real life

Babies and gender: where I’m at now

Before my baby existed in any way at all, I had decided how I was going to handle the whole birth-assigned-sex/gender thing. You can read the whole post about it, but my basic approach was that I would go ahead and use whatever pronouns most commonly align with the baby’s birth-assigned sex, while also avoiding gendering the baby in other ways.

This is, in fact, the way I’ve been approaching my baby’s gender (though I will be using ‘they’ pronouns for the baby on this blog, at least for now. I can’t quite articulate my reasons for this right now). It’s definitely a path-of-least-resistance approach, but it seems fine for us. Honestly, though, now that I have a nearly-one-year-old (OMG!), I am mostly just amazed at how ridiculously, transparently deluded most people’s perceptions of baby gender are.

Seriously, though. Other than the fact that they’re statistically likely to identify with the gender commonly associated with their birth-assigned sex, I really don’t think my baby has a gender yet, nor could I really guess at what their gender will be. Heck, at this age babies apparently don’t recognize themselves in a mirror, their sense of self is just that nearly-non-existent.

People really, really love to insist that baby’s genders are just so apparent from birth though! Oh, sure, little Susie was just born knowing how to shop, you say*? And Bobby, wouldn’t you know it, he’s been just *obsessed* with breasts since the day he was born (LOLOLOLOL!!!)? Obviously our culture’s current particular understanding of the gender binary is completely natural and not at all learned.

Meanwhile, depending on what my baby is wearing, they’ve been declared everything from “what a perfect boy” to “such a pretty little girl”. I promise you they were exactly the same baby each time.

I really just don’t perceive my baby as a gendered being at this point (which was sort of my goal – I don’t want the way I treat them to be coloured by their probable gender, and the best way to avoid sub-consciously doing that is prevent my sub-conscious from seeing them in a gendered way in the first place.) Though I also realize that saying I don’t perceive them that way doesn’t make it true.

But, I’m pretty sure I’ve actually pulled it off! The reason: after my parents’ most recent visit, my father sent me a message saying that he loves my baby, except he called the baby my “daughter”. And I was momentarily confused and didn’t know what he was talking about? Because I don’t have one of those? I just have a baby. (Who will soon be a toddler, and a child…) Like, I think that I had literally never thought that word in connection to my baby.

So that’s something!

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*There’s a lot to unpack here, but in all seriousness, in one of the baby groups I sometimes go to, one of the facilitators(!) waxed poetic about how she’s sure girls are born with the shopping gene or something. Like, properly went on about it. It was something.

Notes on a Non-binary Pregnancy, part 2: So strong, so… fragile?

[CN: this post is largely about the potential for miscarriage]

I wrote most of this post at about 25 weeks pregnant…

At that point I was already surprised by how little I’d been inspired to write down about the whole experience. It was mostly a boring pregnancy, what can I say? Everything was just textbook; my fetus and uterus both grew right on schedule, the heartbeat was always what it was supposed to be, my blood pressure was fine, I had no morning sickness, no mood swings, and my weight gain curve was ridiculously by-the-book.

I mentioned in my previous post that I felt very strong during my pregnancy. And yet, there was also this other side to that feeling. I hadn’t realized that when you’re pregnant, all kinds of normally innocuous things are suddenly very life-and-death.

and so, I was occasionally blind-sided by how… fragile being pregnant made me feel. What should be minor medical things are much more complicated and serious when you’re pregnant.

I actually had some spotting/mystery blood early on in the pregnancy (about 8 weeks), which is both reasonably normal and also extremely terrifying.  Even the doctor I saw about it was just like, “[sadface] um, yeah, so it could be a sign that you’re miscarrying, but all we can do is wait and see?”

And at 20-something weeks along I started having UTI symptoms. This is something I am an old hand at dealing with, normally, but suddenly now that I’m pregnant everything about it had a whole new level of danger.

Normal UTI symptom process: get thee to a walk-in, confirm the presence of bacteria, get some anti-biotics, destroy infection.

When you’re pregnant this is all more complicated, because anti-biotics aren’t safe for the fetus. Or at least, the good ones aren’t, so you’re stuck with hoping that penicillin will do the trick. They kind of want you to wait for a culture to confirm the anti-biotics are called for, but on the other hand, if your infection manages to progress into a kidney infection, not only is that more dangerous to you (because kidneys!), it’s also very risky for the fetus and trigger pre-term labour (which, at the 23 weeks I was at the time, did not have great odds for a live birth). It’s all so fraught! I was not prepared.

