feelings

Self, Identity, Past, Present

There was a strange thing that happened in my head a bunch over the summer and fall last year, that I have never thought to write about until just now. I think I only mentioned it out loud to one person, even, when it was happening.

My internal monologue kept slipping into the voice of the my younger self.

And while I know that’s a very accurate way of describing the experience, I’m not 100% sure what I mean by it. I may have mentioned before that when I dissociate, my internal monologue turns into a robot. This is like that, but not robotic?

To be honest, these days I don’t know how I relate to my past self, or more realistically, my various past selves. It doesn’t feel at all correct to refer to this person I’ve been… hearing? remembering? experiencing? (or whatever) as Kasey, for instance. I don’t feel like Kasey is a person who has existed my entire life, though once again, I’m not entirely sure what I mean by that. I just know that it is accurate.

Rather, this person definitely owns my birth name, though since I have always been fond of my birth name, and it has always been a significant part of my identity, that’s not terribly surprising, I guess.

I wonder about their gender – I’ve never been particularly attached to the idea that my weird fluid sorta agender-ness is an in-born trait, but at the same time, past me definitely didn’t have a particularly strong gender identity, and to be honest, I do think that my relationship to gender hasn’t really changed that significantly over the course of my life – the only things that have changed are the vocabulary available to me and the extent to which I’ve given it any thought at all.

So yeah, I think this past me was pretty much non-binary, I guess?

The entire experience was weirdly uncomfortable – when I was a kid, I used to super hate the way my voice sounded in recordings (I think I’m over this now, though it’s not as if I hear many recordings of my voice), and I found myself having a similar visceral reaction to this new internal voice (though I think the voice sounds like what my old internal monologue sounded like, not like my child-voice from the outside, so this is definitely an imperfect way of capturing my negative feelings here).

I think to some extent, this is my brain stitching my back together for myself. I need to be re-acquainted with the person I was before… what exactly, I’m not really sure. Before transition, yes. Before changing my name, sure. Before I ever was raped? Before…. well, before I started identifying my father’s abusive behavioural patterns.

Which is to say, not before I experienced those patterns.

I haven’t talked much about my father as an abusive person in the context of my childhood. His behaviour only began to stand out to me in that way after I identified the abusiveness of my rapist ex. To be honest, I still largely consider my childhood to be fairly stable and healthy, though I no longer trust that assessment as fully as I used to.

In fact, I have been questioning this idea more over the past year, poking at strange unanswered questions like: how in the heck did dissociation become such a go-to coping mechanism for me? It’s been with me for as long as I can remember, to the point where it is simply a part of my very basic existence: I am, therefore I dissociate.

I am quite certain that my unstructured attempts to reflect on and better understand this and other aspects of my selfhood are behind the resurgence of this past-self voice in my head, but I’m not sure yet what to make of it.

Other than, I guess, I think I should start writing about these questions and the memories that are kicking up around them. This space has worked wonders for me in terms of working through my memories of my abusive ex, and I suspect it can do the same with these older ones, too.

So yeah, thus begins my new project I guess?

Reflections on 2016

Let’s see how this year sized up compared to the last:

Work-related stuff

In March of this year, I landed my first permanent public library gig! My permanent position is casual (i.e. less than 20hrs/wk), but thanks in part to being a union member now, since late September I’ve been filling in for a full-time position. I will be full-time until at least August 2017, though I expect I’ll actually move into a better permanent position by then.

Well, that’s the boring stuff, anyway. The good stuff is: I love my job. Obviously there is bureaucratic fuckery to be had sometimes, and I am still getting myself used to the time-scale of planning most things (you really have to be on top of things at least six months ahead of time to make them happen, and that is so not me), but holy wow do I love doing youth services at a public library. It’s what I want to do with my life, I have clawed my way here, and it is everything I had hoped it would be. I’ve finally found a place, professionally, and it’s great.

I’m excited to see what this year will bring.

Creating stuff

This has been a year of unprecedented productivity for me here on Valprehension, with 137 posts published! This, on top of picking up doing some writing for two of my library’s three blogs, means I have been writing up a storm. Yay!

I have not done a lot of crafting this year, though. Just two cross-stitch projects completed this year, though they are both awesome imho!

First, I made this in the summer, immortalizing the way a partner first dropped the l-bomb on me:

Picture (and words :P) from John D. Botelho

Picture (and words :P) from John D. Botelho

Second, I  recently made this for all-around amazing person, past guest blogger Spice and  writer of Dating while Feminist, taken from one of her tweets:

Photo credit: John D. Botelho

Photo credit: John D. Botelho

I have many plans for more like this! Thank goodness I have so many inspiring people in my life :)

I also have great intentions to get back into knitting (maybe start making socks?) one day soon, but it remains to be seen whether that will happen. I know I’ll read this next year when I’m writing my 2017 reflections, so hey future self! Did you do the thing?

Relationships

Romantic-wise: former spouseperson and I are still working on figuring out what we are to each other, and what our relationship is going to look like moving forward. Right now, it’s baby steps to try to reestablish intimacy that was lost during times of some of my most difficult feelings, and a much-needed short break around the end of the summer. Former spouseperson is I guess also technically inaccurate – we’re not in any particular rush to divorce; I’m actually on their work’s health insurance as I have none of my own, and stuff. Anyway, we have been living apart since March of this year (we actually moved out almost the same week I started my new job, and somehow I didn’t die of stress. Go me!), and we still see each other about once a week.

