Brigette Lundy Paine & Paperboy Prince

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Brigette Lundy Paine and Paperboy Prince discuss gender, patriarchy, capitalism, acceptance and love, and the hard work of creating social change.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: One love. How's it going?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: So good!!

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm happy to be here. And you're, where are you?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: I am in Fort Greene ... where are you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm in Bushwick-Bed-Stuy right now, right in the borderlands.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: It's so good to meet you. Like I can't believe I'm talking to you.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm excited to meet you as well. So happy to meet you and do this and have this conversation, which I'm not sure everything about, but it seems very interesting. And the first thing I see here is gender and a dash next to it. I'm curious to start there.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. I have been exploring my gender with the freedom of fluidity for the last year or two in a more vocal way, and in a more intentional way, trying to unlearn what gender has meant to me, and what it can mean, and both how to free myself from it, but also acknowledging that it's something that exists so thoroughly in every aspect of life, that it's not something that you can pretend doesn't exist.

I think that sometimes we get confused that the idea of gender isn't real, or gender doesn't exist. Instead, gender is a series of socialized constructs that we encounter daily and that are sold to us in order to uphold capitalism? And so exploring gender fluidity is something that, for me, has freed me from certain expectations, both socially and in my work.

I'm an actor, which is an incredibly gendered field ... we're portraying stories that are upholding the idea of gender. That's what a lot of the stories that are sold to us do. Starting in Disney princess stories when we're little kids to romcoms when we're a little older. I was lucky enough to have people around me and on my team who supported me in being someone who is gender fluid. And as an actor, that means that now I'm challenging the people who want to work with me to explore what gender is in their work and sometimes that means that I can help change a character.

The character that I just spent four years playing, was a teenage girl named Casey on “Atypical,” and that was a character that was written as a straight girl who was the younger sister in this family structure, and I had the chance to really fuck her gender up. Mojdeh Daftary [the costume designer] and I worked together to gender flip the costumes. We wore very minimal makeup, which is something that's rare for TV and you have to push for, and the makeup designers were all really supportive of that. So it's little ways. In my personal life, I don't think about gender very much. Either that or I think about it all the time. I can't tell. But yeah, it's always changing, you know.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Interesting, you know, to hear stuff about television, and makeup. [While living in Spain] I would watch Spanish television and it made me realize how unrealistically attractive everyone on American television is. Even as a kid I would know this, but I would play into the story and believe it ... watching Lizzie McGuire and she'd be like, “I'm just a normal girl that's having trouble in life.” And I'm like, “You're beautiful! You're like a stereotypically beautiful person. You don't seem like the awkward teenager; if you're the awkward teenager then oh my God — what am I?” But watching Spanish television, the people's teeth weren't perfect — like how homeless people on American television have perfect teeth — it was just so different.

And it made me see how much of this stuff plays in our mind, our minds are strong enough to tell the difference between all these things. And then they do the same thing with gender too. When it comes to watching shows about high school and [it all] happens to take place in LA, on a sunny day. The cheerleaders all are 30 with ‘perfect bodies.’ And the football players are all 30, cut as hell, and they're playing a 15-year-old. I was like, “Hey, this guy's a sophomore??!” Everything's perfect. It makes us feel like we're not good enough, or that's how it made me feel. But yeah, sorry your comments sparked all of that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: No, I love all of that. I think that's also important to point out and acknowledge with the media that we're consuming. It's true that it is like a constant flow too. Like we're never cut off from this media, and it affects every single thought we have.

And I actually wanted to ask you, because often you talk about the work you do breaking the matrix. How are you able to break out of these? Because you do. When you watch your work, both your political and artistic work, you don't feel like you're living in the same media saturated culture that we're used to. And I think that's why it's so surprising and refreshing. How do you go about that? What does that practice look like for you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's so crazy; growing up I had great parents that I love a lot, and growing up I wasn't allowed to watch a lot of television or movies. In fact, I wasn't able to go to the movies until I was a teenager basically, for religious reasons. As a kid, I hated it. But as an adult, I'm so happy about it. I wasn't allowed to listen to any popular music, only gospel music, and I wasn't allowed to read all types of books, or watch any type of television. They were very strict with that, and I'm so thankful. When I started looking at everything when I finally was able, I was looking at it through a lens of assuming that it's bad, that it's not all there for me in a good way. Media literacy is super important to me. And my parents teaching me how important it is to protect your eyes, protect your ears, what you're watching what you're seeing. I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously.

[When] I was in school, I never came across as the tough guy, I never felt that pressure, I always felt comfortable being myself, not feeling like, “Oh, I have to like, be super tough,” or live up to this fake ideal that isn't really serving me or making me happy, or making me more human.

So yeah, it's still interesting to me, too, like taking the genders off of birth certificates, it's all very interesting because no one knows what to do. Gender roles have allowed us to accomplish certain things [up until now]. And now, the fear is, without these roles how will we accomplish these things, or who's going to fill these roles?

I want to ask you this, I'm curious of your progression of when you felt comfortable expressing your own gender for yourself. Do you think that all of this gender expression is just a new form of the gender binary? Gender trinary whatever, is a new form of the gender binary?

And how do you feel about children expressing their gender, and that's the whole spectrum — super masculine, super feminist, hyper masc, hyper fem, and anything in between. I'm curious [about] your thoughts on that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates, these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is.

"The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates...these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is." - Brigette Lundy Paine

So these systems and the idea of masculinity and femininity even being these two very polarized identities and sets of behavior, that is what continues to be violent, systematically violent; the ways in which our government, our social institutions, the family structure is all defined by the idea of masculinity being something that is tough, dominant, and to be respected, and femininity being something that is pliable and submissive, and something that can be dominated.

Those are the things that we have to unlearn socially. And we have so much work to do on that, because that's something that we [learnt] from the dawn of time and biologically is something that is reinforced. When a female has a child they are automatically put in a position of submission by the family structures, by the biological family structures that we continue to uphold.

These systems that we're dealing with are much deeper than, you know, changing the language around gender, which I think is what makes it really hard to talk about this very valid concern of, is non binary just a third gender?

I think that what's important about the conversation is that every time that someone who doesn't identify with the gender binary, in whatever way that they explore that -- whether they're a little kid who wants to wear clothes that aren't for their gender, or whether they're a public figure who is challenging the gender norms in their workplace or in a political way, like you are, or different people who challenge it in fashion and in film, and in these ways that are very visible, or even in quiet ways -- if you're a trans or non-binary person in the workforce and you're speaking with HR, you're making it a safer place for people of your gender identity or gender fluidity.

It's important because we challenge the way we think about the deeper structures. We can really go through our whole life playing gender roles, you mentioned that you were super fluid as a teenager, at least you didn't feel the need to be hyper masc, I, on the other hand, was a cheerleader in high school. I was like super feminine doing a complete performance of American femininity. And I know how easy it is to live under the guise of "I'm just going to go through my whole life and never think about these feelings" and sort of push it down.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I feel like there's a jealousy that a lot of men have of women. And I feel this is a portion of what is at the root of, I don't even want to say misogyny anymore, but the gender wars. It's like, "You have this, and I don’t!” These type of finger pointing things. A lot of men don't like being a man, or what it means to be a man, like we didn't all get together and get to decide on that, and I know a lot really don't like it. And before I knew anything about gender non-conforming, or non-binary, or all these different things, before I knew anything about that, I felt a certain way that a woman could wear a dress, a pretty ballroom gown, and then later that day, later that same day, wear baggy pants and a big T-shirt and still keep her femininity, still keep her womaness, that not be questioned at all. In fact, that's still being a part of femininity. I mentioned the Drake line where he talked about “sweat pants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on.” You know, like still being super attracted. It's still like pedestalizing this femininity, even as they're acting out things that aren't seen as stereotypically feminine.

Whereas as a man, you wear a dress one time, you wear eyeshadow one time, you get your nails done one time, and you lose your manhood. Like you literally aren't seen as a man, by men, by women, by everyone. Even by non-binary, gender non-conforming people. You're no longer seen as a man anymore. Masculinity, I always saw it, is so small, there's such a small window that you get to operate within.

And so I wonder if you feel or you see this same type of ... I’m struggling for words here ... the same type of constraints that existed in femininity? The point that I'm kind of getting at is I feel like there's a lot of gender fluidity in femininity and womanhood. I feel like that does not exist at all in masculinity. I even feel like because of masculinity, manhood purposely doesn't have this gender fluidity.

"I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously." - Paperboy Prince

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's a sacrifice for womanhood. As women make many sacrifices for men and manhood. I feel like men are supposed to be this strong thing to allow even women to have this fluidity possibility. And this is where some of the jealousy comes from that I was talking about before. But I'm just curious your thoughts on that and if you feel that there's those same constraints within femininity that you felt [when you were] younger?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Absolutely, there's less fluidity in masculinity. This is just evidence of the patriarchy being as constraining to men as much as it is to female identifying people. No one demands that masculinity be kept as this sacred thing other than the patriarchy, right?

Because it's constantly reinforced that in order to keep the power, this idea of masculinity must be upheld, even though, clearly, it's a fallacy. It's not a real thing, masculinity. You prove that in your daily life by dressing however you want and presenting however you want, and saying “Fuck you” to the rules, even though it's painful and even though there is rejection.

But the fact is, women or people who identify as women or people who are born as female have more fluidity because of the lack of power. And because there's less, they're taken less seriously. And so there's less to uphold, which can be a privilege, you know, a lot more people identify as non-binary who were assigned female at birth than who were assigned male because to identify as non-binary, if you were assigned female, means that you can wear whatever you want.

Whereas for people who are [assigned] male so many more people identify as trans women, and less so as non-binary people. A friend of mine yesterday was just talking about a third friend of ours, she's a trans woman who describes coming out as trans as cracking open an egg, because it's something that you can either let destroy you or you can crack out of, and you can 'become'.

Masculinity is the most delicate thing that we hold socially. It's completely vulnerable to all of the elements. That's why so much of masculinity is protected by money, because money is really the only thing that can separate you from the daily vulnerabilities of this earth.

I think that for me, my experience as a cheerleader in high school, if I would have identified as queer in high school things would have been really different for me. I won't ever know what that experience was like, because I didn't. I was identifying as straight in high school, I was in a weird, abusive relationship, and I was not happy. And so I didn't take those risks.

What is so special about Zoe and Heathermary, who arranged this interview, and other parents of non-binary and trans kids is that now there's an opportunity to like foster self-understanding, and self-acceptance at a much earlier age, so that kids can come into high school or middle school or elementary school, and can identify the way that they want in a way that makes them feel comfortable. And kids around them will therefore be able to identify more comfortably the way that they want and, starting from a different level of earlier emotional development, will be able to unlearn how gender oppresses us. For me, and I think we're maybe the same age, gender was still really oppressive and unchanging when I was a little kid, and that really still affects me to this day. And it sucks! I wish that I had been a kid when life was more fluid, but also I completely understand that you and I are doing what we do so that kids can have a more fluid existence.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yeah, I get messages from kids that are trying to transition and because they didn't have the money they decided not to and they're in this weird in between stage, they don't know what they are, other people don't know what they are. So they don't even know what to say. They're just being them and they're trying to figure it out. And there's a lack of role models, there's a lack of a lane, a lifeline of “Oh, what does a non-binary 50-year-old look like? What does a trans 100-year-old look like? What does that look like?” And I think that's important in some of my work politically, that’s opened my eyes.

Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, “Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.”

"Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, 'Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.'" - Paperboy Prince

And, you know, queer and LGBTQ seniors have a tough time, and especially the seniors that grew up at a time where they weren't allowed to be open with their relationships. So they had to hide all of that, or maybe deny love, not be able to have their partner. So then now they're later in life and they don't have their partners, whereas somebody who is in a traditional hetero relationship is able to have a partner. They're at the end of life and all of these folks are dying alone, and they don't have friends, and a lot of the places to make friends and make lovers aren't set up for them. All queer stuff is set up for younger folks and all of the stuff for older folks is more like maybe church oriented or focused on traditional vibes, right? And they're like, alternative. They're queer.

This is also interesting to me, because I wasn't even able to express my own masculinity. However, as a kid I wanted cornrows, right? And my mom wouldn't let me do it because she was like, “You don't understand, they're gonna stereotype you as this type of Black man, and they're gonna want to, you know, say you fit descriptions, and people are going to try to put you in this box because of that!” So I was definitely not able to express the type of queerness; I remember wanting to wear weird things to school and my parents would be like, “Oh they're gonna make fun of you and pick on you,” so they wouldn't let me and I think it's so interesting. I'm curious to see what it looks like for folks that are raising their children. How much they're allowing them to express their own gender identity. I wasn't able to, and there was a limit on even the masculinity I could express. And then what that ends up being, you know?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, I don't know. I'm so curious to see, I just literally have no idea.

And the relationship with our elders I think is such an important thing to bring up, I love that you said take care of them like a newborn baby. We really, in order to foster the future, have to pay attention to our past as queer people and how our elders are treated by us as a community.

There's such a loneliness to being a queer elder. Now, especially if you don't live in a big city, the loneliness of being completely isolated without community. Something I’ve been thinking about so much lately is how many of our elders we lost to AIDS. And how different it would be as a queer community if the AIDS epidemic hadn't been handled the way it was with such intense hate and discrimination, and so many people were left to die. Because now we're starting over in so many ways, so many of the voices that would have been guiding us aren't here.

I can only imagine that the future is going to be so fucking beautiful. And so charged with the force. With what your work feels like, with the kids I see on the internet — I'm always astonished when I talk to kids on the internet because of the work they're doing in their own schools, in their own lives and like unlearning the oppression of gender and the messaging that we've all been taught.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: A major critique I have of the LGBT community is being so desperate for validation and acceptance that these like evil corporations, all they have to do is put somebody with blue hair in the ad and then it's like, “Oh, my gosh, this is so good!” And it's like, wait, no.

Or like my first time at pride, my first time at New York City Pride, being astonished and saying, “This is the most corporate parade that I've ever been to." And being a part of a lot of Black revolutionary movements, and going to a lot of protests as a kid and seeing all of that, and then going to pride — it’s literally Walmart, American Express, Target, Walgreens, the NYPD. Like all of these things. It's just like, “They got a rainbow!! They got a rainbow! Aaah!" And it's cool. But it's also, like, I cringe, and I get upset because, wait, folks aren't using this opportunity to critique and hold these companies to a new higher standard. They're just happy to have a rainbow; it is not even doing anything.

No, it's like, a rainbow on Walmart, is this progressive? I see so few queer people that are calling this out, or even critiquing it. It's just got to a point where I'm like, “Yo, how is this okay?” I led a lot of protests for the Black community and the Black youth and like we would be hard pressed to get support from Walmart. Like it’d be a cold day in hell before we get support from Bank of America. But a queer or gay thing, it's like they're there before you can hang up the phone. Like Fortune 500 companies. I feel like the LGBTQ community needs to like be hyperaware and hypercritical of their part in upholding capitalism.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I was like, wait, the NYPD car with a gay flag on it. It's like, we need to have more conversations about this before this is okay.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, no, it's truly, truly sick and upsetting. It's so upsetting. The easiest way for corporations to maintain favor with the general public is to pink wash. To stick a flag on whatever they can.

Gay liberation was expedited the way it was because so many gay men in power were respected automatically, culturally, and so we were able to accept gay rights because it was marketed to us, it's always about the marketing. Black liberation is not something that can be marketed.

I know that the idea that we're still upholding the same beauty standards, even in queer representation, is so upsetting because we have the opportunity to not, but we won't. Even our most radical representations of queerness on TV are still so vanilla and so safe and so marketable. And I saw this up close, you know, myself included, like, I'm a representation of thin white beauty. Like, that's why I got the job.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Right.

