Border-Crossing Is A Verb

Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. Los atravesados live here: the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulato, the half breed, the half dead; in short, those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of “normal.”

— Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera

Before transition, I was a proud outlaw. People grimaced at me in the streets and were rude to me in restaurants. I guarded my heart closely, and I found solace in the knowledge I walked in a long line of rule-breakers, exception-takers, border-crossers.

In the crucible of my transformation to male, I hit a wall of resistance to this queerness. People began to smile at me and pat me on the back. I discovered the pleasures of easy social acceptance–life as a regular guy.

But a terrible fear gnaws at the edges of my good fortune. Suddenly I had a secret. The carpet of straight male privilege could be yanked away at any moment. Suddenly I had something to lose. Mixture of shame, disgust and gratitude at the new-found easy warmth of strangers. In a way, all their kindness was mine by accident. It was never intended for people like me, and it is constantly on the verge of leaving.

Within fear, the gnarled face of hidden resentment. Why me? Why this burden? There is nothing queer about me, I silently protested to a jury box of thoughts. There is nothing wrong with me, I really meant, and nothing especially peculiar in my essence.

And that is true. Trans people are a small share of the population. But there is nothing so strange about us, and certainly nothing bad or wrong. We are simply a few more shades in nature’s infinite palette.

It is the militarized perimeter between male and female that leaves us outcast. That arbitrary line drawn on the human body, a failed attempt to define us out of existence, to will us away like a bad dream.

I suppose we did cross the border, but it was the border that double-crossed us. Arbitrary, unjust, imposed and maintained through violence–that is the nature of borders.

I was born a little gender-variant human being. I wasn’t born a queer, a border-crosser or an outlaw. I was shaped that way by the sex/gender regime. I am a sloping hill carved by weather and time into a jagged cliff. My body is a crime; you can call me a criminal. Our violation is in the very word for us. Trans: across; gender: category. We are rule-breakers, exception-takers, logical impossibilities.

I am as I am. I was born a stranger in a strange land, and now I dwell in a land still stranger. I thought I could go home. But you can’t uncross the border. The crossing itself changes you. You can only cross, be crossed, and crisscross it again.

Hebrew, ivri, one from beyond
I find Sefarad in the heart of Aztlán
No state on the face of the earth is my home
My home is the One who goes where we go

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6 comments

  1. Jamie Ray

    You are queer, just not visibly queer. You are an outlaw, because you are a man who is actively trying to challenge misogyny. You are resisting the pull of assimilation because you know, based on our history, that it offers a false sense safety and isolates us from our own people.

  2. urbanmythcafe

    You have thought deeply about this. As a person who has always dwelled in this no-man’s land between the walls, it is tempting to dream of the freedom and normalcy on the other side.

  3. Lesboi

    I like the idea of being a renegade gender outlaw and I bet you do too. Part of what is making it ok in my mind for me to join the male gender is that I don’t intend to let its walls confine me nor DEfine me and I plan on being one HUGE femininist male that makes up his own rules about what it means to be male. Don’t let the assimilationists get to you! Only YOU get to define who, what and how you will live. Fist bump to you brother!

  4. Pingback: Circling Back To Queerness | Today I Am A Man

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