Amatonormativity

imageOne of my friends on Facebook liked this picture the other day.

As an aromantic, it’s the kind of thing that makes me sad and angry, the idea that romantic love is the highest form of relationship you can have with another person and that other forms of relationship are somehow inferior.

Its the use of the word “settle” that bothers me about this more than anything. Friendships are not weaker or less important than romantic relationships, there are all sorts of bond that people can have and none of them is any more special than the other. The idea of settling for someone as a friend rather than a romantic partner massively simplifies the complex range of emotions that people can feel towards others; I love my friends dearly but its completely platonic, and different to how I love my family.

Not all love is romantic. Not only romantic love is important.

Old Spice and Dysphoria

I started to run out of shampoo last week. Next to the ordinary bottle I normally buy was the same but scented with Old Spice which I got because 1) it smells amazing 2) I’ve been feeling more masculine/neutral recently so I figured it would be really reaffirming.

The other day (a particularly masc day) I used the new bottle to wash my hair and it was great. I felt validated, I was acting in a way that matched how I felt- like when I had my hair cut short. It was great and I emerged from the shower feeling happy and confident.

This morning was a different story. I was more at the neutral part of the gender spectrum but leaning towards masculine, so I decided to use the new shampoo rather than finishing the last of the old bottle as it felt more right. Lathering up my hair was so nice, immersing myself in that distinct scent that masculine products have…until I looked down. My bubble was popped, I was not who this product was aimed at and my body was wrong. Everything was wrong. I finished up showering pretty quickly and went to get dressed but ended up curled up on my bed wrapped in my towel because getting dressed would mean seeing my body, hiding it under clothes not meant for me, feeling like I was playing pretend.

The way I described it to my friend the other day was that sometimes I look at my body and see a masc person, whereas other times I look and see a femme person. There’s not much difference in it, but seeing femme me just sets alarm bells off because I look like a stereotypical ‘lesbian’. That’s not a bad thing and I wouldn’t mind that if that was the look I was going for, its just that thats not how I want to be seen- I don’t want to be seen as a girl. I guess its a kind of misgendering, but misgendering myself.

The best kind of days are where I look in the mirror and think ‘that’s just a body. Not how I want it to look but I can live with that. It’s pretty nice, just much more feminine than I want.’ I look at my face and notice the vaguely masculine features that I possess and I’m happy. I look in the mirror and appreciate myself for being non-binary.

Life Goals or Wife Goals?

My friend showed me a post on Tumblr once that said something along the lines of being a lesbian makes it hard to tell if you’re looking at a pretty girl thinking ‘life goals’ or ‘wife goals’. I’m having a similar thing recently and it’s throwing me completely off balance- I’m finding it increasingly hard to relate to the female form, I still admire it but not in the way that makes me aspire to look like the people I see. What’s also new is that I’ve started looking at masculine people a lot more, but I don’t know if what I’m feeling is aesthetic attraction or wanting to imitate their image.

I’ve been looking at myself in a more masculine way recently, so there’s this disconnect between how I’m feeling femme but wanting to look masc- how is that supposed to allow me to relate to anything? This binary gender and the stereotypes that engulf western culture is just smothering at the moment; I feel like I kind of fit into both sides, but not really into either. My mind and my body are trying to go in different directions and I’m being torn in half.

So recently I’m in this weird place of not having any idea whether I’m wanting to be friends with the guys I find attractive, or be them. It’s messing up my headspace. What if I just have this twisted idea of wanting to look like them because I’m some kind of imitator of what I admire? What if I’m actually cis but this is that little part of me that wants to be different for attention? What if I just want the privilege of being male?

 

Changing My Name (Or Not)

“Hi, I’m Amber”

I’ve never really got on with my name despite having been told by multiple people that it’s “really pretty” (I had a teacher once who in the first lesson of the year stopped at my name when taking the register and told me that she loved my name. How was I supposed to respond to that?!). I like it as a name but it often feels like its not mine, that I’m borrowing from somebody else.

Changing my name has been something I’ve thought about for a long time. I think I was probably 14 or so when I first remember thinking that having a gender neutral name like Alex would be the coolest thing ever- nobody would know what gender you were until they met you! Alex has been a name that’s stuck around, occasionally fluttering up to the front of my thoughts; more so recently as I’ve been actively questioning myself. It still feels off, but in a different way to Amber which is familiar and comforting even if it chafes. My housemate has taken to calling me Ambrose until I decide on a name, its really nice as it feels natural as a nickname.

A few weeks ago I mentally corrected people to Ash whenever they said my name, but as soon as I even considered that as an actual possibility and wrote it down it stopped fitting and morphed into something completely alien.Whereas I mentally felt that it was right, something about it becoming real threw it off. [I’m not intentionally choosing alternative names that start with A, it just so happens that these are the names I like]

The name I’m playing about with at the moment is Jay- not using it but considering what it would be like if I did. I like it a lot, but I’m worried that the same thing that happened with Ash will happen. Looking at those two written near each other Jay feels more right so maybe it was just that Ash wasn’t a good fit for me. I don’t know if this is normal- when people change their names do they feel uncomfortable with it even if its one they’ve chosen for themselves?

Amber. Alex. Ash. Jay.

Jay.

Jay feels right.

 

I’m different when I can see myself

If I see myself in a mirror, I act in a more masculine way. The way I stand, move and talk all changes. It’s not a conscious decision, just something that I’ve noticed that happens. It’s something I’ve sort of registered over the last couple of months, but it only really clicked a couple of nights ago when I was on Skype with my mum. I automatically adopted a more masculine posture and gestures, made my voice more gravelly and spoke slower. I only changed because I could see myself, I was more aware of how I look and move and act.

