thank you to all the homies who hold it down for me. every. damn. day. the loves sustains me.
table of contents - what i mean when i say - disclaimer - forward - where do we begin? - but whatâ€™s your practice? - but letâ€™s talk about language - colonialism and gender - making space for the erased, for the resisting - the prison industrial complex + gender + prison abolition - the resistance never ended - what are some ways folks are describing themselves nowadays? - jender?
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- a quick note on appropriation: - a note on profit, survival, and my part: - a note on republishing - sources/other ways of learning
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what i mean when i say: (some of these terms aren’t mentioned in the actual comic, but i still think they’re important.) cisgender identity and cissexism: when i say cisgender (cis for short) i’m saying that someone identifies with and consents to the gender that society chose for them and raised them under. cissexism describes the system that reinforces a gender binary and erases both binary trans and nonbinary trans identities while creating barriers to basic survival and existing for those who do not identify as cisgender. personally, i think of trans identity as a way of describing one who transcends the gender that was forced upon them. some trans folks identify with the male/female category, and some opt out altogether. For the folks who opt out of our understandings of male/female gender binary, i describe them as nonbinary. because language is constantly evolving and changing, i leave these terms open-ended intentionally to make space for the diverse range of possible identities that can fit into these identities. binary means involving or consisting of two things. binary thinking is only thinking there are two options at opposite ends. hence, male/female gender binary. lastly, using a colonizer’s language (english) to describe identities that existed long before european colonizers realized there were genders outside their western binary system is troubling, to say the least. for THOUSANDS of years People of Color have recognized countless different expressions of gender identity and have their own languages to describe them.
transmisogyny: so, misogyny is a term to describe violence and hatred against women and misogynoir (term coined by Moya Bailey) describes how this violence specifically impacts Black womxn. transmisogyny is a term that exposes the violence specifically impacting trans womxn/ femme identities. (i’ve never seen the term transmisogynoir, but given the way the world works i’m sure it exists. if not, it should.) transphobia: i don’t use the term “transphobia” or any “phobia” because i’m pretty sure that’s not what we mean. there are folks who are actually living with phobias. instead of degrading terminology associated with mental health, we can turn to the other terms that more effectively describe the oppression we experience. i reference the west a lot. i mean it both politically and geographically. the geographic west describes europe, the united states, etc. politically, i’d argue even governments of Black and Brown country subscribe to western politics and beliefs (oligarchical political systems, capitalism, and so on). heteronormativity is the idea that every sexual and romantic encounter should be or mimic a cis male and cis female monogamous interaction. this heteronormative mindset considers every other expression of intimacy unacceptable or simply not valid. when i say the state i mean the government and its entities and various branches. the status quo, name brand, mainstream: (see off brand introductory comic)
disclaimer: for this comic, i use terms like “queer”, which can evoke painful memories for many, but/and for some it has evolved and been re(claimed) in response to a lack of representation. it also helps us disrupt traditional understandings of gender and sexuality. i recognize that terms like “LGBTQ+” and its many, may variations come from western eurocentric understandings of gender and sexuality, which definitely doesn’t work for all of us. i personally use queer as a way of including those often excluded such as those identifying as asexual, aromantic, pansexual, etc. i’ve had to accept that because of the complexities of this universe, and the history of us being forced to learn languages and gender from our colonizers, i’ll never be able to get the language to a point i can encompass everyone. i seek to create space that can unite us without collapsing our unique distinct histories for the purposes of “solidarity”. as a nonbinary person i’m trying to draw attention to a set of identities left out of many trans conversations (especially in the mainstream), so that’s why i switch between saying just “nonbinary” and both “trans and trans nonbinary” as umbrella terms to remind us of the challenges of using the english language to describe a genders from many different cultures and languages. if you’re looking for a lot of numbers and statistics, well, you’re going to be very disappointed. i present historical accounts and i critically question why so many people value numbers over lived experiences. also, why do we need statistics just to be heard? anyway, i actually work to leave out statistics and the way the west has conditioned me to think about “truths” and how to verify them. instead i try to solely depend upon our testimonies and personal archives. the topics i cover in this comic vary in heaviness so please be aware and take care of yourself. i try my best to create accessible content that doesn’t weigh the audience down, but instead helps the audience feel grounded in the story.
