I Didn’t Survive Suicide for this Bullsh*t.

It’s been about two years and three months since the time I went manic, decided I didn’t like this “game” anymore and tried to “quit.” (Weirdly, that was how I thought about it at the time. Yeah.) I have some pretty obvious scars down my wrist that were angry and red for quite some time, and that caused a LOT more people than I would have anticipated  to grab me and tell me to stop hurting myself (however, a critical thinker might realize that scars are not the same as fresh wounds. So. Little bit late on that one, guys.)

Nowadays, the scars are still there, but faded. To the point that someone didn’t believe I’d ever had mental health problems. Ya know, cause I am so…good now. How do I phrase that one? I’m not perfect or something, but there’s something about the worst things happening, and still being here and being okay. Some kind of quality that makes you realize that some things REALLY don’t matter. But also, life is short, and you don’t have to put up with things that are going to make you miserable if you don’t need to.

I call this my “WELL, I didn’t survive suicide for THIS” attitude. Pre-suicide attempt me wasn’t ready to fail. Or even make minor mistakes. I’d turn over even the slightest mistake in my head (and being socially awkward, there were a lot of missteps!) for so long, I’d have trouble remembering what really happened. Pre-attempt me wouldn’t take risks, and especially wouldn’t let people see me break. And most importantly, I bent over backwards to please everyone, and put up with behavior I should never have.

I allowed people to not only walk all over me, but I put my energy into them without receiving anything back. And really, with the way I held everyone at arm’s length, I don’t know how they would have given anything back to me. I set myself up to really only work well with self-centered type people, because I couldn’t even begin to have a two way street kind of friendship.

Now, however?

I don’t pursue things that don’t fulfill me in some way. Job where I learn cool and useful skills? Cool. Friend who pushes me to hike over mountains? Fantastic. Volunteering somewhere I feel useful? The goddamn best.

Twin who insists I make her look fat by….existing in a picture with her? Blocked.

Mom who insists I must be pregnant because I live with two men? Bye.

“Friend” who says I’ve “friendzoned” him? I think y’all get the idea.

I realize looking back that I didn’t value myself enough to make sure that the people I surrounded myself with valued me too. And frankly, now that I’ve faced the kind of emptiness that I did, I’ve decided that these bonus years are mine. Not my twin’s. Not my parents’. Absolutely not anyone who I’ve decided to grace with my friendship.

Looking forward to the next few years of healthy relationships, fulfilling life goals, and trying new things. Two years, three months, and counting on.

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8 Gender Neutral Names That Aren’t “Alex” or “Ayden”

So, as a GNC and NB person, I had to pick out a gender neutral name at some point, because my birth name, which was something that was popular among women’s names about a hundred years ago (think Ethel, or Gladys, but worse), was just not cutting it. It didn’t suit me, and I sometimes think that I would have changed it regardless of gender identity. Seriously, most people I introduced myself to would have a scoffing kind of reaction and inform me that my birth name didn’t suit me at all. Which was a little rude, but I did agree with them.

After a couple years of digging (I take transition steps very slowly!) I found my name, and I’m happy with it, but I also have a few years worth of research on other gender neutral or neutral-ish names. So today, I’d like to share a few with you. Who knows? Maybe you were pondering a name this week, and you’ll find one you like here.

Just to clarify, though; a lot of NB people I’ve known don’t change their names, even if they’re not already neutral. It’s not a requirement, and it’s not a step one has to take if it doesn’t feel right. It is just as valid to decide “Well, my female coded name is mine. Therefore, it’s neutral.” just like you might with a dress, or cargo pants, or whatever other gender coded object is in your life. If it’s yours, and you like it, it’s appropriate for you.

On to names!