"Absolutely, there's less fluidity in masculinity. This is just evidence of the patriarchy being as constraining to men as much as it is to female identifying people. No one demands that masculinity be kept as this sacred thing other than the patriarchy, right?" - Brigette Lundy Paine

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Paperboy Prince

Brigette Lundy Paine

Brigette Lundy Paine & Paperboy Prince

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine A Shirt Tale main image

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Brigette Lundy Paine and Paperboy Prince discuss gender, patriarchy, capitalism, acceptance and love, and the hard work of creating social change.

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Brigette Lundy Paine & Paperboy Prince

The actor and political activist on gender

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Brigette Lundy Paine and Paperboy Prince discuss gender, patriarchy, capitalism, acceptance and love, and the hard work of creating social change.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: One love. How's it going?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: So good!!

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm happy to be here. And you're, where are you?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: I am in Fort Greene ... where are you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm in Bushwick-Bed-Stuy right now, right in the borderlands.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: It's so good to meet you. Like I can't believe I'm talking to you.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm excited to meet you as well. So happy to meet you and do this and have this conversation, which I'm not sure everything about, but it seems very interesting. And the first thing I see here is gender and a dash next to it. I'm curious to start there.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. I have been exploring my gender with the freedom of fluidity for the last year or two in a more vocal way, and in a more intentional way, trying to unlearn what gender has meant to me, and what it can mean, and both how to free myself from it, but also acknowledging that it's something that exists so thoroughly in every aspect of life, that it's not something that you can pretend doesn't exist.

I think that sometimes we get confused that the idea of gender isn't real, or gender doesn't exist. Instead, gender is a series of socialized constructs that we encounter daily and that are sold to us in order to uphold capitalism? And so exploring gender fluidity is something that, for me, has freed me from certain expectations, both socially and in my work.

I'm an actor, which is an incredibly gendered field ... we're portraying stories that are upholding the idea of gender. That's what a lot of the stories that are sold to us do. Starting in Disney princess stories when we're little kids to romcoms when we're a little older. I was lucky enough to have people around me and on my team who supported me in being someone who is gender fluid. And as an actor, that means that now I'm challenging the people who want to work with me to explore what gender is in their work and sometimes that means that I can help change a character.

The character that I just spent four years playing, was a teenage girl named Casey on “Atypical,” and that was a character that was written as a straight girl who was the younger sister in this family structure, and I had the chance to really fuck her gender up. Mojdeh Daftary [the costume designer] and I worked together to gender flip the costumes. We wore very minimal makeup, which is something that's rare for TV and you have to push for, and the makeup designers were all really supportive of that. So it's little ways. In my personal life, I don't think about gender very much. Either that or I think about it all the time. I can't tell. But yeah, it's always changing, you know.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Interesting, you know, to hear stuff about television, and makeup. [While living in Spain] I would watch Spanish television and it made me realize how unrealistically attractive everyone on American television is. Even as a kid I would know this, but I would play into the story and believe it ... watching Lizzie McGuire and she'd be like, “I'm just a normal girl that's having trouble in life.” And I'm like, “You're beautiful! You're like a stereotypically beautiful person. You don't seem like the awkward teenager; if you're the awkward teenager then oh my God — what am I?” But watching Spanish television, the people's teeth weren't perfect — like how homeless people on American television have perfect teeth — it was just so different.

And it made me see how much of this stuff plays in our mind, our minds are strong enough to tell the difference between all these things. And then they do the same thing with gender too. When it comes to watching shows about high school and [it all] happens to take place in LA, on a sunny day. The cheerleaders all are 30 with ‘perfect bodies.’ And the football players are all 30, cut as hell, and they're playing a 15-year-old. I was like, “Hey, this guy's a sophomore??!” Everything's perfect. It makes us feel like we're not good enough, or that's how it made me feel. But yeah, sorry your comments sparked all of that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: No, I love all of that. I think that's also important to point out and acknowledge with the media that we're consuming. It's true that it is like a constant flow too. Like we're never cut off from this media, and it affects every single thought we have.

And I actually wanted to ask you, because often you talk about the work you do breaking the matrix. How are you able to break out of these? Because you do. When you watch your work, both your political and artistic work, you don't feel like you're living in the same media saturated culture that we're used to. And I think that's why it's so surprising and refreshing. How do you go about that? What does that practice look like for you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's so crazy; growing up I had great parents that I love a lot, and growing up I wasn't allowed to watch a lot of television or movies. In fact, I wasn't able to go to the movies until I was a teenager basically, for religious reasons. As a kid, I hated it. But as an adult, I'm so happy about it. I wasn't allowed to listen to any popular music, only gospel music, and I wasn't allowed to read all types of books, or watch any type of television. They were very strict with that, and I'm so thankful. When I started looking at everything when I finally was able, I was looking at it through a lens of assuming that it's bad, that it's not all there for me in a good way. Media literacy is super important to me. And my parents teaching me how important it is to protect your eyes, protect your ears, what you're watching what you're seeing. I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously.

[When] I was in school, I never came across as the tough guy, I never felt that pressure, I always felt comfortable being myself, not feeling like, “Oh, I have to like, be super tough,” or live up to this fake ideal that isn't really serving me or making me happy, or making me more human.

So yeah, it's still interesting to me, too, like taking the genders off of birth certificates, it's all very interesting because no one knows what to do. Gender roles have allowed us to accomplish certain things [up until now]. And now, the fear is, without these roles how will we accomplish these things, or who's going to fill these roles?

I want to ask you this, I'm curious of your progression of when you felt comfortable expressing your own gender for yourself. Do you think that all of this gender expression is just a new form of the gender binary? Gender trinary whatever, is a new form of the gender binary?

And how do you feel about children expressing their gender, and that's the whole spectrum — super masculine, super feminist, hyper masc, hyper fem, and anything in between. I'm curious [about] your thoughts on that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates, these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is.

"The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates...these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is." - Brigette Lundy Paine

So these systems and the idea of masculinity and femininity even being these two very polarized identities and sets of behavior, that is what continues to be violent, systematically violent; the ways in which our government, our social institutions, the family structure is all defined by the idea of masculinity being something that is tough, dominant, and to be respected, and femininity being something that is pliable and submissive, and something that can be dominated.

Those are the things that we have to unlearn socially. And we have so much work to do on that, because that's something that we [learnt] from the dawn of time and biologically is something that is reinforced. When a female has a child they are automatically put in a position of submission by the family structures, by the biological family structures that we continue to uphold.

These systems that we're dealing with are much deeper than, you know, changing the language around gender, which I think is what makes it really hard to talk about this very valid concern of, is non binary just a third gender?

I think that what's important about the conversation is that every time that someone who doesn't identify with the gender binary, in whatever way that they explore that -- whether they're a little kid who wants to wear clothes that aren't for their gender, or whether they're a public figure who is challenging the gender norms in their workplace or in a political way, like you are, or different people who challenge it in fashion and in film, and in these ways that are very visible, or even in quiet ways -- if you're a trans or non-binary person in the workforce and you're speaking with HR, you're making it a safer place for people of your gender identity or gender fluidity.

It's important because we challenge the way we think about the deeper structures. We can really go through our whole life playing gender roles, you mentioned that you were super fluid as a teenager, at least you didn't feel the need to be hyper masc, I, on the other hand, was a cheerleader in high school. I was like super feminine doing a complete performance of American femininity. And I know how easy it is to live under the guise of "I'm just going to go through my whole life and never think about these feelings" and sort of push it down.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I feel like there's a jealousy that a lot of men have of women. And I feel this is a portion of what is at the root of, I don't even want to say misogyny anymore, but the gender wars. It's like, "You have this, and I don’t!” These type of finger pointing things. A lot of men don't like being a man, or what it means to be a man, like we didn't all get together and get to decide on that, and I know a lot really don't like it. And before I knew anything about gender non-conforming, or non-binary, or all these different things, before I knew anything about that, I felt a certain way that a woman could wear a dress, a pretty ballroom gown, and then later that day, later that same day, wear baggy pants and a big T-shirt and still keep her femininity, still keep her womaness, that not be questioned at all. In fact, that's still being a part of femininity. I mentioned the Drake line where he talked about “sweat pants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on.” You know, like still being super attracted. It's still like pedestalizing this femininity, even as they're acting out things that aren't seen as stereotypically feminine.

Whereas as a man, you wear a dress one time, you wear eyeshadow one time, you get your nails done one time, and you lose your manhood. Like you literally aren't seen as a man, by men, by women, by everyone. Even by non-binary, gender non-conforming people. You're no longer seen as a man anymore. Masculinity, I always saw it, is so small, there's such a small window that you get to operate within.

And so I wonder if you feel or you see this same type of ... I’m struggling for words here ... the same type of constraints that existed in femininity? The point that I'm kind of getting at is I feel like there's a lot of gender fluidity in femininity and womanhood. I feel like that does not exist at all in masculinity. I even feel like because of masculinity, manhood purposely doesn't have this gender fluidity.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's a sacrifice for womanhood. As women make many sacrifices for men and manhood. I feel like men are supposed to be this strong thing to allow even women to have this fluidity possibility. And this is where some of the jealousy comes from that I was talking about before. But I'm just curious your thoughts on that and if you feel that there's those same constraints within femininity that you felt [when you were] younger?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Absolutely, there's less fluidity in masculinity. This is just evidence of the patriarchy being as constraining to men as much as it is to female identifying people. No one demands that masculinity be kept as this sacred thing other than the patriarchy, right?

Because it's constantly reinforced that in order to keep the power, this idea of masculinity must be upheld, even though, clearly, it's a fallacy. It's not a real thing, masculinity. You prove that in your daily life by dressing however you want and presenting however you want, and saying “Fuck you” to the rules, even though it's painful and even though there is rejection.

But the fact is, women or people who identify as women or people who are born as female have more fluidity because of the lack of power. And because there's less, they're taken less seriously. And so there's less to uphold, which can be a privilege, you know, a lot more people identify as non-binary who were assigned female at birth than who were assigned male because to identify as non-binary, if you were assigned female, means that you can wear whatever you want.

Whereas for people who are [assigned] male so many more people identify as trans women, and less so as non-binary people. A friend of mine yesterday was just talking about a third friend of ours, she's a trans woman who describes coming out as trans as cracking open an egg, because it's something that you can either let destroy you or you can crack out of, and you can 'become'.

Masculinity is the most delicate thing that we hold socially. It's completely vulnerable to all of the elements. That's why so much of masculinity is protected by money, because money is really the only thing that can separate you from the daily vulnerabilities of this earth.

I think that for me, my experience as a cheerleader in high school, if I would have identified as queer in high school things would have been really different for me. I won't ever know what that experience was like, because I didn't. I was identifying as straight in high school, I was in a weird, abusive relationship, and I was not happy. And so I didn't take those risks.

What is so special about Zoe and Heathermary, who arranged this interview, and other parents of non-binary and trans kids is that now there's an opportunity to like foster self-understanding, and self-acceptance at a much earlier age, so that kids can come into high school or middle school or elementary school, and can identify the way that they want in a way that makes them feel comfortable. And kids around them will therefore be able to identify more comfortably the way that they want and, starting from a different level of earlier emotional development, will be able to unlearn how gender oppresses us. For me, and I think we're maybe the same age, gender was still really oppressive and unchanging when I was a little kid, and that really still affects me to this day. And it sucks! I wish that I had been a kid when life was more fluid, but also I completely understand that you and I are doing what we do so that kids can have a more fluid existence.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yeah, I get messages from kids that are trying to transition and because they didn't have the money they decided not to and they're in this weird in between stage, they don't know what they are, other people don't know what they are. So they don't even know what to say. They're just being them and they're trying to figure it out. And there's a lack of role models, there's a lack of a lane, a lifeline of “Oh, what does a non-binary 50-year-old look like? What does a trans 100-year-old look like? What does that look like?” And I think that's important in some of my work politically, that’s opened my eyes.

Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, “Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.”

"Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, 'Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.'" - Paperboy Prince

And, you know, queer and LGBTQ seniors have a tough time, and especially the seniors that grew up at a time where they weren't allowed to be open with their relationships. So they had to hide all of that, or maybe deny love, not be able to have their partner. So then now they're later in life and they don't have their partners, whereas somebody who is in a traditional hetero relationship is able to have a partner. They're at the end of life and all of these folks are dying alone, and they don't have friends, and a lot of the places to make friends and make lovers aren't set up for them. All queer stuff is set up for younger folks and all of the stuff for older folks is more like maybe church oriented or focused on traditional vibes, right? And they're like, alternative. They're queer.

This is also interesting to me, because I wasn't even able to express my own masculinity. However, as a kid I wanted cornrows, right? And my mom wouldn't let me do it because she was like, “You don't understand, they're gonna stereotype you as this type of Black man, and they're gonna want to, you know, say you fit descriptions, and people are going to try to put you in this box because of that!” So I was definitely not able to express the type of queerness; I remember wanting to wear weird things to school and my parents would be like, “Oh they're gonna make fun of you and pick on you,” so they wouldn't let me and I think it's so interesting. I'm curious to see what it looks like for folks that are raising their children. How much they're allowing them to express their own gender identity. I wasn't able to, and there was a limit on even the masculinity I could express. And then what that ends up being, you know?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, I don't know. I'm so curious to see, I just literally have no idea.

And the relationship with our elders I think is such an important thing to bring up, I love that you said take care of them like a newborn baby. We really, in order to foster the future, have to pay attention to our past as queer people and how our elders are treated by us as a community.

There's such a loneliness to being a queer elder. Now, especially if you don't live in a big city, the loneliness of being completely isolated without community. Something I’ve been thinking about so much lately is how many of our elders we lost to AIDS. And how different it would be as a queer community if the AIDS epidemic hadn't been handled the way it was with such intense hate and discrimination, and so many people were left to die. Because now we're starting over in so many ways, so many of the voices that would have been guiding us aren't here.

I can only imagine that the future is going to be so fucking beautiful. And so charged with the force. With what your work feels like, with the kids I see on the internet — I'm always astonished when I talk to kids on the internet because of the work they're doing in their own schools, in their own lives and like unlearning the oppression of gender and the messaging that we've all been taught.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: A major critique I have of the LGBT community is being so desperate for validation and acceptance that these like evil corporations, all they have to do is put somebody with blue hair in the ad and then it's like, “Oh, my gosh, this is so good!” And it's like, wait, no.

Or like my first time at pride, my first time at New York City Pride, being astonished and saying, “This is the most corporate parade that I've ever been to." And being a part of a lot of Black revolutionary movements, and going to a lot of protests as a kid and seeing all of that, and then going to pride — it’s literally Walmart, American Express, Target, Walgreens, the NYPD. Like all of these things. It's just like, “They got a rainbow!! They got a rainbow! Aaah!" And it's cool. But it's also, like, I cringe, and I get upset because, wait, folks aren't using this opportunity to critique and hold these companies to a new higher standard. They're just happy to have a rainbow; it is not even doing anything.

No, it's like, a rainbow on Walmart, is this progressive? I see so few queer people that are calling this out, or even critiquing it. It's just got to a point where I'm like, “Yo, how is this okay?” I led a lot of protests for the Black community and the Black youth and like we would be hard pressed to get support from Walmart. Like it’d be a cold day in hell before we get support from Bank of America. But a queer or gay thing, it's like they're there before you can hang up the phone. Like Fortune 500 companies. I feel like the LGBTQ community needs to like be hyperaware and hypercritical of their part in upholding capitalism.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I was like, wait, the NYPD car with a gay flag on it. It's like, we need to have more conversations about this before this is okay.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, no, it's truly, truly sick and upsetting. It's so upsetting. The easiest way for corporations to maintain favor with the general public is to pink wash. To stick a flag on whatever they can.

Gay liberation was expedited the way it was because so many gay men in power were respected automatically, culturally, and so we were able to accept gay rights because it was marketed to us, it's always about the marketing. Black liberation is not something that can be marketed.

I know that the idea that we're still upholding the same beauty standards, even in queer representation, is so upsetting because we have the opportunity to not, but we won't. Even our most radical representations of queerness on TV are still so vanilla and so safe and so marketable. And I saw this up close, you know, myself included, like, I'm a representation of thin white beauty. Like, that's why I got the job.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Right.

