[00:00:00] Ania: I love the term Covid trans baby. But you're, you're so right, I think it was that sort of release from being in constant contact with a world that told everyone to exist in a particular way.
[00:00:14] Jasper: I'm Jasper Lior, and this is Gender Euphoria: the podcast where we break down what gender euphoria is and talk about the beautiful, wonderful, incredible parts of trans identity. Today I'm with Ania Upstill. Ania is a trained clown, organizer of the first ever Wellington Queer Arts Festival, and if their gender was a dog, it would be a golden retriever. Hello, Ania. Thank you so much for being here.
[00:00:40] Ania: Hi Jasper, thanks for having me.
[00:00:42] Jasper: I like to start by asking people how they identify and what their pronouns are.
[00:00:46] Ania: Great. I identify as non-binary and or trans, and my pronouns are they/them.
[00:00:52] Jasper: Amazing. We love to see it. What does gender euphoria mean to you?
[00:00:57] Ania: Gender euphoria to me means the sort of elation of being true to your own gender. And I feel it mostly as a feeling in my body, and I guess I associate it with various things. I think like it's, it's kind of a free flow. I mean, obviously Golden Retriever as mentioned before, and just the, I guess for me it's also about being like, really it's about being like strong, which I think being assigned female at birth is something you're not necessarily allowed to be or told you can be. And so yeah, maybe that was gonna be your next question, I'm sorry if I preempted it.
[00:01:34] Jasper: No. All good. is there like a physical sensation that you feel in your body when you say you feel it?
[00:01:40] Ania: Yeah, I think it feels like lightness. and trueness and trueness isn't really easy to articulate I guess, but almost the feeling of just being, completely in my body in a way, like really like settled into my own physical being.
[00:01:58] Jasper: Do you mean that in like a literal like strength sense or like -
[00:02:02] Ania: Yeah, I think it's like literally being strong is important to in terms of feeling like I am being true to my, my gender identity, but also in a metaphorical sense, it's almost like the strength of, I guess, yeah, being, being settled in yourself, being, true to who you are, that kind of really resonant strength that's almost more maybe emotional or spiritual.
[00:02:23] Jasper: Yeah. I've been thinking a lot about mind body connection, which is just so fascinating to me and that, and what you're saying is definitely making me think of the mind body connection in our own genders for sure.
[00:02:36] Ania: Yeah, I think we're told a lot to set, well, we're told a lot in Western society to separate those two things generally, and specifically around gender, because we're almost, I don't know, it's almost like we're taught to look at ourselves through this, through the lens of binary gender and when that doesn't fit, I feel like that's when you sort of, you, it's because of, partly because of that disconnect. Whereas I feel like if you can get into your body and think like, and or sort of feel into what is my body, Where does my body feel truest or what is my body's expression that like is the truest expression. I don't know. I feel like that goes a certain way towards healing that feeling. And there's one way of kind of sensing into gender that might be outside of the binary, at least for me. I realized I was non-binary in physical theater school, so I feel like it was literally being like, wait I'm performing these different things, I don't really feel like I fit into these binary characters or stereotypes, and then being like, Oh, well what else is there? It's also what, what I play a lot with in performance. So , that's also just where, I guess love of the world I live in.
[00:03:37] Jasper: I also come from a theatery background, where I didn't realize that I was nonbinary in my theater days, but I was always cast as the boy or like, know was always that character and was definitely very queer and nonbinary in my in the characters that I was cast as and at how I was portraying them and thinking back to that, you know, you think back to all the moments that are like, Oh yeah, well obviously.
[00:04:00] Ania: Truly. I was also cast as either like male characters or like older female characters for a long time. And then I was like, Oh, because yeah, naturally not very fem and like, yeah, that's not where I sit. Great. Especially not like soft fem. I've realized that like I'm probably somewhere on a hard fem to soft masc spectrum in my gender, but very fluid. It doesn't make a lot of binary sense.
[00:04:26] Jasper: As it shouldn't.
[00:04:28] Ania: Truly.