Aaren – This is just a variant of Aaron, and sometimes used as a feminine version of that name, but I really liked it when I first saw it because it looks unique (I know, I’m worse than those soccer Moms that spell their kids’ name like “Ashlyeigh” or something, but hey. I like what I like.) Anyways, this is an old name that some think means “high mountain” or “exalted” and has been a staple in the Christian community for quite some time. I personally like the idea of this name because it’s the name of Moses’ brother, and Aaron was basically the public speaker of the entire movement for freedom of the Hebrew people. When I first saw this name, it was when I did a lot of public speaking and activism on behalf of the trans and LGBTQ community, so it seemed like a pretty good fit for someone like me.

Aquila – This name means “eagle” in Latin, and I’ve mostly seen it as a surname, but for someone who wants a unique name with a cool meaning, this might be a great fit. In Roman culture, the eagle was often the standard for the military, and seen as not only fierce, but wise. Now, granted, because it ends in an a, and sounds a bit like Akeelah, this may not be the best fit for someone who doesn’t want to be gendered as female, but if that doesn’t bother you, or you want your name to err on the side of feminine sounding, this is pretty neat.

Bronte – Originally a surname, derived from Gaelic “Bestower” this name seemed like a good fit for someone with a literary background (Bronte sisters, anyone?) and someone with a giving personality. Also, coincidentally, sounds a lot like the Greek word for “Thunder.”

Caron – Kind of like Aquila, this does run the risk of sounding feminine. However, this name is Welsh, and means “to love” and has been used for both genders for quite some time. Might also be a good sub for someone with a similar sounding birth name.

Rain/Raine – Reasons I liked this combo was because I was searching for R names at the time; while the first one is an obvious meaning, the second one is thought to be derived from the “reine” meaning queen. Which I thought was a very funny coincidence.

Sage – Another on the nose kind of name, it means what it looks like. I’m kind of a fan of hippy sounding neutral names.

Sevan – So this particular name caught my eye after someone I knew named “Savannah” chose this name to stay close to their original name. It’s the largest lake in Armenia, and may also be derived from the word that means “lake.” I especially liked this name because I liked the person attached to it, though. Think of the pronunciation more like “Sev-OHN” not like the number 7. Hah.

Jorryn – Also biblical, this one means “the one God loves” and when I found it, I had a lot of thoughts on that. As a queer person with Christian beliefs, it was something I thought about a lot, and this name was something of a confirmation. In the end, finding an accepting church filled that void for me, but I figured I’d share this name as well.

So, obviously, this is a list of names tailored to my search; something neutral, something biblical, and something that wouldn’t be taking from another culture that wasn’t my own. There are a whole lot of really cool sounding Arabic and Japanese names, for instance, that I wouldn’t want to co-opt, because I’m neither of those things. What are some interesting neutral names you’ve found? Or even non-neutral names that you’ve found? And what made you settle on your name?

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty and Transness

I dated someone who transitioned from female to male, and while he was in the most difficult part of transitioning, we had a lot of long talks about the process and how it felt. I call it the most difficult part of his transition because he wanted more than anything to “pass” immediately, but he was still waiting for the effects of testosterone to kick in, and he hadn’t been able to get top surgery yet. However, he was living socially as a man, and it often made him feel especially raw and open to the world in a way that his introvert soul hated.

What stuck with me the most, however, was one night when he mentioned to me that he struggled with the idea that people not only saw him as a woman, but as an ugly woman. In hindsight, it made a lot of sense; no one wants to be seen as unattractive, and having been raised under a huge pressure to be an attractive young lady, some of that still lingered for him. He didn’t want to be an attractive woman, mind you; he wanted to be a man, and hopefully an attractive one at that. He confessed at one point that this fear of being ugly had delayed his transition more than anything else.

It made me wonder how many people focused on this when considering transition. I’ve seen posts where trans men compare their pre-transition pics to themselves now. While I have yet to meet someone who regrets transitioning solely because they were pretty as the wrong gender, there are a lot of trans guys who recognize and joke around about how hot they were, and what a pity it wasn’t a body/gender they IDed with.

