In the fall of 2014, Scott Esposito and I met at a literary translation conference. Since then we’ve been engaged in a years-long discussion about how we each understand our own genders, culminating in the following interview about his memoir The Surrender, a detailed account of his life-long desire to be a woman, published by Anomalous Press in March 2016.
Emma Ramadan: Early in The Surrender, a particular idea resounds as the basis for all that is to come: “We learn to smash what society has formed within us.” We start out as children with no idea of what is right or wrong in society, no idea of barriers, of binaries, of the slots we’re supposed to slip into. And then, as you say in The Surrender, “by the time you reach your third year you have more in you than you will ever unravel.” Many have theorized that these rules are forced upon us and ingrained within us by society for reasons of power and control, among other things. Why do you think it is that we’re (almost) all so easily brainwashed? So ready to accept what we’re told and to play the parts, the gender roles, we’re assigned? Is it because we don’t know anything else, and so have nothing else to aspire to? Is it because we understand from a young age that to be in society, to make friends, to make money, we have to play these parts? Because even as children we’re made to feel the intense shame of being seen as a freak if we don’t subscribe readily? What is it about human nature that is so malleable to society’s whims? What is it that makes even children gang up on other children when they drift from the norm?
Scott Esposito: This is a very, very big question; just pondering it makes me feel inadequate to respond. That said, a few small thoughts of my own.
First of all, scientifically we know that, relative to other creatures on this planet, humans are a hyper-social species. Living with others and fitting in is built into our DNA. It’s just who we are as beings. And I would say that as the world has become urbanized and interconnected, this socialness has only increased. So I would say it’s a substantial part of our natures and our societies to have a deep need to live together and be congenial to one another.
Anyone who has been through high school knows that it takes a lot of courage to be the one person who stands out. Sometimes it merely makes you feel like an outcast—and it’s very hard to be lonely, even if you’re a shy writer who just wants to spend all day reading. But then being an outcast is a very hard life for other reasons: not conforming can impinge on your ability to fly in an airplane, or get a job and earn a living, or be approved as a tenant in an apartment or granted a bank loan so that you can buy a house. So there are huge forces, both part of our human nature and part of our society, that tell you that you must fit in.
In addition to all of that, I would also say that human meaning is derived from our surroundings. Derrida, whom I mention in The Surrender and who has been a big influence on my thought, teaches that words have meaning to us based on their difference from other words. We know what slap means by knowing that it is not hit or punch or grab. The same holds for abstract concepts, aspects of our identity, even our national identities—we derive meaning from knowing what we are not. In order to know ourselves, it is necessary to look at other people. You can see this in action in the everyday world: the ultimate gesture of individuality is to proudly turn your back on the crowd and declare I don’t follow the crowd. That’s Derrida’s différence right there.
Of course, it’s fine to be an individual in that way, but I feel that it is also necessary to search for that meaning that does not come from oppositions. It takes a great deal of effort and perseverance to try and slice back all of that group identity and think about your own principles, what you really are deep down. This was part of my inspiration to explore my feminine nature and to write The Surrender, because this drive for femininity has always felt to me like one of those very few aspects of my self that is purely mine, that was not put into me by anything exterior to myself.
ER: There’s a kind of tension in some of what you said, right, because we need to live together and be congenial to one another, and yet that doesn’t amount to being kind to everyone, it amounts to being kind to only those who have also opted into this social contract of being “normal”—which might mean heterosexual, or the typical idea of what it means to be a man/woman, or any number of other potentially harmful ideas. So in theory these societal rules are meant to allow us to fulfill our deep-seeded need to live together as a community, and yet we look around us, especially in 2016, and sometimes it’s hard to see how these societal constructions lead to anything other than hate. As people start realizing there are other ways to exist on this planet, those who are too accustomed to benefiting from the status quo, or those who have been raised and told to fear and revile those who live outside the norm, revolt. And in a world so prone to hate, how are we supposed to feel free to seek our truth?
You say on page 99, “…in fact the outskirts were the only place on Earth where it was possible to live a life in truth.” This is a terrifying thought, but we all know it to be precisely true. To be in society, we all have to compromise ourselves in some way. To make money we have to make certain compromises. Not always, not all of us, but enough to generalize, I think. I just finished reading the new Virginie Despentes translation, Bye Bye Blondie, which is about exactly this: the main character, Gloria, runs away from her oppressive home and lives on the margins of society, homeless, for a few months, and during those months she’s free, completely free, to be herself. And she is accepted by her new friends, who are also homeless, in a way she’s never been accepted before. When she eventually enters back into society in order to find the love of her life who’s gone missing, she can’t stop flying off the handle, having terrible outbursts of rage; her life falls apart because she can’t be herself and be a functioning member of society.
