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“the path of least resistance”
Gendered Storytelling Essay: Xan Cordova

By Shelby Bundy

December 1, 2018

When I first approached Xan about being a collaborator in this project, her reply was, “Yeah! You know me, I love talking about myself.” A first little clue to the humor that is Xan. I first met Xan when we were both working at the University Center at Bears Bistro. We now work together again at the Humane Society. I thought she was weird at first because she has a dry sense of humor that is hard to notice at times. So, it takes a minute to realize she is joking because her tone of voice almost never changes. Xan is in her fourth year at UNC, is 21 years old and uses she/her/hers pronouns. She is in a devoted and adorable relationship of two years, and I honestly consider them #relationshipgoals (seriously though, Xan’s girlfriend brought her soup to work when she was sick). Xan self-identifies as queer but chooses to use gay ‘because it’s easier to explain to people.’ According to Renee Hoogland, the term ‘queer’ was reclaimed in the 1980s as a term of “self-identification, in the early twenty-first century queer is primarily used to refer to any form of non-heteronormative gender, sex, and sexuality, as well as in contradistinction to more straightforward categories of sexual identification, such as lesbian, gay, and bisexual.” Before being reclaimed, it was often used as a derogatory label for the LGBTQ+ community. Queer Nation is noted to be one of the first groups to bring the term into the mainstream, with the help of their chant, ‘We’re here! We’re Queer! Get used to it!” Agency can be loosely termed to mean a person’s capacity to interact in their social environment, where they act independently from the social structure. In Xan’s case, her agency is that of her queer identity and choosing to ‘conform’ to the comfort of others as she considers it the ‘path of least resistance.’ It goes to show a lot about a person when they choose to not argue with people over how they want to be seen as in an effort to be liked by all, and this project has shown me just how strong and inspiring of an individual Xan Cordova proves herself to be.

“I’m from North Glen, Colorado, suburb of Denver I suppose- I guess. I lived there basically my whole life, I never moved- well I guess I did when I was a baby but I don’t really remember that- I remember mostly just living in my one household for my whole life. I was raised primarily by my grandma, my parents divorced when I was like four, so while my mom was at work she [grandma] would take care of us. So she’s my primary caregiver. My mom was still there, but she [grandma] spent the most time with us. They [family] were supportive of it [being part of the lgbtq+ community]. I was always like a tom-boy, I never wanted to play with any of the girl toys or like any of that. And they were all pretty supportive, they let me get whatever toys I wanted and like do whatever I wanted. My grandmother had like a gay sister and a gay brother so it’s not like they weren’t unsupportive of it or anything like that. My family’s pretty catholic so I went to catechism when I was growing up, which is you know, like, Catholic classes where you go in and learn about Jesus and shit. So that was fine, I guess.

