I Don’t Know Who I Am Today

You know when you look at something and its not how you want it, but you know exactly what you would do to make it better? Like looking at your hair and thinking how much more you would like it if it was longer?

I woke up in a weird headspace this morning. Everything was wrong with my body but I didn’t know why, I didn’t know how I would change it to make it right if I could. Did I want my hair longer or shorter? Bigger boobs or a flat chest? Leaner arms or more muscled? Everything was spinning. I shut my eyes.

I spent the good part of an hour and a half curled in a ball with the duvet pulled over my head. That’s how I was when my housemate came in to see if I was awake, in a ball jiggling my leg for something to take my agitation away.

“What’s up?”

“I don’t know who I am today”

“That’s ok. Do you know who you want to be?”

“No”

“No idea at all? You can be anybody you want”

“I don’t know”

“Ok. Let’s go get you some food. What do you want to wear today? Your favourite shirt is hanging here, do you want that?”

Sometimes that little nudge, that reminder that the people who love you don’t care what you look like, they just want you to be happy. That they will try to understand your gender struggles even if they can’t fully comprehend them. Sometimes that’s like aloe on a burn, it doesn’t take the pain away but it makes it far better. But on the other side of the coin, she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t know what it’s like to feel like you’re seeing double when you look at yourself, or to feel out of place being referred to as ‘miss’.

Some days I wake up and I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I want to look like, what names and pronouns I want people to use. Some days are hard.

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Being Validated While Revising

In the process of reading scientific papers for my Human Behavioural Ecology module this term, I came across an absolute gem by G.A. Schuiling*. Its a personal view so is written in a much less formal style than most papers and is a collection of the existing research interspersed with Schuiling’s comments and opinions. One of my favourite sections of the paper is the paragraph:

Almost every aspect of human culture and indeed of man’s daily life emphasizes the fact that, for humans, reproduction is the raison d’etre; we are thoroughly sexual beings. Literature from ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ to pulp novels and soap operas; art, both in the Vatican and in avant garde galleries; advertisement; music (from operas like Orfeo & Euridice and Le Nozze di Figaro to most pop songs): literally everything is pervaded with sexual images.

Asexual people often make the comment that sex is everywhere, and its nice to have it pointed out from a scientific point of view, even in passing- it feels validating, in a way.

(Sorry for the short post and not posting in a while, life is hectic at the moment with dissertation and exam revision. I have a load of ideas for when I have time to write again though!)

* G.A. Schuiling (2003) The benefit and the doubt: why monogamy? Journal of Psychosomatic Obsetrics & Gynecology, 24:1, 55-61

I’m Hidden But That’s Fine With Me

Written for the April 2016 Carnival of Aces.

This month’s topic is “Be yourself (but stretch)” which is really interesting and it’s made me think about how I see and change my behaviour in everyday life in relation to my asexuality which..isn’t much to be honest.

I think I’m pretty much myself, I don’t change my behaviour a lot depending on who I’m with. Only my close friends know that I’m ace but it doesn’t really affect anything- its a pretty neutral friend group where sex isn’t all that essential to conversations. I mean, having my housemates commenting on characters being ‘hot’ and making lewd comments or talking about how they think of sex a lot and I’m like ‘really?’ can sometimes make me feel out of place, like I’m missing out on something.If I make any comment on how I don’t experience that kind of thing they tend to say things along the lines of ‘well of course you don’t’ which…I don’t know. On the one hand it’s reassuring, at least they get that I see things differently. On the other hand it feels kind of…like pity? Or them doing their best to accommodate me?

Not being out to my family can be tough at family gatherings, but I find that just shrugging off questions about having a partner and saying I’m not interested tends to work pretty well. I think having my sister there most of the time helps, the person asking then has somebody else to direct their question at. I’m not sure if I’ll come out at all, it doesn’t really have a major impact on my life because I’m not often in directly sexual/confrontational situations and I’d rather not invite interrogation.

If I need to reaffirm my ace identity, I tend to put on my ace beanie that my friend knitted for me, or wrap myself in my ace scarf. Social media is pretty good too, there are certain blogs and pages that are very comforting to visit if I’m not feeling great.

Overall, being invisible and being myself seem to roughly equate to the same thing so I don’t really need to stretch that much, but that may all change in the future when I’m no longer in education and I’m in the Real World.

 

What if

What if
the reason you hate your body
is because you’re comparing it
to the wrong ideal
and although
society tries to teach you
self love
you can’t help looking
at all your flaws

What if
the second you start to wonder
if maybe you’re not a female
you feel at peace
with your body
like it suddenly isn’t so bad
and you feel
so
much
more
comfortable

What if
you’ve lived for 21 years
without feeling wrong
and now you still don’t
but when you look in the mirror
and see yourself as a man
everything seems
so
much
better

What if
this was you
would you be scared?

Why I’m No Longer Camera Shy

It’s strange to look back on things, memories from my younger self. Sometimes a memory is crystal clear, every detail can be remembered perfectly; other times it’s a murky image like a faded and yellowing photograph. But the strangest thing of all is not knowing how accurate these memories actually are. How much is my memory distorted by my current experience, and how much is stuff I was told and have incorporated into my mental filing cabinet?

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time questioning my identity, but I don’t think I’ve never really felt comfortable- I just didn’t have a word for what was wrong. It might sound cliche, but I’ve always found it hard to fit in. I spent a lot of time reading, my favourite books were by Roald Dahl (who doesn’t love his books!?) and James Herriot- I loved imagining myself in that setting, as a man in the 1930s. I still do, mostly for the aesthetic value. I didn’t have many friends, and all I wanted to do was to have the flat stomach and dead straight hair that all the Pretty Girls at school had. But at the same time, although I wanted to look the part, I hated dressing feminine- outside of school uniform I lived in jeans and t-shirts. I was called a lesbian at school, a joke started and spread by my ‘friends’. I was miserable but accepted it as normal school bullying, just something that happened.

