Intersectional Decolonisation has been a constant theme in my life for some time now. It has, therefore, become incredibly important to me to decolonise ideas around the social constructs of womxnhood and femininity. Being a womxn can no longer be defined by the presence of the sexual organs deemed “appropriate” or the relationships that have been associated with being a womxn, i.e. mother, sister, daughter etc. It is for these reasons that I decided that my friend, Kholofelo Morodi, would be the most appropriate candidate to interview. Through countless conversations, Kholofelo has been and will continue to be one of my greatest teachers when it comes to the intricacies of the universe that most would seldom think about…
Q: I want to have a conversation around gender and people who don’t exist within the binary definitions of gender so we’re going to have to start at the beginning. What gender do you identify as?
A: Okay so I, in my own personal space, identify as gender non-conforming but a subset of that would then be gender fluid. So ya, I would say that I am gender non-conforming/gender fluid.
Q: So what does this mean to you, being gender fluid or gender non-conforming?
A: So the idea is, to me personally, that in my own identification of gender, there is no set box that I tick where I identify as a male or a female. I don’t identify with those terms but I also identify with those terms independently of one another and so in my performance of gender, it can then vary in whatever way, in that moment in time, I feel like expressing. So at one moment, I can identify with a masculine energy and thus my performance of gender may present as more masculine and the same can happen if I identify with a more feminine energy but it can also happen that I feel both energies and will perform both energies in a dual sense, at the same time. There’s nothing that’s set in stone for me in terms of my gender and in terms of my expression of my gender. I feel how I feel and I express how I feel in that specific time. There are no constraints to where my gender can go so to me that is my gender non-conforming and my gender fluidity.
Q: So then with regards to your gender fluidity, what challenges do you face on a day to day basis navigating the world as you?
A: Okay so the first thing that comes to mind is validity. Today I was walking off campus and I got a message inviting me to ” The Vagina Monologues” and I was a little triggered because I knew that it’s supposedly a “safe space” and the invitation said “for all those who identify as womxn” and I thought to myself okay, maybe I don’t know what the purpose of The Vagina Monologues is but I don’t think it’s a safe space for people like me because my expression of femininity or how I find myself in femininity or womxnhood is not what cis het womxn deem as right or deem as valid and so the struggle is validity in womxnhood where gender non-conforming bodies feel like we’re viewed as imposters by fellow womxn. It pops up a lot when you’re in those spaces that are supposedly safe because then it’s like oh your anatomy doesn’t fit or you’re not dressed or presenting yourself in that moment in time as someone who fits into this so then you’re othered. Validity is a big thing and how we get othered a lot because gender is a social construct, definitely, but it has implications in reality and then when these ideas are not congruent or don’t have a seam that ends at a point then it’s very difficult for people to know how to categorise you and thus how to treat you. So the validity of gender fluidity becomes questioned by womxn. Another struggle then, to do with that, is the inverse of the masculine energy within that space so then queer bodies find themselves in a situation where you’re neither this, nor that and thus we have to create our own niche but then you’re othering yourself but at the same trying to be a part of some movement towards liberation and so there’s always a separateness that queer bodies have to deal with. Then there’s the general constant fear of violence from people who are more dominant than you because of the way that you choose to present yourself. So you’ll find lately in my space that I really appreciate piece of mind and safety so I will take anything to pass without having to experience violence. So you find yourself having to live, to an extent, a lie but you’re comfortable with that lie because it means safety and you don’t have to deal with violence from men or womxn. So the crux of it is the validity, otherness and separateness and how that affects your daily tasks like going to the mall and using the bathroom and then that seeping into safe spaces where you’re told you’re welcome but you know you’re not because from the conversation, you can feel that your identity or expression are not seen as real. It’s considered made up or in your deep or perceived as you trying to be different. So anywhere you go as a gender non-conforming body, because there is no set box that you tick, you’re always an outsider; a visitor. Your place in the space is not real, right or wanted so you end up living in back alleys.
Q: What, for you, is the greatest form of activism and resistance in your existence with regards to navigating the world in your body with the gender that you identify as or don’t identify as?
A: The most accurate answer is, not giving a fuck. I think there is so much power in that. Ask any queer individual who has not always been gifted the privilege to pass, the biggest most beautiful thing in the world is being able to say “Fuck it. This is what I’m doing. This is who I am and I’m just going to be that person and if I get a lot of back lash from it then fine and if I don’t then that’s also okay.” I feel the most empowered when I wake up in the morning and I’m just like, I don’t care. I’m going to look like a boy today or I’m going to look like a girl today or I’m going to look like nothing today and that’s it. You don’t have to over think and be like “Oh my gosh, is this too much make up? Is this too much jewellery. Does this make it look like I’m trying too hard to be masculine and fit in?”. You are being honest with yourself in that moment when you say I’m going to present this and I don’t care how this is going to be received. That energy that exudes from you, I think that is the greatest form of queer activism where you’re able to claim your space fully and completely because of you. Not because you want to make a noise or because you want to be seen. That’s all good and well. We should try and claim spaces and we should use our bodies as forms of activism but I think the greatest, most beautiful, most artistic form of activism is the activism within ourselves where you fight your own misconceptions about the world and how the world relates to you and how you relate to yourself and you just say, “Fuck it. This is the truth of my moment and I am doing this completely. I don’t care how this looks.” At some point, you don’t even care about your own ideas about what you’re doing. You’re just letting your energy live. I think that just speaks to me. I love those moments. I think that is the greatest form of activism; self activism. Where you decolonise yourself and change your own views about yourself and people like you; where you give yourself the space to be yourself. It’s profound.