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Paperboy Prince

Brigette Lundy Paine

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Brigette Lundy Paine & Paperboy Prince

The actor and political activist on gender

HASSON

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

"I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously." - Paperboy Prince

Brigette Lundy Paine and Paperboy Prince discuss gender, patriarchy, capitalism, acceptance and love, and the hard work of creating social change.

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Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Paperboy Prince

Brigette Lundy Paine

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Brigette Lundy Paine & Paperboy Prince

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

No items found.

Brigette Lundy Paine and Paperboy Prince discuss gender, patriarchy, capitalism, acceptance and love, and the hard work of creating social change.

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Paperboy Prince

Brigette Lundy Paine

Pink

frost

Thistle

brown

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Super talented stylist-turned-photographer Thistle Browne and stylist Heathermary Jackson — both in New Zealand during COVID-19 lockdowns — traveled to Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano off the coast of Central Auckland, to shoot the new campaign for New Zealand jewelry designer Jasmin Sparrow. The shoot showcases Sparrow’s timeless gold and silver jewelry, and a beautiful collection of hand-beaded bras and skull caps designed with Glen Prentice. Models wore mainly vintage from Search and Destroy and Brownstone Cowboys’ collection, combined with some local, sustainable brands and New Zealand gumboots (rainboots).
Photography: Thistle Brown
Styling: Heathermary Jackson
Designers: Jasmin Sparrow and Glen Prentice
Models: Charlotte Moffatt, Nina Katungi, Obadiah Russon

Brigette Lundy Paine & Paperboy Prince

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Brigette Lundy Paine and Paperboy Prince discuss gender, patriarchy, capitalism, acceptance and love, and the hard work of creating social change.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: One love. How's it going?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: So good!!

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm happy to be here. And you're, where are you?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: I am in Fort Greene ... where are you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm in Bushwick-Bed-Stuy right now, right in the borderlands.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: It's so good to meet you. Like I can't believe I'm talking to you.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm excited to meet you as well. So happy to meet you and do this and have this conversation, which I'm not sure everything about, but it seems very interesting. And the first thing I see here is gender and a dash next to it. I'm curious to start there.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. I have been exploring my gender with the freedom of fluidity for the last year or two in a more vocal way, and in a more intentional way, trying to unlearn what gender has meant to me, and what it can mean, and both how to free myself from it, but also acknowledging that it's something that exists so thoroughly in every aspect of life, that it's not something that you can pretend doesn't exist.

I think that sometimes we get confused that the idea of gender isn't real, or gender doesn't exist. Instead, gender is a series of socialized constructs that we encounter daily and that are sold to us in order to uphold capitalism? And so exploring gender fluidity is something that, for me, has freed me from certain expectations, both socially and in my work.

I'm an actor, which is an incredibly gendered field ... we're portraying stories that are upholding the idea of gender. That's what a lot of the stories that are sold to us do. Starting in Disney princess stories when we're little kids to romcoms when we're a little older. I was lucky enough to have people around me and on my team who supported me in being someone who is gender fluid. And as an actor, that means that now I'm challenging the people who want to work with me to explore what gender is in their work and sometimes that means that I can help change a character.

The character that I just spent four years playing, was a teenage girl named Casey on “Atypical,” and that was a character that was written as a straight girl who was the younger sister in this family structure, and I had the chance to really fuck her gender up. Mojdeh Daftary [the costume designer] and I worked together to gender flip the costumes. We wore very minimal makeup, which is something that's rare for TV and you have to push for, and the makeup designers were all really supportive of that. So it's little ways. In my personal life, I don't think about gender very much. Either that or I think about it all the time. I can't tell. But yeah, it's always changing, you know.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Interesting, you know, to hear stuff about television, and makeup. [While living in Spain] I would watch Spanish television and it made me realize how unrealistically attractive everyone on American television is. Even as a kid I would know this, but I would play into the story and believe it ... watching Lizzie McGuire and she'd be like, “I'm just a normal girl that's having trouble in life.” And I'm like, “You're beautiful! You're like a stereotypically beautiful person. You don't seem like the awkward teenager; if you're the awkward teenager then oh my God — what am I?” But watching Spanish television, the people's teeth weren't perfect — like how homeless people on American television have perfect teeth — it was just so different.

And it made me see how much of this stuff plays in our mind, our minds are strong enough to tell the difference between all these things. And then they do the same thing with gender too. When it comes to watching shows about high school and [it all] happens to take place in LA, on a sunny day. The cheerleaders all are 30 with ‘perfect bodies.’ And the football players are all 30, cut as hell, and they're playing a 15-year-old. I was like, “Hey, this guy's a sophomore??!” Everything's perfect. It makes us feel like we're not good enough, or that's how it made me feel. But yeah, sorry your comments sparked all of that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: No, I love all of that. I think that's also important to point out and acknowledge with the media that we're consuming. It's true that it is like a constant flow too. Like we're never cut off from this media, and it affects every single thought we have.

And I actually wanted to ask you, because often you talk about the work you do breaking the matrix. How are you able to break out of these? Because you do. When you watch your work, both your political and artistic work, you don't feel like you're living in the same media saturated culture that we're used to. And I think that's why it's so surprising and refreshing. How do you go about that? What does that practice look like for you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's so crazy; growing up I had great parents that I love a lot, and growing up I wasn't allowed to watch a lot of television or movies. In fact, I wasn't able to go to the movies until I was a teenager basically, for religious reasons. As a kid, I hated it. But as an adult, I'm so happy about it. I wasn't allowed to listen to any popular music, only gospel music, and I wasn't allowed to read all types of books, or watch any type of television. They were very strict with that, and I'm so thankful. When I started looking at everything when I finally was able, I was looking at it through a lens of assuming that it's bad, that it's not all there for me in a good way. Media literacy is super important to me. And my parents teaching me how important it is to protect your eyes, protect your ears, what you're watching what you're seeing. I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously.

[When] I was in school, I never came across as the tough guy, I never felt that pressure, I always felt comfortable being myself, not feeling like, “Oh, I have to like, be super tough,” or live up to this fake ideal that isn't really serving me or making me happy, or making me more human.

So yeah, it's still interesting to me, too, like taking the genders off of birth certificates, it's all very interesting because no one knows what to do. Gender roles have allowed us to accomplish certain things [up until now]. And now, the fear is, without these roles how will we accomplish these things, or who's going to fill these roles?

I want to ask you this, I'm curious of your progression of when you felt comfortable expressing your own gender for yourself. Do you think that all of this gender expression is just a new form of the gender binary? Gender trinary whatever, is a new form of the gender binary?

And how do you feel about children expressing their gender, and that's the whole spectrum — super masculine, super feminist, hyper masc, hyper fem, and anything in between. I'm curious [about] your thoughts on that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates, these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is.

"The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates...these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is." - Brigette Lundy Paine

So these systems and the idea of masculinity and femininity even being these two very polarized identities and sets of behavior, that is what continues to be violent, systematically violent; the ways in which our government, our social institutions, the family structure is all defined by the idea of masculinity being something that is tough, dominant, and to be respected, and femininity being something that is pliable and submissive, and something that can be dominated.

Those are the things that we have to unlearn socially. And we have so much work to do on that, because that's something that we [learnt] from the dawn of time and biologically is something that is reinforced. When a female has a child they are automatically put in a position of submission by the family structures, by the biological family structures that we continue to uphold.

These systems that we're dealing with are much deeper than, you know, changing the language around gender, which I think is what makes it really hard to talk about this very valid concern of, is non binary just a third gender?

I think that what's important about the conversation is that every time that someone who doesn't identify with the gender binary, in whatever way that they explore that -- whether they're a little kid who wants to wear clothes that aren't for their gender, or whether they're a public figure who is challenging the gender norms in their workplace or in a political way, like you are, or different people who challenge it in fashion and in film, and in these ways that are very visible, or even in quiet ways -- if you're a trans or non-binary person in the workforce and you're speaking with HR, you're making it a safer place for people of your gender identity or gender fluidity.

It's important because we challenge the way we think about the deeper structures. We can really go through our whole life playing gender roles, you mentioned that you were super fluid as a teenager, at least you didn't feel the need to be hyper masc, I, on the other hand, was a cheerleader in high school. I was like super feminine doing a complete performance of American femininity. And I know how easy it is to live under the guise of "I'm just going to go through my whole life and never think about these feelings" and sort of push it down.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I feel like there's a jealousy that a lot of men have of women. And I feel this is a portion of what is at the root of, I don't even want to say misogyny anymore, but the gender wars. It's like, "You have this, and I don’t!” These type of finger pointing things. A lot of men don't like being a man, or what it means to be a man, like we didn't all get together and get to decide on that, and I know a lot really don't like it. And before I knew anything about gender non-conforming, or non-binary, or all these different things, before I knew anything about that, I felt a certain way that a woman could wear a dress, a pretty ballroom gown, and then later that day, later that same day, wear baggy pants and a big T-shirt and still keep her femininity, still keep her womaness, that not be questioned at all. In fact, that's still being a part of femininity. I mentioned the Drake line where he talked about “sweat pants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on.” You know, like still being super attracted. It's still like pedestalizing this femininity, even as they're acting out things that aren't seen as stereotypically feminine.

Whereas as a man, you wear a dress one time, you wear eyeshadow one time, you get your nails done one time, and you lose your manhood. Like you literally aren't seen as a man, by men, by women, by everyone. Even by non-binary, gender non-conforming people. You're no longer seen as a man anymore. Masculinity, I always saw it, is so small, there's such a small window that you get to operate within.

And so I wonder if you feel or you see this same type of ... I’m struggling for words here ... the same type of constraints that existed in femininity? The point that I'm kind of getting at is I feel like there's a lot of gender fluidity in femininity and womanhood. I feel like that does not exist at all in masculinity. I even feel like because of masculinity, manhood purposely doesn't have this gender fluidity.

"I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously." - Paperboy Prince

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's a sacrifice for womanhood. As women make many sacrifices for men and manhood. I feel like men are supposed to be this strong thing to allow even women to have this fluidity possibility. And this is where some of the jealousy comes from that I was talking about before. But I'm just curious your thoughts on that and if you feel that there's those same constraints within femininity that you felt [when you were] younger?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Absolutely, there's less fluidity in masculinity. This is just evidence of the patriarchy being as constraining to men as much as it is to female identifying people. No one demands that masculinity be kept as this sacred thing other than the patriarchy, right?

Because it's constantly reinforced that in order to keep the power, this idea of masculinity must be upheld, even though, clearly, it's a fallacy. It's not a real thing, masculinity. You prove that in your daily life by dressing however you want and presenting however you want, and saying “Fuck you” to the rules, even though it's painful and even though there is rejection.

But the fact is, women or people who identify as women or people who are born as female have more fluidity because of the lack of power. And because there's less, they're taken less seriously. And so there's less to uphold, which can be a privilege, you know, a lot more people identify as non-binary who were assigned female at birth than who were assigned male because to identify as non-binary, if you were assigned female, means that you can wear whatever you want.

Whereas for people who are [assigned] male so many more people identify as trans women, and less so as non-binary people. A friend of mine yesterday was just talking about a third friend of ours, she's a trans woman who describes coming out as trans as cracking open an egg, because it's something that you can either let destroy you or you can crack out of, and you can 'become'.

Masculinity is the most delicate thing that we hold socially. It's completely vulnerable to all of the elements. That's why so much of masculinity is protected by money, because money is really the only thing that can separate you from the daily vulnerabilities of this earth.

I think that for me, my experience as a cheerleader in high school, if I would have identified as queer in high school things would have been really different for me. I won't ever know what that experience was like, because I didn't. I was identifying as straight in high school, I was in a weird, abusive relationship, and I was not happy. And so I didn't take those risks.

What is so special about Zoe and Heathermary, who arranged this interview, and other parents of non-binary and trans kids is that now there's an opportunity to like foster self-understanding, and self-acceptance at a much earlier age, so that kids can come into high school or middle school or elementary school, and can identify the way that they want in a way that makes them feel comfortable. And kids around them will therefore be able to identify more comfortably the way that they want and, starting from a different level of earlier emotional development, will be able to unlearn how gender oppresses us. For me, and I think we're maybe the same age, gender was still really oppressive and unchanging when I was a little kid, and that really still affects me to this day. And it sucks! I wish that I had been a kid when life was more fluid, but also I completely understand that you and I are doing what we do so that kids can have a more fluid existence.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yeah, I get messages from kids that are trying to transition and because they didn't have the money they decided not to and they're in this weird in between stage, they don't know what they are, other people don't know what they are. So they don't even know what to say. They're just being them and they're trying to figure it out. And there's a lack of role models, there's a lack of a lane, a lifeline of “Oh, what does a non-binary 50-year-old look like? What does a trans 100-year-old look like? What does that look like?” And I think that's important in some of my work politically, that’s opened my eyes.

Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, “Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.”

"Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, 'Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.'" - Paperboy Prince

And, you know, queer and LGBTQ seniors have a tough time, and especially the seniors that grew up at a time where they weren't allowed to be open with their relationships. So they had to hide all of that, or maybe deny love, not be able to have their partner. So then now they're later in life and they don't have their partners, whereas somebody who is in a traditional hetero relationship is able to have a partner. They're at the end of life and all of these folks are dying alone, and they don't have friends, and a lot of the places to make friends and make lovers aren't set up for them. All queer stuff is set up for younger folks and all of the stuff for older folks is more like maybe church oriented or focused on traditional vibes, right? And they're like, alternative. They're queer.

This is also interesting to me, because I wasn't even able to express my own masculinity. However, as a kid I wanted cornrows, right? And my mom wouldn't let me do it because she was like, “You don't understand, they're gonna stereotype you as this type of Black man, and they're gonna want to, you know, say you fit descriptions, and people are going to try to put you in this box because of that!” So I was definitely not able to express the type of queerness; I remember wanting to wear weird things to school and my parents would be like, “Oh they're gonna make fun of you and pick on you,” so they wouldn't let me and I think it's so interesting. I'm curious to see what it looks like for folks that are raising their children. How much they're allowing them to express their own gender identity. I wasn't able to, and there was a limit on even the masculinity I could express. And then what that ends up being, you know?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, I don't know. I'm so curious to see, I just literally have no idea.

And the relationship with our elders I think is such an important thing to bring up, I love that you said take care of them like a newborn baby. We really, in order to foster the future, have to pay attention to our past as queer people and how our elders are treated by us as a community.

There's such a loneliness to being a queer elder. Now, especially if you don't live in a big city, the loneliness of being completely isolated without community. Something I’ve been thinking about so much lately is how many of our elders we lost to AIDS. And how different it would be as a queer community if the AIDS epidemic hadn't been handled the way it was with such intense hate and discrimination, and so many people were left to die. Because now we're starting over in so many ways, so many of the voices that would have been guiding us aren't here.

I can only imagine that the future is going to be so fucking beautiful. And so charged with the force. With what your work feels like, with the kids I see on the internet — I'm always astonished when I talk to kids on the internet because of the work they're doing in their own schools, in their own lives and like unlearning the oppression of gender and the messaging that we've all been taught.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: A major critique I have of the LGBT community is being so desperate for validation and acceptance that these like evil corporations, all they have to do is put somebody with blue hair in the ad and then it's like, “Oh, my gosh, this is so good!” And it's like, wait, no.

Or like my first time at pride, my first time at New York City Pride, being astonished and saying, “This is the most corporate parade that I've ever been to." And being a part of a lot of Black revolutionary movements, and going to a lot of protests as a kid and seeing all of that, and then going to pride — it’s literally Walmart, American Express, Target, Walgreens, the NYPD. Like all of these things. It's just like, “They got a rainbow!! They got a rainbow! Aaah!" And it's cool. But it's also, like, I cringe, and I get upset because, wait, folks aren't using this opportunity to critique and hold these companies to a new higher standard. They're just happy to have a rainbow; it is not even doing anything.

