44 - Naavah Kraytsberg
Non-Binary Pansexual (they/them)
Founder of Kaleidoscope Creatures Dance, an LGBTQ+ partner dance group.
With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….
“I don't think that there is a specific moment where I realized something was different. I think I just never really saw certain differences between people. They're always, you know, first and foremost people to me… and then more as an adult or at the end of my teenage years, seeing how people are treated differently based on sex… based on color… made me more aware of those social structures and expectations. Being aware of racial dynamics has been more of an intellectual pursuit, since for most intents and purposes I carry white privilege… I needed to start paying attention to this thing, even if I didn’t necessarily see it on my own. In terms of my identity, I think it was just always there, and it was honestly just having a word to put to it. So, meeting someone who used they/them pronouns, was like oh there's actually way I can move through the world in a way that feels more right…And that was honestly it, having an option.”
“I think it depends on who they are. If it's a person who I feel should know better, it hurts a little more... Most of the folks I live with are genderqueer of some sort, and it's interesting moving through that… sometimes we slip up with each other and we live together… we should know better. There's just so much of how we attach value to linguistic things, like names… so, let's say if someone has a name that ends in a and doesn't present as a man, I might have a harder time personally… I misgender myself sometimes. If someone's calling on the phone and they're like, ‘Oh is this Naavah?’ And I'm like, ‘This is… she…’ because ‘This is they’ just feels so awkward, and I don't get to answer that question a lot. It's interesting… like noticing how I misgender myself in words or thoughts, and that's probably the weirdest one for me. It’s really interesting just kind of moving through different worlds, and adjusting my expectations based on where I am… code switching. I'm a very sensitive person so if I would get my feelings hurt all the time whenever I got misgendered, I would just always be feeling hurt… and that's not the way that I want to do things. And if it was, honestly, I would stop asking for gender neutral pronouns…”
On their coming out experience...
“I don't think I really had a moment. I think I'm a very open person, and when I have thoughts or feelings I generally share them with the people around me. I don't speak to my family very often and when I have, there have been moments where we end up in discussions or conversations where it’s become more clear that I'm not, either heterosexual or whatever… cis… and this has been somewhat complicated. You know I've gotten some really weird feedback from my mother specifically, where she's equated homosexual sex as not actually sex with another person or something…
It was really weird. She’s a pretty intune person, and then she's saying these things that have come up, that are actually what people think. I think I haven't worked through that with my family yet. I don't know that I will. I don't know if it's worth the effort…”
Biggest fears or concerns about coming out…
“I grew up in a very liberal place, and even if the people immediately around me weren’t super celebratory of gayness, going with my first female partner to the south was interesting. There is nothing in particular that made us afraid of being affectionate with each other, but we just kind of knew when we landed that maybe we should be careful about holding hands because we're traveling alone… We don't know anyone here… Maybe being obvious isn't quite the right thing to do. I think that was the first time I really experience something like that…I mean that's definitely a privilege. Growing up somewhere you didn’t really have to worry about it, whether or not it was part of my life.
…something I've noticed is that women who kind of present as butch, or a more masculine way, get less attention, because they're kind of given space as folx would men… and folks who present in a more feminine manner… people get more upset when they see two femmes together, like that it’s personal, somehow.
I feel like there's authenticity, but also it's how other people treat you. Because if other people treat you with a certain gravitas, then it's easier to treat yourself that way. And, I think some people put too much emphasis on self motivation, or whatever it is… and kind of ignore the fact that if other people treat you differently they could affect you very strongly…”
Favorite parts about the community?
“I guess just the creativity and self determination that's available and celebrated. I don't think that I could pinpoint one thing in particular, but just that, as a philosophy, the way we move through the world… I think that affects more than just our identities.”
On their frustrations within the community...
“I think the thing I found most surprising… and frustrating… and kind of humbling, is how difficult it is for many folks in different sub communities of the LGBT community to respect each other… to celebrate each other… to welcome each other, because when I see someone who I think is LGBT, I feel like we're on the same side... Can that be where we come from? I think as an organizer, that's definitely become very important for me to try to tackle, because part of what I really wanted to do is bring everyone together… and that's a very simplistic and naive kind of approach that I had to it. Initially, I think I need to understand a lot more about the differences, but thinking about the folx that I do know and the folks who are more a part of my immediate community… The relationship to gender norms can be completely opposite. So, someone who is transitioning and is putting so much effort to be seen as a man or be seen as a woman is maybe more diametrically opposed to someone who is kind of trying to get rid of gender norms and how they're seen, and how society kind of works in general… as opposed to someone who is just brought up as a woman and feels like a woman… there's not a lot of stake in that. A lot of the time. So it creates this bigger war. Not even that my journey is harder. But you're trying to negate what I'm trying to do, in a way that is more so than someone who just is what they are… and they don't struggle because of it. That's kind of neutral like being a cis-hetero person as neutral, partially accepts the default. But someone who's transitioning and accepts the binary and celebrates the binary and needs the binary… versus someone who is like trying to kill it… so then they end up negative 100 to 100.
I think another thing that plays into that is the historical context… which I feel a lot of especially younger folks don't focus on as much, so they don't think about the lesbians however many decades ago had their kids taken away from them, and did so much work for everyone to have the rights that they have now. And it's so hard for folks decades ago who are brought up with those binaries and don't really get what the young queer kids are up to these days. It's hard to respect each other if there isn't an interest to do that. And I think there is something to respecting your elders, not if they're being purposefully shitty, but these people did a lot and they went through a lot… I think we need to think about those things… give them a little more credit. If they are misgendering us, or whatever it is… offer to have a conversation.”
What is something you would tell a younger you? Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?
“Something that I would find helpful is just getting comfortable with and encouraging feeling myself as my own kind of community… like that being enough. I've never had to deal with that, I've always had you know some people around and… I'm very grateful for that and I definitely am a person who needs people. But I think just like working through who I am and what I want, in and of myself is really important for everyone. There are a lot of resources out there. If you have Internet… that's not something everybody has all the time, but thankfully now most folx do. Just being gentle with yourself… you're not going to find all the answers right away, or all the things that you need right away. Kind of setting yourself up for maybe finding them later.
I would tell younger me that you don't really owe anyone anything… I think I spend a lot of time, and I have spent years living other people's lifestyles because I felt I owed them something… and there have had to be very big things that have come up that have made me realize that I couldn't live their lifestyle… that it just wasn't me. Like maybe somebody whose lifestyle I was following… I felt they had done so much for me that I couldn’t move away from it all… until I realized that they were racist in a way that I was really surprised by… like genuinely surprised that I lived with these people for years and they told me that they ‘wouldn't be able to come to my wedding if I married a black boy’. And I was just like, ‘What?’”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“I think the short answer is not enough. I think currently I'm becoming more proud of myself for doing things today that scare me, and maybe not letting as much hold me back. I'm a very tentative person, and very risk averse person… and I think I've finally accepted that that's also not a way to live my life. It's kind of living for fear, and there are so many more things out there so I wouldn't say I'm a big risk taker at this point but just like proud of growth... personal growth and especially personal growth that I've decided to do, and then done it…”
With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?
“I don't know… I think it has something to do with empathy and giving access or forcing it on people… I don't know what that would look like, but thankfully I don't have that kind of power… or if I did I would prepare myself for it… making people experience empathy for folks that they have a hard time experiencing that for regularly…”