30-DayWeek Genderqueer Challenge, part 1

I’ve seen the 30-Day Genderqueer Challenge popping up in a couple of places lately, so I figured I’d give it a go! I’m not going to do it in 30 days though, because I feel like that would be super spammy relative to my normal posting schedule (and cuz I want to try to put some extra thought in to some of the posts). So I’m just going to add a regular Friday post to my normal posting habits until I’m done – 30 weeks will take me to around the end of the year I think!

Today’s question is: Do you use any other words to define or explain your gender

Oh my goodness, so many though! I often find that I prefer to use non-binary rather than genderqueer lately. It feels less radically political, and sometimes it’s all I have the energy for.

As those who’ve been reading regularly know, though, I also identify as genderfluid, and that fluidity contains agender and transmasc/boyish identities in addition to genderqueerness.

I’ve also been trying to figure out what my personal aesthetic is around gender presentation lately, and I’ve started describing the note I try to hit as “transmasculine dirty tomboy femme or something” (the or something is an integral part of it obviously), though for work purposes I mostly go for dapper tomboy, which is relatively boring, but also helpful in warding off dysphoria.

Though sometimes I also get tired by the weight of trying to describe and justify myself and I wish that I could just be seen as me and be done with it. The social aspects of gender kinda suck, y’know.

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

Be yourself (but stretch): dating while demisexual (April 2016 Carnival of Aces submission)

This month’s theme is a very challenging one, and I want to thank our lovely host over at A3 for coming up with it!. For this post, I am going to focus specifically on ways that I can affirm and celebrate my demisexuality in a dating context, since that has been on my mind of late anyway, and because I do feel that it can be a perpetual struggle for me.

I have adopted a strategy of being reasonably upfront about my demisexuality in some (largely passive) ways, in the way I date. My sexual orientation is listed as queer and demisexual on my OKC profile, and I have a link to this blog from my profile as well, for anyone going for extra credit.

People tend to miss those indications, though. Which is fair. I don’t often look at people’s basic stats when I’m on OKC either – I do filter by some of them, but once I’m at a profile I’m far more interested in what people have written there then which boxes they checked.

And I don’t talk about being demisexual when I am on dates with people. So I think a lot of the people I date don’t know about it really. It’s weird, because on the one hand I am afraid of discouraging people, but on the other hand, I want to discourage the kind of people who would be discouraged by that, anyway, so. I don’t know.

I’ve… gotten pretty good at seeming kinda allosexual (mostly accidentally, in how I coped with the weirdness of dating while demisexual back when I had the extra challenge of not realizing that I was demisexual) over the years, in small ways. I usually know within a couple of dates if there is just going to be nothing happening with a person, to be honest, so I can cut things short before people start really expecting sex to happen, so there’s that. And I think there have been times when I have just faked it til I made it – I don’t have to actually be attracted to someone to enjoy sex with them, though I do enjoy it immensely more when I am.

So yes. I guess my approach to dating while demisexual is very much a case of being myself, but stretching that self to fit more closely to expectations. Though I don’t entirely know why I do that, other than a long-standing ingrained habit of avoiding awkwardness, or more specifically, of avoiding disappointing people. I’m… not entirely comfortable with it though, when I think about it.

I am definitely interested to see what others are contributing to this topic, and whether my feelings of discomfort around it are shared!

Dysphoria: the other thing I’m talking about when I talk about being triggered

Somehow when I wrote my last post about what it feels like to be triggered around my past trauma, I completely forgot about the other kind of trigger I experience. I sometimes struggle with gender-related dysphoria, and it is an entirely different thing from the other kind of trigger.

The dysphoria I experience around my gender is triggered almost exclusively by moments of realization that other people haven’t just automatically categorized me into a binary gender in their heads, but when their way of interacting with me seems to be coloured more by this misconception than it is by the actual person standing in front of them (namely, me).

These moments are, for me, a weirdly out-of-body experience, almost. I immediately get this very weird sense that what is happening is not real. It feels more like a dream, like something I am watching from a position floating above everything. Like maybe I was accidentally in someone else’s body and that’s why this is happening. Like I am actually invisible, maybe, and this person is literally acting entirely based on a single, incorrect “fact” about me. Like I-don’t-even-know-how-to-describe-it.

It’s definitely an instinctive dissociative response of sorts, and it’s not totally different from the triggering experience I described in my previous post, though I think it is much more genuinely adaptive. It is a weird and sometimes disorienting experience, but it generally functions to keep me from freaking out in the moment, and it usually passes reasonably quickly. Unless it happens with someone I am actually close enough to be vulnerable around, or if it happens repeatedly, it doesn’t amount to a whole lot out of my day.

Of course, I say this not because I think that being misgendered is ok, or somehow a lesser violence than the things that trigger me otherwise. It still upsets me. I am still unhappy about it. These experiences are part and parcel of the cissexist, binarist, and often just plain old misogynist nature of the culture I’m living in. These things are wrong regardless of whether they are triggering to me or to anyone else.

But yes, that is the other thing I am sometimes talking about when I talk about being triggered. And I do always specify when I’m talking about dysphoria, so my previous post can still stand, I think.

