f.a.q. about the recent life & travels of quito ziegler

17Jun11

2011 has been a year of dramatic transition for me, coming so rapidly that it’s been hard for me to keep up with communications, let alone this blog.

Hi everyone.  I’m back now.  It’s really good to see you again.

I wish I could sit down with every one of you and share a pot of tea and tell you lots of stories and hear lots of stories back.  But instead, lately it feels like I’m just catching up, catching up, talk-talk-talking when really I just want to listen to what’s been up with YOU.

In lieu of writing a billion backed-up blog posts or lengthy emails, and in the hopes of answering the same questions in conversation a few less times, I’m posting some frequently asked questions and am happy to continue the dialogue in person.

I hear you’re identifying as transgender these days. What’s the deal with that?

It’s true: about six months ago, I came out to myself as transgender and started sharing that knowledge with the people in my life.

At the time, I felt like I had been trying to “be a girl” my whole life and was admitting to myself that it had never really felt totally natural.  I was tired of trying to fit myself in that box and was ready for change, though my experiments with masculinity had not felt quite right either.  I wanted to be even more intentional about these experiments and honor the experiences I was having, so calling myself transgender felt like a very authentic shift.

It has been really confusing and challenging to admit and accept this part of me, and simultaneously one of the most exciting – and somehow, deeply relaxing – things I’ve ever done.

Androgynous” has felt like a good place to land for now ~ a creature in between genders, neither masculine nor feminine.  Just: a person.  Me.  Quito.  That’s all.

Should we start using “he” instead of “she” to address you?

I’m still using female gender pronouns and don’t expect to make physical or hormonal changes anytime soon.  I need to think about it for a long, long time and consider all of the implications before I make permanent changes to my body…. though I am actively considering those kinds of choices, and IF they happen, will make them based on my own reflections and decisions and not the opinions or desires of others.

Then why bother calling yourself transgender?

Some trans folks have a clear sense of being one gender born with an incorrect sex assignment, and that’s a much easier narrative to understand than the journey I’m on.  My experience is a lot less clear, which puts me at a different place on the transgender spectrum.

But being trans IS a journey that I’m actively pursuing, and something I spend a lot of time thinking about and experimenting with and playing around with because when it’s not being the most confusing thing EVER (which is a lot of the time) or extremely stressful (like when people have strong opinions about things I’m not ready to address yet, like physical changes) it’s honestly kind of fun, and thought-provoking, and extremely genuine in getting a deeper understanding of who I am and how I want to be seen in this world.

To me, this kind of behavior feels authentic and natural to my true self.  I’m shifting my understanding of what it means to be a girl, and learning more about what it means to be a boy, and seeing what parts of both of those things fit with the real me while embracing my own fluidity between them and trying to figure out what that space in between genders actually LOOKS like.

So I’m calling it transgender, because that feels accurate.  And I don’t know why I like “androgynous” better than “genderqueer”, but either term works perfectly fine.

In some ways it’s also a political move.  I think it’s really important to honor these experiments and open up space for discussion about the social constructions of gender, in all of its possible expressions.  I’m also in a position of privilege where I’m not risking much by carrying out my trans adventures in public, which is not the same for a lot of trans folks.  I’m extremely blessed to have a lot of support and stability in my life.  So I’m genuinely hoping that by being open about the process I’m going through, it will open up dialogue and create space for others who have a LOT more at stake.

Moving on from gender.  Are you still working at the Open Society Institute? 

No, and that’s really sad!

I went on leave from OSI in February quite suddenly, when I began experiencing some health issues that came on rapidly and required immediate, full-time attention.  I’m EXTREMELY lucky (and forever grateful) that OSI had amazing health insurance, a paid medical leave policy that applied to my condition, and unquestionably supportive, generous colleagues who granted me leave without hesitation and picked up the work I had to let drop.

The health issues also came at a time when my out-of-OSI work as a photographer and curator/producer were gaining a lot of momentum, especially after the Into the Neon exhibition.  All of that went on hold for a while too – including a break from taking pictures that lasted until this past week.

