One more piece of the puzzle…

[TW: this post talks about my relationship with my abuser, and his behaviours within it; coercion and vaguely sexual grossness are discussed]

I’m honestly surprised that this has come up again in my brain, but here we are. It’s been a long time since I’ve had particularly negative emotional/traumatized reactions to thinking about my past abusive relationship (which ended nearly a decade ago now), but I’m apparently still finding new pieces that help hang the narrative together.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing about this newest mini-revelation here, other that the fact that processing the ongoing impact of this abuse, and documenting my process of recovery/rebuilding my own narrative around it this has always been one of the functions of this blog for me. I hope these sorts of posts are useful to others, too.

A quick (trigger-filled; approach with care – posts with explicit content have content notes about that at the top) reading list of the times I’ve written about this in the past, if you need to be caught up on the context here:

Early, mostly abstract/general thoughts, coming to understand that I did in fact experience abuse, and that it wasn’t my fault:
Things I have Trouble Reconciling/
The ‘asking for it” narrative

Understanding that my brain was messed up by my experiences:
“Abuse-logic”
Abuse-logic and memory
Writing about abuse, thinking about abuse

Getting to the meat of it: in which I discuss my experiences in more specifics:
In which I talk about my personal experiences of sexual coercion
The things I did while in an abusive relationship (but no, really ,what the fuck was that even?)
Why does my brain do this? the difficulty of recognizing first-person experiences of abuse and mental illness

And most recently, in a similar(ish) vein from this post:
Every now and then, something new shakes loose

…ok, no wait, also this one. Which I apparently failed to tag as “abuse”, but was the one I was specifically looking for as relevant to what I have to say today:
“Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power”… except when it really is just about sex

This post is a partial rebuttal, or at least a re-contextualization of the above.

The thing is, my abusive ex’s bullying of me wasn’t limited to sex (it never really is, is it?) Today I just want to tell an illustrative story and talk through some of the implications that I found myself wondering about last night, for no apparent reason.

So, I saw the first Saw movie when it was in theatres. I think this was before I was dating the abusive ex, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m not going to look up the release dates of the movies in this series to figure out exactly which ones happened when, because it doesn’t really matter, and I don’t care to refresh my memory of which one is which.

There are… a lot of things I could say about this series as a whole, but my main point right now is, watching those movies is an intensely unpleasant experience. Of course, it’s supposed to be! this is not me criticizing the movies, at least not on that front. i just, after seeing the first one, I had no desire to watch the sequels. Not for me!

But my ex, he wanted to watch the sequels. Oh boy, did he. And he most definitely very specificially wanted to watch them with me. Because that’s what you do when you love someone, right? You do things together?

I can’t remember which one was in theatres at the time of this story, but it was the third or fourth one? In an any case, there was at least one that I had missed seeing in theatres, that I was going to have to catch up on in time for the latest theatrical one.

I didn’t want to, though. And I was definitely clear about that. And I was clear about why (see above), and even that it wasn’t that I thought they were bad. I just didn’t want to watch those movies.

Ok, obviously this story ends with me watching more of those movies. Because other people’s explicit boundaries are just challenges to be overcome, right?

But it’s somehow *even worse* than that?

So yeah. We argued. For literal hours. Eventually I caved, because watching the damn movie would be less painful than continuing that fucking conversation. And then we were in a position of getting ready to watch a movie that I knew was going to be emotionally harrowing when I was already extremely emotionally raw and worn out. Fun date night, y’all!

On our way from the movie rental place to his place, where we would be watching the movie, he… made it clear that he wanted us to be naked while we watched the movie?

Like, I think we literally just came out with “we should get naked”. I don’t anymore how this Maybe he said this once we were actually there and settling on to the couch? That would make slightly more sense to me, though it was a still a strange thing for him to say (like, even for him).

We often did watch things together naked, because we were watching them in bed or whatever, but it was extremely strange for him to explicitly request nudity when he wasn’t immediately gunning for sex – I literally can’t think of another time that happened.

It’s… telling? to me, then, that this is the time this request happened. I was not inclined to comply, for the record – the aforementioned emotional rawness and my anticipated discomfort with the movie itself meant my defenses were very much up.