ALSO THOUGH, some of you may have noticed that I have stopped whinging all the time about my fears and despair around whether or not I’m ever going to figure out my whole having-kids plan. It’s not just because I got as bored of it as you probably were; it’s because while I was whinging and despairing, my life produced its own solution in the sense that my other partner is totes on board with having kids with me – basically, apparently in addition to all of my various and sundry privilege as a human I *also* am living a kind of charmed life that can’t even be explained by that privilege? There’s still a bunch of steps before we get to the point of actually trying to produce a child, but having a clear direction to aim at means I feel much better again. Also super happy and just generally feeling so fortunate to have found a wonderful human who apparently thinks I am also pretty great and stuff!

Non-romantic-wise: I continue to have amazing friends that I love and who love me, both old and new, and honestly I just feel so lucky all the time and yay.

Family stuff is also good! My mom and I still have a pretty stable relationship. Both of my brothers are just wonderful people, and I am so glad to have them in my life. And I am super comfortable with the fact that I am still not in contact with my dad (he continues to disregard my conditions for reconciliation and has tried a few times manipulate me into talking to him but I persevere – I am not getting back on that merry-go-round for anything).

Misc Other Stuff

This year was also super interesting for me in that I was invited (and agreed) to participate in a couple of panels, one on trans issues, and another on non-monogamy. Both were very fun experiences, and I learned a whole lot from the other panelists in both cases. Also I apparently sounded like I knew what I was talking about, so yay! More than anything else I think that this was something that drove home tome the idea that I have truly entered adulthood, since people now see me as someone with authority/significant life experience on things, which is kind of cool!

So that was my year! Pretty good, all in all :)

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: E is for “everyone feels that way”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

E is for “everyone feels that way”

…This is a strange one, to be honest. But it sometimes happens, particularly in more explicitly TERF-y spaces, that some cis person will try to argue that trans people aren’t really trans, we’re just misunderstanding what gender is like for everyone.

So, the thing is, I think it is definitely true that every single person alive has, at some point, had an unpleasant run-in with the norms imposed upon their gender. Not one of us can possibly get through life without being on the receiving end of gender policing, be it implicit or explicit.

All of us, in other words, have moments of discomfort with our genders. The thing that the cisgender people making this argument don’t seem to grasp is that there are different kinds of gender-related discomfort. And, the kind of gender-related discomfort that all people experience (the one that stems from being called out for failing to conform to the arbitrary standards that are applied to your gender) is distinctly different from the kind of gender-related discomforts that comes with dysphoria – these are the discomforts of being explicitly misgendered (which may happen to people both cis and trans, and is sometimes a form of gender policing), or of being judged for one’s failure to conform to the standards of a gender that you don’t identify with in the first place (this experience is far more common among trans people than cis people.)

Look, it’s not as if trans people feel that we are perfect fits for our genders (by which I mean, our actual genders, not our birth-assigned ones) any more than cis folks do. It’s just that we fit better into them than our birth-assigned ones. It’s just that our birth-assigned genders aren’t our genders.

And though the difference in how it feels as a cis person to be judged for failing to fit that birth-assigned gender with which you identify, versus how it feels to be a trans person judged for failing to fit a gender that was wrong to begin with is probably impossible to articulate – people generally only feel one or the other of these in their lives, so they can’t really be compared – I promise you it exists. All I know for sure is that the difference is what causes trans people to identify with a gender other than their birth-assigned one (or with no gender at all), while cis people don’t.

Which is to say: no, not everyone feels the way trans people feel about their birth-assigned genders. I can tell, because an awful lot of you aren’t rejecting those assignments.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

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. 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.

Feeling stuck

My life is in a weird sort of space right now. I just got bumped up to full-time hours at my job (this is a good and important move), and am working at a bigger, busier branch, and since I love my work, it’s all very energizing.

My career is, at long last, taking off. Just the fact that I feel comfortable using the word ‘career’ with respect to my professional life is a big deal, to be honest.

This is great, obviously. But I am feeling at such a loss around what to do with, um, everything else?

I’m actually in a pretty stable place – I have good routines that allow for spending pretty regular quality time with all of the most important people in my life, and it is fulfilling and good.

But, I’m also worried about getting too comfortable with where I’m at.

To be honest, I’m getting as tired of mentioning this are you all probably are of reading about it, but I am still totally adrift with respect to figuring out the whole ‘having kids’ part of my general life goals.

I feel like I need to be working on that, but I also don’t know how right now. I don’t have any actual desire to date, even though I know that’s the most likely route to finding someone to have kids with. I know it’s not a thing I can force, and that dating when I don’t want to be is pretty much guaranteed to be a disaster, but I also feel… guilty(?) for not having the energy to get out there.

I honestly don’t know how to find a balance between living a life that is sustainable for where I’m at right now and continuing to work toward where I want to be. I don’t know how much energy and focus I should put on figuring out the kids thing, really.

On the one hand, I know it’s not healthy or smart to make it the only thing I’m putting energy toward. There are other things in my life that are important, other goals that I have, and other things that can and do fulfill me in various ways. If things don’t work out for me in terms of having kids, these things will be even more important, and I want to make sure my life is well-rounded and has lots of goodness in it.

On the other hand, though, I’m afraid that I will hate myself later for some of the decisions I’m making right now. I’m not doing everything I could be doing, even just to make my life passively open to the possibility of finding a co-parent. I’m not even doing some of the obvious things that I really feel like I should be, because it’s not really what I want right now. But I don’t want to be stuck looking back at this time in my life in ten or fifteen years, thinking of what might have been if I had just gotten myself into gear, and made the hard choices now, maybe things would have worked out the way I wanted.

My head and my heart are not in agreement on this one, and I am historically pretty awful at listening to my head. But I also don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. So I don’t know what to do anymore.

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!