The dysphoria is becoming a bigger problem than I thought it would. I’ve pushed off buying a new binder, even though I’m working now, because I have more important things to spend my money on, I thought. Paying my bills. Rent. Food.
But I need it. I need to feel like me. I’m out, as out as I can be, and I’m still just…
This is a typical exchange:
Coworker: Thank you for holding the door/holding my chair/loaning me bus fare (etc, etc) it’s so nice of you to be polite and sweet
Me: No problem, I’m happy to be a gentleman.
Coworker: But it’s so obvious you’re a girl.
And we laugh. Because obviously, if you have a big rack, it’s obvious you’re a girl. Obviously, if you have sacks of fat hanging off your pecs, you must be sweet and kind and girly and into boys and clothes and makeup…
But I’m not.
I’m wrong. And I feel like an object. But you know what? That’s not right. An object isn’t the right word.
I’m feeling more like… an alien. Like because when someone asks me something, I’ll give an honest answer and sometimes that means honestly answering that I’m genderqueer… I’m a science experiment, to be poked and prodded and studied. Like there’s this thing that isme and noone can see it because they’re too busy seeing all this stuff wrapped around me, this body I’d give anything not to have.
I’m losing weight as I gain strength, walking everywhere (literally, everywhere. This city is awesome for that) and it’s making me look even more like a butched-out pinup. But I’m not Betty Paige with Betty Boop hair.
I don’t want a penis. But please god can I be one of those people that other people say “Is that a boy or a girl?” when they see me? Can I be androgynous, and not have to explain myself over and over again? Can I be right? Can I please, please, please, for one day, be comfortable in my skin? Just, not have to constantly feel like my chest is a conversation starter?
For that matter, why is that? How come it’s okay to just comment on someone’s body, just because it’s there? How fucking rude do you have to be to think that it’s acceptable to tell someone they have large breasts? NO FUCKING SHIT I DO???? OMG!!!! THANK YOU! I WOULD NEVER HAVE KNOWN OTHERWISE.
Okay, long and whiny and rambly, I know.
The point is, I’ve lost whatever ability I had to feel comfortable in my skin, as I become more and more comfortable with who I am. The more confidently I can state that I am Khai Devon, genderqueer lesbian poet blogger, the less confidently I can slog around this curse of an alien body I’ve been stuffed into.
And I need to fix it.
Three years ago tomorrow, the world lost a life-changer.
His name was Alex. Alex was the strongest, bravest individual I have ever known.
I met Alex in a context that lent itself easily to those casual friendships that deepen in an instant, and ours certainly did. We spent hours hanging out, doing homework, laughing with each other, and having those kinds of conversations you have when you’re young and still figuring out the world– about life, politics, identity, etc.
And then one day, we were standing around having a smoke (as young radicals do, you know) and making plans to go get pizza. I could tell Alex was upset about something, but I didn’t know what, and he wouldn’t tell me, until he blurted out that when he was born, his name was Alexis. I shrugged and asked if we were going to get pizza, and we didn’t mention it again until later that night when we were alone.
Alex told me he felt a need to come out as trans. He felt that, in our small environment, it would be safe enough to come out– and that people would be less prejudicial if they knew that the boy they knew and loved had been born with a biologically female body. So, he began to come out. Slowly but surely, he began to educate, inform, and come out.
Alex died for that decision.
His death was officially ruled a suicide.
Whether the official ruling was wrong or not is a matter of some debate, but…
Either way, when Alex died, so did a bright spot in the world.
And today, I honor him in any way I can find. And in return, I believe he watches over me.
I miss you.
I got this question sent to me on Facebook, and I’ve been mulling it over for the past couple of days. I’d like to put what I’ve come up with so far, and then have anyone else who has something to add chime in please. Everyone’s voices count.
Out of curiosity do you worry about people in your offline life who are uncomfortable with your gender and sexuality finding the blogs you write about it?
And, a question on clarification from a trans* person’s perspective: How do you explain that transgenderism would exist with or without gender roles, and why it’s wrong to ask if they still would if gender roles didn’t exist?
