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T in the Life: Alex Temple
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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Identifies as: Transgender, genderqueer

Pronouns: "She" or "they"

Neighborhood: Edgewater

Life's work: "I'm a composer. Right now, I'm in the doctoral program at Northwestern and teaching music theory and composition for non-majors there."

Hobbies/interests: Film, literature, photography, politics, language, cultural history and road trips.

Do you have a coming out story?: "My transition has been very gradual, so I never had the kind of big coming-out moment that a lot of trans people do. For a few years, I presented myself in a visibly gender-variant way and let people come to their own conclusions, and I wound up with different social circles that referred to me using different pronouns. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I was no longer OK being referred to as "he," so over the last few months I've started telling people that I prefer "she" or "they." Nobody seems to be particularly surprised."

What is the best thing about being gender-variant?: At the risk of sounding like a character in a sci-fi movie, I feel like living outside of the conventional gender system has enabled me to see the arbitrariness and constructedness of all the cultural symbols that people usually take for granted. Sometimes when I'm on the El, I look around at my fellow passengers and it's like they're completely covered in signs. It's a strange and slightly unsettling experience, but it's also liberating — and very good for making art!"

Whom do you admire most?: "In the trans world? I'm slightly in love with Julia Serano. And I never cease to be amazed by the inexhaustible energy that local activist (and my friend) Jen Richards puts into her work for the community."

What issues, beyond the queer community do you care about?

"A whole host of political issues which can basically be summed up with the phrase 'the Green Party platform.' Also trying to expand the audience for contemporary classical music and fighting the idea of 'good taste,' which I see as basically a type of social control that works by making people feel embarrassed for liking art that isn't socially approved."

How do you explain the way you feel about gender to others?

"Basically, I would say that gender is a lens through which people's appearance and behavior are given social meaning. When I say that I'm transgender, what I mean is not that my behavior is inherently feminine — that would just be stereotyping! — but that I feel vastly more comfortable with the meanings that are produced when I look at myself through a 'female' lens. And when I say that I'm genderqueer, what I mean is that I simultaneously find the whole socially-constructed gender system kind of absurd."

Photo by Alex Temple. To nominate a person for T in the life, email: Kate Sosin

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