Q: Where do you think the violence of cis het womxn against queer bodies stems from?
A: I feel like it’s, you know, colonial thinking. It’s engrained in our psychology and in the way we think of gender and then how we relate gender to biological sex and then how those two things intercept with the amount of privilege that people receive in the world and so it creates this form of hostility; this us and them situation even though the “them” in the situation is just a different kind of “them” in the sense that it forms a different sphere within the concept of “womxn”. In the same breath, there’s still a “them” so there’s the otheredness involved and there’s no intersectionality in that otheredness. There’s the story of one narrative happening and cis het womxn feel the need to claim their narrative and, thus, exclude everyone else who doesn’t fit into that narrative from speaking at the table and then the animosity forms because queer people feel attacked, marginalised and invalidated by cis het womxn.
Q: Would it make it make more sense to you for there to be a better understanding of the definitions of the different forms of gender and sexuality or do you think that we should be working towards a place where gender and sexuality is undefined?
A: It’s the perfect catch 22 I guess and I’m going to use the parallel of race. In the ideal world, race wouldn’t be a thing. We wouldn’t have to teach the world to see black people as worthy, necessary and valid. It would be a given. We would all be colour blind, ideally. But that’s not the truth. The truth is that race does impact our lives and it is something that’s important. Even though it’s a social construct, it’s necessary to be well versed in racial issues in able to function in a way that is intersectional. So in the same way, ideally, we would want a world where sexuality, gender identities and gender expressions didn’t matter; where we gave people the space to be who they are and those labels weren’t important but the truth of the matter is that they do impact our lives every day. We should, rather, then live in the reality of what’s happening in this moment and in this moment those things matter and so people need to be made aware of those things, try and learn as much as they possibly can about those things and, thus, behave in a way that shows that they’ve gained some knowledge, compassion and empathy. Both are things that are great but in the reality of it I’d rather have somebody understand my story and behave accordingly. I’d like for someone to give me the space to be myself and not feel the need to invalidate me. I think that would be great right now. 100, 200 years from now, I mean, why not live in a society that doesn’t create borders around peoples’ truth?
Q: We understand gender and sexuality as being very broad spectrums but do you think that a person existing within this spectrum can move from one point to the other or do you think we are just born at a specific point in the spectrum and then take an x amount of time to figure out where we are in this spectrum?
A: I mean, I think, in my opinion now, I answer this question with my existence. It’s not even a spectrum to me. Spectrum implies that there’s point A and point B and we’re moving between these points as humxn beings but we have so much complexity that I see it like, literally, a galaxy of identities and we can be anywhere in that space and I don’t think humxn beings are meant or born to be stagnant. I think we’re dynamic people and in every moment in time, we’re changing. Why can we grow physically, grow emotionally, grow mentally and yet in terms of our understanding of ourselves and the expression of ourselves in terms of our gender and sexuality, we must be stagnant. Why must that be the thing that you’re born with? Why is it that gender and sexuality are not allowed to be dynamic ideas? Why is it that you’re moving from point A to point B? My identity as a black person is ever growing and changing. At some point, I had certain ideas and now I have different ideas about my place in blackness. When I think about my identity and my gender or sexual expression, why is there an end point? So for me it’s a continuous movement of seeing yourself in the world. As the world changes every day, our places in the world change. So ya, I don’t think it’s a spectrum. We grow horizontally, vertically, diagonally. We can be anywhere and go anywhere and that is the beautiful part of being gender non-conforming. I don’t have to have a set idea about myself. I am giving myself the space I deserve as a person to be whatever person I am being in every single space I am in at every moment in time. And tomorrow if that place is different, if that space is different, if I am different then I am different and I don’t have to justify that and I don’t have to make sense of that. I can really just live my most authentic life as well as I possibly can. So what I’m trying to say is that it’s not a spectrum and it’s not stagnant and it’s not moving from point A to point B either. It’s the complete opposite of all those things. It’s being born into this world and this is what you’re given and this is how you feel at this moment in time and tomorrow, if you wake up and that’s not it anymore then you’re allowed to do that and you should have the space to do that. You’re a humxn being creating your life as you’re going along with it. Nobody is born with the answers of how to person so we should be allowed to explore it in every space we can and change our minds whenever we can.