Episode 4

Published on:

12th Feb 2020

Chiron Stamp - Reading "A Love Poem to my Transness" - 004

In this episode of Queers & Co., I’m joined by Chiron Stamp, trans artist, writer, facilitator and femmboy alien.

We chat about non-binary thinking beyond gender, intersectional collective care in practice, navigating the brutal legal system, neurodiversity as being like biodiversity, how capitalism tells us to move really fast, the difference between boundaries and limits and whether all queers are from another planet. Plus, an incredible and rare performance of Chiron’s work, “A Love Poem to my Transness”.

If you haven't already, be sure to join our Facebook community to connect with other like-minded queer folks and allies.

Find out more about Gem Kennedy and Queers & Co.

Podcast Artwork by Gemma D’Souza


Chiron Stamp's website

Chiron's Instagram: @stampchiron

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy is available here

Rhys’ Pieces / Queefy

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, Adrienne Maree Brown, is available here

Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, Adrienne Maree Brown is available here

Photo of Chiron by Paul Samuel White

Full Transcription

Gem: Hey Chiron. So we've been chatting a bit before, but we decided to switch the recording on because we're getting really into it and it would be great to share this rather than have to repeat it again. So first of all, thank you so much for joining me. I'm really excited.

Chiron: Thanks for having me. I'm excited and nervous, but in an excited way. They're quite similar feelings. Maybe they're the same.

Gem: As we talked about before, we've kind of agreed some of the things we wanted to talk about, but I wondered if we should jump straight in with what we were talking about just before we started to record.

Chiron: Yeah. Oh, I was talking about how I'd seen this thing on Instagram, which was andI can't cite it. I'm really bad at that anyway, remembering the names of people, but on Instagram, someone had done some medical research into the link between people who identify as non-binary or trans in some way and being on the autistic spectrum and I haven't read it all, but it did that thing in my tummy where I felt strange about it. And I guess I'm really excited that somebody did some research, but then my automatic questions are like, who did the research? Is it a cis person asking a lot of non-binary people questions? Was it a trans person themselves? Or who is the research for and who makes money out of it? The usual questions about most things. And also it's a thing about the medical model isn't it? And if that is in relationship to the medical model, which is kind of like my artistic area of research, or like my biggest frustration with the world, I guess that we're in relationship to this idea that some people's ways of being are wrong or disordered or need to be fixed in some way. Sometimes ways of being can be really difficult but the world is not... I just think that people can actually do quite a lot if they're supported in the right way, but that means that we have to be much more flexible. I get that like fear of, "Oh, if people understand that research or engage with that research without being critical of the medical model because maybe they're a person where that medical model actually works for them quite fine, what does that mean about how people view trans people in society?" But those are all of my instinctual fears. I also try to challenge that quite a lot as well. I don't want to be cynical or fearful, but I do want to be critical. And also hopeful. Yeah, those were my thoughts. That was a bit of a rambling and I was asking you if you had seen it and what you feel about it and if it's... I'm talking about something I haven't engaged with properly, but there we go.

Gem: Well, I think it's an important thing to think about as well. And yeah, we can try and find the sources, but as with anything it's important to question stuff. I think the thing that comes to my mind when I hear you say that our family worked with an autistic advocate in Australia and she is amazing. She does really great work. I don't know if you know her, Kristy Forbes. In some of her work, she talks about people doing research at the moment in order to identify the genes that "cause", and for anyone who can't see me, which is everyone apart from Chiron, I'm doing air quotes... That "cause" neurodiversity or autism, whatever neurodiversity we're thinking about in order to remove that gene so that we are less likely to have people in society who are neurodiverse and 1. What the fuck? And 2. It reminds me of what you're saying about it depends who's looking at it, who is the audience for the research? Because I'm thinking, well, what the fuck? You're going to just curb all our chances of changing anything if you are aiming to have less neurodiverse people in the world because as I said before, generally people making changes and living outside of binary society are neurodiverse in some way. And I feel like around me, I have the community to show that like pretty much all my friends are neurodiverse who are activists and who are making actual change. So I don't know how you feel hearing me say that?

Chiron: I feel many things. Oh, what do I feel? I feel conflicted. I guess. I mean it makes me rage to think that someone thinks that they should remove... So my way of thinking about neurodiversity as an artist who's always made work about feeling uncomfortable about labels and queer was the only one that ever really felt comfy because it's the one that's really spacious and means everything and it doesn't mean anything. And then non-binary for me, I guess I had been using they/them pronouns that I don't consider to be gender neutral, but maybe we talk about that in a minute.

