New Year, New Name, New Gender
Photographed by Amos Mac
This is an essay to inform you on the most sensitive, respectful ways to approach the continuing evolution of your friend, neighbor, family member, collaborator or subject, Mx Justin Vivian Bond as I begin a new era in my life’s adventures.
note: v is not capitalized when used to replace a pronoun but in my case can be capitalized when used to replace my proper name.
gender: trans or t
full name: Mx Justin Vivian Bond
Many years ago while I was sitting at Cafe Flore in San Francisco, one of my favorite places on earth. I was approached by a transexual woman who engaged me in conversation and during our chat she said to me, “Justin, sooner or later you’re going to have to come down off the fence.” I was quite taken aback by this statement as I hadn’t really thought of myself as being on a fence. But after some thought I realized what she was saying. By saying I would have to come down “off the fence” she was saying that sooner or later I would have to make a choice and conform my identity to embrace the gender binary and validate her choice to climb over the fence to the “other side”. Personally, for me, I have never believed there was another side for me to cross over to. Sometimes I wish I did. If I felt there was a clearly defined place for me to go, where I would be welcomed and at peace, I would surely have gone there many years ago. At times I’ve almost been able to convince myself there was, but for me to claim to be “a woman” would feel just as false as the charade I’ve been asked to play for so much of my life of being “a man”. Having said that, I will affirm that I do believe there is another side for others; for transexual men and women who fully embrace and are comfortable subscribing to the gender binary -to a polarized notion of gender. But please don’t assume that aspiring to pass is “realness”, because as far as I can see “realness” too is a construct built on shifting sand. If you insist on serving “realness” don’t be surprised if it is declared to hard too swallow and sent back to the kitchen. This applies to “real men”, “real women” and all of their enablers. I’m not interested in the expression of “realness”. I would like to be afforded the luxury of being free to be as honest as possible and to have my truth be respected.
So I remain on the fence but I am beginning hormone treatments not to become a woman but in order to actualize what I’ve always known myself to be -a trans person. I want my body to be a declaration and physical manifestation of my transgendered spirit. When I was younger I used to refer to myself as a “non-op transexual”, meaning I was a transexual who didn’t need to have surgery to assert what I was. But I was wrong because without assertions people can only make assumptions and I no longer wish to indulge or refute the assumptions or labels other people choose to place on me, I simply want to inhabit my very clear vision of myself.
Fortunately, since that day in Cafe Flore a younger generation of trans people have come along to articulate what I’ve been experiencing. When I was young I was fascinated by the stories I read of people like Christine Jorgenson and Dr. Rene Richards -people who had had “sex-change” operations in order to become members of the opposite gender than the one they were assigned at birth. I was deeply fascinated by them and hoped their stories would unlock the mystery which I felt was locked deep inside myself . Ultimately their stories provided no satisfactory answers. For me there is no opposite sex. For me there is only identity and desire.
Now, at last, I am on the pathway to embodying my own identity with the hope of unifying my work, art, intellect, body and spirit in order to be as alive and engaged in living my life as I can possibly be.
So in order to simplify things for you I’m giving you a set of words and skills to make this as easy as possible.
I don’t like any of the prefixes currently in common usage as none of them seem to apply… check one: _Mr. _Mrs. _Ms. _Miss. None of these work so I have adopted Mx because it implies a mix which is the least offensive and most general way I’ve been able to come up with to find a prefix that clearly states a trans identity without amplifying a binary gender preference, or even acknowledging the gender binary at all.
Name: Justin Vivian Bond
I’ve chosen to add Vivian to my name because I want a name that provides a balance to the traditionally male name of Justin and because it means “to be alive”. To really be alive and live my experience of the world as fully as possible I have to give life to the parts of me I feel I was asked to kill off as a child. Was I a boy/girl girl/boy? How many times did someone say to me, “You should have been born a girl.” As if to imply that destiny had played a cruel joke on me. But it wasn’t destiny being cruel, it was society. I was constantly being asked, trained, and/or tormented into denying what I truly was. Many times I overheard my mother casually, and unbeknownst to her, refer to me as “she” when she was engaged in conversation with a relative or close friend. Deep inside she knew and knows what I am. Most people do. It’s not really that tricky.
After discussing my intentions with several very close friends I was surprised and comforted by the lack of shock and easy acceptance, encouragement and support I’ve received. I’m so blessed to have such an open-hearted community around me.
My new name is Mx Justin Vivian Bond because it embraces my trans identity, it reflects and inspires my inner imaginings and -most importantly- because I like it. You may call me Justin, or Vivian or “V”.
Not long ago I was asked to speak on a panel at Columbia University entitled “Denaturalizing Gender and Sex”. Before introducing me the organizer of the panel asked how I would like to be “pronoun-ed”. I wasn’t quite sure how to reply. Obviously for the majority of my life I’ve been referred to as “he” or “him” and to a lesser degree “she” or “her”. I don’t usually think about it too much except when reading it in print where it has annoyed me to no end. I’ve never really addressed it because I have had no better suggestions to offer. For some time I’ve been familiar with the words zee, hir, or they as gender-neutral terms but I’ve never really liked them. So the fellow who was going to introduce me, upon sensing my dis-ease suggested “they” because “that’s Genesis P-Orridge’s preference”. I said okay thinking I might as well try “they” on… “if it works for Genesis….”
Well after introducing two of the other panelists I heard my name followed by “they” and I began looking around to find out who the other people were he was talking about, then I remembered that “they” was me. I got a good chuckle out of it but my pronoun quandary was clearly NOT solved.
So what I’ve come up with is “v”. Since my name is Justin Vivian Bond and since Vivian begins with a V and visually a V is two even sides which meet in the middle I would like v to be my pronoun.
Justin Vivian Bond was described in The New Yorker as “a bar of gold in the new depression”. V’s latest eponymous show at Joe’s Pub will be Saturday January 8th at 11:30
“Have you seen Justin Vivian?”
“Yes, V ran to the store to pick up the dress v is having altered .”
V covers it all.
In the future if I see or hear the words he or she, her or him, hers or his, in reference to me, I will take it either as a personal insult, a weak mind (easily forgivable), or (worst case scenario) sloppy journalism.
When asked to check a gender on forms I am constantly forced to lie. I have filled in the _m box for most of my life but I resent having to do it. I think many transexuals are quite comfortable filling out either the _m or the _f box and I must say I envy them. In my dream world there would also be a choice that said _t because then I, too, would have a box to comfortably check as my place in society -or at least in the society of form-filling paperwork.
My gender is neither male nor female but Trans.
Well, I think that just about covers the basics.
Thank you so much for honoring me by taking the time to read this.
I wish you a blessed, love-filled 2011!
With love and gratitude,
Mx Justin Vivian Bond