About Gender

Before, any attempt at femininity felt like a miserable impersonation of the woman I couldn’t actually be. As I am, there’s no more pretending. The clothes I wear aren’t a disguise, but just the things I wear when I feel like it.

First off: I’m nonbinary.

I’ve identified as nonbinary for years, and it’s never exactly been a secret.

Shown: the pinned tweet on my Twitter page for a long while now

What is Nonbinary?

For those unfamiliar, nonbinary can be a little bit confusing, because it’s the equivalent of checking the box that says “other” instead of “mr” or “ms”. It means I don’t fit neatly into the female-ness I was born into, or the male-ness that I assumed was my only alternative. And it’s confusing because every nonbinary person is going to have their (or indeed his or her or xir, etc) own experience with and relationship to gender. It’s as broad a category as “non-English speaker” and “non-bird”– there’s a whole lot that that can include. So with everything that follows, please understand it’s my experience, not one that speaks for all trans or nonbinary people.

For me, that means I generally use “she/her” pronouns to save time and energy; “they/them” are fine, too; “he/him” is amusing sometimes, but there’s no dysphoria or insult attached to it.

When I present, it’s generally in a fairly “neutral” way– t-shirt, jeans, no makeup, bra sometimes, shoes from the men’s section. These days that’s considered generally normal for women’s fashion; decades ago, I’d be a weirdo trying to dress like a man. Turns out clothes aren’t gendered. More on that later.

What I was before

In the past, I’d tried wearing makeup, but I always felt like a clown. When I wore skirts, I felt like an impostor– one who wasn’t fooling anybody. When other women would talk about their experiences, I was at a loss. My experience was nothing like theirs. Constantly I felt like I was Doing It Wrong. Like every step I took, every word I said, every breath and thought was an error. The harder I tried, the more Wrong I felt.

And I did my troubleshooting– maybe I was just really bad at makeup? But when it was put on me by professionals, it still felt wrong.

Maybe feminine clothes all felt wrong on me because I didn’t have the “right” body type? I bought dresses made specifically for me, and it felt the same– like a weird costume meant for somebody else. Even attempts to “girl up” in small ways wound up feeling false.

Some have argued that the real culprit was a misogynistic society: that to be a woman is to be uncomfortable, to feel ugly, to be an impostor. If I disliked feminine things, they said, it was because of internalized misogyny, or because of impractical standards set for women. And come on, everybody hates seeing themselves in photos.

So I wrestled with body positivity. I found every single aspect of myself and looked at it, really looked at it, on other women. I studied the way the parts added up to a whole– how every aspect of the person in the mirror was reflected so beautifully on the people around me. I loved the looks that other people put together with hair and makeup and clothes. So why did it feel so right on them and so wrong on me?

For a long time I just let that be the background radiation of my life: that constant feeling of Doing It Wrong.

Looking back, I realize that feeling is called Dysphoria. According to the American Psychiatric Association:

Gender dysphoria involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify. People with gender dysphoria may be very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender.

Kinda vague, isn’t it?

I’d heard of dysphoria in those kinds of terms– and with it the narrative of The Surgery, and the reflexive disgust when presented with one’s own anatomy, etc, the desperate need to be the “opposite” gender. But I didn’t want anything in those terms.

I spent some time thinking about it: do I want to be a boy? Do I want surgery? Do I want hormones? And resoundingly, the answer was no.

The term “nonbinary” was tossed around occasionally, but only as a vague idea, and only ever as a strict androgynous entity that used “they/them”. Do I feel my skin bristle when I’m called “she”? Do I prefer “they?”. Also no.

But then I started talking to more people and listening to more stories, I started noticing elements that resonated with my experiences and my feelings. And then I started learning that you can be androgynous-leaning-feminine or girl-and-sometimes-boy or “meh”. I learned that you can be a “she” but not a woman.

I took what was presented to me in those stories, and I tried that on for size. I put on the label “nonbinary” for a bit, and let it sit with me. And it felt right in a way that nothing had for a very long time.

A lot of my previous Wrongness started falling away. I stopped reflexively hating pictures of myself. I started feeling calmer, and it became easier to manage my temper. Without the thought of “what is she doing right that I’m doing wrong?” scraping at my mind, I found myself celebrating the women around me more often and more genuinely.

