exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Tag: Gender

Sean Estelle

Sean Estelle


Date of Interview: August 24, 2016

Name: Sean Estelle

Age: 25

Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs

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.

Anna McCormally

Anna McCormally

Date of Interview: August 19, 2016

Name: Anna McCormally

Age: 26

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Location: Washington, DC


What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about other people, I’m really interested in relationship dynamics. Specifically between parents and children. And also between women and other women. I think there’s a lot to be explored in relationship dynamics, so I’m really interested in that, and that’s what I write about. I’m passionate about talking to people, which makes it funny that you aren’t talking right now… I really like listening to people. Listening to them talk about what they’re up to.

Do you feel like you are given opportunities, as a woman, to take up space?

Yeah, I think I’m really lucky. I remember really distinctly being in a writing class in college and having a professor in an individual conference ask me if I felt like there was a gender dynamic in the class or if I was uncomfortable. And I didn’t feel like there was, but I remember really appreciating that he asked that. Especially because I majored in economics and there was definitely a gender dynamic in those classrooms that we didn’t really talk about… So generally, yes. I feel like I have the space I need and that’s really nice. It’s so lucky. I know that many people aren’t that lucky.

What do you think of relationship dynamics between women, family, and others?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about, specifically, women that I’ve known in my life who I haven’t forged close relationships with because of gender. Or because of our relationships with men. Or with women I’ve known who I would have been friends with except that, somebody got jealous or upset or hurt. Mainly with a relationship with a third person. And it’s funny to me to think about what friendships I would have had with those people if that “thing” hadn’t happened. I’m interested in that, a lot. Just… missed opportunities. I feel sometimes that patriarchy has robbed me of many important female friendships that I didn’t have because I was super worried about my body or being the most beautiful. Which is a thing that I spent a lot of time worrying about in middle school and high school. And it really kept me from the  important thing which is just doing whatever you want all the time. And helping other people do whatever they want all of the time. If I could have spent more time doing that instead of worrying about… the fucking patriarchy. If that wouldn’t be a factor I think I would be a happier person ::laughs::. It’s very melodramatic but sometimes how I feel. I’m interested in parent/child dynamics… I think it’s pretty incredible that you can grow an additional person from your body. That you can go from being one person, then two people, then just grow a distinct person… that’s crazy. I still think that’s crazy. And there are all these implications of it. I’m interested in that because my mom, she became really upset when I told her I wanted tattoos and piercings. And I think part of that was a possessiveness over my body that she made. That I was going to damage this thing that she put so much time into. And that is the thing. I think it makes sense, she did all this work for me, then I got a bad tattoo… It’s like, “Sorry! I guess I just broke this thing you made!”

Have you had experiences as an “adult” of creating your own family?

Yeah. It’s been really fun to get to know my brother better. He is married and lives nearby and they just had a baby, which is the best part of my life. She is so healthy and smart… Learning to walk, which is crazy, having these little strong legs that are working. It’s fun to rediscover your siblings as grownups. And my partner and I do some pretty intentional family building things. Like, we always eat together and turn off music and turn off the TV and eat dinner with forks and knives. We set the table and sit down together and that feels really nice. As we get older, I feel like I’m doing more traditional family stuff in a way that is similar to how I grew up. It’s funny to see how you do that without meaning to. We’ve started going to Meeting for Worship together on Sunday and cooking dinner together. When I think about traditions from my childhood I think about holidays. Specifically Christmas morning and Thanksgiving. It’s funny to negotiate that with a new person. It’s weird to value being with this person on specific days that I don’t actually care about, but it matters to me that we’re together. Thanksgiving is objectively a horrible holiday, but I want to eat mashed potatoes with you. I wouldn’t say that he and I have traditions that we do, but we have routines. Like, every month or so we’ll have a night where we order Thai food and eat it in bed and watch a bad movie together. And that’s a thing we’ve done and a space we’ve created that we come back to time and time again. Which is so funny, I just realized what I’ve said. “We order in Thai food and watch a movie together”, like that’s our tradition. Everybody does that together, but it’s like this specific thing and space that is ours that we can come back to over and over again.

What are you afraid of for yourself?

