…Whatever, I’m bored. Let’s talk about my gender

I haven’t been able to make regular updates and that goal is officially scratched off my new years resolutions list because I’m currently working two jobs as I ride out the global pandemic. My second job is substitute teaching which is why I’m stuck in a classroom basically babysitting two middle school kids because the rest of the class is virtual and I have an entire hour of literally nothing to do. I don’t talk about my gender nearly enough so I’m just casually talk about my gender for an hour. [Content Warning: gender dysphoria mentioned]

My first day I had another substitute ask if I was pregnant and that was super uncomfortable and awkward for me. I have to present as my assigned gender because Texas has some funky laws regarding LGBTQIA+ students and transphobia is literally written into the leading party’s platform.

I’m more comfortable and confident about my asexuality just because I’ve interacted with more aces and had access to compiled research and history. I haven’t had as much luck finding a “community” based around my experience with gender identity. The closest thing I’ve have was one of my coworkers at my old job was pansexual and agender, but I’m no longer at that job. I’ve tried discord chats in the past to try and meet other agender or even just nonbinary folks and it didn’t really work out because the chats were geared towards younger people discovering their gender and not people in their 20s-30s. So because I haven’t interacted much with a community I don’t know what the shared language lexicon or jargon is.

What I do know is I’m agender. Period. When I ping my brain for gender it shoots back a 404 error message. I got nothing. There’s no little voice in my head guiding me like Jiminy Cricket towards gender euphoria. But I definitely experience some social gender dysphoria. My dysphoria isn’t triggered by what my body looks like, but by how other people see and interpret my gender cues. Fem is okay, female is a hard “no”.

I’ve had some negative interactions with counselors completely unrelated to my gender and sexuality so I’m super hesitant to seek professional help and prefer self-help. So, far that’s what works best for me. Ideally I would prefer to consult a professional for my dysphoria symptoms if only so I could have someone break down the technical language of my symptoms for me because that’s not really something I trust the internet with. However, consulting an actual paid professional just not a feasible option right now. That also means that I don’t have the option to even explore the possibility of medically transitioning at this time either which is also a sensitive topic for me.

After a time check, I still have 30 minutes to ramble but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to ramble about. I prefer jobs with unisex uniforms because of my gender. I’ve been studying historical garment construction (it’s hard and there’s weird math involved) because I want to make my own clothes because of ethical reasons and because it would give me more control over my presentation. That’s still a long ways, though, because I’m working two jobs and my “free time” is never conveniently anywhere near my sewing supplies.

Side note: I’m of the “tackle box” school of sewing, not “cookie/biscuit tin” school if that matters to anyone

Happy #AgenderPrideDay!

I’m going to be honest I didn’t know there was a semi-official official day until the hashtag popped up in my Twitter feed, but sweet! First rule of any pride day hashtag is “do not read the comments”. To my understanding the way pride day/week hashtags work is an LGBTQ+ group will pick a day and a hashtag and try to coordinate and build as much momentum as possible and a bunch of people will get mad like, “whaaaat, why do they get day?”

It seems like Pink News is leading today’s event since they were asking for coming out stories (but I’m not 100% sure since I haven’t gone through all the hashtags yet). The lesbian week event a while back was sponsored by a lesbian and bi women’s magazine. I thought that was a) awesome and b) hilarious that people were complaining about how it was executed because legitimate critique is one thing but complaining about an online event that you put zero effort into organizing because it doesn’t match your ideas another (and that last bit is definately a not so subtle potshot at Scarcella). Anywho! on to the actual post.

I actually have a really, really, really hard time describing and talking about my gender because, as the label suggests, I don’t actually have one. I am firmly on the “404 gender, not found” dot on the agender spectrum. If you thought sexuality and romance were pervasive concepts, try imagining what living life without gender for a day. I don’t mean suddenly picture everyone looking like a the robot from Metropolis (1927). Take a moment to imagine that you woke up tomorrow and everything is the same except gender is not a thing. Imagine if there were no separate men’s and women’s clothing sections in the department store and it was just “clothes”. Actually, other than the clothes thing picturing a world without gender is hard because of how ingrained it is into human culture. If I didn’t live my daily life without gender, I’d have trouble imagining it too.

During my typical day it’s nonstop “hey girl” or “Excuse me, ma’am” and a constant barrage of gender performance cues from everyone, even from nonbinary folks. I know you can’t really tell what somebody’s gender is by looking at them, but there are definitely people who give off “not-cis/binary” vibes. The frustrating thing for me is I don’t really know how to do that. How am I supposed to preform something I don’t have? It’s like when you ask non-asexuals what sexual attraction is like because you get the same really frustrating “oh, you just sort of know” for an answer.

