Putting words to feelings: August 2016 Carnival of Aces submission

Despite the fact that I set this month’s theme myself, I’ve been a little at a loss about what I wanted to contribute to the Carnival of Aces this time around.

I am very big on finding words that capture my experience of the world. It’s why I love to read so much, all of the time, and my favourite books are the ones in which the authors have found a perfect way of describing an experience that had been so inarticulable to me that I’d barely been consciously aware that I experienced that same thing as well. And I’ve felt this way about a lot of concepts and terms in ace blogosphere/thoughtspaces, so that’s why this month’s theme is “naming it”; it’s all about that experience of finding words for things you already felt.

But at the same time, I’ve already written about the generalities of how finding ace-generated models of attraction(s) was valuable to me, and how I wished they could gain traction in the broader world, not to mention how demisexuality itself has been a game-changer for me (and both for previous carnivals no less!) For today, I’m just going to talk a little more directly about some more particular concepts that have captured my experience in wonderfully validating ways:

Primary and Secondary Attractions

Really, it was the concept of primary and secondary sexual attractions that helped me find comfort in a demisexual identity – I used to struggle against the definition of demisexuality that depends on “strong emotional bonds” because I was worried that the speediness with which I can form strong emotional bonds somehow disqualified me (because of course, because self-doubt, because anxiety, because jerkbrain). But somewhere along the way I saw a definition of demisexuality as experiening secondary sexual attraction, but not primary sexual attraction, and this immediately clicked with me. It felt right. It felt like me.

Mostly, anyway.

But I still had some doubts.

You’ll find in those links, though, the evidence of some other concepts that have een instrumental to me, namely:

The Split Attraction Model (and specifically Aesthetic Attraction)

One of the things that made me feel uncertain whether demisexual was a reasonable label for me was the fact that, sometimes, I do feel an instant attraction to someone based on how they look. For a while, I felt weird even admitting this myself, because I didn’t want to have to go back to the confusion and sense of brokenness I had had before discovering demisexuality.

But then, these instantaneous attractions have never been sexual for me. They are about, like “I would love to have this person around so I could look at them all the time and watch them move and stuff.” And so, the first time I saw someone mention aesthetic attraction was a real lightbulb moment for me, that allowed me to continue to embrace the demisexual label without denying parts of my experience. Yay!

I think those were the most important concepts for me in coming into my own as a comfortably ace-identified human. But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention one last term that I just love with all the fuzziness my heart possesses:

Squishes

I’ve addressed this term directly before, but yeah, discovering the word squish helped me retroactively recontextualize all those confusingly strong but totally non-sexual feelings I used to call crushes in my youth!

Rethinking what works

A problem I am having right now: even though I am feeling a very strong urge to be *doing* things to move toward the life I want to be living (specifically with respect to the building-a-family part of that), because I always feel less anxious about things when I am actively taking control of the things I can control, I also just, like, really, really (really) am not into the idea of dating.

Part of this is almost certainly that I just need to be nice to myself; I am still very much in the midst of healing from having my marriage end, and that is taking up a lot of emotional bandwidth, and it will tke time tomove through that.

But I also know that there has never been a time when the prospect of dating actually seemed exciting to me. It is just stressful to think about really, almost all the time.

To clarify: by ‘dating’ here I don’t even really mean ‘pursuing romantic relationships’ in general – actually hanging out with and developing relationships with people I like is great and not stressful. It’s the part where I go on first dates with people that I don’t know how I am going to feel about that I hate.

Ok, I mean, maybe most people hate that? I guess what I mean is more, like, it just straight-up doesn’t work, because that kind of dating doesn’t give me the emotional space I need to connect with people in the first place, somehow?

And I actually read a thing recently that threw thse feelings into relief for me. It’s a comment from this reddit thread:

Dating isn’t for everyone, I think. It definitely wasn’t for me. Friend-to-relationship is the only thing that’s ever worked for me

Which, like, this both does and does not apply to me. I don’t really need to have a developed friendship with someone first, and I don’t even think that’s the ‘best’ thing for me, but I kind of think that *all* of my romantic relationships (even with people I met on OKCupid) have come from a place where on first meeting the person, I wasn’t really looking for something romantic necessarily.

