“When we stop identifying so much with our genitalia or gender identity, we start to recognize each other as souls [and we begin to realize that] souls happen over lifetimes… Let’s step aside from this body bullsh*t and talk about what it is to grow [apart] from our socialization.” – Chaé
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to watch a video posted on social media by a fellow tweeter, @AvatarChae. In the video, Chaé discussed a variety of topics that ultimately were connected to Chaé’s name preferences and thoughts on gender identity. In the days following, I was able to conduct an interview with Chaé to get a better understanding of Chaé’s thoughts on gender identity, spirituality, and just what Chaé’s role is with regards to amplifying voices and “disrupting conversations” centered on gender and assumptions.
Chaé is a 28 year-old D.C. native who is self-described as a unicorn.
One of the first topics we broached was Chaé’s name, as that was the initial social media post that later led to the aforementioned video. Though originally given the name Brittany at birth, Chaé associates that name with sounding “childish,” indicating a preference for names like “Lynn” or “Chaé” (a nickname stemming from Chaé’s middle name, LaChaé), which were more androgynous and not so obviously feminine. Chaé’s earliest memory of disliking the name assigned at birth is from the age of seven.
While the topic of childhood and upbringing were on the table, Chaé and I discussed the concept of gender identity and what accepting one’s gender identity looks like to a young child. Chaé indicated an early acceptance of being born a woman and denied having many thoughts on gender identity early-on in life, but confirmed that part of the reason that additional exploration into the topic was not done was due to the topic of sexuality and gender identity being “scary” and concepts that took Chaé out of a self-imposed “bubble” or “safe space.” Chaé indicated that it was just in the last month that this scariness began to dissipate. Chaé noticed a change in the level of intimidation that surrounded the topic and gained a “different perspective entirely.” When asked to discuss this change in perspective further, Chaé stated, “Before I was curious about other people’s stories and, [though I] supported them in their acknowledgement of themselves by a different gender identity, I did not fully “get it.”” Chaé went on to say that part of the struggle is the language used with regards to gender identity. “I do not care for the terms and language used to describe gender identity and Trans people. [One of the biggest issues that I ran into is that] none of these words exactly define me. [I tried looking for] something that resonated with me, but the closest I could get were the words “Trans” and “Agender,” which are actually exact opposites of one another.”
Chaé’s inability to find a gender identity-related term that truly fit led Chaé to the decision to refrain from embracing any of the current gender identity-based definitions or options. Chaé still struggles with this in conversation, though, making note of efforts to make some terms work since they are what other people are accustomed to. I asked Chaé to invent a term or phrase that best defined Chaé, a term that spoke to and about a gender identity that truly represented Chaé as an individual. The term that Chaé decided on was Trans Androgyny.
Chaé considers androgyny to have more spiritual aspects and connotations than others seem to, indicating that – for Chaé – androgyny looks like an equal balance of masculine and feminine energy, while Trans is possibly more appearance-based and tends to be more about appearing and presenting in a manner that more closely matches someone’s identity of self. Chaé also stated that there has been a fluctuation in what androgyny looks like, explaining that what used to look like balancing different energies is now more focused on marrying those two energies.
Before diving too deeply into the terms and phrase, I asked Chaé to talk about the “coming out” experience, specifically with regards to gender identity. Chaé said that the experience was nothing too surprising. Being from a very accepting family and having close friends who knew bits and pieces about Chaé’s struggles with having a more feminine physique made Chaé’s statement of, “I’m thinking about transitioning,” one that was completely supported, though more than likely not completely understood.
While I think we can all understand why it may feel or seem necessary to share a decision such as transitioning with our close friends and family, I wondered if a similar necessity existed for Chaé to share this decision with friends and followers on social media. Chaé said that there was no pressure to make neither the video nor the name change post. Chaé described the decision to make these posts as something that was done “because [Chaé] wanted to.” Chaé went on to say that there was a certain “calling” that led to the video post, simply saying, “I felt called to do the video post, just as I felt called to do this interview.” Chaé discussed feeling that there was a message that needed to be conveyed, explaining further that Chaé was able to convey this particular message because it was more important to raise awareness than it was to be care about the reactions of others or remain attached to being supported in this decision.
