Questioning

Two tree trunks with spray-painted question marks and a text overlay reading Questioning

Lately, I’ve been in that hellish stage of questioning.

Again.

I was here at age 13 and here I am again, and it sucks.

I’m still not comfortable enough to do a broad “coming out” or “here’s what I’ve been questioning” post, but I’m putting this up for a very specific reason.

I’ve written about the fluidity of identity, in a way, when I discussed fluidity in sexuality. I intend to write a follow-up post to that one where I discuss gender identity. But I’ve always been a firm believer of supporting changes in the way people label themselves. There are some parts of your identity that can’t change, like your skin colour and ethnic heritage. There are others, however, that can only change or come about when you find out they exist, like gender, sexuality, romantic attraction, and religious beliefs—and you’re allowed to change your mind based on how much you learn about them.

So I’m posting this to say that I’m wondering if I need to change my mind, too. I’m unsure of the labels I once used. I’m unsure of the identity I once claimed. I’m being intentionally vague here, because I’m not entirely comfortable (let alone certain) of all of this and what labels are accurate. It doesn’t matter which ones I’m specifically questioning. What matters is that I’m back in this space and filled with uncertainty. Part of me is scared—as is normal when something changes—and that part right now is big.

When you question your identity, it often has a domino effect: it can change your relationships, your expression, and your interactions with society. You may have thought you were cisgender, but then you start to question that… and your life changes. There can be small changes or big changes, but it’s not going to be the same after you realise whether or not you are what you thought you were.

Thoughts On Fluid Sexuality

Decorative image of an overcast sky and brown sand beach.

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a while. I suppose I prefaced this post by writing Types of Being “Out”, but though the topic is related, I’m touching on a different aspect.

Fluidity. Change. I’m not going to spout some bullshit about fearing or embracing change, because that’s not what this post is about.

This post is telling you that sexuality is fluid. It changes. Your sexuality can change as you change. I’m not talking about you realising you’re not straight. I’m talking about you picking a different sexuality to the one you originally came out as.

My personal history

My first memory of being exposed to sexuality identity and sexuality occurred when I was 7. People called me a lesbian.

Through puberty, age 10 – 14, I questioned my sexuality. I settled on bisexual.

In high school, I was exposed to more gender identities other than cisgender man/woman and transgender man/woman. There are more genders than those binary ones. I realised I was pansexual because gender did not influence my choices.

Nowadays, I’m questioning my romanticism—am I demiromantic? Aromantic? I’m not entirely sure. I’m still learning more about myself, and that isn’t just from growing up. It’s from being exposed to other versions of romantic lifestyles. It’s from having relationships with people—romantic or platonic. It’s from learning. There are so many ways for me to think about “romance” and “love,” but there are more that I don’t know about.


What I’m getting at is sexuality is fluid. I grew up with nobody to tell me there was something other than the perceived norm: heterosexual and heteroromantic. Then, I learned about homosexuality, and then bisexuality. I didn’t think about different genders, though I did question my own gender identity. I didn’t know about transgender and non-binary and other genders.

Your identity changes and grows as you learn more about other people’s experiences. I don’t believe anyone who says they’ve never had a questioning phase. There has to be a time where you think, “Wait, does this label apply to me?” You think of your own life and everyone’s lives around you, whether you know them personally or they’re in the media. There’s so much to learn and so much space your mind has to expand into. There are so many ways to love and live.

All of that knowledge and experience is why I think it’s important to teach young people about gender identity and sexuality. I was seven when people started calling me “lesbo.” These were my peers. They knew about something I didn’t. And yes, seven is a young age—but it’s better to be knowledgeable about things.

After all, if someone tells a child that knowing or understanding a concept is wrong, taboo, or “not for them,” how will they look at it when they don’t have a parent censoring what they’re exposed to? How will they react to information when they’re older? Communication is important, and I wish I had it when I was younger so I didn’t have to feel so ashamed of who I was attracted to, who I thought I was, and who I loved.

