Kori Doty has a seahorse tattoo.
It’s inked on their left arm and features a father fish facing its newborn. And maybe you didn’t know this, but it’s the male seahorses that carry their babies and deliver them — just like this 31-year-old Slocan Valley father did four months ago when they gave birth to their kid Searyl.
“I’m a single parent who got pregnant with the help of some friends,” Doty told the Star, during this weekend’s Human Library project.
“I thought I was going to be sharing the cost, at least, with another person. But that relationship didn’t last and on the other side of that, I’m really grateful, even with the costs and labour, to be a single parent.”
Like other trans people, Doty doesn’t use gender pronouns such as “he” and “she,” and prefers “they.”
The conversation was part of a Nelson Library initiative that saw residents connected with a variety of “Human Books” who wanted to share their stories with the community. Participants were given the opportunity to choose two books, and spend 20 minutes with each.
Doty’s title for the event was Gender Queer: Being Non-Binary in a Binary World, and their goal was to challenge readers’ over-simplified perceptions of identity. They were raised as a girl, spent some time in their 20s living as a man, and now Kori’s found a gender identity they can embrace: non-binary trans.
They understand that this idea can be confusing, even alarming, to some people. That’s why these days they’ve begun community education work, helping questioning individuals find their identity and connecting them with online resources.
“I was raised as a girl, but I didn’t really have any context for understanding there were other options,” they said.
“Then I saw this movie, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which is about this troupe of drag queens that travel in a bus to the centre of Australia. One of the drag queens is a trans woman and there’s some conversation about how her story is a little different than that of the men she’s travelling with.”
For one of the first times, Kori found themselves reflected in someone else. That led them to question and explore their identity, culminating in the decision to transition to male while living in Halifax.
“Most of my exploration was going on before there was much available on the Internet. I’d tried out living as a man, and found that didn’t work either, so eventually I found my way back to somewhere in the middle.”
That means now they have facial hair and dress in traditional men’s clothing, but they’re also capable of breast-feeding. Doty doesn’t care if that seems contradictory.
“I don’t actually believe the world is as binary as we’re led to believe,” they said.
“It’s a way of simplifying things. It’s a divide and conquer mechanism that keeps people from learning how to co-operate and be supportive of each other. There’s a wide range of human diversity, and simplistic thinking is ‘us and them,’ ‘good and bad,’ but realistically we all have details about us that change over time.”
In other words, both identity and gender are fluid. And they can evolve over the course of a life. But Doty feels that through all the transitions, a core identity remains intact. This was illustrated by a recent connection they made with an old friend.
“I got friend-requested on Facebook, maybe two weeks ago, and I didn’t recognize her initially because she has since converted to Islam and wears a full face veil. And then she was like, ‘Hey, it’s me!’”
It was a big moment for them.
“On the surface there had been huge changes over the past 15 years since we’d been in contact, but underneath my beard and underneath her hijab there’s some ways we are still the same people, two girls who grew up down the street from each other. She said to me, ‘Don’t worry, my hair’s still purple under my hijab.’”
Kori’s reality is informed by their upbringing.
“I think that the fact I grew up as a girl in a society that’s horrendous to girls and women informs my worldview. It informs how I treat the women I date, because I understand what female socialization feels like and looks like because I experienced it.”
Then, while dating men, they experienced “the way homophobia impacts men who sway out of the box, or date out of the box. That also informs the way I interact with the men that I date.”
So who do they date?
“My orientation isn’t restricted to the gender the person identifies as or about what’s happening in their pants, but if the person has put some thought into it? That’s hot to me. I’m more likely to date someone who has a conscious relationship to their gender.”
Doty wasn’t able to share their entire story during their 20 minutes with the Star, but encouraged residents who are curious about trans issues or gender identity to get in touch with them.
Their website, koridoty.com, features the gender neutral washroom symbol recently introduced at L.V. Rogers high school and the words “inciting revolution through education and imagination.”