I chatted with a few of my friends who went from male to female, and their beauty fears were similar, but with a different focus: they were concerned about being an ugly woman when they finished their transition. It seemed like this was something the trans community could all relate to; the last thing anyone wanted to be perceived as was an ugly woman. And I think that stems from sexism and misogyny, in advertising and in our culture. There is so much pressure on women to be beautiful, and not so much on men. A lot of trans men express a sense of relief from that pressure when they transition, and a lot of trans women suddenly feel that pressure as overwhelming and depressing.

As a non-binary person, I’d like to think this sentiment has skipped over me, but I’m vulnerable to it as well. I realized recently that one of the things keeping me from pursuing hormones or top surgery was that I worried I’d look ugly. I grew up ugly (braces, frizzy hair, overweight, acne galore), and while that actually made me less obsessed with my looks, I’ve abruptly hit a stage in my life where people think I’m pretty, and I’m not really ready to give that up. When I first came out and started cutting all my hair off and dressing in a way that felt comfortable, I overcame that first fear of being hideous. Honestly, it was an ugly duckling stage, but I was too deliriously happy finally being myself to really care. Now I’ve settled into a style that looks good on me, and part of me wants to stay in this “attractive androgyne” persona. However, the need to feel comfortable in my body is slowly becoming a stronger pull than the need for other people to find me attractive. Eventually, the other will win out, but in the meantime, I guess I’ll just continue to be anxious?

I imagine this is how a lot of people on the edge of physical transition feel like. What if it looks terrible? What if it doesn’t work and people perceive me as the wrong gender forever? What if I change my mind?

When I see stuff circulating about the most gorgeous trans men and trans women, I feel self conscious all over again, but I also think about other trans men and women who aren’t these pinnacles of human perfection. Why are we so focused on these images? Are we setting our community up for self esteem issues?

I hope as time goes on, trans will become just as normal a descriptor as “left-handed” or “brunette” and we won’t feel this pressure to be so pretty. Until then, all the love to people in their awkward stage right now; it really sucks to have to think this hard about your looks while dealing with dysphoria.

Looking Non-Binary vs. Being Non-Binary

I’ve talked about being called a “real” non-binary person by binary people before, and having embodied the general non-binary stereotype (white, androgynous style, short hair), I’m used to people thinking that my general aesthetic is representative of my gender identity.

The other night, I wore a dress. Someone asked me if I was having a “femme” day. Nope! Just having a “I wanna wear this dress” day. But it got me to thinking about a lot of younger non-binary people I’ve encountered, in real life, and on the internet, who do see their clothing as the most important part of their gender identity. I don’t mean that in a vain way, of course, but when the majority of any of the conversations I’ve had with them are about wearing men’s pants and seeking to be so androgynous thatstrangers can’t tell what they are, a pattern starts to emerge.

Why are we focused so much on how others perceive us, and is it damaging to our own internal journey? Are we spending more time seeking to look the part than exploring what we really like and want?

I’ve been out for a number of years now, so clothing and androgynous style isn’t new and exciting anymore. Apparently, people are going to be confused about me, whether I wear a dress or go for the classic flannel shirt look. And more importantly, appearing androgynous doesn’t make the people that matter respect my identity more. As a general rule, if it takes looking so ambiguous that your birth sex is unclear for someone to respect your gender, their respect isn’t worth having in the first place.

I’ve been blessed with a circle of close friends who don’t always understand what I’m going through, but respect who I am regardless of what I’m wearing (this hasn’t always been the case, and I’m so very grateful it’s changed!). I’m also dating someone who understands the journey I’m on (because self discovery is a never ending journey! Yay!). I think these things are waaay more important than looking the part, but even more importantly, I’d like to see the non-binary community focusing on this part of their identity more than their clothes.

