10/01/2016 09:20 am ET

iO Tillett Wright On Why He Wants To 'Humanize' Instead Of 'Normalize' Queer Identity

His work is "geared toward the celebration of difference."

Artist, TV host and activist iO Tillett Wright has been at the forefront of conversations about LGBTQI identity, particularly with his “Self-Evident Truths Project” photo series.  But with the release of his memoir earlier this week, Wright is giving us raw insight into himself and the trying circumstances under which he was raised.  

Wright’s Darling Days is a sensitive portrayal of his experience growing up in downtown Manhattan contending with poverty, food insecurity, LGBTQI issues and a pre-gentrified New York City. He told HuffPost’s Alex’s Berg that “it’s rare to meet people who understand what it’s like to grow up like that.”

“I didn’t know how to use a fork and knife until I was 13, which if you actually sit with that fact and process that fact, you’re like, ‘Woah, holy shit. You were a wolf child,’ which I was,” he said. “I didn’t know how to do anything that normal society did.”

Despite inconsistent stability in his home, he said the “upside” of it was that he was surrounded by “weird” and “unique” people who had been “ostracized” and “self-invented at every turn.” This created a community of self-exploration and acceptance that made him comfortable coming out as a boy at just six years old. 

“In 1991, [the idea of being transgender] wasn’t anywhere and that wasn’t welcomed, really, in most homes. But we were going to Woodstock, so my mom was like, ‘Great, whateva,’” Wright said with a smile, impersonating his mom’s thick New York accent. 

Knowing that every trans narrative is different, Wright made clear that he doesn’t want to be a “poster child” for the trans experience. “There is no one story with gender,” he said. “There is no one story with anything, especially identity and it would be such a horrible mistake for anyone to be like, ‘Well, that’s how trans boys work.’ Nope.”

Later on in the conversation, Wright also addressed the “tough” issue of respectability politics. He said his mission is to “humanize” rather than “normalize” queer identity. It’s for this reason that he gears his work toward “the celebration of difference. Not the idea that we’re all the same.”

“The idea is that we are all completely different and there are seven billion of us and we better get used to the fact that we’re all completely different and celebrate it because, my God, how boring it would be if we were all the same?,” he said. 

Watch the full conversation in the video above.  



History-Making Transgender Politicians