I wish there had been someone in my life to tell me that I’m allowed to change my mind about my identity. That I didn’t have to stick with the cis I was labelled as, the lesbo I was labelled as, the bisexual I started with, the pansexual I’m at now. I might learn something else. I might decide that, hey, maybe I really am heterosexual. Maybe I’m asexual. Anything goes. I will become someone different than my twenty-something existence now. I may change my mind to better suit and find peace with myself. I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to decide on a sexuality to have and to hold till death do us part.

So that’s what I’m doing for you.

You can change your mind. You can continue figuring things out. At one point, you didn’t know something. You learned. You formed opinions. You may have eaten mushrooms as a kid, but now you don’t. And that’s okay—just as okay as deciding that, hey, maybe you aren’t what you thought you were. Maybe the shoe doesn’t fit.

Sexuality changes because you change. There’s nothing wrong with figuring out something new.

Decorative image with the post title "Thoughts On Fluid Sexuality" with an overcast beach photograph.

A Typical Girl Day

I am DFAB—designated female at birth. This means my anatomy lines up with the gender expression of “female” or “woman” or “girl” or “feminine.” I am aware of this every time I wake up. Every month when my uterus cramps and blood dribbles between my legs. Every time I look at my breasts. Every stranger politely saying “miss” or “ma’am.”

The Day Before

I am calm and collected. My outfit planned for the next day is tight-fitting so I can enhance and admire the curves and lumps on my body. Maybe I’ll wear a dress, I think. I look forward to the next day when I know nobody will misgender me. When I change into my sleepwear, I know that the part of my that is a boy is slightly bitter. A part of my resents the fact that I can “pass” more easily as a female gender—the fact that people read me as a girl. By default, people assume my gender based on my looks. I apologise to myself. Someone will always assume something.

The Morning Of

My hair is easier to manage than it normally is. The way it falls complements my face in a way that makes me believe I’m beautiful. I know that I don’t need makeup to try and change the way my face looks—to make it look more feminine—like I do when I want to look masculine. The bitterness creeps up again: I am not always a woman, but today I am and everyone will agree with me. That bitter feeling fades a little after I get dressed and ready to go outside. The anxiety comes back in full force when I’m ready to step out the door.

Will I get catcalled today? Will a man refuse to move out of my way on the sidewalk? Will the elderly cashier call me “sweetie” or “hun” or “dear” and make me uncomfortable? Will someone on the bus gawk at me? Will someone comment or grimace at my leg and armpit hair if it’s showing? Will people see me as a girl without being a sexist pig?

Interactions

I power through my discomfort and am aware of all the eyes. Aware of all the men who walk toward me and only move out of my way at the last second, or who don’t move at all and knock into my elbows. Aware of the stare I know is coming from the person on the other end of the bus. Nobody is confused that I am a girl today and everyone knows what pronouns to use, if they use them.

I don’t mind touching my friends today with hugs or by leaning against them. For once, my body matches my gender and I find a sense of peace. I know that this feeling is fleeting, and that next week or afternoon, I’ll feel differently. For most of the day, I feel confident. I don’t let myself be made small, whether I’m sitting on a chair or standing at the bus stop.

Someone driving by calls me a fat whore and my confidence shatters. I want to throw in the towel and go home. So I do.

The Night Of

Some days my body is good enough. To most people, they don’t care about my body. To some people, my body is always good enough. And to others, the small number of people, they manage to find my biggest insecurity and rip it open. My body is not good enough. My body will always have something wrong with it. And even the pieces of scum who drive by and insult women are right about that. They are wrong in how my body is wrong—being fat and sexual is not wrong—but they unknowingly remind me that I will never be comfortable as myself.