One word that continued to surface during the course of the interview was “calling.” When asked about the purpose or reason for the video and name change posts, as well as with regards to the interview, Chaé stated, “I feel called to help. I am starting to feel called to do a lot in this space and I am not sure what that looks like.” For Chaé, it is clear that this does not look like being an activist, but possibly more like feeling compelled to “disrupt conversations.” When asked to elaborate, Chaé began discussing the prevalence of gender stereotypes and heteronormativity in everything from social media debates to television shows to chosen styles of presentation in the LGBT Community. Chaé spoke about Insecure and Power as two examples of ways in which gender norms exist and that gender debates surface. Chaé compared these norms and debates in the heterosexual world to the norms and debates that exist depending on whether people are masculine or feminine presenting in the LGBT Community. Chaé emphasized that it is troublesome that so many of the ways in which we think are tied to male/masculine or female/feminine dynamics, raising an interesting question about why we so frequently fail to notice, discuss, or exist in the “in-between spaces.”
Chaé stated, in an almost matter-of-fact way, “When we stop identifying so much with our genitalia or gender identity, we start to recognize each other as souls [and we begin to realize that] souls happen over lifetimes… Let’s step aside from this body bullsh*t and talk about what it is to grow [apart] from our socialization.”
Chaé also discussed how being a producer for and host on several podcasts furthers the concept of disrupting conversations while teaching participants and listeners how to navigate the “in-between spaces.”
Chaé sounded like a proud parent when discussing the @330 and Kush & Krystals podcasts. Chaé described the @330 podcast as more opinion and popular culture focused. The Kush & Krystals podcast is more of a multifaceted, nontraditional, spiritual show that focuses on chronicling the journeys of the hosts while helping those listeners who may be going through similar journeys. For those who have yet to listen to Kush & Krystals, Chaé is one of the hosts of the podcast, often offering unique perspectives about current and past life experiences while quoting and imitating Migos. Chaé also boasted proudly about The Code, which offers both male and female perspectives on relationships and life all while encouraging listeners to “stick to The Code.”
One thing for sure, Chaé knows that this calling involves a spiritual awakening that revisits the idea that souls are androgynous before they select our bodies. One of the major questions that I had was whether this calling requires transitioning. Posing this topic gave Chaé the opportunity to discuss both the appealing and concerning parts of the decision to transition. Chaé was very open about wanting a flat chest, a six-pack, and a “nice little beard.” All of which seem far from the breasts and feminine shape that has been a part of Chaé’s struggle for years. Chaé was emphatic when saying that there is a hatred and disgust that exist when discussing body shapes, specifically the current one that Chaé’s soul is inhabiting.
The concerning aspects of transitioning for Chaé are less about physique and more about dysphoria and having children. For Chaé, one pressing question is about what happens if the transition takes place and Chaé still does not identify with a more masculine body. Conversations about dysphoria necessitate conversations about depression and Chaé was quite forthcoming when stating that mental health is also a factor in this current space and that, though acceptance of self has drastically decreased a lot of the feelings of depression, they are still there. Chaé was very candid about the desire to have children and the costs associated with surgeries, freezing eggs, and Reciprocal IVF.
When considering the costly commitment that Chaé would be making should the decision to transition be chosen, I wondered if Chaé had any qualms with a Higher Power about the body and gender that was given to Chaé at birth. As someone who grew up Christian, Chaé feels that there may have been some resentment during childhood, but now accepts that Chaé’s “soul chose this particular path because this is where we are and this is what is needed in this lifetime.”
Though Chaé is continuing to make peace with and accept various things about self, there is also the recognition that many other people may not be quite there yet. Chaé states that one of the first steps in accepting self was to stop caring about the acceptance of others, offering that so much of the process of “coming out” in any way is rooted in fear and personal struggles with fear. Chaé’s advice was both compassionate and honest: “Do not put yourself in any type of harm, but dance to the beat of your own drum in all aspects of life, not just with your gender identity.”
You can learn more about Chaé’s efforts to disrupt conversations while navigating life as it unfolds by visiting Chaé’s Twitter page (@AvatarChae) or by following the work of and endeavors associated with Chaé’s production network, De-Hypnotized Minds Network.