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All Gender is Performance: Lucian Grey, Defining Fairness

Lucian Grey's mother was raised in an all-male household, and she, "didn't know what to with having a girl," he explains. "Femininity in general was not her experience. So she just did what she knew how to do."

She raised Lucian as a boy, although he was born biologically female. He played with G.I. Joes and loved baseball, soccer, and ice hockey. Lucian grew up feeling like his body didn't match who he was, but it wasn't until high school that he really had to confront the disparity. "I'd always kind of identified as male, and then we get to the point where there's the locker room situation, and 'Okay, let's go change. Girls' bathroom is over there,' and I'm like, 'Wait, what?'"

For much of his adolescence and young adulthood, he was assumed to be a lesbian. He and his wife had been together ten years when he broached the subject of transitioning, and after three years of discussing it sporadically, she finally told him, "If that's what you want to do, I fully support you. I've never actually really seen you as female."

Lucian Grey spoke with WFPL's Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis about his experience as a trans man, and the ways we all perform gender every day in presenting ourselves to the world.

Why does Louisville have so many fish fries?

On the Gender Binary

"Any individuals that identify with the trans part of the spectrum do become marginalized. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we are at a point now in society where we're struggling with just heteronormativity. We live in a society where we have this construct of male and female, and so, it's either male or it's female. And because we have this binary of gender—gender performance, gender expression, and gender identity—we try to force everything into those two categories.

But the thing is that gender is fluid, and it changes with the person, and it changes with time. Anything that opposes that binary to begin with is already a huge struggle. And it's that struggle that we're dealing with right now, whether it be about gay marriage, Don't Ask Don't Tell, whatever. We're challenging that binary. A huge part of it is just making those conversations happen and being open to dialogue with people."

On Transgender vs. Transsexual

"I'm experiencing a life where I get to see both sides of the gender spectrum, but the funny thing about that is this: I do not identify as transgender. I never have and I never will, because that is not my experience. I was raised male, and so I am a transsexual. That is not transgender. They are not mutually inclusive or exclusive, but that is me. I will actually be able to experience something that most people couldn't even remotely fathom. That is pretty incredible. There are parts of it that are less desirable, but in the end, as a person, it definitely gives me a whole new appreciation for life."

On Having the Wrong Paperwork

"When you're young, people are going to make choices for you based on what's comfortable for them. So for [my family] I was just really butch, and a tomboy, and a lesbian. That didn't really fit, but that's what society says you're gonna be. So fast forward, I grow up, I get a job, the whole trans thing hadn't really entered my mind yet. But I had always felt that the physical body did not match me as a person, my whole life.

So you get older, move out, get a house, get a job, and you start dealing with the day to day. Your drivers license says female, your birth certificate says female, everything is female. Once I finally made the decision, okay, that's it, I'm done, I'm going to go ahead and start transitioning, the job that I had at that point made it abundantly clear that I could continue to come to work quote-unquote female every day. Which is funny, because I didn't dress any differently than what I'm wearing right now. I walked, talked... everything's the same. But they made is abundantly clear that if I wished to go through the transitioning process, I could basically find another job."

On Passing (or Not)

"You have mixed schools of thought about passing, and some people refer to it as blending, but it's all the same thing. Ultimately, I would imagine for a lot of people, at the core, it becomes a matter of safety. For me, personally, I am all about supporting an individual's right to do whatever makes them comfortable, as long as it's not hurting anyone else. With this day and age, passing almost becomes a necessity for a lot of people, depending on their circumstances and their location, in order to be able to try to make their situation as safe as possible.

There are those for whom passing is not something they even remotely desire. They're completely okay with people not being able to tell one way or the other, whether it's androgyny or complete outright genderf*cking. I have a lot of friends who are completely okay with viscerally pushing those boundaries every day to people."

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.