“I never really had any attraction to anyone for a really long time so it’s not like I ever thought I was gay or anything. I just liked to do stuff that boys liked to do. And to like hang out with, pretty much everyone. I didn’t really have a preference one way or- either. But then in middle school, I was like ‘I like guys’ and I thought I had crushes on boys but I don’t think I actually did. I think I just wanted to be their friend. And then in the sixth grade, I was best friends with this girl and she had this sleepover and her friend- who I guess is kinda like her cousin- but her friend, who’s like a couple years older than us, was there and she was talking about how she was bisexual and I thought I like, had a crush on her and it was like weird. I was like ‘oh, okay, like neat.’ And then it’s not my family ever cared but I think I just noticed other people’s attitudes about stuff like that. Like people in class would be like, ‘oh this one girl’s bisexual- ew that’s gross’ or like, just little things. They weren’t like outwardly homophobic or anything like that but I think I picked up on stuff like that so it made me kind of uncomfortable. And I think more than anything, I imposed being uncomfortable on myself. It’s not like my- my- I think my mom was always waiting for me to come out of the closet. Like, always, just like [higher pitched/mocking tone]‘sooo you like any boysss? Any girlsss?’ And I’d be like [deeper, annoyed teen voice] ‘MOM! What are you saying to me? Nnneehhh.” So. I guess that made me uncomfortable then but I don’t know. I guess I was more unsupportive of myself than anyone else. Like, I didn’t- I don't know- I think having a religious upbringing definitely like affected the way I perceived it because even though my family’s attitudes weren’t discriminatory, I think the general catholic consensus that ‘all gays are gonna go to hell’ made me a little uncomfy with that. So I was uncomfortable with that and I think waited a while before I said anything. And then in the 8th grade, on National Coming Out Day, I came out to my sister and my friends. Some of them were like, ‘oh. I knew all along!’ and then some were really surprised, I don’t know how they could’ve been surprised but they were surprised. And then, my mom- I never actually told my mom- my sister told my mom. I just didn’t ever wanna talk to her about it cause it makes me uncomfortable to talk about feelings to my mom, she has too many feelings. So that was just too much and I wasn’t really interested in talking about it. It wasn’t really like a big deal, I didn’t want to make it a big deal because I’m pretty private with my emotions, so I didn’t wanna share it with other people. I was just like, ‘This is a thing, just leave it alone.’ And all my friends were pretty supportive about that. None of them were really ever like ‘I can’t be friends with you cause you’re gay’ because I think the area I grew up in, no one was really rude to people for being gay. Unless you were a guy. Like, if you were a gay guy, I think people were more uncomfortable with it cause guys would be like ‘you’re hitting on me.’ And they’d be afraid and kinda douchey about it, but no girls ever really said anything to me about it. They were just like, ‘You’re funny, so you can hang out and be friends with us!’ I never really dated anyone like that because no one’s really out in high school, except for a couple people. So you know you’re like the token gay in a sea of people who think they’re straight until they go to college. So that was a fun time. And then I started talking to this girl I met on Tumblr, and we were like Tumblr girlfriends for a while. And we’d like mail each other stuff through the mail, like cute little packages and stuff like that. And she was gonna come and visit me one summer but, I didn’t really want her to visit me because I felt like I was too scrubby and poor and I didn’t want her to. So then we ended up stopping talking, but that was like my first, I guess, ‘girlfriend,’ if you can call it that. And then I dated a girl in junior year of high school. And I guess that was my first serious relationship. And that was fine but she was kinda shitty so that was a horrible experience. When we first met, she was dating a boy and then ended up coming out as- she knew she was bisexual then, but then she ended up coming out as fully gay- as fully gay as anyone can be. It’s probably not absolute but- identify more that way once we had started dating. And I didn’t believe her, she was offended that I didn’t take her seriously so I was like [high pitched/mocking tone] ‘oops, sorry, didn’t know.’

“I guess it’s affected me throughout my life, I don’t know, most people have been pretty nice about it so it hasn’t really been a big deal. I think that’s something that people notice all the time, so it’s not really something I ever get the option of hiding from people. Which is unfortunate because it’s just so very apparent that if you look the way that you do and you fit the part, that that’s just who you are. So you don’t get a chance to come out to people, you’re just always out. So it’s nice because you don’t have to explain yourself to people or get hit on by creepy guys, cause they already know. But at the same time, it’s kinda shitty because you’re worried that you’re gonna walk down the street and someone’s gonna like shoot you or beat you up or you know say some shitty stuff because you’re so obvious. So that’s not the greatest thing in the world because that’s always in the back of my mind. Like when I walk into a room, people already know. Using public restrooms, make me uncomfortable because I’m afraid people are gonna think that I’m like trans and that I’m trying to impose myself. Or that people think that I’m gonna go molest their kids, so I try to avoid using the bathroom in public because I don’t want people to think that I’m trying to hit on them or be creepy. Public locker rooms make me uncomfortable for the same reason cause people are always thinking that you’re gonna hit on someone just because you’re attracted to them. Which is absolutely not the case. I avert my gaze at all costs, I’m like ‘please don’t look at me.’ I don’t think it’s defining of my personality but at the same time, it is cause you can’t divorce yourself from that part of your identity because it’s so attached to the culture that we live in. You can’t really escape it so you kinda just have to embrace it, otherwise, you’re gonna be screwed over. That part’s fine. I think now it’s better. Being in this day and age there’s more, like, legislation and overall support. But it’s still a dangerous world. I mean, even in Greeley, like not too long ago, maybe six or seven years ago, that one trans girl was brutally murdered here. That’s always in the back of my head, like thinking about ‘oh boy, I sure hope I don’t get fucking murdered today!’ But also being a girl, that can happen any day too. So it’s just a double-whammy there.

