A Boy Named Me

A Boy Named Me

Wotcher!

Yup, definitely like this “wotcher” thing. I think I’ll keep it for now. For anyone interested, this is a British colloquial greeting, originating from the South of England – London, mainly – and derived from the phrase “What are you up to?”.
What are you up to?
What ya up to?
Watcha up to?
Wotcher up to?
Wotcher!
And since I am genuinely interested in hearing from you and wotcher up to, it’s quite fitting.
Another reason I now officially love this is that when you type “wotcher” into Google, this blog comes up fourth in line! Ain’t that great, guv’?

Anyhoo – quite like “anyhoo” as well, but we are not getting into that right now or we’ll be here all day.
Today, class, we are going to talk about gender identity. Mine. Yeah, I know, narcissistic much. Hopefully, though, some of my experiences might resonate with some of yours, and that’s just how we create bonds and validation and awareness and all that good stuff.

Now it is not as easy for me to confidently speak up about gender as it is to speak up about, say asexuality. That’s because to some extent, I am still a bit confused about my own gender identity. And I do not wish to convey the misconception that genderqueer people are confused. Just as I don’t want to convey the misconception that asexual people are depressed. It just so happens that I am a mildly confused genderqueer person and an asexual on antidepressants. Coincidental.

Actually, you know what? Scratch that. It’s probably not that coincidental. After all it can be pretty confusing to be genderqueer in a boys v girls, blue v pink, penis v vagina world. After all it can be pretty depressing to be asexual in a half-naked-models-on-every-poster, sex-is-what-makes-us-human world.
Notice how people can flip it around on you? “You’re depressed because of this asexuality nonsense.” “You’re confused because of this genderqueer nonsense.” Well no, actually I’m confused and depressed because of you. You, person who dismisses my experiences as nonsense.

All this raises barriers, both internal and external, that make it harder, but also more important, to talk about these things. I have wanted to discuss gender identity for a long time, so… deep breath… here we go.

I’m a gamer.
This means I go online and play with other people who don’t know my gender or my sex or my hair colour. But while people online would never think of asking “hey, by the way, what’s your hair colour”, the other day, my questing partner – a real nice dude, don’t get me wrong – said this:
“So hey, not to be rude or anything… You’re playing a girl, but are you a girl in real life?”
“There it is,” I said, turning to my partner.
And there it was. Your sex/gender is, for many people, a very important part of how they will think about you. They feel like they need to know this in order to comprehend you as a person. Never would my questing dude have asked me “so you play a Khajiit, but are you a big-ass talking cat in real life?”

jzargo
Unlikely.

Here’s another example. Discussing Pink Floyd with a family member, I happen to mention my friend Sam, who loves the Floyd. Sam has an ambivalent name by design. They are agender. Sample dialogue:
“My friend Sam is a huge Pink Floyd fan.”
“Who’s Sam?”
“An online friend, from the forums.”
“Is it Sam-boy or Sam-girl?”
“Uhh,” I say. “Neither. Both. They’re somewhat transgender.”
They’re not transgender, though, that’s not the word Sam would use. But I decide to use it because there is no way in all hell that my interlocutor will have any kind of clue what agender means.
“But do they look like a boy or a girl?”

giphy

This is how important gender is to people. So when you don’t fit into one of these two categories, or when people keep putting you in the wrong one, it can hurt. And when you’re not sure where you fit in all of this, or if indeed you fit at all, it can be confusing.

There are a few things you might want to consider if you’re wondering whether or not you are transgender, genderqueer, or otherwise not cis. Some of which, tested by yours truly…

1. If you’re even asking the question, the answer is probably yes.

It is rather uncommon for cis people to obsess about their gender identity. It happens. Anything can happen. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if your instinct is all like “dude, what’s up with my gender?” then there’s likely to be something up with your gender, dude.

2. Gender dysphoria.

There are two major kinds of dysphoria – that I know of – and I’d like to share my personal experiences with both of them, if you have time to kill before the next train or are looking for a procrastinating opportunity.

Body dysphoria is the negative feeling that comes from a dissonance between your outwardly appearance and your inner self.
As a teenager, I was dysphoric about my breasts, which developed annoyingly early and were annoyingly prominent. And so I would stand in front of my bedroom mirror, with my back half turned to it and my breasts tucked away, hidden. I would wear baggy t-shirts and thick sweaters over flattening bras. I would walk with my shoulders in and my back slightly bent. I did this to forget for a few minutes that these things were there, making me a girl, categorizing me.

Social dysphoria is the negative feeling that comes from a dissonance between how the world perceives you and your inner self.
It’s the little double-take I have every time a vendor calls me. “Ma’am, can I help you with anything?” Who, me?
It’s the boiling anger when a family member refers to me as a “female Keith Richards” or “Keith Richardette”. Why female? Why can’t I just be Keith Richards, damn it! No, I’m not dressed as a girl version of Oliver Twist. I’m dressed as Oliver Twist!

It might seem trivial, but some people will feel like shit for a month after one of these things happens to them. Thankfully, for me, those are only little things. I can brush them off fairly easily.
On the flip side, my lack of severe dysphoria has made me question the validity of my genderqueerness. It has caused me to ask myself the stupid question that plagues a whole lot of queer people out there: am I queer enough?
After all, any strong dysphoric feelings I had as a teen have receded. Maybe it was just a phase. After all, I don’t really feel like a man either. Maybe I’m just a woman by default. After all, I don’t want to transition. Maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel special. After all, after all, after all, maybe not, maybe not, maybe not.

3. Gender euphoria.

dscn1228Then there is the less known, less talked about opposite of gender dysphoria. Which is a shame, because it’s so much nicer. It is a feeling of rightness in the relation between your mind, your body and the way the world perceives you.
I get it when my friend Anna calls me “dude!”
I get it when my clothes reflect the way I feel inside particularly well.
I get it when my brother tells me that he never really thinks of me as a girl. I’m just “Gwen”.
I get it when my partner looks at me and says “Huh. You look kinda androgynous with your hair like that.”
You get it.

These are small things but each of them is a tiny hint, a fuzzy, heart-warming little reminder that yes, this is who I am, this is what I’m comfortable with.

4. There is no wrong age to know.

Even as a kid I knew something was amiss. It started early on and became noticeable in junior high, when a girl becomes a miss and a guy becomes a mister. Then one sunny Spring weekend, my thirteen-year-old self tentatively voiced it.
“Ugh, I wish my breasts would just go away,” I said, or something in French to that effect.
And the grownup, the authority figure in the room, replied:
“Well that’s because you’re still thinking you could have been a boy. It’ll pass.”
I remember being deeply upset by that response. Even then. Even when I didn’t understand exactly why I was upset. All I knew was that I felt angry and offended, sad and dismissed, and for some reason I still can’t quite put my finger on, ashamed.

There is no shame to be had. This is who you are and it’s not a joke unless you want it to be. It’s not unimportant unless you want it to be.

This is who I am.

I am gender ambivalent. Genderfluid. Androgynous. My body is a girl but my mind is kind of a dude. And a girl. And both. You can call me “he” or “she”, and if you enjoy a bit of grammatical fun, why not try a mixture of both?

I am genderqueer. Hear me roar.

PENTAX Image

In keeping with the great Internet tradition of offering starchy vegetables in compensation for reading through a very long post, here.

Have a potato.

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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.