This isn’t just a critique of androgynous fashion, of course. If androgyny is your game, more power to you. But if androgynous fashion is going to be made synonymous with non-binary identity, we have a problem. First, not every non-binary person considers themselves an androgynous mix. Second, not every non-binary person can look androgynous. There’s more nuances to this whole “looking the part” mentality, and more issues the more you get into it, but I believe these two points are the most important. Androgynous fashion is pretty damn cool, but it’s not representative of the whole NB community, and frankly, it’s not very accessible for curvy AFAB NB people, and generally not intended to suit AMAB NB people. It alienates NB people who are drawn to more “feminine” clothes, and that’s unfortunate.

I’d like to see a community where walking into a trans meeting as an AFAB person in a dress won’t have people assuming you’re a trans person’s SO. I’d like to see a community where AMAB people have more freedom in their clothing choices. And most importantly, I’d like to see a community where my androgynous fashion choices are not seen as “more real” than someone wearing a dress. No more costumes, just people.

 

 

Six steps to make sure you NEVER have any Non-binary friends:

Are you the kind of person who wants to be able to easily sort your friends into guy or girl categories? Do you accept trans people, but only if they come in genders you approve? Are you that guy who stares openly at people in public in order to determine if they’re a guy or a girl?

Well, I’m here today to make sure your friend circle stays as un-diverse as possible. Because why get a confusing bunch of friends when you can follow these simple steps to make sure that non-binary people know you won’t be a supportive friend?

  1. Use terms like “men and women” or “both genders”; this makes it clear that you consider gender to only come in two flavors, which will stop any non-binary person from assuming you’d even know their gender exists. This is especially effective if you use these kinds of terms in circumstances where you really don’t need to. For instance, at a social event, instead of saying simply “welcome” or “welcome everyone” say “welcome ladies and gentlemen!”
  2. If you ever talk about transgender people and transitions, make sure to make a point of discussing it as a point A to point B phenomenon. Bonus points if you refer to other trans people as “used to be a girl/boy” or reference their surgeries as the point when they “became a girl/boy.” This shows non-binary people that you’re more focused on outward appearances and birth sex than how the other person identifies.
  3. Refuse to use neutral pronouns. Sure, you’d use they/them in a singular instance if you didn’t know someone’s gender, but using them all the time for someone whose gender you do know is exhausting. Besides, what better way to remind your non-binary acquaintance that you’d be a terrible friend than calling them by whatever pronouns you think most match their appearance? Bonus points if you make their pronouns about you and how you can’t perceive them as a neutral gender.
  4. Ask them about their genital status; if your ignorance on the difference between sex and gender wasn’t apparent before, asking a near stranger if they’re intersex will shine the brightest of spotlights on it. Disclaimer: this action may cause the incidental loss of intersex friends. Proceed with caution.
  5. Definitely nitpick anything your non-binary acquaintance does that isn’t androgynous. Do they want to get pregnant? Well, that’s a lady thing, and they shouldn’t be engaging in it if they want to be seen as neutral. Did they grow a beard? Well, how do they expect people to know they’re NB if they do something like that? The more unsolicited your opinion is, the better.
  6. Finally, use the word “transtrender” liberally. Apply it to anyone you think isn’t performing gender correctly while identifying as trans. This doesn’t just have to be NB people, you can direct it at feminine trans men, masculine trans ladies, drag queens, and de-transitioners. Just make sure your social circle knows you use this term to denounce anyone who doesn’t meet your standards.

Well, those are the steps I know of that have sent me running for the hills. What about you guys? Any solid suggestions?

5 Things When You “Used to be Lesbians” and Now He’s a Dude

When you’re involved in the trans community, as a transgender person or an ally, it’s bound to happen eventually; you date someone who changes genders after your relationship is over. I had a weird track record of doing this before I came out myself (the running joke was that if you dated me, you’d turn out transgender.)

