My first coming out at 14 and the ensuing 7 years of denial: part 2

Therapy

My mom has always been a reliable pillar in my life. She is a woman of action, accustomed to stressful situations. If a problem arises, she deals with it with tact, diplomacy, and determination. She was the one to teach me to value music and the one who sat by my side when it was time to practice. She was the one who helped me through difficult english assignments, the one who joined the scout instructors to help me feel safe in a new environment, and the one who comforted me whenever I came back from school shaken by that day’s bullying.

I love my dad, but in the end it was my mom who was there when it mattered most. And it was to her I went first when I couldn’t bear the burden of silence anymore.

She listened to me, asked a few awkward questions most of which I didn’t know how to answer. Knowing her own limited knowledge on the topic, she asked me if I would like to talk with a professional like a sexologue. It was part of the usual narrative, so I agreed. She then hugged me and reassured me she would do everything she could to help.

Although I dreaded it at first, the talk with my mom went well. A little too well in fact.

She took immediate action. That day at work she requested a list of people who might be able to help from the services provided to employees. She educated herself on what she could find on the topic of transgenderism. She looked at news articles and statistics. One such article said that these feelings I had would never disappear; that they could be repressed, but would eventually come back when the feeling of dissatisfaction grew too intense.

She reaffirmed whenever she could that she was there to support me and that I could come talk to her. My mom had a plan, but more than that she was well aware she couldn’t understand what I was going through and that the help she could provide alone was limited.

Thus, she scheduled me an appointment with a therapist.

In my adult mind it feels like it had taken only a week between my confession and the appointment, but it could have been one and a half or two; I’m not sure. The only impression I’m certain of is that I thought it was too fast; that I wasn’t ready.

I went along with it.

In a vacuum, it was the reasonable thing to do. To my fourteen years old mindset,  psychologists were people qualified to take momentous decisions that could change the course of one’s life. You were supposed to sit in a room with them, answer a few questions, talk about yourself, and they would make a decision for you. They knew what was best. Or so did the theory go.

My previous experience with a psychologist had left me apprehensive about them having that much power over me. When I had been in first grade, my parents had scheduled appointments with someone qualified because I was smart. I could do maths other kids my age couldn’t do. I remember spending several sessions doing IQ tests and solving labyrinths and puzzles. It was done in the aid center at school. The teacher giving the tests later recommended I skipped ahead a grade because it would stimulate my logical mind. I could handle it according to them.

Yet, they had failed to take into account that my reading and writing skills were subpar. They had ignored the impact being a year younger could make on a five years old child. At that age, one year is massive. I might have had above average grades compared to kids my age, but I wasn’t ever compared to others my age; I was compared to older kids, and next to them I was barely making it.

For five years, I was smaller, weaker, less mature, less knowledgeable, less everything than my peers. I was ridiculed, intimidated, harassed, pushed around, forcefully held in place and poked, and laughed at. Other kids found it entertaining to ask me questions they knew I didn’t know the answer to. One question would be followed by a smug smile, no answer, then another question I didn’t understand, another smile, and never an answer. At some point the teachers stopped caring when I went to them saying the other kids were annoying me with all their questions. The teachers found it innocent enough; they didn’t understand how miserable and lacking it made me feel. To make it stop, I had to change school and take back a year simply to be in the right age bracket again.

I could handle it, the psychologist had said.

Right.

Thus were the thoughts I had while waiting with my mom in the lobby of the therapist. I hadn’t yet met them, and already I was feeling anxious and ill at ease. I didn’t want to be here, but I had read therapy was a normal part of transitioning. It was what the true transwomen did to prove they were women and to get hormones and many other things. It was part of the narrative, so I kept silent and tried to make myself comfortable.

The woman came to greet us. I didn’t speak much, giving the reins to my mom instead. The two of them talked around the topic of transgenderism, either as though the therapist hadn’t been made aware of it or it was taboo in a public space.

Leaving my mom behind, I followed the woman into a room with two large and uncomfortable club chairs. There wasn’t anything else in the small room; just a carpet, me with my bags, and her with pen and paper.

I didn’t know what to say, so I remained silent and let her start. She shared the privacy policies of her establishment. Everything would stay between her and I, unless she decided it was life threatening, in which case she would take action. Already nervous, her mention of suicide did nothing to put me at ease.

After resisting her first few attempts at probing me, we eventually breached the topic I was here for.

I told her I wanted to be a girl. She asked me why, and I didn’t know the answer. I had never tried to justify my desire to myself. It had been floating in the back of my mind for so long there was no ‘why’; it just was. Having only breached the subject with two other persons I hadn’t needed to find a reason for wanting to be different, and yet here she was, confronting me about it.

She asked me if I felt like a girl, and again I didn’t know the answer. How did one ‘feel like a girl’? How did one ‘feel like a boy’ for that matter? I didn’t feel particularly feminine nor masculine. I felt uncomfortable, but how? I couldn’t say.

Even to this day, I don’t feel ‘like a girl’. I do feel comfortable though. I feel like myself. Nathalie Wynn had the right of it that the only good answer to that question pre-transition is ‘I feel like shit‘.

At the time, though, I took my lack of feelings as proof against me. I scrambled to come up with different reasons why I was feminine. I told the therapist I enjoyed drawing, crocheting, weaving, origami, swimming, and other such activities I associated more with girls than boys. At the same time, other activities came to my mind which I tried to repress: my love for legos, bugs, outdoor activities, Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons. Each of them felt like it detracted from my reasons to want to be a girl. It was like a scale, with on one side all of myself that was feminine and one the other all of that which was masculine, and the feminine side was falling short.

The therapist asked me how long I had felt that way, and once more I lacked anything decisive. At the age of seven, whenever I would go to sleep, I would imagine myself changing gradually to another shape. It had started with animals such as snakes and eagles, but eventually I tried a mermaid, and then a plain simple girl. Changing to a girl fell more soothing than any other shape, and while I tried a few more, I kept returning to that of a girl. Every night, I would do this little ritual of imagining myself as a girl as I fell asleep. It was comforting and helped me through the difficult times in grade school.

But that was the only memory I could conjure. I hadn’t known all my life like the other transwomen. I never crossdressed, never played with dolls.

Once more, I fell short of the desired narrative.

One of the questions I could answer I preferred lying instead: had I seen or read something to trigger these feelings? Kashimashi immediately came to mind, but I didn’t want to admit it. I was feeling pressured and tested, and I feared that the therapist would point out all the ways the manga failed to represent a true narrative. I didn’t want the woman in front of me to tarnish my enjoyment of the story. I needed to be able to keep dreaming, so I lied.

The therapist kept asking more and more questions, very few of which I knew the answer to. She would ask and reassure me with a smile when I couldn’t offer anything. She could have answered her own questions, shared with me other people’s experiences and different stories which were all as valid as the next, but she did no such thing. She never filled in the gaps. It was the same pattern I’d seen countless times before:

A question, a smile, no answer, another question, another smile, never any answer.