My gender performance is a balancing act of doing what is socially acceptable for paycheck and social currency reasons vs trying not to think too hard about how other people might (incorrectly) perceive my (nonexistent) gender for dysphoria reasons. I mostly dress fem because I don’t exactly have a lot of options given my body type. Also fem clothes are more fun. I love overbust corsets because they have a complicated and misunderstood history and provide amazing back support. …and I can already imagine the Twitter comments accusing me of being a “cis woman who just wants to feel special”.

It took me a ridiculous long time to figure out my gender because I didn’t know gender was a real thing. I was almost 26 before I figured out I was agender. Before that point I assumed all gender was assigned based on culture. I thought the reason different cultures had different genders is they had had more time to diversify. For years I assumed that gender was just an arbitrary weird cultural thing like grammatical gender is just a weird arbitrary language thing (thank you linguistics degree). I had no idea that there was an entire psychological element to gender identity because I don’t have that tiny voice in my head telling me what gender I am.

Cracks in my “all gender is assigned” assumption began to form when I had to take a diversity training for a job and they talked about Two Spirit genders. That was the first time that it started to click that people actually felt like their gender and 23 year old me was sooo freaking confused. I didn’t “feel” like a girl. It wasn’t until two years later that I would have reliable access to internet and access to online ace spaces and chats that I could finally start asking questions. Trans aces in the chat groups were very helpful in directing me to trans and later nonbinary information resources. I basically went all the way down the list and crossed off everything that didn’t sound like me until agender was the only one left.

I’m going to finish this post off with how I found my pronoun. Before recently I didn’t particularly care for pronouns at all because like gender labels none of them really feel like me. I chose a really short name for myself (Lib) and I tried to gently encourage people to use that instead of pronouns, but I didn’t really care (and still don’t honestly) what people call me because my linguistics training says “I knew what you meant, so it’s fine”. I’m still not going to bite anyone’s head off for calling me the the “wrong” pronoun. It’s just a matter of “meh” vs “oh! that’s me!” My pronoun is thon/thon’s and it apparently has been around for a while and I’m very happy to have finally found it…in the dictionary of all places.

Why I’m an “Inclusionist” Part 2

Last time I was rambling about “ace discourse” on Twitter and now I’m going to ramble about “bi-lesbian discourse”. Those of us in the ace and aro communities probably wouldn’t bat an eye if someone told us they were a “bi-lesbian”. Most ace and/or aro folks probably have had a crash course in the Split Attraction Model (SAM). We know it, we love it, we use it regularly. We know that by “bi-lesbian” they probably mean that they’re either “romantically attracted to two or more genders and lesbian” or “sexually attracted to two or more genders and homoromantic”. Bi-lesbian just rolls of the tongue in comparison and Twitter only allows for 140 characters. Easy, peasy, we got it.

Continue reading “Why I’m an “Inclusionist” Part 2″

Carnival of Aces May 2019: Beyond the Binary

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!

Continue reading “Carnival of Aces May 2019: Beyond the Binary”

Sooo, about being Agender

This post has literally been sitting in my drafts since last June. For months I’ve been trying to think about how to explain what it’s like to be agender. I understand that not feeling romantic or sexual attraction is a tough concept for people to wrap their heads around and I understand that genders outside the binary are basically a totally alien idea to most people, but not having a gender at all? This obviously took some thinking.

I first realized I might not be connecting all the dots when I had to take a diversity training for work. The topic of two-spirit genders came up and I was very confused because the phrasing they used suggested that two-spirit wasn’t an assigned gender. Wait, what? Up until that point I assumed that all genders were assigned. I assumed gender was a cultural construct and so logically different cultures had different gender roles and gender types. I was very confused and kept thinking, “….wait… how do you feel two-spirited???” I was a “girl” because people in my Western culture told me I was, so I couldn’t understand how people “just knew” they were two-spirit. I didn’t want to embarrass myself any more than I already had and ask the seminar presenters more questions when the odds of it being relevant for my job were very slim, so I just let the matter go unanswered for about three years.

It wasn’t until I was able to talk to transgender aces in online chats that I was able to figure out that I didn’t have a gender. I’m not fully comfortable using “transgender” as a label and prefer “Nonbinary” when I’m not being specific. I also prefer to use “PFaB” (presumed female at birth) instead of AFaB (assumed/assigned female at birth).

