I don’t know that I like living in the outside spaces. But the fact is, they’re the only place I can.
‘The outside spaces’ doesn’t refer to outdoors. The term refers to being outside people’s knowledge, outside of gendered spaces – not outside of perceptions, because there is no outside to that, but outside of the boxes that confirm or deny the gender others think one is. Personally, I hate leaving the outside spaces. It may be uncomfortable to not know what gender a person thinks I am, but it’s more uncomfortable knowing that what they think is wrong. It may be uncomfortable going without the toilet for – well, my record is 15 hours – but it’s worse for me to leave the outside spaces.
But what happens when the outside spaces close down – when the bed I sleep in is gendered, and there’s no friendly home with a neutral toilet? That’s horrible. I’m lucky in that I can, just about, swallow and get on with it – but I shouldn’t have to.
Binarism, implicit and explicit, is heavily tied in with other kyriarchal notions. To take the example of gendered housing, there’s a lot tied up in that. Heterosexism, cissexism, sexism, rape culture.
So again we find this individual thread supported by a web of others, all so hard to cut and fight.
What we can do, in the absence of a flamethrower with which to burn away the entire web, is to try to expand the outside spaces as far as is within our power. The spaces where gendering oneself is not compulsory, where a person can be themselves without being required to lie. I’m appealing here to anyone in a position of authority, to anyone who is a creator or a moderator or a poller or whatever – don’t force people to make the lie-or-leave choice by placing your sphere inside the gendered spaces.
Lying is what I have been doing. I spent a week doing things that I love with great people, but I had to lie on the form to go there, I had to lie every time I went to my room. I may not have chosen to do so, and it is a perfectly valid choice for safety’s sake (and in fact I did remain closeted for the first couple of days until I felt a bit more settled and safe), but it was still a lie. I still lied by staying in gendered accommodation, by using documentation with the old gendered name on. I don’t mind lying in a good cause – like safety – if I have to, but I resent being forced to it.
To live in the outside spaces is to be vulnerable. Because at any point, someone might come along and start shrinking them, demanding people leave the outside spaces. Or you could be forced through a door into a place that you couldn’t see, and find yourself somewhere where there’s no way into the outside spaces. And because the outside spaces are deemed unnecessary, there’s nothing to stop peple closing them off, shutting them away.
After all, they think, it’s not like the inside spaces are too small. We don’t need that extra outside space. And of course everyone will be fine in the inside spaces! Just look at the little letter on the passport, check the associations of the name, and send them in. Ignore the people pounding at the walls, pounding to get out –
– the walls must be broken down.
Forcing people out of the outside spaces who need them to survive is an act of erasure, bigotry and violence. And it hurts people like me. Like us.