Travis Albanza discusses their new book None of the above

When Travis Albanza speaks, it’s the quiet calm of someone who has finished seeking approval. Despite the sudden connection of the Zoom call we use, their voice is confident that they discuss their motivations behind their latest book, None of the Above: Reflections on Life Beyond the Duo. Since coming into the spotlight in 2018 after his premiere, Burgers has ignited audiences internationally, Travis Albanza has never shied away from creating art from his experiences in the world as a black, mixed, non-binary person. However, Albanza’s work often overturns the well-articulated text that portrays oppressed people as a leader in their mistreatment story, and boldly questions the faults of society that allows such mistreatment to occur. None of the above does just this; Made up of seven different phrases that were all settled at some point in Albanza, the book turns a mirror of society, forcing us all to think about the ways we think, act, and treat each other.

But when delving in depth, the book resists direct classification. Alabanza’s lyrical style and theatrical underpinnings are the lifeblood of the book, and with that, the work breaks out of the non-fiction genre and begins to imagine a future beyond the duo, where sexuality can be both understandable and marginal. “There is an impulse to show queer joy and to ensure that we make sure that transient work is not always filled with pain, and I am not someone who can always be happy. Sometimes I feel like being trans is painful, but by imagining different worlds and futures, I can imagine joy as something present,” he says. Alabanza about their vision behind the book. Here, we talk to Travis Albanza about the process of building their world and what it means to write this book for them.

What inspired you to write the book and why now?
I was inspired by what’s missing in the archive. We have seen such reinforcement in trans literature but more often than not, what is recorded are those who are white, bisexual, trans, or from affluent backgrounds or all of the above. As someone not mentioned above, I felt it was important to write a book that talks about those experiences and goes beyond “trans” as an umbrella term; Dig deeper into what it means specifically for gender non-consistent (GNC) people in the community.

So who is this book for, for whom did you write it and why?
The book is for anyone in doubt or questioning and this is what I originally wrote for them, for other people in the GNC who feel they are in two places or in a seemingly limited transition. But the book opens a conversation about how bisexuality affects us all. Although I definitely wanted to write a book that transgender people can go to and feel like seeing, I hope it builds an argument for how everyone is affected because bisexuality harms us all.

How did you decide on the seven phrases you chose to organize the book around?
Honestly, I thought to myself, “How the hell am I building this book?” I had a lot to say and I knew the topics I wanted to cover but every time I started writing I would think, ‘This is boring’ and ‘This just doesn’t feel creative’. I’m a language geek and wanted to give people a glimpse into my memories but didn’t want to make a typical written memoir, so I decided to use phrases as a good way to bring the reader into and out of the specific moments. I choose phrases that I feel are really special to me, but also phrases that I think a lot of LGBTQ+ people have heard. I also wanted to take some familiar phrases and compose them, I like them as a structure, especially because I don’t always read books from start to finish. I love diving in and out, so I wanted to give readers the opportunity to jump around the book and pursue their interests, it just made writing more fun.

Among the phrases you chose, was there one that had the most impact? Or which was more difficult to respond to?
The hardest one was definitely Chapter Five which is called “Children Are Sacrifice To Please Passing Lobby.” Taken from a newspaper article written about me in 2017 in The Times. It was a huge spread of transphobia about an incident she encountered in Topshop’s locker room that year. When it first happened, I avoided talking about it to the press or even talking about it in general but decided to write about it in this book. It was really hard and it was really hard to get that moment back, but in the book, I cut out a phrase that was written about me and rearranged it so that it kind of turned into a powerful feeling that was healing me. The most empowering phrase should be the last chapter. The title is taken from some of the words a friend said to me on the phone, “This is ours, my love, not theirs.” I like to end on this note because it felt like the rest of the book is really grappling with transgender and straight culture compatible people, and the final chapter is about the question of what it would mean if we didn’t get upset and instead just looked at setting up our own agendas as gay people.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: