Guest Blogger: Animal Prufrock – “I will begin with my name…”
I will begin with my name, Animal Prufrock. When I was fifteen years old, my high school English teacher introduced our class to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. I was a very conscious teen with cosmic interests and an esoteric melancholia of my own―feeling very alone in my deep, while the superficial high school buzz filled the hallways and halftimes with cotton candy and cute shoes. I did have my own pair of cute shoes―the last vestige of butch I could express in the forced catholic pleated uniform that made me be a girl in the skirted way girls must be―even in 1990.
I had an Italian Catholic name back then―long letters and lots of a’s & e’s and lli’s. If only I could have erased the last feminizing vowels, I would have been a boy.
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
This verse spoke to me so passionately―I knew the eyes that formulated me as well―and I felt like I was pinned and wriggling. Today I am still wriggling, on the pin of a binary gender system that even contemporary queer culture seems to embrace. Somewhere between 1992 and 2002, the distinction between transsexual and transgender has been blurred―and now there is an assumption that if one is transgender (which I would argue most people live on this continuum―like sexuality) that one is switching from one pronoun to the other. There has also been a trend towards extinction of the butch-lesbian with the flourishing of the trans-man identity.
I am BOTH/AND. That is my gender identity. This is currently the most queer identity I am aware of (although if you study Queer history, Indigenous history, or Indian culture you will easily find there was once a holy place for the both/ands). In this white supremacist capitalist patriarchy―WSCP, as bell hooks so aptly refers to it―this culture only loves “MAN,” I cannot and will not succumb to this pressure to pass, to go stealth, and become a white man with all of the power both overt and subtle that comes along with that choice until woman is truly free. The place I exist, both/and & the body we occupy transgresses the binary and represents true gender warrior nature―the looks I get, the people and children wondering who and what I am.
This place of both/and allows my creative expression to flourish. It allows for the consciousness of bleeding as well as all the strength of being a boy. Being both/and says―I am all of the above―I am human. My gender and my sexual orientation are all flavors of me―I am butch, I am lesbian, I am transgender, I am queer, I am gay, I am faerie, I am wizard, etc…It is not one or the other―unless you want to keep living in the frame of patriarchy.
My woman-ness is situated in a sexist patriarchal world while I occupy the challenging liminal transgender space of both/and. It was difficult to have my female fully actualized because I am hated for that part, both by the world and my own internalized sexism. The outward transphobic world hates my both/and as does my own internalized oppression that has trouble negotiating it.
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
As a feminist, I understand how every aspect of society is situated in this patriarchal frame, including how most people understand feminism itself. In choosing my name, I realized that I wanted to claim the revelations of Prufrock, at the same time injecting a feminist libratory consciousness. I was already using Animal as my name because it busted the frame of “woman” open from the societal rules of “woman-ness”―to a wild and free archetype. I love how it is one of the few genderless nouns―animal―it can be both/and simultaneously; the earliest animals are, in fact― both/and! It also alludes to the crab of Prufrock―but with the openness and ability of shape shifting. To me, it is Feminist Prufrock.
My name sets me up to the world for interaction―sometimes joyful, sometimes feared―it reveals who I am dealing with in how they interact with the name. In a way, it is magic tool. The name Animal Prufrock is a product and catalyst of alchemy. It is a way for me to live both the struggle & the consciousness I would like to see awakened in more of us.