“But why do you need…”

[cw transphobia… and cis LGB people's abandonment issues?]

If you want to know why Trans Pride Brighton exists (and why our protest march was not a "parade", as PinkNews chose to describe it in spite of it being presented right from the outset as a protest march) then you need look no further than the comments on the PinkNews article about the march (the article itself is otherwise fairly innocuous).

A parade of angry cis men calling us names and whining about us "getting to have" our own pride event which we created ourselves without corporate support. These toxic comments are such a perfect illustration of why we needed our own Pride, and these commenters are a beautiful self-parody, thank you and good night.

Neurotypical As She Is Spoke

I’ve come to the conclusion that I learned Relationships by (as it were) reading the Neurotypical Relationship Phrase Book – which meant I was sort of able to bumble through for a while each time because at least I appeared to be speaking the language, but really I had no idea what I was doing.

And then I tried doing this with someone neurodiverse and it was an abject failure,
because the language I was using wasn’t one either of us actually speaks.

So maybe I could successfully Relationship in ND with someone else ND if I can first learn to let go of that other language and mindset I’ve been forced into learning.

Growing up autistic in NT society is more than a bit like being kidnapped and forced to live in another country where everyone is like “you live here, speak the damn language!”

Transduction

It feels a bit disingenuous to bring this up today, in a way (it being TDoR), but I’m increasingly bothered by pressure from within the trans community for anyone non-binary to label themselves as trans. Over and over, I see this Statement Of Certainty that “all non-binary people are trans/come under the trans umbrella”.

Why are people so obsessed with this idea?

For a start, it seems to stem from the assumption that there’s an Absolute Definition of the trans label in the first place. This is not the case. As with pretty much any identity label, it means different things to different people. For some it’s more about incongruity with the gender and/or sex they were presumed to be at birth; for some it’s tied up more with transition (a term which itself means very different things to different people); for some it’s tied up more with dysphoria, and so on.

And because of this diversity of meaning and significance, whichever way you use the term, you’re likely to exclude some people, or in this case include some against their will. My working definition of trans is therefore “anyone who identifies as trans – ask them what they they mean by it if you want to know more, because opinions and experiences differ.”

Personally, I identify as trans because to me it suggests transition – but I don’t mean transition in the assumed sense of clearly defined start and end points, and I don’t mean it in relation to gender at all (since I’m genderless, mine has never been a “gender transition”), but merely a sense of being on some kind of journey in relation to what most of society seems to think of as gender/sex. I’ve been through a physical transition which involved both surgery and hormones, and my body is still adapting to that. But my psyche is also still adapting, and my sense of self is fluid and constantly changing/changed in response to the changes that have already taken place. So I don’t know that I’ll ever feel like no longer calling myself trans. For me it’s also a statement of positive visibility, to help others feel less alone.

But I know many non-binary people who do not identify as trans at all, and I strongly support their right not to have others police their identity or use/non-use of labels, including trans. It’s simply exhausting fielding other people’s insistence that we’re all trans – folk need to accept that their personal definitions are not universal.

I reserve particular impatience for being told “trans means your gender doesn’t match what you were assigned at birth” by people who know they’re deliberately including people in that “definition” who do not have a gender. Just stop it. I’m happy if gender makes sense of your own experience, but it’s just a model. Leave us out of it. I’m also fed up with people insisting that trans means “not cis”. There are many people – genderqueer, genderless, gender-nonconforming, intersex – who are not cis but who are not trans either, and don’t wish to be labelled as such against their wills.

</rant>

Landfall

love-spiralAll of my life, I have never had the experience of being in love with only one person.

There have always been at least two people in my romantic desire field, and sometimes as many as six. But everyone I’ve ever been in a relationship with before now (all of my previous relationships have been very monogamous) has been staunchly anti-polymory, and treated my feelings about it very unkindly. Being now, at last, in two relationships with people who are themselves poly, something just became obvious.

It has literally only just occurred to me that this “stay hidden or be chidden” experience of being polyamorous was just as much a contributor to my PTSS as transphobia and homophobia (and the abuse and bullying stuff) have been.

This is the first time in my life that I’m able to be fully “out” as being in love with more than one person, and to act on it, and to have them respond back wholeheartedly the same way, and it be accepted and rejoiced in by all of us – and I can tell I’m still wary and flinching, expecting anger and punishment for something that’s entirely normal and has always been a part of my experience. Again.

I name this tormentor: polyphobia. I have had partners in the past literally declare me mentally unwell for just having feelings for other people as well as them (even though I never acted on those feelings, having agreed/resigned to monogamy). The relief at being with people who just empathise with and affirm this experience brings up both joy and sorrow.