In this case, there turned out to be no notable bacteria in my urine anyway (this has happened to me before, even with severe UTI symptoms. Me and my urinary tract have a complicated and mysterious history wherein we like to troll my doctor with weird results that can never be replicated with further testing. It’s a fun game we play. But I digress.)

Even later in the pregnancy, when I was actually obviously pregnant (that didn’t happen until late in month 7!) a mother in one of the children’s library programs I was running last year pulled me aside to let me know her daughter had recently been diagnosed with “fifth disease”. Fifth disease is like a total nothing childhood infection, but oh guess what? It’s very deadly to fetuses, of course! It turned out I showed no signs of having had contact with the disease, but it was an awfully scary week of watching for symptoms and waiting for test results to come back.

Notes on a Non-binary Pregnancy, part 1: the dysphoria that never came to be

Wow, where did the time go? I’ve planned to write so many posts over the last, jeez, year-and-a-half since I told y’all I was pregnant, and I have in fact, written a few things since then, but there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write about. So, here I am trying to knock off the rust.

My baby is ten months old now! And parenting is, omg, honestly so much more wonderful than I even thought (and it’s something I’ve looked forward to enough that I made it the single highest priority in my life, so that’s really something!)

But yeah, I meant to take you with me on my pregnancy journey, and then I… just didn’t, so you’ll have to accept some retrospective writing instead.

One of the things I was mildly worried about as my pregnancy progressed was that my changing body would be a dysphoria trigger for me (in particular, I was not looking forward to my chest getting bigger). Somehow, although those changes all came to pass in good time, there was no accompanying dysphoria.

I think part of this is just that, although it was an altogether straight-forward pregnancy, the whole process was still such a wild, intense trip in so many ways (more on this in a later pos…) that I had a hard time feeling much other than amazement and fascination about my body.

Honestly, I absolutely loved my pregnant body. I felt strong (except for when I didn’t… but that’s also another post) and despite my assumptions, not at all feminine. I can’t even explain why not. I just… didn’t.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more at home in my non-binary body. And that’s definitely not an entirely pregnancy-related statement. I’ve also just been… happy, in a pretty sustained way, for a good few years now. I’ve come into my own in my 30s, somehow, and I am at peace with who I am in this world in a way I don’t think I ever expected to achieve.

This is also probably part of what has kept me away from writing – for a long time this blog’s primary purpose was untangling and chronicling my own gender identity. Before that, I was processing part abuse, and getting a handle on a newly sprouted feminist ideals and beliefs. These days, I’m not doing as much difficult reflection on myself or the world I live in, so I’m going to need to learn to write from this new place of greater peace and contentment. Because I also am really and truly happy to be back!

One more piece of the puzzle…

[TW: this post talks about my relationship with my abuser, and his behaviours within it; coercion and vaguely sexual grossness are discussed]

I’m honestly surprised that this has come up again in my brain, but here we are. It’s been a long time since I’ve had particularly negative emotional/traumatized reactions to thinking about my past abusive relationship (which ended nearly a decade ago now), but I’m apparently still finding new pieces that help hang the narrative together.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing about this newest mini-revelation here, other that the fact that processing the ongoing impact of this abuse, and documenting my process of recovery/rebuilding my own narrative around it this has always been one of the functions of this blog for me. I hope these sorts of posts are useful to others, too.

A quick (trigger-filled; approach with care – posts with explicit content have content notes about that at the top) reading list of the times I’ve written about this in the past, if you need to be caught up on the context here:

Early, mostly abstract/general thoughts, coming to understand that I did in fact experience abuse, and that it wasn’t my fault:
Things I have Trouble Reconciling/
The ‘asking for it” narrative

Understanding that my brain was messed up by my experiences:
“Abuse-logic”
Abuse-logic and memory
Writing about abuse, thinking about abuse

Getting to the meat of it: in which I discuss my experiences in more specifics:
In which I talk about my personal experiences of sexual coercion
The things I did while in an abusive relationship (but no, really ,what the fuck was that even?)
Why does my brain do this? the difficulty of recognizing first-person experiences of abuse and mental illness

And most recently, in a similar(ish) vein from this post:
Every now and then, something new shakes loose

…ok, no wait, also this one. Which I apparently failed to tag as “abuse”, but was the one I was specifically looking for as relevant to what I have to say today:
“Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power”… except when it really is just about sex

This post is a partial rebuttal, or at least a re-contextualization of the above.