I’ve previously been putting this down to wanting to present in the way that I feel I should- I haven’t been raised in a masculine way, so if I’m feeling masculine maybe I only notice how my presentation and identity don’t match when I can see myself. This got me wondering, is it something that happens because my attention is drawn to it, or something that’s happening because I can see myself and want to act like a man ‘just to see what it would be like’?

Change also happens if I feel like attention is being drawn to me, for example if I’m waiting somewhere in public, or about to talk to a cashier. At these points where I feel like people might be paying more attention to me than normal I get more masculine. But why? Do I do this because I want to be seen this way? Is it for confidence?

I hate looking at pictures of me with hair. I have long hair on my ID, it feels fake. I get embarrassed about handing it over because it feels like a part of me that nobody should see, like its a secret I want to keep hidden. Seeing strangers in the street, or pictures in the media, I compare myself to the masculine people I see. I don’t relate to the feminine ones at all. But I don’t feel male. Or do I?

 

 

Presentation time

Tomorrow I have to do an 8 minute presentation for my dissertation about what I’ve been looking at and what I’ve found. I’m feeling pretty prepared (or as prepared as I’m going to be) but freaking out slightly. Here’s a quick rundown on what’s happening:

  1. I’m last. The sessions are split into morning and afternoon, and I’m the last person to present before lunch. It could be worse, and I’m glad I’m tomorrow and not Friday, but having to sit through two and a half hours of presentations is going to stress me out big-time.
  2. My graphs are a mess. Well they make sense, I just can’t talk about them. I seem to get my words muddled each time I try and explain what they show. This is made worse by my lab partner (and housemate) presenting half an hour before me, and she’s so coherent in her explanations.
  3. I’m worried my pillow will make me neck hurt and I’ll wake up in the night again and then be exhausted in the morning.
  4. I don’t know what to wear. I’m going to wear something smart but I’m going to stress-sweat a lot. And the stress is going to make me feel hot and cold and clammy and gross, so I don’t want layers. Also my name is feeling wrong and feminine and not me and I hope that’s gone by tomorrow because I don’t want to feel wrong being seen as a girl. I’ll probably go with a shirt and nice black jeans. Maybe a tie if I’m feeling brave.
  5. We’re drinking tomorrow night to celebrate and a) that kicks off my social anxiety because what if I’m not acting right? What if I do or say something stupid? and b) I might just want to come home and sleep instead of going out (but it will only be friends so thats not too bad, and I’ll have fun when I’m there).
  6. I’m worried I’ll forget my memory stick with my slides on it even though its safely in my bag ready for tomorrow.

And the ridiculous thing is, as soon as I start talking all of my stress will disappear. It’s just the build-up I can’t handle.

Gender and Asexuality

Written for the March 2016 Carnival of Aces.  

Firstly, I just want to say how much I love this month’s topic! The link between gender norms and asexuality is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately so this ended up being a bit of a long post (sorry not sorry).

I think there’s a strong link between traditional ideas of gender and sexuality. I mean, if you assume that everybody is heterosexual its easiest to assume that everybody is also either a boy or a girl; like magnets you get one person from each box and pair them up. But the problem is, not everybody fits into these boxes. This wanting to place people into categories thing is interesting- it produces the idea that in order to be attractive to the people in the opposite camp you must fit the stereotypes of your designated group, just like magnets. All well and good for people who want to attract others, but what about people who don’t want to? I feel in this way asexuality is somewhat freeing.

I say somewhat because although I don’t feel any pressure to conform to femininity in order to be ‘attractive’, I still feel bound by the social pressures to be a certain way. I’ve never felt particularly feminine and would probably be more comfortable if everybody was androgynous, something I touched on in this post. Wrider’s comment on said post:

 If sex organs aren’t really an integral part to an asexual that doesn’t like sex and gender “generally lines up with your sex, and if you feel like it doesn’t then you’re transgender/agender etc” the whole thing seems to fall apart. We sort of don’t have a sex to line it up with

puts into words what I’m trying to get at here; that because such emphasis is put on everyone eventually finding a partner the logical assumption is that this search must have a massive impact on your identity. The ace community is, therefore, possibly less attached to the binary gender system (these are just my thoughts based on my experiences, and I don’t expect them to represent everybody).

I’m now at a place where I’m happy with my ace-ness, and it may be unrelated but at the same sort of time that I started to accept that I don’t have to be a certain way to please people I started to question my gender. So much of my identity had been based on my family’s expectations of me being a girl and therefore acting feminine and eventually finding a nice man to settle down with (no thank you, I’ll just collect cats and dogs if that’s alright). So when I started to think about what would make me happiest, the easy answer was complete and total androgyny. I can listen to the more masculine part of my identity. I don’t have to be feminine unless it’s what I want to do and right now, it’s not. Again, I’m not sure how much is linked to my asexuality but in my eyes not feeling the pressure to conform in order to be an acceptable partner is definitely a massive weight lifted that allows me to be a lot more free with my identity.

Gender doesn’t play a role in my platonic attraction as such, but I do feel a lot more comfortable around people who aren’t hyper masculine/feminine. I’ve always tended to be friends with ‘unpopular’ people for this reason- I find them a lot easier to get along with and that gender plays a smaller role in the friendship group, but that might just be my own personal experience. It plays a larger role in aesthetic attraction, I definitely spend more time admiring androgynous people than pretty girls/handsome men (although I do appreciate anybody who is dressed well). In my friendships gender norms tend to not play too large a role, with nobody in my friendship group going out of their way to be super feminine most of the time. I much prefer to make friends where gender doesn’t come into the equation and we can all just be people and spend time in each others company without having to draw lines around the genders, if that makes sense.

I don’t know how much is related to being ace but if gender norms could disappear and we could all just be people I would be a whole lot happier.