To be a glowing, mutating orb

Written by:  Yasmin Kiwa

It has been noted that gender non-conformity, gender as a performance, and transgender identities have existed in Japan since at least the Heian period, where an influx of nuns joining the Buddhist clergy was observed. This is attributed to their desire to live genderless life, and reject sexual identities (Riggan 2017). I look back to when I was 18 and genuinely considered joining a Buddhist nunnery because of the same exact reasons. I find comfort in knowing that my ancestors and I have felt similarly.

I remember the first time I heard Prince’s song, I Would Die 4 U, and I heard the first line:
“I’m not a woman, I’m not a man; I am something that you’ll never understand.” Seeing this ethereal singer with long, flowing hair, and a suave mustache, embodying the duality of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’.

These utterances and Prince’s aura have stuck with me for a long time and I didn’t realise why until just recently.

Between lockdown and being unemployed, I am stuck at home with no company but my own thoughts racing through my head, forcing me into a dialogue with aspects of myself that I had never really given a thought to.

As I fill out the equal opportunities form on job applications, I am asked whether I identify as a man, woman, or other. I typically click on “prefer not to say”, because I don’t know. I simply don’t know. I have always been preoccupied with my racial and ethnic makeup as my existence as a biracial person has long dictated my sense of belonging in this world. However, I had lived with the negotiated understanding that I was a cisgender woman for the past 25 years.

I had an inkling I was queer since I was 11, when I’d have crushes on boys and girls alike. I opted to wear traditionally masculine clothes, like baggy shirts and sports shorts for a while until I felt the pressure to start dressing more feminine, wearing mini skirts and tight tops. I felt so uncomfortable everyday, feeling like the way I dress is betraying the way I feel inside. Why I had never wanted to explore alternate gender identities or open up about my sexuality lies in the cruelty of adolescent kids who use homophobic and transphobic slurs without a care, which I admittedly participated in out of ignorance and fear. For that I truly feel remorse and regret.

My relationship with my body has been that of hatred and discomfort. I have long felt a discontent towards the two lumps of fat that sit on my chest; it almost felt as if they existed to taunt me. For a long time, I believed this hatred was rooted in the trauma of an abusive relationship I was in when I was 18. But now, it is evident that it is rooted in a mixture of the trauma and my neglected gender identity.

Performing masculinity: when I had a mohawk in 2018. I enjoyed this haircut and felt happy in my skin. Wearing traditionally feminine clothes with this look was incredibly fun for me, and allowed me to explore the realms of genderfuckery.

Performing femininity on my 24th birthday, 2019. I was alone and decided to play with hot pink make up and wear a ruffle shirt (like that of my idol, Prince). Whenever I went on a night out in Tokyo, I’d attempt to make myself to hyperfeminine, like wearing a costume.

Throughout the two lockdowns of 2020 and the isolation brought on by the pandemic, I sat through intrusive, yet, introspective thoughts about my body and gender identity. There was a time in May where I had a mental breakdown brought on by gender dysphoria based on my hair. I didn’t get out of bed for maybe 2 or 3 days and actively avoided mirrors for a long time. Compliments that reward me for being stereotypically feminine, such as the length of my hair or my wearing a dress leave me wanting to crawl out of my body. The thought of being perceived as a woman conjures intense feelings of anxiety and confusion. However, it was because of these difficult moments and some uncomfortable conversations I had with myself that I have finally arrived at my destination.This self introspection and time to get to know myself has felt incredibly liberating.

With the help of Prince’s lingering words, I have come to realise that I am neither a woman nor a man. I find peace in floating and existing in the fluidity of gender. Gender is a performative act, and I have fun playing up both ends of the spectrum. The reality is that aspects of identities are mostly all constructs, but because of socialisation from a young age about being a ‘girl’ or a ‘boy’, or being ‘Japanese’ or ‘Swiss’ have delayed my ability to love myself for the way that I am. This binary way of  thinking hindered my ability to discover the ways in which I feel most comfortable. Today, I like to think of my gender identity as a blank slate, and I paint on it everyday with watercolours that blend in with each other. But at the start of every new day, I wake up without the preconception of gender, with no connection to ‘man’ or ‘woman’: just simply the excitement to explore how to express myself. The way I see myself, and the ways I want to perform my identity change regularly.

I still have a deep connection to womanhood, rooted in how I have navigated the world, and because of this, my pronouns are she/they. Please understand that other people who identify as non-binary or gender non-conforming may not have the same experiences as me, so please respect their preferred pronouns.


(Stream of consciousness about my gender identity)

“TABULA RASA. Let me start over I knew I was queer since I was 11 but kept it hidden until I was 20? maybe 19. I wish I had accepted my gender identity sooner so I could love myself more because the liberation I feel after accepting maybe not ‘accepting’ that has a negative connotation but embracing & loving my fluctuation between feeling a lack of gender & feeling an abundance of gender is amazing. I can look at myself & I feel right. This is merely a body a vessel. But I did feel dysmorphia & dysphoria between feeling like this body doesn’t ‘fit’ my inner self, but being applied the pressure of mainstream body image standards. I’m not a woman, yet I should feel like I fit into what is deemed acceptable by cishet men sitting in board rooms fuck that. I am allowed to exist how I want, identify how I...”

(Stream of consciousness about my gender identity)

“...wish, and express myself in non-normative ways” Binaries women or men zeros or ones-all so absolute and suffocating. All/whole (1) or nothing (0). Why? I just want to exist comfortably. The way I’m living my day to day life hasn’t changed but my udnerstanding of myself has done a 180. Thank u to all the non-binary non-conforming people, friends, strangers for helping me on this journey you. You have 


Over all, I still don’t want to label myself as non-binary. The confines of labels that define gender identities make me feel claustrophobic and anxious. I am not a woman, I am not a man, and yet I am both. The body I occupy is merely a vessel and isn’t reflective of who I am on the inside.

I want to be a glowing, mutating orb. I want to change colours and shapes as I so please.


At the time of writing this, Elliot Page has opened up about his trans identity. These are the kinds of people I owe my self discovery to, along with friends and people I follow on social media. I have the queer community to thank, and in particular, the trans and non-binary people who never cease to inspire me. They educated me through discussions and fleeting instagram stories about being non-binary, that there are many ways of being non-binary.

Cargo Collective COMMU 2021 (USA, JAPAN)