Patience Newbury

Do avatars dream of biographies or avatographies? Do avatars actually dream? Why are these even questions?

You: “Hey, you know you sorta look like that other woman on this website.” /// Patience: “You don’t say...” /// You: “You’re not fooling anyone.” /// Patience: “Of course not. I never promised I was anything greater than an avatar.” /// You: “Deceiver.” /// Patience: “areyouserious.gif”

45g of witty ripostes. This stuff is like beluga caviar, but far more humane and apparently far less tasty. No reason to hazard a guess on its nutritional facts: there are none.

This ought to start with the pithy “once upon a time”, but that means having to promise the other half. So why not start with “Back when she was at Beyoncé’s high school before Beyoncé got there*…”?

Patience Newbury signifies a few things.

Obviously, Patience is a can with a preposterous shelf life. Patience is also a nom de plume for talking about trans equity. Maybe an advocate. Possibly a remedial mentor (despite little guidance on what it’s like to actually be mentored). And, definitely, a social hub, amongst #folkslikeus and #girlslikeus, for a really, long, time (because Walken comma).

The Patience avatar came to be sometime in 2003, with related writings dating to 1998. She launched the collaborative Cisnormativity Project in 2011. Between 1998 and 2001, the woman behind the avatar was plaintiff and made case law in the first-ever civil justice case of its kind anywhere; several other legal cases, some actually realizing the justice she never knew, have surfaced during the years since. The concept of “trans-identified” emerged from that case’s discovery in 1999, though she’ll regret that brainchild forever. In 1996, she was cast in the first production of Kate Bornstein’s “Hidden: a Gender” not involving the playwright. At age 13, her parents institutionalized her less than a week after discovering she was trans (a really shitty, brutal thing for any parent to do). She ran away from abuse at 16 and came out at 18 to start her transition. Her first email account happened at age 22, back when that was kind of a big deal.

In January 2012, Patience created designs (inspired by the Shit White People Say meme) called Shit Stuff Cis People Say, giving accidental birth to dead-naming (a verb) and dead name (a noun). Around the same time, she posted “Maybe you should never transition”, challenging how everyone grapples with why trans people transition when we do and how resistance from cis people (when obstructing us from having agency over our lives and bodies) might vary with each stage of life, but said resistance holds constant throughout our lives.

She wrote under the pen name Ententa’s Magic to unpack the particular social barriers of being a woman who is trans, in a city swayed for decades by the much-loathed Gender Identity Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She recognized how one need not be a product of the clinic to feel its grip over the social health of an institutionally regulated community of people. Put another way: an everyday citizenship and baseline of equity, whilst being trans in Toronto, Canada, remains elusive so long as that institution continues operating as a gatekeeper, even if symbolically so, over #folkslikeus. Our everyday citizenship remains elusive so long as that institution shapes the terms of a public conversation it encourages cis people to have over trans people’s everyday participation in a cisnormative society. Our everyday citizenship remains elusive when that institutional energy doesn’t halt and reverse the culture of stigma which it and its contemporaries strove to engineer in the first place (particularly after their profession de-institutionalized cis homosexuality in 1973). tl;dr: We are allowed to either be citizens or be trans; we are deprived from being both simultaneously.

NGL: Patience feels persistent guilt for not having been able to do more to help her own people realize a civil justice, experience a social equity, and be spared from a deprivation of basic respect — all of which she admits may not happen during what’s left of her lifetime. If there is one dream carrying her forward, it’s that one day our people may all get to experience every notion of what a citizenship, untrammelled by everyday cisnormativity, affords one who is recognized as a bona fide citizen — including a clear, non-negotiable line between the discretion of privacy and public life. Good boundaries help good relationships.

Patience never says no to a good gumbo, sambar, or soondubu jjigae. Her bucket list includes trying a real sazerac. And watching a midnight sun skate low across the polar sky. Actually, doing both at the same time is the way to go, but that won’t be very easy. Although there’s been much mute since late 2014, you may still find her stuff on Twitter.


Interview

* This is actually true, though with a minor technicality: her second high school was literally across a soccer field from Beyoncé’s second high school, but Patience’s driver’s ed class was taught there. (She was also kissed there.) Although she lived in the same house, Patience’s cousin was also enrolled at Beyoncé’s high school (though both were long gone by the time Bey arrived). Being there before Bey didn’t make being there cool (both schools were actually total shit holes), so it doesn’t make Patience a Bey-hipster (or, uh, Beyster?). Patience’s first high school was a bit different: it had many classmates whose parents were astronauts.

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