For decades, Joshua M. Ferguson felt lost. It took years of navigating established gender narratives to arrive at a place where the writer, filmmaker and activist felt at peace.
Now, having found that peace, Ferguson, BA’09 (Film Studies), is “reclaiming the self” by publishing a memoir – Me, Myself, They: The Future is Non-Binary – with Canada’s House of Anansi Press, early next year.
“I started to realize the significant gap in literature – academic and trade – about non-binary subjects, written by non-binary people, required an intervention. The trans narrative is often focused on the lives of trans men and trans women,” said Ferguson, who identifies as non-binary trans and uses the pronouns ‘they,’ ‘them’ and ‘their’ to reflect gender identity.
“Non-binary people – people who are neither men/women and male/female – have been invisible, erased and excluded for too long. Reclaiming myself necessitated seizing a space for non-binary visibility with my story in written, filmic and activist forms.”
It has been a challenge for the 35-year-old alumx – the preferred singular, gender-neutral moniker for alumni – to come to terms with the verbal, physical and sexual abuse they endured in adolescence and early adulthood. Nothing felt easy in life. Ferguson, who also holds a PhD in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice from the University of British Columbia, felt broken for decades and only started to find, and feel comfortable, with the self after years of research, activism and hearing “stories of brave non-binary people sharing their truths online and in popular culture.”
“In my years of academic study, I started to reclaim fragments of myself that were obscured by the binary and ripped away from me by other people. I had no idea, up until about five years ago, that gender identity and expression beyond the binary was even possible,” Ferguson noted.
“When I started writing this book, I thought I knew myself; I thought I knew the whole picture. But I am still learning. I have come into my non-binary identity only within the last four or so years, and I feel like my story is really just beginning. I realized this while writing the final chapters of the book.”
Ferguson is still feeling the reverberations of tapping into the past to write Me, Myself, They. Writing a memoir turned out to be a process of “recalling feelings instead of just remembering stories.” Feeling the pain, suffering and isolation made Ferguson relive the past.
“It’s been a challenge on emotional, physical and spiritual levels, to feel it all again, but I needed to open up to write my stories with my heart, and with my empathic energies,” they said.
“Me, Myself, They elevates my truth – the story of one non-binary person – to humanize an identity that might seem impossible to understand for some people. I want to meet people on the level of compassion and empathy by emphasizing similarities that can connect us, rather than divide us further into either/or positions in society.”
Ferguson wants potential readers to shelve fear before opening Me, Myself, They. Fear prevents us from understanding that which is different, they stressed.
“Open your heart to my heart. There is nothing to fear when it comes to my story, and there is a reason the reader is holding my book in their hands. Trust that reason.”
Me, Myself, They is a trade book and Ferguson feels it is a necessary read for all. It will be a new read for people within and without the LGBTQ+ community, they said, and any reader will find something to connect with.
“I want my book to be read globally, too. My story is delivered from my Western perspective, and my privilege as a white middle-class person, but it will act as a horizon of hope for many people around the world,” they added.
Ferguson’s feature-length documentary, entitled NON-BINARY, co-directed by Florian Halbedl, BA’09 (Film Studies, Medical Sciences), and Jules Koostachin, is currently in post-production, and tentatively set to be exhibited in late 2018. The documentary is a new kind of transition story about Ferguson’s life and fight for non-binary legal recognition in Canada.
Find out why Goodnight Moon still sits on the shelf of writer and filmmaker Joshua M. Ferguson, BA’09 (Film Studies), by clicking on this story at westernnews.ca.