I’m afraid of not communicating well. Of thinking a thing or feeling something and not expressing it well. Just doing a terrible job of saying a thing and then… as a result of that someone’s feelings are hurt or there’s a conflict of some sort. I feel like, if you can talk about stuff you can feel a lot of problems. So I feel frustrated when I can’t or when I’m not articulating my point well. I heard somebody say that “The great tragedy of human experience is that you can never give another person a direct experience of your consciousness” and I really identify with that.

Arin Jayes

Arin Jayes


Date of Interview: June 16, 2016

Name: Arin Jayes

Age: 25

Pronouns: They/Them and He/Him

Location: Washington, DC


Is there any part of your body that you feel is missing?

Is there any part of my body that I miss… It’s weird, I kind of miss my period in a weird way. I don’t know, I think that there was this sense of release that I got from my period that I’ve lost since being on T. And… I don’t know, I’m not necessarily thinking about being on T for forever. So that might be something that I might want to have again. Not really sure.

What are your thoughts on how gender is perceived?

Umm, I think that gender is a performance. And gender can be very creative. And fun to play with. But it can also be extremely constricting and suffocating for a lot of people. But I think as I’ve become more masculine, I’ve been able to kind of bring out the more feminine parts of myself, and embrace the queen that I am. Because I felt like, when I was perceived as a woman, that people would see me… I would walk down the street and people would see my, and like… they would think that “oh, this is a cis woman” and I was thinking to myself, “No, this is like a flamboyant gay man, who likes to wear blouses and glittery things in heels” But that isn’t what people see. But now that I’ve been able to pass more I’ve been more comfortable exploring those sides more, which is cool.

What are you passionate about?

I’m really passionate about art. I really like making embroidery and textile art. And I’m really passionate about gardening. I’m really passionate about social justice issues and helping people that are experiencing poverty. I’m passionate about my friendship and relationships.

Do you think the way you were raised impacts what you are passionate about, and how you live your life artistically and as an activist?

Yeah! Well, definitely artistically. My mom is a landscape painter, and I was always raised to appreciate the importance of art. And when I was little, there were always crayons and stuff, and art supplies for me to practice with, so definitely in that way. In terms of social justice, I kind of had to go out on my own. A lot of my beliefs are a lot more radical than people in my family, which is something we’re growing in, and being able to understand each other. But I kind of had to do that on my own.

What are you most afraid of for yourself?

Well like, in the immediate future, I am getting top surgery tomorrow. So you know, I am afraid of discomfort and pain and all that. But part of it is trying not to cling to pleasure and feeling good, and to recognize that you aren’t always going to feel good. And that’s okay. And experiencing a little bit of pain is totally worth it to have an awesome chest. So I’m a little bit afraid of that. And in the wake of Orlando last week, I’m definitely feeling more scared in public. And feeling like having a gay club targeted is a punch in the gut to the queer community because, you know, it is a place where people can explore their vulnerability in a space where you are surrounded by queer people. And everyone is having fun and embracing who they are, and that’s a really important space for a lot of people. And so I think the fact that THAT was targeted as a space for queer people on a night with queer people of color was a huge blow to our community. That really scares me.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I don’t know. I’m kind of young, so I don’t think I’m that far yet in my life, with a lot of things, like a career and stuff. But you know, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot with figuring out who I am, and I feel like I’ve really gone out on my own, and grown up a lot. And I feel like I’m kind of living my truth right now. Which feels like a huge accomplishment.

What do you think of relationships? Platonic, romantic, sexual, and otherwise?

Well, I’m polyamorous and so I think that’s it’s possible to love more than one person. And having multiple relationships exposes you to the beautiful diversity of people being able to be all your various selves around all these various people. And that’s really important to me. And recently, I’ve been trying to explore prioritizing my friendships and other sorts of platonic relationships as much as I prioritize my partnerships. Especially when you’re poly and have a lot of partners, you tend to give a lot of time to your partners because that’s really fun, but… you need to make time to make sure you can see your friends. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time with my friends, and making sure that a lot of people are on board with taking care of me during top surgery. You know, that kind of stuff.

What are some things that you are hopeful for before you turn 40?

Hmmm… Trying to think of the most important thing, but I feel like that’s a lot. I think by then I would like to feel like I’ve started a family… But not necessarily the way one normally thinks of starting a family. I may live in a family with multiple couples in it, or may share the raising of a child with someone, or something. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. That family might include one person or two people or three. I don’t know, but at that point, I want to feel like I have a family.

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