But I was also too worn out to put up much more than a momentary resistance. We watched the movie naked.

I… don’t even know what else to say about this. What the fuck was any of that? Is there any reasonable explanation for his motivations here other than, “obviously he took a sadistic pleasure in making me as vulnerable as possible?”

I’m really sure he wouldn’t have seen it that way. He would framed it in terms of wanting “intimacy” of course. I no longer no whether he believed his own shit or not, though, really.

I know he was selfish. I still can’t explain the rest of it, not really. But more and more, it’s hard to deny that he engaged in very real manipulative power plays and grooming tactics, that his campaigns to violate my boundaries went well beyond what could possibly be written off as him not understanding what we was doing. The weird clairvoyance of demanding nudity, on top of having already (verbally) beaten me into submission that day just, doesn’t fit into any part of any narrative that excuses his behaviours in any way.

It’s, yeah.

A lot of fucked up shit got done to my brain in that relationship. And it definitely wasn’t just accidental. I don’t know why I’ve held on to the idea that it at least kinda was, for so long, through so many other revelations and acceptances.

Blech.

Questions from the search terms: “femme women using they them”

I’m back with another question from the search terms! Today:

“femme women using they them”

I’m going to approach this one from two different interpretations:

  1. the generous interpretation: the asker is wondering about people they know who actively identify as both women and femmes who also use they/them pronouns.
  2. the (sadly) more likely interpretation: the asker is wondering about people they perceive as women, who have femme presentations, and who also use they/them pronouns.

1.

So, what’s the deal with femme women who use they pronouns? I don’t know, really, it would be ask to ask them about it. But if you’re wondering whether it’s ok for them to use they pronouns, then yes, absolutely that’s fine!

Women of all kinds have different feelings about the various forms of woman-gendered language. Some women hate being called ladies, and they get to feel that way about it. Other women love it, and that’s great, too. Most women are good with being called ‘she’, but maybe some aren’t, and prefer to use ‘they’ or a neutral neo-pronoun. Or maybe some prefer to keep their gender under wraps in certain contexts, and use ‘they’ in those contexts.

I’ve written before about how ‘they’ as a pronoun is simply a way of referring to someone without gendering them at all, and there’s nothing wrong with someone preferring not to have their gender brought up every time they’re being referred to. Using ‘they’ pronouns is one way to reduce that frequency, and if it works for some women (femme or not! Femme-ness or lack thereof is completely irrelevant here, to be clear!) then that’s just fine.

2.

It’s also possible that the ‘femme woman’ you know who uses they pronouns isn’t a femme woman at all!

Maybe they’re a femme non-binary person that you perceive as a woman. Non-binary people aren’t obligated to be ‘androgynous’ or vaguely masculine, and many of us like to femme it up some or all of the time.

Maybe they identify as a woman sometimes, but not strongly enough or often enough to go by ‘she’.

Maybe they told you they’re a woman because that’s what they were most comfortable explaining to you, but honestly it doesn’t matter. They’ve apparently also told you they use they pronouns, so go ahead and do that. You won’t hurt anyone if you do.

Babies, and “finding out their gender”

So, pretty much everyone knows I’m pregnant by now. I’m not great at telling everyone at work, but the word is definitely spreading on its own – people I work with occasionally from other locations often know before I tell them, and the library CEO recently thanked me for the surprisingly convenient timing of my pregnancy in terms of the library system’s bigger projects XD .

Inevitably, people want to know whether I’m going to “find out the gender” ahead of time. Whenever people ask me this, I am tempted to give them one of these:

Because, like, come on! You are literally talking to a trans person *right now*. Do you even hear yourself? Usually I will just correct them to remind them that only thing I can find out at the point is the (probable) sex – really, all you can learn from an ultrasound is whether or not the fetus appears to have a penis, which isn’t really as conclusive of anything as we like to pretend it is.

Personally, I don’t really care whether I find out the baby’s apparent sex from an ultrasound or when they’re born. It’s kind of all the same to me. My partner made a very good point, however, which has made us decide to wait to find out.

