feelings

Fatherly Estrangement

I’ve been estranged from my father for over three years now, and somehow I’ve barely written about it at all. I actually just went back and checked, because I know I’ve started to write about this on many, many occasions, and I figured one of those times must have produced something worthy of posting, but beyond one brief reference to the estrangement, it seems I just… haven’t said anything about it here.

Here, where I have processed all of the most difficult things I’ve been through in my life, starting with processing the trauma from my abusive relationship, through the ups and downs of coming out as genderqueer in various contexts, figuring out that I’m demisexual, and most recently divorce.

And I’m thinking about it again now (getting engaged inevitably raised questions about how to handle wedding invitations – my estrangement from my father is complicated by the fact that my parents are still together, and my mother and I still want to have a good relationship with each other (and, somehow, we’ve actually been managing it so far)) and the spectre of familial pressure to reconcile with my father has re-entered my consciousness.

So, I’ve been thinking about writing about the whole mess, the reasons for the estrangement, the specific catalyzing events that caused us to stop speaking to each other, all of the things that have happened since then and the ways in which I have finally drawn a line in the sand and held that line against pressure from various sources.

There’s a lot to say about it, honestly, and I’m really proud of myself. But somehow when I sit down to write about it, I’m just not motivated to get it out. And I’m beginning to think that lack of motivation is a good thing.

I think that the reason I don’t feel the need to get this particular story down in words, to give it concrete form as I have so many other things, is simply that I know I’ve got this. It’s not complicated. I’m not running around in circles in my own head trying to untangle the knots left by his manipulativeness, because, even though I didn’t often write about it directly, I was doing that processing at the same time that I was working through my other experiences of abuse.

My memories and understandings of who my father is, and the way he treats the people close to him, are actually very clear. I don’t find myself doubting any of it. I don’t find myself forgetting or needing to remind myself of the reality of what it’s like to try to have a relationship with him.

I just know that he is toxic. I know that he is incapable of hearing or respecting boundaries. And I know that my mental health has been vastly improved by not having to tend to a relationship with him.

It’s not even difficult. I know it was a good move and I am very comfortable with it.

So, I don’t know. Maybe one day i will share some of the stories relating to this state of affairs. I’m sure it would be interesting to many of you, if not instructive in some ways. But that day is not today.

Because I have mental clarity on this entire situation, and that is just so good.

Marriage, Re-marriage, and how I’ve never been afraid of commitment

During that strange period between when my former partner and I had decided that we would be getting divorced and when we actually separated, I (obviously?) had a lot of conversations about marriage and divorce with various friends and relations.

In the midst of one rather long and freewheeling conversation, I had one friend mention that – while they liked the idea of marriage in some ways – they didn’t understand how people could ever make the decision to do it. Because, after all, how do you know it’s going to work out?

I didn’t manage to articulate an answer at the time, but at it’s heart, this question always seems to miss the point for me. Because, um, of course you don’t know for sure it’s going to work out. Whether or not it works out isn’t ever going to be entirely in your own control even, since there’s another person involved, plus just the unpredictability of life in general. And anyway, in my case even if I had thought I knew for sure when I got married, I was proven wrong in the end.

But I never thought that in the first place. I actually went in with a very clear awareness that we might not be married forever, that getting married was just one of many choices we were going to be making throughout our lives about our relationship and what togetherness looked like for us.

I went into that marriage not knowing where it would lead us. But I also went in knowing a whole lot of other, much more important things.

I knew it was what I wanted.

I knew that the idea of us being together for the rest of our lives, as married people, made me happy.

I knew I liked the idea of sharing our lives and growing old together.

In short, I knew that if it did work out, it would be great.

I knew that based on the information I had available at the time, I was making a good decision.

I knew that if I didn’t at least try to have this thing with this person, I would regret it.

And because of all of that, I also knew that if for some reason it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t regret having made the decision to try.

And even now, I know that it was the right decision.

I know because, when we were married, I never doubted that it was what I wanted. Every day, I knew I wanted to be with this person, for the rest of my life.

And, nevertheless, it didn’t work out. I still have feelings about that, because of course I do, it’s an emotional sort of thing. I spent a lot of years planning for and make decisions around building a life that is no longer an option, and that will never come to be.

That really sucks. It just really, really sucks.

But, all of this also means that now, more than ever, I trust myself to make good decisions about who I want to marry.

So, while experiences of divorce – whether it’s our parents’ or our own – most often make people more reluctant to make that leap again (or at all), everything that has gotten me to where I am now, planning my second marriage, just makes me more sure that I’m doing the right thing, for me.

Because I know what I’m getting myself into, and I know that it’s what I want.

I know I want to try to have this thing, with this person.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Question from the search terms: “if i love a nonbinary am i straight?”

Another question from my recent searhc terms:

if i love a nonbinary am i straight?

Mostly my answer to this question is: I don’t know, *are* you straight? Because you’re the only real authority on that!

But that’s not helpful at all, I know. So let me throw some more thoughts at you about this.

I am personally of the belief that people who are attracted to non-binary people in more than a passing way should consider finding a label for hteir sexuality that doesn’t imply they are attracted to only one gender. That is, I am dubious about people who identify as straight, or lesbian, or  otherwise exclusively hetero- or homo-sexual/romantic while also dating, fucking and/or being in love with non-binary people. I think that in doing so, these people are implicitly invalidating their date-mate/fuckbuddy/loved one’s gender identity by rounding it into whichever binary gender they are usually attracted to. I’ve written about this idea more fully before, in fact.

I also understand that this is a complicated thing, and that the real problem with these labels is that the ways in which we currently classify sexual orientations simply can’t reasonably account for non-binary people. Because, realistically, all non-binary people are constantly being perceived as one binary gender or the other, and literally all people who consider themselves exclusively straight or exclusively gay may very well have been attracted to any number of non-binary people without even realizing it, and of course it’s ridiculous (or at least entirely unproductive) to conclude that therefore no one is really straight.

So, person who asked this question, I don’t have a clear answer for you here, other than that you should go with your gut on this – it is possible that regardless of your feelings for this non-binary person, that ‘straight’ really is the best description for the way you experience your sexuality. But if identifying as straight while being in love with a non-binary person seems wrong to you, you can go with your gut on that, too – and there’s plenty of other identities that might feel more comfortable to you, maybe you’re heteroflexible, maybe you’re bi, or maybe you’re most comfortable with queer.

I hope this helps!

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.