Prism & Pen
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Prism & Pen

Non-Binary is Humanity’s Future and Past. I’m Celebrating it this Year.

We’re all trans-something, and our future depends on it

Photo by Ticka Kao on Unsplash

A kibbutz is a kind of commune where people share resources and expenses. It was popular during the birth of the Israeli nation, now less favored as the limits of socialism in a capitalist world have been appreciated. Kibbutzes still have a special place in Israeli society, harkening back to a simpler time, and therefore are in their own way pilgrimage sites for Jews and other socialist-leaning individuals.

For the majority of the time I was there, I was given an onerous task which the kibbutz members avoided: I was the dinner chef. Every morning I’d get up early and start and prepare a meal for 350 people.

* Are we in a period of dramatic shifts? It feels that way. And because of that, trans people are leaders for this era. *

Anyone who knows me is laughing right now, because I don’t know how to cook and do it rarely. I’m very good at preparing cereal; would my kid even agree with that? Back on the kibbutz, the weather was getting cooler, so one day I took it upon myself to make lentil soup, something I had never made before. This was a time before the Internet, but we had cookbooks, so I used a recipe meant for 6 people and converted it to 350. Simple math, right? Later that night, I was walking home behind some people and overheard one of them say to the other, “I know, it tasted like warm dishwater with gravel.”

Perfect description!

Today I was talking to someone who described their discomfort representing themselves as trans, concerned they appeared too masculine to be taken seriously as nonbinary. This feels like a modern retelling of a familiar story I’ve heard many times in my life, where we’re not enough of something or too much of something else to feel comfortable with our undefinable identity. This is familiar in the queer community when some people don’t experience themselves as gay enough or straight enough to identify as bisexual. Humans are uncomfortable with ambiguities, wanting people to choose their tribe.

That conversation left me thinking about the word nonbinary, how suggestive it is about there being two states of being despite the intention to represent a continuum. I never appreciated what a millennial word nonbinary is, intimately connected to our synthetic offspring, communicating in the incomprehensible language of zeros and ones. Identifying as nonbinary these days speaks about gender, but if you think about it, what it’s really about is complexity.

Unlike computers, we continue to operate in ambiguities, and that causes us to sometimes be undefinable. That is, in fact, the best thing about humanity. Humans are all nonbinary. Surprisingly, a lot of the time we’re impersonating robots, doing what we’re told, what we did yesterday, wearing the same clothes as our neighbor’s, choosing what’s known and predictable. Though we may travel to exotic places, we follow familiar routes where the outcomes are predictable, or we satisfy ourselves with three dimensional facsimiles of those exotic places, dioramas without soul.

I know what you’re thinking: what does this have to do with my horrible cooking?

Humans are unique in that we drive our own evolution. The most human thing of all is change. Whenever I hear people talking about humans of today behaving unnaturally, I’m reminded of this. The only natural way for us to live is to change the way we live.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish festival of the new year, and we celebrate it now. It feels very natural to me, returning from summer vacation and starting work and school in full force. For many, the new years come with resolutions, whether stated expressly or silently wished for. We begin with dreams of tackling our unfinished business to live better, and Jews mark this by beginning our festive meals with apples and honey symbolizing the wish for a sweet and fruitful new year. Celebrations of the new year expressly characterize our hopes and excitement for change.

I’ve long considered the trans movement to be at the forefront of our collective modern evolution as a species; trans people are the living symbols of change. Are we in a period of dramatic shifts? It feels that way. And because of that, trans people are leaders for this era.

It’s unknowable, but for those of us committed to the best for ourselves, we have the opportunity to connect more fully with our complexity. And certainly, some of us will. A lot of people are bothered by the number of young people identifying as nonbinary, saying it’s a threat to humanity. Really, it’s the opposite. We think nonbinary is a unique subclass of humans within a tiny category of trans people. Totally not! I’m as nonbinary as anyone because I’m not fully formed, I’m not programed to exist one way and expected to be that way forever until I no longer function. To be nonbinary is to be complex and evolving.

I’m a horrible cook, but I’m a loving friend. Those competing characteristics will be on display when, like many gay people, I welcome my chosen family into my home to celebrate the holiday. And embracing change, rather than starting the feast with apples and honey, I’ll serve homemade apple sorbet and honey froyo for dessert. Deconstruction, reconstruction. Change. Complexity. Some people will accept the change warmly, others with agitation. That’s what it’s like whenever we do something new, even something minor like the way we eat food.

I hope my reconstruction will be yummy, but I’m not sure any of my friends are expecting that. There was that time I made mango ice cream which ended up tasting like meat. How does a person mess up ice cream? My human complexity.



Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling

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Danni Michaeli

A psychiatrist and a dreamer, I'm always listening for the magic and wondering what we're all doing here.....