Chiron: I liked non-binary cause it basically said no, not that, none of the above. And I quite like that it has no in it. Now I've lost my train of thought, which also happens when you're nervous, right? That neurodiversity for me, I understand it a bit like biodiversity. A lot of my artwork is about non-binary-ness and mountains which don't go together, but for me they do but that you need diversity in biology and especially as things grow, if we think about plants in order for there to be land and you can't necessarily plant the same thing in the same place over and over because the land needs to be regenerated. And these are like ideas from first nations and indigenous people that we forget and have been erased. So, to me it makes no sense... The medical model seems to me to be striving for monoculture or the idea that everyone's the same and those ideas... So my like specialist area of research as an artist has always been trying to understand the medical model, how medicine or other big systems were built. And that also includes the legal system and the justice system and those things that govern our lives. And the medical model came about with the rise of colonialism and the idea that everyone becomes white or the ideas of whiteness; that you behave in the proper way and this is the way to be healthy and all of those ideas are a form of oppression and conforming. So the idea that I think that people don't realise about history. I'm a bit obsessive. I need to know lots of information. I think that if people had more information about how things were built, they might question why they still engage with them without being critical of them.

Chiron: So yeah, I guess it just makes me a bit scared. I've been a person who's not very quietly really talking about fascism for a long time and people get really scared when you throw this word around cause they're like, "That's a very extreme way of viewing the world." But I don't really think it is and people don't know about eugenics or how that worked in the UK especially. And how those were ideas that people upheld, that the idea that some people's biology and their brains and the colour of their skin means that they are better than and these ideas allowed for people to destroy other people's lives very actively. I'm kind of going off on one based on the fear of what you just said, but I guess I wonder, and then I do this thing where I wonder who is listening to this and if people are like, "Yeah, I know those things already or those things affect my life because I'm a queer person and that means I have intersections with neurodiversity and health problems and trying to be recognised by the state as an actual person trying to access trans health care, etc." And I often wonder, how people who are not directly affected by those things understand them or get the information. And I don't know the answer to that.

Gem: Yeah. Hopefully places like this where different things overlap. So maybe someone hasn't experienced or doesn't know much about neurodiversity because they don't think they've come across it. Because also in society we're told that such a tiny fraction of people are neurodiverse, and I do not think that's the case either.

Chiron: Should we maybe explain that term though? So for me, it's not from the medical model of pathology, like a diversity of difference, but for me a neurodiversity includes anything that the medical model would consider to be a mental health issue, a learning difference or difficulty, cognitive processing. Basically what I understand is it's anything that we can't see which is loads of things, right? So I found this place or this word comfortable for me. I've talked about mental health for a long time as someone who manages their own and cared for other family members and has had direct and indirect relationships with the systems that govern that. And I have said before, if you have a body and you have a mind, which is most people and that's not saying how that body looks or how it functions or any of those things, then you have mental health, right?

Chiron: The historical separation between the body and the mind happened between some white dudes whose rise in their own medicine made them think they were the most important. And as men have this ongoing problem of not being able to decide who is the best at something, they couldn't come together and realise that they're different forms of understandings were necessary for each other to function. So they remained separate. And this problem has affected millions of people's lives because instead of looking at people with their bodies and minds being in relationship to each other, or the fact that your mind is inside your body, they can't resolve. And so we look at them separately, which means that often people who have mental health problems, their physical needs are ignored or people's physical health is not seen in relationship to that.

Gem: I think it's definitely true that we see them as separate. As you heard on the Charlotte Cooper episode, when you're talking about how separated we are from our bodies by diet culture, that's another thing, another layer that came in later to further separate people from what actually goes on below. In my work, I talk about feeling as though you're (and I can't remember where I read this. I wish I could find it, but it's not my idea) a pair of eyes on sticks that walk around in the world and you have no connection to what's below. You just experience the world out of your eyes. It sounds as though our work's really similar in that kind of like thinking of them as one whole thing rather than two separate things that have no relation. Like if you're anxious, well for me, if I'm anxious, for example, I instantly get stomach ache. There is no better proof in your body that when you have a thought or a feeling, where does it show up in your body? It does trust me. We're just trained not to listen to it.

Chiron: Yeah. In the last year... this thing of different levels of knowing. Right? So I'm an artist that makes things that people see sometimes like performance things and poetry things and music things. But I guess mainly what I'm trying to do now is bring together lots of thinking, which usually has happened through conversations or I write letters to some of my collaborators and we have years worth of these engagements and letters. And I guess the big thing for me is about non-binary thinking. So I am non-binary. For me that is not gender neutral. I am not neutral anything. But this idea of non-binary thinking, about trying to hold complex things at the same time and not putting them into binary opposition and not thinking that one thing cancels out with the other thing, but they are both simultaneous and at the same time neither, which is a very complex thing.