At some point, I stopped talking. I was too ashamed to say any more. There was no point. I wasn’t woman enough to transition. All I mustered were some ‘mhmm’, ‘okay’, and ‘why?’

The coup de grace came when she mentioned hormones. At the time, hormones were the closest thing to that dreamed “become a woman” button. I thought they were these magic whatever that would feminize my body over time without me having to do anything. They were the last thing I clung to with any semblance of hope.

I asked her whether hormones were an option.

She told me she would first need to make sure I wouldn’t regret my decision. To gain access to hormones, I would need to live one full year as a girl. Dressed as a girl, going to school as a girl, and being referred to with female pronouns.

That killed any hope I may have had that I could transition. I didn’t want to be seen as a boy in girl clothes. I didn’t want to be ridiculed nor to give anyone any reason to ridicule me ever again. I couldn’t imagine myself going full-time, coming out to my entire family, all my friends and everyone at school. I felt like I needed the hormones to be able to transition, so to be told that I needed to do so without only to be rewarded with them when all was said and done was non-sensical. It put the cart before the horse.

But what did I know? She was the expert.

I exited the room feeling numb. My mom was there waiting for us. She asked how it went, and I told her I didn’t want to talk about it. It was painful to be reminded of what I couldn’t have.

Denial

That was the last time I mentioned transgenderism in the years that followed. I didn’t want to think about it at all.

I resigned myself to masculine behaviours. I would avoid my own reflection as much as possible, ignore facial hair until it grew long enough I randomly caught sight of it in glimpses of said reflection I was avoiding.

I went back to reading gender-bender fiction, but no explicit transgender literature. I enjoyed my friends’ company. Most of my hobbies were more masculine, such as card games, board games, Dungeons and dragons, and scientific experiments. I distracted myself with life for a while.

Meanwhile, my mom had the patience of a saint. After I had come out of my appointment with the therapist, she hadn’t breached the topic with me nor had she taken more steps to help me transition. She had read it never went away, and thus she had waited for it to come back, ideally at a time I felt more confident and comfortable about it. I never told her what had been said during that therapy, nor that I had associated the sexologist with the same teachers/psychologists that had been involved during the most stressful years of my childhood. I only talked to her about all this when writing this post. That was one emotional yet satisfying discussion.

My mom waited three years before coming back to me about it all. She asked me if the feelings I had had— I didn’t want to talk about it. I knew what she was alluding to and I didn’t let her say it aloud. I told her I regretted opening up to her about my feelings. At seventeen I was right into my teen years, and so my mom stepped back and let me have my way. I was often lost in my own head, recluse in my room for one reason or another. Recalling the teenage years of my older sisters, my mom gave me all the space I needed and didn’t take my rudeness too personal.

The most I did gender-wise during the following years was to grow my hair out. I thought I could maybe dress as a girl at Halloween if my hair grew long enough, but I never went through with it.

I was still in too much denial to do more than this. Every time something reminded me of trans issues, I became nostalgic and resentful. If my mom was around, I was anxious she would bring me up in any such relevant discussion. The topic was taboo for me.

Over the years, I gained in maturity and confidence. Even though the topic was a self-imposed taboo, I would once in a blue moon read something about it, or be exposed to it in a way that didn’t trigger my fight-or-flight instincts (or rather my freeze-or-flight response in the 4F system). Eventually I became comfortable enough with the topic to be curious about it and search solutions to specific problems: how to completely get rid of my facial hair, how to soften my voice, how to tuck my Adam apple, how to care for my hair, etc.

It was July 2015. I was going on 21. One day I received from my school an email offering opportunities for an internship in Japan. Four to eight months in a different country, where no-one would know me nor recognize me. Eight months to explore, to try things and make mistakes with no long-term consequences. It was too good to pass.

That email was the trigger that pushed me to transition.

 

<< Previous

My first coming out at 14 and the ensuing 7 years of denial: part 1

I remember laying wide awake in bed at five in the morning, waiting. The sun was barely poking through the windows and yet I refused to go back to sleep for fear of missing my chance. All I could do was think over and over again what I would say to my mom.

I heard her shift in her bed two rooms down from mine. She was gradually waking up, going through her morning routine. I laid as still as possible. I didn’t want to rush her into a talk. I wanted her alert and attentive, not groggy from sleep, so I waited.

I waited as she moved from the bathroom to the kitchen: the sound of drawers being pulled and plates being moved. Then, all was silent. I could imagine her eating, the sounds too soft for me to pick up.

I debated whether to get out of bed at all. I felt ashamed, scared of her reaction. I could go on pretending I was asleep and no-one would be the wiser. I could go on with my life without forcing myself to confront her on this.

I heard more sounds and I panicked. It was earlier than I expected. Either that, or I had lost track of time in my musings. I knew she usually left for work very early, before the rest of us were out of bed, but I didn’t want to miss my chance. If I didn’t go through with this now, I would find excuses to chicken out next time, then the next and so on.

Bare feet, dressed in only the first pair of pants I could find, I walked to the kitchen. My mom was there, dressed and ready to leave at any moment. She saw me coming and stopped what she was doing.

She was surprised to see me up this early. It might have been my state of undress, the way I stood, or the look on my face that clued her in: she asked me what was wrong.

I told her we needed to talk. She put away her purse and sat me in a chair at the kitchen table. I sat at the end of the table while she took a side seat. The table corner between us was my last bit of protection as she gave me her full attention.

She asked me again what was wrong. I was too ashamed to speak. She asked me if it was about school, and I shook my head: no.

Was it about the bullying?

No.

Was it related to the family?

No.

She paused, at a loss.

She asked me if I was gay.

I didn’t deny that one, but it wasn’t what I wanted her to take away from this either. Sure, I could say I was and brush the whole thing off. It would satisfy her curiosity, and it wasn’t even technically false at that point, but it wasn’t enough.

“I want to be a girl,” was all I said.

It’s funny how so many years later I barely remember the ensuing discussion with my mom, but the lead up to it remains so vivid.

Context

Contrarily to my transition at the age of 21, I do not have a written account of my impressions and feelings when I was 14. All I have are memories colored with hindsight, idealized or dramatized with time. My mom and a friend helped me fill in the gaps of my patchwork memory.

I cannot pinpoint one time in my past where I became aware of my dysphoria. It became much more pronounced with puberty, though.

I waited as long as I could before shaving the light fuzz that grew on my upper lip. The boys were proud to brag about their first shave, comparing the age they started using a razor as though it was an accomplishment of their masculinity. For my part, I wanted nothing to do with it. I didn’t want to use a razor, nor did I want to see my fuzzy face in the mirror. I ignored the hair and pushed back the task as much as I could. The only reason I ended up shaving was because the glimpse of myself in the mirror brought more unease than the dysphoria of going through with it.

