The other day, I came across a set of tweets by Australian writer and LGBT+ activist Alexander Leon which really struck a chord in me:
In the past few years, I've been doing a lot of figuring out what's really me and what parts of my identity are creations, parts of a persona I built -- unknowingly -- to protect myself. And like Alexander Leon, I've become grateful for this opportunity for self-discovery.
I started to wonder what a world would look like if queer kids didn't have to "sacrifice authenticity to minimise humiliation," if, in our adulthood, we weren't forced to parse out which parts of ourselves are constructed and which parts are authentic, if we didn't have to go through this process of "unlearning."
The tweets were adapted from an essay that Leon wrote about this concept of having to unlearn your own identity. In it, he writes about how, from an early age, he felt that his whole life was a performance even before he knew why he was performing. And when he came out, he was unable to shake the persona he'd created in order to protect himself from the disapproval of teachers and ridicule of peers.
In truth, I didn't know who my actual self was. And how could I? The barely out version of me was a collection of fragments, pieces of me which I’d left to atrophy rammed up against pieces I’d contorted into unsightly shapes to protect myself.
For me, it's not so much that I've been performing, pretending to be someone I'm not. Instead, I've been behaving in the only ways I thought I could. I didn't know there were other ways to be. Even after I realized I was queer, it took me years to realize that I didn't have to be attracted to men at all, and still more to realize I didn't have to be strictly one of two genders. I didn't know there were other options, other ways to be. Figuring out who I am has required unlearning of societal expectations and intense introspection.
"It's a task that involves enormous emotional and spiritual upheaval," Leon writes, "which many of us are forced to do alone, with scant resources, or little in the form of mentorship."
It makes me wonder: how would my life have been different if I had access to role models and mentors, if I knew from the beginning that it was possible to exist outside the gender binary? What would a world look like in which queer people weren't required to go through this "massive, existential and deeply difficult exercise" alone? Where would we be if we did have resources and mentors to guide us through this process? If we didn't have to go through this process of unlearning in the first place, if we could be our authentic selves from the beginning?
This world, a world in which queer folks can be themselves from day one, is what we want to imagine in Issue 1 of Inclusive Future Magazine: Visions From a Gender Inclusive Future. And, as Leon points out in the end of his essay, it's a world that we're in the process of building, "a reality we are all continuously creating" by being ourselves and deconstructing the gender binary.
[M]y struggle, as exhausting as it may be, is a gift through time to the generations of queer people yet to come. My authenticity, our authenticity, allows us to create a reality in which young queer people will see an opportunity to thrive not as an actor forced to play a part, but simply as themselves, side-stepping the trauma of the closet and living their truth from day one.
It's for this reason that the editors of Inclusive Future and I wanted to create this magazine. Envisioning a future that includes all of us, and considering what that would mean for all aspects of society, is an important step in creating the reality we wish to see.
If you want to be part of this project, we are currently accepting submissions from trans, nonbinary, agender, and genderqueer people! Submissions are open until July 15th. Visit our submit page for more info.
You can also back us on Kickstarter! As I'm writing this, we're 12% of the way to our goal with 21 days to go! Backing us on Kickstarter is the fastest way to get your hands on a physical or digital copy of our magazine. We also have all sorts of cool merch availible, like stickers, art cards, and tote-bags.