Writing A Way Out

CN: suicide

Sometimes I find myself in corners, seemingly with no way out. I ask questions that preclude solution, and I write about them, because I want to lay out my pain, and I want it witnessed and understood and acknowledged. Writing helps me to process and sort through my feelings. I have had existential questions since the first time I contemplated suicide, but lately they have been gender-related.

What do I do if I can no longer live in my assigned gender but I cannot transition because there is nothing to transition to

How do I live in a world that will never read me as my gender and has no space for me

Who will love me

The correct answer is: “yeah that sucks, I have no answers, maybe you should kill yourself”, because these are real concerns, and to dismiss them is to refuse to acknowledge pain. If there were easy answers I would not have these questions.

But I am learning to live in the contradictions. Yes the only solution is suicide, but then in that case it doesn’t matter if you do that immediately or not right? Might as well eat a bit more ramen before you go; it’ll never be too late to kill yourself. And then somehow, in the weeks and months and years in between, the questions become less pressing. I am learning that I don’t have to figure out How To Live right now, or ever. I just have to figure out what to have for lunch today, and then the next day, and then the next and the next and the next.

That’s what life is, right? If we knew exactly how it was going to go there would be no point. Don’t worry about the end so much that you never allow yourself to begin. The fun is in bringing a brick and watching the cathedral form.

Billions of people before me have lived full and happy lives in the face of existential meaninglessness. Maybe Sisyphus is happy. Frequently I am happy, and that’s good enough.

Writing A Way Out

Detach/Reattach

My brother, on occasion, slips and calls me his “sister.” Like a good trans person, I correct him. But some part of me cannot admit that when he says it, I am sometimes comforted—not because I am a woman or was ever a girl, but because I remember the warmth and protection his voice carried when he said it to me, when I was small and still new to this world.

When he says “sister,” it evokes a memory—a very particular one—of blood. When I cut my head open when I was 13, and despite his undeniable phobia of blood, he held his breath and a towel firmly against the wound while I cried. He was brave and he was sensitive and he spoke so softly to me. Then, and many times over, I was so proud to be his “sister.”

I admit that I am still learning to be proud of being his “brother,” too.

Like many trans people, I am learning to reattach to new words and new parts.

How I Both Need and Grieve My Gender Transition, LQTU

Transition takes so damn much effort; both external, eg coming out to people, and internal RECONFIGURATION. Detachment from the familiar. Reattachment to the foreign.

You know how chemical reactions require activation energy to break apart existing bonds so that new, potentially more stable ones can form? Look I found a graph. There’s even a “transition state” labelled, lol.

Image result for activation energy graph

I want to be on the right side of that graph, nicely settled into my gender and body, empirically more comfortable and requiring less energy than my birth assigned gender. But here I am still having to climb that cliff, moving away from the familiar discomfort into even greater unfamiliar discomfort, aka a rock and a hard place, aka the frying pan fire thing, but that’s enough metaphors in one sentence.

Example: I gag a bit whenever I try to think of myself as “she”. But at the same time it is so familiar, like very old shoes. It took almost a year and a lot of angst (SO MUCH angst) not only to get at least some people to use “they” at least some of the time, but also for me to hear it enough that it no longer feels unnatural and foreign.

In some areas I have “transitioned” and gotten over the hill and at least partially reattached. But then there are so many more people to come out to and have to constantly correct, new contexts to come out in, gendered situations to renegotiate… and I need to get used to all those things; recently it often feels like too much trouble to climb those hills.

My family calls me meimei (little sister). Sometimes when female friends call me girl I don’t correct them either. At work, where I am not out, people call me xiaojie when they are pretending to be formal, and when I do something dumb. When I buy things hawkers call me xiaomei and are nice to me because I am young. These words are affectionate. I don’t like being misgendered, but what gender neutral equivalents are there that hold the same emotional meaning? Even if there are words that I could start practicing using, they don’t currently have the weight of personal and cultural history, and there has to be all that effort.