[00:04:29] Jasper: Is there a moment of gender euphoria that stands out for you in your life?
[00:04:35] Ania: That's a good question. I remember the moment that I, realized I mean, I, I came to my realization of gender through watching a YouTube video about being non-binary. And like, you know what? I was not convinced by the, by like the, the value I don't know, of digital content maybe up to that point. I have been very IRL until like recently in terms of my art making, but like, just like watching that video and hearing someone explain what non-binary was and just like crying, like just being like, Oh my God, that's me. It just really convinced me, I guess, of like, okay, yeah, digital stuff is important and also just representation. Like you really don't, it's so hard to be what you don't see or hear and it's, yeah, it was quite a moment. I dunno if that's moment of gender euphoria. I guess it was in that it was like, Oh, I'm finally, I finally can see what I am.
[00:05:28] Jasper: Yeah. My realization moment was definitely dysphoric. Probably those moments are some amount of dysphoria and euphoria together.
[00:05:35] Ania: Mm.
[00:05:35] Jasper: On various ends of those spectrums.
[00:05:37] Ania: Yeah, that's, that's an interesting, I guess it in the, in the sense that it is a schism, often I think it comes from, it can come from the same place. Like I feel like my gender euphoria is definitely partly when I feel like I don't have to fit into the binary or that I feel like I've escaped it in some, in some way. Which feels like that the sort of, maybe the inability, like feeling that schism and the inability to be where you feel true is maybe one source of dysphoria, if that makes sense.
[00:06:07] Jasper: Yeah. Do you have any tips for escaping the binary?
[00:06:14] Ania: Um. I'm only laughing because I've done a really silly clown skit on escaping the binary, which is just really physical comedy. But, tips... I think just honestly spending time with people who make you feel good about yourself would make you feel accepted and finding people and or situations where you can experiment because I think that without the ability to sort of like experiment, it can be very hard to find what is right for you. Again, like, because for me, this process was happening when I was in a theater training program. Like we were experimenting with our bodies and our movement all of the time. And so I was in a really good space in that like I was doing that work all the time and I, my, I was very attuned to that type of experimentation, I think. But going forward, I mean, it's been super valuable to just put myself into queer and trans spaces very consciously, all of the time, and be around people that are, who are affirming, or at the very, and at the very least, non-judgmental, you know? And I feel like now I'm on the other side where I, spaces that are quite binary and still be like, Well, I'm still gonna opt out. And I don't really, because I have that basis of like knowing I can, I can go home, I can be accepted, I can, I know who I am.
[00:07:30] Jasper: Definitely. First of all, where can we watch the clown sketch?
[00:07:34] Ania: That clown sketch does not exist anywhere. Mostly because it was, it was an experiment. Like it was actually an experiment. It may , it may end up being a part of Too Much Hair, which is the show I'm currently working on, in which case there may be a digital version at some point. Yeah, I wouldn't , I don't know if I'd recommend it. But I will at some point actually put up a digital version of Transhumans which is my solo clown show about being non-binary. I guess keep an eye out. It will exist online in the future.
[00:08:06] Jasper: And we'll let you know right here, listener when when that's available for your viewing pleasure, Yeah, it's interesting that you can't be what you don't see represented and you can't break out of whatever is confining you if you don't have the space to experiment and see what else works for you. And I think that that's probably why there was a great outage during Covid times. when we were all locked down watching a bunch of shit on the internet, and just like, you know, trying different things because fuck it, why not?
[00:08:40] Ania: Mm-hmm.
[00:08:40] Jasper: I don't think that I was consciously even doing that, but I was a covid trans baby for sure. And just getting to exist in my own world that I made for myself for the first time ever because the rest of the world was forced to shut down around me. I think subconsciously that is when my body was like okay, you're done pretending that you can fit into this box and like have this name and wear this identity that people have told you to wear. All of a sudden it was just like, nope you're done.
