agender

An Impossible Balancing Act

One of the frustrating things about being genderqueer (for me, anyway) is the balancing act of knowing you need to constantly remind people of your identity lest they forget and misgender you, but not wanting to make your genderqueerness your most important or defining character trait.

I struggle with this on social media particularly. I want to share all kinds of non-binary memes. I want to boost the visibility of trans people generally, and non-binary people particularly. I want the people around me both online and in real life to see non-binary representation often enough that it actually gels in their brains, so that it becomes second nature to them to think about gender as a plurality much greater than a binary, so that phrases like “both genders” are immediately, obviously *wrong* to them in the way they are to me.

I’d settle, though, for them at least remembering *my* gender.

But.

Possibly especially as a person who is agender much of the time, my (often lack of a) gender also isn’t the only or the first thing I want people to think of as defining who I am. For one thing, that’s a weird and (ideally) boring defining trait – can you imagine if we did that to binary people? “Oh, you know Mary? She’s pretty great. Yeah, she’s a woman. That’s kind of her thing.”

Just no.

The problem, though, is  that I really don’t think there’s a magic formula for the right amount of reminders that non-binary people exist and that I am one of them, for the right proportion of gender-related posts versus everything-else-I-like-and-care-about posts. On the one hand, I know there are people who will take any such reminders as too much, as harping, as being overly preachy or political. On the other hand, I know that some people will take any excuse to backslide,  to conveniently ‘forget’ my pronouns, or simply pretend they thought I’d stopped being non-binary or whatever. Any excuse to blame me for their mistakes and for the harm they cause me when they make them, really.

Those are the extremes, of course, and the people at either end of that spectrum aren’t people I am actually close to or really care about – they’ll probably self-select themselves out of my feed anyway. But everyone exists somewhere between those two poles, and I can’t please them all. I will be harmed one way or he other no matter what I do, and I hate that it is all my job to deal with and manage so much of the time.

I need people to know this my gender is vitally important, but once they’ve properly internalized that, I also need them to understand that it also really isn’t.

This is still the best distillation of this whole mess I’ve ever managed and it still doesn’t quite get the whole picture.

I guess I’ll just keep fumbling along!

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 16

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

A Love Letter to My Pre-T Body | Tragic Gender Story
Tristan shares a letter they wrote to themself two years ago, before starting to take testosterone:

Some cisgender people have assumed that my transition is about self-hate, but it’s really about self-recognition. I don’t hate you for your round face; I just don’t recognize it as my own. I don’t hate you for the pitch of your voice; I just want to hear myself when I speak and sing, not someone who sounds like a girl or a little boy to me.

30 Day Gender Queer Challenge: Prompt 2 | A3
I’ve been happy to see a bunch of other folks doing the Genderqueer Challenge! Here’s one of A3‘s posts:

How did you grow up with your gender or lack of gender?

When I was 23 I had to attend a diversity training for a job and the speaker touched upon the different genders and I remember being very, very confused, but unable to exactly pinpoint what I was confused about. It wasn’t until I started talking to other non-binary individuals that it finally dawned on me, “Wait a minute, you feel like your gender?”

What I’m doing here | The Bearded Genderqueer
The Bearded Genderqueer’s first post explores the loneliness of being transfeminine and non-binary:

When I search things like genderqueer fashion or androgyny I usually don’t see myself or anyone like me in the results…That’s part of why it took me until I was 26 to realize that I could be genderqueer and that my beard and my body didn’t exclude me from being nonbinary.

What I’ve Learned from Women Who Detransitioned | a boy and her dog
The author of a boy and her dog has some thoughts about women who have detransitioned after exploring trans male identities:

I read transition and detransition stories the way I read warning labels on medicines. I want to know the expected effects and the potential side effects. The range of experiences, good and bad. What I’ve learned, unintentionally, is to trust my judgement and go at my own pace. To listen to, but not necessarily accept, advice. To accept that I’m probably not ever (never say never) going to follow the classic binary transition route and that I’m just as trans no matter which route I take.