The thing is, if we learn the sex early, other people will want us to tell them what it is. And they’ll use the info to start gendering the baby immediately. And we’d like to put that off as long as reasonably possible. So, we won’t be learning the fetus’ apparent sex from my ultrasound on the 22nd (tomorrow!)

My general approach/attitude to my upcoming baby’s gender is the same as what I had planned before I got pregnant. In short: I know that I won’t know the baby’s gender until they are able to tell me what it is; however, for practical purposes I plan to use the pronouns the are traditionally applied to the baby’s apparent sex at birth (if they’re intersex, then I’ll go with they/them), while generally avoiding other forms of gendered language for them.

Worn out

I’ve been feeling really worn down for… at least a couple of months now, if i’m honest with myself. I keep telling myself I’m just on the edge of being worn down, but that’s just silly. I’ve been here before, and I should know better.

The job I have right now (mercifully, it’s only temporary anyway) is definitely too much for me in some ways. It’s been a good experience, and great for my career, but some of the things that make up a large part of my day-to-day work right now are draining everything I have. I haven’t had the wherewithal to really maintain a good social life since the fall, and it’s definitely gotten worse lately.

A big part of what I’m doing right now at work is outreach to local schools. This is a great awesome thing that we do at the library; it lets us promote our services and programs directly to kids and teachers, and we also bring in resources that the kids don’t get access to at their schools. I also… dislike pretty much everything about it?

Classic school outreach, I like, actually. Going out to spend an hour or so with one or two classes on a specific topic is fun, and not that different from the regular programs I run (which I still love!) It breaks up my week and often means I get a bit of a walk in on the clock, which is nice.

What I’m doing right now is a larger initiative we call the “Maker Experience”. It’s a full-day affair, and it involves two library employees. We set up a bunch of different gadgets and gear in the school library and spend the day giving different iterations of the same talk to different groups of kids, before giving them some time to play with and explore some of our stuff. Sometimes the school doesn’t even bother to build in time for us to regroup in between sessions.

The kids always have fun, and the teachers are generally very pleased with the whole thing, but I’m honestly not actually that excited about the content or convinced it adds much value to their day. But that’s not even the hardest part for me.

Although this project has picked up a lot of its own momentum, and I’m not cold-calling teacher librarians to try to get them interested (they pretty much all come to me, at a rate that’s hard for me to manage as is), I do spend a lot of time liaising with strangers, (and spending my days in unfamiliar spaces). Trying to organize a date that works for the school and that the library can handle being down two employees for the full day is tough. Even tougher is that I’m spearheading this outreach for my area, to three different branches, and have to reach out to the appropriate managers as and when.

I’m usually training new support people each time, in part because we want to get as many people as possible trained in this outreach as we can – at some point, it won’t be necessary for me to be along on all of these visits, or that’s the goal anyway.

All of this is on top of the regular programs and in-branch duties I’m used to handling, by the way.

It’s… a lot, is what I’m saying.

Add to this that the one real symptom of pregnancy that I’m having is a need for more sleep than usual. But my schedule doesn’t have the wiggle room for me to get more sleep than I already get, so it’s been tough going. I’m on a sleep deficit most of the week, and desperately try to make it up on the weekends (and I alternate between one- and three-day weekends, so this can be really tough on my six-day work weeks).

So, my non-work life is suffering. I messed up and double-booked social things this week, and wound up flaking on something really important. And then I realized it’s the third or fourth social thing I’ve flaked on in this month alone. I literally don’t have the wherewithal right now to stay on top of my work stuff (which I miraculously do seem to be on top of, somehow!) and the rest of my life. Throw in all the extra doctor stuff, and the fact that I’m moving at the end of the month, and I really should have known better than to agree to do things this month, to be honest… Sorry friends, I really do love you all, but I have to interact with far too many people as it is these days.

It’s not going to be forever though. This position is only mine until mid-to-late July (though I suspect they’ll keep me on a little extra time, and not bother to transition me to my new permanent position right away, since by then my pregnancy leave will be imminent), and school outreach won’t be happening past the end of June in any case.

Better yet, we’re moving closer to where I work next month. What’s been a 2-hour transit commute each way for the last few years will become a 40-minute walk (or 15 minutes on transit plus a 15 minute walk, depending on how I feel). I’ll have time for that extra sleep soon!

