Greetings everyone! This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for May 2019 under the topic of “Asexuality and Gender at Play” hosted this month by Demi and Proud. To learn more about the Carnival of Aces, to see past topics, or to volunteer to be a future host please check out the master post on the Asexual Agenda.
Phew! Gender is actually tough topic for me to write about because I don’t actually have one. This might be a hard idea for some folks to wrap their heads around, but I do not have the little voice in my head saying “you’re a girl” or “you’re a boy” or whatever. For the longest time my dumbass thought that 1) gender was a only cultural construct and 2) all genders were assigned. The way I understood it was that genders that were available to you were based on whatever gender roles existed in your culture; So the older and more complex the culture, the more diversity in gender roles and assigned genders. I know this idea is entirely bogus now, but that’s how I rationalized that Western culture only had two genders while older cultural groups like the ones found in Asia and American Indigenous groups had multiple genders.
It took a long time (all the way until I was almost 26) and some serious research for me to understand that there’s a psychological component to gender and that your self assigned “gender identity” actually pretty much fully developed by the time you’re four years old. The reason I was so confused by this for the longest time was because every time I ping my brain for a gender identity I keep getting an error message back (usually in the form of dysphoria). So, just like I’m asexual I’m also agender.
Whenever the topic of gender was brought up in an academic class setting, whether it be history or anthropology, I didn’t have my own gender to use as a comparison and it got frustrating really fast when I was clearly not understanding something and the instructors don’t know any other way to phrase it because they assume everyone had a gender to use as a comparison. It’s like being 100% asexual and having to ask people what sexual attraction feels like and they look at you like, “What do you mean you don’t know?” Actually, I should say that asking cis folks is what was frustrating. After figuring out that I was asexual I was able to sit down and actually talk to transgender aces (online because I live in an area full of Bible toting conservatives) and finally ask “How did you know you were really a boy/girl/nonbinary/whatever?” and every single time they told me “You just know”.
Boom! Light-bulb moment. I know a lot of young and questioning non-binary folks find the “you just know” answer to be a pain-in-the-butt and very unhelpful, but I was actually able to gain insight from it because I didn’t “just know” and I used that as my starting point. I went to the gender wiki and just went straight on down the list, “Does this sound like me? Nope. Does this sound like me? Nope. Does this sound like me? Nope.” Until finally I went back up to agender which, for me at least, is a nice and neat “none of the above” and said “that’s me”. Which means that I am an aromantic, agender asexual. Sweet!
So, correct me if I’m wrong, but a good 90% of the fun part of gender is the expression. At least it is if you’re binary. Gender expression tends to be a bit trickier when you don’t fit into neat little pink or blue box, but it’s not impossible. Gender expression for non-binary folks tends to be hard if you don’t fit into the “ideal” androgynous form, which tends to be, first of all, skinny and in my opinion really reminiscent of a retro sci-fi robot,
and secondly androgyny is an ideal that gets pushed by cis folks and media instead of actual non-binary folks…
I have a literal pet-peeve of people calling androgyny a “trend”. I’m not going to think any less of the NB folks who can pull this look off and it makes them feel more like themselves. It’s just that I know there’s a lot of NB folks who are trying to move away from the Metropolis look and push the “ideal” to something a little more realistic because the point isn’t to feel worse about yourself now that you’ve discovered your true self only to realize there’s another ideal standard that you can’t live up to.
One thing that disappointed me the most about Verizon dropping what basically ended up being PG rating atomic bomb on Tumblr was that I used to follow genderpunk and genderfuck hashtags to see what actual people were actually doing to challenge and reconstruct gender assumptions. I think it’s down right immoral that people think racism and homophobia is protected by “free speech” and acceptable in public, but in the same space a 200 lb guy can’t rock both a magnificent beard and a sparkly blue dress with black tights because it’s “indecent”. How is this reality?
Anyway, I owed a huge debt to the genderfuck folks for helping me find the confidence to express my gender in a way that challenges the norm and makes me feel the most comfortable; By doing absolutely nothing.
And before anyone gets offended, let me elaborate;
Remember, I don’t actually have a gender identity. There is nothing for me to medically or socially transition to. There’s nothing that I can wear that’ll make me feel more like my gender. Playing with gender stereotypes is fun, but doesn’t actually help my dysphoria because my dysphoria isn’t triggered by how I see myself, but by how I think other people see me. My dysphoria is triggered when I think other people see me as a “girl” or “woman” and this actually circles back to my aromantic and asexual identities because women are seen and treated as sexual objects, sexual and/or romantic accomplishments in the hero-always-gets-the-girl-Hollywood-style kind of way. It freaks me the fuck out when somebody (usually cis dudes) looks at me with hearts in their eyes and happily-ever-after with end credits scrolling through the back of their mind because they see me as a “woman” first and a snarky “know-it-all” second.
I get called “aggressive”, I get put down for knowing even the most basic shit like where the expo marker is at work (seriously guys, it’s next to the scale like it always is) or why water bottles get crinkly when you refrigerate them because I apparently “know everything” and people get hella offended when I call them out on their biases be it sexism or racism or whatever the prejudice-dejour of the day is. A lot of the time it feels like I’m fighting an intellectual war on multiple fronts and so I really don’t want to have to deal with my non-existent gender on top of that. I’m also noodle-cup poor right now so there’s not a whole lot of flexibility when it comes to my wardrobe anyway.
So, to “play” with my gender, I do nothing. I don’t wear makeup. My clothes are functional and need to last me at least the next two years. The reason I tend to buy men’s jewelry is because I almost always forget to check my pockets before I do laundry (…which is how I ended up accidentally washing my scientific calculator today, *sigh*). Basically I need my stuff to a) actually fit me and b) survive at least two rounds in the wash. I think that probably says more about me as a person than my gender ever did.