Flatland

Flatland

Wotcher!

So I’ve done something recently that I never thought I’d be doing. To be honest, the back of my mind had timidely been flirting with the idea for a while, but for some not good enough reason, it had felt like too big of a thing to actually go ahead and do. It had felt like I wasn’t allowed.

I bought a chest binder.

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A chest binder is an article of clothing that often looks like a tank top or a crop top, specifically designed to flatten your chest. Like so.

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For reference, I am naturally a 32F size. That’s right. I just posted my bra size online. That’s probably a smart thing to do.

Now, why would it take me so long to get myself one of these things? Mainly because binders are traditionally used by the FTM (female to male) trans* community.

All my life I have tiptoed around the edges of transgender, never quite daring to step in. Internalized transphobia, maybe, or simply confusion. If I were completely, definitely, transgender, from one binary to the other, then maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long, and it wouldn’t have been as daunting.

As it was, though, some part of my brain had to be told I was doing it for practical reasons. Bras my size aren’t cheap, and oftentimes don’t work as well as one would hope. A heavy chest pulls on the skin and causes pains when badly supported. With a binder, the weight would be spread out.

The other part of my brain, the one that knew there were other reasons, was scared. This was a dive head first into my trans-ness, a step off the cliff. What if I couldn’t swim? What if I couldn’t fly?

I was shaking when I clicked “confirm order”.

The binder arrived a few days ago and I was rather excited about trying it out. It’s tight, obviously, but not uncomfortable. Certainly more comfortable than high heels and mini-skirts. It’s a bit tricky to put on, a bit tricky to take off, but I seem to be managing better than some other people out there so… sorry guys. Guess I’m lucky. It also led me to notice things I had never paid attention to before. Like my left breast being just a tad bigger than the right. Ah, fun times!

The day went fine. I felt like myself. I felt comfortable. I could look down and see my feet – I have big feet!

When I took the thing off in the evening though, I experienced a slight gender shift, feeling more like the girl me, and I had a pinch of vulnerability. It felt a bit like I’d betrayed or abandoned that feminine part of me. Which is silly but I suppose it’s the lot of genderfluid people.

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I think this moment of distress came from the huge importance I had placed on the binder. Building it up in my mind, like it was something that had the power to change me. It’s not, and I don’t think it’s quite healthy – for me at least – to think of it that way. It’s just cloth. It’s comfortable and it allows me to wear shirts that were designed for male bodies. I genuinely like it. But it does nothing to impact my gender identity. You are not your clothes, surprisingly enough.

Now I’m getting used to thinking of this as just another addition to my wardrobe. Some days I’ll wear a bra, some days I’ll wear a binder. It will depend on the clothes I’ve decided to wear that day, and on my mood. It means I can now feel right and comfortable in clothes from both sides of the shop.

The most important thing is that wearing a binder does not make me any more transgender. Just like wearing a bra does not make me any less transgender. And that is quite a freeing thought, don’t you think?

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15 things

15 things

Hullo, there, lovely people!

This is day two of WordPress University and today’s assignment is about lists. I love reading blogs in list-form. They’re usually clear, easy to read, informative yet personal… everything I like about blogs. When they’re well-written, obviously.

Making lists helps me feel in control of my life. I mean, obviously, you can’t be entirely in control, because what’s the fun in that? But for someone who stresses out about every single thing out there, a list is reassuring. So I started listing things for this post, randomly. Whatever came into my mind. And soon enough I realised that I was compiling a list of things that make up my calm self. The me that feels in control.

So without further ado, here is a reassuring list of other reassuring things and self-affirming things in my life, in no particular order. Hopefully some of them can help you too.


 

1 – My partner

I thought I’d start with the most obviously important. Having love in your life, in any shape or form (not necessarily romantic love, mind), is vital. To me specifically, my partner is a very important anchor in my life. I’ve often heard that committing to a relationship is like giving up on your freedom. But here is the deal, okay? There is nothing wrong with planning your life around another person. In fact, the degree of commitment I share with my partner is liberating. We can count on each other and that makes me feel more free than I’ve ever felt before.

2 – ASMR

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Have you ever used one of those head massager things that look like metal spider legs? That almost unbearable tingly feeling along your scalp and down your spine? ASMR is when you get this feeling without any actual physical touch. This reflexive response can result from different auditory triggers, such as the light tapping of nails against a glass jar, the swooshing sound of a paintbrush against a microphone, or a soft whispering voice. Some lovely YouTubers create experimental videos of triggers, often mixed in with some relaxing roleplaying. This is all about imagining yourself in calming situations, concentrating on something to forget your everyday worries.

