This is my body: My First Experience as a Non-Binary Performer [Guest Post]
by Cristal Harris
This is my body came at a perfect time and space in my life. I was in-between jobs, and in a rough patch with all my relationships. I had just graduated law school and needed to makes major decisions about my life: Take the bar or nah? Move back to the Bay Area? Stay in my relationship? Get a job? I was overwhelmed with major life decisions and lost as to which path I should choose. When I found out about this is my body, I was excited, intrigued, and eager to be in a space where I could be creative –and a grade wouldn’t be attached.
I applied, nervously, really unsure if I would be accepted because I had no recent experience writing or performing poetry. Another huge hurdle was that I lived in Sacramento and the program was based in San Francisco and Oakland. I thought maybe they wouldn’t want to include me, because of the distance. So when I was accepted, my heart leaped. Distance wasn’t an issue and neither was lack of experience. Even now, they are accepting amateur performers for their next show, find out more here. (Insert link)
We did several different workshops. Our first, was about how to shorten our stories. My page length manifesto, went to two paragraphs, then a sentence, then one word. It taught me how to understand the essence of a work. To write what is most salient to the story. And to tell only what advances the narrative. Being around a group of women, and non-binary people made me feel included. Also, these women and non-binary folks had told stories of poisoning, sexual experience, cultural norms, abortion experience, and health concerns. It made me see that no one person is a monolith. I saw that I never truly understood a person’s story without first asking. With each workshop, I learned what it meant to connect with my body and express that body to other people.
At home, I asked myself over and over what kind of story I wanted to tell. Did I want to talk about my religious experience? My coming out experience? Or something else? I landed on that something else. I decided on talking about the most important piece of myself at that time: my gender discovery journey. I scoured the internet for a gender Identity that spoke to what was going on in my head, my heart, and my body. I was not a cis-gendered lesbian woman. I was Non-Binary: A person who is neither neatly male nor female.
My realization informed every line of my piece: “Semi-Colon: Thoughts on Binaries.” I wanted to create a hard hitting piece that would illustrate to the audience just how gendered U.S. society is and how non-binary folks have challenges and constant frustrations because we are often misunderstood, or assumed to be something we aren’t. My piece spoke openly about what my gender identity meant to me.
“Tattered and tired from trans lives dying. To trans minds trying to convince mere mortals that. They are more than what the doctor said at their birth. Congratulations…it’s a fucking body! A body you’ll keep designating without listening to its own cries for self-Reflection. For Self-election.”
– from “Semi-Colon: Thoughts on Binaries”
We continued to return to group workshops that parsed out the exact sentiment we wanted the audience to understand.I challenged myself to write honestly about my gendered experiences. One activity stood out above the rest. When I performed my piece for one minute using no words and only body movements, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of sexuality, sensuality, and beauty that was within myself, and embedded in the poem I wrote. My poem, not only spoke out of my mouth, but was written on my body.After those primers, the stage felt part of a natural flow. I understood more acutely why my queerness and my gender identity were so important to my lived experience. It allowed me to give voice to my frustrations, especially when I felt invalidated and misunderstood by others. For the first time, I told an audience exactly what it meant for me to be a femme presenting Non-Binary person. This is my body gave voice to my invisible experience. I was full and affirmed. Every marginalized person deserves that experience.
You can apply to be in the 2019 ‘this is my body’ program here.