Chiron: It doesn't really make any sense. Because our whole world is not built like that. But it's not a competition between my body and my mind where one has to win. It's not an understanding of I'm a man or a woman, but also none of those terms have ever made sense to me. But yeah, how do you exist in the world practically? Not just theoretically. I'm interested in like trying to build tools or use tools or use them in real time to create groups or to solve problems or build communities as well as our work, which is I guess the bits of "artwork", I call them in inverted comments, that people don't see cause they're not the 'here is me doing a thing'. Like how I just went through this huge legal process for five years and there is no joy there.

Chiron: The more you know about that system, the darker it gets and it's built to make you stop, right? So it's really isolating and it's infuriating. It doesn't work. It talks about systemic failures, but it won't look at problems in a system. It just looks in very narrow parameters. So at the same time it was like, how do I also have joy in the situation and how do I look after myself and how do I let other people look after me all at the same time? Whilst not pretending that this thing isn't extremely heavy and difficult and painful. And a lot of that also came from people always telling me I was really strong and I was like, "Well, I'm not really." What does it mean to be strong and hard and soft and weak all at the same time?

Chiron: Like I don't have to choose. And I think for me, when people talk to me about their transness and I'm very fortunate that a lot of people do come and talk to me. I'm often saying, you don't have to choose to prove to anyone anything. My transness is for me. And the words that I use are for me to understand. And if other people don't understand what they mean, maybe you have a more complex conversation, but I don't think we should be able to understand everything about something just by this one singular name that it's given. I'm just going off into my little thoughts and I'm very conscious. So this is another thing about having a neurodiversity right, is that I often am like, do I make sense? Am I understood? Because obviously when you're the person... either I've misunderstood or people have misunderstood me. What I'm trying to do at the moment with my art practice is try to capture those complex things into words even though I don't like words. And I find them really hard to process, like reading is a really difficult thing for me. So I guess I'll probably end up making them also into dialogue at the same time. Like an audio thing you can listen to. Cause I don't imagine that I would understand what I was talking about if I was just reading it. And then I wonder if anyone who's listening to this is like, "Oh, that makes sense or Chiron is just whiffling."

Gem: Okay, I'm right here and I can tell you that definitely makes sense.

Chiron: Okay. So let's check. Another thing in the last year I've been trying to do... try to also live your practice right? So let's talk about it. So I've communicated something and now what I'm going to do is I'm going to ask you what you have understood from what I have communicated. Cause I think a lot of queer community is like, "Communicate correctly", but actually we also have a responsibility to understand if you have understood what I said.

Gem: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, cool. So I guess I'm obviously paraphrasing, but my understanding is around moving away from this idea of binary thinking and that you've said terms like male and female have never made sense to you. And it fits in with what you said before about the idea of diversity, like a bio diverse place or in nature needing different components, different plants, different things in order to make up a whole as well. And I know you didn't just say that, but that kind of reminds me of what you said before. And then the idea of when people come to you and share what they're feeling about their transness and not feeling the pressure for them to either choose one thing or the other because it isn't like that. And I loved what you said about the idea of non-binary not being gender neutral. It's not a neutral word, you're not a neutral person. That's also really powerful way to think about it. I think it also ties in, and we can come to that later if that feels better, but it ties into the thing you were saying in your Love Letter To Your Transness, the poem that you wrote. You think about this idea of transness often being described as a lack or something missing. So yeah, I guess it's a more complex way of thinking, just a whole thing. We're taught so much as, as humans to think about it's this or it's this, it's good or it's bad, it's right or it's wrong and there's no in between or balance. And even at school, I don't know if this was your experience, but I think it's a pretty generic experience that people learn from a young age that... I'm just thinking of...

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About the Podcast

Queers and Co.
A podcast for queer folks and allies on self-empowerment, body liberation and activism.
Hi, I'm Gem! Join me as I chat to queer folks and allies about self-empowerment, body liberation and activism. My guests are at the forefront of change-making, working in areas like fat activism, sex positivity, intersectional feminism, drag/cabaret, LGBTQ+ activism and children's rights.

I'm a transformational coach, activist and founder of the Queers & Co. zine, podcast and community. Through my work, I support LGBTQ+ folks and allies to reclaim their personal power and take up space so that they can impact the world in ways they have only dreamt of.

Find out more about my work: www.gemkennedy.com
Find out more about Queers & Co.: www.gemkennedy.com/queersandco

About your host

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Gem Kennedy

I’m Gem. I'm the founder of the Queers & Co. zine, community and podcast, as well as a transformational coach and activist. I’m also queer, fat positive, an intersectional feminist and Mum to two free-range children.

I help LGBTQ+ folks and allies to reclaim their personal power and take up space so that they can impact the world in ways they have only dreamt of.