You say in The Surrender that it was a struggle to allow yourself to think “that, simply, I had a right to exist.” There are so many people today who really don’t feel that way, who are told the opposite, who are literally denied life. Could it be that if we all, as you did, refuse to turn our backs on our truth, decide to fight for our truth, fight against shame, for the right to exist, we might slowly, slowly, affect change in the world? It feels like the tides are turning—would a memoir like The Surrender have been written 100 years ago?—and that gives me reason to hope, but maybe I’m being naive?
SE: I want to start out this response by interjecting the following idea: we’ve been talking about following one’s truth, being true to oneself, etc, etc. And surely this is my path. I clearly enjoy the sense of struggle that I derive from being determined to bring this truth to light and to live it regardless of what society may think. But I do believe there are many people who do not want to live this path. Perhaps it is dangerous for them. Perhaps they have other concerns. Perhaps they’ve found a life that they like and would like to focus on other things. By my nature this is not a life I could live, but I am well aware that not everybody would see things this way and need not see things this way.
ER: That’s a good point. Thanks for reminding me of that.
SE: Now to get on to what you asked: I think to look at this question, you have to be mindful of how the idea of “normal” has changed throughout history. Prior to the dawn of the modern era, our sense of normal and abnormal was much different. Would a medieval even understand what we mean when we say “the normal/abnormal binary”? What would “the center” have meant to someone who lived their whole life within a mile of where they were born, and who may have never even seen a map of their country, or even had a country? Clearly theses were minds with some very big cognitive differences from ours. There were probably people who did not feel right with their gender back then, but I have little idea of how they would have experienced it or what they would have done.
And too, Western society has been constructed in entirely different ways in different eras, so the way that normalcy was enforced, or even the degree to which it was enforced, would have been completely different. To take an example from Shakespeare’s time: it was completely normal for boys to dress up as women and play the female roles on stage, and many of Shakespeare’s heroes were cross-dressing women. Or again, the fact that prior to the 19th-century men were allowed to wear such feminine items as panty hose and high heels and ornate jewelry and long wigs—it was only with the dawning of factory and office life in the industrial era that men began to adopt a much more conservative dress code meant to erase anything that might be considered non-conformist or flamboyant.
As to our era: my belief is that the media technologies that currently dominate the nation we live in have created a mass culture where normalcy is based on certain parameters that serve those technologies. As we have seen in the past years, transgender people have been deemed acceptable to this concept of normalcy, so long as we are willing to adapt behaviors that are amenable to the systems that govern us. So perhaps to society at large, myself as a cross-dressing individual am no longer quite so far on the outskirts as was once the case. And perhaps this indicates that you are correct, perhaps our notion of normalcy has been eroded a little bit, and we are moving toward a different way of seeing ourselves. I think this would be an improvement.
In general, my life is one of not wanting to exist within that center of normalcy as defined by our civilization. This need not be as regards to what I wear. I have noticed that throughout life I prefer to exist on the fringes, be it as regards the people I make friends with, the culture that I enjoy, my professional path, etc. I see cross-dressing as just one of these things.
I hasten to add that this need not be a sad or lonely life. Throughout my life I have always been able to find friends who prefer to live on the outskirts, and we have had great lives together. My partner, likewise, is someone who prefers the periphery, and she and I have found no shortage of ways to make our lives rich and interesting. Also, there is a certain solidarity and sense of purpose that one finds here…this is what I love about working in literary translation. There is no money or glory in it, we all do it simply because we love it, and we find one another stimulating as colleagues and friends. We all know this, and it is such a relief, because it stifles the avarice and gives us such an understanding to base our relationships upon.
ER: It seems you have always more or less had this idea that you were going to be on the fringes. You say at one point in the book, “I have always known that I would be dragged toward this conclusion,” and a bit later on, “There is what one’s mind believes and what one’s body declares.” Do you think it’s possible to be so afraid of peering into ourselves, of going against the grain, that what may once have been our true conclusion becomes inexorably lost to us? That we can no longer hear our body’s declarations? What do you think would have happened to you if you had refused to listen? This brings to mind the very eerie analogy you draw to Abbas Kiarostami’s movie Close-Up, “how a copy becomes an original” and the idea of “the betrayal [Sabzian] feels when he’s forced to admit that he’s really just himself.”
