still experience cis privilege based on the ways in which my body and gender are typically interpreted. I am still searching for language that represents the ways in which my gender and gender expression both align and conflict with dominant expectations. For now, I use the word “genderqueer” to represent the political nature of gender, its social construction, and my personal experience of gender as unfixed and difficult to define. I sometimes use the term “woman” because I was socialized as a girl/woman, because parts of myself do align with womanness, and because others’ interpretations of my body and gender in these terms shape my daily experiences. However, recently, in spaces where I feel I can be most authentic, I tend not to identify with this marker.
In October 2018, a memo that leaked from the Trump administration outlined attempts to remove Title IX protections based on gender identity by limiting such protections to “sex,” defined in the memo as “immutable biological traits identifyable [sic] by or before birth” (Green, Brenner, & Pear, 2018). When the memo leaked, I was taking a course called “Cultural and Social Foundations in Music Therapy” with Professor Susan Hadley; we happened to be critically examining cisgenderism that week in class. I struggled to locate myself within these conversations because of the ways I experience both cis privilege and nonbinary erasure. Specifically, in response to the Trump administration memo I felt relief that I would likely be protected from its most direct consequences due to the ways my gender is read, but I also felt personal rage that an identity I had only recently named within myself was being deemed nonexistent by those in power. The viral response and hashtag, we #willnotbeerased, resonated with me deeply.
I wrote the following song as a class assignment, but more honestly as an attempt to process my own responses to the week’s events. My pronoun usage in the song (“we,” “they,” “you,” “I”) places me both in and out of the dominant group, which reflects my own uncertainty in terms of my own position in the conversation. (You can listen to it here.)
“We Will Not Be Erased”
They’ve been saying it from the beginning
Behind closed doors, and in their eyes
Your worth, your breath, your life
But now they’re writing it on pieces of paper
As if you’re the means to justify an end
Those scraps of dignity and protection
They’re trying to bring them to an end
And say, “You do not, you do not, you do not exist
We didn’t make the rules, but we sure will stand by them
You’ve got science or God to blame
When we disrespect your name
But don’t blame us, it’s not our fault,
You just don’t exist
You do not exist”
Tell me, what makes a woman?
A love for housework, or long hair?
Or a suspicion that you can dismiss me,
That you don’t really have to care?
Tell me what makes a man
Besides being violent or strong?
Is it the anger that I feel
When you dismiss my life as Wrong?
You do not get to decide if I exist
Every time I say my name, feel me resist
With every breath I take
Watch your rigid framework shake
No matter what you say, I still exist
I still exist
Let trans folks eat their cereal
Let trans folks grow up to be old
Let trans folks go to work, to the doctor, to the bathroom
Let this not be fucking radical
This isn’t fucking radical
But we will not, we will not, we will not be erased
We deserve to just live without you all up in our face
We’re not your political tool
We’re not the exception to a rule
We’ve been here
We were real in the first place
And we will not be erased
Green, E. L., Benner, K., & Pear, R. (2018, Oct 21). ‘Transgender’ could be defined out of existence under Trump administration. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/21/us/politics/transgender-trump-administration-sex-definition.html
Victoria Fansler, MT-BC, is the senior music therapist for the Snohomish County Music Project in Washington State. Victoria works with indigenous children and families who have survived trauma, emphasizing systems-oriented practice. Victoria is a student in the Master of Music Therapy program at Slippery Rock University. email@example.com