Okay first: yes. Of course I worry about people who are uncomfortable with my gender and sexuality finding the blogs I write about it– but I also worry about the people in my offline life who are uncomfortable with my gender and sexuality reacting to the fact that I have a girlfriend, who is–amazingness incarnate. And about their reaction to me binding. And the thing is, all of these worries are valid but– I have a choice to make. I can either live my life in such a way that I am toned down, in order to keep myself safe, or I can deal with the inevitable backlash.
I choose backlash. For one thing, I’m very very lucky– it hasn’t been all that bad, lately. For another, I know I can handle backlash and I know there are some people who are coming after me who will have some of the same issues, who may not be able to. So, if I can forge the way for them even a little bit– then my life has mattered. For a third, toning myself down is like snuffing a candle. I can do it, but it kind of gets rid of the point of the candle.
Yeah, I’m babbling. Because it’s the second question that I’m not sure how to unpack, all the way. Howdo I explain that transgenderism would exist with or without gender roles, and why it’s wrong to ask if [it] still would if gender roles didn’t exist?
Well, first, I’m not actually offended by people asking me if I would be trans* if gender roles didn’t exist. I think it’s a fair question, if I’ve opened the dialogue and in some ways made my identity public property as a tool for education. I mean, most of the stuff we say on a regular basis is about how gender is constructed, it’s a social identity, it’s wholly separate from your biological sex– why wouldn’t someone who doesn’t have the experience of being trans* wonder if eradicating the rules of sex-tied gender roles would change something?
Second, I am quick to explain that I am not all that concerned with typical gender roles, and that I think of my body as having a deformity, or a birth defect, rather than as “not being the right gender.” I am the right gender. I just have a birth defect that made me grow boobs. In cismales, this is known as gynecomastia. In trans* folk, we call it “estrogen.” So I could wake up tomorrow and we could be living in a matriarchal society where ciswomen ruled the roost and gender roles were completely flipped, and I’d still want to chop my breasts off because they’re just not right. And they make my body look alien to me.
Third, I always always always disclaim: This is only me.
Monkiss nominated me for the versatile blogger award! Thank you monkiss!
Monkiss is a delightful blogger, who writes poignantly, frequently, and reblogs things that make me think too. And for some reason, Monkiss has decided to pass along this award to me.
So the way this works is, when you’re nominated, you thank the person who gave it to you and link back to their blog, then you tag fifteen people you follow (that other people really should as well) as versatile bloggers, and then you share seven facts about yourself.
So without further ado,
10. Kathryn Finding Balance, who is pretty much my hero
And then, and then, here’s seven things you may or may not have known about Khai:
(uno) Yo hablo un pequito espanol, pero comprende mucho.
(dos) The reason I write this blog is because I realized one day that there are a lot of people who would like it if I died, or simply ceased existing. And I felt very, very alone with that realization. So, I set out to find other people who were like me– so I wouldn’t feel alone, they wouldn’t feel alone, and we could figure it out together– and maybe, just maybe, if we didn’t feel alone anymore… less people would want to deny us the right to exist.(tres) I love hard and very very committedly. When I say “I love you,” what I mean is forever. (quatro) I write poems. I’ve published one book and I’m working on a second right now, and I’m trying to figure out how to break into the spoken word/slam scene. (cinco) This is only one of three blogs I write. You can find the other wordpress one HERE if you’re interested in reading about my adventures as a homeless, semi-disabled writer who’s fighting for stability. (seis) Oh yeah. I have a neurological disorder that means I’m in pretty much constant pain, and sometimes I have migraines and seizures. Noone’s really sure what it is, yet. But, some medicines help a little and that’s good. (siete) My email address is khaidevon at gmail dot com, and you are welcome to email me if you need a friend or want to talk
A few people asked that I go ahead and write about my preferred pronouns, so here’s how I, personally, use and conjugate gender-neutral pronouns.
Keep in mind that I’ve learned to do this by reading other blogs and literature, and that I don’t think I’ve actually ever been taught. I may have seen one guide but it ended up confusing me (I’m kinda slow… I can admit it) so if I’m confusing at all, or if I get it wrong– please don’t hesitate to either ignore or correct me.
