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.

Transgender Tuesday: Pronouns

I recently discovered Nonbinary.org, a site with tons of great information about non-binary gender. Allowing me to explore the Wiki is like letting a group of kids loose in the biggest, bestest playground ever! (Well… I was a kid in the 80s and 90s, when we’d run and climb all over the place.) There are over 14 different non-binary gender identities; the one I identify with most, genderfluid, has at least 75 variations. (On this particular site; most likely not an exhaustive list.) I love reading about various ways people experience and describe their genders! I find it fascinating and refreshing.

One page I find particularly useful is “Pronouns.” It includes a list of 80 different English pronoun sets, most of which are gender-neutral. “They” has been used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun to refer to people for a thousand years. People have been creating and proposing other gender-neutral pronoun sets since the mid-1800s. Many of the pronouns were originally created by authors for use in their stories set in societies with more or less than two genders. IMHO the list is worth perusing just to discover new worlds to explore books to read.

The page also has information about how to choose pronouns for oneself and announce them to others. It’s not easy for me to request that people use my pronouns and to correct them when they misgender me, so this is a valuable resource. I might look into acquiring a pronoun badge.

I’ve been using ze, zir, zir, zirs, zirself – as in: “I love hanging out with Ziya. Ze always laughs at my jokes. I can’t wait to see zir. Wow, zir hair has gotten long! It’s okay that I forgot my umbrella, I can duck under zirs. Sometimes my dear friend can be too hard on zirself.”

Interestingly enough, that exact combination isn’t listed on the site. If I want to conform (I don’t have to) I can simply change “ze” to “zie.” (“Zie always laughs at my jokes.”)

Or, I can switch to ze, em, zeir, zeirs, zeirself – “I love hanging out with Ziya. Ze always laughs at my jokes. I can’t wait to see em. Wow, zeir hair has gotten long! It’s okay that I forgot my umbrella, I can duck under zeirs. Sometimes my dear friend can be too hard on zeirself.”

I’m not too crazy about that. Sure, I get to keep “ze,” but I think I prefer “zir” to “zeir.” Maybe “zier” would work (initially a typo, but hey, why not!?) – except that it’s a name. I like the addition of “em,” but in that mix it seems to come out of nowhere. I have an irrational hatred of “zem.” There are other sets that use the “em” sound though, such as:

  • ey, em, eir, eirs, emself
  • le, lem, les, les, lesself
  • ne, nem, nir, nirs, nemself
  • they, them, their, theirs, themself

There’s also “per” – per, per, per, pers, perself. I love this set because it’s simple and refers to the word “person,” which is what I want to be identified as. I’m not a man or a woman, I’m a person. Whatever group you’re talking about isn’t (only) comprised of men and women, it’s a group of people! We have such nice, inclusive language – “person” and “people” – why oh why don’t officials use it?

Finally (on my short list) there’s id, idre, ids, ids, idself – “I love hanging out with Ziya. Id always laughs at my jokes. I can’t wait to see idre. Wow, ids hair has gotten long! It’s okay that I forgot my umbrella, I can duck under ids. Sometimes my dear friend can be too hard on idself.”

I’m madly in love with “idre,” but I can take or leave the rest. I prefer “ze” and “zir.” Maybe “Idre” would make a good name? I don’t know.

The point is, we can do this!!! There’s a very long list of pronouns anyone can choose from – and I imagine additions would be more than welcome. I’m also pretty sure the pronoun police won’t come after us if we mix and match. Hopefully. Don’t quote me on it; if they do come after you I’m not liable.

If you want to try out different pronoun sets, check out the Pronoun Dressing Room. You can select a set from the “Pronoun Closet” and edit individual pronouns (e.g. changing “zie” to “ze”). Your chosen name, pronouns, and preferred noun (e.g. “person”) are then inserted seamlessly into select passages from classic fiction, which you can read. It helped me come up with a custom set that fits perfectly – at least with my current mood…

Transgender Tuesday: Links and Spoons

Last week I shared some of the uncertainty I’ve been feeling about my transgender, non-binary gender identity. I’ve read a couple of articles since then that I think everyone should read. They’ve helped me feel more confident that I am what I say I am, regardless of how others treat me or what they might want me to do.

I’ve experienced some harmful effects of the 10 Myths About Non-Binary People It’s Time to Unlearn, especially the myth that we don’t exist. People have taken my gender less seriously or come up with their own explanations of it under the false belief (#2) that I’m “just” confused: for me it’s not so much confusion as that gender is complicated and I’m still working things out; even if I were confused that doesn’t justify disrespect.

Mom hits me with #3 “You are a new concept” and #7 “Your pronouns are ridiculous” all the effin time. She’d try and convince me that her generation is completely incapable of learning new things or adapting to new social realities. That seems highly unlikely to me, considering how much has changed in the past 60 years. The last time she told me using my pronouns is difficult, I told her I understand and just need her to try. Things seemed to be going well… until much later when she made a scathing remark about me spending money on therapy. (You know, the thing that’s slowly freeing me from generations of emotional neglect and abuse.) She’s since apologized but… It’s a process. I just keep telling myself it’s a process.

Sam Dylan Finch’s piece, 8 Things Non-Binary People Need to Know, was exactly what I needed to read; I could swear he wrote it in response to my post from last week! I wanted to quote and/or expand on specific parts that I can relate to strongly, really needed to hear, or find particularly meaningful… but if I did that I’d end up re-posting the whole thing!

I think it’s important that he included #4 “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” Mental health is a very important issue for everyone and especially non-binary people. Talking to Wakana about my gender identity can be difficult (and frustrating) but I think, in time, it will help me benefit so much more from therapy.

Speaking of mental health, I’m learning to have much better respect for and adapt to my need to budget emotional energy, or spoons. I’ve been feeling very anxious about my piano midterm on Thursday (2 days! AAAAHHHH!!!). I have plans to meet with a classmate today and practice interventions, I have to pick Mom up from the airport this evening, and there are the 2 LGBTQ+ groups I’ve been meaning to join… Long before I went to bed last night, I was already feeling the all-too-familiar dread.

This morning I realized it’s going to be a very busy day and I probably shouldn’t try to do everything I had planned. I practiced some self management: I wrote down everything I have planned for today and prioritized. The meeting with my classmate and picking Mom up have to happen. I should try to catch my instructor during office hours and practice piano some more tonight.

The LGBTQ+ groups are technically optional. I was feeling very anxious about the one I haven’t been to at all yet because it’s brand new and it would be the first thing in my day. In the past I’ve found myself unable to get ready on time for such things, getting extremely stressed out, and not going after all. I just can’t afford to drop that many spoons. So, today, I decided to skip the stress and anxiety and wait to join that new group next week, when (hopefully) I’ll have less important and emotionally-charged things to worry about.

I really hate having to make that decision, especially since it interferes with my goals of being part of the LGBTQ+ community, getting support, and practicing being part of a group. But today it’s the best decision for me. I can use the anger it generates as energy to help myself get through this busy day.

The second group meets at a much better time for me and I feel more comfortable going to it. I’ve already had awkward one-on-one meetings with the facilitator; if there are other people there, it will probably be much better. Knowing that’s a possibility – I’m still free to make the choice that’s best for me when the time comes – feels good.