I feel like the “good trans person” response is to correct all these people every time, because how else are we going to get to the other side of the hill? But I always let it slide, in order to accept and enjoy the connection that the person is trying to make with me. I don’t want to detach, and I don’t even know what there is to reattach to. That’s what you get for trying to transition to an avant-garde gender. There are ALL THESE THINGS to uproot and replant, and there is nowhere to plant most of them.

This is also how I currently feel about physical transition. What does that even look like if I don’t in any way want to look like or be read as a man, and what do i do with my attachment to my current body? BLEAH it’s all so much EFFORT and I don’t! WANNA! OKAY??

But of course, dysphoria fucking sucks and transition helps, and I am always trying to avoid difficult things I know are prolly good for me. So I know that what I need to do is to give myself time and space, but also suck it up and be brave sometimes. It will get better. I will grow into my gender, even if right now I cannot imagine what that might look like. Bring a brick, not a cathedral. Okay? Okay.

Detach/Reattach

What I Want

No, I don’t want strangers to read me as a man. I’m not a man, why would I want strangers to think I’m a man? Would you (hypothetical non-male participant in this conversation) want people to read you as a man?

“oh, but I thought…”

I want people to read me as genderqueer. I want them to look at me and decide, hm, genderqueer. Isn’t that also what YOU (hypothetical binarily gendered participant in this conversation) want, or even expect? You expect people to read you as your actual gender, not something “close enough” that isn’t actually even close, don’t you?

“but realistically… people are only going to pick from male/female. Don’t you prefer one over the other?”

Say you have green hair. Would you prefer people think you have blue or red hair? Would you, (hypothetically) a binary cis woman, prefer people think you are genderfluid or genderqueer?

Why do I have to choose? I want people to read me as my gender, is that too much to ask? Apparently it is if I’m not a binary gender. But you asked what I want. I want to live in a world where my gender is an option on lists, and I want people to select that option for me. I want my gender to be affirmed every day in the thousand little ways that binary genders are affirmed, in bathrooms and honorifics and pronouns and “welcome, how may I help you, SIR”. I want to experience the relief and joy and affirmation my binary trans friends experience when they begin to transition and the world starts to read them correctly at last. Confusion is not good enough. Avoiding referring to me is not good enough. Being read half the time one way and half the time the other, and wrong all the time, is not good enough.

So, no. I don’t want to be called sir by random people. It’s not “close enough”. It’s NOWHERE near close to what I want, and you asked what I want.

What I Want

Gender Break

In which I take a break from taking a break from thinking about gender to bring you: Week One Update.

I have identified as trans for at least half a year, but never quite settled completely into it. A shakeup is due. For a while now I’ve been feeling a building amount of angst about my labels. I started on the daily blogging series #31daysoftransvisibility to find out if that would help me feel more secure in my trans identity, but it did not. Eventually, last weekend, I had a minor gender crisis (actually a rather regular occurrence), jettisoned all my gender words, abruptly left my trans support group which I talked to A LOT, etc. So I have been on gender break.

Not being in the support group group-chat has given me much needed space and time away from constant trans Discourse. (The group has grown in recent months, and slowly moved in that direction, with very clear lines between “us” and “the cis”.) I also took down this blog for a few days. Both of these things removed the regular reminder/pressure that I’m “supposed” to be trans, and that a significant part of my identity and social life has grown around that. I have also put myself on a mental gender break, during which I will not scrutinise, attempt to label, or put pressure on my gender feelings, I will use my brainspace for other things, and I will focus on the non-gender related aspects of my identity.

My gender is <comfortable silence> . I have been much gentler with myself and things are a lot quieter in my head, which is a huge relief. Today out of the comfortable silence words (nonbinary girl) tentatively emerged for how I feel, but I’m still not putting pressure on them yet. Am I trans? <shrug, more comfortable silence>. I feel strongly that people can claim the label “trans” if they want, and that nonbinary people are “by definition” trans. And so I had claimed the label, and had always been political about it, because lots of people would deny us that right. But hey, maybe it just doesn’t fit right now? That is perfectly fine, and we are all good, and it is going to be okay.