In the meantime, I’m already counting down the days to my parental leave. It’s just five more months, and when I get back I’ll have already started accumulating honest-to-goodness paid vacation days, so I will hopefully never have to get this run-down again.

Oh yeah, did I mention I’ve been working full-time for 18 months now with no real access to vacation (contract work is just so fun!)? Because that’s probably a big part of this whole thing. Thank goodness the precarity has an expiration date.

I can do this.

Blogging (and life) updates: HALF A DECADE!?!?

Whoa. I actually let this milestone pass me right by last month (January was one hell of a busy month for me at work, with more than double my usual load of children’s programming, plus I presented at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference at the end of the month!), but yeah, I’ve been keeping up with this blog thing for a full five years now!

How’d that even happen? Where did the time go? How do I keep finding things to say? (I’m closing in on my 400th posts now, though it may take me while to actually get there, since I don’t post quite as regularly as I once did…)

Anyway, congratulations to me, and happy birthday to Valprehension! YAY!

I’d already decided how I was going to ‘reward’ myself if I made it this far. I’m planning to start up a new semi-regular feature where I bring attention back to something from the archives that I think sill holds it’s own, and deserves to be seen by my newer readers. Maybe once a month? But I’ll try to make sure it’s not the only thing I’m doing here, so if I fall off of writing new stuff, I’ll take a break from spotlighting old posts, too.

So much thanks to all my readers, new and old :)

Here’s to five more years!

Questions from the search terms: “What to put in a dating bio as someone non-binary?”

It’s time for another question from the search terms! Today I bring you:

What to put in a dating bio as someone non-binary?

Online dating as a non-binary person is definitely a tricky one, and there’s a few different choices you have to make around it. There’s also no wrong answers, so it really depends on your particular preferences and comfort levels, but here are the things you’re going to want to consider:

Most (actually all, as far as I know?) online dating sites and apps require you to sort yourself into one binary gender

Unfortunate, but true. Even options like OKCupid, which has a wide variety of gender identity options beyond man and woman, only lets its users filter for either men or women (or both!), and so they ultimately make non-binary people decide whether we want to be shown to people looking for men or for women (and both is not an option on this end of things…).

So, what’s a non-binary person to do?

I think there’s two main things to consider here:

  1. What are you most comfortable with? If you must be lumped into one binary gender, is there one you feel more ok with being lumped into? For instance, if you are distinctly transmasculine or a demiboy, you might be more comfortable being grouped in with men (or not! Again, there’s no wrong answers here. It’s about what makes you feel least weird or icky, really.)But maybe both options feel equally uncomfortable/comfortable (or maybe it depends on the day? In that case, definitely choose a site that will allow you to change your gender as needed! But I digress…) If both options feel essentially the same to you, you’ll want to ask yourself:
  2. Which option will cause you to be seen by the best potential matches? Online dating is a numbers game, and people get matched up algorithmically. In general, being up-front and honest is the best way to find people who are actually interested in people like you, but stuck between two inaccurate choices, it’s reasonable to pick the one that’ll yield the best results for you. So consider whether someone who is looking for men or for women will be more likely to click through to your profile based on the summary/profile picture when browsing. Or, consider whether the people most likely to click through in each case are more likely to be the kinds of people you *want* clicking on your profile – maybe you know that you tend to get more interest from people who are into women, but you’re more interested in connections from people who will dig you for more manly qualities? Then put yourself in with men and let the chips fall where they may!

OK, but how do I let people know that I’m non-binary?

Some sites do actually let you set your gender as non-binary (or as more specific identities under the non-binary umbrella), and that can be helpful, but you should also be aware that most people browsing the site will gloss over that part of your profile, and may (somewhat reasonably) assume that you ar the gender they clicked on as “searching for”, given that that’s what they asked for.

Unfortunately there’s no way to make sure the people messaging you notice that you’re non-binary, or prevent yourself from getting misgendered. A lot of people take a scattershot approach to online dating and will just fire off the same opening message to anyone the algorithm sends their way without even looking at their profile. More and more dating apps are setting up barriers to this method, requiring mutual ‘likes’ before messages can be sent, but still the scattershot-rangers just go around liking everyone and sending out their form messages as soon as they get a notification of a mutual like.

