The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Darling Shear Discusses Post-Gender, Dance, and Finding Love

By Ester Alegria in News on Aug 31, 2014 7:00PM

Photo Credit: Jonathan Mathias

"I'm feeling Vivaldi today." Darling Shear, inside and out, is very much like the Baroque composition whose music played during our chat. She is quick and imposing, yet so very quiet. As we sat on the floor of her apartment, decorated with random vintage curiosities and her extensive wardrobe, the light through the already dim windows started its retreat.

I first encountered Darling in April of this year, outside of Beauty Bar minutes before Salonathon began.

She mentioned something about my outfit, and I felt proud. This extremely beautiful woman had complimented my fashion sense, something I rarely put much thought into; then I took a second look at her. I was enamored. It wasn’t an objectifying kind of thing. I firmly believe that Darling Shear is made purely of magnets. The people in her life are drawn to her by the metal shavings in their pockets.

This woman may be the picture of poise and adventure, but her acceptance and self-love comes with a price.

As Shear tells it:

“I came out as trans in September of 2013. But the only reason I came out as trans was to have a label for everyone else to hold on to. But in more recent explorations—a good friend pointed out something very lovely to me—I [identify as] post-gender. It is basically being beyond gender related matters and my explorations, since they are in a rather angelic state. I feel that’s more appropriate when talking in regards to myself. It’s kind of the exaggerated realm of the female presentation of androgyny.”

Anyone living in or visiting Chicago for an extended period of time would easily pick up on the deeply rooted segregation. This segregation dates back to the immigration of various groups of settlers feeling more comfortable with people from their home countries. ln turn, Chicago became the proverbial melting pot—but separation often breeds cultural bias. I was interested to know how this bias affected Darling as a trans woman of color living in the city.

“It depends on where I am. There are times when I’m up North and I don’t feel [very] comfortable. But it also depends on what I’m doing—it all varies. I guess it would depend on daytime to evening time. In the daytime, I feel fine. In the evening time, I’m a little more cautious, because people have been out drinking or partying. There are a few [situations] where I’m like, 'I need to be a bit more aware of my surroundings,' but all-in-all I pretty much feel comfortable everywhere. It starts at the home base. If you don’t feel comfortable, then it’s gonna read. It’s like a dog smelling fear. So I like to go into spaces as if I am just as normal as you are—even though there is no real normalcy.”

Statistically, 28 percent of trans persons have postponed health care for fear of dealing with anti-trans bias. This can lead to many health complications including the looming threat of unwittingly spreading STIs. For her part, Sheer says:

“I keep myself rather healthy, and I try not to go to the hospital unless there’s kind of some type of dire, extreme case. For the most part, I prefer to see Chinese doctors, and homeopathic/herbal remedies. And as a 5th generation ‘healer’ my mother and grandmother were both ‘healers’ as well. And we kind of ‘doctor’ on ourselves; I just make an effort to keep myself in good health. So, it’s very rare when I get into that situation because I really don’t like hospitals. But I do know that that is a big thing for a lot of people. And I guess that might come up when I cross that road? But it’s not something that has been reeling in my mind.”

Not wanting to pry too much into her personal thoughts, I cautiously asked if the depression that often plagues trans persons affects her. She said, “No I don’t mind,” then explained:

“I was actually talking about this with my friend on the train the other day. And I was talking about Rob Lowe's character on Parks and Recreation because whenever I see my friend, I say his full name. And actually he goes, “Well, you kind of have that sunny disposition…that positive outlook.” And I do have it, and I work hard to keep [myself] from being in a funk. And I do have days where I’m like, “I’m fat! My hair is horrible!” And then, I’m fine. I just needed to have that moment.

We’re human. We just gotta have the experience, let it wash over us, and keep moving. And I do understand those moments of ‘trans depression’ because for me, what I think about, is finding true love.

