Asleep vs Awake

Most of the time when I dream I’m just me as I am in day to day life, that is to say I’m feminine. But I’ve had a few dreams recently which don’t fit this pattern.

The first dream was set in a shopping centre. There was a floor above with glass barriers and a flight of stairs going up there. In my dream, I was making my way through the shopping centre and being pulled along by my mum as I kept trying to stop to talk to people (they were wearing name stickers so maybe it was some kind of conference?). As we passed the bottom of the stairs I noticed one of my favourite youtubers was on the next level and had nobody waiting to talk to him- naturally I wanted to go and say hi. Looking behind me as I was dragged along, I fell over and was steadied by another of my top youtubers who asked if I was ok. As he hugged me, he asked if ‘you girls’ were having a good time and I whispered “I’m not a girl”. There was a pause before he asked me to say it again so that my mum could hear. At that point I woke up.

There was also a dream in which I was leaving somewhere and came to a room with male and female toilets along with a door with the transgender symbol on it. I went into this room and found that it was a secret room and that my identity would be protected. As I went to leave, someone offered me a trial of a packer.

The next dream was about a week later, I was in a library/bar (it was strange and confusing) and there were demonstrations and tours. Somehow I got involved in one of these and was taken to a side room with a small group of other people to see how this new computer worked. I had a deep voice in this dream and seemed to be constantly about to introduce myself as Jay but never got the chance- the person would be swept away or the demonstrator would start talking. The main feeling of this dream was being really excited and nervous to introduce myself but never getting to.

Last night my dream was set at a friend’s house where I spilled a mug of tea on myself and had to go and change my clothes. When I went to change, I put on a binder which was a half-tank that morphed (as dream clothes can) to become a t-shirt tucked into a skirt. I was so conflicted, I felt like I looked super great but didn’t want to leave the room like it. In the end one of my friends came to check on me and I covered myself with a blanket before slowly revealing my flattened chest.

When I’m awake I’m constantly trying to get myself read as male by strangers but this doesn’t seem to apply to dream-me. I don’t know if that’s because I have no direct experience of being referred to as male or not, but I know that when I have these dreams I wake up really happy.

 

“Just a Phase”

Today I went into town with my friends to run some errands and we stopped to get a coffee. I’m not entirely sure how we got onto the subject of phases, all I remember of the conversation prior to this was us talking about what we’ve actually got from our degrees.

My friend who was sat opposite me started talking about how phases shouldn’t be disregarded and are just as much a part of a person as a constant trait. That yes, sexuality or gender may be a phase but its real at that time and whether it is a phase lasting 6 weeks or 60 years its still a valid part of someone’s life. Putting the word ‘just’ in front of it belittles it and makes it into something trivial. Using the word ‘phase’ suggests its temporary and therefore unimportant. We came to the conclusion that people are scared of change and want everything to stay constant which is why it the idea of people being fluid is hard to accept- it makes it harder to put people into a neatly defined box. That this is probably why so many people dismiss others’ experiences as “just a phase”.

“It’s not a phase, it’s who I am” has become something of an internet meme, usually said in a sarcastic tone to joke about a controversial appearance or choice [example: I used it when my hair was an absolute mess the other day and my friend commented on it]. But I feel that phases should be taken more seriously, nobody is the same person now as they were in the past.

I was a child once, now I’m an adult. Nobody tells me I was lying then, or that I’m lying now. Everyone just accepts that it was a part of my history and I’ve changed. It would be ridiculous of them to assume that me being an adult is only temporary and I’ll actually turn out to be a child all along. So why do it with other aspects of peoples’ identities?

Phases define who people are. A passing interest may be outgrown, or may be pursued. Trials with different labels may help people find the one that truly fits them. They may go back to their original. And that’s OK. Experimentation and fluidity of identities should be accepted because people grow. People change. And they’re allowed to change back.

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.

Transphobia and Lunch

I went out for lunch with my sister, cousin and aunt today and had a great time. After I’d tried bits of everyone else’s meals, my aunt commented on how much I’d eaten, to which I replied “I’m a growing lad!” prompting laughter. My cousin then said “hey, why lad? Why not just a growing human being?” and I agreed that that would have been the better phrase to use. As my cousin asked my aunt to pass the soy sauce, my sister turned to me.

“Are you actually a boy haha?”
“No”
“Haha, I didn’t think so”

So now we were on the topic of gender. My cousin started talking about one of her friends (who is known to lie for attention). Their most recent tale is one of being a boy, no agender, no- a boy, actually…girl. Wait, boy. Non-binary. Boy. With this comes constant name changing (they’ve ‘changed their mind’ 3 times in the last 2 weeks).

“She’s just trying to be something she’s not and its just sad”

I’m not sure what to say about this, other than I was trying not to say anything because I was really uncomfortable– I change my mind on how I identify pretty regularly, the only difference is that I don’t tell anyone.

So I’m sat there listening to my cousin talking about her friend and trying to filter the bias from what she’s telling me, when she mentions how their friend plans ahead on which days they’re going to be male. I mean, I’m pretty new to the whole gender-questioning game, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that. It seems to me like predicting on which days you’re going to be in a good mood- its not something you can control in advance. At this point, my aunt joins the conversation with:

“I don’t know why people have to make such a big deal about their gender or sexuality, like, nobody cares. You don’t have to throw it about all over the place and tell everyone

and laughs with my sister. My cousin and I laugh along but make that kind of eye contact where you’re going to pretend to agree because you’re not in the mood to get into this right now (she’s bi, I’m ace). Its the type of comment that comes from a place of privilege, she doesn’t know what its like to be surrounded by heteronormativity and that not applying to you. It’s not that you want to go around announcing yourself as different, its that its assumed that you’re the same as everybody else which puts you in a lose-lose situation. You have two options:

  1. Be out and get criticised for trying to be a special snowflake
  2. Stay in the closet and move through society with ease, but be constantly putting on an act

This is the main reason I haven’t told anyone (except a couple of close friends) about my ace-ness and gender confusion. I’d much rather do little things that make me feel more comfortable without being explicitly ‘out’ than be out and face all that comes with that. In that respect, I think being AFAB puts me in a pretty good place- having short hair and wearing traditionally masculine clothing is generally more accepted than an AMAB person dressing in a more feminine manner. My family don’t even give my men’s tshirts a second glance seeing as I’ve always worn pretty neutral clothes, so coming out to them just seems an unnecessary hassle for now.

All in all, it was a good day. Wagamama was excellent (as always), queer conversation with my family left much to be desired (as always).

 

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.