Speaking of mirrors: I couldn’t stand my own appearance being reflected back at me. Mirrors, glass, pictures, even the voice recording we needed to do for our Spanish class: they were all off. I didn’t think much of it back then. Everyone was going through puberty; everyone was complaining their voice sounded strange, or they had pimples, or were dissatisfied with their body in some way, shape or form. My own feelings fell perfectly in line with what others were living, so I never questioned why I kept thinking I would look better as a girl. I simply assumed everyone felt the same.

I went through the first few years of high school without much self-awareness. Gender identity wasn’t one of the topics of our sex-education class. Rather, most of our classes centered over biological sex, STI, safer sex measures, and pregnancy. There was so much focus put on safer sex that at one point the topic bled into our other classes. For a few months, whether it was chemistry, French, English, ethics, or physical education, the only thing our teachers would talk about was safer sex. More than one students ended up either disgusted, desensitized or disillusioned. Thinking back, that might have been the teachers’ goal: what better way to keep a bunch of hormonal teens on the straight and narrow than to overwhelm them with exactly what they were interested in? Again, my own feelings of aversion towards my own body fit right in with the other students’.

Outlet

During high school, I knew what I wanted. However, I didn’t have enough knowledge of LGBT narratives to think my desires were more than wishful thinking.

I had found some stories about transpeople, sometimes on news websites told from the perspective of a cis person. The narrative was often the same: the person said they always knew; they felt trapped in the wrong body; they were depressive; they crossdressed from a young age; they related more with people from their chosen gender; they were sure.

That wasn’t me. That couldn’t me.

I didn’t know for sure how I felt. I didn’t feel trapped. I wasn’t unhappy; in fact compared to my bullied grade school years I was happier than ever, with a great family, good grades and a growing circle of friends. I never crossdressed, nor did I have that many female friends. I had one good one whom we’ll call Marie, and there were a few other girls who hung out with my other friends so I considered them friends as well even though we didn’t talk much. I didn’t feel any closer to them than my boy friends.

I didn’t fit the narrative, so I couldn’t be trans.

I was disappointed, but not much more. I was happy. Between school, swimming and board games, I had plenty to distract myself.

And books. Lots of novels. There is something reassuring in the escapism one gets from some ink on sheets of paper. Books had followed me ever since I binged the Amos Daragon series in grade school. They were the same old fantasy stories I loved, except for one thing: I now only read stories with female protagonists.

I related more with female protagonists than male ones. I was fascinated with their emotions and reactions and I could imagine myself in their shoes facing the same trials much more readily than the latter. After a few such stories, male protagonists left me unsatisfied. They were missing something, a lack of depth that made them uninteresting to my fourteen years old self.

One of the books to feature almost only women characters was Thendara House from the Darkover series. It was part of a large box full of books left behind by my brother after he left home. The book was old, with the cover scrapped around the edges and with the middle third not even glued to the rest of the binding.

The book follows two plotlines, one for each main character. I was more invested in the story of Magda Lorne, though. Her character arc led to her making efforts to adopt the natives’ culture as a diplomatic move to integrate the colony with the rest of the interstellar empire. Part of said culture was an openness to lesbian women among the group Magda joined. At first prejudiced, Magda gradually opened up to her new sisters. She developed feelings of her own and, confused, she spent a while in denial of them. The romantic sub-plot was a small part of the book, but seeing her struggle with her own feelings and the subsequent release when she finally admitted them to herself… I could relate.

The romance itself wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was still one I could picture myself in more easily than those teen romances between a boy and a girl.

Now, I know what most people reading the above would say to this: girl on girl is hot; it’s a teenage boy’s wet dream; of course I would be interested.

Except for the fact I had my sexual awakening only three years later, that I had just come out of a short relationship I didn’t feel comfortable in, and that the book didn’t have any erotic nor even suggestive scene, I would tend to agree. As it was, what I took away from that book was the realization I was more comfortable seeing myself in a lesbian relationship than a straight one.

First confession

A few months before I read Thendara House I had a brief relationship with Marie. I talked a little about it in an earlier post. She asked me out and I agreed despite my confused feelings.

I felt like I was following a script of how to act in a relationship instead of living it for my own sake. I was stiff and awkward, but again, it’s puberty. Who isn’t?

At the same time, a guy we’ll call John hung at the same table as me and my friends. I was one of the satellite members of the group, there for the few people I knew. The rest of the group were friends of friends I wasn’t as close to. He was probably around for the same reasons I was.

John was quite open about the fact he was exploring his bisexuality. He had had a few crushes on girls that didn’t work out, and had tried to flirt with a few boys as well.

I think he had been flirting with me prior to my getting together with Marie, but I can’t quite remember. I was oblivious to those kinds of social cues at the time, and it took Marie’s confession for me to realize that she had been trying to become closer to me for a little while. John might have tried the same, though his attempts flew over my head. All I know was that when Marie and I made it official (asking me out in the cafeteria in front of everyone kind of made it official by default), John became more obvious in his flirts. Or maybe I was more on the lookout for them from my girlfriend so I also noticed his more?

Regardless.

I dated Marie for a month. By the end of that month, I couldn’t pretend anymore: I didn’t feel attracted to her the way she was to me. I broke up with her but wanted us to remain friends, which we did. Once there was no script to follow, I felt more at ease with our relationship. I felt closer to her as a friend than as a partner.

John was never far behind when Marie and I were dating, but after we amiably broke up, he grew more daring. He was competing for my attention while at the same time backing off whenever Marie got fed up with him. He had enough respect of my friendship with Marie to ask her permission before doing anything with me, whether it be holding hands, sitting next to me, or kissing me. On her end, Marie was polite enough to take a hands-off approach and let him experiment with me if I was up to it, thus she agreed more often than not. I went along with it, not too sure what to think.

It was a few months later, with the recent reading of Thendara House on my mind, that John and I found ourselves to be the only ones at our usual table at the cafeteria. We decided to walk around the school without destination, talking all the while.

After some mundane talk, I asked him how being bisexual felt to him. He mentioned his attraction to boys and that he wasn’t really sure he was bi, but he wanted to keep his options open and take his time to explore both sides.

He told me he found me cute. I knew that. He had been rather obvious about it.

He continued with more seriousness. He confessed his feelings and asked me if I wanted him for boyfriend.

I turned him down as gently as I could. I wasn’t attracted to him, and we didn’t have the same kind of friendship I had with Marie. I wasn’t eager to get back into a relationship before having sorted out my confused feelings.

He took it in stride, and we resumed our earlier chat. However, I didn’t want to leave it at that. I wouldn’t get over my feelings by thinking about the same things over and over again, so I made a confession of my own.

“I want to be a girl.”

Perhaps it was because he had shared his own confession earlier; perhaps I felt he would understand; or perhaps it was because he was distant enough as a friend that I didn’t fear to lose him if our relationship changed as a result of my confession. In the end, I told him. He was the first person I ever shared this desire of mine with.

