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.

I’ve Never Been a Tomboy

I grew up in a pretty non-gendered way. Myself and my sister were allowed to wear what we wanted so we both wore trousers and t-shirts rather than dresses or skirts like our friends. We played football (well, we kicked it between us) and had remote control cars. But we also played house and ran cafes for our teddies. I wanted to be a vet, she wanted to be a truck driver (when she grew up and became a boy- and my family laughed at her, told her that doesn’t happen).

My sister has spent a lot of her life imitating me, but always being the more ‘boyish’ one of the two of us, although definitely identifying herself as female. I remember when I was about 7 feeling really upset when my grandparents were talking about how my sister enjoyed playing with my aunt’s old action men, when I was the one who liked them and she showed little interest. I remember that it hurt that since nobody expected me to like them, nobody believed me. About that time, I was taking toy cars to school to play with on the low wall in the playground with the boys, feeling torn between wanting to play cars and wanting to spend time with my girl friends. I think I grew up blending in, talking myself into liking things that I was supposed to; a social chameleon. I covered my room with horse posters so I didn’t have to have posters of bands like all of my friends. I had a severe case of “I’m not like other girls”, but didn’t think of myself as a boy.

In the summer, my sister would be the one running around without a t-shirt on whereas I didn’t want to expose my chest. I was the good little girl being quiet and well behaved while she was off being mischievous. Even now with neither of us being particularly feminine, I’m seen by my family as more so.

So I’m conflicted. I know that gender is fluid and I might have identified as a girl when I was younger but that can change. I know that gender stereotypes suck and mean nothing. I know that not everybody who isn’t cis knew when they were young, but the predominant narrative is of people knowing from a very young age and having huge amounts of dysphoria. I’ve never been much of a tomboy, I don’t really get dysphoria. Am I a girl like my sister? Do I just not conform to how a girl is supposed to be?

I feel like I’ve convinced myself of something that isn’t there so much that now I believe it’s true.

Being Different Around Different People

I live in a house of girls and in my everyday life around them and going about town I want to be seen as male; that’s fine, I’ve come to accept it. Feeling more ‘masculine’ is something that’s been happening a lot lately, but not in a hyper-masc way, like I just don’t feel feminine. Last night I spent time hanging out with my friends that I haven’t seen in a while and it was a totally different experience. Instead of identifying with the girls or the guys in the group I felt the most connection to one of my friends who is ambiguous in their presentation, like that was where I fitted. I’ve never seen them wearing ‘feminine’ clothing and I have no idea what they identify as- but they have called themselves queer once or twice in their tags on tumblr. But then do I feel most comfortable with them because I feel closest to them? I’m not sure, it does feel like there’s a slight wall there- they don’t reveal much about themselves to anybody. I think being around them reminded me that there’s a third option- I don’t have to choose between M and F.

I think I quite often feel a sense of kinship with “visibly queer” people; a few times when out shopping there have been moments of mutual recognition and smiles exchanged. These are the people I feel a sort of pull towards, I want to get to know them- but I don’t know if that’s because they conform less to the gender stereotypes that intimidate me. Joining LGBTQ+ groups is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, maybe I’ll find people I can relate to.

I don’t know, it’s strange. I think just having the change of people made me more aware of how I wanted to be seen and it threw me off balance. I probably don’t mix with enough people to really know what group I feel most comfortable with but I feel like it would probably be people who don’t fit neatly into gendered boxes. Those who aren’t stealth. I don’t know.

Untitled

I look at myself
In the mirror
And I like what I see
When I look masculine
But I don’t feel masculine
In the stereotypical sense

So I am confused
About how I fit in
To anything

And I know

That gender is not a binary
And gender roles mean nothing

But I get a glow

In my heart
When strangers see me as male
Even though I don’t feel male

I just feel like me.

 

“Sorry mate”

Today I went shopping. In the fruit section there were loads of people, I think because one end of the aisle was blocked with people trying out something that was being offered a sample of mayonnaise or something.

So it was hard to get to where you wanted to be, even if that place was like 5 feet away- not because it was packed, but because everyone was trying to move around each other and getting in each other’s way. I got stuck in one of those awkward situations of me and someone else both moving to the same side to try and move out of the way of one another, and then he said those magic words;

“Sorry mate”

I’d passed as male! Or at least, not exclusively female. I was excited, I think I had a smile on my face for a good hour or so afterwards. It’s strange, I still don’t really feel like I have a gender but I really want to be seen as male. I guess I’ll work it out eventually- it might be easier once I start working and interacting with people outside of my friendship group to find the space I want to take up in the grand scheme of things. Until then, I’ll take questioning glances from passers-by as they try to put me into their male or female boxes.

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.

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?