coming out

Am I a private person? I can’t even tell anymore

[This post is for the December 2016 Carnival of Aces, hosted by the A³ blog, on the topic of “Asexuality and Privacy“]

I have a… very strange and contradictory relationship to my personal privacy. On the one hand, I have been blogging pretty regularly, for almost four years now(!), about all kinds of extremely ‘private’ thoughts and feelings, around my gender, sexuality, and all kinds of other things.

I have also been systematically pulling my blogging persona and my general IRL persona closer together as the years have passed. When I started Valprehension, ‘Kasey’ was a pseudonym, but now it’s my legal name. I post links to my professional writing here sometimes, so y’all pretty much know where I work now. I haven’t explicitly linked anything in my professional persona back to here, but anyone who cared enough to do some digging would find this blog pretty easily.

On the other hand, I have always been weird about discussing my personal life with anyone but my closest friends. I’m queer, and non-monogamous; I am non-binary and have a non-binary partner; I am on the asexual spectrum. I don’t hide any of these things, but I also often just avoid topics directly or indirectly related to them because I just don’t feel like getting into these things. Back at my old retail job, even after I’d been there for over a year – and at the time I wore a wedding ring every day, for the record – people were still regularly surprised when they realized I was married. I just never really mentioned my spouse, because… um, it didn’t come up?

I think that in general, I want people  to know these things about me, but I don’t want to deal with their immediate reactions to them. This is why I find it easier to be open in online contexts than in-person ones, regardless of whether the people I am interacting with know me in real life.

…Or, maybe not ‘regardless’. I am always a little bit reluctant to connect with work colleagues on facebook, for instance, though I’d be hard-pressed to really articulate why. I think I just fear the moment-of-truth transition where people go from not knowing to knowing this sort of potentially relationship-complicating stuff about me, even though I’m happier once it’s over with, generally.

My ace-spectrum status in particular is one that most people are unlikely to ever know about me. Basically unless you read this blog, it’s not likely something that’s going to come up. In part this is because my relationship status pretty heavily obscures and misdirects people from even the possibility that I am ace (largely because of misconceptions about asexuality), and makes it even more unlikely that it will come up.

I can see it coming up if someone were curious about my dating habits as a non-monogamous human (since, as I’ve written about here, here, and here, my demisexuality is highly relevant in that context), but at the same time I prefer to do my coming-out about things implicitly, rather than by explicitly stating my identities: my queerness can be outed by the pronouns (and other gender-marked words) I use for partners (at least, when I’m dating people whose pronouns aren’t the ones that make people assume I’m straight); people may realize I’m non-monogamous if, for instance, they notice that I sometimes refer to a spouse, and sometimes to a boyfriend, or if they realize over time that the things I say about “my partner” at various times can’t possibly always be referring to the same person, etc.

I don’t think there’s any instances where me just talking about my day-to-day life would tip my hand about being demisexual, though, so ultimately this aspect of my identity is more private than many others, even though that’s not by design.

I’m not really sure what my conclusion here is, to be honest. But I do wonder whether some of this will resonate with other people, and I look forward to seeing the other submissions to this month’s carnival!

 

Golden opportunity, missed

Last week at work, I found myself in an extended conversation with one of my colleagues about the work she’s been doing around the fact that her non-binary sibling-in-law will be coming to her family’s xmas stuff this year, and all of the various and sundry terrible responses she has had to push back against. It was the perfect moment for me to come out!

And I didn’t.

By the time I had even processed what was happening and that this was a great moment to come out, I felt like I’d already missed the moment? And I kept floundering around; I did a lot of comparing her family’s responses to mine, but without ever specifying who the non-binary person relevant to my family was.

I’m still torn around coming out at work at all? Like, I know that most people aren’t going to manage to stop misgendering me anyway, and I also know that it will be harder for me to handle it when I know they know better. There are plenty of people who would be great about it though. Heck, last month, when I asked a colleague at another branch about some inconsistencies in the spelling of this person’s name throughout the organization (specifically, in masculine and feminine versions), in addition clarifying the correct spelling, and mentioning that it will be become more consistent pending a legal name change*, my colleague asked me to use the name instead of pronouns where possible as well.

In retrospect, I am also thinking that the colleague with the non-binary sibling-in-law deliberately brought it up because she’s clocked me as enby (I am actually sort of passively out in minor ways at work – my public bio on the web site uses they pronouns, for instance). In any case, I do know I am not alone here, and I know I have allies.

But still, I’m scared, somehow? I think I just don’t know how I want to go about it. I could send out a big organization-wide email blast. I could start with the branch I work at (but how?), and sort of depend on word-of-mouth and/or come out to other people a bit at a time as necessary from there. I could talk to my managers about it first, though that doesn’t seem particularly necessary.

