Subversion: Or, Why I Always Say Those Things

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Being trans is subversive. We turn the supposed bedrock on which gender and sex are constructed into gravel. We make the hierarchies of gender question the premise on which their reign over our lives is based. Initially, these institutions and conventions seem indestructible, but we kick them over like careless children toppling sandcastles on the beach. This power is granted to us by our mere existence. We threaten that which makes a person man or woman, and this scares certain members of the heteronormative majority. This power is dangerous, hence some of us temper the degree to which we advertise our subversion, as a matter of survival. By nature, we are transgressive.

I am subversive. In this moment I exist in two states, one authentic, and one a retreat, a willing abdication of my transgressive power in order to survive. I am Mina, but at work, I am still him, yack. And as this dualism–I use this term as I don’t think I ever represented the gender binary well–burns down its coil, my subversive nature asserts itself more readily, and also more carelessly; I am leaving Korea soon, and that will be the final death blow to him. But, even in this retreated, surrendered form I chafe and writhe under convention, ceremony, and power structures. I always have. Is this an aspect of being trans and having spent so much of my life not admitting this significant aspect of myself? In the past, for short periods I could temper my radical maladjustment, for the sake of my career, a relationship, or some other material reward. But, then I would get bored. I poke and pick at whatever system I find myself in.

School, ha! What a joke–irony, I know. But, this sentiment is a reflection of a younger version of me. Psychology, I’ve written about being mentally ill, the systems in place in this sphere were never taken seriously, and only after decades of practice can I use these services as I need, always on my own terms, seemingly anyway. University, fun, but I enjoyed engaging with it on my own terms too. I freely skipped class, spent my times recreationally and applied myself only when needed. Now, after six years as an international school teacher in an environment of pompous elitism, imperialistic curriculum assimilation, rigid authority, and an osmotic relationship with a culture of conformity and control, I find it hard to not constantly pull at the string to unravel the ideology used to enforce this pedagogical system. I can see the end, but the temptation to poke and pry at the nerve fibres of my institute is too enticing. And, I do this to my own detriment. If I can finish the race, I’ll be rewarded. So, why? Why flaunt the system?

I suppose I display a deep cynicism towards life. This used to be coupled with ennui, but the process transitioning has mostly taken care of that. I propose that this element of my character is an internalised adaptation in order to deal ridiculousness of my own life and gender experience, as a non-transitioning person (I spent 30 years like this; for most of it I was aware that I wanted to be a girl at some level). I question and criticise my surroundings in or to express my own subversion of those cultural conventions. Though, most of my friends throughout my life have been queer (and I mean this in the homosexual sense, but also the sense that they didn’t fit into an easily defined binary), internationally, in places like Bangladesh, or in my work environment in Korea I’ve not been able to select my social environment. In a sense this is good, difference is important, and interacting with all types of people is enriching. But when I am in a mainstream heteronormative social structure, what else can I do but pick at it. This is true of going to the gym in the past with male friends in Korea before coming out, or working in an institute that only celebrates diversity in the most conventional, shallow, and self-interested ways.

I am curious if this transgressiveness is a shared trans experience. Ironically, I am not nonbinary in my gender presentation, I align with the feminine. But I wonder if this rebellion of sorts won’t end with even the realisation of this alignment. Is it built into who I am?

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