“I went to some spectrum meetings a couple times and they were pretty useless. It was mostly like a social circle. I didn’t really feel like I gained anything from there. And I feel like the Gender Sexuality Resource Center does well to help out people who are probably more beginning, but I don’t really feel like they do a ton that would really benefit me in one way or another. UNC’s pretty accepting for the most part. I don’t think anyone there is really outwardly crazy- like, there’s a lot of conservatives there because of all the farms and stuff around here. But I think overall, it’s pretty fine here. It’s just also, in any academic setting, if you’re the only obviously gay person whenever they’re talking about stuff like that, they look at you like you’re gonna be the spokesperson for everyone who’s gay in the world.

“I have only really had an attraction to girls but wouldn’t ever rule out having feelings for a dude because people change so much over a lifetime and people’s personalities matter more than their sex. I think it’s highly unlikely that I would ever date a boy but I think it’d be ignorant of me to assume that that is absolute. Sexuality is much more of a spectrum that changes with time and experience and so I feel queer more encompasses that idea than just saying I’m gay. But to most people, I would just say gay rather than explain it all to someone who might not agree.”

After I finished typing the transcription, I sent a copy of it to Xan with the joking caption of, “You talk a lot.” Her reply was, “You right tho.” Xan is probably one of my favorite people that I have met since moving here, and I found myself chuckling every ten seconds when listening back to her interview. She is subtly sarcastic and intelligent beyond my comprehension, and I was so glad to have her work with me on this project. I learned more about her than I thought I would, and it provided a new perspective on what the LGBTQ+ community goes through. Xan presents herself as a strong and independent woman, yet I noticed in her interview that she used the word uncomfortable a lot, which surprised me. I never would’ve taken her for someone who gets uncomfortable easily, but then again, her sexual identity is different than mine which leads to vastly different experiences. She manages to push through the discomfort and get through life, with strong support from friends and family at her side, even if she prefers to not discuss her feelings. I found out that we had more in common than I would’ve guessed. We both have divorced parents, who separated from a young age, both find ourselves uneasy discussing our feelings, and we both have a sarcastic sense of humor. When I asked her about why she chooses to make other people comfortable over her own comfort, she said that it’s because it’s the path of least resistance. I learned that Xan is a much more resilient individual that I would’ve ever thought. She likes to be liked and ‘agreeing or just not arguing with people is a good way to stay in everyone’s favor.’ So she chooses to ease the confusion of others in place of her own identity and if that isn’t strength and courage, then I don’t know what qualifies. I also learned about the topic of queer theory. Nadal writes that “Queer theory aims not to replicate the same exclusionary identity politics that has characterized the mainstream; to this end, the boundaries of the term queer are fluid or nonexistent, such that no binary can be formed. As such, queer theorist Annamarie Jagose (1996) stated that “queer is less an identity than a critique of identity.’” The term queer is something I had never been familiar with, other than hearing it in a negative way from people that I chose to distance myself from, but I am glad to have learned more about it from someone who I consider a friend. It’s also led me to a new line of thinking, in that there really is no two-gender binary in our society. Queer is just one example of that since it has no precise definition relating to gender or sexuality and is used more as an umbrella term (TIME). Growing up in our society, we have the ideals of a binary shoved in our faces, with no time to really gauge whether we fit on that track or not. I am glad to live in this time when we, as a society are discovering new terms to fit how people have been since the beginning of time. I have learned as an anthropologist, especially, to always question the knowledge I am fed in my life. This knowledge has led me to see that there is no ‘correct’ gender or sexuality, and I am thankful that I have a supportive group of friends around me that can help lend their own personal knowledge and experiences to further my own cultural and social identity.

 [1] Hoogland, Renée C. "Queer." In Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender, edited by Fedwa Malti-Douglas, 1235-1236. Vol. 4. Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. Gale Virtual Reference Library (accessed November 30, 2018). http://link.galegroup.com.unco.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/CX2896200525/GVRL?u=uncol&sid=GVRL&xid=311ea0fb.
[2] Nadal, Kevin L. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2017. PDF. Print pages: 1383-1385.
[3] Steinmetz, Katy. "LGBTQ: GLAAD Uses the Q for Queer." Time. October 26, 2016. Accessed December 01, 2018. http://time.com/4544704/why-lgbtq-will-replace-lgbt/.

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