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TRAVIS WILLIE (HE/THEY)

Instagram: @theselfishgiants

"I’m Travis (he/they). I'm a Black, queer, trans non-binary, gender non-conforming person. I wanted to take part in this project for visibility, as although Bristol can be seen as a diverse place, often the queer and trans events I go to are very segregated. I’m often the only Black person in the room, or one of only a handful.

 

Because of this I've created an online hang out group for trans, non-binary and gender questioning Black people and People of Colour across the gender spectrum. I was keen to have a group for older trans folk, so it's a mixed group ranging from people in their 30s/40s/50s onwards. It started in lockdown and is still going strong. We share experience and advice and I think of the people in the group as family.

Not walking through the world with privilege means that we are prevented from taking up space in the way that our peers with privilege do. I wanted to explore who are we when we can unashamedly take up space and are not the only people the room.

It's a no pressure drop in group, and is always open to new people to join. We meet fortnightly. DM me for more details. Link and more details in my IG highlights." (Link above!)

"Transitioning is a strange word. I see it as growing into myself and becoming. As I get further along in my journey ( I started T almost 2 years ago)  I realise how much my experience as a Black person, and particularly being socialised as a Black woman for 3 decades of my life, informs how I experience and celebrate my gender as a trans person. 

This is because like trans bodies, Black bodies and particularly the bodies of Black women have been dehumanised and policed for centuries. Colourism and racism are often used as tools to dehumanise and strip Black women of their femininity, and that’s why my experience of my body as I transition is undeniably tied up with race, as because of racism I’ve had to fight to be seen as any gender (outside of fetishisation) since I was born. As a child, race was how the other kids identified and described me, before gender was even considered. To them, I was neither boy nor girl, but Black.

 

Because of this, in some ways fighting to be seen as the gender I am as I transition is nothing new."

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"When I look in the mirror  I don’t know what gender I may be perceived as anymore.  For me, this isn't a bad thing. I don’t identify as being ‘woman’. I am a masculine person, but also gender non-conforming, so labels still feel very clunky to attach to this body. Labels have always felt clunky even when I was a kid. I was always a gender non-confirming kid. Despite the familiar tomboy trope I liked wearing pretty things, and although I didn't love dresses, when I wore them I could see a boy staring back. It was confusing at the time.

 

I still feel like an imposter when I am referred to as ‘man’ not because of how I feel or look on a superficial level, but because I do not, and will never access the same privilege that is tied up within that word, because of my race. This influences how I navigate the world, not solely as a trans man, but as a Black trans person who continues to be othered and oppressed, who does not benefit from the supremacy moving through the world as [white] ‘man’.

I am called ‘sir’ and ‘m’am’ within the same breath by different people on the same street. Sometimes I laugh at them, as it tells me how fickle preconceived ideas on gender can be. I’m working to remind myself that I am whoever I want to be. Whatever I am becoming, I feel beautiful and free."

"I’ve been reading a lot of Alok Vaid-Menon who reminds us that, ‘Beauty is when you most look like yourself.’ I ask myself who I am as a Black, queer, trans person outside of racism, homophobia and transphobia. Who am I outside of what people tell me I should be, if I am not censoring myself, outside of being fetishised?  Alok is right, as Black people we are beautiful and riotous."

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"Let’s do this decent human thing of being ourselves in a world predicated on our disappearance" - Alok Vaid-Menon.

 

"I've been getting lost in The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. It reminds me how radical Black queer love is. If you're reading this and also need a reminder, I'd recommend you read it too. 

 

The last thing I want to say, as Alok pointed out, is that it’s funny that people accuse us of imposing this gender conversation on them, when the real imposition was dividing millions of divine complex souls into one of two categories - man and woman - and that was an orchestrated project of colonialism across the world."