He kept silent for a few seconds, then asked me if I wanted to go somewhere more private. Nodding, I followed him to an empty staircase leading to the balcony of the gym. No-one ever used that staircase.

We sat down on the steps, and he listened as I talked.

I told him about my disdain for my facial hair. I told him the thoughts I had whenever I looked in the mirror, and how little things kept making me think everything would be so much better as a girl. The silent wishes upon my birthday cakes, the fact I had thought about it at least once a day for years now…

At some point I started crying. It was cathartic to speak about these things, to admit they were real. I thought I was coping well enough, but that illusion came crashing down the moment I opened my mouth. I couldn’t contain my feelings, and so I let them all out.

He hugged me and said nothing. He listened until I was done, and comforted me until I calmed down a bit.

He tried to relate, but it didn’t help. He wasn’t living the same thing, and the experiences he shared missed the point. He tried to ask me questions about what being a girl meant to me, whether I was more attracted to boys or girls, but that didn’t help either. I didn’t know. Did I need to be attracted to boys to feel like a girl? I didn’t know.

At a loss, he did the thing most teens have seen in movies when one needed to provide comfort. He kissed me.

And I kissed him back.

It wasn’t the first time he kissed me, not by a long shot, but it was the first time I returned the gesture. That both surprised me and confused me. He was a flirt, one not to be taken too seriously. I enjoyed his company, but we didn’t share enough interests and values for me to consider him a close friend. I wasn’t attracted to him, so why in a moment of weakness would I kiss him?

What did that say about me?

I pulled away from him and excused myself. He apologized and said he shouldn’t have kissed me, but I was too out of it to answer coherently. I needed some time alone to think.

I avoided him for the rest of the day. In fact, I avoided a lot of people that day.

It was while waiting at a bus stop in between my transfers, with a few hours of distance and the cool air soothing me, that I came to a decision: I might be bi. I thought I should thank John for helping me discover this about myself and to have seen me through in a moment of distress.

The next day I did just that. John apologized profusely, even though I didn’t see it as his fault but rather mine. He had been his usual self, and he had a history of kissing me at awkward times; no surprise there. I had been the one kissing him back, so I felt the responsibility fell onto me. We were awkward around each other for a little while afterwards.

Looking back, I was lacking the introspection to unearth my true feelings about this situation. I was just mimicking the reaction I had read in Thendara House, where Magda (much in the same way) was confused by her reaction to the advances of another member of the sisterhood, even though she expected these advances. Magda thanked the sister for showing interest, but politely refused them in favor of finding answers by herself.

I was adrift in feelings I didn’t understand, and so I clung to the only role model I knew who had been in a similar situation. I didn’t know better.

As opposed to what I had told John, I did not discover I was bisexual from that one kiss. The impact wasn’t that clear cut. What I did get from it was momentary relief. It was a single moment where I didn’t repress my desires. I wanted to be held and comforted like a girl. I had feared ridicule and dismissal for so long that the simple lack of these reactions felt validating. For all of John’s awkwardness, he listened. He held me, he comforted me. That meant a lot.

However, I felt also uncomfortable having shared this secret with him instead of say Marie or my parents. I wasn’t close to him, and this kind of vulnerability felt at odd with the type of relationship we had. It could lead him to believe we had a deeper connection than I was comfortable having. Furthermore, I felt guilty towards the people who should have been in John’s place, those whom I wanted comfort and validation from. It was unfair to keep this secret from them when I shared it with a distant friend.

Yet, I couldn’t gather the guts to tell them.

Breaking point

There was one other book that affected me enough for its name to stick with me for all these years: the manga Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl.

The premise of the manga is that a boy named Hazumu died after confessing his feelings to a girl. He got crushed in a failed UFO landing. The aliens, feeling responsible for his death, brought him back to life as a girl and announced that fact to the entire world.

While the premise might sound strange, it is an excuse to explore the relationships and personal growth of a transgender person when physical transition and social transition have been taken out of the equation.

Nowadays I can see the unfortunate implications of a person being assigned the wrong gender at their rebirth and for them to readily accept it and live by it. I’d prefer not think too deeply about that.

Rather, as a thought experiment of what would happen if some of the biggest hurdles of transition were made into non-issues, the story is quite entertaining. Hazumu seems genuinely happier as a girl from the start, which is why I think of her more as a transgirl a step ahead in her transition instead of a transboy resigned to go with the flow.

This manga was the first work of fiction I read involving a transgender protagonist. Similarly to Magda, I could relate to Hazumu: the introspection, the focus on emotions, growing into one’s femininity, etc. However, Hazumu made me feel something I never felt while reading about Madga:

I wanted to be her. I wanted to be her so, so bad.

If there had been a button that magically changed me physically to a girl and everyone knew about it, accepted it and encouraged it, I would have been ecstatic. Every thought I had had over the years would disappear and the world would finally make sense.

Reading Kashimashi gave me a glimpse of what life could be if I transitioned. It put words on my desires and expressed feelings I didn’t know I wanted to express. Reading about Hazumu growing more and more feminine as she became more comfortable outside the male social role, it was as though I was right there along with her, living through her transition, sharing her happiness.

All too soon I had caught up with the last chapter of the manga. And my dysphoria became much worse.

I tried to satisfy my need for escapism with other manga in the same genre, but none came as close to satisfy me as Kashimashi. Either I couldn’t relate to the protagonist, or the latter expressed desires to return to their original gender, or the situations arising around them were so contrived and fetishized they broke my willingness to disbelieve.

Whereas books had been my source of escapism for years, after reading Kashimashi I no longer felt satisfied reading at all. Boy leads, girls, lesbians, gender-benders, I didn’t care. They all felt alien to me.

I thought about Kashimashi day in, day out. I kept replaying the scenes in my mind, as those were the only things that felt like me. I bottled my feelings while searching desperately for another outlet.

I didn’t find another book, so I dreamed. Without anything to fill my evenings, I started to go to bed early after doing my homework. I took refuge in my head, where I could be the gender I wanted to be. I was reluctant to wake up in the morning. School didn’t have the same appeal anymore.

I didn’t keep that up long. I knew I was only fooling myself by remaining idle. I knew what I needed to do.

Thus one morning, before my mom left for work, I got up early to have a little chat with her.

 

Next >>

Defining romance

Most allosexuals don’t ask themselves what romance is. The concept is understood at an almost instinctual level.

For them, it is common sense. Romance is something more than friendship. It is sometimes confounded with sex and sensuality, and the little and not-so-little steps leading up to that kind of relationship. It is courting, and fostering love in one’s partner. It is showing that you think of them; that you love them. These feelings come through with small gestures, surprises, gifts, and special events.

When one keeps their friends at arms’ length and is only intimate with their partner, the divide is clear and there is not confusion to be had.