The thing is, my abusive ex’s bullying of me wasn’t limited to sex (it never really is, is it?) Today I just want to tell an illustrative story and talk through some of the implications that I found myself wondering about last night, for no apparent reason.

So, I saw the first Saw movie when it was in theatres. I think this was before I was dating the abusive ex, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m not going to look up the release dates of the movies in this series to figure out exactly which ones happened when, because it doesn’t really matter, and I don’t care to refresh my memory of which one is which.

There are… a lot of things I could say about this series as a whole, but my main point right now is, watching those movies is an intensely unpleasant experience. Of course, it’s supposed to be! this is not me criticizing the movies, at least not on that front. i just, after seeing the first one, I had no desire to watch the sequels. Not for me!

But my ex, he wanted to watch the sequels. Oh boy, did he. And he most definitely very specificially wanted to watch them with me. Because that’s what you do when you love someone, right? You do things together?

I can’t remember which one was in theatres at the time of this story, but it was the third or fourth one? In an any case, there was at least one that I had missed seeing in theatres, that I was going to have to catch up on in time for the latest theatrical one.

I didn’t want to, though. And I was definitely clear about that. And I was clear about why (see above), and even that it wasn’t that I thought they were bad. I just didn’t want to watch those movies.

Ok, obviously this story ends with me watching more of those movies. Because other people’s explicit boundaries are just challenges to be overcome, right?

But it’s somehow *even worse* than that?

So yeah. We argued. For literal hours. Eventually I caved, because watching the damn movie would be less painful than continuing that fucking conversation. And then we were in a position of getting ready to watch a movie that I knew was going to be emotionally harrowing when I was already extremely emotionally raw and worn out. Fun date night, y’all!

On our way from the movie rental place to his place, where we would be watching the movie, he… made it clear that he wanted us to be naked while we watched the movie?

Like, I think we literally just came out with “we should get naked”. I don’t anymore how this Maybe he said this once we were actually there and settling on to the couch? That would make slightly more sense to me, though it was a still a strange thing for him to say (like, even for him).

We often did watch things together naked, because we were watching them in bed or whatever, but it was extremely strange for him to explicitly request nudity when he wasn’t immediately gunning for sex – I literally can’t think of another time that happened.

It’s… telling? to me, then, that this is the time this request happened. I was not inclined to comply, for the record – the aforementioned emotional rawness and my anticipated discomfort with the movie itself meant my defenses were very much up.

But I was also too worn out to put up much more than a momentary resistance. We watched the movie naked.

I… don’t even know what else to say about this. What the fuck was any of that? Is there any reasonable explanation for his motivations here other than, “obviously he took a sadistic pleasure in making me as vulnerable as possible?”

I’m really sure he wouldn’t have seen it that way. He would framed it in terms of wanting “intimacy” of course. I no longer no whether he believed his own shit or not, though, really.

I know he was selfish. I still can’t explain the rest of it, not really. But more and more, it’s hard to deny that he engaged in very real manipulative power plays and grooming tactics, that his campaigns to violate my boundaries went well beyond what could possibly be written off as him not understanding what we was doing. The weird clairvoyance of demanding nudity, on top of having already (verbally) beaten me into submission that day just, doesn’t fit into any part of any narrative that excuses his behaviours in any way.

It’s, yeah.

A lot of fucked up shit got done to my brain in that relationship. And it definitely wasn’t just accidental. I don’t know why I’ve held on to the idea that it at least kinda was, for so long, through so many other revelations and acceptances.

Blech.

Worn out

I’ve been feeling really worn down for… at least a couple of months now, if i’m honest with myself. I keep telling myself I’m just on the edge of being worn down, but that’s just silly. I’ve been here before, and I should know better.

The job I have right now (mercifully, it’s only temporary anyway) is definitely too much for me in some ways. It’s been a good experience, and great for my career, but some of the things that make up a large part of my day-to-day work right now are draining everything I have. I haven’t had the wherewithal to really maintain a good social life since the fall, and it’s definitely gotten worse lately.

