halfthoughts

A gender journey

Month: April, 2016

Be Yourself (But Stretch): Why I Tell People I’m Not Getting Married

This post was written for the April 2016 Carnival of Aces, which is themed around the topic “Be yourself (but stretch).”

Since I’m not originally from Korea, I want to preface that all the observations of Korean society commented on in this post are seen through the outsider’s lens of a hapa, Korean-American.


Living in Korea for the last several years has made me super aware of the graduate-get-a-job-get-a-partner-get-married-have-kids-track that many people live.

A handful of friends back in the states are getting married too, but their path is a bit more meandering, so it doesn’t feel quite so in my face as it does in Korea.

Perhaps, it is just my particular friend group, coupled with the fact that when working in a company, I’m surrounded mostly by people who are more likely than me or my friends to be at the age for getting married. Although, that assumes the existence of an ideal “target age” for marriage, in the first place.

Or perhaps, in a company, I’m just surrounded by people who are in a stable place in their lives who feel ready to settle down, and have the desire to do so. I currently lack both the stability and the desire to get married. Although those aren’t necessarily correlated feelings. I also have friends who do have a high desire for marriage, even if they currently lack the stability for it.

Regardless, observing this track to marriage and kids feels like watching a conveyer belt in a factory, kind of like the scene with the chocolates in I Love Lucy. The chocolates are just going by so fast I can’t keep up anymore. Plus, the problem is- I don’t even want to eat the chocolate in the first place. I wish I could just opt out of participating in the assembly line entirely.

I haven’t come out to many people about my asexuality. Some close friends and family know, but it’s not something I’ve announced to the world, especially not strangers or my former Korean co-workers.

There are several reasons for this. One being- it’s still new to me, so I’m not yet ready to share. Another being- it’s not necessarily a commonly known term even among native English speakers, so explaining it to someone whose first language is not English would require lots of effort that just feels daunting.

For me, telling people that I’m not planning to get married is my way of coming out publicly as asexual without actually coming out. It’s my way of owning my asexual and wtfromantic orientation by taking control of the narrative I live by.

For women in Korea, even if they don’t join the marriage fast track, they are constantly bombarded with the expectation to get married eventually. Family members pester them with questionnaires to fill out for prospective blind dates. As they get older, all their siblings, cousins, and friends start falling off the singlehood-wagon around them. Aunts, grandparents, and parents then focus all their attention on the singletons in the family, doubling their efforts at matchmaking, and increasing the frequency of inquires into not-yet-married statuses.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” and  “When are  you going to get married?” are very common small talk questions in Korea.

I have just begun saying, “I’m not.”

And the next response is usually, “Oh, don’t worry you’ll meet someone some day” or “You’ll change your mind when you meet the right person.”

I get this same response even from fellow single women who haven’t yet been matched up.  I just smile politely because they don’t realize I’m not even looking for the right person. And besides, their version of the right person definitely does not match mine.

When I was first coming to terms with my own asexuality, I began to question everything. I was confused about how to understand my romantic orientation, attractions, and gender identity and how those experiences all intersected with my asexuality.

I decided the first step in taking ownership over my own story, was to start actively rejecting the cisnormative/ heteronormative narrative that I’ve been mindlessly digesting all my life.

The one that says someday my prince charming will come, sweep me off my feet, and we will live happily ever after. The one that says my prince is of course going to be male, and that the living-happily-ever-after will include a romantic/sexual relationship, marriage, and kids.

What if I want my prince to be a princess? What if I don’t want to be saved but I want to save myself? What if I want my happily-ever-after to be a friendship or a QPR or two separate castle condos side by side so we can be neighbors rather than have a bed that we share?

I don’t know yet what my happily-ever-after is going to be. I am aware that I can’t predict the future, so it could be that I change my mind and decide to get married someday. Or even if I don’t get married, I might chose to enter a committed relationship of some other form. (Although, if I do follow through with either of those things, it will likely be with someone female or non-binary).

“I’m not going to get married” is simply my subversive way to say- I’m certainly not going to get married to who you think, and on top of that, I have no interest in what marriage traditionally represents.

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How Changing My Name Is Like Changing My Gender

I was born S and assigned R at birth. But the name I was assigned at birth never fit right. No one ever called me by my birth name except doctors and my grandmother. 

On the first day of school I’d always explain to the teacher, “I go by S.” That’s what everyone knew me as. That’s what I knew me as. That’s what felt right.