For people on the ace spectrum, romance isn’t as clear-cut.

In the case of asexuals, once the expectation of sex is removed from the equation, the structure of an ideal relationship becomes blurry. The end goal is different, uncharted most of the time. There is often a desire to get close, really close, but in a way that doesn’t fit the social norms of intimacy, leaving the allosexual questioning whether the relationship is going anywhere.

In the case of aromantics, sex might or might not be an issue. When it isn’t, there is still this sense of disconnect between the two partners’ goals. An aromantic might not care for gifts, courting nor special occasions, although that doesn’t mean they are any less invested in their partner. They can love in their own way, but be put off by constricting social norms dictating the “proper behavior”.

For both of them, there is a disconnect between romance as it is understood at large and what they feel comfortable expressing.

There is very few examples in media of an intimate relationship without romance. Goku from Dragonball Z is married to Chi-chi, although he doesn’t act towards her like the rest of the cast towards their own partners. He treats her as a friend, with no intimacy to speak of beyond having children together. Love is never one of his motivations, as opposed to Vegeta who does show moments of love towards Bulma.

One of the better representation I found is in the school-life romance Bloom into you. The manga doesn’t have one, but two characters who are aromantic, both of whom have vastly different feelings towards romance.

Yuu, one of the two lead characters, never felt any attraction to anyone. At first, she had an idealistic view of romance as the one she picked up from novels, although she was disappointed when her feelings fell short of her unrealistically high romantic expectations. While she does get into a relationship with the other lead with the hope of understanding attraction, she cannot return the same kind of love Touko gives her. Yuu is uncomfortable with displays of affection and doesn’t initiate them, not because she is anxious— as would most romance heroines— but because doing so wouldn’t be honest of her true feelings. As the manga progresses, she does develop strong attachment and love for Touko, but even after she confesses, Yuu still struggles to define it.

Maki, the other aromantic character, is fully content watching relationships from afar. He has no desire to get involved in one, and is rather disappointed when he becomes the object of someone’s crush. He doesn’t have romantic expectations nor does he hope to discover those feelings, as opposed to Yuu. He is quite happy as a spectator.

Maki’s case is particularly relevant when considering the Oxford Dictionary‘s definition of romance :

1- n. A feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.

2- n. A quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.

Maki does show excitement towards love as a concept and the mystery of a new relationship. From his seat as a spectator viewing other people’s romance, he is distanced from his everyday life. Romance is very much special to him, just so long as he isn’t involved. Does that make him romantic?

The AVEN wiki doesn’t offer any insight into romance. It lists a few non-sexual activities which could be romantic such as holding hands, dinner dates, movies, long walks, cuddling and more, although these activities could just as easily be sexual or platonic for different people.

The way I see it, activities don’t define the type of relationship; rather it is the intent of a person when doing those activities that does.

When courting— the step most commonly thought as romantic— the intent is to get the other person to fall for you. The actions one takes to charm another are usually outside one’s everyday life, which ties back to Oxford’s second definition. The one courting put themselves in favourable situations to impress and draw the object of their affection to them, through mystery and excitement.

There is usually deliberate thoughts put into fostering one’s partner’s emotional connection. While this definition may sound like manipulation, it is more a ritual both partners agree to be a part of. Longer romantic relationships would then see both partners foster each other’s love through little gestures that bring back this mystery and excitement.

While I’m comfortable with the above definition, it does leave me in a little bind. Either I am romantic with everyone I consider a close friend or family, or I’m platonic with all of them.

I give deliberate attentions to all my relationships in the hope of fostering affection, trust and intimacy. I don’t do it in the hope of marriage nor a primary relationship, but rather to build a family of choice of people I myself trust and am affectionate towards. The form each relationship takes is less important to me than the knowledge these people will remain in my life long term in some way, that they will stick by me if things get difficult.

Is this romantic?

Most of them would say it isn’t. That it is just a friendship, since the divide between friend and partner is so often implied. I’m not their partner, so what else would it be?

I’ve found my answer when I discovered the term “queerplatonic“. I am comfortable aiming for the grey area between romantic and platonic. If some prefer to use the platonic label, so will I, and if others are more secure with the romantic one, I’ll follow suit, but my feelings will remain the same. So long as these people are around when I need them, I am satisfied.

Why polyamory works for me

When I first explored what it meant to be asexual, I turned to Reddit. I read people’s narratives and problems, people like me who were confused by their feelings and lack or urges. While I’ll be the first to admit Reddit is far from an objective reference, at the time it was my rock. There were other people struggling with the same issues I was and I identified with them. People talked about their allosexual partners (people feeling sexual attractions, as opposed to asexuals) and the expectation of sex as a necessary component of relationships.

Among the threads, there were plenty of variations of “I have a crush on an allo but can’t act on it because I know I won’t be able to satisfy them”. The compatibility issue was quite common, which isn’t too surprising considering asexuals are a small percentage of the population. The number 1% gets thrown around a lot, even though that number is over a decade old and the questions in the survey it came from were questionable. Other people delved into the minutia of the number of asexuals out there. The fact remains, however, that unless one specifically seeks out another asexual for partner, most ace relationships will be confronted with the expectation of sex at some point.

Many solutions were offered to the original posters. Sex-positive users sometimes encouraged the posters to feel joy from giving pleasure and satisfying their partner’s needs, even if the poster was ambivalent about the activity itself. Sex-neutral comments would compare it to doing chores and dishes: a basic necessity that needed to be done from time to time to keep everything running smoothly.

Replies from sex-repulsed users were a bit more pessimistic. Some limited their dating pool to only the ace community. Others resigned themselves to be forever alone and offered tips on how to handle loneliness. Others still had a “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy going on with their partners, or they explored other ways to be physically intimate, or they suggested polyamory.

That last one was often met with lots of criticism and caveats.

To those it fits, polyamory removes a lot of the issues of a mixed relationship. The ace partner can enjoy whichever form of intimacy they are comfortable with, and their allo partner can look elsewhere to satisfy the rest of their needs, be they sexual, kinky or otherwise.

However, polyamory can bring about more conflict than it is set out to solve.

Everyone in a polycule must be able to communicate their needs and emotions, or else jealousy and frustration can grow to a level where they become damaging. For ace people, this might start by comparing themself to their metamours and fearing their partner will decide they aren’t good enough and leave them behind. Or they could get frustrated that their partner spends more time with their metamours, and find it unfair. Frustrations can come up despite everyone’s best intentions. It’s important for the polycule as a whole to work through the underlying causes of these issues instead of letting them fester.

