Non-Binary Bigotry

More and more people are beginning to identify as non-binary. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, it just means that you don’t strongly identify as either a man or a woman. You identify as you and that’s all. Gen Z, and millennials to a lesser degree, are the primary generations that are expressing this new identity category. While I do know older people and baby boomers that are respectful and accepting of this neutral gender expression, the majority seem to be personally offended by it for some reason.

In high school, I was crestfallen to discover that so many of my liberal friends were uncomfortable with bi-racial dating. Now once again I am finding out that concepts I thought were openly accepted by all my political allies, are not accepted nearly as much as I had assumed. I am also learning that people that define themselves as “liberal” are not nearly as liberal as I am. Honestly, I would consider them moderates at best.

In the few years that I’ve worked at my child advocacy center, we have met a lot of kids that have expressed that they identify as non-binary. For me this is just valuable information so that I can make an effort to make them more comfortable. However, it always seems to be a point of contention for basically all of my coworkers. Whether or not they claim to even believe non-binary is a thing, they all seem to disregard a child’s wish to be identified as such. It hurts my heart so much to hear people that have literally just met this child act as though they know who they are more than the child themselves. I mean, sure, there are probably a percentage that are just confused and still working to figure themselves out, but how is that anyone else’s business? Our job isn’t to decide what gender a child should identify as. Our job is to be loving and supportive and respect whatever they decide, wholeheartedly and without judgment.

I’ve been thinking about this issue even more recently because we happen to have a non-binary intern at our sister office. Upon finding this out, I was rather excited. I have never had a non-binary friend and I was eager to get a chance to practice using they/them pronouns and be an ally for them. I was even more excited yesterday when I found out that they were going to be transferring the rest of their internship to our office. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized just how uncomfortable that would make basically all of my coworkers who I had assumed would be kind and inclusive.

My boomer friend at work, whom I love dearly, immediately started cracking hurtful jokes about them. Even though I know he isn’t coming from a place of hate, he was still being alarmingly inconsiderate and offensive. He was laughing, calling them an “it”, and saying that he would just refer to them as their actual name every single time rather than using they/them pronouns. Even our therapist and other intern who are much closer in age to me seemed just as disturbed to share our office with them. We do a secret Santa every year and our primary intern was petrified to discover that she had pulled the name of our non-binary intern. (Why that is, I genuinely have no idea. It’s not like these gifts would be gendered anyway, and we make a list of things we like to help whoever pulls our name.) I quickly realized that it was going to be solely up to me to help them feel welcomed, respected, and understood. I plan on offering to switch with our intern for secret Santa if that would make her more comfortable.

I cannot express how sad it makes me to consider how hard it must be to be a non-binary person even today, especially in my small, rural, conservative area. I’ll never understand why people feel so burdened by interacting with these people. Literally all that is required of you is to try to use they/them instead of she/her or he/him. Why is that so hard? It irritates me even more that these people who complain about it don’t seem to ever consider just how difficult it is for the non-binary person. Oh poor you, you have to alternate ONE SINGLE WORD, whereas they have to be misunderstood, excluded, targeted, and disrespected literally everywhere they go just for being honest about who they are.

Maybe it’s just because I am so used to being the misunderstood weirdo, but I am more than happy to make accommodations for others. I’m also quite familiar with having to deal with people making “harmless” jokes about core aspects of my identity and expecting me to just smile and take it, lest I be considered “uptight.” For all of these reasons and many more, I am honored to consider myself an ally to all those who need social support. I know how awful it is to have to decide whether you want to be untruthful about who you are or be criticized for it.

Even after two years of working at this office, my coworkers are all unaware how many times they have openly made fun of or dismissed aspects of my identity that I haven’t shared. Each time they make comments about people who are pansexual, polyamorous, or atheist, I am reminded why it is unsafe to fully disclose who I am to most people. They also consistently make comments about “when I have children” despite me openly saying I don’t plan on having children many times. Each time this happens, I am that much more reluctant to ever mention I’ve had my tubes tied. God only knows how they would react to learning that, even though it does not affect them at all.

So many people will openly share their disdain or disregard for different types of people without even stopping to consider that they don’t know everything about the personal lives of the audience they are sharing these opinions with. And maybe that’s another reason I feel such a strong sense on kinship with other social outliers. In their presence I feel safe enough to be my full self. And I am eager to offer them that same sense of acceptance and comfort, which I know is so rare.

At the end of the day, we are all just human beings who deserve dignity and respect. That is what we should remember above all else. Even if you are someone who doesn’t understand, accept, or support these newly expressed identities, at the very least you can try to keep your opinions and judgments about it to yourself. I’m not asking everyone to like it or accept it. All I’m asking is for people to be decent to other people whether you understand them or not. Yet I am constantly reminded that even that is too much to ask.

Scotland Will Legally Recognize Non-Binary Gender Markers - The Pride LA

Sexuality on the Spectrum

Today I wanted to somewhat build off of what I wrote about yesterday which was emotional intelligence. I feel as though my deficit in that area contributes a lot to my increasing uncertainty when it comes to sexuality. There are a lot of peculiarities when it comes to my sexuality and sexual expression that leave me wondering where I fit in. What labels would even suit me? Do I even need any? The ever-evolving sexual nature of our society has left me more confused than ever. In addition to that, though undiagnosed, I also think I struggle in part due to autism and general lack of understanding when it comes to relationships and social situations.

When it comes right down to it, I think the biggest problem is that I don’t seem to know myself very well. Especially when it comes to sex, romance, and where the line is in between the two. I never thought much about it when I was younger. But as I’ve gotten older and explored my sexuality more things have become murky. The libido inhibiting effects of taking an SSRI certainly haven’t helped.

