by The Bathtub Project
Date of Interview: August 24, 2016
Name: Sean Estelle
Location: Chicago, IL
If you were an underwater creature which one would you be?
My first go to is usually a seahorse because of their genders. Yeah, probably a seahorse. Seahorse or an octopus.
Do you feel like your gender effects your day to day interactions?
Yeah, I think in the daily. I think it’s like, a decision for me about how much I want to present. I think that when I first started thinking about my gender identity and unpacking it from my sexuality and realizing that I also have a lot of complicated feelings about gender and felt like I do not fit in the normal gender binary. That lead to me having a lot of conflicting internal feelings about my gender identity and I feel like that isn’t really present anymore and it’s much more stable. I’m so comfortable saying “yeah, I’m gender-queer” to a person and that’s it. And for me it’s questioning if I need to reflect that in my gender presentation and do I feel like it’s worth the battle of getting stares from people or like, having to explain myself or like, being confident enough or solid enough that if I’m going out in jeans and a t-shirt, that doesn’t mean that I’m not presenting femme enough to claim trans-ness.
Is being gender-queer the same to you as being trans?
Mmmm. I think it’s a part of trans-ness. I think it’s something that is definitely different than someone who identifies as a visible trans-women or trans-man. And I think, it sometimes feels like I… I go back and forth about how much of that is something that was developed in an academic context versus peoples lived experience and how much it actually matters when somebody does or doesn’t respect my pronouns… and how much it’s a part of the identity politics of my life. I know that for me queerness and gender-queerness is also about the revolutionary politics I have, and being an anti-capitalist and talking about the ruling class and fucking up rich people ::laughs::. Also, oppositionality but it still is an important part of it and to me being able to expand our definition of gender and like, honor the people who identify with historical trans-ness in the way of transitioning from male to female or female to male or things like that will also be able to have this in between space. It’s important.
What is something you feel accomplished with?
I feel accomplished that I was able to move to Chicago with very little money in the bank and no secure housing, no secure job and like, no real safety net and very quickly find a community of people and find a job and find stable housing and get my life on track. Start to come into myself in a really complete way. I feel like a much more complete person than I did a few years ago. I think that I like to tell myself that I feel accomplished in my organizing and I know that I hold a lot of power for how much organizing experience that I have. And I have the ability and the relationships to be able to move very serious things if I want to move very serious things. In a lot of ways that’s great and I can feel very accomplished in it but I think that I know, and I wake up terrified every day, that the fight we are up against with climate change and with everything else, it’s not moving fast enough. Sooo it’s very hard for me to feel accomplished when I also know what we are up against.
What are you most afraid of for yourself?
For myself… I think that I’m most afraid of not being able to ever find someone or people that I can be in romantic or whatever, deeper relationships outside of friendships. I think that I’m very good at that and I’m able to put a lot of emotional labor emotional investment into friendships and that sort of thing, I’m very good at that kind of emotional labor. But I’m very bad at being able to find the people that I’m able to be my most vulnerable neurotic fucked up self with. And like, have those people to share that space with. I go back and forth between really valuing and appreciating the relationships that I have and really wanting that and being really scared that I won’t find more. For lots of reasons and I think that’s the biggest thing, and also being a part of me continuing to put other people in front of myself and all of my emotional, physical and mental energy out into the world and not taking the time or space that I need in order to survive.
If you could tell your fifteen-year-old self something what would it be?
Ohhh… lord. Uhhh ::laughs::. I would say that it’s okay to not feel like you need to buy into this story of like, asking the girls to prom and having crushes on other girls and fitting that box. And that a lot of the underlying feelings that you feel, you should go find other queer people and know that the feelings of shame that you feel about sex and sexuality are being manufactured by everything around you and there’s a larger world out there and you should figure out what that is. ‘Cuz you’re there. You aren’t here.