My first two romantic relationships were with people I had known for years. Then there’s my ex-spouse, who I met on OKC, but I wasn’t looking for anything serious at the time (oops). I had another short relationship with someone I’d known for years. I met another person on OKC (again, with a very “well, whatever” attitude going in). And my current boyfriend I met at party for a mutual friend.

…I don’t even really know what I’m saying here. The main point I wanted to make, though:

For whatever reason, reading the above quote suddenly made me give myself permission to reconsider the way I’ve been trying to think about approaching finding new partners. It’s ok for me to say “this approach doesn’t work for me”. That’s ok.

I hate that it takes someone else saying it openly and with self-acceptance for me to also accept that in myself, but it did.

Anyway, I think that for now I will be focusing my energies on doing things that let me expand my social circles and meet new people in non-dating contexts. And I’ll probably be taking even that slowly for now.

And I’m writing it down because I’m more likely to remember it this way.

How do you, or would you, deal with being misgendered? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge Part 17

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: How do you, or would you, deal with being misgendered?

My instinct when misgendered is still to ignore it or let it slide. When dealing with in-person instances of being misgendered by someone who I’m out to about being genderqueer, I always hesitate on correcting people, and having done so, I usually feel like I’ve missed my opportunity. Though, honestly, part of why I haven’t gotten better at this is probably because it doesn’t happen all that often (both because people don’t often refer to me in the third person in my presence, and also because most of the people I spend my time with – and that I’m out to – are on top of this stuff anyway.

It’s also hard to develop good habits around this sort of thing, though, because I am not out everywhere. I am misgendered at work as a matter of course, and I’m accustomed to ignoring it. I’m sure I would push back if people tried to use their perceptions of my gender to police my presentation or behaviour or anything else, but that really isn’t a thing that I have to deal with, so it’s not even a huge deal.

When I’m not just ignoring the fact that I was misgendered, though, I generally go for a simple, straight-forward correction. When someone on social media says something calling me “she” or “her”, and I know they know my pronouns, I just respond with “they” or “them”. Sometimes I add a “please”, though I intend it more as a “Come on” than an “if you would be so kind”. If they don’t know my pronouns, I am likely to respond with something more like “Not she. They”, to clarify what I’m objecting to.

But yeah. I try to keep it simple. I do my best not to male people think I’m inviting them to derail whatever was actually going on into a conversation about gender. I do my best not to indicate that I am hoping for a weepy, teeth-gnashing apology. It usually doesn’t quite work, but I’m working on refining my technique, so let me know if you have any tips!


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Questions from the search terms: “everyone has a marginalized identity”

This was an interesting search string that brought someone to my little corner of the internet: everyone has a marginalized identity

I don’t know if it was meant as a question or a statement, but it wormed its way into my brain nevertheless. Because the thing is, when you get right down to it, the *vast* majority of people do experience some sort of systemic marginalization in their lives (though I would argue that there are many cases in which the axes of marginalization in question are not particularly axes of the people’s active identities).

To look at it another way, let me ask: what people in this world have faced no forms of systemic marginalization? For simplicity’s sake, I’ll actually limit myself to people in the US and Canada.

That would be white, anglophone, cisgender, heterosexual, allosexual, monotheist (really, Christian specifically), thin, conventionally attractive, non-disabled, neurotypical men from at middle-class backgrounds or higher. I am sure I’m even forgetting some things here. But the point is, its far and away a small sliver of the population.

This is, of course, part of why intersectionality is an important aspect of social justice discourse. Because once you’ve missed one of the privilege boxes, every additional hit doesn’t just add on to that, it multiplies and interacts with it. So, for instance, if you’re a rich white straight dude, you can usually get away with being publicly atheist without facing too much scrutiny (depending of course on specifically where you are, but nevertheless), whereas if you’re a rich white gay dude, it’s probably safer to at least pretend to be into the kinder parts of the bible (y’know, one of the ‘good’ gays or whatever). You don’t want to question the hegemony too much, after all.