SE: I have some knowledge of what would have happened to me had I not heeded my body’s declarations—this was my life for many years. I knew that it was a false life, and I felt it so, and the falseness filled me with many negative emotions. It was an impediment to my own development as a person and as a writer. It led to strife in my relationships.
Sadly, this is the condition of so many people, and I don’t mean just with regard to gender identity, sexuality, etc. I think that having the courage to comprehend what you are and learn to embrace it is one of the great arcs of any human life. It is not an easy thing for any of us. The saving grace of my life was that I always knew that I was not living up to my expectations of myself. I never lost contact with that part of me that knew what I should be. It was just not possible. In the end, this saved me.
As to how a copy becomes an original, this is all of us, is it not? We act like what we want to be, until one day we are. This is Sabzian—in the end he became himself, even though it was not as he would have planned it.
ER: You mention throughout the book that you believe the desire to wear women’s clothing is actually a manifestation of something bigger, something you cannot even begin to utter or articulate, that wearing women’s clothing—although a huge step and accomplishment for you towards reaching your truth—is really only the surface of something deeper. My interpretation of this was that, because of the way society works, because we can only imagine models we’ve already encountered, or at least variations of things we’ve already encountered, if we feel an inkling of desire, but it’s not represented within our society in any way, we may never be able to conceive of it or truly understand its nature. Is that along the lines of what you meant? If so, is there a way to retrain our minds and our imaginations to express the inexpressible, to imagine what we have never been exposed to before?
SE: I should start this by saying that being so insistent on women’s clothing has always felt dissonant to me. Not because it is improper for a man to dress as a woman, but because I have never felt right being so fascinated by material objects. I am not a materialistic person, and it feels slightly obscene to me to go to the mall and spend hundreds of dollars on a whole bunch of things as a way to pass one’s time. So the fact that these clothes could have such power over me was disquieting. And also, I of course find it enormously disrespectful to objectify women as pretty things meant to be adorned by beautiful clothing. So the fact that femininity felt so tied to clothing did not sit right with me in that regard either.
As I began to feel freer to dress as a woman, I found that my need to wear women’s clothing decreased, and also the kinds of clothing that I wanted to wear began to change. It is like if you are dying of hunger: at first you will gorge yourself on any sort of edible substance, but once you are satiated you only need a little food, and you begin to discern what types you like best.
As the objects themselves began losing their power over me, I was able to push my inquiry beyond clothes. I could see that clothes were one way of getting in touch with some powerful thing within me, something that was an essential part of my basic personality, but I had no way to access in my normal male life. I think this is what you mean by expanding one’s possibilities. It put me into a frame of mind that had never before existed in my life. I could think thoughts and feel emotions and exist in a way that I never had before.
I began to view my own masculinity in a different light, as well as my femininity. I began to re-think my approach to life, how I wanted to exist as an individual. My limitations, which were once wholly about women’s clothes, became a new set of limitations, built more around thought and practices and emotions. It was at this point that I began to feel that I was fulfilling some long-standing and deep desire, because I was not merely dealing with a female appearance but also female thoughts and emotions and ways of being in the world.
All that said, I think the clothes are still very powerful. Because the fact is, clothes are a hugely, hugely important signifier in our world. People treat me very differently if I’m dressed as a man versus a woman. And I feel different, I act differently. Having people interact with me as though I were more feminine than masculine—or myself feeling more feminine than masculine—was perhaps the only way I could break through and access those feminine thoughts and emotions that I wanted to have in my everyday life. Somehow my body knew that it was through clothes that I could make it to this place.
ER: On the idea how these interactions with others played into your journey, you mention in The Surrender that your first two attempts to share your desire with other people were unsuccessful. “These conversations failed because I was not yet prepared to claim my freedom. I had hoped that she would give it to me.” It’s only when you no longer seek validation from others, when you learn to feel beautiful on your own, that other people in your life start responding well to your decision to wear women’s clothing. So there’s this idea that acceptance has to come from within, and yet, there’s this need to be seen in order for your decision to feel real and brave, in order for you to feel the completeness of your desire. As if the desire itself can only be fulfilled in interacting with others, when the evidence of your desire—Natalia—is not only seen but spoken to, treated in a certain way. As if Natalia wasn’t Natalia in the privacy of your home, only upon walking out the door. Can you elaborate on that?