A big part of what I’m doing right now at work is outreach to local schools. This is a great awesome thing that we do at the library; it lets us promote our services and programs directly to kids and teachers, and we also bring in resources that the kids don’t get access to at their schools. I also… dislike pretty much everything about it?

Classic school outreach, I like, actually. Going out to spend an hour or so with one or two classes on a specific topic is fun, and not that different from the regular programs I run (which I still love!) It breaks up my week and often means I get a bit of a walk in on the clock, which is nice.

What I’m doing right now is a larger initiative we call the “Maker Experience”. It’s a full-day affair, and it involves two library employees. We set up a bunch of different gadgets and gear in the school library and spend the day giving different iterations of the same talk to different groups of kids, before giving them some time to play with and explore some of our stuff. Sometimes the school doesn’t even bother to build in time for us to regroup in between sessions.

The kids always have fun, and the teachers are generally very pleased with the whole thing, but I’m honestly not actually that excited about the content or convinced it adds much value to their day. But that’s not even the hardest part for me.

Although this project has picked up a lot of its own momentum, and I’m not cold-calling teacher librarians to try to get them interested (they pretty much all come to me, at a rate that’s hard for me to manage as is), I do spend a lot of time liaising with strangers, (and spending my days in unfamiliar spaces). Trying to organize a date that works for the school and that the library can handle being down two employees for the full day is tough. Even tougher is that I’m spearheading this outreach for my area, to three different branches, and have to reach out to the appropriate managers as and when.

I’m usually training new support people each time, in part because we want to get as many people as possible trained in this outreach as we can – at some point, it won’t be necessary for me to be along on all of these visits, or that’s the goal anyway.

All of this is on top of the regular programs and in-branch duties I’m used to handling, by the way.

It’s… a lot, is what I’m saying.

Add to this that the one real symptom of pregnancy that I’m having is a need for more sleep than usual. But my schedule doesn’t have the wiggle room for me to get more sleep than I already get, so it’s been tough going. I’m on a sleep deficit most of the week, and desperately try to make it up on the weekends (and I alternate between one- and three-day weekends, so this can be really tough on my six-day work weeks).

So, my non-work life is suffering. I messed up and double-booked social things this week, and wound up flaking on something really important. And then I realized it’s the third or fourth social thing I’ve flaked on in this month alone. I literally don’t have the wherewithal right now to stay on top of my work stuff (which I miraculously do seem to be on top of, somehow!) and the rest of my life. Throw in all the extra doctor stuff, and the fact that I’m moving at the end of the month, and I really should have known better than to agree to do things this month, to be honest… Sorry friends, I really do love you all, but I have to interact with far too many people as it is these days.

It’s not going to be forever though. This position is only mine until mid-to-late July (though I suspect they’ll keep me on a little extra time, and not bother to transition me to my new permanent position right away, since by then my pregnancy leave will be imminent), and school outreach won’t be happening past the end of June in any case.

Better yet, we’re moving closer to where I work next month. What’s been a 2-hour transit commute each way for the last few years will become a 40-minute walk (or 15 minutes on transit plus a 15 minute walk, depending on how I feel). I’ll have time for that extra sleep soon!

In the meantime, I’m already counting down the days to my parental leave. It’s just five more months, and when I get back I’ll have already started accumulating honest-to-goodness paid vacation days, so I will hopefully never have to get this run-down again.

Oh yeah, did I mention I’ve been working full-time for 18 months now with no real access to vacation (contract work is just so fun!)? Because that’s probably a big part of this whole thing. Thank goodness the precarity has an expiration date.

I can do this.

Brief Thought: Humanity is just weird

Sometimes I am just struck by the absurdity of some of the things we take in stride/for granted in the world. For instance, one way I could describe (part of) my plans for tomorrow:

I’m getting a tattoo!

That’s a pretty clear and, while exciting to me, not entirely out of the ordinary thing to do, right?

But if I put it like this:

Tomorrow I have an appointment to pay a complete stranger a bunch of money to stick needles into my skin thousands of times over the course of a couple of hours, to change the colour of some of my skin.

…Like, wait, what? Literally how is this just a normal(ish) thing? What even is humanity? WHY ARE PEOPLE?

That’s all I’ve got for you today.

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.