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.

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″

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)”

Secret Misogyny (Misogyny from a Nonbinary Perspective)

A while back I took one of the Harvard tests to see how sexist I was. Actually my mom had all of my family take the test to see how sexist we were and (not to my surprise) I scored the lowest (meaning I was the least sexist according to their leading questions). This didn’t surprise me because I’m agender therefore my answers don’t really fall in line with what they were testing for. The two kinds of sexism they were testing for was basically micro-agression towards women and putting women on a pedestal. So I got to flaunt my low score on both accounts (my mom was surprise by her own score in the latter category) and go on my merry way.

I haven’t completely given up on my dream to be a science fiction writer, but it’s definitely on the back burner until I get my life together. In the meantime I keep watching YouTube videos that analyze films and talk about story techniques. One video that popped up on my feed was an apology to Stephanie Meyer by Lindsay Ellis (formally known as the Nostalgia Chick) addressing whether or not the Twilight series deserved all the hate it got 10 years ago.

Spoiler alert: it did not.

Continue reading “Secret Misogyny (Misogyny from a Nonbinary Perspective)”

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.