(This blog is pretty much now a gender blog, which was not the original intention when I started it… I might decide to write about other things here, in view of the gender break. Apologies to everyone who only follows me for Gender Talk :P)

Gender Break

On Standing Up

Every time I hear someone correct someone else on my pronouns, usually after I had decided to let it slide, I learn that my gender and comfort is important enough to interrupt people’s sentences about, and I deserve to be gendered correctly, and correcting people every single time and bringing it up again and again is not being overly pushy or unreasonable aggressive, and feel braver about correcting people myself. Continue reading “On Standing Up”

On Standing Up

Wanted: My Name

One can only question so many things at one time. I am now confident in my gender, but frequently no pronoun set or name feels correct.

A name is kind of like a shield from the world. An easy, small, uncomplicated answer to “who/what are you?” that you can hold onto. Having no name is like being out in the world with no skin. Vulnerable and raw. It’s weird that we use a few syllables to refer to the entire amorphous mass that is a person. And when I can’t find the right combination of syllables to refer to myself, it quickly escalates into an existential problem.

Occasionally, when I have no pronouns and no names, it can feel like I’m not supposed to exist. I find myself floundering and drowning in wordless darkness. Wiser people have pointed out that one does not follow from the other, which is a great comfort; I can still take up space without having something convenient to call the space.

In The Name of the Wind, Kvothe names the girl living in the sewers. Auri. Her name glows in her chest. Something to hold onto on the darker days.

I don’t have a name yet. There are a few things I will respond to, but aren’t quite right. But it is okay, and it will be okay. It will come to me sooner or later.

I exist. I am here. I am loved.

Wanted: My Name

The 3 Functioning Levels of Me, Your Friendly Neighbourhood NB

(CN: discussion of afab body dysphoria, body parts, suicide mention with linked resources)

I realise that the english language is sadly devoid of names for people like me and I try to cut the world some slack for this, every day, all day, and the day after that too.

But the truth is that every time I am misgendered like that I am reminded that I do not fit, I am not this, I am not that, I am not seen, I can’t be recognised. I have no name. I am invisible.

And a tiny little sliver of me disappears. Just a sliver. Razored most days from the surface of my very thick skin, but some days, I don’t know why, it comes straight off my soul. Sometimes it’s felt so deep but most days simply just shrugged off, but still, it’s a sliver, and all those slivers add up to something harder to pretend around.

– Ivan Coyote in Gender Failure (link to spoken performance)

Sometimes things hurt more than they should. I am told by people who love me that I shouldn’t let things get to me. I am told by other people that trans people are shrill and unreasonable.

I know it’s not “reasonable” to expect everyone to immediately get used to my pronouns, and I know that it doesn’t help anybody to be angry about it. I know that the world is still only beginning to wrap its head around the existence of NB people, and I should “understand where people are coming from”, and that it’s not “healthy” to cry every time a form doesn’t include my gender identity.

But sometimes I can’t help it. I resent the fact that something not bothering one trans person at one particular time is sometimes used against other trans people. Obviously I would be more functional if I could, but sometimes I cannot, because dysphoria is a thing that sucks, and you can’t really logic your way out of pain. Here I attempt to describe the 3-4 mental states that I personally move between from day to day, in answer to the question “how do trans people feel about (thing)”. I love being reasonable. But sometimes I cannot.

Level 1A: No dysphoria, or slightly more binary female/male-identified.

Body: I have one, and as a healthy functional person, I don’t have to think about it much. I wear comfortable clothes that fit me.

Pronouns: Call me whatever, it is A-OK, don’t worry about it. Please, go back to telling me about your cabbage plantation! Damn, why did I trouble people with my pronouns, I don’t actually mind, and I feel bad when people go out of their way to correct themselves.

Gendered situations: Yes, I would like to pee; I feel okay about using the female/male bathroom, and might be annoyed if people stare at me, but am likely to take that positively as affirmation of my NBness. Oh, this form only has two options for gender? I know people who will be annoyed by that, but it’s fine, I can humour you.

∧: toilet anxiety for me comes from two separate things- having to pick one, and potential confrontation. Here the former is low, and the latter I have emotional capacity to deal with.