And that has been a recurring thing for me since coming out and identifying with my androgynous, dual presence, female exploration. There are a lot of moments of fear of whether I’d find someone, but also knowing that the universe is going to attract people to me, and that some things are gonna hurt, and some things are gonna feel amazing. It’s all going to teach me something. But, sometimes I just want to go to a different planet and be alone. I’ll just be an old woman. Like the old woman who lived in a shoe!”

Thinking of Darling all alone reminds me of her dance pieces. Her in a performance space, or perhaps a rearranged bar, captivating onlookers with movement, sometimes prefaced by a few thoughtful words.

She's a performer, but one gets the sense that every performance is indeed for her own gratification. And she lives her life in the same respect. I believe she is indeed a healer. Her limbs provide the incantations—some improvised,—some choreographed, with a group of other talent. Or alone, between rows of hot, sticky Chicagoans, all eager to get a glimpse of the emancipated Darling Shear.

“Just last night, I was at a going away party, and was DJing. And I just went in. I just started to dance to this one song. It was like no one else was in the house. And dancing does help in the depression area. And if I can’t dance it out, then I go shopping! I was formally trained at a performing arts high school in Atlanta. And I’ve been dancing since then. I’ve been blessed to work with some amazing choreographers along the way. I’ve been put into situations that helped me grow as a performer and gain stage presence, and performance quality.”

Salonathon: LEX·I·CA - Darling Shear & Braden Coucher - March 2014 from Joe Varisco / JRV MAJESTY on Vimeo.

One of her brave performances in which she bared herself, and her soul, actually gave me the courage to make a major life decision. A decision involving love and micro-aggressions.

During an online chat with a friend of mine, and fellow writer, A.E. Hammock, I was schooled on my “forward thinking.”

"I am trans and it does affect how I see the world," Hammock said.

“Mostly in the form of constantly feeling isolated and under attack and like I'm going to spend the rest of my life completely alone. I've just been feeling at the end of my rope lately. And usually when cis people talk about us, they focus on the trans part of our identities at the expense of never talking about anything else It's a part of my identity, just like my love of beer or video games or comic books. Ignoring our identities is [almost] the same as people who claim to be colorblind.”

Her angst displays the depression that stems from rejection of trans persons, even within the LGBTQ community. This world is filled with many different kinds of ladies, and it's impossible to label us all. We may not all share the exact same viewpoints or even genitalia, but we do share similar experiences, similar love, and womanhood.

With that in mind, we concluded our chat with some dos and don'ts regarding interacting with trans people on the street.

Chicagoist: “Is it OK to stop a trans person on the street and ask to take a selfie with them?”

Darling Shear: “I’m going to say not ok because it does drive me crazy sometimes when people do that. If it’s like “Oh, it’s a freak show,” then, no. But if they’re sincerely smitten, then that’s OK.

Chicagoist: “This is very offensive. I really don’t want to say this! Okay. Here goes. Is it OK for a straight person to use words that they wouldn’t normally use--words that are common in the gay community like, “Yaaass!” and “Hunty!” while addressing a trans person, or any person in the LGBTQ community? Appropriate, is what I’m trying to say.

Darling Shear: No. No that’s not OK.

Chicagoist: Is it OK to ask if a trans person is pre-op, or post-op?

Darling Shear: Um, that is tricky. Because if it’s just some random stranger, then no it’s not any of their business. But then there’s the rule of thumb for anyone that anytime that conversation comes up really would be when are about to pursue a sexual relationship with a person. But other than that, no.

Chicagoist: Is it OK for anyone—a stranger—to grab you on your person. Like trying to find out what you’ve got down there, even if they’re admiring you?

Darling Shear: “If you’re walking down the street, and someone walks up and grabs your titty, then, no. But if you’re in a club, dancing close, and the dance is already so suggestive; and you touch things, then you make that decision if you want to keep that going or not. But if it’s just pedestrian life, ‘Oh, it’s a lovely day’—you’re going to get a bagel and cup of coffee, and some ‘rando’ walks up and slaps your ass. That’s a no. Never.