As a woman, I am a target trying to make herself as small as possible. As a man, I am a body trying to be different. As both, I cannot exist in this society. Identifying as a cisgender woman is impossible for myself, but the default for everyone who doesn’t know me. Identifying as a transgender man is impossible, and I am not aiming to transition and be rid of the DFAB body, which means someone will always see me as a female because of my anatomy. Identifying as both throws everyone out of whack because they never know which one I am. As if I know all the time. As if my gender identity is black and white, clear-cut, or systematic. As if my gender is a light switch to flick off and on.

In this society, I can’t be both and hope to be accepted as both—maybe as one or the other. The binary exists and I am expected to pick one. I can’t even figure out if there might be a third gender because this binary gender system is so all-encompassing that I feel like I can’t escape. Hell, some days I’m neither, but I still identify as both because “genderfluid” doesn’t sit well with me.

There is always something to be uncomfortable about when you are a woman. As I finish the day, I think about the ways I’d like my body to change—masculine or feminine, female or male. The mantras surrounding body positivity tell me to love my body, and that I should be happy with it, and I should appreciate it. But I still feel broken because only a small handful of people remind me that I am whole no matter what doesn’t line up properly.

Tomorrow will be better in some way.

More On My Gender Identity

Bigender Basics

A Typical Boy Day

A Typical Girl Day

Thoughts On Ethnicity

My maternal great grandmother Tamako lived until she was in her very late 90s. She battled cancer numerous times through her life. She saw the Hiroshima bombings from a village 10 kilometers away, where she was supervising children tidying a schoolyard. She was born in Japan in 1914. She married a Japanese-Canadian farmer in Japan, and then emigrated to Canada in 1964.

I never met her. She died 4 years ago, and I still feel a deep mourning.

My grandfather, my mother’s father, is half-Japanese. My mother has his blood as well as Czech. Aside from her, I get intense Scottish from my father.

And this is the side that shows.

“Seeing is believing.”

It’s hard to be in touch with your roots when they are bleached with every generation. I don’t resent it, obviously. Love and marriage and reproduction happen.

I grew up in Canada. Most of my customs are Canadian, though I starkly remember only learning how to properly use a knife and fork when I was a 12-year-old. I knew how to use chopsticks so early that I can’t remember. When I was very young, I was enrolled in Japanese language classes, and I’m thankful I gained the phonemes. Perhaps that first class is what instilled in me a love of languages, but—as I said—I was very young. I don’t remember.

I remember the kimono my mother had in their boxes.

I remember the round and crinkly face of my half-Japanese grandfather. I remember his artisan woodworking skills and the carvings he makes. (Thankfully, he’s still alive and well.)

I don’t know “how Japanese I am” because every person is different, regardless of their ethnic background.

But I can’t describe the disconnect I feel when I think about my Japanese heritage. It brings me to tears.

There are behaviours and habits I have which I see so frequently in Japanese animation that I wonder: is this something I was taught? Is this a stereotype? Are these cultural facts that I inherited? The way I drink from a bowl. My undying love for umami flavour. My core belief that I should never be a burden to anyone. My value for order, simplicity, and practicality. Tofu and miso and rice. Light desserts. The experience of the sublime in nature without the association (or appreciation) of God. The awkward half-bow motion I’ve taught myself to suppress.

My research into the Shinto religion brings me peace. Like it is many pieces finally found that fit the corner border of a puzzle.

“Appearances can be deceiving.”

For some reason, I’m in tears and there is a weight like a small black hole near my heart. I am conflicted between my legitimate ethnic background and how close it is to my generation. I often hear white Americans being mocked for their “4% Cherokee” statements and whatnot. Like that kind of ethnicity is a fun accessory. And I don’t know if I’m allowed to own and possess my ethnic background.

I don’t look Japanese. If you look closely, you can find some features. My male siblings definitely have more Japanese features. We all inherited hair that is representative of Japanese genetics: my younger brother’s hair sticks straight out when it grows longer, and my oldest brother’s hair is coarse and unmanageable. My mother’s hair is pin straight and long. None of us, including my half-sister (same mother, different father, so she has the Japanese too) look our true ages—and as they say, Japanese people live long and have extended youth.