No, it's like, a rainbow on Walmart, is this progressive? I see so few queer people that are calling this out, or even critiquing it. It's just got to a point where I'm like, “Yo, how is this okay?” I led a lot of protests for the Black community and the Black youth and like we would be hard pressed to get support from Walmart. Like it’d be a cold day in hell before we get support from Bank of America. But a queer or gay thing, it's like they're there before you can hang up the phone. Like Fortune 500 companies. I feel like the LGBTQ community needs to like be hyperaware and hypercritical of their part in upholding capitalism.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I was like, wait, the NYPD car with a gay flag on it. It's like, we need to have more conversations about this before this is okay.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, no, it's truly, truly sick and upsetting. It's so upsetting. The easiest way for corporations to maintain favor with the general public is to pink wash. To stick a flag on whatever they can.

Gay liberation was expedited the way it was because so many gay men in power were respected automatically, culturally, and so we were able to accept gay rights because it was marketed to us, it's always about the marketing. Black liberation is not something that can be marketed.

I know that the idea that we're still upholding the same beauty standards, even in queer representation, is so upsetting because we have the opportunity to not, but we won't. Even our most radical representations of queerness on TV are still so vanilla and so safe and so marketable. And I saw this up close, you know, myself included, like, I'm a representation of thin white beauty. Like, that's why I got the job.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Right.

"Absolutely, there's less fluidity in masculinity. This is just evidence of the patriarchy being as constraining to men as much as it is to female identifying people. No one demands that masculinity be kept as this sacred thing other than the patriarchy, right?" - Brigette Lundy Paine

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: There are some representations; Euphoria fucking went there in many ways and Hunter Schafer is fucking awesome!! And I'm really grateful for her and Zendaya. But it's still not enough. It's not enough. And it's because no one's gonna buy it. 

If it's not, as you said, not the marketable beauty standards, anything like that, no one's gonna buy it. And that's all that matters to us, all that matters to us is that corporations can show up to pride, and keep doing what they're doing, and pay us to make it look like we're changing, you know. And that's just not enough. 

But I think like the instinct to blame the LGBT communities for not being mad enough I get, but I also think is it beyond the individual power? How could we demand that this is not what pride is to us?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I think not supporting it? Because I'm big on accountability and responsibility, and we live in a world where, you know, no one wants to take accountability and responsibility. It starts with us. It starts with us holding ourselves to a higher standard and saying, “Yo, I'm going to be accountable for like…” I didn't make this mistake, but it's my responsibility to still fix it. A lot of folks are like, “Hey, I didn't do that! I didn't spill that milk!” But it's like, “Yo, but you are here.” Like climate change is one of those things, "I just got here I've only been on earth this long, how did I, little me, little I, cause climate change?! You think I am gonna mess up the earth and the climate by my what? My plastic cup, or by my straw?! Right?” It's hard to do that, but I'm still responsible. Even though I didn't do all of that, I'm still responsible for taking care of this earth, I'm still responsible. 

The people who made change in our world, I'm talking about the Martin Luther Kings and folks like that, were young. And they were like, "I didn't cause this, I didn't cause racism, I didn't cause patriarchy, I didn't cause the the wars, but like, yo, I'm gonna fix it — it's my responsibility, if I want a better world then I have to be responsible.”

So I'm fully fine with that responsibility, especially when folks want to change the world and change folks' minds, you have go the full, full way with it and be responsible.  “Yo, okay, I'm going to take on this responsibility and really reshape what that means. And do it in a loving way.” You know what I mean? It's not saying “No Walmart.” It's saying, “How can Walmart see value in this. How can we use that to help liberate folks?”

Using your power for actual change, and if you don't know what that is, then get out the way. It's kinda like my thing. If you don't know, then move out the way because you're just lost and leading folks into destruction.  

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Completely. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: My thing is, like if Amazon was to slap a gay flag on their thing or do an ad where they're like, “We want to deliver to you, no matter who you choose to love.” Are you going to use your energy and power and your cultural power to make change? Or just to be quiet and be happy that they’re accepting you?  

That comes from fear and being afraid of losing, they just won't want to work with you or represent or whatever. And for me, I've lost a lot for standing up for folks, it would have been easier to just be quiet. I'd have probably got more deals or more endorsements, invited to more parties, or whatever, if I didn't stand up and do that. But it's like, wait, the whole point for me, the whole point of getting in this position, is to use it so more folks have opportunity.  

I'm comfortable critiquing the queer community, because what you said, there's so much white supremacy that is embedded in the LGBTQ community, and it's like, “Yo, are you using that for good?” Or are you just using it to uphold white supremacy and make the rich get richer? More wealth has been taken from just regular people in the last two years, I mean, it's just like a crazy wealth transfer that has happened. Walmart and Bill Gates are getting crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy rich. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: And it's because we don't want to come together and fight for what's right. And I'll say even with gender, I feel like we all have more in common than we have apart. Everything is ways for men to hate women, for women to hate men. Like they're constantly pushing more and more for us to hate each other. 

And they want to add in the non-binary and trans folks to hate the hetero folks. And like, that's all it's supposed to be. And we have to find ways for us to come together so we can all rise! We all have more in common than we have apart, like all these things are such little bits. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: I fucking love you I'm so inspired by you and so grateful for you. And for the work that you do, and how much you've sacrificed. I think that everyone needs to remember that. That even if it feels like the most important thing is being popular on social media, it is not. That is an illusion. That is not real love, admiration of each other in that sense is not real love!! I love that you represent, that I see so much risk in the way you communicate too! 

Allowing ourselves to be wrong is so much a part of challenging these systems. And I think that there’s a script that that we've adopted — a resistance script. We could bring a CEO to the table that we could demand something because we CAN demand something. I would like, for instance, for everyone to boycott Amazon. I think that would be a really easy thing to do.

I mean, even I'm very afraid. I'm very afraid as "a public figure.” I've deleted my Instagram because I don't appreciate the ego feeding that it is. And I haven't found a way around it. Using our money is so important too, how many of us are banking with huge banks, and still talking shit about Wall Street? You know? How many of us are going to Whole Foods every week and still talking shit about Jeff Bezos? How can we live with these contradictions? And how can we consciously cut them out? So that we are speaking and acting from a place of truth and love? 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yeah. It's not necessarily easy. And it's going to take work. It’s the reason a company like Amazon is so rich and so powerful, so big, so fast. It’s because they've gotten really good at giving us what we want. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Right. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: One of the things I say in politics is, “Yo, like, okay, so the big bad guys in office, or the big bad person is in power; you have to be better than them. You have to beat them at their own game.” And it's hard because they're the machine, they are well-organized like a machine. They press a button, and then something happens easily because they've had it, they've got well organized in there. Everybody knows their role and they can like shut up and just stick together for their goal of oppression, they can do that.  

Whereas the opposition sometimes isn't willing to out organize. They're not willing to out-think and out-work the folks that are in power. And that's the only way that you do that, it's hard work, it's consistency. This is how we do it, out-organizing them and finding ways that we can come together. But the beauty of it is, there's more of us than them. There really, really is. And like, I think when you actually put up a valiant effort, when you actually hold them to this standard, and actually put up a fight, half the time they'll just go down, you know what I mean? 

Because they haven't been challenged in this way and that's what I'm hoping to do. I really hope that you and I can continue to have these conversations and we can find a way to have these conversations because I love talking about gender. 

I fought in my campaign for mayor for something called love centers, which are a place where folks can have these conversations, because it's like, yo, where is it a dad — who just learned to become a dad at 19 and grew up watching mainstream media — where did he learn how to be more accepting of his queer child? Where do you learn how to love a gay child, like in a real way and support them in a real way? Because I know there's folks that want to do that, but there's not a place for that. There's plenty of places where you learn how to hate a gay child. There's not places where you learn how to love them. 

Where does somebody who has learned all these toxic traits, this toxic masculinity men and women who have toxic, toxic, masculine traits, and all of these things, where do they find the place to unlearn them? It's upon us to create these places. We can't just want to tear down the other things, and not build stuff for the future, build a world that actually allows these things to happen.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah and giving people an alternative is so important. Because I think like, so often, the conversation revolves around what we can't do, rather than what we can and where we can go. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I would love to continue the conversation there. And even have like a live talk where we could have more folks come in and speak. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Okay, yes, please do. Great. Thank you so much for talking. This was just so it was incredible to talk to you. I really enjoyed this. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yes. We'll wait till we do it in person. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. Fuck yeah. We've got to have a whole round table ... then we'll dance.  

PAPERBOY PRINCE: AHAHAH. I'm excited. I feel like these conversations aren't had enough. In a real raw way where it's okay to make mistakes. So folks can have a safe space to ask the wrong question. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yes. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: So yeah, I appreciate you starting this conversation. I am glad we are able to make it happen. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Thank you so much. Let's keep in touch. Lots of love.  

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Bye!

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Bye!  

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Paperboy Prince

Brigette Lundy Paine

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Brigette Lundy Paine & Paperboy Prince

Brownstone Cowboys Magazine CONSCIOUS GIVING Main Image

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Brigette Lundy Paine and Paperboy Prince discuss gender, patriarchy, capitalism, acceptance and love, and the hard work of creating social change.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: One love. How's it going?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: So good!!

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm happy to be here. And you're, where are you?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: I am in Fort Greene ... where are you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm in Bushwick-Bed-Stuy right now, right in the borderlands.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: It's so good to meet you. Like I can't believe I'm talking to you.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm excited to meet you as well. So happy to meet you and do this and have this conversation, which I'm not sure everything about, but it seems very interesting. And the first thing I see here is gender and a dash next to it. I'm curious to start there.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. I have been exploring my gender with the freedom of fluidity for the last year or two in a more vocal way, and in a more intentional way, trying to unlearn what gender has meant to me, and what it can mean, and both how to free myself from it, but also acknowledging that it's something that exists so thoroughly in every aspect of life, that it's not something that you can pretend doesn't exist.

I think that sometimes we get confused that the idea of gender isn't real, or gender doesn't exist. Instead, gender is a series of socialized constructs that we encounter daily and that are sold to us in order to uphold capitalism? And so exploring gender fluidity is something that, for me, has freed me from certain expectations, both socially and in my work.

I'm an actor, which is an incredibly gendered field ... we're portraying stories that are upholding the idea of gender. That's what a lot of the stories that are sold to us do. Starting in Disney princess stories when we're little kids to romcoms when we're a little older. I was lucky enough to have people around me and on my team who supported me in being someone who is gender fluid. And as an actor, that means that now I'm challenging the people who want to work with me to explore what gender is in their work and sometimes that means that I can help change a character.

The character that I just spent four years playing, was a teenage girl named Casey on “Atypical,” and that was a character that was written as a straight girl who was the younger sister in this family structure, and I had the chance to really fuck her gender up. Mojdeh Daftary [the costume designer] and I worked together to gender flip the costumes. We wore very minimal makeup, which is something that's rare for TV and you have to push for, and the makeup designers were all really supportive of that. So it's little ways. In my personal life, I don't think about gender very much. Either that or I think about it all the time. I can't tell. But yeah, it's always changing, you know.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Interesting, you know, to hear stuff about television, and makeup. [While living in Spain] I would watch Spanish television and it made me realize how unrealistically attractive everyone on American television is. Even as a kid I would know this, but I would play into the story and believe it ... watching Lizzie McGuire and she'd be like, “I'm just a normal girl that's having trouble in life.” And I'm like, “You're beautiful! You're like a stereotypically beautiful person. You don't seem like the awkward teenager; if you're the awkward teenager then oh my God — what am I?” But watching Spanish television, the people's teeth weren't perfect — like how homeless people on American television have perfect teeth — it was just so different.

And it made me see how much of this stuff plays in our mind, our minds are strong enough to tell the difference between all these things. And then they do the same thing with gender too. When it comes to watching shows about high school and [it all] happens to take place in LA, on a sunny day. The cheerleaders all are 30 with ‘perfect bodies.’ And the football players are all 30, cut as hell, and they're playing a 15-year-old. I was like, “Hey, this guy's a sophomore??!” Everything's perfect. It makes us feel like we're not good enough, or that's how it made me feel. But yeah, sorry your comments sparked all of that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: No, I love all of that. I think that's also important to point out and acknowledge with the media that we're consuming. It's true that it is like a constant flow too. Like we're never cut off from this media, and it affects every single thought we have.

And I actually wanted to ask you, because often you talk about the work you do breaking the matrix. How are you able to break out of these? Because you do. When you watch your work, both your political and artistic work, you don't feel like you're living in the same media saturated culture that we're used to. And I think that's why it's so surprising and refreshing. How do you go about that? What does that practice look like for you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's so crazy; growing up I had great parents that I love a lot, and growing up I wasn't allowed to watch a lot of television or movies. In fact, I wasn't able to go to the movies until I was a teenager basically, for religious reasons. As a kid, I hated it. But as an adult, I'm so happy about it. I wasn't allowed to listen to any popular music, only gospel music, and I wasn't allowed to read all types of books, or watch any type of television. They were very strict with that, and I'm so thankful. When I started looking at everything when I finally was able, I was looking at it through a lens of assuming that it's bad, that it's not all there for me in a good way. Media literacy is super important to me. And my parents teaching me how important it is to protect your eyes, protect your ears, what you're watching what you're seeing. I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously.

[When] I was in school, I never came across as the tough guy, I never felt that pressure, I always felt comfortable being myself, not feeling like, “Oh, I have to like, be super tough,” or live up to this fake ideal that isn't really serving me or making me happy, or making me more human.

So yeah, it's still interesting to me, too, like taking the genders off of birth certificates, it's all very interesting because no one knows what to do. Gender roles have allowed us to accomplish certain things [up until now]. And now, the fear is, without these roles how will we accomplish these things, or who's going to fill these roles?

I want to ask you this, I'm curious of your progression of when you felt comfortable expressing your own gender for yourself. Do you think that all of this gender expression is just a new form of the gender binary? Gender trinary whatever, is a new form of the gender binary?

And how do you feel about children expressing their gender, and that's the whole spectrum — super masculine, super feminist, hyper masc, hyper fem, and anything in between. I'm curious [about] your thoughts on that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates, these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is.

"The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates...these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is." - Brigette Lundy Paine

So these systems and the idea of masculinity and femininity even being these two very polarized identities and sets of behavior, that is what continues to be violent, systematically violent; the ways in which our government, our social institutions, the family structure is all defined by the idea of masculinity being something that is tough, dominant, and to be respected, and femininity being something that is pliable and submissive, and something that can be dominated.

Those are the things that we have to unlearn socially. And we have so much work to do on that, because that's something that we [learnt] from the dawn of time and biologically is something that is reinforced. When a female has a child they are automatically put in a position of submission by the family structures, by the biological family structures that we continue to uphold.

These systems that we're dealing with are much deeper than, you know, changing the language around gender, which I think is what makes it really hard to talk about this very valid concern of, is non binary just a third gender?

I think that what's important about the conversation is that every time that someone who doesn't identify with the gender binary, in whatever way that they explore that -- whether they're a little kid who wants to wear clothes that aren't for their gender, or whether they're a public figure who is challenging the gender norms in their workplace or in a political way, like you are, or different people who challenge it in fashion and in film, and in these ways that are very visible, or even in quiet ways -- if you're a trans or non-binary person in the workforce and you're speaking with HR, you're making it a safer place for people of your gender identity or gender fluidity.