Now, I know some people take it personally when a former partner transitions (one of my friends described his ex-fiance crying when he found out, even though they’d been broken up for years!) but I like to focus on some of the weirder things that come with the territory. I’ve always had a very panromantic orientation, and a relaxed attitude when it comes to gender to begin with, so when someone lets me know they’re going by another name and pronouns, it doesn’t exactly rock my world. I’m super thrilled, obviously, for this person to discover their true selves and all, it’s just happened so many times, I look at it a lot like any other life change. You know, like when your friends announce they’re getting married after dating for about five years.

Especially with former partners, I tend to notice a certain vibe about them before they do (because I purely date logic-driven Spock type people. Yeah.)

However, regardless of emotional impact, here’s a few of the interesting things I’ve noticed about dating people who have since shifted gender; in this case, I’m gonna be talking mostly about trans men and nb people, but I hope it’s all pretty familiar to other people in my boat.

1. When my exes transitioned, I got a ton of their clothes as a hand me down. This made me able to say a sentence like “I’m wearing my ex-boyfriend’s bra right now.” which cracks me up. I’ve also noticed that seeing clothes they previously treasured (an old shirt or dress?) finding a good home on someone else seems to be a good feeling for some of these guys. Maybe kind of like realizing you enjoy boobs, just on other people, not yourself?

2. One of the first discussions I’ve always had with my exes is how they want me to discuss them. Are they going stealth? Do they care if people know they’re trans, or that they identified as a lesbian at one point? Is it okay to refer to them as a girl in a story where they identified as one? The questions go on and on, and there’s no one size fits all answer. For one ex, the phrase “back when we were lesbians” was a perfect way to encapsulate our old relationship. For another ex, he wanted me to strictly refer to him as my ex boyfriend, and a man in all stories.

3. I’m lucky, and I’ve remained friends with a lot of my exes. It helps that we’ve all transitioned to some degree or another, but I think understanding and patience goes a long way. Dating someone pre-transition also feels starkly different from dating someone who is…well, being true to themselves. It’s hard to connect on a deeper level or continue a long term relationship when there’s that much going on inside someone (so I feel like that makes a break up less impactful!) I watched one ex who started out as my surly, angry girlfriend, become a much more relaxed, outgoing man once he finally realized why he felt so uncomfortable at all times. So I guess one other interesting thing about dating someone who’s transitioned is that it makes a break up and an ensuing friendship a bit…easier?

4. I’m mostly into ladies (or so I thought. I might want to re-examine that one.) but when it comes to listing my dating history, I appear to be really into dudes. Like almost exclusively. It cracks me up, because I’m not specifically seeking other trans people to date either, yet here I am, with a whole lot of transgender exes. One person accused me of chasing trans men, before I explained that all that happened pre-transition.

5. Telling stories is a bit awkward sometimes, especially if it was a lesbian centered romance. You know, you were both super proud of being lesbians and figuring out your sexuality. You were still in that “I’m NOT gonna CHANGE, Mom!!!” phase, and being a lesbian was super empowering. I don’t regret identifying as a lesbian, but obviously the label doesn’t fit me or my ex any longer. So describing that we started dating because we realized we were both ace lesbians…makes very little sense to an outsider.

Overall, I’d guess someone you loved transitioning can bring a lot of questions. Like, is this why the relationship didn’t work? Is your sexuality different than you realized? And most importantly, how do they want you to talk about them now? Outing an ex, even if they were a total anus while you dated, is pretty not cool. So, that’s my experience; anyone else experienced something similar?

 

 

Transness and Sexism: My Bros are a Little Misogynistic

I have like, a shit ton of guy friends. Not sure exactly why, because I’ve always considered myself better at being friends with girls, but now that I think about it, most of the “girls” I befriend end up realizing somewhere mid-friendship that they’re trans, and abruptly become my bro (which is pretty cool, because I get all their old clothes most of the time. Score.) There was a point in my life where I was actively trying to attain more girl friends, but I’ve since come to realize that I’m just drawn to masculine energy, regardless of the gender attached.

