Interview with Alexander Clark, a Midwestern Trans Native American Witch
This is the first interview in the “Queer South” series, in which I shed light on LGBTQIA+ individuals thriving in the American South.
Clay: Where are you from?
Alex: I am originally from Granite City, Illinois, but I grew up in Southeastern Missouri, in a little sundown town called Doniphan. Very disgusting.
Clay: Why do you say that?
Alex: Sundown towns are very racist, and they’re very backwards, so that’s why I don’t say I’m from there.
Clay: How was your home-life?
Alex: I had a good home-life. I was supported by my parents. They let me take opportunities that came my way. I grew up pretty safe.
Clay: Why did you come to Arkansas?
Alex: I came here when I was 18 for college, and then I officially moved here to Jonesboro when I was 21.
Clay: What were the differences between Arkansas and Missouri, especially in regards to your identity as a queer person?
Alex: Jonesboro is more accepting. I feel like I have found a safe queer community here. The fact that we have NEA Pride here in Jonesboro, but I didn’t have anything like that where I grew up, made me feel so much more accepted.
Clay: Have there been any moments when you felt unsafe here in Jonesboro?
Alex: Besides seeing Trump supporters on the side of the street waving their flags, there was just one instance. I wrote an article for the Herald, A-State’s student newspaper, about how transphobia doesn’t have a place in public schools. After publication, someone asked to speak with me, but it wasn’t to “have a chat”. It was more to “play Devil’s advocate”, but they just wanted to allow everyone to be transphobic.
Clay: We’ve talked about the big ways in which your queer identity has influenced your experience here in Arkansas. Are there any smaller, less noticeable instances that were impactful for you?
Alex: Both at work and at school my identity is accepted. People make sure to validate me.
Clay: You work at Starbuck’s?
Alex: Yes. At work, people will ask my pronouns, and I can also change my name in our system. So our system just says that my name is “Alex” and not my birth name. At the Herald, my name is printed as “Alex”, but now that my name is legally changed, it’s reflected as such in ASU’s system, so all my professors refer to me as that name now.
Clay: Can you expand on the concept of a dead name?
Alex: A dead name is also referred to as a birth name. It’s just the name you don’t go by anymore.
Clay: We’ve focused on your queer identity, and though being trans is a queer experience, each strand of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum has their own specific issues. Have you had any trans-specific issues?
Alex: I can’t speak on Missouri much. Being in a backwards town didn’t give me a lot of opportunities to be open with my identity. But here in Jonesboro, I’ve had opportunities and I’ve met people. But even when I’m single and looking for a relationship, there’s this anxiety that comes with it because my identity gets in the way as a trans nonbinary person.
Clay: Can you speak more to what nonbinary means?
Alex: Even though I’m transitioning from female to male, I don’t identify with the gender binary. I don’t identify as male or female. My gender just kind of flows. Sometimes I say my gender depends on my mood.
Clay: That hasn’t been the case for my experience as a gay man because I didn’t know what nonbinary meant until a year ago. But it’s been central to your experience?
Alex: Yes, and there are those in the queer community who don’t understand that there is something past just male and female.
Clay: Have you felt persecuted in the queer community?
Alex: Yes. My sophomore year of college, I hadn’t come to terms with being nonbinary. One night, I posted pictures of myself in a really nice dress on Tumblr. I even did my nails, posting some song lyrics, with he/him pronouns, and some people were like, “He/him, that’s funny.” This one person told me I was a girl acting like a boy. I blocked them. Unfortunately, they came back anonymously, saying, “You make it harder for actual trans people”, to which I responded with a gif of Regina George saying, “Why are you so obsessed with me?”
Clay: Have there been any other instances of harassment?
Alex: That’s the only one I can think of because I’ve been supported by my friends at A-State.
Clay: Have you come in contact with any stereotypes as a trans person in Arkansas?
Alex: I don’t think I have. Especially in a community where being trans isn’t as common, it’s hard to stereotype because people aren’t usually exposed to those stereotypes to begin with.