It's important because we challenge the way we think about the deeper structures. We can really go through our whole life playing gender roles, you mentioned that you were super fluid as a teenager, at least you didn't feel the need to be hyper masc, I, on the other hand, was a cheerleader in high school. I was like super feminine doing a complete performance of American femininity. And I know how easy it is to live under the guise of "I'm just going to go through my whole life and never think about these feelings" and sort of push it down.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I feel like there's a jealousy that a lot of men have of women. And I feel this is a portion of what is at the root of, I don't even want to say misogyny anymore, but the gender wars. It's like, "You have this, and I don’t!” These type of finger pointing things. A lot of men don't like being a man, or what it means to be a man, like we didn't all get together and get to decide on that, and I know a lot really don't like it. And before I knew anything about gender non-conforming, or non-binary, or all these different things, before I knew anything about that, I felt a certain way that a woman could wear a dress, a pretty ballroom gown, and then later that day, later that same day, wear baggy pants and a big T-shirt and still keep her femininity, still keep her womaness, that not be questioned at all. In fact, that's still being a part of femininity. I mentioned the Drake line where he talked about “sweat pants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on.” You know, like still being super attracted. It's still like pedestalizing this femininity, even as they're acting out things that aren't seen as stereotypically feminine.

Whereas as a man, you wear a dress one time, you wear eyeshadow one time, you get your nails done one time, and you lose your manhood. Like you literally aren't seen as a man, by men, by women, by everyone. Even by non-binary, gender non-conforming people. You're no longer seen as a man anymore. Masculinity, I always saw it, is so small, there's such a small window that you get to operate within.

And so I wonder if you feel or you see this same type of ... I’m struggling for words here ... the same type of constraints that existed in femininity? The point that I'm kind of getting at is I feel like there's a lot of gender fluidity in femininity and womanhood. I feel like that does not exist at all in masculinity. I even feel like because of masculinity, manhood purposely doesn't have this gender fluidity.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's a sacrifice for womanhood. As women make many sacrifices for men and manhood. I feel like men are supposed to be this strong thing to allow even women to have this fluidity possibility. And this is where some of the jealousy comes from that I was talking about before. But I'm just curious your thoughts on that and if you feel that there's those same constraints within femininity that you felt [when you were] younger?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Absolutely, there's less fluidity in masculinity. This is just evidence of the patriarchy being as constraining to men as much as it is to female identifying people. No one demands that masculinity be kept as this sacred thing other than the patriarchy, right?

Because it's constantly reinforced that in order to keep the power, this idea of masculinity must be upheld, even though, clearly, it's a fallacy. It's not a real thing, masculinity. You prove that in your daily life by dressing however you want and presenting however you want, and saying “Fuck you” to the rules, even though it's painful and even though there is rejection.

But the fact is, women or people who identify as women or people who are born as female have more fluidity because of the lack of power. And because there's less, they're taken less seriously. And so there's less to uphold, which can be a privilege, you know, a lot more people identify as non-binary who were assigned female at birth than who were assigned male because to identify as non-binary, if you were assigned female, means that you can wear whatever you want.

Whereas for people who are [assigned] male so many more people identify as trans women, and less so as non-binary people. A friend of mine yesterday was just talking about a third friend of ours, she's a trans woman who describes coming out as trans as cracking open an egg, because it's something that you can either let destroy you or you can crack out of, and you can 'become'.

Masculinity is the most delicate thing that we hold socially. It's completely vulnerable to all of the elements. That's why so much of masculinity is protected by money, because money is really the only thing that can separate you from the daily vulnerabilities of this earth.

I think that for me, my experience as a cheerleader in high school, if I would have identified as queer in high school things would have been really different for me. I won't ever know what that experience was like, because I didn't. I was identifying as straight in high school, I was in a weird, abusive relationship, and I was not happy. And so I didn't take those risks.

What is so special about Zoe and Heathermary, who arranged this interview, and other parents of non-binary and trans kids is that now there's an opportunity to like foster self-understanding, and self-acceptance at a much earlier age, so that kids can come into high school or middle school or elementary school, and can identify the way that they want in a way that makes them feel comfortable. And kids around them will therefore be able to identify more comfortably the way that they want and, starting from a different level of earlier emotional development, will be able to unlearn how gender oppresses us. For me, and I think we're maybe the same age, gender was still really oppressive and unchanging when I was a little kid, and that really still affects me to this day. And it sucks! I wish that I had been a kid when life was more fluid, but also I completely understand that you and I are doing what we do so that kids can have a more fluid existence.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yeah, I get messages from kids that are trying to transition and because they didn't have the money they decided not to and they're in this weird in between stage, they don't know what they are, other people don't know what they are. So they don't even know what to say. They're just being them and they're trying to figure it out. And there's a lack of role models, there's a lack of a lane, a lifeline of “Oh, what does a non-binary 50-year-old look like? What does a trans 100-year-old look like? What does that look like?” And I think that's important in some of my work politically, that’s opened my eyes.

Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, “Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.”

"Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, 'Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.'" - Paperboy Prince

And, you know, queer and LGBTQ seniors have a tough time, and especially the seniors that grew up at a time where they weren't allowed to be open with their relationships. So they had to hide all of that, or maybe deny love, not be able to have their partner. So then now they're later in life and they don't have their partners, whereas somebody who is in a traditional hetero relationship is able to have a partner. They're at the end of life and all of these folks are dying alone, and they don't have friends, and a lot of the places to make friends and make lovers aren't set up for them. All queer stuff is set up for younger folks and all of the stuff for older folks is more like maybe church oriented or focused on traditional vibes, right? And they're like, alternative. They're queer.

This is also interesting to me, because I wasn't even able to express my own masculinity. However, as a kid I wanted cornrows, right? And my mom wouldn't let me do it because she was like, “You don't understand, they're gonna stereotype you as this type of Black man, and they're gonna want to, you know, say you fit descriptions, and people are going to try to put you in this box because of that!” So I was definitely not able to express the type of queerness; I remember wanting to wear weird things to school and my parents would be like, “Oh they're gonna make fun of you and pick on you,” so they wouldn't let me and I think it's so interesting. I'm curious to see what it looks like for folks that are raising their children. How much they're allowing them to express their own gender identity. I wasn't able to, and there was a limit on even the masculinity I could express. And then what that ends up being, you know?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, I don't know. I'm so curious to see, I just literally have no idea.

And the relationship with our elders I think is such an important thing to bring up, I love that you said take care of them like a newborn baby. We really, in order to foster the future, have to pay attention to our past as queer people and how our elders are treated by us as a community.

There's such a loneliness to being a queer elder. Now, especially if you don't live in a big city, the loneliness of being completely isolated without community. Something I’ve been thinking about so much lately is how many of our elders we lost to AIDS. And how different it would be as a queer community if the AIDS epidemic hadn't been handled the way it was with such intense hate and discrimination, and so many people were left to die. Because now we're starting over in so many ways, so many of the voices that would have been guiding us aren't here.

I can only imagine that the future is going to be so fucking beautiful. And so charged with the force. With what your work feels like, with the kids I see on the internet — I'm always astonished when I talk to kids on the internet because of the work they're doing in their own schools, in their own lives and like unlearning the oppression of gender and the messaging that we've all been taught.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: A major critique I have of the LGBT community is being so desperate for validation and acceptance that these like evil corporations, all they have to do is put somebody with blue hair in the ad and then it's like, “Oh, my gosh, this is so good!” And it's like, wait, no.

Or like my first time at pride, my first time at New York City Pride, being astonished and saying, “This is the most corporate parade that I've ever been to." And being a part of a lot of Black revolutionary movements, and going to a lot of protests as a kid and seeing all of that, and then going to pride — it’s literally Walmart, American Express, Target, Walgreens, the NYPD. Like all of these things. It's just like, “They got a rainbow!! They got a rainbow! Aaah!" And it's cool. But it's also, like, I cringe, and I get upset because, wait, folks aren't using this opportunity to critique and hold these companies to a new higher standard. They're just happy to have a rainbow; it is not even doing anything.

No, it's like, a rainbow on Walmart, is this progressive? I see so few queer people that are calling this out, or even critiquing it. It's just got to a point where I'm like, “Yo, how is this okay?” I led a lot of protests for the Black community and the Black youth and like we would be hard pressed to get support from Walmart. Like it’d be a cold day in hell before we get support from Bank of America. But a queer or gay thing, it's like they're there before you can hang up the phone. Like Fortune 500 companies. I feel like the LGBTQ community needs to like be hyperaware and hypercritical of their part in upholding capitalism.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I was like, wait, the NYPD car with a gay flag on it. It's like, we need to have more conversations about this before this is okay.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, no, it's truly, truly sick and upsetting. It's so upsetting. The easiest way for corporations to maintain favor with the general public is to pink wash. To stick a flag on whatever they can.

Gay liberation was expedited the way it was because so many gay men in power were respected automatically, culturally, and so we were able to accept gay rights because it was marketed to us, it's always about the marketing. Black liberation is not something that can be marketed.

I know that the idea that we're still upholding the same beauty standards, even in queer representation, is so upsetting because we have the opportunity to not, but we won't. Even our most radical representations of queerness on TV are still so vanilla and so safe and so marketable. And I saw this up close, you know, myself included, like, I'm a representation of thin white beauty. Like, that's why I got the job.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Right.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: There are some representations; Euphoria fucking went there in many ways and Hunter Schafer is fucking awesome!! And I'm really grateful for her and Zendaya. But it's still not enough. It's not enough. And it's because no one's gonna buy it. 

If it's not, as you said, not the marketable beauty standards, anything like that, no one's gonna buy it. And that's all that matters to us, all that matters to us is that corporations can show up to pride, and keep doing what they're doing, and pay us to make it look like we're changing, you know. And that's just not enough. 

But I think like the instinct to blame the LGBT communities for not being mad enough I get, but I also think is it beyond the individual power? How could we demand that this is not what pride is to us?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I think not supporting it? Because I'm big on accountability and responsibility, and we live in a world where, you know, no one wants to take accountability and responsibility. It starts with us. It starts with us holding ourselves to a higher standard and saying, “Yo, I'm going to be accountable for like…” I didn't make this mistake, but it's my responsibility to still fix it. A lot of folks are like, “Hey, I didn't do that! I didn't spill that milk!” But it's like, “Yo, but you are here.” Like climate change is one of those things, "I just got here I've only been on earth this long, how did I, little me, little I, cause climate change?! You think I am gonna mess up the earth and the climate by my what? My plastic cup, or by my straw?! Right?” It's hard to do that, but I'm still responsible. Even though I didn't do all of that, I'm still responsible for taking care of this earth, I'm still responsible. 

The people who made change in our world, I'm talking about the Martin Luther Kings and folks like that, were young. And they were like, "I didn't cause this, I didn't cause racism, I didn't cause patriarchy, I didn't cause the the wars, but like, yo, I'm gonna fix it — it's my responsibility, if I want a better world then I have to be responsible.”

So I'm fully fine with that responsibility, especially when folks want to change the world and change folks' minds, you have go the full, full way with it and be responsible.  “Yo, okay, I'm going to take on this responsibility and really reshape what that means. And do it in a loving way.” You know what I mean? It's not saying “No Walmart.” It's saying, “How can Walmart see value in this. How can we use that to help liberate folks?”

Using your power for actual change, and if you don't know what that is, then get out the way. It's kinda like my thing. If you don't know, then move out the way because you're just lost and leading folks into destruction.  

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Completely. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: My thing is, like if Amazon was to slap a gay flag on their thing or do an ad where they're like, “We want to deliver to you, no matter who you choose to love.” Are you going to use your energy and power and your cultural power to make change? Or just to be quiet and be happy that they’re accepting you?  

That comes from fear and being afraid of losing, they just won't want to work with you or represent or whatever. And for me, I've lost a lot for standing up for folks, it would have been easier to just be quiet. I'd have probably got more deals or more endorsements, invited to more parties, or whatever, if I didn't stand up and do that. But it's like, wait, the whole point for me, the whole point of getting in this position, is to use it so more folks have opportunity.  

I'm comfortable critiquing the queer community, because what you said, there's so much white supremacy that is embedded in the LGBTQ community, and it's like, “Yo, are you using that for good?” Or are you just using it to uphold white supremacy and make the rich get richer? More wealth has been taken from just regular people in the last two years, I mean, it's just like a crazy wealth transfer that has happened. Walmart and Bill Gates are getting crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy rich. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: And it's because we don't want to come together and fight for what's right. And I'll say even with gender, I feel like we all have more in common than we have apart. Everything is ways for men to hate women, for women to hate men. Like they're constantly pushing more and more for us to hate each other. 

And they want to add in the non-binary and trans folks to hate the hetero folks. And like, that's all it's supposed to be. And we have to find ways for us to come together so we can all rise! We all have more in common than we have apart, like all these things are such little bits. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: I fucking love you I'm so inspired by you and so grateful for you. And for the work that you do, and how much you've sacrificed. I think that everyone needs to remember that. That even if it feels like the most important thing is being popular on social media, it is not. That is an illusion. That is not real love, admiration of each other in that sense is not real love!! I love that you represent, that I see so much risk in the way you communicate too! 

Allowing ourselves to be wrong is so much a part of challenging these systems. And I think that there’s a script that that we've adopted — a resistance script. We could bring a CEO to the table that we could demand something because we CAN demand something. I would like, for instance, for everyone to boycott Amazon. I think that would be a really easy thing to do.

I mean, even I'm very afraid. I'm very afraid as "a public figure.” I've deleted my Instagram because I don't appreciate the ego feeding that it is. And I haven't found a way around it. Using our money is so important too, how many of us are banking with huge banks, and still talking shit about Wall Street? You know? How many of us are going to Whole Foods every week and still talking shit about Jeff Bezos? How can we live with these contradictions? And how can we consciously cut them out? So that we are speaking and acting from a place of truth and love? 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yeah. It's not necessarily easy. And it's going to take work. It’s the reason a company like Amazon is so rich and so powerful, so big, so fast. It’s because they've gotten really good at giving us what we want. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Right. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: One of the things I say in politics is, “Yo, like, okay, so the big bad guys in office, or the big bad person is in power; you have to be better than them. You have to beat them at their own game.” And it's hard because they're the machine, they are well-organized like a machine. They press a button, and then something happens easily because they've had it, they've got well organized in there. Everybody knows their role and they can like shut up and just stick together for their goal of oppression, they can do that.  

Whereas the opposition sometimes isn't willing to out organize. They're not willing to out-think and out-work the folks that are in power. And that's the only way that you do that, it's hard work, it's consistency. This is how we do it, out-organizing them and finding ways that we can come together. But the beauty of it is, there's more of us than them. There really, really is. And like, I think when you actually put up a valiant effort, when you actually hold them to this standard, and actually put up a fight, half the time they'll just go down, you know what I mean? 

Because they haven't been challenged in this way and that's what I'm hoping to do. I really hope that you and I can continue to have these conversations and we can find a way to have these conversations because I love talking about gender. 

I fought in my campaign for mayor for something called love centers, which are a place where folks can have these conversations, because it's like, yo, where is it a dad — who just learned to become a dad at 19 and grew up watching mainstream media — where did he learn how to be more accepting of his queer child? Where do you learn how to love a gay child, like in a real way and support them in a real way? Because I know there's folks that want to do that, but there's not a place for that. There's plenty of places where you learn how to hate a gay child. There's not places where you learn how to love them. 

Where does somebody who has learned all these toxic traits, this toxic masculinity men and women who have toxic, toxic, masculine traits, and all of these things, where do they find the place to unlearn them? It's upon us to create these places. We can't just want to tear down the other things, and not build stuff for the future, build a world that actually allows these things to happen.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah and giving people an alternative is so important. Because I think like, so often, the conversation revolves around what we can't do, rather than what we can and where we can go. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I would love to continue the conversation there. And even have like a live talk where we could have more folks come in and speak. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Okay, yes, please do. Great. Thank you so much for talking. This was just so it was incredible to talk to you. I really enjoyed this. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yes. We'll wait till we do it in person. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. Fuck yeah. We've got to have a whole round table ... then we'll dance.  

PAPERBOY PRINCE: AHAHAH. I'm excited. I feel like these conversations aren't had enough. In a real raw way where it's okay to make mistakes. So folks can have a safe space to ask the wrong question. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yes. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: So yeah, I appreciate you starting this conversation. I am glad we are able to make it happen. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Thank you so much. Let's keep in touch. Lots of love.  