forward: i started this comic during the summer of 2016 while trapped in a tiny white rural town in canada for an “artist residency program” going nowhere. during this time, orlando, baton rouge, st. paul and many other spaces were rupturing. i think i broke a few times. but here i am. the story i tell is very important for me because i constantly think of the spiritual and ancestral violence of colonization. i think about how colonization invented a lie that the world was forced to believe for centuries. it is my belief that when we uncover the histories that our oppressors have hidden and erased from our ancestry and consciousness, we unlock parts of ourselves that the oppressors worked so hard to deny from us. i think this is an important way of bringing us closer to our ancestors and to a better understanding of ourselves. i think a lot about how activists work to arm us with political and economic power, but what about ancestral power? white supremacy is attacking every fiber of my being, not just the parts of me that can be translated into politics and economics. that’s one of the reasons i’m hesitant to latch onto ideologies and theories originating out of the west. i’m not interested in only having conversations that only use the language power understands. don’t get me wrong, a lot of my homies, elders and ancestors learned from these various schools of thought, but my ancestors were anti-capitalists long before folks like karl marx existed. when do we prioritize that ancestral knowledge? (personally, i don’t like centering the philosophies and thoughts of old white men.) i want to honor the philosophies that are never taught in academic spaces and are dismissed as myth. people of color aren’t myths. it is also my belief that ancestral power is a type of power that our oppressors fear the most. viewing “powers” only in terms that the ruling class understands runs the risk of being co-opted. or could be another way of trying to use the “master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house”, as Audre Lorde warns us about. so it doesn’t make sense to me to challenge capitalism by putting it in Blackface. just because Black and Brown folk are doing it doesn’t make it any less violent. our ancestors weren’t capitalists. that system was born out of chattel slavery and colonialism.
when we think about our education systems and the way mainstream media functions, everything is designed to cut us off from our existence before colonization. instead our systems label our history as primitive, backwards, evil, mythical*, etc. my hope is that we can use our histories to reclaim our indigeneity and reject empires and their scams that have tricked us for over 500 years. i’m not saying every culture that europeans tried to colonize had trans and trans nonbinary identities in the same way, but i can say that i’ve seen enough of cultures around the world to know that many, many, many people were open to and embracing of many diverse representations of gender and gender expression. *there’s a lot of stigma around describing certain non-western cultures as mythical or mystic or whatever and rightfully so. europeans colonized us and then exotified and othered us. but is there a chance for reclamation? you’re gonna see a lot of examples where nonbinary and trans folks were not only honored and respected in society, but also seen as healers, mystics, etc. i use the term “indigeneity” because, as a Black person who had their culture, language, ancestry, land, and everything my ancestors found to be familiar ripped away, i was constantly told growing up that i had no origins. that indigeneity was reserved for people who could prove their kinship ties or trace their ancestry somehow. (note to universe: it’s incredibly fucked up to demand that we somehow show receipts of our ancestry when it was robbed from us.) and every time someone who can verify their indigenous roots uses the word “Indigenous” in a way that intentionally excludes so many of us, it hurts. we all have our own origin stories. and mine isn’t that one day my ancestors materialized in chains speaking english and worshipping my colonizers’ idea of god, not our God(s). taking a step back, this idea that Black people are without origins is true throughout what many of us call the “Americas” and especially in “Latin America” where the mainstream constantly erases (dark skin) Afro-Latinx people. the world tries so hard to erase our vital contributions to developing and growing this Earth we share. everyday. like the white supremacy that seeks to destroy it, indigeneity as it relates to People of Color is global. i don’t mean to alienate folks who don’t have a spiritual leaning, or are atheist, or are even identifying with a religion that colonized the world. it’s quite literally impossible to tell this story or any story of colonization without discussing spiritually. it’s hard for me, but i KNOW i can’t tell an honest story without it.
