Xandria's Story (they/he/she)
I started college in 2014 as a straight, cisgender woman and a music education major, because that was the language I had to understand myself. Straight is what I chose because it was what I was supposed to choose, and the same with being a woman. But part of me always knew I was a little ... *flips hand down*, ya know, even though I knew so little about queer people growing up. I knew I had gay family members who we loved, of course, but we were also supposed to hate their sin. I knew that “when you grow up, you have to marry a man.” I knew what I was supposed to do, supposed to be, supposed to look like. There were these unsaid familial and societal rules that I was supposed to follow exactly, and deviation from the path reflected my own failure to do things right.
My first university was predominately white, and being there was the first time I found myself inside a white space. I sought community through the printed words of Black poets and authors, and from them I began to learn my language of truth and growth. I left music in 2016 to pursue physics, and hopefully, a community. My original goal, like the Star Trek nerd I am, was to study astrophysics—but then I took a Physics Pedagogy class, made some amazing queer friends, and found myself walking through my advisor’s door days after talking about equity issues in physics, yelling, “Hey! What about brown LGBTQ+ girls in physics? Where are those research studies?”
“I’m not sure,” she said. “Why don’t we figure it out?”
At the same time I started doing physics education research (PER), I was also coming to terms with the fact that I am bisexual. I sought truth in my research, in queer, feminist poetry, critical race theory, intersectionality, and critical queer theory. I learned new words, a new language, something that felt true and real. Working in PER on a project that I cared about helped me find myself.
I graduated college in 2019 identifying as a bisexual, Black and CHamoru woman. By this time, I’d figured out the bisexual part, but I chose to call myself a cisgender woman because I had “no real reason” to call myself any other gender. I didn’t feel like a woman, but I didn’t feel like a man either. But I was supposed to be a Black woman, according to everyone else. It took time, but I started to learn that the rules that I grew up knowing were absolutely fake, and that if I didn’t want to be a woman, I didn’t have to be. It was a moment of gender liberation.
With the language I’ve learned from intersectional scholars, from Black women and queer folks, I can happily say: hello! I’m Xandria R. Quichocho, my pronouns are they/he/she, and I am a Black and CHamoru, bisexual, non-binary physics education researcher currently pursuing my Physics PhD at Michigan State University. And that’s the most true and real I can be.