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Bye!

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Bye!  

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Brigette Lundy Paine & Paperboy Prince

Brigette Lundy Paine and Paperboy Prince discuss gender, patriarchy, capitalism, acceptance and love, and the hard work of creating social change.

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Paperboy Prince

Brigette Lundy Paine

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Brigette Lundy Paine & Paperboy Prince

CONVERSATIONS

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Brigette Lundy Paine and Paperboy Prince discuss gender, patriarchy, capitalism, acceptance and love, and the hard work of creating social change.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: One love. How's it going?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: So good!!

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm happy to be here. And you're, where are you?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: I am in Fort Greene ... where are you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm in Bushwick-Bed-Stuy right now, right in the borderlands.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: It's so good to meet you. Like I can't believe I'm talking to you.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm excited to meet you as well. So happy to meet you and do this and have this conversation, which I'm not sure everything about, but it seems very interesting. And the first thing I see here is gender and a dash next to it. I'm curious to start there.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. I have been exploring my gender with the freedom of fluidity for the last year or two in a more vocal way, and in a more intentional way, trying to unlearn what gender has meant to me, and what it can mean, and both how to free myself from it, but also acknowledging that it's something that exists so thoroughly in every aspect of life, that it's not something that you can pretend doesn't exist.

I think that sometimes we get confused that the idea of gender isn't real, or gender doesn't exist. Instead, gender is a series of socialized constructs that we encounter daily and that are sold to us in order to uphold capitalism? And so exploring gender fluidity is something that, for me, has freed me from certain expectations, both socially and in my work.

I'm an actor, which is an incredibly gendered field ... we're portraying stories that are upholding the idea of gender. That's what a lot of the stories that are sold to us do. Starting in Disney princess stories when we're little kids to romcoms when we're a little older. I was lucky enough to have people around me and on my team who supported me in being someone who is gender fluid. And as an actor, that means that now I'm challenging the people who want to work with me to explore what gender is in their work and sometimes that means that I can help change a character.

The character that I just spent four years playing, was a teenage girl named Casey on “Atypical,” and that was a character that was written as a straight girl who was the younger sister in this family structure, and I had the chance to really fuck her gender up. Mojdeh Daftary [the costume designer] and I worked together to gender flip the costumes. We wore very minimal makeup, which is something that's rare for TV and you have to push for, and the makeup designers were all really supportive of that. So it's little ways. In my personal life, I don't think about gender very much. Either that or I think about it all the time. I can't tell. But yeah, it's always changing, you know.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Interesting, you know, to hear stuff about television, and makeup. [While living in Spain] I would watch Spanish television and it made me realize how unrealistically attractive everyone on American television is. Even as a kid I would know this, but I would play into the story and believe it ... watching Lizzie McGuire and she'd be like, “I'm just a normal girl that's having trouble in life.” And I'm like, “You're beautiful! You're like a stereotypically beautiful person. You don't seem like the awkward teenager; if you're the awkward teenager then oh my God — what am I?” But watching Spanish television, the people's teeth weren't perfect — like how homeless people on American television have perfect teeth — it was just so different.

And it made me see how much of this stuff plays in our mind, our minds are strong enough to tell the difference between all these things. And then they do the same thing with gender too. When it comes to watching shows about high school and [it all] happens to take place in LA, on a sunny day. The cheerleaders all are 30 with ‘perfect bodies.’ And the football players are all 30, cut as hell, and they're playing a 15-year-old. I was like, “Hey, this guy's a sophomore??!” Everything's perfect. It makes us feel like we're not good enough, or that's how it made me feel. But yeah, sorry your comments sparked all of that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: No, I love all of that. I think that's also important to point out and acknowledge with the media that we're consuming. It's true that it is like a constant flow too. Like we're never cut off from this media, and it affects every single thought we have.

And I actually wanted to ask you, because often you talk about the work you do breaking the matrix. How are you able to break out of these? Because you do. When you watch your work, both your political and artistic work, you don't feel like you're living in the same media saturated culture that we're used to. And I think that's why it's so surprising and refreshing. How do you go about that? What does that practice look like for you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's so crazy; growing up I had great parents that I love a lot, and growing up I wasn't allowed to watch a lot of television or movies. In fact, I wasn't able to go to the movies until I was a teenager basically, for religious reasons. As a kid, I hated it. But as an adult, I'm so happy about it. I wasn't allowed to listen to any popular music, only gospel music, and I wasn't allowed to read all types of books, or watch any type of television. They were very strict with that, and I'm so thankful. When I started looking at everything when I finally was able, I was looking at it through a lens of assuming that it's bad, that it's not all there for me in a good way. Media literacy is super important to me. And my parents teaching me how important it is to protect your eyes, protect your ears, what you're watching what you're seeing. I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously.

[When] I was in school, I never came across as the tough guy, I never felt that pressure, I always felt comfortable being myself, not feeling like, “Oh, I have to like, be super tough,” or live up to this fake ideal that isn't really serving me or making me happy, or making me more human.

So yeah, it's still interesting to me, too, like taking the genders off of birth certificates, it's all very interesting because no one knows what to do. Gender roles have allowed us to accomplish certain things [up until now]. And now, the fear is, without these roles how will we accomplish these things, or who's going to fill these roles?

I want to ask you this, I'm curious of your progression of when you felt comfortable expressing your own gender for yourself. Do you think that all of this gender expression is just a new form of the gender binary? Gender trinary whatever, is a new form of the gender binary?

And how do you feel about children expressing their gender, and that's the whole spectrum — super masculine, super feminist, hyper masc, hyper fem, and anything in between. I'm curious [about] your thoughts on that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates, these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is.

"The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates...these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is." - Brigette Lundy Paine

So these systems and the idea of masculinity and femininity even being these two very polarized identities and sets of behavior, that is what continues to be violent, systematically violent; the ways in which our government, our social institutions, the family structure is all defined by the idea of masculinity being something that is tough, dominant, and to be respected, and femininity being something that is pliable and submissive, and something that can be dominated.

Those are the things that we have to unlearn socially. And we have so much work to do on that, because that's something that we [learnt] from the dawn of time and biologically is something that is reinforced. When a female has a child they are automatically put in a position of submission by the family structures, by the biological family structures that we continue to uphold.

These systems that we're dealing with are much deeper than, you know, changing the language around gender, which I think is what makes it really hard to talk about this very valid concern of, is non binary just a third gender?

I think that what's important about the conversation is that every time that someone who doesn't identify with the gender binary, in whatever way that they explore that -- whether they're a little kid who wants to wear clothes that aren't for their gender, or whether they're a public figure who is challenging the gender norms in their workplace or in a political way, like you are, or different people who challenge it in fashion and in film, and in these ways that are very visible, or even in quiet ways -- if you're a trans or non-binary person in the workforce and you're speaking with HR, you're making it a safer place for people of your gender identity or gender fluidity.

It's important because we challenge the way we think about the deeper structures. We can really go through our whole life playing gender roles, you mentioned that you were super fluid as a teenager, at least you didn't feel the need to be hyper masc, I, on the other hand, was a cheerleader in high school. I was like super feminine doing a complete performance of American femininity. And I know how easy it is to live under the guise of "I'm just going to go through my whole life and never think about these feelings" and sort of push it down.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I feel like there's a jealousy that a lot of men have of women. And I feel this is a portion of what is at the root of, I don't even want to say misogyny anymore, but the gender wars. It's like, "You have this, and I don’t!” These type of finger pointing things. A lot of men don't like being a man, or what it means to be a man, like we didn't all get together and get to decide on that, and I know a lot really don't like it. And before I knew anything about gender non-conforming, or non-binary, or all these different things, before I knew anything about that, I felt a certain way that a woman could wear a dress, a pretty ballroom gown, and then later that day, later that same day, wear baggy pants and a big T-shirt and still keep her femininity, still keep her womaness, that not be questioned at all. In fact, that's still being a part of femininity. I mentioned the Drake line where he talked about “sweat pants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on.” You know, like still being super attracted. It's still like pedestalizing this femininity, even as they're acting out things that aren't seen as stereotypically feminine.

Whereas as a man, you wear a dress one time, you wear eyeshadow one time, you get your nails done one time, and you lose your manhood. Like you literally aren't seen as a man, by men, by women, by everyone. Even by non-binary, gender non-conforming people. You're no longer seen as a man anymore. Masculinity, I always saw it, is so small, there's such a small window that you get to operate within.

And so I wonder if you feel or you see this same type of ... I’m struggling for words here ... the same type of constraints that existed in femininity? The point that I'm kind of getting at is I feel like there's a lot of gender fluidity in femininity and womanhood. I feel like that does not exist at all in masculinity. I even feel like because of masculinity, manhood purposely doesn't have this gender fluidity.

"I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously." - Paperboy Prince

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's a sacrifice for womanhood. As women make many sacrifices for men and manhood. I feel like men are supposed to be this strong thing to allow even women to have this fluidity possibility. And this is where some of the jealousy comes from that I was talking about before. But I'm just curious your thoughts on that and if you feel that there's those same constraints within femininity that you felt [when you were] younger?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Absolutely, there's less fluidity in masculinity. This is just evidence of the patriarchy being as constraining to men as much as it is to female identifying people. No one demands that masculinity be kept as this sacred thing other than the patriarchy, right?

Because it's constantly reinforced that in order to keep the power, this idea of masculinity must be upheld, even though, clearly, it's a fallacy. It's not a real thing, masculinity. You prove that in your daily life by dressing however you want and presenting however you want, and saying “Fuck you” to the rules, even though it's painful and even though there is rejection.

But the fact is, women or people who identify as women or people who are born as female have more fluidity because of the lack of power. And because there's less, they're taken less seriously. And so there's less to uphold, which can be a privilege, you know, a lot more people identify as non-binary who were assigned female at birth than who were assigned male because to identify as non-binary, if you were assigned female, means that you can wear whatever you want.

Whereas for people who are [assigned] male so many more people identify as trans women, and less so as non-binary people. A friend of mine yesterday was just talking about a third friend of ours, she's a trans woman who describes coming out as trans as cracking open an egg, because it's something that you can either let destroy you or you can crack out of, and you can 'become'.

Masculinity is the most delicate thing that we hold socially. It's completely vulnerable to all of the elements. That's why so much of masculinity is protected by money, because money is really the only thing that can separate you from the daily vulnerabilities of this earth.

I think that for me, my experience as a cheerleader in high school, if I would have identified as queer in high school things would have been really different for me. I won't ever know what that experience was like, because I didn't. I was identifying as straight in high school, I was in a weird, abusive relationship, and I was not happy. And so I didn't take those risks.

What is so special about Zoe and Heathermary, who arranged this interview, and other parents of non-binary and trans kids is that now there's an opportunity to like foster self-understanding, and self-acceptance at a much earlier age, so that kids can come into high school or middle school or elementary school, and can identify the way that they want in a way that makes them feel comfortable. And kids around them will therefore be able to identify more comfortably the way that they want and, starting from a different level of earlier emotional development, will be able to unlearn how gender oppresses us. For me, and I think we're maybe the same age, gender was still really oppressive and unchanging when I was a little kid, and that really still affects me to this day. And it sucks! I wish that I had been a kid when life was more fluid, but also I completely understand that you and I are doing what we do so that kids can have a more fluid existence.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yeah, I get messages from kids that are trying to transition and because they didn't have the money they decided not to and they're in this weird in between stage, they don't know what they are, other people don't know what they are. So they don't even know what to say. They're just being them and they're trying to figure it out. And there's a lack of role models, there's a lack of a lane, a lifeline of “Oh, what does a non-binary 50-year-old look like? What does a trans 100-year-old look like? What does that look like?” And I think that's important in some of my work politically, that’s opened my eyes.

Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, “Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.”

"Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, 'Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.'" - Paperboy Prince

And, you know, queer and LGBTQ seniors have a tough time, and especially the seniors that grew up at a time where they weren't allowed to be open with their relationships. So they had to hide all of that, or maybe deny love, not be able to have their partner. So then now they're later in life and they don't have their partners, whereas somebody who is in a traditional hetero relationship is able to have a partner. They're at the end of life and all of these folks are dying alone, and they don't have friends, and a lot of the places to make friends and make lovers aren't set up for them. All queer stuff is set up for younger folks and all of the stuff for older folks is more like maybe church oriented or focused on traditional vibes, right? And they're like, alternative. They're queer.

This is also interesting to me, because I wasn't even able to express my own masculinity. However, as a kid I wanted cornrows, right? And my mom wouldn't let me do it because she was like, “You don't understand, they're gonna stereotype you as this type of Black man, and they're gonna want to, you know, say you fit descriptions, and people are going to try to put you in this box because of that!” So I was definitely not able to express the type of queerness; I remember wanting to wear weird things to school and my parents would be like, “Oh they're gonna make fun of you and pick on you,” so they wouldn't let me and I think it's so interesting. I'm curious to see what it looks like for folks that are raising their children. How much they're allowing them to express their own gender identity. I wasn't able to, and there was a limit on even the masculinity I could express. And then what that ends up being, you know?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, I don't know. I'm so curious to see, I just literally have no idea.

And the relationship with our elders I think is such an important thing to bring up, I love that you said take care of them like a newborn baby. We really, in order to foster the future, have to pay attention to our past as queer people and how our elders are treated by us as a community.

There's such a loneliness to being a queer elder. Now, especially if you don't live in a big city, the loneliness of being completely isolated without community. Something I’ve been thinking about so much lately is how many of our elders we lost to AIDS. And how different it would be as a queer community if the AIDS epidemic hadn't been handled the way it was with such intense hate and discrimination, and so many people were left to die. Because now we're starting over in so many ways, so many of the voices that would have been guiding us aren't here.

I can only imagine that the future is going to be so fucking beautiful. And so charged with the force. With what your work feels like, with the kids I see on the internet — I'm always astonished when I talk to kids on the internet because of the work they're doing in their own schools, in their own lives and like unlearning the oppression of gender and the messaging that we've all been taught.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: A major critique I have of the LGBT community is being so desperate for validation and acceptance that these like evil corporations, all they have to do is put somebody with blue hair in the ad and then it's like, “Oh, my gosh, this is so good!” And it's like, wait, no.

Or like my first time at pride, my first time at New York City Pride, being astonished and saying, “This is the most corporate parade that I've ever been to." And being a part of a lot of Black revolutionary movements, and going to a lot of protests as a kid and seeing all of that, and then going to pride — it’s literally Walmart, American Express, Target, Walgreens, the NYPD. Like all of these things. It's just like, “They got a rainbow!! They got a rainbow! Aaah!" And it's cool. But it's also, like, I cringe, and I get upset because, wait, folks aren't using this opportunity to critique and hold these companies to a new higher standard. They're just happy to have a rainbow; it is not even doing anything.

No, it's like, a rainbow on Walmart, is this progressive? I see so few queer people that are calling this out, or even critiquing it. It's just got to a point where I'm like, “Yo, how is this okay?” I led a lot of protests for the Black community and the Black youth and like we would be hard pressed to get support from Walmart. Like it’d be a cold day in hell before we get support from Bank of America. But a queer or gay thing, it's like they're there before you can hang up the phone. Like Fortune 500 companies. I feel like the LGBTQ community needs to like be hyperaware and hypercritical of their part in upholding capitalism.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I was like, wait, the NYPD car with a gay flag on it. It's like, we need to have more conversations about this before this is okay.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, no, it's truly, truly sick and upsetting. It's so upsetting. The easiest way for corporations to maintain favor with the general public is to pink wash. To stick a flag on whatever they can.

Gay liberation was expedited the way it was because so many gay men in power were respected automatically, culturally, and so we were able to accept gay rights because it was marketed to us, it's always about the marketing. Black liberation is not something that can be marketed.

