In Between

Alina Patrick

In Between documents people who fall between distinct identity groups. It focuses on three individuals: Ellie Winter, a woman living in Brooklyn who is half Black and half white, an NYU student named Marley Jean Fernandes who is not transgender, but presents herself as very masculine and is at times mistaken for a man, and Emily Patrick, a half Mexican and half white woman who recently moved to Spanish Harlem.

Ellie is very confident in her Black identity. She feels more comfortable and accepted in Black communities rather than white ones. In fact, she has said that “It was hard to be an Irish person… because they don’t see you as Irish, they see you as Black… Part of being Irish has always felt like being on the outskirts. Which is similar to the Black community, but I am way more likely to be accepted in the Black community and in Black spaces.” Although she has never felt fully included in either racial community, she has found that if “you know what it means to be Black, people will accept you no matter how you look. You’re a part of the community mentally and emotionally.” In white spaces she has been asked “Why are you here?” because people do not visually recognize her as white. However, in Black spaces “it’s like welcome, but tell me about your family. You are clearly a part of us, but how?”

Marley has had the unique experience of being perceived as both a man and a woman at different times in her life. Her story shows that gender and gender expression are much more fluid than most people expect. Marley has said “I feel comfortable beyond the binary of gender. I use she/her, they/them pronouns most of the time but I also don’t mind he/him. It’s something that changes day by day; I feel more masculine on some days, more feminine on others.” When she began to present herself in a masculine way she noticed that she was treated differently by strangers. She said they were more rough with her, more likely to yell at her or push her in public. She explained, “I’ve had Uber drivers yell at me and in London I had a man grab my shoulders and yell at me. I’ve never been talked to or treated like that until I was more masculine passing.” The entire process of having a fluid identity has been a confusing one for Marley. She described it as “the internal dilemma of, ‘am I just a masculine woman? a trans guy? or maybe I am genderfluid?’ That’s something I’m figuring out currently.”

Emily moved from the East Village to Spanish Harlem in August of 2018. She loves the neighborhood, but she expressed how she feels out of place there because, although she is Mexican, she does not speak Spanish fluently and she does not feel connected to the cultural group that she is a part of genetically. When asked if she considers herself a person of color or a minority she answered, “It seems like an imposter situation. I am part Latina but I don’t feel like I am enough that I can confidently outright identify as a minority, especially since I have this whole added privilege of passing for white.” As a result, Emily navigates through her life in Spanish Harlem as a white woman. She orders agua fresca from street carts and pastries from Puerto Rican bakeries in Spanish, but with an American accent. She throws Halloween parties, but does not celebrate el Día de los Muertos. She tries to feel connected to her Latina culture, but at times feels disingenuous because, as she puts it, “I am both, and I consider myself both, but I seem white.”

As the political atmosphere in America is increasingly defined by identity, whether it is race, gender, or political party, the people who exist between those identity groups become less and less visible. Inhabiting space in between identities can be uncomfortable and confusing, but it defines the day-to-day experiences of many biracial and gender non-conforming people.