Not to mention that when you have intersecting marginalized identities, you’re more likely to find yourself not just excluded from mainstream stuff, but also from groups dedicated to individual aspects of your marginalization – LGBT people might not want atheists visible in their groups, and atheists sadly aren’t free from heterosexism).

And I actually think this is one of the places where relatively privileged people often get stuck in social justice discourse. Because most of us actually have experienced some sort of marginalization, but those who only experience this marginalization on one or two fronts, or on the ones that are less relevant to day-to-day living, often make the mistake of thinking they know what it’s like to be marginalized. Because they kind of do. And I think most of us (myself included) are sometimes guilty of forgetting that the impacts of different marginalized identities aren’t directly comparable, that the effects of marginal identities aren’t simply additive, and that the intersections between privileged and marginalized identities within any given individual have complex and hard-to-parse consequences.

None of us can seperate out the parts of our lives that result from our privilege and the parts that result from our marginalization, because everything flows out of all of these things.

I want to be able to say that remembering we have all suffered should help us all be a little more compassionate, but unfortunately in practice it is those who have suffered the most, or those who are currently trying to end their own most immediate suffering, who are put upon to be kind and quiet and gracious and compassionate toward those who are contributing to their suffering. We are always playing a game of “no, you be civil first!” and this is a game that the most marginalized people will always lose, because the most marginalized people will inevitably have fewer emotional resources available to do the work we are constantly demanding of them.

So yes, I guess almost everyone does have some sort of marginalized identity. But we all need to learn to see past our own marginalization and recognize the experiences of those different from us, their suffering, and the ways in which we may have been complicit in, or complacent about, their marginalization. And none of us is absolved of doing so.

LOL’ing at cissexist loopholes

Sometimes I amuse myself with pedantry rather than being annoyed at cissexism.

In this case, I finally actually sat down and read through my collective bargaining agreement at work. It is pretty dry, standard stuff for the most part. But there is some unnecessary gendered language I could potentially exploit some day re: pregnancy and parental leave.

Weirdly it’s not the pregnancy part, which is actually gender neutral:

Upon at least two (2) weeks written notice… a pregnant employee who has completed thirteen (13) weeks employment will be granted pregnancy leave without pay in accordance with the Ontario Employment Standards Act.

For some reason, though, they throw in an unnecessary “female” into the parental leave part:

The Parental Leave for a female employee who has taken Pregnancy Leave must commence immediately following the expiration of her Pregnancy Leave. For all other employees, Parental Leave must begin no more than thirty-five (35) weeks after:
i) the birth of the child, or,
ii) the child comes into the care and custody of the parent.

Apparently non-female employees taking pregnancy leave have more flexibility around when they take their parental leave. Rank discrimination against women, I tell you!

Name some media you connect with queerly: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 16

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: Name some media you connect with queerly

This is one of those prompts that is so open its a little paralyzing to me, so I’m sure that whatever I put here will be kinda arbitrary and not super representative of the ways in which I engage queerly with media. I am also choosing to interpret this prompt as referring to media that is not intentionally queer, but that I headcanon or otherwise engage with queerly.

…Really, I would argue that I connect with all media queerly, because that is the perspective and experience I bring to the table with everything. But I guess I can give some examples of what that looks like?

Connecting Queerly Type 1: Queer/Trans Headcanons
Example: Inside Out
inside-out-why-does-riley-have-male-and-female-emotions-549434This one is not terrible original or personal; many people have pointed out that it is very easy to make a case that Riley from Inside Out is non-binary – everyone but her has feelings personified as only one binary gender, while hers are a mixture of men and women. She even has the nearly obligatory gender neutral name going for her. I also particularly like this reading because of just how utterly and completely I relate to Riley – the onset of her depression so completely mirrors my own experience from around that same age, it is downright eerie.

