This article first appeared in ENBY Magazine. The first in a series of columns exploring topics about identity.

What Do We Want?

The more I learn and think about gender, the more confused I become. I am still fraught with some of the same questions today, as I was when I first took a gender studies class almost eight years ago. Lots has changed since I sat wide-eyed in that dusty high school though — people ask for one another’s pronouns in online spaces — they may not mean they will be respected, but somewhere deep inside I am grateful for it.

There are actual living and breathing queer and trans people on TV, sometimes they are even portrayed as full, feeling people — of course I could complain that not enough of them are Black like me, or fat or disabled, but this is not the article for that.

Some countries like New Zealand, Malta, India, and even Canada allow people to use X as a gender marker on official documents; I would question the efficacy of such measures when so few countries educate or prepare workers to interact with non-binary folks, but the option is nice for those who want it.

Things are changing, some could even argue for the better, slowly but surely, and yet I find myself wondering what it is we — trans, queer, non-binary, gender diverse people, even as gays or lesbians — want. What is our desired outcome?

For every person who lives their life in contrast to the cisheteropatriarchy, in opposition of the gender binary, there will inevitably be (allo)cishet people who come out of the woodwork with the most asinine questions. One of the only potentially useful lines of questioning I have heard from cishet people is one that orients us closer to a common goal as a collective. “What do all of you want?”

It is a question that folks with privilege seem to ask out of ignorance, curiosity, or as an attempt to invalidate the needs and desires of those who are oppressed. It is a question that white people seem to ask anytime there is any semblance of revolutionary action or conversation regarding race. It is a question that escapes the lips of those who seek to silence any thought of anti-capitalism. It is a question men so often ask in regards to sexual assault and gender-based violence, and it is a question that cishet people ask seemingly in annoyance of the queer community’s continuous expansion and increased visibility. One side of me says, “Get mad and stay mad.” The other wants to use their question for good. I want to answer it and then analyze my every answer and squeeze it for every last drop of juice.

I cannot answer for the entire queer community — even believing in an inherent community within this gigantic and diverse group of people across the globe speaks to our naïveté — but I do think it is important we come together and try to figure it out. How can we make change without coming together as a collective? If we don’t get on the same page how can we figure out what it is we need? If we don’t organize across our vectors of oppression to topple the whole system over, then what was our supposed community really for?

I don’t know about you, but I would love a front-row seat to the inevitable rupturing and crumbling of systems of knowledge like cisheteronormativity, but what alludes me is the how. How do we get from today to that imagined tomorrow?

My ex-girlfriend’s sister asked an… interesting question. She asked why it is necessary for trans people to “distance themselves from their assigned sex.” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. I think what cishet folks forget is how deeply they too are affected by the imposition of the sex/gender binary. I think what cishet folks often misunderstand is that everything they say is steeped in privilege. I think what cishet folks fail to realize is that they too exist beyond a set of prescribed attributes. To cishet people I’d ask, in a similar vein, what would be possible, who would you be if you were not so invested in the maintenance of assigned sex? It begs the question: who could we all be if sex/gender was never assigned at birth? Is that the world we as queer and trans people are aiming to create?

In a world where no one is assigned a sex at birth, would we necessarily be free of gender? If so, would we be free of gendered violence? Would we be free of hierarchy? Would we be free of rape culture? Would we all be free to leave our homes at night without fear of danger? Would we be able to dress however we please? Would we be allowed to experiment? In a world where no one is assigned a sex at birth, would we be free to name ourselves in our entireties? Would we still be ridiculed, shamed, invalidated? Would we still have to deal with microagressions? Would we be free to shapeshift in peace? Would we be celebrated? Would we be respected?

In some utopic future where a baby is born and given full permission to blossom into self, would we still have use for the words some so adamantly cling to now? In a reality where I am heard and believed as I create myself, instead of being forced into a box I was assigned to, would I be able to define myself? Then could I call myself free?

I dream of a world where every single person gets to define themselves for themselves and comes home to a party celebrating their truth. I dream of a world in which every single person gets exactly what they need to be exactly who they are. I dream of a world where a baby’s health is more important than a baby’s sex. I dream of a world where children are believed. I dream of a world where children are taught the full breadth of human possibility. I dream of a world where elders are listened to and supported.

I dream of a world free of intergenerational trauma that makes it so hard for queer and trans people to be at home with our families. I dream of a world where every person has a full belly and a warm bed. I dream of a world where no woman, no LGBTQIA+ person and no child knows of any violence.

I cannot speak for every queer person, however, and I don’t seek to. I hope to do justice to the trans, queer, and non-binary communities in the space I take up in this column.

I plan to explore all the above and other essential questions around the concepts we call gender, race, sexuality, self, space and nation. I cannot however have these conversations alone, I am only me, so look forward to reading interviews and collaborations just as much as articles, creative fiction and my perspective as a Black queer agender person living and learning in Canada. I’m excited for all that is to come and all we have to learn together. I look forward to answering some of my many questions, and to coming up with thousands more.

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Jam Bridgett

Jam Bridgett

writer and visual artist around Tkaronto. exploring themes of love, revolution, community and queerness + sharing unpublished writing of mine. (they/them)