44 year-old, Black Jamaican, pansexual, transgender gender expansive person, Spirit McIntyre at home in New Orleans. Spirit is a musician, reiki practitioner and compassionate facilitator. Behind the scenes photography and video and assistant: Myles Golden, mylessgolden@gmail.com, Phone +1 757 751 3135. Photography by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 07 March 2019

Spirit /

The story of my name & journey to self, journey back to self, my still evolving journey, the first time I bought “man shoes” I was terrified to wear them, I think they’re the light blue bowling shoes I have; the first time someone asked me what my pronouns were, I think it might have been @ a BreakOUT! event. I’m trying to recall how I got to Spirit & the first time I referred to myself as Spirit & asked others to do the same;

This journey is a constant exploration and an uncovering, so my name … I like to refer to myself as an ancestral magnet. So what that means is that the ancestors are constantly with me and traveling through me and showing up some days as me. And in terms of thinking about my name Spirit, I was like, well, I never know how I’m going to full show up somewhere. I might show up more as my grandmother one day, especially if it’s like a new situation. My grandmother is a little bit cautious. Esman Sylvia James [Lisett] is her name and she was a little bit cautious.

And so if I go into a new situation I might show up as her and be a little bit more standoffish. But really it’s like me reading the room, and her reading the room. And sometimes I might show up more as my dad, who was, Paris [MacIntyre], who was very charming. And so I might show up as more gregarious, more demonstrative. So in terms of coming to the name Spirit, it really was like a reference to the fact that I don’t know which kind of expression I’m going to show up in but it’s definitely goin to be Spirit, and Spirit-led.

And also Spirit is not just my name, it’s also who I am. Sometimes just being who I am means the space gets more calm or more focused or more intentional. And so I’ve some to understand that Spirit’s not just my name, it’s who I am. And so when new folks meet me in different situations it’s like, “What’s your name?” I’m like, “Spirit.” And they’re like, “Ah, Spirit, I get it.” I’m like, “yeah. It’s who I am.”

This kind of journey to Spirit really is a journey to myself is ever-evolving and I didn’t know that I could be this gender-expansive person which is my favorite way of describing myself. Because it’s expansive. Every day it changes. I’m not the same as I was yesterday. I’m not the same as I’ll be tomorrow. It’s like expansive. And who I am right now is an exploration of who I used to be and who I might be in the future. And so really gender-expansive is my favorite aspect of my identity right now.

And it hasn’t always been this way. At the break-out event I mentioned, and the question was like, “So what are your pronouns?” And I was like, “Hmm, Um.” Which shows so much the privilege I was in to have that question be like, “What?” I don’t even understand that question. There are these, these ones. Like who picks their pronouns? And as I heard people going around and explaining and one person I think her pronouns were like Mistress or like some other like really flamboyant term. And I was just like, “Wow.” And just going around and hearing people and then when it came to my term, I was like, “Wow. I think I’m still figuring it out. I didn’t know I had a choice.”

And so once I knew I had a choice, that really just opened up this space in my mind where it was like, “Oh, yeah, I have a choice about pronouns. I have a choice about self. I have a choice about everything.” And then it was like, “Well what am I choosing?” And I’ve really been seeking to uncover that every day, like, “What am I choosing?” Am I choosing to put this polk-a-dot with this tie, with these very patterned pants, with this hat, with this pin? Like, what am I choosing? So that it’s not just like I just have something on that I haven’t made a choice about.

Even more recently I’ve been getting more comfortable with identifying as transgender because I saw this beautiful, like maybe two weeks ago, I saw this beautiful image and it was the very traditional, that’s funny, traditional rainbow umbrella, because that’s not traditional for everyone. But the rainbow umbrella that’s associated often with LGBTQ stuff and the umbrella on top of the umbrella said “transgender.” And then under the transgender umbrella were like two smaller umbrellas and one was binary and the other one was gender nonconforming, non-binary, gender-fluid, A-gender, gender-queer, et cetera,, et cetera. And I had never seen anything that had me feel inclusive of transgender. I’d often just thought like well, I’m not transitioning in X number of ways. And then not transitioning in whatever that even means.

But it’s like, I was like, “Right. There is transgender and there is a binary way of being transgender and then there’s everything else. And they all matter. And it’s not disowning binary, it’s a reclamation of binary as an intentional choice under a transgender umbrella which I think I don’t experience that with sis-binary folks.

So seeing that umbrella really was like, “Oh wow. I am transgender and I’m gender-expansive, gender-nonconforming, non-binary.” And that was even just like about two weeks ago. And so this process of becoming more and more who I am is just that. It’s this like ever-evolving process and I really like that. And I think that if I look back on this particular interview in five year or ten years I will like what I’m saying because it acknowledges where I am, where I have been, and where I might be, and allows me a lot of flexibility. I’m still not fixing myself to one narrative because I could easily live for 45 or 50 more years, because longevity is a thing in my family.

Share this story:Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twittershare on TumblrEmail to someone