Connecting Queerly Type 2: Connecting with different characters
Example: Gravity Falls
gravity-falls-finale-1280jpg-c74659_1280wAlthough there are kids animated shows that are way more easily related to queerly (I’m looking at you, Steven Universe!), I definitely do this with Gravity Falls. It’s a really interesting show about a pair of 12-year-old twins (Dipper and Mabel Pines) who have been shipped off to spend the summer with their cranky great-uncle at his sorta sleazy tourist-fleecing destination the “Mystery Spot”. Of course, the mystery spot turns out to be full of real mysteries and supernatural phenomena, and the duo and their friends take on all kinds of danger. The show has amazing messages about friendship and chosen family, and is generally pretty great.

The show is definitely centred on Dipper, the boy-twin – the show creator has spoken directly about how he based the twins generally on himself and his twin sister, but ultimately Dipper is your very standard, blandly nerdy NiceGuy McEvery(White)Boy. The audience is clearly meant to relate to him and write themselves into his position, but he mostly just annoys the shit out of me and I want him to shut up and listen to Mabel.

Because Mabel? She is amazeballs. She is written as a silly and occasionally annoying counter-point to Dipper’s self-importance, and is *very* Manic Pixie at times, but I can’t help but love her. She is an amazing unapologetic femme, smart and creative and full of boundless energy. Every episode she is found wearing a new sweater that she knit herself, she has a new crush on the boy-of-the-week (while Dipper spends the entire summer boringly pining away after one unattainable cool older girl), and just generally being awesome.

Those are the main ways I can think of that I connect queerly with media. Tell me about your queer headcanons plz!


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Schrodinger’s divorce

So, I am getting divorced. I just realized I never explicitly said that here, although I wrote directly about the reason why earlier this year. I haven’t written a lot about it here because my former spouse-person does read this stuff, and I have been doing my best not to unfairly throw my feelings at them around this (so, to you, fair warning that you may not want to read this one, I guess). I need to get this stuff out, though, and processing these kinds of feelings has been one of the major things this blog does for me, and I’m not willing to continue sacrificing this outlet for the sake of whatever-has-been-holding-me-back, so here we go.

My divorce is very amicable. The post linked above gives you the sunniest of all of my attitudes toward it, and its the one I’ve worked very hard to keep in the forefront as I’ve gone through the motions.

The short version is, when we decided to get married, I was very clear on the fact that marrying me was also a commitment to have kids with me, and my partner agreed to that. And then last year, about five years in, they let me know that they had realized they don’t want to have kids after all. Our divorce isn’t anyone’s fault, and neither of us did anything wrong.

And yet.

That’s not the only story there is to tell. And I can’t always stick to that one either, because it doesn’t even begin to honour all of the feelings I have about it.

Because the thing is, I am angry. I am so goddamn angry. I feel betrayed. I feel abandoned. The life I have been actively and consciously working on building has been torn down around me and I the only thing left standing is me, alone. (I mean, not really, but also yes really, that is what it feels like).

Because the other story goes something like this:

I met an amazing wonderful person who honestly change my life. Our relationship was just comfortable and good right from the start, and I knew I wanted to be with them, as much as I have ever known anything. They were someone I wanted to be with, and they were someone I loved the idea of raising kids with, specifically.

They were less sure at first (less sure about whether they wanted to marry at all ever; less sure about whether they wanted kids at all ever) but after a few years we decided to get married and that’s what we did.

For me, this meant we were a team, that I was no longer just building a life for myself, but rather we were working together to build a life (or two parallel lives anyway) for the both of us. And I loved this. This made me really happy.

I made different life choices than I would have without them. I limited my job searches to Toronto and the surrounding areas (despite the fact that both my career path and the whole having kids thing would have been easier elsewhere), because they were not willing to consider moving and I wanted to be where they would be. Every time we changed apartments, the search was more stressful and difficult than necessary for me, because they didn’t want to live in a high-rise, but since I can live happily just about anywhere, their preferences were the ones that mattered.

I forgave infidelity. More than once. And it wasn’t even hard, because when it came down to it, I knew this was the person I wanted to be with. I could feel it in my bones, and it was as simple as that, for me, always. We figured out better boundaries that were reasonable for both of us, that they could live within and that I could feel comfortable with.