…I could also wait and see what this other colleague of mine does and then ride those coattails, but I suspect that would not be the best approach for a bunch of reasons. And to be honest, I’d probably rather not have to hear what everyone’s responses to that coming out will be, if they are still under the impression that I am cis when that happens. I don’t want them to think I’m a ‘safe’ person to hear whatever shit they need to say, and I just don’t need that in my life generally.

Maybe I’ll make it a new year/new leaf thing? I don’t know why I feel the need to be able to give a “but why are you doing this right now?” justification for it, but I feel less stressed about it when I have one.

Ugh, I dunno. Words of wisdom and/or support are welcome.

 


*I am quite sure this is not a question of organizational policy (as in, this is not a repeat of the fuckery I dealt with in another library system), but rather just that my colleague has decided to wait until the name change comes through before actively asking for the change – right now, the new name spelling only appears in my colleague’s email signature.

Gender Perspectives Vol. 18

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 Gender Mind-Fuck, A.K.A. My Life Now | Diagnosemylife

I look back on my past and wonder why I was so comfortable being feminine all the time then, but not now. What changed? First of all, back in high school I had no idea that there were genders besides man and woman. So that solves that issue—but what about college, after I was educated about gender fluidity? Why didn’t it click that I was genderqueer the moment it was explained to me?… Read more

Being Binary | Androgendernaut

When I came out a little more than a year ago, people were surprised, but very supportive… I passed, but I still looked a little bit like a hybrid. A quite feminine, shy boy with a cute face.

When I started T, I feel like this has faded away quite quickly. I look the way I feel – a random white guy. A little bit boring maybe, even. Very normal in comparison to the extravagant clothing I used to wear, from my tye-dye seventies pants to the row of steel earrings and piercings in my ears. People read me like Average Guy, and I like it… Read more

In Between Being and Becoming | Gender: Awesome

When I think about being nonbinary and transgender, when I think about transition, I think of myself constantly in the narrow space between being and becoming; all the ways in which I am forever in movement, forever on the edge of something; all the moments in which I am perceived or not perceived as who I am by other people and even myself. Sometimes I am both seen and not seen at the same time: seen as queer but not as trans, seen as trans but not as human, seen as human but not as queer or trans… Read more

How do I know I am trans? | transphilosopher

To this day my own gender is not obvious to me. I have proclaimed before that I am gender agnostic: I claim no certain knowledge about my own gender. Am I a special type of man or a special type of woman? I do not know. It does not seem important to me. What matters more is self-knowledge concerning my desires to continue transition. I desire to keep using female pronouns, shopping in the women’s section, taking HRT, using the name “Rachel”, etc… Read more

Some positive genderqueer experiences: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 29

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

Today’s prompt: Some positive genderqueer experiences

Full disclosure: I’m feeling a little burnt out on this writing challenge (or maybe on writing in general just now? Hard to say, but there may a blogging break in my near future). But I’m gonna finish this first by gum, because I’m so close now.

So, positive experiences relating to or resulting from being genderqueer! In over-long point form, as I think of them, because that’s how I roll:

  • There are few things that have been as thrilling to me as a genderqueer person as those first few times when someone looked at me and didn’t immediately slot me into one or another binary box. Even though I don’t specifically try to shape my appearance to defy that sort of categorization as much as I used to, the feeling of freedom that comes from escaping that miscategorization is one of the things that makes this entire journey worth it.
  • Any time anyone who isn’t me corrects someone else on misgendering me is great. It’s nice to know the entire weight of that isn’t always on me, and it makes me feel protected and cared for, always, even when it’s a relative stranger.
  • When coming out as genderqueer, the most positive responses take one of two forms: “Oh sorry, I didn’t know” followed by changing the language used to talk about me is kind of the gold standard in a bunch of ways, but I have also had moments where my coming out catalyzed interesting, thoughtful, and well-informed conversations about gender. The latter, though, is harder to pull off, and attempts more often leave me feeling drained or interrogated than energized or validated.
  • The moment when I realized I’d managed to successfully update my own internal sense of self as a non-binary solidly enough that part of me is genuinely confused when I am read as a binary gender was pretty cool. To me, I’m just so obviously not (though I get why people still slot me into one or the other box as a matter of course, for the record)

Non-binary readers, please tell me some of your positive experiences around being non-binary!


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

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 17

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 Portrait of the Artist as a Queer Femme | Radically Queer

…my gender exists somewhere between squishy shy alien creature and calm, helpy robot. It’s not really something I can represent in physical space. I am drawn to things coded feminine and to queering them, so I experience delight in the color pink, in spoonie communities of care, in fannish frivolity. Many of the things I love can most easily be interpreted through a femme lens—except, I sometimes fear, for me.