So when I got new friends it was good. I mean, the girls still wore make up and jewellery and pretty dresses; told me I should too because I look so pretty when I do. My standard response was that I go for comfort over looking good- why would I freeze in the winter wearing a thin dress when I could wear a hoody and jeans? (Something one of my friends was horrified by). It was around this time that I got a pair of maroon jeans- they were what everybody was wearing, but I think the main factor drawing me to them was that they looked good, and guys were wearing them too. They looked good with t-shirts, so why not? [This is one of those memories that I’m not entirely sure about- when I think about this time all I remember is what the guys looked like wearing them even though people of all genders were wearing coloured jeans]. It was around this time that we covered Freud in psychology class and I was genuinely surprised that other people hadn’t experienced penis envy- I was confused by the idea that other girls hadn’t wondered what it would be like to have a penis.

Fast forward a few years, I’m in my first year at uni. I started the year wearing nice clothes, trying to fit in and make friends; I think I only lasted a month and a half before slipping back into my trusty t-shirts. Over the next couple of years I started collecting plaid shirts, (something I had done when I was younger before I was persuaded out of it by my parents) with my collection being built up to about 15 by the end of second year.

That takes us to around July 2015. I was starting to experiment with my presentation, wondering more and more what it would be like to be a guy, or be seen as one. Ambiguous presentation became more and more what I aimed to achieve with my clothing choices, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Come December, my mental health started to really play up and my friends dragged me to the doctor for something to regulate it despite me claiming I was fine. Hello, medication.

I feel like that was actually the best thing that could have happened to me; my head was suddenly clear and I could organise my thoughts far better. Suddenly it was obvious to me that I wasn’t completely comfortable being seen as a girl, that the reason I hated my body wasn’t because it wasn’t feminine enough, but because it was too feminine. Another key thing: I got a haircut. I’ll be honest, for the week or two until I got used to it I absolutely hated it, but after that initial shock period I started to see myself properly. Finally when I looked in the mirror I was Me.

It’s strange now. Most of my gender revelations have happened in the past few months and I’m now at a point where although I’m not out to anybody I feel far more comfortable in myself. Previously, before my hair was cut I would hide from the camera and cringe at any pictures taken of me because I hated how I looked; now I look at pictures taken of me with my hair short and I see myself looking back. Seeing pictures of me with long hair now is like looking at baby pictures of myself, like they’re from a distant life I once had but can’t quite remember. Looking at my body as non-binary has improved my relationship with it, I feel far more confident in my skin and no longer see all the flaws that I used to because I’m no longer striving for the societal ideal of a ‘perfect woman’. That said, I do get some mild dysphoria about my hips and breasts, but its easier to comfort myself about that.

My friends have said I’ve been smiling more, been happier and more confident and I really just think that now things are clicking into place. It wasn’t that anything felt intrinsically wrong before I started to question myself, its just that now everything feels so much more right.

Standing on the Wrong Mountain

This post started off with me making a connection between something we covered in uni and my own experience and ended up being a little biology-heavy at the beginning, so sorry about that. I just wanted a good way to explain it and for it to work its best to know what I’m talking about, you know?

So, here goes.

Evolutionary theory suggests that species evolve to be the best adapted to their environment as possible (i.e. maximise their fitness). Everyone knows that, right? There’s also the concept of Fitness Peaks- the idea that there may be multiple ‘best’ ways to evolve that each lead to increased fitness (points A, B and C compared to start point x on the diagram below).

Fitness-landscape-cartoon

The problem with this is that a species may evolve to be at the top of the fitness peak, so the best they can be- but it not be the tallest peak. Using the above diagram again, say for instance that a species starts at point x and evolves to get to the top of peak A. To get to peak B, and so be even better, they’re going to have to go through a period of poor fitness (which doesn’t benefit anyone- evolution acts on the present, it doesn’t look ahead). So the species is stuck at the top of peak A.

Okay, biology lesson over.

This is just something that I’ve been thinking about recently and the connection might not make any sense to anyone else- I feel like I’m on peak A: I’m fairly happy with myself (most of the time) but if I think about being somewhere on peak B I feel like I would be even happier. The problem I’m seeing at the moment is that to get to that point I’m going to have to go through a time where things aren’t so good. I’m not saying that transitioning (even just socially) would make me unhappy, but I’m pretty sure that coming out and process of transitioning almost definitely would. Having to correct people who know me and explain that things have changed, rather than just instantaneously becoming ‘the new me’, with no link to who I was previously.

Does that make sense?

I’m Doing it- I’m Changing my Name

Well not exactly.

Not to anyone I actually know, but online I’m going to start going by Jay. Amber is feeling increasingly foreign to me. It bothers me more online as it’s written so doesn’t go away, whereas in day to day life it gets mentioned and then disappears (if that makes any sense). Its also used infrequently enough in conversation to not bother me too much and I’m still not 100% sure on if I actually want to change my name, or if that will end up being my one of choice, and I feel like not telling anybody I know personally gives me the freedom to change my mind.

I’m going to go for they/them pronouns too, try them out online before I decide whether to use them generally- like my name they chafe slightly but pronouns aren’t often used a lot in conversation so it doesn’t cause a great deal of problems.

I feel like I’m going to start living a sort of double life but I feel much more comfortable changing my name/pronouns online where people I know can’t interrogate me on my choices. I’m not ready to deal with having to explain myself (possibly multiple times if I decide this isn’t right) or with certain family members and their opinions, so I’ll take it one step at a time.

At this point I guess the only thing left to do is to re-introduce myself.

Hi, I’m Jay. Nice to meet you.