So… what’s it like not having a gender? I’m not sure actuality since it’s not like I actually have a gender to compare it to. My gender dysphoria is (thankfully) fairly minor and I only get an occasional “WTF?”-out-of-body-experience feeling when I look in the mirror or my skin crawls when people call me a “girl” or “lady”. I’ve actually had dysphoria since I was a teenager, but I thought it was “normal” to have body dysphoria during puberty and I just ignored it until I realized I never “grew out of it” like I thought I would. It gets worse if I’m suffering from fatigue so it was easy for me to write it off for a long time. It wasn’t until I started reading about gender dysphoria and my reaction was, “oooooh, that’s what that is.”

My dysphoria basically feels like there’s a delay in my brain; when I look in the mirror it takes my brain longer to process that it’s my reflection that it’s looking at, which is trippy as hell and why I thought it was just a symptom of fatigue for a long time. Wearing my hair in my favorite hair style, making funny faces to distort the image, or wearing particular clothing styles or my unisex work uniform helps my brain to click faster that it’s “me” I’m looking at. 

I really don’t feel comfortable being called a “girl” anymore, but that might actually have more to do with me being 29 years old than my gender experience. My body type doesn’t really allow for me to look androgynous and looking more masculine wouldn’t really make me feel any better. 

There’s a lot of support for transitioning in the non-binary and transgender online communities as the best treatment for dysphoria, but what do I transition to? I hate that androgyny has such a skinny stereotype because I’m not going to be able to lose any weight anytime soon and my genetics really doesn’t allow for skinny. As my mom likes to put it, “We’re famine ready” Actually, the idea of being skinny freaks me out more than having a feminine body. I look at pictures of myself as a kid and my brain goes, “Jeepers, that kid needs a cheeseburger.”

So, if transitioning isn’t an effective treatment, what’s my next best option? For me it’s accepting that, yes, I’m going to feel uncomfortable about my body because of my perceived gender. People are still going to presume I’m a woman even though that’s definitely not the case. What’s really cool though is seeing how every so slowly people around me are becoming more and more aware of gender nuances and it’s totally possible that one day I’ll be able to put “nonbinary” or even “agender” on my DL and medical forms. Someday my coworkers will be comfortable calling me “Mx. Lib” instead of “Miss Lib.” Thinking about a hopeful future like that is what helps me get through the rough parts of looking in the mirror and knowing something just isn’t quite right. Basically, I’ve accepted that my dysphoria has very little to actually do with me and it’s mostly western culture’s fault for presuming I was a “girl” in the first place. 

I Read the Texas GOP Political Platform (and I am Terrified)

Fun Fact! The individual parts of the GOP political platform are called “planks”. Haha! Cute, right? And, yup, that is all the fun we’re going to be having this evening. Because oh, my fucking God, I’m probably going to need to breath into a paper bag just to get through this. Fuck, um, read at your own discretion. And, no, I’m not just being dramatic.

Continue reading “I Read the Texas GOP Political Platform (and I am Terrified)”

Carnival of Aces May 2018: “Filling In the Blanks”

This is my Carnival of Aces submission for May 2018 hosted this month by Prismatic Entanglements under the topic of “Nuance and Complexity“. For more in formation about the CoA, to see past topics, or to volunteer to be a future host see the master post on The Asexual Agenda

“figuring out you’re asexual is like trying to find a nonexistent needle in a very large haystack except people keep trying to convince you that you’re just not looking hard enough or you’ll find the right needle eventually but the needle just isn’t there and yet everyone else’s is and then you wonder whether or not you actually have a needle and then you spot something that might be a needle but nope it’s just another hay strand and everything is confusing and now the haystack is on fire”
Source: simplydaisys

One thing I don’t like about identifying as asexual (and aromantic and agender) is I feel like my identity is defined by blank space. Other identities can say things like, “I like girls and I’m mostly a girl, so I’m lesbian” or “I’m pan, I like who I like regardless of gender.” My explanations feel like a fill-in-the-blank question on a test you didn’t study for. I am who I am based on attractions that aren’t there and more often than not that’s met with skepticism or lack of comprehension.

Continue reading “Carnival of Aces May 2018: “Filling In the Blanks””

Agender, Dysphoria, Philosophy

[I actually wanted to use this for my CoA posts last month, but in my mind physicality has more to do with my gender experience than my asexual one.]

(TW: Dysphoria)

One reason sleepy hygiene is really important to me is when I’m running on fumes my dysphoria likes to act up. I mostly feel dysphoric when I look in the mirror.