Another way poly relationships can fail is through mismatched assumptions of what the relationship should be. The eternal question “is this going anywhere?” is a good example of that. People coming at it from a monogamous perspective assume the couple will have a honeymoon period of dating, followed by getting progressively closer to each other, making a show of commitment, moving in together, getting married, having kids, and growing old together. These same people may receive a wakeup call the moment their partner shares a different view of their future. From living as a triad to not wanting kids, refusing to live together, or putting up with metamours one can’t stand, there are many reasons an existing relationship model can come crashing down. This is not limited only to people used to monogamy. Each poly relationship is different. One cannot bring patterns that worked in the past and hope they work once more. These should be redefined for each new relationship. While this principle applies to all relationships, the expectations surrounding monogamy are deeply rooted in our social collective such that they often sneak up on new poly couples without the latter being aware of them.

Then there is the social pressure from everyone around the poly couple. Even if the polycule is free of drama and even when everyone shares the same expectations of what the relationship is supposed to be, they may be shunned by coworkers, friends and family members. Some cultures make it dangerous to be out as poly, in which case there will always be the strain of lying to others, of deciding which partner to bring to events, of living in fear that a single stray comment to the wrong person would mean the end of a loving relationship. Even in a society open to it, even if the members are out and accepted as such, it can still make one feel awfully lonely. The fact that a large proportion of the population doesn’t share one’s values regarding relationships can make it difficult to form connections outside of other poly groups.

Polyamory challenges people’s insecurities.

I had a lot of time to internalize these issues since the first time I saw a reddit comment suggesting polyamory (which got promptly dismantled by the rest of the community for suggesting it). And yet I kept coming back to it.

I read The Ethical Slut. I read More Than Two, and blog posts like this one. The more I read the more I realized the advices given in these books were applicable to all relationships, not just polyamorous ones. Sure, the latter needs the extra effort to be successful due to the added complexity of having more people, but the same principles hold true in friendships, monogamous relationships, parent-child relationships and more.

It is possible to feel jealousy from a friend if, for example, that friend spends more time with another. It is possible to feel compersion for one’s child in moment of pure joy, and for the child to feel it for their parent. Communicating one’s needs remains a useful skill to have at any time in one’s life, from talking to colleagues and managers to family and friends. And the list goes on.

To test whether polyamory was a good fit for me, I went ahead and applied its principles to my non-romantic relationships, starting with my family. I have a large one. We are six siblings, with me being the second youngest one. For the longest time, while I had a great relationship with my younger sister, I was too immature to get past the age gap separating me from my older sisters and relate to them as an adult. When I became more independent and comfortable in my skin, I put my efforts towards reconnecting with them.

I put words on my feelings and my needs, and voiced these with the people around me. I listened and guided many discussions to understand the needs and feelings of others. I came out with everything to everyone, being poly and ace and trans and kinky, leaving no secrets in my closet. I talked about my weaknesses and my struggles along with my successes, and for the first time my older sisters shared theirs with me.

My first few attempts at connecting were clumsy, but the more I opened up the easier it got to keep doing it. Not just with members of my family, but with friends and strangers as well. I was comfortable showing vulnerability, and that brought me closer to people.

When I was ready to start dating, I was also confident in polyamory not just as a romantic model, but as a lifestyle choice.

To me, polyamory is more than just having multiple lovers. It is both a set of skills and a certain perspective on interpersonal interactions. I feel closer to people accustomed to the lifestyle because they developed many of the qualities I seek in a partner. Good communication, empathy, responsibility of their emotions, self-awareness, establishing needs and boundaries, and more. Not everyone in the poly community shares those traits, but a bigger proportion do than in monogamous circles because polyamory tests these skills. I find myself sharing many values with these people that aren’t as common or as deliberate with others.

It also offers me opportunities to grow as a person, both in romantic relationships and out. The skills I mentioned above are applicable to all sorts of situations, and they have made my work life and social life easier as a result. Furthermore, I can be a part of many communities despite there being little overlap between one another. This lets me better explore who I am, learning more about myself and my boundaries as I go.

Finally, polyamory removes the social pressure to perform sexually. I do not have to suffer anxiety to satisfy my partner’s needs, nor do they have to go without. Were I to keep a monogamous mindset, even if my partner told me they didn’t want me to do something I didn’t want to, I would still push myself beyond my boundaries because I would see it as my responsibility to satisfy my partner in every way. Abstinence would always be on my mind, as though I had failed in some way for being different. With polyamory, not only am I relieved from no longer bearing that responsibility, I also feel happy that my partner’s needs are satisfied at all.

From where I stand as I write this entry, I can’t see myself going back to monogamy. I could take a single partner to marry, agree to make them my primary partner, limit the level of intimacy I express to anyone other than them, respect my partner’s boundaries on how to label our relationship and how to conform to social norms, and yet I would still feel I’m in a poly relationship. The awareness of my social network would remain. I would still have close friendships and queerplatonic partners; I would still express my needs and boundaries and share my vulnerable moments with everyone I know. I would still treat every other relationship I have with the same commitment I would a non-primary partner, just as I do now.

Polyamory for me is no longer just about romantic love. It is about all kinds of love, and I will love many people at once, be they among my family or my family of choice.

When I get told I’m in denial…

From time to time, usually after I share who and what I am, I get asked if it’s possible I’m in denial. It happens less regarding my transgender status nowadays, but my asexuality does get some flak.

I understand where the thought comes from. I am very physical in my affection. I cuddle and give plenty of touches and massages to the people I’m comfortable doing so with. I seek that kind of intimacy; it is a need, not just a want. Furthermore, I enjoy both giving and receiving pleasure in a kink scene, something usually charged with sexual energy. It is assumed that the kind of pleasure one derives from pain, submission or discipline to be sexual in nature, even though I don’t get aroused during those scenes. Play parties tend to be more sexually relevant than other physical activities.

Thus with all this, is it possible I’m unconsciously seeking sex as a need and I’m in denial about it, due to past trauma of some sort?

Perhaps. I’m not denying it is a possibility.

Does it matter though?

Whether it is the result of genes, hormonal imbalance, social stigma, trauma, insecurities, denial or mismatched needs, the fact is at this moment in time I am not sexually attracted to people. Intercourses repulses me. That might change in the future, but it is true now, whether I’m in denial or not.

The asexual label helps me communicate my feelings. It brought me closer to people sharing similar experiences. I identify with it because it describes what I am going through well. I wrote a post on the descriptive mindset vs the prescriptive one, and the argument that I’m in denial belongs more to latter than the former since it establishes some standard narrative I am somehow failing short of.

It is a human reaction to want to explain away issues and differences in a way that’s rooted in logic. Whether it is my asexuality or my dysphoria, many people think the first plausible solution that crosses their mind is one I never thought of in the fifteen years (and counting) of questioning I went through in silence, researching the terms, talking with people in the community and pondering my own feelings. That somehow their external point of view gave them some obvious insight I had missed on a topic that is highly personal. There is a small chance these people are right. Most likely than not, however, if I speak up about my feelings, it means I came to a conclusion on my own I can accept and live with.

