Medicine: Reflections from beyond the binary


Queerness heals – this, I know.

As the Arts and Life Editor of Imprint, I am given opportunities to report on social justice initiatives happening on campus. In this issue, as you might have read, I attended the vigil for Trans Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, held by the GLOW Centre. It was my first time attending a vigil for Trans Day of Remembrance — in the past, I have never been able to attend for reasons I cannot fully explain. It just never felt ‘right.’ 

However, I attended this one in order to report on it, because I feel that this is a day that does not deserve to be ignored. Amidst a world of unrest and tragedy, it can be hard to absorb what is another day of mourning. At the vigil, there were many who could not be with us today, not only due to violence but because it is a day too personal and heavy to stomach, and their remarks were shared on their behalf. For the general public, however, Trans Day of Remembrance is not simply a day to reflect on those who have passed, it is a day to reflect on the structural knowledge that our institutions sit on, the norms and biases that shape our society and the ways we have come to think about sex and gender. Gender is not just an individual identity; it is a system of categorization and those who do so much as step into the diverse, freeing world outside of the gender binary are systematically discriminated against and targeted for violence. 

If we were all willing to look beyond the categories and peer into the world of the ambiguous, the subcultural, the fluid, and the free, perhaps we would come out of it having gained a patient, open-minded perspective on the world and each other. Perhaps the dozens of people who died within the last year at the hands of transphobic violence would still be alive. I don’t think that can be ignored, and for that reason Trans Day of Remembrance is not a day for transgender folk to grieve over those who have been killed, it is a day for everyone to consider why those people have been killed.

However, I want to state that the trans experience is not just suffering. Between gender dysphoria and incongruence, to violence and murder, if you are not trans and you do not know very much about our community you might believe that trans identity is a horrid thing to possess. This is a stigma in and of itself. It is not necessarily the identity itself that causes pain — to think that way is to blame transgender people for their personal struggles and systemic marginalization. Rather, the pain comes from living in a world where our bodies and identities are dissected and vivisected; our lives considered an abomination of biology and our deaths made into a spectacle. 

Queerness and transness is a balm. It is a healing salve. Through my own experiences of transness, I have watched myself metamorphosize; I cannot imagine the person I would be without it. I have gained a new perspective on life, I have met lovely people, I have personally experienced some of the beauties of modern medicine and I have been able to assert myself as the person I am. 

However, queer and trans lives are seen as a threat for this reason. The idea that one can live fluidly and create and reinvent themselves over and over again is a threat to the hegemonic structure of knowledge, where the sex and gender assigned to you at birth determines your identity and role in society for the rest of your days. 

In my classes, when we talk about what it means to ‘queer’ something, we discuss how we might look at something and find the oddness and ambiguity. We look for the ways it lives outside the margins of society’s dualisms of man or woman, heterosexual or homosexual and recontextualizes all that is taboo, mysterious, uncategorizable and strange. For this, I believe queerness is a force that will heal the world — it is a mechanism of love and community — looking at the face of all that is deemed ‘odd’ and embracing it. 

To quote Julian K. Jarboe, “God blessed me by making me transsexual for the same reason God made wheat but not bread, and fruit but not wine, so that humanity might share in the act of creation.” I hope that some day the world can recognize and honour what we, as queer and trans people, have to offer, rather than extinguishing us before we ever reach our full potentials. I hope that everyone can feel safe to reflect, to question, to experiment, to show vulnerability, to create, to love, and to heal.