Clay: What do you wish people knew to make this all a little easier, even though it sounds like overall you’ve had a really good experience here.
Alex: I wish people would just let other people live their lives. Like, if I want to wear a dress and heels, how is that hurting you?
Clay: I have to say I’m surprised at how positive your experience has been here because the media seems to always convey these negative storylines about all trans people. I’m asking myself, “Why can’t there be a positive storyline conveyed in the media where being trans is secondary?”
Alex: I’m actually reading a story called “Soft Touch” on Tapas, a comic and story app. It’s about these two guys, and some of the side characters are trans, but there are other things that are more important than the fact that they are trans.
Clay: You’ve totally turned the narrative on this interview. I was planning to reveal all the terrible things about being trans in this area, but you’ve provided so many positive examples that I’m floored. You’ve changed my perspective on Jonesboro.
Alex: Yeah, and I’m sure one day I’ll run into someone who has an issue with the fact that I’m trans. But I’ve been surprised at how accepting Jonesboro has been.
Clay: How do you think people perceive your identity in public?
Alex: I think a lot of people code me as female in public because of my haircut and because I don’t wear a binder usually. There are a lot of factors at play. I’m usually wearing jumpsuits, my tits are still out. I still get a lot of looks from people, and I think it’s because they’re confused, but I don’t care.
Clay: What is a binder?
Alex: It can look like a full tank top or a crop-top, and it flattens the breast. A lot of trans-masculine people wear them to eliminate chest dysphoria.
Clay: What is chest dysphoria?
Alex: Chest dysphoria is a physical discomfort related to your chest. For trans-masculine people, it can be that they have breasts, but for trans-feminine people, it can be that they don’t have breasts.
Clay: Okay. So, we’ve discussed your queer, trans, and Midwestern identities. Now let’s talk about your Native American ancestry. Has that had an impact on your every-day life?
Alex: I look Native American, even though I’m white-passing. I get it mostly from my Dad. You can look at him and tell. Although, I never lived on a reservation, and I don’t have a card. But I was raised with a bunch of natural remedies. When I was younger, I would get cold and sinus infections, but instead of taking meds, my Dad made me a remedy I’d slip into coffee, and it would make me feel better.
Clay: Do you think your connection to natural remedies was a bridge to witchcraft?
Alex: I think it did have an influence. As a Native American, I already believed in supernatural things. Even though I’m a weeny, I was raised not to be scared of things I couldn’t understand. I also wasn’t raised with a religion, so when I started exploring paganism and witchcraft, I was much more open to it.
Clay: What is the biggest misconception about witches you’ve encountered?
Alex: In my personal practice, we don’t dance naked around fires or make blood sacrifices. But if someone else does that, that’s fine. My witchcraft is very much based on nature and working with the energies. Of course, I can’t just snap my fingers and make my hair purple. To put it into perspective, if I did a spell to get a 3.5 GPA this semester, the spell would bring me the energy to focus on my schoolwork. I can’t just magically get it, I still have to do the work. I wish I could do a spell to raise my GPA, though.
Clay: Have you ever performed a curse?
Alex: No, but I have had to deflect some rancid vibes. One time, someone was sending me a lot of negativity, so I did this charm on my jewelry to deflect it.
Clay: Do you feel like your brand of witchcraft is properly portrayed in the media?
Alex: I don’t see a lot of witchcraft media that portrays my witchcraft specifically. Even in “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, that show focuses on the magic where you snap your fingers and change your outfit. It would be nice to see some media that portrays the kind of witchcraft I practice.
Clay: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to expand on?
Alex: Now that I think about stereotypes — and I haven’t personally experienced this — but I wish the stereotypical phase of a nonbinary person wasn’t a skinny white blond masc-leaning androgynous person. I am quite the opposite of that. I’m fat and Native American, not pale at all, so I wish more nonbinary people like me were represented.
Clay: Anything else?
Alex: I don’t think so.
Clay: Great. Well, I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to speak with me. I know I’m a changed person because of this interview.