What a thing.

It’s reminded me of a poem I wrote years ago, which I think I already posted here at some point – but I’m going to do so again. This is for all of us who have been made to fear our true selves. We may look, and love, at last.

Mirror, Mirror

So there’s the great ocean there
And one day, you glance out
Out beyond the land
And you know something bad is coming

Gulls start from the waters, yarring
Bubbles and things rise, float
Stillish seas no longer still
Disturbed sun shatters in sparkles

Something huge
Something terrible
Long ago foretold, long feared
Rising from the very roots

Finally you glimpse it
Dark vast shape surging
Inescapable through the depths
The ocean dances and bows to it

And it breaks through the surface
Looming, menacing
Dripping, encrusted
And it looks at you

And looking into its eyes
You see your scared reflection
And then with fine cloth, and your warm breath
You gently begin to polish it

Consensuality

I’m in two polyamorous romantic relationships (yay me! ahem…) They’re both asexual relationships, but until a month ago, only one of them was.

I finally summoned up the courage to tell the partner I’ve been reluctantly sexual with/for that I couldn’t be that any more. It wasn’t an easy conversation at first, though in the end they made their peace with it – because it had been on the cards since we first got together (I’d always told them I was essentially asexual).

But what clinched it, for both of us in a way, was that after we’d agreed to take sex off the menu at least for the moment, they suggested trying a role-play where they would ask me if I wanted to have sex later, so that I could experience saying no. And what we found was that even in that most supportive of contexts, I still almost can’t.

What I’ve come to realise as a consequence of that conversation is that I don’t think I’ve ever had consensual sex in my life – by which I mean that I can’t actually consent, because (as a consequence of an abusive childhood) in the moment I find it near impossible to withhold consent.

I’ve got no idea what this is going to mean in the long run, but right now it’s very, very liberating to acknowledge that this is a true thing about me, and to have immediate, direct experience to back it up (for those times when I might turn up the self-doubt to 11).

And it’s freed me up into sensuality. I mean, I’ve already been describing myself for a few years as asexual and polysensual – but knowing that the person I’m being sensual with knows that from me, it’s absolutely not going to be foreplay, makes me feel way more safe to express my passionate self sensually instead. 

I still experience a lot of confusion. Being part of a very sexualised society, and having had a very sexualised childhood too, some part of me is strongly inclined to interpret physical intimacy through a sexual lens; I also have a body that does sexual response, though I’ve no desire to act on that. But this is a confusion I understand well enough not to be distressed by it. I’m embracing my consensuality now… 🙂 

Asterisk Not Obelisk

2001 obelisk at sunrise
I’d like to share an interesting example of trans social histories and the subjective nature of “stories” that I participated in a few days ago, after posting something on Facebook.

I came out as trans nearly 5 years ago now, and I joined a big online trans forum (which I ended up as a mod on for a while, until the forum infighting made me run for cover – but that’s another story).

There was a nasty phenomenon going on all of the time that I was there, of (mainly) trans women who’d had, or intended to have, surgery thinking of themselves as the “TrueTrans™” people, and making a distinction between being transsexual (which they thought of as “really trans”) and transgender (which they treated as “the lower classes”).

In response to that hierarchical nonsense, the label trans* (with an asterisk) started being used by people, who meant by it specifically “trans+whatever (-gender, -sexual, whatever, none) is simply trans and simply valid – nobody gets to police anyone else’s identity or labels anyway, but surgery is no yardstick of the validity of someone’s transness.” So having been a part of that movement, I associate trans* with equality as well as inclusivity.

Meanwhile, it turns out that in other trans circles and communities, trans* got coined too, but with several different and competing meanings and intents, all of which were different from the meaning/intent we were using. And now there’s been a strong backlash against using trans*, because for many people it has apparently come to represent the exact opposite of what it meant to us. To those people, it means “trans people are the TrueTrans™ people, and everyone else is merely trans*” – or/and it’s come to mean somehow that the voices of white, entitled transmasculine people are heard at the expense of everyone else (this is what I’m being told, anyway).

So I innocently used the phrase “supporting trans* young people” in a post the other day, and got strafed by someone for whom this is a slur. We sort of discussed the matter, I did some reading up (this, and this, and by way of balance this), and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m no longer going to use I still can’t decide whether I’m going to stop using the asterisk, since though it means something really positive to me and a load of people, there are another load of people out there who feel very disenfranchised by it.

Actually, I’d be very content for trans to become the default term, if it meant we moved on from transgender/transsexual (and that godsawful “transgendered” that people use sometimes) altogether (and all together). Shortening of terms is a good sign of cultural assimilation, according to sociolinguistics.