SE: We can think of this in terms of a novice’s desire to be a writer: in theory, you can write purely for yourself, and the satisfaction you take in your writing should be all you need, regardless of if zero people or a million people read your work. But of course this is not how it is: every writer wants to be read, and it would seem pretentious and perhaps delusional to call yourself a “writer” having never published anything or even had anyone interact with your work.
In a similar way, I could dress as I wished in private, and I could enjoy the sensations and textures that are not possible with men’s clothing. I derived benefits from this, but so much of one’s personality is only unlocked when you are in public and able to interact with other people. It goes back to what I said before about meaning being social: what does it mean to be a good person or a bad person, or generous, or crafty, or wicked, or kind, if there is no one for you to interact with? Can you be mean if there is no one and nothing to be mean to? These traits only assume their full meaning in the presence of a society. Well, my sense of myself as masculine or feminine is the same. My appearance can only signify to the world what I am if there is someone out there to signify to.
But to get back to that quote: the people who initially rejected me were people who loved me and cared about me deeply. They are not people who could ever really reject me. The simply love me too much for that. The problem was that in my initial attempts to share with them who I was, I did it in such a way that they could see that I still rejected myself. They saw that I feared myself, and it made them fear it as well. But once they saw that I was proud of who I was, and that I found it beautiful and empowering, then they knew they had to find a way to love this and to see it as I saw it.
ER: Another way others witness Natalia—me included—is through social media. You often post photos of Natalia/Scott on Instagram and Facebook. What role does social media play in this process for you?
SE: Social media has been of great importance to me. Despite the fact that I live in one of the most queer-friendly places on Earth, the San Francisco Bay Area, many of the initial connections I made with people who were like myself were through the Internet and social media. I touch on the importance of the Internet to my journey in The Surrender, where I discuss a piece of writing by a transgender individual that I discovered on the Internet when I was a teenager, the first thing I had ever read that seemed to have some understanding of what I was. The Internet has been a lifeline to me in this way.
When I first began to post photos of myself to Instagram and Facebook, I was more in need of encouragement and acceptance than I am now, and those images were met with warmth and goodwill and validation that helped me dearly. I think there is some powerful aspect to seeing that someone finds what you have done with yourself to be beautiful or inspiring or cool; it makes you believe in your right to exist. Of course, I also have “IRL” friends who enjoy this aspect of myself, but there is a certain ease of communication that comes with Internet technologies that makes it very, very convenient, and in some ways it is easier to say what you think on the Internet than face to face, so I see the value in both. And also, when I was just beginning to experiment with being in public, for me it took far less courage to post a photo of myself to Facebook than to step into a crowded restaurant.
We have to always remember that the Internet is just a technology, no different from all of the other technologies that we co-exist with and constantly use to define ourselves. It is newer and less familiar to us, so we treat it differently, we are wary of it and not quite sure how we feel about it—we still believe we have a certain right to reject it—but one day it will seem as natural an extension of ourselves as is the pencil, the word processor, the camera, the musical recording, whatever technologies we use to better grasp what we are.
ER: A term that never actually comes up in The Surrender, but that seems to hover in the margins, and in your responses here as well, is alter ego. To what extent do you see Natalia as your alter ego, versus a being and an existence that is entirely separate from Scott?
SE: This is an interesting question, something I have not really taken the time to consider deeply. I think that perhaps “Natalia” started as a way to name the feminine potential within me, those aspects of my personality that once, in my past, could only come to the fore when I was dressed like a woman and regarded as one. I had to separate them out from the masculine traits, because that was the only way it made sense to me at the time.
But I think that in the years since I gave myself that second name I have come to see how the feminine and masculine energy within me is really all part of the same thing. What I mean is, I still very much enjoy looking completely like a woman, but I no longer see it as the only way to have femininity in my life. Nowadays I almost always combine the masculine and feminine aspects of my appearance, precisely as when a woman decides to get a “boyish” haircut, or when she puts on a pair of “boyfriend” jeans. Adopting a more feminized male appearance is a physical extension of the feminine emotions and behaviors that have simply become part of me, regardless of how I am dressed or what I call myself.
And I think this is what I mean when I say that I feel as though I have taken a journey like Sabzian’s. When I first embarked on this road of discovery, I did not know that this was where I would land. I wanted to be something I was not. I did what I felt I must do and tried to learn what I could from insightful friends and role models. At some point I began to achieve an understanding, a new sense of self that I had never possessed before, and I realized that this was what was correct for me.