One Year Out: Of course I was trans | Gender: Awesome

…when it comes to gender especially, I have found it very difficult to verbalize my feelings at all with anyone. I can WRITE about it for days, and I’ve done that: blogging, Facebook posts, published articles, spoken word poems – some people might see that as me being open about my transition, and sure, it totally is.

But writing, performing, and posting on social media are different from actually saying something to someone directly.

Femme, Adjective or Noun? | Femme Feminism

I’m a dyke who wears dresses and skirts 98% of the time, who almost never leaves the house without makeup, who has her shoe collection in a display case and her boot collection hanging from racks on her walls. But “femme” as an identity has always puzzled me. I don’t object to it, I totally support people who use it — it just doesn’t resonate with me. I’ve often said that I’m “femmey, but not a femme.” For me, femme is a description, not an identity; an adjective, not a noun. And part of the reason is that I don’t really grasp, intellectually or instinctively, what that identity means.

What My Body Means | themagicspaceship

(CN: discussion of body shape, and ~curves~)

Today I put on a dress and it made my boobs look good. It fit perfectly on my waist and hips, as if designed for my body shape. I had not internalised the fact that clothes are supposed to fit. The last time I tried a dress it did not fit and left me convinced of my failure as a woman. Today it fit, and I no longer cared about being a woman. In that moment, in the fitting room, trying, purely for fun, a dress I had no intention of buying, the dress wasn’t a performance of femininity. The dress had nothing to do with femininity. It was an ungendered piece of clothing that fit my body, and made no demands of it. My chest was an ungendered body part that for once, somehow, didn’t seem to stick out awkwardly. My curves were an ungendered body shape that is how MY body happens to be shaped. And it felt… nice.

Little rewards mean so much sometimes

For the most part, this blog exists for me. I find writing to be a really useful practice for helping me understand myself, and sort out my thoughts and feelings on all kinds of things.

I don’t put a whole lot of work into self-promotion, and my social media presence is minimal for the most part – I’m most active on my personal facebook, where I almost never link to this blog.

But sometimes I get a little glimmer that the work I’ve put into this little corner of the internet is helping other people. Someone will comment to let me know they relate to my feelings about gender, or that they’d never heard of demisexuality before, and that knowing it exists makes them feel less lost or broken.

Sometimes, though, the message is quieter than that. Less direct. Every now and then, I get a sudden flurry of views, (usually either from facebook or various email hosts), leading to my Genderqueer/Non-Binary 101 page. This happened again on (surprise surprise) National Coming Out Day last week.

And it warms my heart, always, to know that something I’ve written is helping other people be more open to the people in their lives, and (hopefully) move toward a more comfortable existence in their own gender.

It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that!

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” A million thoughts about a (not-so-)simple question

One of my mom’s big questions to me after I came out to her as genderqueer was “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

It’s not really a question with an answer. Or at least, it’s not a question with any answers that are going to satisfy the feelings behind the question. Because let’s be honest: my mom’s feelings were hurt by the fact that a couple of years elapsed between me realizing I am genderqueer, and me telling her about it at all.

The only satisfying answer to those hurt feelings that I can see is to go back in time and tell her sooner. Which, even if I could, I don’t want to do.

Because, of course, there are reasons why I didn’t tell her sooner. It wasn’t an arbitrary choice or an oversight. It was something I deliberately and repeatedly put off doing.

I didn’t tell her sooner because I wasn’t ready to.

The thing is, having realized that I am genderqueer was a lot to deal with, in and of itself. It was something I needed time to deal with on my own before I told *anyone*. There was definitely a good six months between the idea passing through my brain, and me doing anything outwardly about it.

The thing is, I knew that coming out to my parents was something that was highly likely to involve a lot of emotional labour on my part, and it wasn’t something I magically felt up to handling immediately.

The thing is, I came out to a lot of much lower-stakes people before I came out to her. Friends that I wouldn’t be heart-broken to lose.

The thing is, I came out to the people I actually interact with on a regular basis before I came out to her. Not because they were more important (though some of them were and are in some ways), but because they were there. Because having them change the pronouns they use for me would have a more immediate and regular impact on my life. Because the benefit of doing the work of coming out to them was greater in that way.

The thing is, I was afraid of what her response might be. I didn’t want to deal with it. I wasn’t ready for it.

The thing is, I was afraid she would try to talk me out of it somehow? I don’t even know what that would look like, to be honest. But I wanted to feel like I had a lot of confidence in myself and my identity before I was ready to face whatever response she might have. I came out to people I was more confident would be in my corner first, so that I would have support to handle potential bad responses from her (or other people).

The thing is, as you see, there are a lot of things that held me back from coming out to her.

But the short answer is still just, “because I wasn’t ready sooner.”