This is my submission to this month’s Carnival of Aces (which I am hosting!) I have been wanting to write this post for years now, so I’m glad I’ve given myself the kick in the pants I needed to actually do it!
For a long time now, it’s been intuitively clear to me that my experience of gender, and particularly my feelings about the gender binary, and my place in it (i.e. the fact that I don’t have one really), is deeply linked to my experience of sexual attraction, and the fact that I am demisexual. In particular, I guess it is linked to the fact that I am demisexual and queer – I suppose much of what I am going to say will not totally apply to exclusively homo- or hetero- oriented demisexuals.
So: the way I experience sexual attraction is not primarily based on any physical attributes of the people I am attracted to (although I have interesting thoughts about how, once I develop a sexual attraction to someone, it does psychologically attach itself to their physical beings – this goes on the unending list of things I will maybe write about one day). Attraction is, for me, based on emotional connectivity and intimacy (plus some amount of randomness/magic).
I’ve also written before about how it can be confusing, and even upsetting, to me to be on the receiving end of advances from other people based on their experience of primary sexual attraction for me. I don’t know what to do with it, it is extremely intimidating and just plain weird to me. I just don’t get it.
And I know that I started leaning into a more masculine-androgynous presentation, the freedom that I felt in that came in large part from the way it freed me from the traditional hetero-male gaze and the uncomfortable attentions that come with that. Because ultimately, masculine-androgynous isn’t truly (or at least for sure isn’t *always*) a good expression of my actual experience of my gender.
As I’ve more recently realized, I am genderfluid, and not just that, my fluidity and the gender I inhabit at any given time is highly context-dependent. Most of the time, and in many contexts, I am functionally asexual, because in many contexts, I am surrounded by people for whom I don’t and will never experience sexual attraction (i.e. contexts not conducive to the development of emotional intimacy, such as most working relationships, and all random day-to-day one-off interpersonal encounters). And most of the time, I am agender. I am not expressing gender, I am not experiencing myself as having a gender, binary or otherwise. I just am, and it’s fine.
In other contexts, I am more likely to feel actively genderqueer. There isn’t any really hard-and-fast rule for when I will feel one way or the other, but my gut nevertheless feels like this is connected to my experience of my sexuality. I wish I knew how to explain the difference between feeling agender and feeling genderqueer, but I don’t know if I can. I know that when I am genderqueer, I have a gender (though not one that fits into the binary), and when I am agender, I don’t. But I also know that the feeling of having a gender isn’t even universal to people who identify as having one, so that’s probably not helpful.
A lot of this may come down to my connection with my physical self, (a.k.a. my body). I have never been strongly connected to my actual body. I am one of those people who never knows where their limbs are, and I often forget to take care of my body because I am so caught up in my head. The less emotionally safe I feel, the less connected I tend to be to my body, in part because of past traumas, and the fact that dissociation is one of my major coping mechanisms/what happens when I get triggered around those traumas, but also I get the sense that my disconnection from my body pre-dates any such trauma, and is just this weirdly ingrained part of who I am.
…And this is where I always lose the plot. I have a very visceral sense that there is a direct connection between my confusions around sexual attraction growing up and my sense of alienation from/parallel confusion with gender norms – they feel like the same thing to me, to be honest. But getting to precisely *how* they are same is a loop I can’t quite close with words.
I just can’t play the sex game the way allosexual people do. And I can’t play the gender game the way cisgender people do, even the non-conforming ones, somehow. And that inability is an expression of the same part of my inner self, which I can feel and which makes total sense to me, but that I don’t know how to describe.
It’s in how I perceive the world. It’s in how different parts of the world perceive me. It’s in how I react to these perceptions. And it’s in every other interaction I have.
I am genderqueer. And I am demisexual. And both of those statements are just ways of saying “I am me”.