The Privilege of Not Existing Yet | Holding Patterns and High Tea
Selissa brings us a poem about not fitting in, and invisible/unrecognized identities:

How can I convince you I exist
When there aren’t even words for this
For me
For my life and breath

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 15

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

My Gender is Like a Rose (The Importance of Context from a Linguistic Perspective) | A³
The author of A³ explains their agender identity through the lens of language’s fundamental arbitrariness:

…why is it “wrong” when I say “I am agender”? Why do people snap judgement at me for using a word we have assigned meaning to when I feel it most accurately describes my experience? Why do people say I am “confused” and spew shameful language at me in an attempt to poke holes in my statement? Am I not like the poet and just trying to put into words, arbitrary words, my abstract feelings and experiences and shape them into a recognizable metaphor? How else am I supposed to describe the detached feelings I have with the gender binary?

The Flow of Gender Fluidity | Queer Asterisk
T talks about the process of discovering and coming out with thier genderfluid identity:

I took 12 months to let people in my life know that I’m not actually a woman and waited to see what the impact of this revelation would be. Here are some of the reactions I have heard from various peoples:

“Makes sense.”

“Are you sure?”

“I don’t know what you mean, but I know I love you.”

“This seems like it’s just another one of your phases.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just related to your body image issues?”

“That identity isn’t real to me.”

“Your pronouns are grammatically incorrect.”

“You just look too much like a woman to be trans.”

I don’t really expect non-fluid people to remotely understand that concept… it’s hard to understand from inside the flow! All I know is that my identity flows; it is a dance. It’s a dance with myself, with my environment, within relationships, and within spirit. I flow like a stream or a current of air and even I’m not sure where I will end up.

Why I’m Nonbinary But Don’t Use ‘They/Them’ | Wear Your Voice
Ashleigh Shackelford dissects her personal experience of the intersections of blackness and non-binary identity, and her decision to use she/her pronouns:

Throughout my life, I was experiencing so much of this journey called Black Girl/Womanhood while also experiencing a denial of gender conformity. This complicated internal struggle led me to a very difficult realization as I grew up and found more resources, language and tools for navigating my gender identity: I felt disconnected from the notion of seeing myself as a Black woman, yet I also felt uncomfortable saying that I didn’t identify or experience Black womanhood. So much of the trauma and violence I moved through, and resilience and power I embodied is that of Black womanhood and Black femininity. In acknowledging that, I chose to use she/her pronouns because those pronouns were not afforded to me and they are a derivative and gift of the time I spent in crafting my Black femme-ness in a world that denied me to do so. They represent the work and fight I put into my Black girlhood/womanhood within my alignment of gender expansiveness.

I’m a Trans Guy, Not a Guy: Maintaining Queerness While #datingwhiletrans | Life Writ Large
Germaine de Larch provides a perspective in which transness is an inseperable and essential part of gender identity (though, as the post states, it must be stressed that this is not the experience of all trans people):

…while them calling me ‘boyfriend’ is heart-fillingly-soaringly affirming and seeing of who I am, it is important to me that I am seen as trans, and not a man.

I am not and will never be a man. I am, and always will be, trans. And this is an important distinction.

This being seen-ness as trans and queer is essential. Because anything less would be not seeing me for who I am. It would be an erasure of me.

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 14

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

On Gender Expression, or None Gender with Left Girl | The Gay Divorcee Chronicles
The author discusses their struggles with gender boxes, dypshoria, and their identity of “Vaguely Genderqueer But Mostly Female”:

That female box may be what is most appropriate for me to check, but it really doesn’t cover it.

It’s definitely not all of me, and it makes me extremely uncomfortable to check that box. It limits me, confines me, suffocates me. When I was trying to earn money on a survey-taking site, I actually had a bit of a breakdown at one point because I was so infuriated by the fact that I HAD TO CHECK THAT DAMN BOX.

Gender Peformance | Sighs and Sprites
A genderqueer femme discusses their struggles with internalized misogyny and anti-femme bias.

I said to a friend that I feel like a drag queen sometimes, performing femininity because it makes me feel attractive and powerful, to which she pointed out that all gender is performative. That hypermasculine dudebro’s, with their utes and beer are performing masculinity to feel attractive and powerful as well.