However, the downside of being non-binary and being friends with a whole lot of guys from different walks of life is that I encounter so much casual sexism directed at women. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not friends with a bunch of douchebags or something. I have pretty great taste in people, if I do say so myself. However, I’ve been in groups of trans men, where the discussion turns to how they knew they were men because they’re so brave, strong, capable of manly things, etc, etc. Having grown up an avid tomboy, I identify with these things a little bit; I wanted to play baseball, camp outside, I chopped off all my hair when I was nine, to the horror of my mother. When it comes up among trans men, though, I’m instantly reminded of all the tomboys I know. The women with unconventional interests and hobbies, with short hair or a masculine attitude; they’re still women, regardless of these “manly” habits, but they’ve faced all kind of criticism for those behaviors. Can’t women be strong, brave, sportsy, and butch without being…well, men?

Now, that might sound like a really particular, unique kind of issue, but bear with me. With the continued exposure of trans celebs, we find ourselves in a time where more and more people are learning that transgender is a thing. Which, I gotta admit, is pretty damn cool for people who might have otherwise just wondered what was “wrong” with them all their lives. However, with the prevalence of transition stories, I’ve heard more and more trans men and women start making assertions that any person who’s gender non-conforming is a trans man or woman still in denial. Butch lesbians, for instance, are often mistaken for young trans men, such as a friend of mine who’s happily female (and gay), but wears a lot of cargo shorts. I’ve seen the argument “Well, if they want to look like and behave like men so much, why don’t they just call themselves men?”

A lot of that, I know, stems from a sense of insecurity; if someone’s life journey can look so similar to a trans man’s journey, only to have them be cis, that’s got to feel a little invalidating (and it brings up the argument that if that person is content in being a masculine woman, why couldn’t this trans man be that content? Why did he have to get surgeries, change his name, or lose friends and family? Why endure all of that hardship?) And it also brings up a bit of visual confusion; I’m sure we all try not to stereotype, but it’s always a bit exciting when you think you see someone who’s also trans. I always get super excited to meet new trans people, just because it’s a unique struggle and it’s the fucking best to know someone who shares some of that experience. I’ve also made the blunder of assuming someone is trans (This is that moment where I should kick young me and remind them to ASK pronouns before assuming!) But the beauty of having such an array of gender presentations and roles is that we don’t have to personally understand someone’s journey, and we certainly don’t have to match up with anyone else.

When these kinds of discussions happen, I’m generally the only non-man in the room, however, so it puts me in an interesting spot. People generally expect me to stay neutral, since I’m neither, but I’m pretty quick to jump in. Normally with some snide remark like “aw shit, I like those things, am I a man now?” which serves as a pretty good reality check for the dudes I hang out with. However, in the wrong company, I find myself shoehorned into being a women’s advocate, a role I would normally enjoy, but it comes at the cost of my own gender. There’s just this idea that since they’re men, they’re even further away from being women than I am, so I’m the next best thing to discuss women with. Again, mildly awkward, but generally, I’ll bite.

It comes down to something like this: are we defining our genders by the things we do and the things we like? As a trans man, are you taking a toxic idea, like science being a male pursuit, and using it to “prove” your manliness? That you were secretly a dude all along? Does your high school “phase” of being a baby butch lesbian make you assume that other butch lesbians are just on their way to realizing their “real” gender?

Basically, what it comes down to, is that a lot of trans men seek to transition without challenging any of the restrictive gender roles that they hated growing up. And that’s totally normal, because it takes a lot of introspection to realize that you’re doing that (I had to question myself on that front when I started identifying as NB) and it doesn’t make anyone a bad person. It’s so easy to fall into that way of thinking, especially when so many people challenge your gender as a trans person. I just hope transgender becomes something as boring as describing yourself as a pisces. You know, like “Okay, that’s nice Gregg, but that’s some pretty useless information because I don’t care about that stuff.” That way, no one will have to feel like they have to cling to a certain role to prove themselves. Oh, and then I can enjoy my gaggle of guy friends without having to call out sexism so much. Maybe.