AKA: “Wait, am I really trans??” (The answer is yes. Yes, even if you only ever experience this stage, which I did for a long time. If you identify as trans you are trans.)

1B: NB gender euphoria.

Body: I wear a binder occasionally and it makes me feel good about myself, but it hurts my back so I don’t usually. I try to reclaim my body, with mixed successes. I am okay with having boobs because they are NB boobs, not female boobs. I am happy with and actually quite like my body!

Correct pronouns: Oh you got it right! Good job, thank you, awesome person.

Trying: Thanks for trying, I know it’s hard and I appreciate trying

Incorrect pronouns: It annoys me that this person isn’t trying, but it doesn’t affect me much

Gendered situations: *cringe, pick one, try to forget about it asap*. OMG a gender-neutral toilet/form with an ‘other’ option, God bless this great nation.

AKA: “Yes!! they/them is me! It me!! I love being trans, #livingmytruth”

2: Gender dysphoria.

Body: What is pain? Life is pain. Being trans is pain. Suck it up and wear a fucking binder, it doesn’t really help, but the back pain gives me something else to focus on. It’s hard to get dressed, and some days I don’t.

Correct pronouns: Why, thank you for not stabbing me in the gut, excuse me if I don’t enthusiastically celebrate your having Common Fucking Decency

Trying: It hurts. I know you are trying and I appreciate that but it’s a reminder that my existence is inconvenient for everyone involved and it hurts and I can’t help it.

Incorrect pronouns: Oh, are we going to step painfully on my foot every few sentences? That’s the activity of the day? Okay. Fuck you, person whom I have notified of my pronouns 278 times so far. This might be unfair to you but also fuck you, person whom I have not notified of my pronouns, but who did not ask because of cisheteronormativity. Some days I don’t interact with anybody because the potential misgendering isn’t worth it.

Gendered situations: *angry sobbing*, and peeing stops being worth the anxiety. Thank you world, I really needed that reminder that I don’t fucking exist and there is no space for me here.

∧: Anxiety about picking one is high and ability to deal with confrontation is none, so anxiety about confrontation is also high. If there were absolutely nobody around, my ability to pee goes back up to “cringe, pick one, forget about it asap”.

AKA: “Fuck being trans this is the worst shit”

3: ???

Body: My skin is literally melting, like it hurts to HAVE skin, and my bone structure is WRONG, and, like, I just noticed that I have HIPS, WTF. Being IN this body is pain. The whole world is pain.

Pronouns: What are pronouns; you think WORDS are going to help?! Call me whatever, what does it matter, there are no “correct” pronouns, everything is WRONG. What did I tell people my pronouns were, and what was I even thinking? Nothing is correct. I have made a horrible mistake. There are no pronouns I prefer. Everything BURNS.

Gendered situations: rarely encountered because I am in fetal position in my room.

Real talk tho: I have been suicidally dysphoric and it sucks, and dear trans friends, please read There are some things I need to tell you. (while we are reading, please also read 25 Things I Do To Make My Body Dysphoria Feel Smaller and Quieter and Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation)

Conveniently, this also helps explain how I feel about pronouns. This article could be alternatively titled “Thanks for asking about my pronouns, it’s actually kind of a long story…”, but I went and got all up on my soapbox, so we have this postscript instead.

As you can see, there is some fluidity in my gender feelings. My gender is clear to me: I am genderqueer and NB. But what pronouns I prefer seems to vary a bit from day to day, between “anything is fine” and “nothing is fine”. That’s pretty inconvenient, and I’ve just been telling people to use they/them. That makes me feel like a fraud when people go out of their way to use they/them on days when I prefer she/her, but it works on other days.

What pronouns would I use if people would actually infallibly use them? Maybe one of those rotating pronouns where you use ze/she/they/he in rotation, a different one every time it comes up. Or primarily ‘they’ in writing etc, but different ones in person depending on day, so ask me. These are too much trouble for most people, and also too much trouble to explain, so expedience usually outweighs discomfort.

So the short answer is “they/them”, but you could also do either of the above two things.

The 3 Functioning Levels of Me, Your Friendly Neighbourhood NB