I know that the idea that we're still upholding the same beauty standards, even in queer representation, is so upsetting because we have the opportunity to not, but we won't. Even our most radical representations of queerness on TV are still so vanilla and so safe and so marketable. And I saw this up close, you know, myself included, like, I'm a representation of thin white beauty. Like, that's why I got the job.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Right.

"Absolutely, there's less fluidity in masculinity. This is just evidence of the patriarchy being as constraining to men as much as it is to female identifying people. No one demands that masculinity be kept as this sacred thing other than the patriarchy, right?" - Brigette Lundy Paine

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: There are some representations; Euphoria fucking went there in many ways and Hunter Schafer is fucking awesome!! And I'm really grateful for her and Zendaya. But it's still not enough. It's not enough. And it's because no one's gonna buy it. 

If it's not, as you said, not the marketable beauty standards, anything like that, no one's gonna buy it. And that's all that matters to us, all that matters to us is that corporations can show up to pride, and keep doing what they're doing, and pay us to make it look like we're changing, you know. And that's just not enough. 

But I think like the instinct to blame the LGBT communities for not being mad enough I get, but I also think is it beyond the individual power? How could we demand that this is not what pride is to us?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I think not supporting it? Because I'm big on accountability and responsibility, and we live in a world where, you know, no one wants to take accountability and responsibility. It starts with us. It starts with us holding ourselves to a higher standard and saying, “Yo, I'm going to be accountable for like…” I didn't make this mistake, but it's my responsibility to still fix it. A lot of folks are like, “Hey, I didn't do that! I didn't spill that milk!” But it's like, “Yo, but you are here.” Like climate change is one of those things, "I just got here I've only been on earth this long, how did I, little me, little I, cause climate change?! You think I am gonna mess up the earth and the climate by my what? My plastic cup, or by my straw?! Right?” It's hard to do that, but I'm still responsible. Even though I didn't do all of that, I'm still responsible for taking care of this earth, I'm still responsible. 

The people who made change in our world, I'm talking about the Martin Luther Kings and folks like that, were young. And they were like, "I didn't cause this, I didn't cause racism, I didn't cause patriarchy, I didn't cause the the wars, but like, yo, I'm gonna fix it — it's my responsibility, if I want a better world then I have to be responsible.”

So I'm fully fine with that responsibility, especially when folks want to change the world and change folks' minds, you have go the full, full way with it and be responsible.  “Yo, okay, I'm going to take on this responsibility and really reshape what that means. And do it in a loving way.” You know what I mean? It's not saying “No Walmart.” It's saying, “How can Walmart see value in this. How can we use that to help liberate folks?”

Using your power for actual change, and if you don't know what that is, then get out the way. It's kinda like my thing. If you don't know, then move out the way because you're just lost and leading folks into destruction.  

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Completely. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: My thing is, like if Amazon was to slap a gay flag on their thing or do an ad where they're like, “We want to deliver to you, no matter who you choose to love.” Are you going to use your energy and power and your cultural power to make change? Or just to be quiet and be happy that they’re accepting you?  

That comes from fear and being afraid of losing, they just won't want to work with you or represent or whatever. And for me, I've lost a lot for standing up for folks, it would have been easier to just be quiet. I'd have probably got more deals or more endorsements, invited to more parties, or whatever, if I didn't stand up and do that. But it's like, wait, the whole point for me, the whole point of getting in this position, is to use it so more folks have opportunity.  

I'm comfortable critiquing the queer community, because what you said, there's so much white supremacy that is embedded in the LGBTQ community, and it's like, “Yo, are you using that for good?” Or are you just using it to uphold white supremacy and make the rich get richer? More wealth has been taken from just regular people in the last two years, I mean, it's just like a crazy wealth transfer that has happened. Walmart and Bill Gates are getting crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy rich. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: And it's because we don't want to come together and fight for what's right. And I'll say even with gender, I feel like we all have more in common than we have apart. Everything is ways for men to hate women, for women to hate men. Like they're constantly pushing more and more for us to hate each other. 

And they want to add in the non-binary and trans folks to hate the hetero folks. And like, that's all it's supposed to be. And we have to find ways for us to come together so we can all rise! We all have more in common than we have apart, like all these things are such little bits. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: I fucking love you I'm so inspired by you and so grateful for you. And for the work that you do, and how much you've sacrificed. I think that everyone needs to remember that. That even if it feels like the most important thing is being popular on social media, it is not. That is an illusion. That is not real love, admiration of each other in that sense is not real love!! I love that you represent, that I see so much risk in the way you communicate too! 

Allowing ourselves to be wrong is so much a part of challenging these systems. And I think that there’s a script that that we've adopted — a resistance script. We could bring a CEO to the table that we could demand something because we CAN demand something. I would like, for instance, for everyone to boycott Amazon. I think that would be a really easy thing to do.

I mean, even I'm very afraid. I'm very afraid as "a public figure.” I've deleted my Instagram because I don't appreciate the ego feeding that it is. And I haven't found a way around it. Using our money is so important too, how many of us are banking with huge banks, and still talking shit about Wall Street? You know? How many of us are going to Whole Foods every week and still talking shit about Jeff Bezos? How can we live with these contradictions? And how can we consciously cut them out? So that we are speaking and acting from a place of truth and love? 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yeah. It's not necessarily easy. And it's going to take work. It’s the reason a company like Amazon is so rich and so powerful, so big, so fast. It’s because they've gotten really good at giving us what we want. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Right. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: One of the things I say in politics is, “Yo, like, okay, so the big bad guys in office, or the big bad person is in power; you have to be better than them. You have to beat them at their own game.” And it's hard because they're the machine, they are well-organized like a machine. They press a button, and then something happens easily because they've had it, they've got well organized in there. Everybody knows their role and they can like shut up and just stick together for their goal of oppression, they can do that.  

Whereas the opposition sometimes isn't willing to out organize. They're not willing to out-think and out-work the folks that are in power. And that's the only way that you do that, it's hard work, it's consistency. This is how we do it, out-organizing them and finding ways that we can come together. But the beauty of it is, there's more of us than them. There really, really is. And like, I think when you actually put up a valiant effort, when you actually hold them to this standard, and actually put up a fight, half the time they'll just go down, you know what I mean? 

Because they haven't been challenged in this way and that's what I'm hoping to do. I really hope that you and I can continue to have these conversations and we can find a way to have these conversations because I love talking about gender. 

I fought in my campaign for mayor for something called love centers, which are a place where folks can have these conversations, because it's like, yo, where is it a dad — who just learned to become a dad at 19 and grew up watching mainstream media — where did he learn how to be more accepting of his queer child? Where do you learn how to love a gay child, like in a real way and support them in a real way? Because I know there's folks that want to do that, but there's not a place for that. There's plenty of places where you learn how to hate a gay child. There's not places where you learn how to love them. 

Where does somebody who has learned all these toxic traits, this toxic masculinity men and women who have toxic, toxic, masculine traits, and all of these things, where do they find the place to unlearn them? It's upon us to create these places. We can't just want to tear down the other things, and not build stuff for the future, build a world that actually allows these things to happen.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah and giving people an alternative is so important. Because I think like, so often, the conversation revolves around what we can't do, rather than what we can and where we can go. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I would love to continue the conversation there. And even have like a live talk where we could have more folks come in and speak. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Okay, yes, please do. Great. Thank you so much for talking. This was just so it was incredible to talk to you. I really enjoyed this. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yes. We'll wait till we do it in person. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. Fuck yeah. We've got to have a whole round table ... then we'll dance.  

PAPERBOY PRINCE: AHAHAH. I'm excited. I feel like these conversations aren't had enough. In a real raw way where it's okay to make mistakes. So folks can have a safe space to ask the wrong question. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yes. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: So yeah, I appreciate you starting this conversation. I am glad we are able to make it happen. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Thank you so much. Let's keep in touch. Lots of love.  

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Bye!

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Bye!  

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Paperboy Prince

Brigette Lundy Paine

Brigette Lundy Paine & Paperboy Prince

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg

Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel

Music: Jesse Kennedy

Brigette Lundy Paine and Paperboy Prince discuss gender, patriarchy, capitalism, acceptance and love, and the hard work of creating social change.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: One love. How's it going?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: So good!!

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm happy to be here. And you're, where are you?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: I am in Fort Greene ... where are you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm in Bushwick-Bed-Stuy right now, right in the borderlands.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: It's so good to meet you. Like I can't believe I'm talking to you.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I'm excited to meet you as well. So happy to meet you and do this and have this conversation, which I'm not sure everything about, but it seems very interesting. And the first thing I see here is gender and a dash next to it. I'm curious to start there.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. I have been exploring my gender with the freedom of fluidity for the last year or two in a more vocal way, and in a more intentional way, trying to unlearn what gender has meant to me, and what it can mean, and both how to free myself from it, but also acknowledging that it's something that exists so thoroughly in every aspect of life, that it's not something that you can pretend doesn't exist.

I think that sometimes we get confused that the idea of gender isn't real, or gender doesn't exist. Instead, gender is a series of socialized constructs that we encounter daily and that are sold to us in order to uphold capitalism? And so exploring gender fluidity is something that, for me, has freed me from certain expectations, both socially and in my work.

I'm an actor, which is an incredibly gendered field ... we're portraying stories that are upholding the idea of gender. That's what a lot of the stories that are sold to us do. Starting in Disney princess stories when we're little kids to romcoms when we're a little older. I was lucky enough to have people around me and on my team who supported me in being someone who is gender fluid. And as an actor, that means that now I'm challenging the people who want to work with me to explore what gender is in their work and sometimes that means that I can help change a character.

The character that I just spent four years playing, was a teenage girl named Casey on “Atypical,” and that was a character that was written as a straight girl who was the younger sister in this family structure, and I had the chance to really fuck her gender up. Mojdeh Daftary [the costume designer] and I worked together to gender flip the costumes. We wore very minimal makeup, which is something that's rare for TV and you have to push for, and the makeup designers were all really supportive of that. So it's little ways. In my personal life, I don't think about gender very much. Either that or I think about it all the time. I can't tell. But yeah, it's always changing, you know.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Interesting, you know, to hear stuff about television, and makeup. [While living in Spain] I would watch Spanish television and it made me realize how unrealistically attractive everyone on American television is. Even as a kid I would know this, but I would play into the story and believe it ... watching Lizzie McGuire and she'd be like, “I'm just a normal girl that's having trouble in life.” And I'm like, “You're beautiful! You're like a stereotypically beautiful person. You don't seem like the awkward teenager; if you're the awkward teenager then oh my God — what am I?” But watching Spanish television, the people's teeth weren't perfect — like how homeless people on American television have perfect teeth — it was just so different.

And it made me see how much of this stuff plays in our mind, our minds are strong enough to tell the difference between all these things. And then they do the same thing with gender too. When it comes to watching shows about high school and [it all] happens to take place in LA, on a sunny day. The cheerleaders all are 30 with ‘perfect bodies.’ And the football players are all 30, cut as hell, and they're playing a 15-year-old. I was like, “Hey, this guy's a sophomore??!” Everything's perfect. It makes us feel like we're not good enough, or that's how it made me feel. But yeah, sorry your comments sparked all of that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: No, I love all of that. I think that's also important to point out and acknowledge with the media that we're consuming. It's true that it is like a constant flow too. Like we're never cut off from this media, and it affects every single thought we have.

And I actually wanted to ask you, because often you talk about the work you do breaking the matrix. How are you able to break out of these? Because you do. When you watch your work, both your political and artistic work, you don't feel like you're living in the same media saturated culture that we're used to. And I think that's why it's so surprising and refreshing. How do you go about that? What does that practice look like for you?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's so crazy; growing up I had great parents that I love a lot, and growing up I wasn't allowed to watch a lot of television or movies. In fact, I wasn't able to go to the movies until I was a teenager basically, for religious reasons. As a kid, I hated it. But as an adult, I'm so happy about it. I wasn't allowed to listen to any popular music, only gospel music, and I wasn't allowed to read all types of books, or watch any type of television. They were very strict with that, and I'm so thankful. When I started looking at everything when I finally was able, I was looking at it through a lens of assuming that it's bad, that it's not all there for me in a good way. Media literacy is super important to me. And my parents teaching me how important it is to protect your eyes, protect your ears, what you're watching what you're seeing. I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously.

[When] I was in school, I never came across as the tough guy, I never felt that pressure, I always felt comfortable being myself, not feeling like, “Oh, I have to like, be super tough,” or live up to this fake ideal that isn't really serving me or making me happy, or making me more human.

So yeah, it's still interesting to me, too, like taking the genders off of birth certificates, it's all very interesting because no one knows what to do. Gender roles have allowed us to accomplish certain things [up until now]. And now, the fear is, without these roles how will we accomplish these things, or who's going to fill these roles?

I want to ask you this, I'm curious of your progression of when you felt comfortable expressing your own gender for yourself. Do you think that all of this gender expression is just a new form of the gender binary? Gender trinary whatever, is a new form of the gender binary?

And how do you feel about children expressing their gender, and that's the whole spectrum — super masculine, super feminist, hyper masc, hyper fem, and anything in between. I'm curious [about] your thoughts on that.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates, these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is.

"The labeling, and taking away of gender labeling, or like gender neutral bathrooms, taking gender off birth certificates...these things both feel satisfying because it feels like a relief to finally acknowledge gender being the construct that it is. But it's so is the tip of the iceberg of how pervasive our understanding of gender is." - Brigette Lundy Paine

So these systems and the idea of masculinity and femininity even being these two very polarized identities and sets of behavior, that is what continues to be violent, systematically violent; the ways in which our government, our social institutions, the family structure is all defined by the idea of masculinity being something that is tough, dominant, and to be respected, and femininity being something that is pliable and submissive, and something that can be dominated.

Those are the things that we have to unlearn socially. And we have so much work to do on that, because that's something that we [learnt] from the dawn of time and biologically is something that is reinforced. When a female has a child they are automatically put in a position of submission by the family structures, by the biological family structures that we continue to uphold.

These systems that we're dealing with are much deeper than, you know, changing the language around gender, which I think is what makes it really hard to talk about this very valid concern of, is non binary just a third gender?

I think that what's important about the conversation is that every time that someone who doesn't identify with the gender binary, in whatever way that they explore that -- whether they're a little kid who wants to wear clothes that aren't for their gender, or whether they're a public figure who is challenging the gender norms in their workplace or in a political way, like you are, or different people who challenge it in fashion and in film, and in these ways that are very visible, or even in quiet ways -- if you're a trans or non-binary person in the workforce and you're speaking with HR, you're making it a safer place for people of your gender identity or gender fluidity.

It's important because we challenge the way we think about the deeper structures. We can really go through our whole life playing gender roles, you mentioned that you were super fluid as a teenager, at least you didn't feel the need to be hyper masc, I, on the other hand, was a cheerleader in high school. I was like super feminine doing a complete performance of American femininity. And I know how easy it is to live under the guise of "I'm just going to go through my whole life and never think about these feelings" and sort of push it down.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I feel like there's a jealousy that a lot of men have of women. And I feel this is a portion of what is at the root of, I don't even want to say misogyny anymore, but the gender wars. It's like, "You have this, and I don’t!” These type of finger pointing things. A lot of men don't like being a man, or what it means to be a man, like we didn't all get together and get to decide on that, and I know a lot really don't like it. And before I knew anything about gender non-conforming, or non-binary, or all these different things, before I knew anything about that, I felt a certain way that a woman could wear a dress, a pretty ballroom gown, and then later that day, later that same day, wear baggy pants and a big T-shirt and still keep her femininity, still keep her womaness, that not be questioned at all. In fact, that's still being a part of femininity. I mentioned the Drake line where he talked about “sweat pants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on.” You know, like still being super attracted. It's still like pedestalizing this femininity, even as they're acting out things that aren't seen as stereotypically feminine.

Whereas as a man, you wear a dress one time, you wear eyeshadow one time, you get your nails done one time, and you lose your manhood. Like you literally aren't seen as a man, by men, by women, by everyone. Even by non-binary, gender non-conforming people. You're no longer seen as a man anymore. Masculinity, I always saw it, is so small, there's such a small window that you get to operate within.