also, i do know people who practice a religion associated with colonization in addition to participating in, for example, a central African belief system. i mean, that’s what a lot of our ancestors did when they were forced to learn a new religion but wanted to maintain their cultures. they were incredibly clever in their resistance. today we have afro-christian religions such as Haitian/Southern Louisianian Vodou (yes, like the one Disney villainizes), Santería in Cuba,etc. but even today the mainstream twists our spirituality into “witchcraft” to be hunted. i did notice growing up in a christian household that we were allowed to speak of “spirits” or “holy ghosts” when referencing christianity. but the moment i do this but reference my African ancestry, i’m... wrong? white supremacy. after reading this comic, you’ll see why it’s hard for me to NOT speak about spirit (however you define it) and spirituality v(however you define it). i grew under a religion that told me my being was corrupt; that their God didn’t make mistakes but the universe somehow slipped up with me. i have to bring this up my experience in the church because i want to drive home what it means to study the very creation of the universe and then find out you were never meant to be a part of it. and to hear your loved ones tell you that. every day. but then one day in school i learned about how First Nation tribes had origin stories to describe how their Creator created spirits who embodied multiple genders. and then i personally discovered that throughout human history, there have been many cultures and spiritual belief systems that honored people like me, and how our colonizers targeted them. fast forward to me growing up in tulsa, oklahoma and it’s clear that we live with these colonial legacies to this day. i was raised under the very religion that sought to kill such a crucial part of me--my nonbinary gender identity. i came up with this comic originally as an “open letter” (open comic?) because i needed a way to talk to my Black Southern family about nonbinary gender identity. the format shifted from a short letter to a full blown comic book so i could better represent the histories and include more perspectives. i try to keep the history and language as accessible as possible. it is my hope that this history, even if it doesn’t directly tie to our own ancestry, can help guide us in exploring and discussing more of our ancestry and the ways we think about AND treat gender in our everyday lives. as someone whose ancestors were kidnapped from Africa, i am also struggling to re-establish an ancestral connection that our european colonizers violently severed.
i understand that my folks grew up in a society that didn’t affirm or acknowledge my identity, so i didn’t want to blame them for it. i also didn’t want to blame myself for not having the capacity to break down what it meant in a way that kept me feeling whole and didn’t wear me out. it’s important to me, as a nonbinary person, to proclaim to this colonized world that gender identities existing outside of the male/female binary weren’t recently made up or a part of some trendy online fad. i’ve heard someone demand the abolition of gender because it was invented by the west. i strongly disagree. the west didn’t invent gender they just controlled it through violence. which is why spirituality will keep surfacing in these conversations, i’m learning how First Nation folks resisting on this continent are refusing to speak about gender and sexuality in the eurocentric manner that neglects the connection gender can have to spirituality and culture. i was really shocked to see so many people from around the world--many of whom have never been in contact with each other-- have very similar understandings of trans and trans nonbinary people as healers, spiritual leaders, etc. as an aspiring community healer and someone who’s struggling to reclaim the spirituality of their ancestors, i always think of myself and my role in our collective liberation. so creating this was...unsettling. when i first learned this history, i felt like i had just discovered the biggest scam of all time. how could so many cultures have such radically inclusive understandings of gender (and sexuality)? why hasn’t anyone brought this up before? why do the current conversations i hear around gender and sexuality center western understandings as if they are absolute truth? i’ve read countless articles on gender that try to defend on our trans and/or trans nonbinary identity while conveniently ignoring the forces responsible for robbing us of gender inclusivity in the first place: white supremacy.
and while i’m at it, and i say this out of love for our people, i hope the self-identified “hoteps” and “Pro-Black” people who claim that queerness, trans and nonbinary identities were invented by the west learn from this history and do better, i hope African politicians who claim the west invented these identities while accepting money from white american evangelicals to support their anti-LGBTQ+ legislation learn from this history and do better. but i also know some aren’t ready to accept it. ideologies like that claim to be anti-white supremacy and pro-Black and Brown but in reality they’re doing EXACTLY what our white colonizers did to us; villainize and erase our identities for their own quest for power. (i’d love to insert that iconic Tyra Banks rant here because we are/were rooting for you. hell we showed up to the protest and were brutalized by the state for all of us. so take this history and take responsibility for yourself.)
after saying all that, i’ll end with this: i present this history as honestly as i can and i acknowledge my limitations.
i present to you all: my gender is My Gender.
