notes on nonbinary approaches
what we might mean, some places we might begin, some places we might go
Welcome to both and neither — I’m so grateful you’ve signed up to come along on this nonbinary adventure.
Today’s email focuses on why I think nonbinary approaches are needed, and has a couple of questions you might use to begin playing around with nonbinary approaches.
Feel free to read this and all future emails at your leisure and return to anytime, and/or hit reply to this email if you have questions or reflections in response.
on nonbinary approaches
The place I want to start is by saying that nonbinary approaches help us move through the constriction and compression of capitalism and other systems of domination. If you don’t know what I mean by the binary, or nonbinary, or capitalism, the place I would encourage you to start is by thinking about compression. Where are you stressed? Where do you experience ease? What are the people in your life going through these days?
Those of us raised and living in neoliberal racialized capitalism (more on that later) are most used to thinking about “nonbinary” in terms of gender, an “other” to man/woman, and/or an umbrella category that might include trans, genderqueer, genderfluid, enby, and gender non-conforming folks. And while I think we can all benefit from learning to recognize more expansiveness in ourselves and our gender expressions, and my understanding of nonbinary approaches is deeply rooted in what I have learned from my nonbinary gender, I’ve also learned over the last ten years of studying and sensing that these approaches open up possibility in many more places than just gender — in our relationships with ourselves, in the ways we relate to and think about the people around us, in our communities, workplaces, and other spaces, and in our relationships to the earth and the land where we live.
Nonbinary approaches are a tool and a practice that help us remake the world, within and outside of us. A space of possibility, of disorientation, joy, grief, and aliveness, all at once. As parts of dominant culture get even more entrenched in binary thinking, I think it’s more important than ever that that we practice seeing/sensing beyond and under and around these made up, pervasive ways of categorizing the world.
(always already nonbinary)
The secret delight and terror of nonbinary approaches is that nonbinary expression is alive in all of us. Each one of us already moves through the world in nonbinary ways, no matter our gender or how we were/are socialized. I’m looking forward to sharing the deliciousness of nonbinary possibility with you — what I know, what I don’t know yet, and where my questions and confusions are leading me. (And I hope you’ll share your own with me, too.)
For now, I offer you these questions to begin our nonbinary wonderings:
Where do you feel the most friction and pressure in your life?
What does your discontentment orient you towards and away from?
What does it feel like to be right? What does it feel like to be wrong?
Are there any places in your life where you feel like you don’t “fit”?
If you gave yourself one minute to dream, what might you allow yourself to want? What might your dream self fill your days and life with?
How does your body feel after reading or responding to these questions?
I encourage you to take your time with these questions, carry them around in your pocket, or like a balloon floating behind you; turn them over in your mind, the way that the ocean turns over the shells on the shore. You might listen to this song while you hold these questions, if you’re a song person (the whole album is beautiful, too). The point is less to arrive at “the” answer, and more to notice the landscape of responses that are present within you.
other things to note:
This newsletter is by no means an expert opinion on what it means to be nonbinary or to think in nonbinary ways. My perspectives are influenced and limited by, for better, weirder, worse, and other, by my own experiences in a white, class-straddling, queer, nonbinary, chronic-pain having body, and by my ancestors’ experiences in religion, migration, colonialism, and the patriarchy.
My approaches are also rooted in and nurtured by my relationships to deep and thoughtful beloveds - writers and thinkers, most of whom are queers and people of color who, in sharing what they know about capitalism, colonialism, ableism, and the patriarchy, among so much else, have expanded my understanding of the world.
I particularly want to shout out Carolyn Collado, whose Unsettling Recovery program has helped me deeply integrate and share what I know about binaries and nonbinary approaches, and Jen Lemen, who has helped me incubate and clarify these nonbinary thinkings. (Jen and I are doing a class on nonbinary approaches to binaries and double binds later this spring —you can get notified when we open registration here).
Carolyn is also currently in the last days of a campaign to bring a beautiful book on recovery and ancestral wisdom into being, and I would highly encourage you to contribute $10 or more if you are able — so much possibility in how the world could be gets squashed by systems of domination, and I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a world where people, especially BIPOC folks, who are called to write can be nourished as they bring work forward.
And continual thank you to my beloved partner, whose expression reminds me daily of how beautiful it can be to be ourselves. I love you, all the ways you are. And finally, big love to the Nest, an online and offline crew of humans whose emergent, nonbinary structure and practices have been a place for me to express what I was sensing and learning about myself and the world around me.
And you. Thank you for being here. Feel free to reach out with your questions, ruminations, reflections and more.
Sending you much love, in all our weirdnesses and peculiar beauty,
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