ER: In the book you start out discussing the film Close-Up but by the end the theme of writing is much more at the center. You start including lists of the books you were reading in a particular part of your journey, and you also discuss the form of the essay at point: “As they say of politics, I have found essay-writing to be the art of the possible…in a very real sense this is self-creation.” In what ways were you able to self-create through writing The Surrender that you weren’t able to access by wearing women’s clothing and being Natalia? How do the two processes relate to, or reinforce each other? Why was the medium of essay-writing the most effective for you? Is self-creation less possible in fiction simply by virtue of the fact that it’s “not true”? In the novel Sphinx, Anne Garréta creates another kind of world, a space where gender binaries do not exist for the two main characters, they are outside of it, not even outside of it, it simply doesn’t exist for them in the context of their love story. This space had to be created in fiction because Garréta couldn’t find it in reality. Is creating fictional worlds a way of expanding the potential of the real world? Or does it somehow mitigate the force of thought by dint of being “fictional”? To what extent do you feel literature can be a place of creating not only the self but creating the possibility of change in the real world?
SE: Words are central to me as a way of being in the world, so throughout my entire life writing about things has been essential to my understanding them. Long back before I had any idea I was going to be a writer, when I was just a kid who read obsessively, I would keep voluminous journals where I wrote out all of my thoughts and feelings and worked my way through questions. To an extent, my professional writings are an extension of these originary writings.
As to cross dressing, writing The Surrender was an extraordinarily important thing. It is difficult to stress just how huge of a revelation it was, an unexpected one. But before I address that, I should step back and say that I never planned to write about my life as a transgender person. If I had known what it could do for me, I may have started doing it long, long ago, but I didn’t, so it was never my intention. I only began to put this aspect of myself into words because of the spooky series of events that occurred in conjunction with the first time I appeared as a woman before another person. Immediately I knew that what I had just lived through would make a fantastic, compelling essay, but at that point I had no hopes of writing it. It took three entire years before I could even put so much as one word of that story down on paper. And then, once that essay was written and published with The White Review, I felt that I had been given everything I could possibly wish for. I had no intentions to write any more about this part of my life. Why should I? I had everything I could have hoped to want. It was only several months later that the possibility that this essay might in fact not be a single essay but rather a piece of a larger book began to occur to me.
As I began writing The Surrender, my hopes were to go back to the very beginnings of my life as a transgender person and to account for as much as I could, from the very beginning to the present day. Once I began to do this, I started to make the most remarkable discoveries about myself and why my body wanted me do to the things I had done. Many of these discoveries are now in the texture of The Surrender. Once I had accounted for the whole thing from beginning to end, for the first time in my entire life I felt that I was bigger than this phenomenon, not vice versa. I cannot stress enough how crucial this was. For the first time ever, I felt that I could encompass and contain and understand this thing that had been with me since my very first memories. So this was the power of writing The Surrender. The writing of it had changed the very substance of my brain—what I, myself, am—and I could never go back to the time before I had this understanding. And this, surely, began to influence how I existed in the world, whether I chose to present myself as a woman, or as a man, or as a man who had adopted many items of women’s dress into his appearance. I would say that there was a certain reciprocity involved between the cross dressing and the writing about it, although the ways in which the two practices fed on one another were submerged and difficult exactly to discern. It was a process that occurred perhaps in my dreams, or at times in my subconscious mind, when somehow a new thought would be given to me when I was prepared to put it down in words.
For me, it was essential that this book was not fiction, because there was a certain quality of re-experiencing my life—crying over the sad parts, atoning for my transgressions, retracing the victories, all of that—that was a part of writing The Surrender. In a sense I lived it all again, over the course of roughly 18 months. I think you are correct with what you say about Anne Garréta—there is a certain truth that can come about in fiction—but for this book I wanted the sort of truth that comes from nonfiction. And also, I wanted the book to be about my experience of my life as a transgender person—I wanted to re-experience those moments, and to let others experience them—and I would not have known how to do this via fiction.
I think that artists can be prophets. Perhaps artists can make their idea of the world inspire people, so that bit by bit the world does bend to their vision, as more and more minds feel its energy. Or if they do not change the world, they at least envision the ways the world is changing. Perhaps no one had ever noticed that the world was changing in that way before, and so in writing a novel about it or painting a picture of it, the artist has made real something that was previously imperceptible to humanity. Certainly, writing The Surrender made things exist for me that had never existed before. And I was careful, because I knew that once I had written such a sentence, it would always be with me in some way, even if I deleted it from the page.