I understood the point she was making and I agreed fully but it wasn’t shaking this icky feeling that I had inside. Like I wasn’t really genderqueer because I’m AFAB and dress femme so often. As if there were some kind of gender non-conforming checklist of criteria that I wasn’t measuring up to. I knew this was bullshit but I didn’t feel it.

Standing on the Wrong Mountain | quizzicalsloth
The concept of evolutionary “Fitness Peaks” makes a potentially useful analogy to gender transition and identity.

I feel like I’m on peak A: I’m fairly happy with myself (most of the time) but if I think about being somewhere on peak B I feel like I would be even happier. The problem I’m seeing at the moment is that to get to that point I’m going to have to go through a time where things aren’t so good.

To Justify and Identify Gender | my love, my loathe
An intensely personal exploration of gender identity, with no definitive answers (i.e. my favourite kind, really :P)

I’ve been pondering – specifically the question of gender. Does one have to pick a single identity to truly convey what they feel? Does dysphoria, or lack there of, set a person’s identity in stone? Does dissatisfaction with the social expectations of your gender truly mean anything beyond being different?

Dysphoria and how you manage it: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 5

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: Dysphoria and how you manage it

I actually wrote a bit about this not too long ago, but I didn’t really address management tactics, so here goes.

The main thing for me, in dealing with the social dysphoria that inevitably comes from being misgendered on the daily by people who just plain old don’t know any better, is constant reminders that I am not defined by how others see me. I mean, hilariously, people also tend to assume I’m straight, so given that level of obliviousness, I find it hard to be bothered when they think gender is binary also.

I find it easiest to manage social dysphoria when I my self-presentation is authentic and when I haven’t already deliberately watered down my gender ambiguity out of fear. If I’ve deliberately presented myself as binary-gendered (whatever the fuck that even means, really…), then I find it harder to shake of misgendering that occurs, because I partially blame myself, even though I know that’s not actually valid or called for. on the flip side, if I’m looking good by my own standard, and if I feel awesome about the image I’m projecting, I’m just straight-up less likely to care what other people think about what I look like, so.

As for body dysphoria, I don’t have as much experience with it. Some days I look in the mirror and am surprised at what I see. Some days I am suddenly in love with my body and some days I am shocked when my body seems gendered to me in a way I don’t want it to be. I mean, I know bodies don’t have genders, I just don’t have better words for that experience. Sometimes I look in the mirror and see a woman’s body, and I have all kinds of feelings around that. Other days, I see my body, and it is a part of me and who I am, and it is great.

I don’t have any really solid ways of dealing body dysphoria, though it is usually mercifully short-lived for me. Binding helps, but if I am in this headspace, I will really only see the ways in which binding fails to give me a distinctly masculine shape, so it definitely doesn’t get at the root of the problem, whatever that may be.

The only other thing I can do is throw myself into activities that absorb my brain, the ones that settle me into a more agender space, where I am less aware of myself as a physical being, and more just a free-floating context-free self – writing, or watching tv, or crafting can do this for me. Though I think this might actually more honestly be an “ignore it til it goes away” approach rather than an actual preventative/management measure.

So yeah, I’d love to hear others’ strategies for dealing with body dysphoria, since I don’t really have any solid ones.


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

How did you grow up with your gender? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 2

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s question: How did you grow up with your gender?

I am just going to take this as a more general prompt to think and talk about my experience of gender growing up, and how I got to where I am now!

I am honestly not sure what to say about my gender growing up. I don’t think that it makes sense to say that I have always been genderqueer, in large part because of the particular political affiliations I associate with my genderqueer identity today, that I certainly didn’t have as a child. But I very easily could have been agender then, as I often still am today.

At the risk of sounding like a total cliche: I was never a terribly girly child. I liked some “girl” things, and didn’t like others, and in my preschool years I spent most of my time playing with my little brother (we are just a year apart in age and were very close growing up) playing with a mixture of toys, from My Little Pony and Barbie, to just plain stuffies or Mighty Max or whatever else.