3 – Writing

Okay, this one barely requires explanation. Writing is good for you, let’s leave it at that. Try it. Nobody needs to read the result if you don’t want to. You can write for yourself. How about a dream journal? Or a diary? Or, hey, a blog!

4 – Yoga

It’s very widely-known that yoga has all sorts of benefits. A few years of yoga have made me a lot calmer and a lot less prone to stress over little things. It’s a process. Doesn’t happen overnight, but you do start feeling the results quite quickly. And then you get to a point where every single session leaves you walking home with a skip in your step and wandering eyes, happily checking out the architecture of the city you weren’t even noticing anymore. I practice Hatha yoga, the slow, traditional kind, based on balance and strength, and holding postures for five to seven breaths. It’s harder than it looks and it’s wonderful, even if you don’t buy into all that chakra esoterism. I know I don’t.

5 – Picking out clothes

I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, because clothes used to be the last thing on my mind, but it is true that picking out your outfit to match your current mood can make your day brighter and just easier to go through. This is especially the case for people who tend to feel body dysphoria. I’m genderqueer. Androgynous. Genderfluid. Ambivalent. One of those, or all of them. I’m still working on the label (more on that later). Some days, I change my clothes three times, looking to find my sense of “self”, my comfort zone. This isn’t because I’m vain. It’s because I’m trying to be myself and clothes contribute to that a lot. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for taking that time to put on your “me” clothes.

6 – Bath items and skin care

Another obvious one, I guess, but it’s true. For one thing, picking out your scent is an important thing. Smell is one of our most primal senses. For another, the time you set aside to do a clay mask or paint your toenails or even just put on an extra layer of conditioner in the shower, is your moment. It’s just for yourself, it’s not something you’re doing for work. When I’m brushing my hair after the shower, with my bamboo brush, I make sure to not just go through the motions. Really feel it. Feel that you’re taking good care of yourself and that anyone who loves you would want you to take good care of yourself. Even if it means not answering the phone or glancing at the agenda at the same time.

7 – Decorating

Ever since I met my partner – even a bit before, actually – I’ve had this strong nesting instinct. I’ve wanted a place that could be my home, that I’d make mine by picking out furniture, decorations, drapes and cushions. For an introvert, having a comfy place that feels like it’s yours, your den, can save you from a mental breakdown. My personal favourites are soft things. Blankets, plushies, cushions… Hell, now I want to build a fort in the living-room!

8 – Music

Especially singing. In my last post I mentioned the fact that I could actually live without writing if I had to. I’m not sure I could live without ever singing. It’s like a reflex. I sing in the shower, I sing when I’m doing the dishes, I sing along to the tunes in TV shows. Singing is a beautiful thing that many animals do. It expresses feelings, and it’s very relaxing because it forces the air to come out of your lungs slowly and rhythmically. It even soothes my stomachaches. You guys, it’s magic!

9 – Plushies and Disney

Don’t laugh. Okay, laugh if you want. There are about fifteen plushies in my one-bedroom flat right now and some of them were even bought when I was a kid. Soft toys are the allergic kid’s pets and the shy kid’s friends. They are cuddling and cute and they make me smile. Sue me. In the same I’m-a-four-year-old-in-the-body-of-an-adult vein, I also watch Disney movies. And I love most of them, still. A story doesn’t become less important or less valid, just because it is aimed at young people. Neither does a plushie.

10 – Coloring

I can’t draw to save my life, and it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m a ginormous clutz. But it also has to do with my inability to make decisions. What should I draw? What should I do? Where should I start? A coloring book is much better and more relaxing for me because the decisions are already pretty much made for you. It’s a tree. It’s there. All you have to do is pick out a color you like and concentrate on the tiny leaves. Again, it’s all a matter of concentrating on something very specific in order to keep your brain from going all over the place and back again.

11 – Countryside

Nature makes me happy. I think I’m not the only one. The city can be a stressful place, even the most friendly one. I live in Quebec City, a rather friendly city where people aren’t constantly walking on your toes or pushing you around. Still, sometimes, seeing a large expanse of trees, fields and sky, entirely devoid of buildings, can be a literal breath of fresh air. I want to be able to take the train at the weekend and spend time in the countryside. It’s usually doable. No countryside is too far away to be reached, if you really want to reach it.

