Narrating Maturation in a Nonbinary Memoir



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description For many queer individuals reaching societal maturity is inaccessible due to its ties to the traditional heteronormative adulthood milestones. These are based on the conception of time as linear and oriented towards reproduction and future. Alternative queer milestones (e.g. coming out, transition) gave birth to new temporalities such as “trans years” (which may however become homonormativities). Jack Halberstam (2005) describes the concept of a “queer time,” in which “futures can be imagined according to logics that lie outside of those paradigmatic markers of life experience” (2), and which challenges the view of maturation as a “desired process” (4). Drawing on Halberstam’s theory, the presentation addresses maturing as depicted in two contemporary memoirs which explicitly deal with growing up nonbinary – Sissy by Jacob Tobia and Genderqueer by Maia Kobabe. It discusses how the protagonists navigate maturing without access to the traditional milestones and with limited awareness of the existence of others with similar experiences. It argues that while navigating growing up in the absence of categories to identify with, the authors also challenge the “queer milestones” and avoid portraying “outside oriented” events such as coming out as significant. They rather move towards what Jennifer M. Silva (2012) terms a “model of therapeutic selfhood,” and depict maturation in terms of individualistic and introspective achievements. While for the nonbinary protagonists, the traditional milestones of adulthood are incompatible with their realized identities, the full identification with Halberstam’s queer times is also not present. Rather, the protagonists create personalized milestones, which challenge the concept of heteronormative maturity, yet still present maturation as a linear, progressive, and desirable process. Halberstam, Jack. In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. NYU Press, 2005. Silva, Jennifer M. “Constructing Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty.” American Sociological Review, vol. 77, no. 4, 2012, pp. 505–22.
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