PERPETUAL SHIFT AND THE TRANS EXPERIENCE
Through living a transgender experience, I am very much familiar with this notion of ‘shift’.
Shift to me is not moving to something entirely new. It is rather about the past taking a new form.
I tend to look through a lens of perpetual shift: of layers and repetition, of time and overlapping experiences. Isolation is an extension of the entrapment that I have felt. Limitations of the body now become limitations of the current environment.
These conditions stir up notions of doubt, performativity, and perseverance.
As I am accustomed to living through one type of transition and all its uncertainty, this move into lockdown is strange, but not altogether foreign. There is a degree of power in being able to sit with the discomfort of ambiguity, even to thrive in it. Within the transgender experience, there is an element of internal victory that surrounds agency over one’s body and making a home in one’s skin.
A little refurnishing here and there does not go astray, and I have been very fortunate to medically transition through hormones and top surgery. The same goes for the building in which we are isolating in. We try our best to make it as comfortable as possible for the time being, adjust it to suit our needs.
These small refurbishments create freedom for ourselves, and redefine what it means to have autonomy. And whilst it may never be perfect, we have now made it our own, and must take pride in the adaptation of our current environment.
With the present lockdown conditions implemented, the theatrics of presentation plays out on a heightened scale. There is an element of vulnerability in the mere idea of exposing a corner of your home to the world, for all to gaze upon.
I have found it similar to the vulnerability put upon someone sitting outside the cisgender default. People are curious to know more: the inside of their tutor’s home, the unknown partner of a classmate that walks past during a tute. This is similar to the prodding and poking, the many questions of others when they find out you are transgender.
You feel like everyone is constantly peeking in to try and see inside your home, your private life, without explicitly asking for a tour.
The importance of presentation becomes more evident when you can only connect with others through the dimensions of a screen.
Only a portion of your self is accessible to others, whilst you, as a whole, are locked away within your dwelling. This idea permeates into the realm of a transgender understanding.
Having only but a keyhole to express outwardly what is known inside, one must become an excellent communicator, not simply with the exterior world, but also inwardly. It is a journey of self-discovery. For me, it was reconnecting with my femininity after “passing”, whilst still holding onto my male identity. It involved learning and unlearning what it means to be a man, and what kind of a man I aspire to walk through this world as.
This transgender state of being enforces a degree of patience that arrives in continual waves. Waiting to come out, waiting for acceptance, for appointments, for legal documents to be processed. In isolation, this patience is yet another surge that we learn to tolerate. However, the scale of this perseverance is extensive, as it puts everyone’s life on hold. And in doing so, we are equipped with our collective patience.
And in a way this makes isolation less isolated.
This notion of shift is not something that we should be sheltered from or afraid of. Shifting is purely another synonym for growth and will occur to everything naturally at its own pace, overlapping the past with the present. It is at times ferocious yet mesmerising, relieving and yet frightening.
We can only embrace such change if we are to take full advantage of the potential that it holds.
Through Cody’s project, ‘Perpetual Shift and the Trans Experience’, we are offered a unique window into the life of someone who continually deals with the idea of shift.
His piece reframes our shared encounters with isolation and lockdown, relating it to his own experiences as a transgender man. He compares his transition experience and our current domestic shifts in lifestyle through themes of agency, privacy, and theatricality, describing the way that “limitations of the body now become limitations of the current environment.”
Through a poetic reflection of his past and present, he explores a feeling familiar to him, which has been manifested into physical space – a render of his study area, where the faint blur of a person outside is the only connection between him and the outside world.