I’m also fascinated by how each group of us had no idea that trans* meant anything different to other people from what we were used to it meaning, and how easy it is to assume that “my/our story” must be the “true story”.

End of ramble.

Edited to add: An interesting thought just struck me: to those of us with a computing background, the asterisk very much symbolises inclusivity, as it means “anything at all can go here” – whereas for non-computery folk and/or academics, the asterisk perhaps implies “not important enough to include in the main text, but worthy of a footnote”. I’d never even considered the possible differences in asterisk-affect.

The discussion in that fb thread continues, and it’s clear that there are as many people who value the asterisk as there are those who cringe at it. Perhaps it’s time for trans[*] – or for a new word.

Half? Huh?

Well, hello. It’s been a long time.demistrawb

I’ve been busy fielding post-traumatic stress, having EMDR therapy. Oh, and recovering in turn from three bouts of surgery – my main Genital Upcycling Surgery last May, then a failed attempt in July to correct a bad prolapse, and then a second more but not entirely successful attempt to do the same this February past. I’m a little fed up with being sore and incapacitated, to be honest, and rather isolated by my distance from most of my people I care about. I’m looking forward to a time when I’m healed and not awaiting further surgery and can just get on with life. But meanwhile…

I’ve been thinking about my sexuality. For the last year or so, I’ve been identifying my experience as asexuality. People who police asexuality have “encouraged” me to call myself grey-ace, because I do experience sexual attraction, but I have no libido to go with it, and no desire to act on it. Or so I thought.

I’ve recently been having the kind of desire I thought I didn’t have, towards someone I’ve become involved in an asexual romance with. This has caused me to revisit the rich smorgasbord of [a]sexuality labels, to see whether any of them are a better fit now.

Once again, I’ve come across demisexual, and been bothered by it on both a gut and logical level. So I thought I’d have a crack at writing about it here to sort out in my head why the term bothers me.

Now then. Of course it’s already not as simple as all that, because I’m also romantically involved with someone else (because Polyamory) with whom I’m, well, reluctantly sexual on their behalf. To this plot twist, we shall return…

Most definitions of demisexual that I’ve found seem to revolve pretty much around two criteria:
• someone who’s demisexual being/feeling sexual only in the context of a romantic or otherwise intimate relationship, and
• said sexual response being “secondary”, i.e. only responding to the other person’s desire rather than primarily to one’s own.

As someone who’s in the polyamorous situation that I am, this raises an interesting question about sexuality labels in the first place, that has always bothered me. My basic assumption around sexual orientation, for example, has always been that it operates on a person-by-person basis, even if we have tendencies in certain directions. You respond to each person differently. And it seems the same for me around sexuality in general.

I’m in two romantic relationships. In one I’m definitely demisexual according to the aforementioned pair of criteria, but in the other… I’m something else. Because in the other, I’m definitely having a primary sexual response (and have no idea yet whether that’s reciprocated in any way, or whether either/both of us would want to act on that if it were).

So I’m demisexual with one person, and I’m… what? with the other. I’ve decided I need a new label. Heh, this is why there are so many already – because one size never fits all.

What defines my sexuality? That, regardless of whether it’s primary or secondary, for me it only exists in the context of romance. So here’s my shiny new label: pyladeasexual. Pyladea- is a Latin stem meaning simply “romantic”. That works. I’m only sexual (or feel sexual) with people I’m in love with, and sometimes it’s because they want it, and sometimes it’s because I do. Either way, it’s a tricky and tentative business, because abuse history, and because it’s likely I’m also on the Asperger’s spectrum, and for both those reasons have strong responses to physical intimacy.

Stepping back wider than my own stuff, though, there’s a thing that bothers me about the definition of demisexual. Since part of the default definition is this “only in the context of a romantic or otherwise intimate relationship” clause, something doesn’t sit right about calling it demi-.

Does it mean that a secondary sexual response outside of such relationships makes you not demisexual? You never hear of (for example) someone who doesn’t have a primary sex urge, but is willing to be sexual only in casual situations, being described as demisexual.

This implies to me that even asexual/demisexual people treat “full” as opposed to “demi” sexuality as being synonymous with “is able to have casual sex”, which I suspect is a byproduct of our very sexualised society.

There, I’ve finally put my finger on what’s been bothering me – it’s a Golden Mean Fallacy. Buried in the generally accepted definition of demisexual is the assumption that not being up for casual sex is “halfway” between sexuality and asexuality. Pff… I’ll stick with calling myself pyladeasexual – “is sexual (or willing to be so) only where love is involved”.

More blathering from me soon, I hope. Happy Oestre… Oestre-hare