But, if you’re like me, you can choose to see this as a bit of an advantage. As a non-binary person it will be even easier for you to immediately identify the people who didn’t even give your profile a cursory glance, and avoid wasting your time on them!

The last time I had a dating profile (before I broke up with OKC for good this time, after the insultingly condescending way they tried to phase out usernames (yes, I realize they walked back the policy almost immediately, and you literally can just use any username as your ‘name’, but it was a nail in the coffin for on top of my other ongoing complaints), but I digress again…) I was very upfront about both being non-binary, and that I had no patience with being misgendered.

I’m not on dating sites to do gender 101 with random strangers who just want to get into my pants. I do that work here (and I actually used to link to this blog from my profile, so if anyone was actually genuinley interested in my thoughts on gender, they were right at their fingertips!). I don’t have the exact wording anymore, but if I was writing my “I’m non-binary” disclaimer today, it would be:

In case you missed it at the top of my profile (who reads those anyway?), I am a non-binary person. My pronuons are they/them/their. I don’t date straight people (#sorrynotsorry). I also have a zero tolerance policy on being misgendered by potential dates (that kind of intimacy requires a higher standard than just a rando on the street!), so consider yourself warned!

I try to find a balance between being setting a very clear boundary, while maintaining a conversational/pleasant tone. It’s… hard, and there are people who will automatically read anything you have to say about being non-binary as confrontational or as you being difficult, but if you’re like me, you will also see this as an advantage – these folks will either show themselves the door, or show you their asses immediately, avoiding wasting too much of your time!

Just be direct and honest. You don’t need to write an essay on your genderfeels (though you can if you want! Some people are into that!), and you can gauge your own level of aggressiveness in setting any boundaries you have around being misgendered (or whether you want to date straight people! I know some non-binary people do!), but if it’s important to you that people know youre non-binary before you go on a date with them, just put it out there.

And good luck!

Big news! This weird little genderqueer blogger is pregnant! (FINALLY!)

[CN: pregnancy, and pregnancy-related worries]

Folks! At long last I got myself knocked up!

My partner and I weren’t even actually trying yet – we would have started probably in the summer or fall this year, but I found out just a few days before Xmas that I’m pregnant!

As of today, I’m at 12 weeks, and I just today had my second ultrasound. All looks good so far!

Early stage pregnancy is a really weird thing for me. I actually have very few pregnancy symptoms at all. I need a little more sleep more than usual these days, and my digestion’s been… wonky, but not in any really notable ways. There’s been zero morning sickness for me.

I’ve also been a little achier than usual some days, but it’s the winter and the weather here in Toronto has been changing wildly – we’ll swing from a pleasant-for-January 10C back to -15C and back up again over the course of a week. Plus I’m in my 30s now anyway, so aches just happen to me now sometimes.

I don’t really *feel* pregnant at all, most days, even now. So I actually have trouble sustaining the belief that I still *am* pregnant, week by week. Although I’m out of the woods in terms of highest risk for miscarriage now, I spent a lot of the last 12 weeks (er, I guess 7 weeks, since I was about 5 weeks along before I even found out about it!) silently at least 50% sure all the time that my fetus had already died inside me. There was a brief reprieve after my first ultrasound at 7-and-a-bit weeks, when I saw that there was definitely a little bean in there and it even had a beating heart and all. But that only lasted for a week or so before I was like, “well anything could have happened since then.”

It doesn’t help that when I google up signs that a fetus has died, it mostly boils down to “you stop feeling pregnant.” I don’t feel pregnant in the first place, so…..?

I’m not actually panicking about it or anything, for the record. And I’m mostly just living my life assuming that all is well and I’m still pregnant all the time.  But darn if it wasn’t nice to have confirmation this morning. My fetus is alive and has a normal heartbeat and is generally baby-shaped, and is a little ahead of schedule for size, even! And I’ll be seeing my obstetrician next week, so I’ll get to hear the heartbeat again then, and I don’t know, maybe I’ll start having actual symptoms someday soon?

In the meantime, YAY Y’ALL!

I’m due to have a baby in August :)