Okay, without further ado:
1. Instead of HE or SHE, use SIE or ZE.
I prefer ZE but I see SIE written more often, so I’m trying to get comfortable writing that. Either way, it’s pronounced tse.
2. Instead of HIS or HERS, use HIR’S or ZIR’S.
Again, I prefer ZIRS but I see HIRS more often. HIRS is pronounced with the “i” pronounced like a long “e.”
3. Instead of HIM or HER, use HIR or ZIR.
I prefer the zir forms because they feel less like sloppy spellings of feminine pronouns to me, but either work when spoken rather than written.
So, to give you some examples.
Khai is a genderqueer/androgyne poet. Sie writes poetry like ze’s breathing. Zir’s dream is to support zirself on the power of hir pen alone, but sie would like to brag because after five months of being completely disabled, sie is finally able to go back to work and has procured zirself gainful employment, which will start April 3rd.
Does that help at all?
As I’ve had conversations with Buttercup over the past few days, the issue of pronouns has come up a couple of times, and there are a couple of things about pronouns that I’d like to address.
First, I want to talk about the fact that she has felt awkward asking me which pronouns I prefer, and whether I want to be referred to as her boyfriend/girlfriend/partner. I want to address that so that I can assure cis partners and cis people, from at least a personal standpoint (and from what I hear from other people on the trans* spectrum)– those aren’t awkward questions. Those are respectful questions, questions that show you’re listening, and that show that you care. Questions that make sure you know how to continue being respectful of our experience and our identities, and that you accept us.
Look, you can’t know unless we tell you. And unless we refer to ourselves in the third person, you’re not going to hear our preferred pronouns coming out of our mouths. Unless you ask us. So please. Ask. We’ll tell you. And if we’re not at the point where we can– then… well, there are bigger issues than correct pronoun usage, but we’ll get there.
Second, I want to actually answer the question. Personally, I’ve adopted a somewhat IDGAF policy. To be absolutely honest, I prefer gender neutral pronouns. But I don’t prefer them enough to make everyone around me learn a whole new set of pronouns and their conjugations. (However, if y’all would be interested in a how-to on the gender-neutrals, I’d be more than happy to write one). So I’m okay with “she/her/hers”– and equally okay with “he/him/his.” I told Buttercup it’s probably easier for her if she uses female pronouns so I’m okay with that, and I use a pretty even split between all three choices to refer to myself.
Which leads to the second part of the preference thing:
I’m just as concerned with making sure my partner is comfortable as I am with making sure I’m comfortable. My partner has to accept me as I am, and understand that that means I don’t see myself as a woman all the time. She does not have to instantly know everything there is to know about what it means to be on the trans* spectrum, spaz about gender theory like I do, or even really give a fuck if she doesn’t authentically care about it. My identity journey doesn’t include the right to trample on her comfort.
I prefer that we both feel easy and natural with the terms we use and roles we play in our relationship.
I love that she’ll ask the questions. I am an open book, and I share my thoughts and feelings on the matter freely. Because it’s something that’s important to me, I talk about my gender, and gender in general, a lot. But I don’t, and wouldn’t, force her to deconstruct her gender, or challenge her easy and natural femininity, or ask her to only use gender neutral pronouns to refer to me, when she’s never even been introduced to them before. But that she asked the question? That says more than anything that she really, really cares about accepting me as I am, where I am.
Last night, I had the most incredible date in the world.
Also, the first of many dates I’ll have with this girl, who for some reason likes me enough to have agreed to be my girlfriend, and who will be around for quite some time if I have anything to say about it. I’ve nicknamed her buttercup, so for consistency that’s what her codename here will be. I’m kinda a little head over fucking heels for her.
Around her, I’m completely myself. I’ve thought I was with people before, but… it hasn’t been like this. Talking to her is like writing a blog post, just sharing whatever passing thought. I want to hear everything she has to say, no matter how random or deep or personal or impersonal. I can’t stop smiling– my face literally hurts because I haven’t stopped smiling since we started talking. There’s no pressure to be or do anything other than whatever occurs naturally–including complete acceptance of my, shall we say, offbeat gender identity.