And here’s the other thing: as I got comfortable thinking of myself as nonbinary, I got a whole lot more comfortable with the rest. Dresses no longer feel like costumes, makeup no longer feels clownish, heels– well, heels are still hard to walk in, but that’s got more to do with my dexterity. Before, any attempt at femininity felt like a miserable impersonation of the woman I couldn’t actually be. As I am, there’s no more pretending. The clothes I wear aren’t a disguise, but just the things I wear when I feel like it.

It’s a feeling of rightness. Of being at peace.

And that’s really, really nice.

Why am I telling you this?

Maybe my narrative will resonate with some part of you. Maybe seeing one experience will make you think harder about your own. Maybe you’ll think about trying something new, or maybe you’ll find that you’re even more confident in where you stand right now.

May you find the best version of yourself, whatever that turns out to be.

Feeling the strain

“It does not do to dwell in dreams and forget to live.”

–Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

It’s been a rough summer for me. I recently started grad school, and between that, blogging, and the annual Spec Fic Marathon, I’ve ended up getting cloistered inside my office. I’ve gone weeks without seeing anybody besides my husband, and rarely left the house for anything but food and grocery shopping. Sometimes, Boxy got hit hard by work assignments, I’d go a couple of days without seeing him for more than a few minutes, too.

This isn’t healthy.

No matter what your venture, be it writing, school, starting a small business, what have you, isolation isn’t good for it. No matter how much you study theories and abstractions, there is so much to be learned and gained from simply going out and living life. Every time we interact with another human being, we’re picking up new variables, new insights, new perspectives.

And over the last month and a half, I’ve been neglecting to pick those up.

I’ll still be blogging daily until the end of July, but after that point I’ll be slowing down.

Search Term Bingo!

If you’re not familiar, popular author and awesome blogger Chuck Wendig does a little ditty known as Search Term Bingo. The deal is thus:

WordPress includes a feature where it tells us what search terms led people to our site. Some of them make perfect sense. Others, however, can get downright silly. So what Chuck does (and what I’ll be doing today) is post the latest search terms and add commentary. Some of these are variations on the same theme, so I’ll be combining them.

So without further ado, here we go:

BIOSHOCK INFINITE FORESHADOWING

Seriously, this is the single most searched-for thing that gets people here, in one way or another. Personally, I’m curious how many of you lovely readers are video game fans, and if you’d like more stuff in that particular direction. I’m also quite pleased with how good the writing has gotten in video games in recent years.

WHOSE LINE IS YOURE A WIZARD HARRY

That would be Rubeus Hagrid: a half-giant and animal lover from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, who once delivered a baby on a motorcycle. True story, yo.

On that subject, someone asked for a TIELINE OF HARRY POTTER BOOKS

I don’t have a tieline, but here’s a picture of my husband’s tie-hangar. Three guesses who gave him the fish tie~

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USING SCRIVENER

I happen to use Scrivener a lot– it’s probably tied with Microsoft Word for my favorite word processing program. However, if you’re thinking about getting it, I recommend going for NaNoWriMo first: one of the prizes for winning is a heavy discount for the software.

BEATING DEPRESSION

I did write a post on warding off the return of depression, though this isn’t usually the stuff that works when you’re in the depths of it. At a time like that, sometimes you just need to find your corn.

THE HOBBIT ARCHETYPES QUESTION

Bilbo is the Reluctant Hero. Gandalf is the Wise Old Mentor who has to vanish in order for the Reluctant Hero to actually do any heroic stuff. I’ll actually be doing a post on the subject later on this month.

DIY COMMAR

Dammit, how’s you figure out I live in Indiana? Now I’ll never be able to warsh my car in peace!

HAMLET “SEEMS? I KNOW NOT SEEMS” WHAT ACT AND SCENE IS THIS FROM

Act 1, Scene 2. Now let me point you to my dear friend No Fear Shakespeare, who got me through entirely too much of my high school career.

STANDING ST FORK ON THE ROAD

Here you go. This is St. Fork, the made-up patron saint of tableware. He is standing on the road.

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LIFE GIVING ARCHETYPE

That’s usually a Mother archetype, also frequently associated with the moon and water, thanks to the monthly nature of moon phases, tides, and menstruation.

Didn’t think I’d actually say it, didja?