Agender Fashion Problems

CW// gender dysphoria mentioned, dieting very briefly mentioned

I started writing this post last November and for some reason writing about my gender issues is always a challenge because 1) I don’t actually have a gender and 2) most of my issues are external things that I have no control over.

Continue reading “Agender Fashion Problems”

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″

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. 

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”

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

[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.

30 Day Gender Queer Challenge: Day 22

[Somehow I forgot to hit the submit button yesterday. Oops!]

What is your sexual and romantic orientations? Are they affected by your gender?

I am asexual and aromantic! Hence the name of the blog. The aromantic part is the big one because I’m not romantically attracted to anyone (or at least attracted enough to act on it). I really don’t focus on any non-platonic relationship possibilities. On the one hand it sucks because people say “Friendzone” like it’s Mordor or something. I want to be someone’s Samwise to their Frodo really, really badly. I just want to be someone’s best friend, but I haven’t found “the one” in that respect either. People place so much emphasis on romantic relationships. I wish Hollywood would make a “Falling in best friends” story. I’ve heard other ace/aros talk about the same feelings of wanting to be someone’s number one, but not in a romantic sense and they feel shoved aside when their besty finds a significant other.

But since I’m not attracted to anyone romantically or sexually my gender doesn’t really affect my orientation.

30 Day Gender Queer Challenge: Day 21

How has your relationship with yourself been affected since you realized you were Genderqueer?

Actually my relationship with myself has been awesome. I’ve been toying with the idea of genderlessness in writing for a long time before I even knew agender was a thing. In college I was part of a writing club and we had a group story going for almost 5 years before we all scattered and went our separate ways. My absolutely favorite character was a biromantic/asexual/agender character and this was a character I created just out of curiosity before I even knew the terminology. I created this character because I wanted to ask the question “can you have a genderless character in a story and make it work”? Well, it turns out my writer’s subconscious knew me better than I knew myself because I ended up finding this character the most relatable out of all my character creations. The character went by an alias “Liberty Jones”, or “Lib” for short and since then I’ve adopted the name Lib as one of my online monikers. I use “Kit” for more serious stuff, but I use “Lib” when I want to be myself.

Creating the Lib character was the first step in finding myself and I hope to reuse the character someday to inspire other non-binary and agender individuals someday. It’ll be a while before I can free up the energy to give the character the justice they deserve, but it’s definitely on the short list for passion projects. I look forward to playing with the character again because usually it’s the author who gives life to the character, but this time it was the character who helped me really come to life as a person.