I Heard You, Did You Hear You?

Stripping my shoes off, I got behind the airport security line to go through the full body scanner. I looked around at the bins to my right, my Macbook alone in its plastic gray bin. Then I heard a voice to my left, “Hey buddy, how old are you?” I whipped my head around and found a TSA officer standing beside an old walk-through metal detector, staring straight at me. After a few seconds, I saw her scowl at me. I laughed, “I’m twenty-one,” and stepped forward into the body scanner, planting my feet on the yellow marks and raising my arms above my head.


With the hand dryer running on full blast, I whistled as sink water flung off my hands. Suddenly, a woman entering the doorway of the bathroom froze, blurting out “Oh my god, I am so sorry, my mistake!” A moment later, she was gone. There was still water clinging to my hands, so I hit the square metal button on the dryer again and went back to whistling, the hum of the dryer continuing along with me. When my hands were dry, I stared at the door as I walked towards it, expectantly waiting for the woman’s return. Just as I neared, she shuffled in again, nervously laughing and quickly walking past me, her eyes darting away from mine.


Sprawled out on the grass, I laid next to my two-year-old cousin, Alexis. We were playing an invented game when she suddenly started uncontrollably giggling and looking at me with curiosity. “Wanna know something?” she asked. “Of course,” I grinned at her, expectantly. Still smiling ear to ear, she spoke, but her words were filled with intermittent giggles. “Yesterday, [giggle] I saw you and I did not know [giggle] that you [giggles] are not a boy.” My eyes darted over to my brother and we burst out laughing. “Maybe I’m not a girl or a boy!” I responded to Alexis. I teased her a bit more, waving my hands in the air. “It’s a mystery!” She squealed with laughter, then her mom called her. As I got up to move, her tiny hand grabbed mine, and we walked side by side.


I walked up to the Ace Hardware checkout with two cans of white spray paint in my hands. Kelly was working. She was a middle-aged woman who always recognized me when I came in and spoke very warmly to me. Once, she complimented me on my cropped fade haircut and another time, a patterned shirt I wore. This time, she asked me, “What are you working on? I can’t seem to figure it out based on the items you buy!” The paint was for a school project that involved nonbinary gender. I hesitated for a moment, wondering if I should even bother explaining nonbinary gender and my pronouns. It could be so taxing, depending on how understanding or familiar the person was with the concept. “I’m making a clock about nonbinary gender! Have you heard of it?” I asked Kelly. “No, I haven’t, can you tell me more about it?” she asked. I grinned, and handed her my items, explaining nonbinary gender to her as she scanned the paint.

August Tang (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist and designer based in Brooklyn, New York. With a passion for social justice, they put their visual skills into projects that are promote empathy and meaning. Much of their work is about nonbinary gender identity and deconstructing the gender binary. More of their work can be viewed on Instagram @ttaaannggy or online at augustang.com.

Photography by Gabriela Della Corna