[00:09:07] Ania: I love the term Covid, trans baby. But you're, you're so right, I think it was that sort of release from being in constant contact with a world that told everyone to exist in a particular way. It's in a, in a way that, and, and that's actually, I guess, yeah, what I was probably experiencing during training, cuz I mean, it's, it's not that training is necessarily gender neutral, but because you kind of, everyone does a lot of the same stuff and a lot of it is just like, be fire. You're kind of moving outside those movement patterns. I mean, literally be fire.
[00:09:42] Jasper: Oh theater.
[00:09:43] Ania: Oh theater.
[00:09:44] Jasper: Oh, theater training programs. It's cool to break down the conditions of what it takes to break out of the binary is interesting to think about, like what needs to be in place for that to happen to a person and then like what creates those conditions? How can we make communities and societies that are better in those ways to be more open spaces for everybody.
[00:10:04] Ania: Mm. Yeah. What a beautiful offer. How can we just let people be who they are or I guess like, let people have the permission to experiment as well. Cause I wonder if that's part of it, as in, in that, it feels like it can be tricky to, come out if you're not entirely sure like what that's going to look like, but like it's super fine to change. I mean, I feel like that's the whole beauty of transness and gender diversity is, it's like, yeah, fluid can change at any time. that's totally cool. It's actually just your business, what your gender is and you know, it's not like you have to move from A to B. You can move all over the map, which I love.
[00:10:43] Jasper: I'm trying to like figure out how to just like be casual in my bringing up of the next question, but sometimes I think it's okay to just take a pause and pivot.
[00:10:50] Ania: Yeah, any question?
[00:10:53] Jasper: Why is gender euphoria important?
[00:10:55] Ania: Oh, because we need more trans joy in the world and overt trans joy. I also think it's really hard to hold onto an identity that p arts of the world don't necessarily support without being able to celebrate the positive experiences that come along with it. So it's crucial, absolutely, I think vital to like, yeah, and, and, and to building, community as well. I think being able to share those moments is really, really special.
[00:11:27] Jasper: Agreed. Yeah. Something in this podcast with Alok and Laverne Cox, I should link everywhere if I haven't done that already, Alok is says that like transness is possibility. I feel like that's why transness is so important and that's why like trans leaders, like trans people have been leaders throughout history and why gender euphoria is important because we just present possibility of anything that could be and I don't really know where I'm going with this.
[00:11:56] Ania: No, it, it's really, that's actually, that's a great way of articulating it. I mean, obviously Alok is a genius, and like, as we, we have move into a future where things are actually quite uncertain. I mean, pandemic aside, climate change, I mean, wow, racial injustice, huge. The fa the idea of being able to be fluid or flexible or changeable or to imagine different worlds, is actually vital for like the success of, I don't know, the planet, humankind, all of that. And I personally, because I'm a Latin nerd, I love that the actual prefixed trans can mean through, across or beyond, and that, there's so much possibility in that, right? It's like we are thinking in just these ways that are completely different and so full of possibility and that that is, yeah, like a kind of like a sacred task to not get, or maybe to get a little, a little woo woo, but I think that's actually very true. And it's also why I think in, in indigenous cultures, you see trans people as shamans and leaders in that way.
[00:13:04] Jasper: Yeah, I didn't know that about the prefix of trans. I love that a lot. That's so cool. Cause that's exactly what it is.
[00:13:12] Ania: Mm.
[00:13:12] Jasper: That whole concept is something that they talk a lot about in this podcast episode. And hearing that articulated in that way for the first time is like, what? I don't know. It just made, me feel so excited to be a part of this, to be able to hold this identity and really feel it and it just made me feel so special. And I want to pass that feeling along to other people, especially if they are struggling or feeling a lot of the weight of the negative sides and like, you know, the horribleness that unfortunately also comes along with identifying outside of over culture, I guess. But yeah, we're badass superheroes.
[00:13:48] Ania: Totally. And there's just...
[00:13:51] Jasper: Gonna beat climate change
[00:13:52] Ania: Gonna beat climate change, yes. Yes. And, and from a systems level, I guess what's really destroying a lot of things on multiple levels is just the adherence to the way that things have been done which I think is also where that, yeah, that sense that like possibility comes in. It's like, Oh, no, no, but we have to do it this way because this is the way we do it. It's like, well, no, if you can think about, if you can imagine other possibilities, then you can achieve other outcomes, and it's just, it's essential.