So here’s where I am currently. I am pansexual. I am attracted to who a person is rather than their gender or gender expression. I would also, in the same light, consider myself demi-sexual. I am not sexually interested in anyone until I have a romantic attraction toward them. These are the only two labels I feel comfortable with at the moment. And hardly anyone in my personal life even knows I identify this way. It isn’t that I’m hiding it. I just don’t feel it would be appropriate to make a big announcement or anything.

Here is where I’m stuck though. I have been taking Paxil for so long, I don’t know if this is even an accurate reflection of how I truly feel or if it is in large part due to my now practically non-existent libido. It is kind of difficult to tell who you’re attracted to when you’ve been single for years and rarely ever feel any sexual attraction anymore in general.

I have even been contemplating the idea that I may be asexual. After reading more about this orientation, it might fit me. Apparently there are asexual people who do have sex with their partners, but it is more to please their partner than it is to please themselves. This seems to fit me pretty well. Despite going months or even years without sex, I never really think about it or miss it. If it were up to me to initiate, I doubt I’d ever have sex. But I am happy to have sex for my partner’s sake. And I am certainly capable of enjoying it, especially if I have a deep loving bond with that partner.

However, I am hesitant to identify as asexual. Because once again I don’t know if this is true or a side effect of my medication. Or if that distinction even really matters at this point. I am also afraid of the sigma that may come along with that label.

Tying in my last two posts about internalized sexism and emotional intelligence, this is a huge fear for me. Part of me thinks no one would ever pay me any attention if they knew I felt this way sexually. Seems like it could be a huge turn-off to a lot of people. That’s the sexism part, as if I am only worth anything as a human being if I can also be pictured as a sex object. The other side of that coin is my low emotional intelligence.

It is hard for me to really understand my own feelings and reasons for having sex. Have I ever truly wanted the sex? Or have I just wanted to feel desired, loved, accepted, admired? Perhaps it could be both, but I know I’ve definitely had sex for the latter reasons.

I may never have thought about these things in the initial phases of my sexual experience because for the first few years of it I was in a relationship with someone I dearly, dearly loved. Yet I also was not taking Paxil. So I was very interested in having sex with that person. But was it because I loved them, wanted them to show love for me, or because I actually had a libido back then? Are you starting to see why I’m hopelessly confused?

As for now, I am a pan and demi-sexual. Although I am warming up to the idea of identifying as asexual as well. Not that any of these labels really matter. I don’t think I’ll be publicly proclaiming them anytime soon. I’d just really like to understand myself better. Otherwise, how can I even hope to be understood by another?

Understanding Bisexuality

Up until this past year, I considered myself strictly heterosexual. Apart from looking at women endlessly on Tumblr and having French kissed multiple women on several occasions while intoxicated, I had only ever been interested in dating men. Although, nothing about the male physique was particularly alluring to me. I had always said without hesitation that women were much more pleasurable to look at. But never did I think for a second that my visual interest in women’s bodies or having kissed women before made me a lesbian or bisexual. I reasserted my heterosexuality by rationalizing that I was only doing these things for men. I looked at gorgeous women to learn to emulate them and attract men. I made out with women to sexually excite the men nearby. At least, this is what I had always told myself.

After discovering that a vegan I had been surreptitiously flirting with and his girlfriend were interested in polyamory, I found myself with an interesting dilemma. I wanted nothing more than to become involved with this man, but did I want to be involved with his girlfriend as well? She was bisexual and in order to avoid jealousy as they made their initial voyage into polyamorous waters they were looking to form a triad.

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as if I was disgusted by the idea of sex with another woman. I really felt neutral to the idea apart from being a bit nervous at the prospect of unfamiliar sexual territory. My main concern was being ingenuous. I didn’t think I was necessarily attracted to women romantically or sexually. I didn’t want to put on an act just to be with the man I already liked and I certainly didn’t want to hurt the feelings of a delightful vegan woman that I already knew I wanted to befriend either way.

For a few weeks I moved slowly and unsurely. I began testing the waters of my own heart. I hung out with the girlfriend a few times on my own and definitely enjoyed her quite a bit. After endless internal turmoil, and me still not feeling absolutely certain, we finally decided to all be together.

And I was so happy! During the few months that we spent together, I was able to peel back so many layers of myself and discover new forms of love I had never fathomed could be for me. I realized that misunderstanding had been with me for so long. I felt that because the feelings for women were not the same as the feelings I have for men meant definitively that I was heterosexual and that was as far as I cared to investigate. But then I learned that there are so many different flavors of love and attraction. While my interest in men is bright and intense, my love for women is soft and ensnaring. But both of these are valid and more than worth experiencing.

While I would still consider myself bisexual with a preference for men, I could never sever ties with the feelings and emotions I have for women. (Thank god I’m polyamorous!) There is something so beautiful and exciting about the different emotions and experiences that we are able to cultivate with others. No two relationships are ever alike and I’ve finally made peace with my own sexuality and am no longer afraid to explore it because of what others might think of me.

I was never afraid that I would be judged as part of the LGBTQ community, but I was afraid that community itself would judge and reject me. I was afraid that if I really was only interested in men but explored relationships with women that I would be viewed as an imposter, as someone desperate for attention, and I couldn’t bear seeing myself in that light. Now that I’ve finally figured this all out in my own mind, I just wanted to share it with others so that it might bring about a better understanding of bisexuality from someone who was struggling with it themselves. I hope that you aren’t afraid to explore your feelings and extend yourself in different directions, because you might find something lovely there, a whole new dimension to who you are.

P.S. – I’ll be at the Pittsburgh Pride Fest this Sunday with said bi vegan goddess. ❤