Can I please be a shapeshifter now?

Fuck. I was supposed to do things today, I like don’t even remember what they were – except that one was to get a short ‘androgynous’ haircut. I did other stuff, which I guess is good. But not the things that would’ve made packing for a 3-day family thing tonight much much easier. Or, you know, having it done already.

I cut an overdue phone conversation with Banji short to go pick Fox up. When we got home Mom was waiting for us. We had some good conversation; she’s helpful. But I was thirsty and starting to freak out that our fancy clothes were wrinkling in the wash. So I excused myself (not an easy task with Mom) and took care of it. I could tell I was on the edge, needed space from her.

I come out of the laundry room to Mom holding a blouse. It’s a thing with her. She has her ideas of what I should wear and tries to be helpful and I feel like she’s forcing her own style onto me. It’s worse now being openly genderfluid because feminine clothing tends to trigger my dysphoria.

90% of the time I go ‘gender neutral’: jeans cut for a person with big hips and thighs, a ‘unisex’ t-shirt or hoodie (or tank top), walking shoes that are marketed to men. Harder to do that with formal wear. So I’ve got my general “what to wear” anxiety on top of “fuck people are going to misgender me” anxiety on top of “I don’t even know if I’m going to feel more masculine or feminine” anxiety on top of “what will Fox’s family think if I go masculine?” anxiety. (I have a binder and a men’s dress shirt and I want to say I’m not afraid to wear them but honestly I kinda am.)

And apparently we’re sharing a room with his sister now, I thought it was gonna be just us (his parents are paying for it). So my hope that this would be a sort of extended ‘date night’ enjoying ‘us time’ away from our normal routine is … well, maybe not shattered, but more complicated. We can’t necessarily just retreat to our room if we need space (or want to do stuff that requires privacy) we have to coordinate with his sister. Who … how do I put this diplomatically? … well, she’s my husband’s sister.

My brain broke and it’s taking all my effort not to be an asshole.

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Trans Day of Visibility

Today is/has been Trans Day of Visibility, an annual celebration of trans people and opportunity for folks to be out and proud.

I think I’m fairly out on this blog but just in case, I am a proud genderfluid nonbinary trans person! My pronouns are ze zir or they them their. I originally used the former, but I’ve actually come to prefer the latter.

For anyone who’s not familiar with the terminology:

  • Genderfluid means my subjective experience of my gender changes, including self-perception, bodily feelings, how I want others to perceive me, mannerisms, etc. Others have perceived changes in my energy, for what that’s worth. It seems to be mostly in response to my situation and/or the people I’m with.
  • Nonbinary means I identify as a gender other than “man” or “woman.”
  • Trans / transgender means I identify as a gender other than the one I was assigned at birth.
  • Pronouns are words we use to refer to someone instead of repeating their name. For example: “Ziya went to the store. Ze dropped zir wallet. Thank goodness I saw it and returned it to zir!”

I recently learned of a couple developments in the visibility of nonbinary people that make me very happy. I’d been meaning to share them here, and this seems like the perfect time.

CBS News ran a story including nonbinary under the trans umbrella, explaining what it means, and featuring several different people who are nonbinary – including using their pronouns. It made me so happy to see that in mainstream media!

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/non-binary-transgender-you-havent-heard-of/

AP Style now allows use of they as a singular pronoun to “[…] recognize the need for a pronoun for people who don’t identify as a he or a she.” I’ll admit this seemed much more awesome when I thought it was the APA (American Psychological Association), which dictates the style and language I’ll need to use when I finally get around to writing my thesis. But if the AP approves of singular they, either APA will follow suit (if they haven’t already made the change) or I can have a stronger argument for using it.

Hopefully, as it is used more in mainstream writing, more people will become familiar with singular they and respect it when I assert my pronouns.

http://www.copydesk.org/blog/2017/03/24/ap-style-for-first-time-allows-use-of-they-as-singular-pronoun/

[Insert suitably awesome closing 1-2 sentences here.]

Hoarding

I am a hoarder. There, I said it.

My apartment isn’t just “a mess,” it’s really, really bad. Like probably a health and safety hazard bad. And by probably I mean almost definitely. If nothing else, I keep getting sick – and I don’t think I can blame that entirely on protesting in the cold, while being precipitated upon…

But I digress.

There’s a path through the apartment: You can walk through the front door, down the hallway, into the kitchen, around the kitchen table, and out the back door.

From the hallway you can enter the bedroom and access the near side of the bed. Around the foot of the bed is a bit hazardous, and you can’t walk on the far side at all. I’ve stopped using the armoire on that side for practical clothing storage, instead I use the bed. (Fox sleeps on a futon in the living room, his choice.)

From the hallway you can enter the living room and access Fox’s futon, the TV, my desk, and my piano (if you’re brave). You can access all the important things in the kitchen, but you can’t sit at or really use the table. You can also enter the bathroom, which, umm … I don’t remember the last time I cleaned anything other than the toilet.