I love how feminine she is, and I love that she brings out the effeminate side of me– but has never once referred to me as a girl, except to call me her girlfriend, which is totally okay (because…really… there’s not a gender neutral word other than partner or significant other and both of those feel awkward to use in the beginning stages). Telling her I was genderqueer didn’t feel like outing myself either, it felt like telling her I was 23. Just… something we discussed, in the first fact-finding discussions, you know.
Oh, and yeah. So… basically. Hi. I’m goofy and sappy and grinny right now. She’s puuuurrrrttttyyyy. And she’s mine
So I went back to the store, returned the pants I hated, and spent fifteen minutes picking out ones I liked, new shoes to go with my interview outfit, and a couple new shirts to replace the ones that were stolen a couple weeks ago. No problem.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Because I got to pick stuff that felt good on my body rather than worry about what it looked like to anyone else. I got to just pick something that looks professional and clean, simple, neutral, rather the way I like it and rather the way I want to feel while I’m wearing it, and that didn’t make me want to scream when I put it on.
Voila, over, done with. No problems.
I’m not sure what to do with the knowledge that I can trust myself.
Today I was thinking I could handle maybe a little bit of clothes shopping. The last time I went, it wasn’t so bad– I grabbed the first few things that fit, no problem, I was in and out in fifteen minutes, and it was over. No big deal, no tears, no worries. I don’t particularly like the clothes I bought, but I don’t particularlydislikethem either– they’re just clothes, and they fit me well.
I need a professional outfit to wear to interviews. Just a nice pair of pants and a nice top, something that doesn’t say “yes, I live out of a duffel bag and think ink stains are the perfect accessory to any outfit– by the way, can I write a poem about you?” And, because I’m still sick, I’m still at my parents’ house– which means I’m with my sister–which means I have a girly girl who will help me pick out clothing. Which, theoretically means it should be easy to find ONE pair of pants and ONE shirt and ONE pair of basic shoes that fit this body I’m stuffed in and won’t cause any potential employers to recoil in horror before I have a chance to open my mouth, right?
Yeah, if anything confirmed my wrongness… it was the hour I just spent picking out ONE outfit, which I will return, and then I will pick out something completely different, without any input from anyone else because I will buy something I’m comfortable in rather than something my prissy little sister would wear.
It was like buying a costume. In fact the only thing that kept me from having a full scale meltdown before I actually got to the safety of my parents’ house was pretending that I was buying a costume for a role for a stage production. It’s a pair of black pants with FOUR DIFFERENT CLOSURES. WHY??? WHY???? WHY FOUR CLOSURES LADIES??? HOW DO YOU PEE???? It hits in the oddest spot. Pants should cover the lower half of your body– why do they cover the bottom half of my ribcage and then balloon out and then tuck in again? Am I a clown? Do I wear a red nose? Should I also be wearing makeup? Why is there a thing that looks like a pocket but isn’t a pocket? Why is there a non functional leather tab near the one actual functional pocket? I am so confused!
And then, the top. I picked out a basic black sweater with a button down collar and cuffs. Neutral, professional, no frills– and no gender bias, right?
My sister wanted me in layers, frills, polka dots, stripes, cardigans, tank tops, scoop necks– the colors and choices and patterns and layers and adjustments and combinations were overwhelming and everything came with rules and different ways to wear it based on what else you were wearing it with and you can’t just wear one shirt at a time, you have to wear at least two or three, and they have to coordinate, and somehow it was so simple for her, and you have to “accentuate the positive and camouflage the negative” and this is a shrug, not a cardigan, and you wear it like this, not like that, and you do this, and no, that needs a tank top, and you wear this and then this… and it was so simple and why couldn’t I get it, and why was I getting cranky?
I was getting cranky because the whole process literally filled me with fear and anxiety. I felt wrong wrong wrong bad wrong dirty bad wrong wrong wrong bad dirty bad wrong bad wrong the whole time. Ugly, strange, disconnected, fearful, like I somehow forgot to study for a test and was failing, failing to keep up, missing something I should have known but didn’t.
wow. I don’t get it.
How is this easy? How does it ever become easy to costume yourself in femininity? What is it like for this not to feel like a farce?
I wish I knew… I am so envious of you…