Nico is a non binary fat femme Afro Tainx Boriqua and lifelong brooklynite. They are the campaign organizer of TransJustice program at the Audre Lorde Project. Nico is fiercely committed to his communities. He is a cultural worker who uses multiple mediums to document history, share knowledge and create avenues to reconnect to the ancestors. On their many journeys, they are learning history and using it to fuel their fight for the revolution.
This interview is presented as part of a series of "They/Them" interviews conducted by ill Weaver. ill Weaver and Wes Taylor have developed and are sharing a line of apparel for Emergence called "THEY". “THEY” is a strategy for signalling one’s self-identification with the gender nonconforming pronouns “they” and “them” in an affirming and aesthetically bold way. As part of the project accompanying this new apparel, ill discussed “they/them” with other inspiring individuals who use “they/them” pronouns.
Read on for ill’s summary of their conversation with Nico. Read more thoughts from ill Weaver on the THEY campaign here.
ill discusses THEY with Nico
Nico is the lead organizer of the TransJustice program as part of the Audre Lorde Project, but they started out organizing as a member of FIERCE!. In our interview, they talked about the feeling of being a street-based youth:
“There's this thing that happens here where you become homeless, and your biological fam doesn't accept you, but then you also find this deep sense of freedom of 'I'll be homeless, and I'll go to the pier everyday, and I'll go steal an apple from the store, but I will be so fucking queer and free to be in my queerness.' So I was really in that place of investing my energy into everything I was. I really did admire that these folks, like Emerson, were going by They, and there wasn't any way that they were gonna let you categorize them. That really encouraged me to find out what pronoun it was that I wanted to use. And to really fucking hold on to it and be proud of it. They demands that folks who use it do the work to break down gender as they understand it.”
Nico uses both They and He as their pronouns. They made this decision after years of going by both He and She, but experienced too many people wrongly defaulting to using She to describe him. He explained the reasoning for utilizing both pronouns:
“I wanted to reclaim what I define as masculine and what I define as feminine because if I let the world define that for me then there's many parts of my physical body, identity, and history that will be masculinized and held to this fucked up standard of masculinity. So if I can reclaim that and define what my masculinity looks like and what my femmeness looks like, then it's a way for me to reclaim my body as a fat disabled person and uplift the feminized and therefore often invisibilized labor and work I do for my people.”
They went on to break down some commonly held false perceptions of fat folks in relationship to race and gender – as well as the underrepresentation of femmes who use They and Them pronouns:
“There's definitely more representation of people who identify with They and Them pronouns who are masculine presenting or just gender neutral or who try to be andro but even that in terms of bodies – fat folks can't really access androgyny as it is defined by thin, white, eurocentric standards – this widely embraced definition of androgyny does not fit fat Black and Brown people. Femmes [are] resisting the idea that they need to use She or Her or any societally defined characteristics of femmeness and reclaiming who and what we are, what we look like, how we love. My rage and my commitment to my people, that's my femmeness.”
Nico spoke about the layered meanings of They and the importance of making space for their multitude of stories and identities:
“I've experienced mad violence in hospitals, the medical industrial complex, policing and sexual violence, all these experiences I carry and how that related to me being fat and being disabled and also even being from New York. Being from Brooklyn, being displaced and being pushed out. All of those things are relative to my gender expression. And the more that I can reclaim and define shit for myself, the more free I feel. So using They is more than just about gender, it's about the multiple layers to our identities and why They fits all of our identities as one intersectional representation.”
He discussed the ways that gender binaries are perpetuated, even within queer and trans spaces where they receive criticism of their pronoun:
“I get it mostly from other trans folks who are like 'you have not transitioned'. But there are so many transitions actually. There are social, spiritual, mental, emotional transitions and people put all of it into one physical transition. I think that is also obviously real and rooted in deep trauma of what you have had to do to validate who you are. And sometimes we start doing that to each other. We're actually really violent to the people who haven’t medically transitioned or will not. Or cannot. And also violent to people who have. Like we're never gonna be able to actually one hundred percent become cis, if you do identify with the binary. And then for some of us, we don't have a specific way that the gender we identify with is supposed to look, but there are so many reasons why someone would not take T or not bind, or not get top surgery, or whatever. We can really limit each other and ourselves.”