Most of my friends growing up were girls. All of the close ones were, actually. I mean, all the kids in the neighbourhood (and we had a *lot* actually, in retrospect) played together pretty regularly, but the friends I would call on every day and walk to school with were girls. I didn’t think about it much, and I don’t put a lot of meaning on it besides probably minor social pressure, expectations and norms, but it seems worth mentioning.

Mostly, we just played board games together. And cards. And sometimes vast epic imagination games, where the entire neighbourhood transformed into a strange abandoned, haunted amusement park we couldn’t escape or some such. It wasn’t as if we were somehow doing significantly different things than the neighbourhood boys (or at least, I don’t think so, anyway?).

I never had a strong sense of identification as girl, and I definitely never wished to not be one either. I sort of just accepted that I was one, because I had been told as much and it didn’t seem distinctly wrong or whatever. My parents love to tell the story of my second birthday, where I tried to give all of my presents to my little brother, one by one, until I opened up some clothes that were pink, and immediately declared that they were mine. Pink wasn’t my favourite colour at the time (or ever, really: I went with the safe alternative of purple through most of my childhood – mildly non-conformist without being too out there, y’see. Even at that age, I was making that kid of calculation though). I had just clearly noticed that everything pink in the house belonged to me. (My mother, though distinctly feminine, also deliberately avoided being over-the-top girly and is not much into pink herself, so it would have really just been me).

I also never had to deal with much along the lines of gender policing growing up, which may be part of why I didn’t think too much about this stuff at the time. Although my parents (er, my father really, mostly) subscribe to some weirdly outdated gender stuff, and there was one memorable occasion as a teenager when my dad tried to shame my brother because, when we’d accidentally locked ourselves out of the house and I’d climbed in through the bedroom window to let him back in, he hadn’t insisted that he be the one to do the dangerous work of climbing on the roof – despite me being (at the time…) taller and more flexible, and the fact that it was my bedroom window that was open, by the way – white knight bullshit, basically, which both of us pushed back at him for, anyway.

I have only worn make-up on a literal handful of occasions in my life. When I was in junior high school, I kind of wanted to, since it was a rite of passage my peers were going through, but house rules said I wasn’t allowed until I was 16, and I was too rule-abiding back then to even think about hiding make-up from them. And by the time I turned 16, I was a junior in high school with an established identity and friend group and make-up wasn’t a priority any more, so that backfired on them I guess.

More to the point, though, the times I tried make-up (once while on vacation with a friend and her family, another time at a sleepover or whatever, once as an adult for being on tv, etc) it has been a weirdly disconcerting experience. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. It made me uncomfortable in a really distinct way. I kind of hated it, for no real reason.

Which, it’s weird to include this kind of stuff when talking about gender, because obviously “likes to wear make-up” isn’t just something women feel, or whatever. It’s certainly not part of some magic formula for determining gender (pro tip: the only magic formula for determining gender is to ask a person, even if that person is yourself <3). But for some reason it still feels like a relevant component of my personal gender experience and my sense of myself as a non-binary person.

So, I've lost track of where this post was headed, but I think that's because it was never really headed anywhere. I think I've always had a weird vague, undetermined sense of myself as a gendered human, because the idea of having a gender mostly doesn't make sense for me. Most of the time. And that's actually been pretty consistent throughout my life. So I guess that's a thing?


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

March 2016 Carnival of Aces Roundup

Here is the roundup of posts for this month’s Carnival of Aces, on the topic of gender norms and asexuality! I loved being the host this month, and I have enjoyed reading all of your submissions so much; there has been much squeeing with joy, so thank you all who contributed! Without further ado, here are this month’s submissions, in the order I received them:

Passive vs. Active Femininity: Does Asexuality Affect It? | the notes which do not fit
Sara examines the ways in which her femininity is often the result of passive conformity to female norms rather than an active gender expression, and considers whether her approach to femme-ness is related to her asexuality.