眀栀攀爀攀 搀漀 眀攀 戀攀最椀渀㼀
戀甀琀 眀栀愀琀ᤠ猀 礀漀甀爀 瀀爀愀挀琀椀挀攀㼀
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a quick note on appropriation: i outlined just how complex each gender identity around the world is. and how they all had different purposes ranging from healing to officiating commitment and wedding ceremonies. so if you ain’t a part of that culture, then you quite literally can’t and shouldn’t appropriate something that doesn’t belong to your culture. when FB opened their gender identity options to include Two Spirit, i remember immediately finding testimonies of people calling out others for appropriating this term. not having a term, culture, language, and/or knowledge to fully embrace your gender hurts, but please don’t steal other cultures. that’s another type of pain.
a note on profit, survival, and my part: with everything i presented, i couldn’t imagine charging for this history. i don’t think folks really understand this until you’ve been that person scrambling to find money to afford the bus to get to work. this history belongs to all of us and i pull from so many folks to put this together. even though they didn’t make something specifically for me, i was able to benefit from it and compile it and present it to you all. i’m trying to become a better educator(whatever that means) and healer, and this also means detaching myself from capital. i try to do this to the best of my ability given the current world we live in. if i’m always trying to acquire something that my oppressors invented to control me and the world, i don’t think i can focus on creating honest work. it’s also not fair to me for people to expect me to charge and/or blame me for not making a living off of the work i do. i’ll make my “living” when my people are free and i can actually live in a world free of cissexism, white supremacy, and capitalism. i must survive and this project took months to pull together. so i would greatly appreciate donations that could help me stay afloat as i work to put out more work. as i mentioned in my last comic (and i’m tired as hell so why not just copy and paste?), i always emphasize this being a free resource and comic. as a Queer Black non binary low-income artist (currently no-income), i am reminded that i must advocate for myself and all exploited People of Color. often, white people view us as expendable resources and refuse to pay us for our labor. i am also reminded that we can’t live off exposure. they ask us to pose for them so their fashion line can have some diversity or submit a reflection on violence, but never want to pay us. meanwhile, white folks are cashing out at these big companies like buzzfeed for capitalizing on our resistance. meanwhile, white people in academia, at non-profit organizations, and throughout this world are paid and valued for doing what they expect us to do for free. this is the same white supremacy that enslaved us to work for free and slaughtered us to steal our land, resources, and cultures. it just looks more polite these days.
a note on republishing: if someone wants to publish my comic through a big publication they MUST pay me, but the comic they republish has to remain free. steal from me or my homies and get dragged. #buzzthieves i put a lot of thought, time, energy, emotion, attitude, and love into my art and iâ€™d love to keep producing for free. projects like this can be supported through my patreon. iâ€™m also accepting donations at any point at the following links: - cash.me/$jkharij - PayPal.Me/jkharij - venmo.com/jkharij feel free to check out my patreon at www.patreon.com/jkharij
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for taking time out of this chaotic world to read this.
sources/other ways of learning: sources: - Queer (In)justice by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, & Kay Whitlock - Captive Genders edited by Eric A. Stanley & Nat Smith - Marriage Will Never Set Us Free by Dean Spade & Craig Willse (although i didn’t cite this, i read this two years in a row because i thought it was an incredible deconstruction of the issues with the marriage equality movement) - pbs’ map of “gender diverse cultures” - “when did girls start wearing pink?” published by the smithsonian - beyond stonewall: how gay history looks different from chicago by Timothy Stewart-Winter - my lived experiences other ways of learning: - Critical Resistance’s abolitionist toolkit - Black and Pink’s free online abolitionist course - Ella Baker Center’s justice team toolkit (for creating alternatives to police in your community) (all of these groups have a ton of resources on their sites) - your local abolitionists/anarchists and the world around you
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