 I always intended to change my name legally, someday. But I was finally forced to in High School when I couldn’t deposit a check because my birth assigned name and the name on the check didn’t match. When I went through the process of changing my name, there was a lot of paperwork, but it wasn’t actually a big deal in real life. 

Everyone already knew me as me, so it wasn’t a shock. I was completely comfortable in my true name and proud of it. So I was relieved to finally have it match my legal records. 

Sometimes, when I hear the name R, I remember vaguely that I was once an R, too. But I never really considered myself to be an R, so I have a slight aversion to the name, now. 

It’s like a pair of hand me down pants that don’t fit quite right. Someone else gave them to you, so you wear them for a bit, but you are more than happy to discard them when you find a pair that do fit you exactly as they should.

I’ve already changed my identity once. How hard can it be to change it again? Who knows how many times I’ll have to change before I feel like I’m wearing the skin that was tailor made for me.

But I’m wiling to keep making adjustments until I figure out the perfect fit. Because who wants to go through their whole life wearing the wrong size hand me downs?

Affirming Flashbacks: Dresses

Sometimes it helps to be affirmed by other people. Especially other people who knew you before you started transitioning and coming out.

When they say something that translates to: “oh yeah, now that you mention it, this thing you used to do makes a lot of sense now”, I feel this wave of affirmation wash over me.

Maybe it’s euphoria. Maybe it’s just a sense of consolation that I’m not crazy. Simply knowing that other people can “see” the real me, too, helps me ease more and more into the confidence that this IS me.

Affirming Flashbacks is an ongoing series about those moments.

———

My friend M is not trans. But she has her own disphoric relationship with clothes. She comes from a very conservative family. So when she’s living at home there are certain clothes she can wear, and certain clothes she can’t.

I remember we met up once on the east coast, and she told me how excited she’d been to pack for the trip. She was so happy to finally unpack the “can’t wear” box, that sits in her room, and give some of her favorite items a chance to air out.

She recently moved to her own apartment in a new city, and she just loves being able to wear all the clothes she wants. She was describing how much more free she feels now. Whereas before,  there was a mismatch between her outfits and her insides.

The way she described this feeling reminded me of the definition of disphoria. Or at least how I understand disphoria. As I understand it, disphoria is that uneasy feeling you get when how you feel on the inside does not match how people see you on the outside.

I feel this a lot when I get complimented for being “beautiful.” I know that I’m not bad looking, so theoretically this should feel good to hear. It’s not a lie. But whenever I would hear it, it would make me squirm. I never understood why. But recently I’ve begun to understand this squirm-y-ness as a symptom of disphoria.

It’s as though  when people would call me “beautiful,” I knew what they meant was  I was a beautiful girl. They saw me as a girl. But since I’m not a girl, I did not want to be perceived as a girl. Therefore I did not want to be seen as beautiful. There was a mis-match between what I felt on the inside, and how people perceived me to be.

This is all background for the part of the story where I explained to my friend M why I was experimenting with a more gender neutral style of clothing. After I related the story about putting on a tie for the first time, she told me she understood because of her own relationship with clothes, as described above. And then she said, “Yeah. Whenever you would wear a dress, I would definitely notice that S is wearing a dress today.”

Something about that sentence sent a wave of affirmation up my spine. I’ve never liked wearing dresses and I was relieved to know other people could see it too. There was something about me wearing dresses that stuck out. Now that I identify as gender queer, I realize the thing that stuck out was some sort of underlying mis-match between gender norms and my gender identity.

I can finally stop wearing those dresses without feeling guilty. From now on I can feel free to wear all the ties I want!

 

Funeral: A Slam Poem

You
are cordially invited
to my funeral.
The dress code
is whatever the hell you want it to be
because
it’s also a celebration.

There’s gonna be a cake
that says
It’s  a They!
written
in rainbow colors
to defy
cisnormativity.

I actually really like the color blue.
But I don’t want
you
to mistake
me
for a boy.
So we’ll just use
all
the colors instead.

But before we eat the cake,
we’re gonna say a eulogy
for her pronouns,
hung up on a cross
alongside
she
and hers,
buried
with all her dresses and skirts
and lipstick
that she never even used.

They
will be resurrected
alongside
them
and theirs
dressed in pants, sneakers and a tie.

We
will listen to them speak their first word,
watch
them take their first step,
wipe
the tears from their eyes when they fall
and clap
when they continue to crawl.

Right now,
I
can barely crawl,
but I know
if I just keep crawling,
eventually
I will learn how to walk
and someday,
maybe,
I will even know
how to run.