Putting your entire life on hold, even if you have no choice about it, is a REALLY intense process.  (So is picking it back up again, I’m discovering.)  If not for the support and understanding and kindness of an entire community of friends, family, colleagues, and health providers… I can’t even finish this sentence with anything but gratitude and love and relief.

As I moved from health crisis to recovery, I was able to take some space to reflect on what was most important to me.  I knew I couldn’t pick up everything that I had dropped.  As much as I loved my work and my colleagues at OSI and the talented and amazing photographers we served, I felt that it was time to make a go of it in my own career as an artist and producer, and decided to attempt it full time.

But wait, how is your health?  What happened?  Are you OK?

I’m OK now.  For a while I wasn’t.  But I’m definitely better now.  It’s been a really intense year but here is the deal.

In late January, I started experiencing vicious flashbacks to childhood trauma that had been repressed for 25 years.  I immediately sought help from experienced professionals and was diagnosed with PTSD, and for about six weeks needed to deal with it pretty intensively while the memories reasserted themselves.  It was maybe the most confusing and terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced, and I still feel terrible about the strain it put on the caring people closest to me – and extremely grateful that I connected with healers who were able to help me work through it, and had a supportive community to fall back on.

I won’t go into more detail on the internet, but I’m mentioning it here because – not unlike the trans stuff – I think it’s really important to be open about mental health issues. And it’s calculated bravery – I know that I have enough support in my life that I can afford to be somewhat open about it.

Trauma affects millions of people worldwide and its impact can be absolutely devastating.  There is a shroud of secrecy around abuse, particularly sexual abuse, that does not serve the purposes of healing and prevention.  As I’ve been telling my story to people in my life, I’ve been hearing some devastating stories in return.  As I continue to regain my strength and stability, I will probably focus more attention on work in this area.

I’m happy to discuss these issues more openly in person, so don’t feel weird about bringing them up if there are things you’d like to know or share.

What’s this road trip you went on?

Related to the story above, I needed to take some space from New York and reconnect with myself, as a part of the recovery process.

I also wanted to spend time in radical faerie space, as it felt like that was becoming a more central part of my identity and an important part of my trans journey.

I also had an idea about connecting the creative work coming out of the queer community in Brooklyn with our counterparts nationally, and wanted to start building a network of artists who might think together about supporting each other’s work.

My dear co-conspirator Blaise had overlapping goals and ideas so we decided to become travel companions and hit the road together.  We were invited to do an artist residency at a fantastic new queer art space in Minneapolis called Madame.  We spent two weeks there, decompressing from New York, making giant installation art and connecting with the local community.  It was pretty much awesome and a really good antidote to the struggles of the prior couple months.

We then bought a van, named her the Trojan Pony, padded her with a futon and a green shag rug and started driving west, towards Wolf Creek in southern Oregon.  After a transformational week with the faeries, we drove up and down the Pacific Northwest coast from Seattle to Portland to Eureka to San Francisco, then onwards towards home through the Grand Canyon, lightning storms in Oklahoma and Arkansas, a brief adventure at Short Mountain, visits to friends in Asheville and Richmond, and then back to New York City – where the Pony was promptly towed from outside a party in the meat-packing district.  Many gorgeous adventures occurred over these seven weeks on the road, we made some truly amazing new friends, heard lots of stories, made great headway on our community organizing goals, wore out our entire music collections but never once fought with each other, and saw some of the most beautiful landscapes we’d ever laid eyes on.

Also I fell in love with the cutest person ever.  They’re amazing.  You’ll meet them soon.  🙂

Anything else you’d like to add?

No.  I think this all the important stuff.  There are more exciting and glamorous reports about the art that I’m making and the series of performances I’m producing this summer and the artist collective that is taking shape around it, but those posts will be coming soon so look out for em.

BLAH BLAH BLAH.  Sorry this is the longest post ever!  Thank you for listening.  ♥

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2 Responses to “f.a.q. about the recent life & travels of quito ziegler”

  1. I have a very short list of modern day saints, and you are on it, kid. Big hugs to you, and I look forward to hearing what comes.

  2. I heart you Quito!!!


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