We had a really good and strong marriage, to be honest. It of course had its problems, and we each had things about the other that were trying and wearing, because we are human, but we were dedicated finding ways of making it work, and we did a damn good job of it. Our marriage survived career changes (for both of us). Gender transitions (for both of us). The aforementioned infidelities. We barely even flinched.

But.

Over and over again, we put off having kids. Because they weren’t ready for that yet. Because they had a list of conditions we needed to meet before that could happen, some of which were reasonable, and some of which kept changing. Primarily though, they were stuck working retail and it was miserable and was causing them chronic pain problems, and it was priority to get them out of that hole, and obviously that is all reasonable. So I dedicated myself to helping them figure out what would make them happier to do for a living. I listened to them and helped them figure out their options for changing their career path. And they started working toward an awesome career path (one they are now pretty solidly on). I supported them through a year of school, after having more or less supported myself through my own school (apparently I can work and do a master’s degree at the same time, but they can’t. Whatever. This is the pettiest I’m going to get, I promise.)

I am most bitter about that year, though, because it was actually right when the light at the end of this tunnel finally came into view that they dropped the bomb on me. They were still in the middle of school at the time, and even though we both knew what it meant that they had decided to to not have kids, I decided I would continue to support them until they finished school and got a job, and then we’d start disentangling our finances, and everything else.

To be very, very clear: right up until that conversation happened, I had really thought we’d probably be actually seriously able to look at having kids within a year, or maybe two on the outside (i.e. around right now, as it happens). Instead, we are getting divorced and I don’t know whether that is ever a thing that will happen for me anymore.

There are so few things that I was unwilling or unable to compromise on. There are so many things I did compromise on, so many things I gave up on to be with them, and to help them reach their goals. And there was one thing in the entire world I wouldn’t give up for them, and that’s the one thing they decided they wouldn’t help me with.

It is the actual worst thing they could have done, within the realm of things it would have been even remotely plausible for them to do.

And so I am angry. I am angry that I have given up so many small and large potential opportunities in my life because I thought we were working together toward this one goal that is more important to me than anything. I am angry that I have apparently wasted more than half a decade by trusting someone else’s intention to help me with this goal, when if they had never made me that promise, I would have been looking elsewhere, and maybe I would have found someone who actually shared my conviction and desire.

If I hadn’t trusted in this person, over and over again. If I hadn’t been willing to wait for them. If I hadn’t convinced myself they were worth it, that it would work out in the end, who knows where I’d be now?

It definitely couldn’t be any more of a mess than this.

And so I’m angry. At myself, for trusting the wrong person. At them, for not wanting a thing I want so desperately for them to want.

I think about all the work and effort that went into the project that was our marriage, and I look at the nothing it has come to (half of the savings I thought I had; half of the furniture needed to fill an apartment; I feel like a failed adult).

And I feel so utterly abandoned.

The worst part is, I don’t even really want to start over. What I want is to turn back the clock two years, to when everything was still ok. When I was happy.

I still want the life we were building together. Yes, I want children above all else, and that is that choice I have made, but I also really very much wanted specifically to share that with this particular person. I can’t imagine a better life than the one I was promised to me and then had taken away.

Of course, there is no going back. I couldn’t even get those feelings back if I had the option to, any more. But I don’t know how to move forward from this, either.

I know that part of what I need it time. I know these things will heal. They have to.

And despite everything, I know my life is pretty ok, even great in many ways. I have a job I really, really love, that is fulfilling and that I am usually excited to go to. There are so many wonderful people in my life who love me and support me in various ways, and who I get to love and support as well. My life is full of wonderful things. The core of my life has fallen apart, but I am still in one piece, as I always have been, as I always am.

But at the same time, I am still really looking forward to the day when I can finally say that I got through an entire a week without crying myself to sleep.

And it is still very distinctly possible that the gamble I made on this marriage will ultimately mean that I never do get to have kids. To be honest, I think that is why I can’t decide how much anger it is appropriate for me to have, how much it is appropriate to actually direct at my partner, or at myself. Because only time will answer for me whether this is a forgivable betrayal on their part, whether this was a forgivable mistake on my part.

Only time will tell whether this is really an amicable break-up.

So yeah, it’s Schrodinger’s divorce.