What I’m talking about when I talk about being triggered

For the entire time I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve avoided explicitly referencing my own personal experiences of triggers. I do this because I don’t have any diagnoses pertaining to the things I experience as triggers, which means I don’t have a name for what is being triggered. I can’t say that my PTSD was triggered, because I don’t think I have PTSD, for instance. And to some extent, I think it is rhetorically important to be able to what is being triggered when we talk about triggers, so that people stop hearing “I felt uncomfortable” when someone says “this triggered me”.

When I say I was triggered by something, I don’t mean I felt uncomfortable. I don’t mean it made me unhappy. I mean it caused a psychological and bodily reaction that made it impossible for me to function in the ways I normally do, to be effective in my life, and to experience positive emotions for hours or days afterward. And I want to take a minute today to talk about exactly what it feels like to be in my head and my body when something happens that triggers me around my own trauma.

So, here are some of the phrases I have been writing down to describe my experience to myself at times I have been triggered:
– In the moment, (when I first read or hear a triggering phrase – it is usually words with me), it feels like an electric shock running through my entire body. Everything freezes, and the rest of the world kind of just goes away. My body responds as if I am being attacked, as if I am under threat, and I freeze. Because that is what I do.
– Then I just shut down. The world stops seeming real. I am no longer inhabiting most of my body; I’ve just sort of taken up shop somewhere behind my eyes where I can keep an eye on things without having to actually feel any of it. I am watching the world through a window, on a screen.
– When things are particularly bad, my disconnection from my body can extend to the point where I feel like the parts of my body aren’t even connected to each other any more. I can’t integrate them into a whole, and it seems like a kind of miracle that I can coordinate all of these foreign parts to do something as complicated as walk across a room. It feels like at any moment the whole thing could just fall apart.
– It can be very hard to talk. I can’t find words at all some of the time, unless I am following a routine script. I can handle simple work conversations that I have every day. I can talk about the weather or whatever. But my voice sounds like a robot inside my head, and I can’t shake the feeling that it is only by sheer luck that the sounds coming out of the mouth that I am monitoring but don’t really feel in control of are approximately what I wanted them to be.
– Often, I feel mild vertigo, or like I am about to faint. I know that I’m not going to faint, but the ways in which I feel not-quite-in-control of my body, and the way that thoughts start coming through my head slowly (One. Word. At. A. Time.) feels a lot like the moment before passing out. Except it just goes on, and on.
– I feel like I might forget to breathe. Or forget how to breathe. Or simply that all of the sensory data that is inundating me will suffocate me.
– Throughout all of this, I find it very hard to actually keep paying attention to the world around me. Literally everything in the whole world seems like too much. Too much light, too much sound, too many people, too many demands. If I am lucky enough to be at home, I just won’t bother. A huge proportion of my mental energy during this entire process is trying to force me to look at the memories that have been brought up by the trigger, and I will have to do it eventually. What this looks like from the outside is me completely zoning out, staring into the middle distance, and not moving at all for an indeterminate period of time. It could be minutes, or it could be hours. I can’t even tell you what my brain is doing when this happens, and I am always surprised by how much time has passed when I snap out of it.

I have gotten better, over the years, at making these episodes shorter than they used to be. I know what things help to get me out of the loops I get caught in, and I have ways of getting myself to re-inhabit my own body. But I still get triggered on a reasonably regular basis. And I am more vulnerable to being re-triggered in the days following a recent trigger episode. And even when I am not re-triggered, the experience of having been triggered creates extra vigilance around the people, spaces, and communities where I have been triggered before.|

Also, I am very, *very* good at hiding most of this from the people around me. They will notice that I am not quite myself, maybe, if they are people I generally feel safe with.

It is so fucking exhausting. And it is absolutely real. And it is not about my fucking ‘discomfort’.

What do you see when you look at me?

When I spend too much time
Or when I get too close
To people who can’t
or won’t
really see
all of me

It is so easy for me to forget myself
To lose track of those pieces
and stop seeing them too

Or else, I deliberately take up residence
in the parts that feel seen
and abandon the rest of my self
let it all go fallow
just so that I won’t feel invisible

I try to be what they see in me
even if what they see
misses the point entirely

And this is why
so many times in my life
When I say goodbye to something old
an old identity
an old relationship
an old ambition

when I embark on something new
a new chapter
a new job
a new project

I find myself
finding myself
all over again

Dating while demisexual: the bright side

I’ve written a few times about the anxieties and confusion I have experienced as a result of my demisexuality (from back when I didn’t understand that I am demi). I’ve also been having anxieties of other kinds around my dating prospects as a queer, trans, and non-monogamous person. I obviously only want to date people who are into and supportive these aspects of myself, and that limits my dating pool significantly.

I have been including the fact that I am on the ace spectrum on the mental laundry list of “obstacles” to me particularly when it comes to finding a potential partner of the sort who might want to co-parent with me, but I just realized today that my demisexuality is actually a plus in this regard.

You see, allosexual generally find love (or whatever) by first finding people they find sufficiently sexually attractive to date, and then seeing if they are compatible in the broader romantic/whatever-kind-of-relationship-they-want sense. But I don’t need to start with that narrower pool, though – literally anyone is someone I could be attracted to, if we are romantically compatible.

It’s not going to make a huge difference, but at least it’s something.