Passing: Beyond the Body
Zora Neale Hurston says that the “great artist,” specifically the “Negro dancer,” is great because of her “realistic suggestion,” citing that “every posture gives the impression that the dancer will do much more.” Less skilled dancers, she argues, complete movements therefore eradicating the imaginative potential of implication. Similarly, psychiatrists regard people with “gender dysphoria,” which they use as synonymous with transgender and non-binary, as paying heightened attention to “affective appraisals” of their gender, measuring the subject’s “illness” by the degree to which they fail or succeed in being legible to others. Even language that attempts to affirm us suggests failure: “identifies as,” “goes by,” “preferred pronouns.”
You should raise your soul to the following idea: we are certain, absolutely certain of what we are saying (without this being certainty in the slightest, in the sense that you habitually understand it), and at the same time, at the same instant, completely deprived of all security...
—Jean-François Lyotard, Libidinal Economy
If you mention our existence in meat space*, any number of people will likely disregard us as belonging to or being a primary producer of “that Tumblr shit.” The dismissal indexes a need to relegate us to digital space, always elsewhere and otherwise from those who consider themselves normal and hate to be named. More still, the rhetoric relies on the myth that trans and non-binary are structural embodiments inherently oppositional to blackness and that our genders, and no one else’s, are singularly a product of trauma. Such tragically ahistorical perspectives produce harmful conditions on and offline that some of us have not survived.
I conducted these conversations in the summer of 2016 in order to archive what is being produced and discussed by folks whose work uniquely occupies and travels through and beyond digital space and who navigate the world as, as Shaadi Devereaux says, “not Trans but TransAtlantic,” in this political moment. Here, subjects speak. Not moribund statistics or rhetorical objects to prove one’s own intersectionality, but people with particular structural embodiments we call queer, trans and non-binary who are living and creating through and in spite of the ontological crisis of having to Be while always being unimagined and seemingly unimaginable, unaccounted for.
The series is, like its introduction, a contradiction in that it’s both about and against the hyper-focus on black queer & trans’ folks bodies, about and against the idea that our lexicon, criticisms, work and very beings cannot and do not exist offline. I trust the contradiction and its movement as these documentarians, photographers, poets and entrepreneurs consider the potential of an extensive visual archive of black trans men, critique as a means of production, geography and archival loss.
Come in, come in.
*I borrow this phrase from Manuel Arturo Abreu’s essay “Transtrender: A Meditation on Gender As A Racial Construct.”
Curated by L. G. Parker