Excerpt: Joshua M. Ferguson’s ‘Me, Myself, They: Life Beyond the Binary’

The Vancouver-based writer, filmmaker, and trans-rights advocate talks about the importance of reclaiming their non-binary identity in a world that wants to see them as "other"
By TVO Current Affairs - Published on Aug 02, 2019
Nam Kiwanuka and Joshua M. Ferguson
Nam Kiwanuka interviews Joshua M. Ferguson

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Writing this book has given me space to relive my stories. They’ve taken on new life. My stories are more than the traumatic reminders that have haunted me throughout my life. The void of trauma beckoned me beyond what I could remember at first. My trauma is a collection of painful memories across decades. I had to feel the memories once more in my present, at times even remembering events that were not at all accessible to me until I began to write this book. And my writing wasn’t just about remembering; it was also about the need to feel again. Surviving became my priority. But opening myself to the entirety of my feelings, delving into the spirit hidden deep beneath a heart conditioned by dehumanization, was the hardest part of my journey.

Rediscovering and revisiting the feelings attached to the core of my memories was vital to my storytelling. The many years of suffering made me who I am today. Some of these stories flowed freely from the epicentre of my soul, where I kept everything hidden and safe. And some of my remembering had to come from a careful dissection of my subjectivity from an objective point of view that I found odd. Some of my stories denied that excavation; sharing them was too much to bear. I found myself crying many tears, laughing, and even feeling angry at times. The stories took shape and opened me up to reliving the past as my memories and feelings found space again, morphing into the very words and pages in this book, for once being allowed to exist as part of my life transformed anew.

It is a deeply painful practice, indeed, to excavate suffering. I never wanted to live it all again, and it’s no wonder that this exercise met with some resistance. But I had to go back to all the life-changing and life-making moments to share what I believe shaped me as a person. And then, of course, there were the intimate parts that I had kept to myself until now. This was a conscious choice. There are still some stories to tell, but I am not ready to share them yet.

Telling these stories wasn’t a choice. Staying silent wasn’t an option. I had to tell these stories to help encourage the humane treatment of people like me. The easy path for me would have been an existence epitomizing loneliness, wondering about the difference that I could have made with my story. I have not travelled an easy path. That isn’t who I am. I followed my calling to tell my own story, made possible thanks to the generations of truth-tellers who came before me and who dared to defy the status quo.

We are warriors. We are pioneers, groundbreakers, soul-shakers, and peacemakers. We are the nails that stick up and refuse to be hammered down. We are the untamed. We are the voices that dare to say no to the same old shit and the same old stories that have been shared over and over again, voices that dare to shake the foundation of thinking that tries to separate us into one or the other, young or old, man or woman, right or left.

We are trans and non-binary, and we are human beings with stories to tell, lives to live, love in our hearts, and kindness to share. We are here to help make the world a better place simply by being ourselves.

The world needs to elevate people at the margins to share stories different from the ones that are retold over and over. When we step into a place of visibility and security, we need to reach back down and extend a hand for the sake of humanity. We need to lift each other up so that new stories can be told. We always learn from what we don’t know. We can find ourselves in the stories of others, and in doing so we can make our lives, and the lives of those around us, a little better, while being true to who we are. We can create horizons of hope.

Take yourself back to when you were a child. We all have the power to work through the cultural conditioning if we want to. I got so tired of being the Josh that was created for me. I reclaimed my identity. I reclaimed little Joshua, and the path wasn’t simple. I was once a young and free spirit before the mess of the binary entered my life. I found myself again. I always knew that something wasn’t quite right when I reached adulthood. So I embarked on a path of wondering myself through my pain and suffering. Curiosity guided my quest back to myself. Who I was, am, will be.  It is never too late to feel connected with who we are, to be who we are, to be who you are.

I am Joshua M. Ferguson. I am non-binary. With these words, these stories, finally, my story can have its true beginning.

Excerpted from Me, Myself, They: A Non-Binary Life Copyright © 2019 Joshua M Ferguson. Published by House of Anansi Press Inc., Toronto. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

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