halfthoughts

A gender journey

Tag: genderqueer

Sometimes I barely even notice

I’ve been telling people about my preferred pronouns a lot in the last few weeks. Sometimes, when people actually use them, I barely even notice.

A house mate used they to refer to me while talking to another housmate  and it almost didn’t register that it was me. It was me!

A counselor used they to refer to me while chatting on the phone to the scheduling person, and it almost didn’t click.

But I think the fact that I don’t notice is a good sign. Because the opposite effect happens when I’m misgendered. Whenever someone uses she or her pronouns to refer to me, I definitely notice. There’s a pulse in my chest and then I  get panicky and anxious, because I have to weigh whether I want to come out to them in that moment or not. Usually I don’t. Especially if I don’t know them very well.

Today, for the first time I corrected someone who used her pronouns while talking about me. It was a person who I felt comfortable with enough to actually correct, probably because he already knew my pronouns, and he was also queer.

Now I just need to work up to correcting other people who don’t know yet. We’ll get there eventually.

Micro Affirmations

In the last few months, I moved back to the states from abroad and started grad school. Moving is always emotional, so it’s been a whirlwind, but there have been so many awesome micro affirmations since I’ve landed in the states. Here are a few:

-Friends playing with my new short hair and saying how awesome it looks (I love when people play with my hair.)

-Shopping for men’s shoes and having the retail people treat me like just another customer.

-Coming out to friends I haven’t seen in awhile about my pronouns and having them be supportive right away and say things like, “I won’t be offended if you correct me.”

-Coming out to my professors about my pronouns in class and having them say, “Keep on me about them” and having my classmates just nod their heads and not even seem confused at all.

-Hearing one of the faculty members (who I didn’t tell directly, but heard through the grapevine) use my pronouns super casually and look at me for eye confirmation that she got them right.

-Telling someone I was single, and not having them follow up with awkward questions about when I was planning to get married, and why I didn’t have a boyfriend yet.

-Having my cousin-in-law give me a few of his bowties.

-Having a classmate show me a link to this queer meetup event and ask, “Do you want to go with me to this?”

I’m sure there have been others, but those are definitely some of the ones that stick out. Overall, happy to be back. And excited for this new chapter of my life.

Accepting My Asexuality

I’m learning that my asexual identity is really important to me. It seems to be the one part of my identity that is hardest for me to accept and I spend a large majority of my time on tumblr following ace blogs in an attempt to understand it.

It’s also the one I have the hardest time coming out about. It’s a lot easier for me to come out as gay or queer or genderqueer then it is to talk about my asexuality. I think this has to do with the fact that there isn’t as much visibility about asexuality, so I’m worried about coming out about it because I’m afraid people won’t know what it is. Also since I have yet to meet another ace person face to face, it’s as if I don’t have real world proof that it really exists, so I still doubt myself about the validity of it. Also I’ve had a really bad coming-out-as-ace experience that has scarred me.

A part of me is still mad at myself for not realizing I was gay sooner, and blames my asexuality for it. I feel like a big part of the reason I never realized I was romantically and sensually attracted to girls earlier in life, was because of the fact that I was asexual, and wasn’t sexually attracted to anyone.

There was a post on the tumblr recently by @dontkillbirds that super resonated with me:

YES. For me, realizing I was ace definitely helped me to come to terms with the fact that I love women. Now if only the reverse could apply. I’m becoming much more accepting of the fact that I love women, but I’m still struggling with accepting the fact that I’m asexual.

Gender Neutral Pronouns in Other Languages?

I’m grateful that my native language is English and it’s already got gender neutral pronouns. I’m curious about how genderqueer/ non-binary identifying people navigate their identity in other languages. Specifically Korean. I currently live in Korea and am not out about my preferred pronouns to any of my Korean friends or family. I don’t even know how I would ask them to refer to me in Korean.

In Korean, they don’t use pronouns a lot, so that’s pretty easy to avoid in everyday conversation. But language referencing family relationships is pretty gendered. For example if I have an older brother. The word I use for “older brother” is different depending on if I am a boy or a girl. What if you’re neither?

