March 8th, “A Day Without Women”, but I’m not a Woman.

March 8th is International Women’s day and the #womensmarch folks are trying to organize a strike called “A Day Without Women” (similar to the “A Day without Immigrants” strike) and my mom was encouraging me to take the day off from work.

But I’m not a woman. I’m not out to my parents as agender because I had a negative experience coming out to them as asexual. For me I think it would be an even more powerful symbol not to participate in the strike/boycott because it asserts my identity as a non-binary gender. Currently I have both work and school that day so I won’t be taking time off from either. Early on I felt pressured because of my mom, but I’m much more comfortable with the decision now that my schedule is set and it’s too late to change it.

Over all I think I’ve been doing better taking care of myself with regards to my gender identity. I’ve used self-help techniques (mostly diet and exercise) to help manage my gender dysphoria and it’s to the point that I haven’t had a major dysphoric moment in several weeks. I can look at my self in the mirror now and actually smile and feel comfortable with my image.

There’s still a long way to go on many aspects of human rights and I still plan to stay committed to social change, but this March 8th just isn’t the event for me. So, I’ll just wish for the best to everyone else who wants to participate.

Edit:
Somehow I accidentally deleted this post from my phone, so oops. On March 8th my mom brought up the issue of the protest again and I once again declined to participate despite her urging because it was more important for me to assert my agender identity than protest as my assigned gender. I still haven’t told my mom I’m agender, but I have told a coworker and my two youngest siblings. When I came out to them I felt comfortable asserting my identity, it felt real, it felt like I wasn’t just pretending, and I was very happy after the fact. I don’t like that I have to give an Agender 101 lesson every time I open up to someone and that’s another reason I don’t come out often.

 

 

Gender Dysphoria from an Agender Perspective

Gender Dysphoria from an Agender Perspective

One of the most useful skills I’ve ever picked up was from a Mental Health First Aid course I took as part of a mandatory job training. I had no idea that two years later the person I would be using my training the most on would be myself. I approach Mental Health First Aid the same way I would approach regular First Aid. I would be able to treat a sprained ankle from home, for example, but I would want a professional to treat a broken ankle. Currently my gender dysphoria is like a sprained ankle; hurts like the dickens, but is still manageable.

The problem is, just like a sprain, one wrong twist and I’m left hobbling along gingerly for days. The most recent incident was triggered by mostly harmless comments from my coworkers. The first being, “Why do have to be so aggressive?/I don’t like your attitude”. Alone those comments are hurtful, but not enough to cause days of emotional grief. The second catalyst was another coworker and I were talking about meditation and how he’s using meditation to have “out of body experiences”. It just hit me out of nowhere that “out of body experience” is exactly how I describe looking at myself in the mirror. The idea that someone was purposely trying to do what I feel on a daily basis was the “wrong twist” that sent me on the latest spiral.

The hardest thing for me about a bad dysphoria incident is the spiraling thoughts and the anxiety that comes with it. I’ll usually alternate between being sad and feeling like a freak to being pissed off at the world. The circling thoughts that I have during that time are definitely not healthy and I have to remind myself to take action to stop spiraling downward. I also get really bad headaches whenever I get mad or upset so I take my mental health very seriously.

First Aid courses love their acronyms. For a sprained ankle the acronym is RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Keeping the the sprain metaphor I also ‘RICE’ed when I realized how emotionally distressed I was this past week:

REST: Resting was probably the most important step. Since I was at work at the time of the trigger incident, I did calming techniques to tie me over until I could go home and go to bed. I spent a lot of time reading and keeping to myself until I could relax and I made sure to get plenty of sleep. It took work because I was still anxious, but I made resting my priority.
Informed: Secondly I look at my options. What resources to I have available? Who can I reach out to? Most of the job places I’ve worked at have mental health resources if I needed it. Did I need to call in an take a mental health day. Would transitioning physically or socially help? What are my options for that? (I’ll touch more on transitioning a little later.)
Compression: This was actually the first week that I felt like I needed to wear my binder in public. I usually work 9 hour shifts so wearing a binder at work isn’t comfortable. Instead I wore my binder to my night class and it felt amazing. The binder I have is super comfortable (for a few hours at least before I feel like I need to take it off). It’s weird to think that I felt like I could breath easier wearing it.
Engaging with Community: Since I knew I was still feeling bad I talked to some folks in an agender chat room. I love to vent. If I can talk about my problem to somebody and get it off my chest then I feel a million times better. It’s amazing to have that interaction with people who get it, have been there, and can remind me that it does get better. Having a support network in place is one of the best things you can do for your mental/emotional health.