I am deliberate in the way I explore my sexuality. BDSM lets me define sexually relevant encounters in a safe and controlled fashion without the need to make sex itself the focus of the interaction. While for many the idea would be absurd, the kink scene is my taking baby steps with regards to my sexuality. Being this self-conscious does not seem to me like a symptom of denial.

I don’t believe I’m in denial, but I wish I were.

Being in denial would mean despite myself I would secretly enjoy and seek that which I’m anxious about. There would be a root issue, and a feeling of well-being and success after getting past it. It would be solvable.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have one single, simple issue I could point to which would solve my dilemma? The idea is appealing.

I would like to be comfortable with the idea of sex. I would like to feel attraction, so I can relate with the majority of the population. I would like the option to enjoy a regular monogamous relationship, where the expectations are clears and socially accepted. I wish a few therapy sessions would work me through my issues such that I could be the person the people around me want me to be. If only it were so simple.

Growing up as an asexual isn’t fun. It isn’t one cool label I decided to tack onto many others to stand out as a special snowflake. I don’t want the anxiety, the confusion, the dismissals, the discriminating remarks from well-intentioned friends and family: people whose opinion I care for. I don’t want to be the odd one out.

Sometimes, I even doubt myself. It was true during transition, and it is true now: at this point in time I know the label fits yet I still hold on to some small hope that I can be “fixed”. It is not a healthy mindset, I know, but the social pressure to be “normal” is real and rooted deep. The feeling isn’t new to me. I felt the same when I was exploring my gender, little nagging thoughts that became more and more infrequent the more comfortable I got with the lifestyle. I expect this to be the same; the doubts fading with time.

I know what denial feels like. This isn’t it.

After I first came out as transgender to a parent, I went into denial for seven years before I decided to be honest with myself and transition. I know all about the little nagging thoughts that plagued me daily, about the topics of discussion I tried to avoid even in my own thoughts, about the shame and the self-loathing, the bittersweet smiles, the longing, and the ever increasing dysphoria. I don’t feel that way when I say I’m ace, but I did those years I tried to fit in, pretending I was not.

I am not the person others wish I were. I am my own person, one who is comfortable with the labels I use and proud of the communities I identify with. The occasional doubts I mentioned above are par for the course. They are no different than the occasional bout of dysphoria, or the envy I sometimes feel at another transwoman who passes much better than I am.

These feelings do not detract from my identity. Please don’t dismiss them by trying to “fix” me. Chances are, I thought about it before, and decided I didn’t need the fix to be happy. 

My coming out as asexual

While I had known I was transgender long before I identified with the term, the same cannot be said of my asexuality. For the former, there was the constant longing to be a girl, the disdain I faced everyday in the mirror, the fascination for any media that blurred gender lines, and many more. For the latter, there was… nothing. Less than nothing; a lack of something I didn’t know other people didn’t lack (my apologies for the triple negative).

Looking back, I can spot the signs. I’m aware my judgment is probably clouded by hindsight bias, but these little breadcrumbs remain meaningful regardless.

My first exposure to sexuality was around fourth grade. Due to having skipped a year and having my birthday at the limit of the cut-off for the school year, I was the youngest in my class by a year and a half. While everyone was eleven, I was nine. While everyone was going through puberty and discovering their sexuality, I remained oblivious. For two years, I was teased at school for not understanding what sex was. The other students would constantly ask me probing questions, then laugh it out when I would turn up confused. They would leave without ever explaining why I was the butt of the joke.

While I attribute this bullying more to the age discrepancy than my lack of sexuality, it had a profound impact on how I tackled the topic later on. It made me doubt myself, and was a huge hit on my self-confidence as I constantly felt inferior to everyone around me. I closed myself off emotionally, and learned to dismiss anything related to sexuality as a form of defence mechanism. It was easier to ignore the constant passing remarks than ask for explanations.

I got out of this situation two years later by changing schools and taking back a year, not for academic reasons, but to be more in line with my age group. That made a world of a difference. I could then slowly rebuild my confidence in myself. My friend at the time was what I now recognize as aromantic. While in their company I never had to think about sex nor relationships. I felt safe around them. Again, with hindsight that might have been why I sought out a person like them as a friend since I closed myself off from those who put more importance on their boyfriend/girlfriend/dating life.

This isn’t a freudian study of my childhood, however, so moving on.

In high school, I was still oblivious to sex jokes. I would take everything at face value, and it would take me a moment after everyone started laughing to realize there was an innuendo hidden in-between the lines. I wasn’t as insecure anymore, so I ignored it the best I could. People would laugh without me getting it, and then laugh even harder because I wasn’t getting it. I let them have at it, sometimes laughing along at my expense. I was numb to it all by then.

Sometimes, I would try to fit in. When one of my friends mentioned he had a crush on someone, and another friend teased him with it, the topic of who I would go out with in an ideal world came up. I didn’t have a crush at the time, so I pointed out the most aesthetically pleasing person in our class, much to my friends’ confusion. They tried to tease me with it, but I wasn’t shy nor nervous about it, as opposed to them. I didn’t have the same emotional attachment as they did. Since I wasn’t reacting like they were expecting, they quickly lost interest.

A girl asked me out at some point. I said yes, because she was my friend, because I enjoyed her company, and because it was the socially acceptable thing to do. I was her partner, but I had a difficult time seeing her as anything but a good friend. I played along for a month, but I was growing more and more uncomfortable with the expectations placed upon our relationship, and so I broke off with the awful excuse of “It’s not you it’s me”. All the cringy cliches. We remained friends afterwards, however, and I always valued our friendship a lot more than our short-lived romance.

At the same time, a boy hit on me. He was in competition with my at-the-time girlfriend, and would ask to kiss me even with her around. He got her permission a few times as she didn’t feel threaten by him. My girlfriend was fine with it, probably because I gave the boy nothing but the bare minimum of attention. I agreed as well, mostly because I was exploring with my likes and dislikes just as he was. It was an odd situation to be in, though, that’s for sure. And it made one thing clear: I didn’t care more for boys than girls.

My college years went by without a hitch. I didn’t have any romantic relationship then, nor did I want one, and I had grown aware enough of sexual jokes to no longer be oblivious to them. I was still slow, granted, but the laughs at my expense had grown old and my friends more often than not moved on in the discussion instead of pointing out my lack. It was a comfortable time, until university came and I became more proactive in learning everything I could about the LGBT community.

I distinctly remember the first time I used the term “asexual” in a discussion to describe my own experience. It was at a workshop on asexuality offered by the Pride community of my university. I had only just admitted to myself I might be ace, and I was seeking some form of validation to prove I wasn’t making stuff up. The workshop covered topics such as squishes, how to ask for physical intimacy, definition of terms, romance and sexuality and the lack thereof, and more.

I kept quiet, too shy to speak up, although I found myself nodding more and more as the workshop progressed, agreeing with everything that was being said. A smile slowly grew on my lips until I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt giddy.

This was me. This was how I felt. This was what I wanted.