I’m not connected to the genderqueer community in Korea, although I know they exist because I ran into their booth at Seoul pride last week. I wonder how they have been dealing with this conundrum in their community.

Anyway, this just something I’ve been curious about lately. As a linguistics person, I’m always intrigued by languages and how they adapt to society. I’m sure every language has it’s own growing pains and snags related their respective genderqueer communities.

If you are someone who identifies as non-binary/ genderqueer and are immersed in a non-English community, in what ways have you been able to adapt your language to your identity?

Coming Out….

I went to this Lesbian meetup this weekend and all that I could think about was all the “other” things that I needed to come out about, just by being there.

Before I went, I was skyping my friend who said, “At least when you go there they will already know you’re gay.” Which is totally true. And I was super grateful about that part being a given.

But then I realized there’s more to being queer than just liking girls. And being queer isn’t always the only thing you have to come out about.

So here’s a long list of the things I always feel like I have to reveal about when I meet someone, even in spaces where they already know I’m queer. Of course I don’t always come out about all of the things on this list, and I know I’m not obligated to. But these items float thru my mind regardless.

#1 There’s the fact that I don’t drink at all. And these types of events are usually at bars or clubs which include lots of beer ordering and drink buying. I’m grateful that I’m becoming way more comfortable about being upfront about the fact I don’t drink. Which helps me to feel comfortable going to these events in the first place. I know I can always order a water or a soda if I need to.

#2 There’s the fact that I’m glutten free and can’t eat anything at the restaurant or  for a late night snack after clubbing because of the flour. Usually I just solve this by eating before hand.

#3 There’s the fact that I’m asexual and I get really awkward when people hit on me. I hate flirting, especially via texting so I tend to completely avoid messaging apps in general.  I don’t know how to respond when people ask for my number and they immediately start messaging me in a flirting way, not in a hey nice to meet you kind of way.

#4 There’s the fact that I’m an introvert. So I am super awkward about approaching anyone for a conversation or asking for their number. This is made worse by  #3

#5 There’s my gender identity and my pronouns. To be fair, I haven’t gone to many, but of the handful of LGBT meetups I’ve attended throughout the last few months, only one person has asked me about my pronouns. And that was after I asked theirs first.  I guess after all my tumblr binging I was just secretly hoping people would just start asking about them or giving their’s when I meet them. But it hasn’t happened. And I’m too nervous to supply them myself, as part of my introduction along with my name.

#6 There’s the fact that I’m still half  closeted. I’m barely openly out to myself, let alone others. Which probably explains why I have trouble being open about everything else on this list.

#7 There’s the fact I’m in the depth of my depression. Mental illness has it’s own category of stigma which I’m working on being more open about these days.

#8 There’s the fact that I’m not interested in dating at all right now. It’s just not on my radar. Mostly due to #7 and #3. And the fact that I’m leaving the country in a few months. I’m always afraid to be too friendly because I don’t want to give off I’m interested in dating vibes.  But I want friends. And I desperately need queer community- see #7 and #6.

That Time I Cut My Hair

A few months ago I got a hair cut.

I was inspired by LGBT YouTuber Ashley Mardell who had recently cut her hair. I remember watching her video about hair and following her kickstarter campaign in which one of the perks was she would be cutting her hair. Anyway, the way she talked about hair disphoria super resonated with me.

When I saw the first instagram she posted of her new do. I remember looking at the photo and feeling that positive tingly sense of euphoria filling my chest. I looked at the photo and my mind said, “Yes! I want to do that too.”

So I saved a screen shot of the photo on my phone and set a day two weeks out to cut it. On February 3, I went to the barber, showed him that photo, and got my hair cut.

It was the first time I’d ever cut my hair that short. And it was the first time I ever loved my hair cut right off the bat.

 

Ace Halfthoughts #2

Sometimes I wonder if some of my past mistaken crushes were actually just a result of aesthetic attraction to the clothes they were wearing. And I wonder if it was not so much that I was attracted to being with them, but that somehow the genderqueer part of me was attracted to their gender expression because of an unrealized desire to dress like them.

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.

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!