I was trying to explain what dysphoria felt like to a coworker of mine. He was saying some transphobic stuff so I immediately shut that down. When I engage in non-believer, I do my best to channel Socrates and I start asking questions. My main go-to question is pretty much, “Yeah, but how do you know?” and I just keep repeating that question in various forms until eventually the conversation turns on me and they ask, “Well how do you know?” Mwa hahaha, I’m so glad you asked.

When I look in the mirror something isn’t right. It takes me longer than the normal split second to identify that the image reflecting back is “me”. My mental self image (whatever that is) doesn’t match my mirror image. The same is true of photographs of myself. This becomes exacerbated when I’m tired, particularly when I’m stumbling into the bathroom in the predawn hours and there’s that giant mirror that takes up half of the freaking wall. I don’t watch horror movies, but there has to be a horror movie trope somewhere where people look in the mirror and see a ghost or monster or something, cue jump scare, instead of their reflection. Now imagine feeling like that all. the. time. That’s my dysphoria.

There’s a couple tricks I do to avoid feeling like I’m in a horror movie 24/7. The simplest one is I avoid mirrors. When I have to look in the mirror, because all bathrooms have them for some reason, I make faces. It took me a long time to figure out 1) I was subconsciously doing this and 2) it actually worked. It’s like I’m doing a quick reality check. I’ll either smile, squint-glare, stick out my tongue, or just flick the damn thing off. My brain picks up on the cue that it’s my reflection that I’m looking at and I can go about my business without freaking out. If I’m at work I usually focus my gaze on my uniform. It’s a little thing, but it helps.

Part of my problem is that since I don’t really have a mental image of what I’m “supposed” to look like, a physical transition would not be a good fit for me. Trying to look more masculine or androgynous doesn’t help my dysphoria. How do you present when your gender is literally “none of the above”?

Since a physical transition is not a good fit I had to find ways to “mentally transition”. How do I want to appear to others? My favorite archetype and the one I identify most with in stories is the “Mentor”. When people try to treat me like I’m a woman it squicks me out big time (if you could not tell from the on-going drama I keep complaining about). However, I love when people ask me random questions like “Do you believe in El Dorado” or anything related to schoolwork or knowledge. Ask me anything, just don’t ask me out.

This is where philosophy comes into the picture. Philosophy comes from the Greek word that literally meant “love of wisdom”. Right now I’m particularly interested Hellenistic Philosophy, most of which can be traced back to Socrates or rather Plato’s account of Socrates since nothing Socrates himself wrote (if he ever wrote) survived. The particular branch of philosophy I’m most interested in is Stoicism. Two things I zeroed in on while reading about Stoicism was that “There are things within our power and things beyond our power” and the Stoic approach to emotion.

Two things that are not within out power (meaning we have next to zero control over them) are our bodies and our reputation. Accepting that I had very limited control over my body and what other people thought about me or my body really helped me get to a better mental state about my gender and asexuality. For some reason the “Baby I was born this way” message didn’t sink in and I was holding on to the subconscious belief that it was still somehow my “fault” that I was asexual (which I know makes no logical sense). I finally realized that I couldn’t force my body to feel attraction or make it produce the hormone cocktail that it attributed to attraction. The same thing with romantic attraction and the same thing with gender.

The Stoics seemed to have intuitively guess what current research is only just beginning to reveal about emotions. In school I learned that there were 7 universal emotions, Joy, Surprise, Fear, Disgust, Anger, Contempt, and Sadness (Inside Out anyone?), but that’s not what the more recent research is pointing to. The only “true” universal emotions are pleasant, unpleasant, arousal, and calm. Everything else is cultural. Different cultures actually experience different emotions based on how we internally interpret the four basic feelings. Don’t get me wrong, you still feel your emotions. You experience joy, anger, sadness, etc… but because emotions are based on cultural context you have a lot more control over your emotions then you think.

To gain some new insight on human emotions check out this podcast.

So, to recap, I have next to zero control over my body or what other people think about my body, but I have a lot of control about how I feel about my body. Right now, I feel pretty good. I’m still just barely getting into philosophy and Stoicism so I’ll continue writing more about that at a later date.

Non-binary and Periods

As much as I hate acknowledging that I’m biologically female, and thus considered by many the “weaker sex”,  I feel like writing (much to my discomfort) about the subject of mensuration. Since the subject is rather squicky, I won’t be offended if anyone wants to skip over this post. I’ll be posting a CoA post in the next two weeks or so.

Continue reading “Non-binary and Periods”