12 – Reading

Writers read. It’s quite natural. Let me tell you a secret, though. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the time and mind space required to read a decent-sized novel. And that’s okay, it happens. A long read is a commitment and you have to be in the right mind frame. If, like me, you’re having trouble reading long books, for any reason, here’s my tip: Snoopy. I’ve been reading the Peanuts series for a while and not only is it fast-paced and easy to read, it’s incredibly philosophical and well written.

13 – Essential oil diffuser

I’d wanted one for a long time and I finally bought one from Amazon.ca. It’s a simple enough little device, with a wooden finish to make it look natural. You just put in water and a few drops of your favorite scent, and voilà. It lights up if you want it to, in a lot of different colors. It emits a constant little buzzing sound that I was worried about at first, but it turns out it’s quite soothing. I turn it on every night and would highly recommend it.

14 – Tea

Anyone who spent ten minutes in my house would know I love tea. All sorts of tea. Green, black, white, herbal… Tea warms you up and makes you want to sit at the computer and write. I know some people find that tea is a bit bland, and maybe it’s true of some teas. What I would say is that half the enjoyment of tea actually comes from the smell. If you like the scent of a tea, then why not just hold the smoking mug under your nose and get a nice big whiff. Take your time, really breathe in and out and in again. The next sip will be that much more tasty.

15 – Introspection

Introspection is a fancy word for “obsessing about yourself narcissistically while staring at the ceiling”. Because it seems that, for some reason, obsessing about yourself narcissistically while staring at the ceiling isn’t a very productive thing to do. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it’s not productive. Sometimes you’re just thinking of how much you suck and how you hate yourself. But thinking about your identity, about who you are and what you want from life can be very productive and very self-affirming. It’s helpful to occasionally take a step back and glance at the big picture of your life, goals and dreams.


 

So there you have it, folks. These are things that help me sort of keep my life from boiling over and melting my brain. Do you have any of those little things to help you relax or put things in perspective? Share in the comments, if you’d like.

Who are you? Who who, who who?

Who are you? Who who, who who?

Wotcher!

What do you think? I thought I’d experiment with different greetings before I settle on something. You know how quickly these things can become a trademark. I want to make sure I get it right. This particular one is borrowed from Harry Potter’s wonderful character Nymphadora “don’t call me Nymphadora” Tonks.

Anyhoo, guys, I’ve just signed up for two courses from WordPress University. Figured it might give me inspiration and some useful advice. Already received two assignments. They are pretty similar so what I’ll do is I’ll stick ’em in the salad tosser, mix ’em up and pour the result into one post.

The first assignment is all about introductions. Introducing yourself to the world. Hello, world! The second one asks the harrowing question: why do you write? So here I go, trying to address these two topics, in a freestyle, no plan, just talking to you casually sort of way.

I was looking around for a quote I’ve heard many times, from a lot of people, in a lot of rephrasings, paraphrasings, and other assorted phrasings, and I found it. It’s apparently from W. Somerset Maugham.

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.

It’s quite possible that many others have said the same thing, or something similar. It seems to be a popular thing to think and an even more popular thing to say.

Mr W. Somerset Maugham, with all due respect…

No. I do not have to write. There are about a million other things I could do, probably. Probably I could stop writing if I wanted to. “Having to” sounds important. It sounds heroic, noble, excrutiating. Like you’re tearing bits of your soul out and just smearing it on paper with all the poète maudit pathos befitting the occasion.

The thing is, though, doing something because you “have to” do it isn’t all that amazing. In fact it’s rather dull. It doesn’t require dedication, or any kind of decision on your part. You just have to do it. End of.

Me? Yours truly? I write because I want to. I decided to write, and every time I sit at the computer  with my hands on the keyboard, it’s a choice I’ve made, renewed every day, fresh, joyful. I don’t have to. I want to.

I want to share my thoughts and create emotions. I want to talk about everything that’s important to me, and learn about what’s important to others. Creating stories is a wonderful thing to do. You get to connect with your audience in a very unique way that, as an introvert with social anxiety, I can’t achieve any other way.

When people come up to me and say “you made me cry with this scene” (it’s happened, I write horrible stuff… oops) or “I hate this character, he’s a jerk!” or “that was hilarious,” it makes my heart pound. It’s the closest  you’ll ever get to mind control. How awesome is that? Call it a God complex if you want. Maybe it’s a Writer complex. Actually, I don’t mind the sound of that.

Hi, world! I’m Gwen, and I have a Writer complex.

And with this, I shall leave you with this other, much better if you ask me, quote by Mr W. Somerset Maugham:

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Queer as well

Queer as well

Hey, guys! So I’ve noticed that something had casually slipped into my previous post.