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I’m not a sidhe, I’m a dragon

I’ve been out of sorts since last Thursday. Mom and I went to visit with her brother’s family for the weekend; overall we had a very good time, but it took a lot out of me. We went to my cousin’s baby shower, a giant social gathering where I didn’t know most of the people and there weren’t assigned seats. I felt myself freezing up and becoming overwhelmed by anxiety. Somehow the anxiety took me by surprise; I guess since the depression is (mostly) better, I expected to feel less anxious, too? Thank goodness my (other) cousin introduced me to people. I got to meet 2 musicians and talk with them about music therapy – that was a lot of fun!

For some reason people – especially my mom – feel the need to talk about me in third person when I’m literally right next to them, even if they’re talking to me. I don’t get it. All I heard all weekend was “she,” a wall of it with razor sharp spikes flying right at me. When Mom and her siblings talk, there is no getting a word in… and I really really hate interrupting people to correct them on their pronoun use. I’ve learned that people don’t like being corrected on how they’re saying something, they want you to hear what they’re saying and respond appropriately. That makes it harder for me to stand up for myself.

illustrations of a masculine-presenting person being crowded out by feminine words (e.g.

cartoon by sleepyllama

If I thought I felt nervous at the baby shower, it was nothing compared to how anxious I get about trying to tell people I’m non-binary and “prefer” gender-neutral pronouns: they/them/their or ze/zir. My throat tightens and my jaw clenches, making it physically impossible for me to say anything.

Worse, there’s no opening for it in most social situations. I mean I guess when people ask me how I’ve been I can say, “Great! I’ve come to accept my non-binary gender identity and I’ve decided that I want people to refer to me using gender-neutral pronouns.” But other than that, it’s hard to figure out when and how to bring it up. People are used to assuming – from their perspective, “knowing” – a person’s gender based on appearance. It’s not something people usually talk about.

I wish I could have this conversation!
(image by Tony Toggles)

Between the baby shower and another cousin bringing his 2 young children to visit, there were a lot of interactions going on based on binary gender. Fox wasn’t invited to the baby shower, but people were surprised he didn’t come to hang out at the house with the other men. (If I’d wanted to hang out at the house with the men, there probably would have been some confusion and “encouragement” to go to the shower.) When we got back, the women assured the men that the “games” we played at the shower “wouldn’t have interested” them. I think guys are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves how interested they are in unscrambling words, thinking about things related to babies, and watching people open presents.

We don’t know what sex organs the new baby has yet, so there’s talk about “whether it’ll be a boy or a girl” and “if it’s a boy this; if it’s a girl, that.”

2-tier cake with the text

found on pinterest

Referring to my cousin’s two-year-old child, my aunt actually said, “He’s a boy, so he’ll need to toughen up.” We have no way of knowing how this child will identify by the time he’s an adult. Regardless of whether he’s a boy/man, gender norms that require him to be “tough” only hurt him and increase the likelihood that he might hurt others.

My aunt, uncle, cousins, and mom are awesome, friendly, kindhearted people. I went out of my way to spend a weekend with them – clearly I must like them, at least a little bit. Yet I didn’t feel safe asking them to change the ways in which they think and talk about me, even – especially! – when it was causing me emotional distress. My “coming out” would be too at odds with everything they were expressing about gender.

I’m not sure how I expected them to respond. Asking me to explain myself? Reasserting the gender they’ve assigned to me? I don’t think they’d be physically violent – but maybe annoyed? Saying they don’t understand? I tend to expect people to say they’ll try to use my pronouns but they might make mistakes; what’s important to me is that they’re willing to try.

image by Solomon Fletcher – shared here because it’s true of me, too

I tried to talk to Mom about it. I asked her to use my name instead of pronouns, as a sort of compromise. She said “I’m just talking, I’m not really thinking about it.” That hurt a lot, because to me it felt like she was prioritizing her ability to “babble” (her word, not mine) over respecting me as a person.

Then on Tuesday she started talking to me when she knew I had to leave for an appointment, wouldn’t leave me alone so I could finish getting ready, and almost made me late! I was furious with her and did my best to avoid her for over a day. I’ve been shutting out the world, feeling very grumpy. I felt so bad I couldn’t even go to a meeting for trans* people of all genders (at which I wouldn’t have known anyone). There were multiple factors (including concern about my safety) but the bottom line was I didn’t want to meet new people and otherwise be social, nor did I have the energy. I’m very disappointed because I really need a community right now and I’d rescheduled my music therapy session so I could go.

On Thursday Mom lured me out of hiding by offering me food. We talked a bit and agreed to respect each other more. She asked me to make more of an effort to respond when she tries to talk to me and to show appreciation for the help she gives me. And I was able to tell her that I need her not only to respect and use my pronouns, but to be an ally. During the conversation she talked to me about me (?) and used the wrong pronoun no less than 5 times.

“Ze,” I corrected, and she apologized.