As the workshop wrapped up, the speaker encouraged the students to share their experience. One of the topic that had been brought up was how asexuality manifests in different aspects of one’s life, from religious context to cultural customs. During a lull in the discussion, I raised my hand, turning red from having every eyes on me. I still felt insecure identifying as a transwoman and as an asexual, so speaking for both felt like I was taking out of my hat.

Still, I spoke up. I said asexuality could result from the confusion when a transperson explores their sexuality. Before transition, that person might not feel at ease having sex due to being forced into a gender role that felt foreign. While they might be aroused by porn and fantasies, they might be completely turned off the moment they picture themself in their current body having sex with anyone.

It was a minor thing, a small contribution, but I remember leaving that workshop feeling validated, like I belonged.

Later that year, I transitioned. That deserves a whole article to itself, but suffice to say that it was one long liminal space during which time I read a lot about all kinds of relationships.

I came out to my family, one member at a time. There were a lot of opportunities during my transition to talk about LGBT issues, and so it wasn’t difficult to bring up the fact that I didn’t feel any attraction to anyone, nor did I feel ready for sex. Most people I told that to were dismissive, saying that my feelings might change after I settled into the role that fit me best, or it would change after I had sex with someone I trusted, or it would change once I would meet The One, or it would change after some therapy.

It would change.

I hoped it would. It would make me feel normal. It would be another source of validation from my family and from society at large. It would make my dating life so much easier.

It didn’t.

Once I was ready to start a relationship, I used the asexual label as a form of emotional protection. I was still doubting myself, and I still had hopes that after finding The One, after having sex, after changing so much, I would change some more. I would get over it.

I decided to go all out. Transitioning made me more confident than ever, and this showed. I took the lead the moment I started dating.

I made an account on HER, a dating app for queer women. During my transition, I had come to accept I was more at ease around women than men, so I tentatively labelled myself as homoromantic even though the term sounded a bit hollow. I had also accepted I wouldn’t be able to satisfy the sexual needs of most people, and as such had welcome polyamory as one possible solution. Thus, I selected the ‘open’ relationship option in the app and started chatting with everyone who swiped me.

I met a few people through the app, so much so that I deleted the app after two weeks in favour of maintaining the friendships I made through it. One of them became my girlfriend within a few months of hanging out together. We were comfortable around each other, slept over at the other’s place, and we both understood the meaning of a lack of attraction since she was demisexual.

One day I pushed to do something sexual together. I had the expectation that it was something I should be able to do since everyone else was doing it (bandwagon fallacy). Call it internalized ace-phobia or what have you; I wouldn’t be satisfied with myself unless I at least tried this much.

My girlfriend, to her credit, asked me multiple times if I was sure. She didn’t want me to rush into this, and was ready to wait a long while for me to go at a pace I was comfortable with. She knew where I was coming from; it was a frequent topic of discussion between us. I told her I wanted to do this.

And to the surprise of absolutely no-one, I freaked out. We both ended up hurt. Me, because I’d been triggered; her, because she felt responsible for letting me go this far, even though I had been the one to ask for it. The fact that I pulled away from her the following week to sort my feelings out also hit her pretty hard, as she probably thought she wasn’t good enough. More insecurities, a bigger mess.

We tried another time. This time I didn’t freak out as much (though I still did). After a later third failure, I called it quit.

It took me several weeks after we broke off to let go of the standard I had held myself up to, a standard I knew for sure didn’t fit me. I won’t say it was freeing to shift my expectations towards a future without sex, as I had placed a lot of hope on— if not enjoying it— being able to do the act; being able to push through and do the chores, as it was. It was a bit naive, I’ll admit. There was this need for validation, for trials (self-imposed or otherwise) to prove I fit in one box or another. Although I had failed to live up to my expectations, I did figure myself out a lot more. That knowledge was comforting. The whole experience allowed me to break free from my expectations towards myself. I just wish I didn’t have to drag someone else into that mess with me.

From there, I did a lot of soul-searching. My worldview shifted over a few months. I discovered that it wasn’t femininity that appealed to me in a person, but their capacity for empathy, caring and rapports, which I generally found much more in women than men. However, I did meet some men with whom I had a connection, such that the term homoromantic didn’t really fit anymore. Greyromantic or queerromantic fit better, when I do care to think about romance instead of queerplatonic relationships. The line is still blurry on that front.

I am secure in my asexuality nowadays. To anyone who tells me it will change when this or that condition is met, I now tell them it’s as likely to happen as someone who enjoys vanilla sex to develop masochistic tastes. Not impossible, not even unlikely, but not something I feel any desire to explore.

Cheers.

Descriptive vs Prescriptive

In this blog, I use labels of all kinds: asexual, masochist, grey-romantic, polycule, cisgender, etc. This needs to be made clear:

I am describing my own current situation, not prescribing others how things should be.

Labels are meaningful in the sense that one identifies with them. They let people communicate aspects of their person clearly to others where otherwise they would have struggled with the lack of vocabulary. If someone identifies with a label, if they find a community of like-minded individuals through it and if they share experiences that others identifying as such can relate to, then they are a part of this community. This is as true of transgender people (who should be accepted as the gender they identify as regardless of their physical appearance or whether or not they transition) as it is of agender people, non-binary, top, slaves, solo poly, and whichever other term these people use to describe themselves.

There is a trend common in the cis/het community that one should meet certain criteria to be worthy of a given label. They could, for example, refuse to refer to a transman as a man because he still presents as a woman, or they could dismiss an asexual person’s sexuality based on the fact the latter enjoys and seeks physical intimacy.

This mentality also come up in some elitist cultures, where one owning the label dictates that only those matching their own experience are fit to do the same. Gays saying one isn’t truly gay if they had sex with a partner of the opposite gender; slaves dictating that one cannot be a true slave unless they relinquish control of their bank accounts; trans people dismissing other trans people who didn’t get a certain list of surgeries; masochists requiring tolerating a certain level of pain to be a real masochist; the list goes on.

This is the prescriptive approach, and it is damaging to the community as a whole.

It restricts the use of a term to an arbitrary set of conditions which excludes people whose experience would be a valuable asset to the community. More than that, it causes doubt and uncertainty for those on the edge, those who are exploring their own needs and feelings and who need to try these labels to see if they fit them. At the more restrictive end, this mentality breeds frustration, discrimination, neglect, and even emotional abuse. It hurts to be told one’s feelings are not valid by the very people one looks up to and identifies with.

As I write this blog, I will define what these terms mean to me. I will give my relationship model, and describe my feelings and my life as they are now, not as they aught to be. I am not coming at this from an objective point of view, and neither should it be taken as such. Other people may have different definitions of these labels, and they may live a different life than I do while still identifying as a kinky poly ace transwoman. Their experiences and definitions are as valid as mine. Theirs should be used in the context that they relate to their stories and experiences, and mine to my own.

All I will do is describe. Make of my experience what you will.