I’m a writer. I’m asexual. I have social phobia.

The A word.

Now, if I’d said I was gay, this probably wouldn’t have needed its own post. But it’s not what I said, and it’s not what I am. I’m not straight, either, and I’m not bisexual. What I am is asexual.
In my nearly twenty-seven years of life, I have never met anyone, male or female or in-between, whom I’ve felt attracted to. I have never viewed anyone in any kind of sexual way. It’s not that I don’t have a sexuality or that I haven’t gone through puberty. It’s not a hormonal imbalance. My libido is alive and well, thank you very much. No. It’s more of a matter of… shall we say… taste.
Just as a straight guy looks at another guy, just as a gay guy looks at a girl, I look at everyone and feel no sexual interest.

Hopefully you understand a little bit how asexuality works now, for me at least, and we can move on to the matter at hand.

Ever since asexual people started emerging from the shadows, some ten/fifteen years ago, there has been a lot of debate within and outside the community, regarding asexuality’s place within the LGBT+ movement. The question, basically, is this: Are asexual people queer enough?
Some say we don’t experience the same discrimination that gay and lesbian people experience. Some say we’re not persecuted enough. Some say the law doesn’t prevent us from being ourselves. We’re not fighting for anything. Why do we even need to talk about who we’re not fucking? We don’t need the support and legitimacy that comes with being part of the LGBT+ community.
In case it wasn’t clear, you guys, I disagree.

I grew up an asexual kid in a world where asexuality didn’t exist.
Middle school is hard enough for a shy eleven-year-old. Bigger school, new people, a different teacher every two hours. Everything changes around constantly and you have to swim hard into the current to keep your head out of the water. My childhood best friend had gone off to a different school, so I had to try and make new friends.
But suddenly, it seemed every guy around was sneering at me and every girl was only interested in getting one of the sneering boys to go out with her. Nobody wanted to play Harry Potter, talk about books or watch Disney movies anymore. No more trading Pokémon card at recess. No more tag, you’re it.
Suddenly, everything was complicated. Social interaction revolved around relationship politics, conventions I didn’t know anything about. Everyone was in on this big joke that I, for some reason, was left out of.
Teenagers are cruel, and you couldn’t just not be in on the joke. If you weren’t in, you had to be mocked, pushed around, bullied. Why don’t you have a boyfriend? Who do you like best in our class? Do you prefer Brad Pitt or George Clooney? Why don’t you wear sexier clothes? Can I give you a makeover?
I was a before picture that needed to be changed.
A lot of asexual youngsters, it seems, make up crushes and pretend to understand, in order to protect themselves. I wasn’t able to do that. So instead I settled for being the pariah, the nerdy-weirdo-witch-time to start wearing bras, what do you think, guys-teacher’s pet that everybody got together to mock and point at. I had nightmares about going to school and made myself sick in the mornings trying to convince my parents not to send me.
You know, when you leave school, every grownup around deems it vital to tell you that you’ll come to miss it one day. I walked out of this place for the last time eleven years ago and it still hurts to walk past it again.

At age twenty-three I went abroad for my master’s degree and that was a truly wonderful experience. I wouldn’t change anything about it. And yet, there were still a few nights out when my friends would go around the table sharing experiences about their first celebrity crushes, and I was quietly praying something would change the subject before they got to me. People don’t believe you when you say you don’t have a celebrity crush. “Oh, go on, then, you can tell me!”
I am telling you, though, aren’t I? It’s just that for some reason my answer is unacceptable.

Not having sexual feelings for other people is unacceptable. This gets beaten into you so relentlessly and for so long that you start to internalize it. What is wrong with me? Where are those sexual feelings? Am I feeling them and not recognizing them for what they are?
I looked at the girls there and thought “I must be straight.” Then I looked at the guys and thought “No. I’m gay.” Then it would enter my mind that, since there wasn’t a clear winner, I must be bisexual.
Back in my student bedroom, I would try to imagine sexual scenarios and that went okay. Then I would try to imagine sexual scenarios involving me and someone else, anyone else. I’d replace the supporting cast over and over like a bad TV series that can’t make up its mind. And I would cry myself to sleep, wishing I’d have someone there to cuddle and yet wishing this whole sex thing wouldn’t exist. Wishing I had lost my virginity in my teens like everyone else so it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Wishing I’d been normal.

It is not normal for a kid to be so distressed over their sexual identity. This is something that gay kids, bi kids, queer kids, often still go through nowadays. This is an LGBT+ thing. This is something I went through. Because yes, I’m queer as well.