ER: That’s an interesting idea, that these new thoughts and ideas are permanent and cannot be erased from you even if they can be erased from the page. But at the same time, in the course of this process, the former self and former ideas are being permanently erased. It brings to mind the part of the book when, talking about Sabzian, you say, “Whoever he has become, he feels that the world now condones it, and that weight is overwhelming.” This really resonated with me, this lurking fear that if we do pursue our truth, we can never get back to our former selves. We are turning our backs on our former selves, and maybe that also means turning our backs on certain things we used to love, or at least found comfort in. Certain habits, even certain friends, loved ones, who do not accept our new self, or who do not fit into our new life. Once we have declared our truth we have nowhere to withdraw to, we have to be that person from now on, always, and maybe some part of us still can’t help but feel it’s a sham, or can’t help being ashamed. As you say, once we have accepted our new self, the former self “is now impossible” and the new self can never be erased. Was this fear of the impossibility of the former self ever part of your own struggle to pursue Natalia? Did you, or do you, ever experience moments when you wish(ed) you could withdraw into your former self?
SE: I never wished to be my prior self. Beneath all of my doubts and vacillations, I have always known that that prior self is a false one, and that I could not live my life as that person. Which is not to say that I did not miss that person and mourn that I could not return. I think about the years I spent as a child in my familial home—there was a lot of love in that home, and my childhood was rich in many ways—and sometimes it makes me sad to think that all of that must now be consigned to some prior self. Or, I recall certain points on my journey, when I could feel myself saying goodbye to certain aspects of my masculinity, and it made me sad to know that I was parting with them. They were me, after all, they were my life, my identity, and I had to bid them farewell. I always find farewells to be sad things.
Perhaps on that day after I appeared as a woman before another person for the very first time, something in me understood that I had crossed some threshold and there would be no return. I think that is possible. I think that this other self had finally become real to me, that I had shared this with a piece of the world, which meant that it was no longer mine alone, I could not choose to switch it off, that was no longer my right. So it was an anxious and sad and very uncertain moment, and right then I found this most spectacular, beautiful movie that gave me courage, because it showed me that I was not alone, and it helped me begin to put these things into words.
ER: Throughout The Surrender, you talk about how even after you became comfortable appearing as a woman, it felt as though something inside you was asking for more. As if this desire had no end, constantly pushing you to explore further. You say that you set out to do everything “so that these desires will be incapable of devising some new thing to ask of me. I sometimes think they will never end.” The process sounds like an eternal nagging that won’t ever leave you in peace, almost tortured rather than freeing. Is it both? What do you think it would take to feel you have seen the bottom of it? Or is there no bottom of it? How are you feeling about it now as you look to the future?
SE: This is one of the hardest things about this journey: the difficulty of understanding what to do with yourself when it is at an end. Among people who physically change their genders, it is common to experience a period of depression after the final surgery. This is logical. A struggle that has been a part of their entire life, and a process that has gone on for years, has reached its culmination. What happens to one’s identity once that pressure has been removed? How does one learn to live when that struggle has been taken away?
For my own part, I feel that there will always be some new thing I can do to fulfill this mandate, and even if I might reach the point where I have “done everything,” I will only want to find some other, extra thing to do, merely to fill the emptiness that would come with complete success. I have gone through this so many times, wanting to go further, then telling myself “this is enough, why aren’t you happy?” that it has become exhausting, and so I have finally simply decided to deny those impulses. When you have thought a certain way your entire life, you will continue to think that way, regardless of if that way of thinking is no longer of use to you. I want to find new ways of thinking, new ways of being. So a part of my journey now is learning how to live with this freedom I have been granted, to find new ways of conceiving of this life and this self that are appropriate to this new reality that I live in.
Scott Esposito is the author of The Surrender and the co-author of The End of Oulipo? (with Lauren Elkin). His work has appeared widely, including The White Review, BOMB, Tin House, the Times Literary Supplement, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. He will publish a book on film next year.
Emma Ramadan is a literary translator based in Providence, Rhode Island. Her translations include Monospace by Anne Parian, 33 Flat Sonnets by Frédéric Forte, The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers by Fouad Laroui, and the genderless novel Sphinx by Anne Garréta.