(a)Gender and (a)Sexuality: Chickens and Eggs | darkmetineknight
Maris considers the ways in which kyr dysphoria contributes to kyr sex-repulsion, and vice versa, and the way these things feed back into kyr agender and asexual identity, concluding that they are so deeply related they can’t possibly be pulled apart.

Female Stereotypes and Asexuality | aroacelennie
Lennie writes about how, despite their agender identity, other people often try to frame the aro and ace aspects of their identity through common female archetypes.

When Dudes Talk Gender & Asexuality | The Ace Theist
Coyote unpacks some of the oversimplifications and other problems with the ways some asexual guys talk about the tensions between their gender and their asexuality.

Gender and Asexuality | quizzicalsloth
Amber explores potential explanations for asexual people’s tendency to not feel a strong connection to binary genders, from a personal perspective, and considers how gender plays a role in their experiences of platonic and aesthetic attractions, and relationships.

Do gender roles serve any purpose for asexuals? | It’s An Ace Thing
Dee questions the purposes gender norms serve, and concludes that many gender norms simply don’t serve asexual people.

Genderqueer and demisexual: two sides of the same coin for me | Valprehension
I wrote about the ways in which my genderqueerness and my demisexuality are inextricably tangled up with each other, and fundamental to my overall identity and sense of self.

Sexism at work | A3
The author of A3 relates their experiences of sexism (and heterosexism) in the workplace, as an agender aro ace who is not out about those aspects of their identity, and who is perceived as a woman.

Gender, Or Why I’m Glad I’m Aro/Ace | Grey Is My Favourite Colour
Mara explains why they’re glad to be aro/ace, because of the potential complications of parsing gendered attractions (and sexual/romantic orientations) as a non-binary person.

The Healer Role | Prismatic Entanglements
Elizabeth considers her tendency to take on healer roles in video games, and considers how this role relates to her identity as a cisgender woman, and the ways in which this tendency is reflected (and not) in her asexual activism.

By nature of being asexual, I’m defying gender norms | From Fandom to Family
luvtheheaven unpacks some of the interactions between gender norms, (especially heteronormativity) and asexuality, and how those norms can make it difficult to come to an asexual identity, and even more difficult to get others to understand it.

Gender Norms and Asexuality | Aro Ace Gin
Gin considers the ways in which her asexuality has impacted her relationship to her gender as a cis woman.

Asexual E-Dating Diaries #1 | la pamplemouse
The author of la pamplemouse talks about her early attempts at online dating as an asexual cis woman.

Non-Binary Gender Norms and (A)Sexuality: Yeah, No | Queer As Cat
Vesper talks about why they just don’t see any connection between gender norms and sexuality for them, given that there are no gender norms that apply to their gender (maverique) in the first place, and much more!

On Gender and Asexuality | conasultingamadman
Bonnie explains how embracing her asexuality helped her understand her relationship to both femininity and androgyny, describes her journey toward a panromantic identity, and considers her feelings around others’ perceptions of her as a cis het white girl.

My Gender Aesthetics are All Kinds of Ace | The City of Cuova
S. Knaus unpacks the ways in which their asexuality has freed them up to explore their personal gender aesthetics without regard for whether they are attractive to others, and many other things.

Asexuality and Gender Presentation | [A] Life of Experiences
Jeremy writes about his experience in trying to subtly play with his gender presentation, how his asexual identity helped him find the confidence to do so, and both his struggles and enjoyment in pushing back against being seen as just another straight dude.

Obscure lines: agender and asexual comes together | golden weasel
golden weasel writes about the ways in which their agender-ness and asexuality are inter-related.

What Are You? A Question of Mixed Race, Gender, And Asexuality | Halfthoughts
The author of Halfthoughts explores the relationships and parallels among their Hapa/mixed race, asexual, and non-binary identities.

Gender in Space | Becoming a Person
elainexe explores her general lack of any strong gender identity, and her attempts to understand what gender is, linking some of her observations back to her asexuality.

No | Aros and Aces
Roses considers a wade range of influences – from Purity Culture to Megan Trainor – on their developing identity, and the ways in which coing to an aro ace agender identity has freed them from a lot of the baggage they were handed growing up.