[00:14:21] Jasper: Yeah. To bring it all back to gender euphoria, we need to have this joy in our community so that we are safe to create these things and make the change and like be the possibility that we can imagine. And that's why we all get together and dance naked around fires. And that is a hundred percent the trans experience. There's no other way that it is.
[00:14:43] Ania: It's only dancing naked around fires.
[00:14:46] Jasper: That is a joke. That's a....
[00:14:48] Ania: No I mean I have never danced naked around a fire and I'm pretty sure that I'm...
[00:14:54] Jasper: oh, you're missing out!
[00:14:55] Ania: I know but I am living a trans experience despite that. But I am missing out and I will, you know, aim to achieve that as soon as possible.
[00:15:04] Jasper: But yeah, we need joy.
[00:15:06] Ania: Mm.
[00:15:07] Jasper: need to share joy with each other.
[00:15:08] Ania: And especially with young people, I think, representation and joy are really, really crucial. For instance, like, because I grew up in Berkeley, was very, very lucky to have queer representation in my life from a very young age. And I think that's one of the reasons that I came out quite early and like didn't feel any particular traumatic way about it. I was like, Oh no, I'm just bi. That's fine. I feel strongly about being able to inhabit a space. That helps be that representation that I wish I'd had around gender.
[00:15:37] Jasper: Do you have any good representation that people can go find out there like suggestions?
[00:15:44] Ania: Gosh. Well, Alok is the dream I mean, for all the content, it's all about love. It's so amazing. I think, I mean, I would honestly just kind of be like, go to Instagram or something. I'm a very visual person, so I find that just following trans and gender diverse people on Instagram, like just brings me a lot of joy. Yeah, I think that's probably the, platform I use the most. Maybe have kind of a short attention span. So I don't tend to watch a lot of YouTube videos, even though I referenced one earlier in this conversation. But I do like podcasts and I think just starting with, like listening to everything that Alok is on is like a really great guide because there's, cuz they're so articulate, like they're so articulate, and I think because they have come from such a strong place of love. It's just really great. Also, Adrian Marie Brown is a absolute dream.
[00:16:33] Jasper: Any other like random thoughts about gender euphoria?
[00:16:36] Ania: Hmm. Share it. If you have it, share it. I would honestly, could like suggest that if you have other people in your life who are trans gender diverse, like get together and talk about gender euphoria. Like have a dinner, like have a potluck, even if it's on Zoom, just have a chat about the things that you love about yourself and your gender, because it just feels amazing. And just like being really accepting of everyone's answers. Cause I think that's the thing. It's like, what I don't want is for it to become there to be a right way to be trans. There's like, no right way to be trans. It's all super legit. And I think just practicing that, like listening and acceptance and being listened to and accepted? Ugh. The dream.
[00:17:22] Jasper: Yeah, it is. Thanks so much for sharing all your thoughts and feelings and wisdom.
[00:17:29] Ania: Oh my gosh. Thanks for chatting.
[00:17:30] Jasper: Is there anywhere that you want to be found on the internet?
[00:17:34] Ania: I do have an Instagram. the handle is at @ButchMermaid. Because that actually is my gender identity as a mythical creature. And for gender euphoric content, the show I'm working on Too Much Hair we're doing, we're starting to release some of that onto YouTube.
[00:17:50] Jasper: Thanks so much.
[00:17:52] Ania: Oh my gosh. Thank you.
[00:17:53] Jasper: I never know how to end.
[00:17:55] Ania: Well, let's just,
[00:17:56] Jasper: I'm supposed to be good at. I can't do them.
[00:18:00] Ania: It was just like, you know, this has been great, I don't know how to end either. These things are horrible, but you know, just be like, awesome. Take care. Keep being euphoric
[00:18:12] Jasper: Yeah. Okay. Gender Euphoria and fade out here.
[00:18:18] Ania: Done.