And so I wonder if you feel or you see this same type of ... I’m struggling for words here ... the same type of constraints that existed in femininity? The point that I'm kind of getting at is I feel like there's a lot of gender fluidity in femininity and womanhood. I feel like that does not exist at all in masculinity. I even feel like because of masculinity, manhood purposely doesn't have this gender fluidity.

"I never wanted to be an artist, or a musician or any of these things. Because I grew up thinking that, all of this stuff was so silly. And, you know, people took themselves way too seriously." - Paperboy Prince

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: It's a sacrifice for womanhood. As women make many sacrifices for men and manhood. I feel like men are supposed to be this strong thing to allow even women to have this fluidity possibility. And this is where some of the jealousy comes from that I was talking about before. But I'm just curious your thoughts on that and if you feel that there's those same constraints within femininity that you felt [when you were] younger?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Absolutely, there's less fluidity in masculinity. This is just evidence of the patriarchy being as constraining to men as much as it is to female identifying people. No one demands that masculinity be kept as this sacred thing other than the patriarchy, right?

Because it's constantly reinforced that in order to keep the power, this idea of masculinity must be upheld, even though, clearly, it's a fallacy. It's not a real thing, masculinity. You prove that in your daily life by dressing however you want and presenting however you want, and saying “Fuck you” to the rules, even though it's painful and even though there is rejection.

But the fact is, women or people who identify as women or people who are born as female have more fluidity because of the lack of power. And because there's less, they're taken less seriously. And so there's less to uphold, which can be a privilege, you know, a lot more people identify as non-binary who were assigned female at birth than who were assigned male because to identify as non-binary, if you were assigned female, means that you can wear whatever you want.

Whereas for people who are [assigned] male so many more people identify as trans women, and less so as non-binary people. A friend of mine yesterday was just talking about a third friend of ours, she's a trans woman who describes coming out as trans as cracking open an egg, because it's something that you can either let destroy you or you can crack out of, and you can 'become'.

Masculinity is the most delicate thing that we hold socially. It's completely vulnerable to all of the elements. That's why so much of masculinity is protected by money, because money is really the only thing that can separate you from the daily vulnerabilities of this earth.

I think that for me, my experience as a cheerleader in high school, if I would have identified as queer in high school things would have been really different for me. I won't ever know what that experience was like, because I didn't. I was identifying as straight in high school, I was in a weird, abusive relationship, and I was not happy. And so I didn't take those risks.

What is so special about Zoe and Heathermary, who arranged this interview, and other parents of non-binary and trans kids is that now there's an opportunity to like foster self-understanding, and self-acceptance at a much earlier age, so that kids can come into high school or middle school or elementary school, and can identify the way that they want in a way that makes them feel comfortable. And kids around them will therefore be able to identify more comfortably the way that they want and, starting from a different level of earlier emotional development, will be able to unlearn how gender oppresses us. For me, and I think we're maybe the same age, gender was still really oppressive and unchanging when I was a little kid, and that really still affects me to this day. And it sucks! I wish that I had been a kid when life was more fluid, but also I completely understand that you and I are doing what we do so that kids can have a more fluid existence.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yeah, I get messages from kids that are trying to transition and because they didn't have the money they decided not to and they're in this weird in between stage, they don't know what they are, other people don't know what they are. So they don't even know what to say. They're just being them and they're trying to figure it out. And there's a lack of role models, there's a lack of a lane, a lifeline of “Oh, what does a non-binary 50-year-old look like? What does a trans 100-year-old look like? What does that look like?” And I think that's important in some of my work politically, that’s opened my eyes.

Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, “Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.”

"Because a lot of this stuff, the shame of the queerness and non-binary and all of this stuff, is that it hyper focuses on youth and not seniors. And I think that is capitalism as well. I want to use my energy to help remind folks to like, 'Yo, let's uplift our seniors, let's support them, like we support a newborn baby.'" - Paperboy Prince

And, you know, queer and LGBTQ seniors have a tough time, and especially the seniors that grew up at a time where they weren't allowed to be open with their relationships. So they had to hide all of that, or maybe deny love, not be able to have their partner. So then now they're later in life and they don't have their partners, whereas somebody who is in a traditional hetero relationship is able to have a partner. They're at the end of life and all of these folks are dying alone, and they don't have friends, and a lot of the places to make friends and make lovers aren't set up for them. All queer stuff is set up for younger folks and all of the stuff for older folks is more like maybe church oriented or focused on traditional vibes, right? And they're like, alternative. They're queer.

This is also interesting to me, because I wasn't even able to express my own masculinity. However, as a kid I wanted cornrows, right? And my mom wouldn't let me do it because she was like, “You don't understand, they're gonna stereotype you as this type of Black man, and they're gonna want to, you know, say you fit descriptions, and people are going to try to put you in this box because of that!” So I was definitely not able to express the type of queerness; I remember wanting to wear weird things to school and my parents would be like, “Oh they're gonna make fun of you and pick on you,” so they wouldn't let me and I think it's so interesting. I'm curious to see what it looks like for folks that are raising their children. How much they're allowing them to express their own gender identity. I wasn't able to, and there was a limit on even the masculinity I could express. And then what that ends up being, you know?

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, I don't know. I'm so curious to see, I just literally have no idea.

And the relationship with our elders I think is such an important thing to bring up, I love that you said take care of them like a newborn baby. We really, in order to foster the future, have to pay attention to our past as queer people and how our elders are treated by us as a community.

There's such a loneliness to being a queer elder. Now, especially if you don't live in a big city, the loneliness of being completely isolated without community. Something I’ve been thinking about so much lately is how many of our elders we lost to AIDS. And how different it would be as a queer community if the AIDS epidemic hadn't been handled the way it was with such intense hate and discrimination, and so many people were left to die. Because now we're starting over in so many ways, so many of the voices that would have been guiding us aren't here.

I can only imagine that the future is going to be so fucking beautiful. And so charged with the force. With what your work feels like, with the kids I see on the internet — I'm always astonished when I talk to kids on the internet because of the work they're doing in their own schools, in their own lives and like unlearning the oppression of gender and the messaging that we've all been taught.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: A major critique I have of the LGBT community is being so desperate for validation and acceptance that these like evil corporations, all they have to do is put somebody with blue hair in the ad and then it's like, “Oh, my gosh, this is so good!” And it's like, wait, no.

Or like my first time at pride, my first time at New York City Pride, being astonished and saying, “This is the most corporate parade that I've ever been to." And being a part of a lot of Black revolutionary movements, and going to a lot of protests as a kid and seeing all of that, and then going to pride — it’s literally Walmart, American Express, Target, Walgreens, the NYPD. Like all of these things. It's just like, “They got a rainbow!! They got a rainbow! Aaah!" And it's cool. But it's also, like, I cringe, and I get upset because, wait, folks aren't using this opportunity to critique and hold these companies to a new higher standard. They're just happy to have a rainbow; it is not even doing anything.

No, it's like, a rainbow on Walmart, is this progressive? I see so few queer people that are calling this out, or even critiquing it. It's just got to a point where I'm like, “Yo, how is this okay?” I led a lot of protests for the Black community and the Black youth and like we would be hard pressed to get support from Walmart. Like it’d be a cold day in hell before we get support from Bank of America. But a queer or gay thing, it's like they're there before you can hang up the phone. Like Fortune 500 companies. I feel like the LGBTQ community needs to like be hyperaware and hypercritical of their part in upholding capitalism.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I was like, wait, the NYPD car with a gay flag on it. It's like, we need to have more conversations about this before this is okay.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah, no, it's truly, truly sick and upsetting. It's so upsetting. The easiest way for corporations to maintain favor with the general public is to pink wash. To stick a flag on whatever they can.

Gay liberation was expedited the way it was because so many gay men in power were respected automatically, culturally, and so we were able to accept gay rights because it was marketed to us, it's always about the marketing. Black liberation is not something that can be marketed.

I know that the idea that we're still upholding the same beauty standards, even in queer representation, is so upsetting because we have the opportunity to not, but we won't. Even our most radical representations of queerness on TV are still so vanilla and so safe and so marketable. And I saw this up close, you know, myself included, like, I'm a representation of thin white beauty. Like, that's why I got the job.

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Right.

"Absolutely, there's less fluidity in masculinity. This is just evidence of the patriarchy being as constraining to men as much as it is to female identifying people. No one demands that masculinity be kept as this sacred thing other than the patriarchy, right?" - Brigette Lundy Paine

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: There are some representations; Euphoria fucking went there in many ways and Hunter Schafer is fucking awesome!! And I'm really grateful for her and Zendaya. But it's still not enough. It's not enough. And it's because no one's gonna buy it. 

If it's not, as you said, not the marketable beauty standards, anything like that, no one's gonna buy it. And that's all that matters to us, all that matters to us is that corporations can show up to pride, and keep doing what they're doing, and pay us to make it look like we're changing, you know. And that's just not enough. 

But I think like the instinct to blame the LGBT communities for not being mad enough I get, but I also think is it beyond the individual power? How could we demand that this is not what pride is to us?

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I think not supporting it? Because I'm big on accountability and responsibility, and we live in a world where, you know, no one wants to take accountability and responsibility. It starts with us. It starts with us holding ourselves to a higher standard and saying, “Yo, I'm going to be accountable for like…” I didn't make this mistake, but it's my responsibility to still fix it. A lot of folks are like, “Hey, I didn't do that! I didn't spill that milk!” But it's like, “Yo, but you are here.” Like climate change is one of those things, "I just got here I've only been on earth this long, how did I, little me, little I, cause climate change?! You think I am gonna mess up the earth and the climate by my what? My plastic cup, or by my straw?! Right?” It's hard to do that, but I'm still responsible. Even though I didn't do all of that, I'm still responsible for taking care of this earth, I'm still responsible. 

The people who made change in our world, I'm talking about the Martin Luther Kings and folks like that, were young. And they were like, "I didn't cause this, I didn't cause racism, I didn't cause patriarchy, I didn't cause the the wars, but like, yo, I'm gonna fix it — it's my responsibility, if I want a better world then I have to be responsible.”

So I'm fully fine with that responsibility, especially when folks want to change the world and change folks' minds, you have go the full, full way with it and be responsible.  “Yo, okay, I'm going to take on this responsibility and really reshape what that means. And do it in a loving way.” You know what I mean? It's not saying “No Walmart.” It's saying, “How can Walmart see value in this. How can we use that to help liberate folks?”

Using your power for actual change, and if you don't know what that is, then get out the way. It's kinda like my thing. If you don't know, then move out the way because you're just lost and leading folks into destruction.  

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Completely. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: My thing is, like if Amazon was to slap a gay flag on their thing or do an ad where they're like, “We want to deliver to you, no matter who you choose to love.” Are you going to use your energy and power and your cultural power to make change? Or just to be quiet and be happy that they’re accepting you?  

That comes from fear and being afraid of losing, they just won't want to work with you or represent or whatever. And for me, I've lost a lot for standing up for folks, it would have been easier to just be quiet. I'd have probably got more deals or more endorsements, invited to more parties, or whatever, if I didn't stand up and do that. But it's like, wait, the whole point for me, the whole point of getting in this position, is to use it so more folks have opportunity.  

I'm comfortable critiquing the queer community, because what you said, there's so much white supremacy that is embedded in the LGBTQ community, and it's like, “Yo, are you using that for good?” Or are you just using it to uphold white supremacy and make the rich get richer? More wealth has been taken from just regular people in the last two years, I mean, it's just like a crazy wealth transfer that has happened. Walmart and Bill Gates are getting crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy rich. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: And it's because we don't want to come together and fight for what's right. And I'll say even with gender, I feel like we all have more in common than we have apart. Everything is ways for men to hate women, for women to hate men. Like they're constantly pushing more and more for us to hate each other. 

And they want to add in the non-binary and trans folks to hate the hetero folks. And like, that's all it's supposed to be. And we have to find ways for us to come together so we can all rise! We all have more in common than we have apart, like all these things are such little bits. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: I fucking love you I'm so inspired by you and so grateful for you. And for the work that you do, and how much you've sacrificed. I think that everyone needs to remember that. That even if it feels like the most important thing is being popular on social media, it is not. That is an illusion. That is not real love, admiration of each other in that sense is not real love!! I love that you represent, that I see so much risk in the way you communicate too! 

Allowing ourselves to be wrong is so much a part of challenging these systems. And I think that there’s a script that that we've adopted — a resistance script. We could bring a CEO to the table that we could demand something because we CAN demand something. I would like, for instance, for everyone to boycott Amazon. I think that would be a really easy thing to do.

I mean, even I'm very afraid. I'm very afraid as "a public figure.” I've deleted my Instagram because I don't appreciate the ego feeding that it is. And I haven't found a way around it. Using our money is so important too, how many of us are banking with huge banks, and still talking shit about Wall Street? You know? How many of us are going to Whole Foods every week and still talking shit about Jeff Bezos? How can we live with these contradictions? And how can we consciously cut them out? So that we are speaking and acting from a place of truth and love? 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yeah. It's not necessarily easy. And it's going to take work. It’s the reason a company like Amazon is so rich and so powerful, so big, so fast. It’s because they've gotten really good at giving us what we want. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Right. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: One of the things I say in politics is, “Yo, like, okay, so the big bad guys in office, or the big bad person is in power; you have to be better than them. You have to beat them at their own game.” And it's hard because they're the machine, they are well-organized like a machine. They press a button, and then something happens easily because they've had it, they've got well organized in there. Everybody knows their role and they can like shut up and just stick together for their goal of oppression, they can do that.  

Whereas the opposition sometimes isn't willing to out organize. They're not willing to out-think and out-work the folks that are in power. And that's the only way that you do that, it's hard work, it's consistency. This is how we do it, out-organizing them and finding ways that we can come together. But the beauty of it is, there's more of us than them. There really, really is. And like, I think when you actually put up a valiant effort, when you actually hold them to this standard, and actually put up a fight, half the time they'll just go down, you know what I mean? 

Because they haven't been challenged in this way and that's what I'm hoping to do. I really hope that you and I can continue to have these conversations and we can find a way to have these conversations because I love talking about gender. 

I fought in my campaign for mayor for something called love centers, which are a place where folks can have these conversations, because it's like, yo, where is it a dad — who just learned to become a dad at 19 and grew up watching mainstream media — where did he learn how to be more accepting of his queer child? Where do you learn how to love a gay child, like in a real way and support them in a real way? Because I know there's folks that want to do that, but there's not a place for that. There's plenty of places where you learn how to hate a gay child. There's not places where you learn how to love them. 

Where does somebody who has learned all these toxic traits, this toxic masculinity men and women who have toxic, toxic, masculine traits, and all of these things, where do they find the place to unlearn them? It's upon us to create these places. We can't just want to tear down the other things, and not build stuff for the future, build a world that actually allows these things to happen.

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah and giving people an alternative is so important. Because I think like, so often, the conversation revolves around what we can't do, rather than what we can and where we can go. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: I would love to continue the conversation there. And even have like a live talk where we could have more folks come in and speak. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Okay, yes, please do. Great. Thank you so much for talking. This was just so it was incredible to talk to you. I really enjoyed this. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Yes. We'll wait till we do it in person. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yeah. Fuck yeah. We've got to have a whole round table ... then we'll dance.  

PAPERBOY PRINCE: AHAHAH. I'm excited. I feel like these conversations aren't had enough. In a real raw way where it's okay to make mistakes. So folks can have a safe space to ask the wrong question. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Yes. 

PAPERBOY PRINCE: So yeah, I appreciate you starting this conversation. I am glad we are able to make it happen. 

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Thank you so much. Let's keep in touch. Lots of love.  

PAPERBOY PRINCE: Bye!

BRIGETTE LUNDY PAINE: Bye!  

Photos: Zoe Adlersberg

Paperboy Prince

Brigette Lundy Paine

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