The Knox Student (TKS): What is your Honors project about?
Michael Martinez (MM): I’m writing an extended nonfiction piece about my experiences as a transman [female-to-male transgender]. The focus is definitely on gender, but I also explore the changing and shaping of identity and self.
TKS: How did you decide to do this particular Honors project?
MM: I’m really into queer activism and stuff, and there are a surprising number … of trans people at Knox. And we’ve become friends. So I was sort of thinking, I basically finished my major and minor fall term my junior year … and I mean, there’s an entire genre of the transgender memoir, so I tried to do something different from that a little bit, but the thing about writing about your own life is you get sort of caught up in it. I’ve been trying to do something a little different and not just be like “this is what I did, and this is my life.”
TKS: So is that how a lot of them are?
MM: A lot of them are like “this is my life story … the first half of my life, I was miserable, and then there’s the second half of my life where I found who I really am and ‘oh my goodness!’” and they’re either happy or they’re not at that point, but there’s sort of a split. And I tried to mix it up a little bit, and … be really optimistic, ‘cause I’m an optimistic guy.
TKS: Will this Honors project affect how you proceed after graduation?
MM: I mean, it could … it’s pretty close to done, as it should be. But when I finish it, I don’t know if it will be totally finished, so I might just keep working on it after I graduate.
TKS: Were your experiences very hard to write about?
MM: To a certain extent, it was. I mean, I’m a very open person, so I’ll tell anybody anything … but then, it becomes hard to write things down. Shame’s a really hard thing to talk about, so there are things I’m not proud of … some of those I can leave that out … but some of them are important, so having to write down things like that are very difficult.
And then, another problem that I faced was just, normally I write fiction, so I could just make stuff up and just roll with it, but I’m writing nonfiction and all of the sudden, I felt all this pressure to get it right. My mom’s in here, my friends are in here, and they might read this at some point. I don’t want them to be like, “I never said that,” so suddenly I’m like, “Was it on a Wednesday or a Thursday that we did this? Would you say it was cloudy? Did you laugh at my joke?” And they’re like, “It doesn’t matter.” That was tricky.
TKS: What do you hope people take away from your project?
MM: Well, I tried to give it two different functions. One of them is sort of a how-to-transition guide, because there isn’t a lot of that. There isn’t a lot of “this is how you change your name.” … So people don’t know, but I tried to do that, and I also tried to make it educational, so people learn what the process is and what life can be like. I believe, if you learn about someone, you come to understand them … you can’t hate them. So I’m just trying to hope that people learn something and maybe have a good time.