After a few days of taking care of myself I’m feeling much better, but the truth of the matter is my gender dysphoria is probably never going to go away. When I look in the mirror I’ll still feel that “not my body”or “out of body” experience. I don’t think a physical transition would work for me. I’m agender; there isn’t gender to for me to transition into. If there was a way in my culture to look truly androgynous that wasn’t colored by the masculine/feminine, then maybe I would do that, but I don’t want to be seen as a man or a manly girl, tomboy or butch. I don’t want to be seen a girl, feminine, or womanly. I want to be seen as agender.2a5ef1a7-bb94-44d5-a0d0-b505ed4919e0_560_420

Maybe if there were nonbinary folks in mainstream media I would feel more comfortable in my own skin. It would be nice to have role models. It would be nice to have something to point to so I could tell my coworkers, “See? That’s just like me.” For now I really have no idea what I can do to get rid of my dysphoria for good. It’s a problem, but for the moment it’s a manageable one. That’s just going to have to be good enough even if, occasionally, it really hurts.

 

Carnival of Aces for November ’16: Relationship Anarchy

Carnival of Aces for November ’16: Relationship Anarchy

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces November 2016 hosted this month by Dee of It’s An Ace Thing for the topic of “relationship anarchy”. The Carnival of Aces is a monthly blogging carnival centered around a particular topic. For more information about the CoA see the >>Master Post<<]

When I first saw the topic for this month I was a little skeptical (having never heard the term before), but after reading into it a little more I can see how relationship anarchy would appeal to many people (including myself). As an aromantic asexual I shy away from the idea of relationships because of the expectations that come with them. We’ve all seen the Hollywood romance model: Boy meets girl, they date, they sex it up, they fight, they make up, sex it up again, roll credits. It’s all very formulaic and I am all for breaking that standard model.

I’m slightly romance-repulsed. If a random person walks up and tries to hit on me I’ll either a) not realize that’s what they’re trying to do or b) internally-freak-out-and-give-them-the-choice-of-solving-three-riddles,-completing-an-impossible-task,-or-going-on-quest. Then to make things even more complicated, I’m a nonbinary gender (agender). So following the standard relationship model does not work for me and my only option really is relationship anarchy.

What’s the point of a relationship without sex or romance?” Well, just because I don’t feel romantic or sexual attraction doesn’t mean I don’t feel any attraction at all. I still feel sensual attraction. If I were to confess to a ‘sensual-crush’ (and I did that just today actually), I would say, “I want to hug you. You are allowed to enter into my personal space.” and I would consider them an acceptable cuddle-buddy. Words like “dating” freak me out, but despite all that I still want to have healthy and wholesome relationships.

Relationships of all kinds are defined by unwritten rules that dictate what you can and cannot feel and what behavior is considered normal. For me that is very oppressive. I would love to live in a world where my “before everyone else” is a mutual platonic partnership. I would love to live in a world where my “love” for my mentors is just as celebrated and talked about as a romantic love for a significant other would be. I would be over the moon if the social norm was that one of the first questions people ask me is NOT “do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend”?  and instead, “what is your most significant relationship?”

Right now my most significant relationship is with my tai chi mentor because they are making the most positive impact on my life right now. I want to be able to talk about and celebrate that relationship with others, but I can’t because of the social expectations. If I talked about a mentor like I want to people would think it’s weird or they’d mock me for having a “secret crush” when it’s not like that at all. I usually do fall “in love” with my mentors, but it’s always in a non-romantic way. I see those kinds of relationships as reverent and worth celebrating and talking about, but because of our social norms I can’t do exactly that.

I want Hollywood to tell a “Falling in Best Friends” kind of story. I want Hollywood to STOP KILLING OFF THE MENTOR CHARACTERS because that’s the only way they know how to talk about the relationship. I want us as a society to stop worshiping romantic love like it’s the end all, be all way. I believe all kinds of relationships are worth celebrating and talking about. I didn’t have a word for it before, but I guess “relationship anarchy” is what I’ve been wishing for all along.

If you’re into me, then you’re not straight: Orientations and attractions to non-binary people

Hey there, folks! Check out this awesome post by valprehension touching on Non-binary erasure and complication when is comes to orientation labels. The title says it all.

Non-binary people are a weird position in the dating world (ok, I mean, we’re in a pretty weird position all the time to be honest. But anyway, today I’m talking about the dating world)…

Source: If you’re into me, then you’re not straight: Orientations and attractions to non-binary people

My number one take-away from the post was the mention of the complication that came with people identifying as “straight” while still being sexually/romantically attracted to non-binary individuals and how “straight” and “heterosexual” don’t mean the same thing. I greatly enjoyed the post and will be thinking about this topic in the future.