Visiting a childhood home

by ennejoy

Yesterday, I played at happening where there were a lot of people from the place I did my civil service in – an education/arts workshop kind of place for disabled (Down, Williams, etc. syndromes type of) people. When I finished my service two years ago, I still used my old name and lived in the gender assigned to me at birth. So, naturally, the wonderful, lovely people I was so glad to meet yesterday at the gig, used my old name – and I did not ask them to do otherwise. There are two reasons for this.

First, it took some of these people the best part of my year there to get my old name right. I don’t want to confuse them more by telling them to use a new name for me, especially now that I won’t be meeting them often enough anymore for it to have any effect.

Second, and this is what makes the first one possible, it didn’t feel bad yesterday to be called by my old name. It’s maybe because these lovely people know what I’m like and don’t (have cognitive skills sharp enough to) put me in a conceptual box, like “man” or “woman”. These friends remember me (some don’t of course, two years is a long time) because of what we did together, because we laughed, cried, argued, traveled, played, ate – shared a part of our lives, not because of “what I am.” Working with disabled people is performativity and social constructionism come to life, it’s about creating a world where everybody really has the right to exist as themselves, by living as if the world really was like that.

And so, for a while, I became again the person I was two years ago. It felt funny, like talking to somebody one’s been in love with a long time ago, or visiting one’s childhood home. You remember something of the way you felt then, but it’s really only a memory now, nothing to hurt you, just photos in an album – you remember the photos but not the actual experience – and you catch yourself thinking, is this it? What was so special about this?

The past slips away from me, and I let it go. I can visit it again if I want to, but for now, I’m happier with the present, and look to the future to get even better.

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