But I don’t know.

A classmate of mine told me that her first impression of me included the thought that I definitely was mixed race. That I wasn’t entirely Anglo-Saxon like so many Canadians.

All of this makes me want to do some genealogy. My paternal grandmother might have some information on my mother’s side, but considering she has more heavily researched her own ancestry, I’m doubtful.

I simply don’t feel valid when I claim “I’m part Japanese” despite the fact that I am. I just don’t look Asian enough for my own mind to accept it, I guess.

“Out of sight, out of mind.”

How can I describe a disconnection? How can I describe it aside from mourning and loss? Like I’m missing something. It’s cliche as fuck, but I feel like there is a part of me that’s gone because I didn’t get the chance to better understand my heritage. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling (from the small selection of Aboriginal North American literature I’ve read, they feel it too).

I just don’t have a resource for this feeling. Do I try to reconnect? Do I visit my great grandmother’s grave? Do I visit Japan? Do I ignore it? I don’t know.

I don’t know.

Thoughts On Ethnicity

Bigender Basics

Some days are chocolate chip cookies: primarily sumptuous dough, but interspersed with rich, tiny clumps of semi-sweet chocolate.

Other days are full-on triple-chocolate cookies, with a cocoa-enriched dough, hunks of chocolate throughout, and a drizzle of melted vanilla sweetness on top.

And even other days, there are some none-chocolate cookies on my plate and other double-chocolate cookies that I pick from. I nibble at both, but never eat an entire cookie.

Another analogy: hot and cold. I put on layers of sweaters and camis and button-ups, or undershirts and t-shirts and sweaters and coats. I can wake up and the weather is below freezing. The sun comes out. The temperature changes. I become warm. I started the day cold, and tried to be warm. Then I warmed up, and now I want to be cold.

The basics are this: I am never one or the other. I am always two. I can lean toward one side of the spectrum, or I sway back and forth between them.

For me, being bigender means I am a boy and a girl. I can be both at once. Sometimes I’m one for the day, sometimes I’m the other. Sometimes I’m both all day, neither one of them exclusively.

Pronouns and gender-specific identifiers cause me the most issues. I can never tell on any given day which of the genders I’m more inclined to until someone identifies me as one of them. Sometimes the person who identifies myself as one is myself—when I look in a mirror, or when I feel my body move. In person, I’m only ever labelled one gender. I haven’t exactly come out to many people I know in person, mostly because they won’t see me very differently. (As my boyfriend put it when I told him: “You’ll still be you.”) And if they will look at me differently, in a negative light, then it doesn’t matter that they know or don’t know.

I don’t exactly correct people when they misgender me, because the majority of society I interact with associates gender with a body.

gender =/= body parts

I pass most easily as one gender on the spectrum, and not very easily as the other I identify with. And this disappoints me. I put in effort to make myself look a way that makes me feel comfortable when I look at myself and move around. But most people don’t notice this. I’m still gendered as the other one by people who don’t know me.

It isn’t easy to have people misgender me on a daily basis when I fluctuate so much between two of them and it’s very much an internal experience.

Sometimes I misgender myself because I’ve been told I’m one for my entire life, even when I started thinking I wasn’t just that one when I was 13.

The binary view of genders in modern society is my biggest obstacle, aside from my body dysmorphia. There’s a resistance to spectrum and dualities.

I feel like I can’t identify as transgender because I can identify with the gender I was designated at birth. I’m able to. But it isn’t the only one. Of course, I still hold internal transphobia and stigma; I’m trying to unlearn the “you can only be one” mentality in terms of gender identity. A transwoman doesn’t need to transition to be a transwoman. A transgender person doesn’t need to go from one binary to the other to be transgender—they can fluctuate along a spectrum, too, even if it’s between two socially enforced binaries (as I do).

Internalised bigotry. I think a lot of marginalised individuals still hold internalised bigotry, whether it’s sexism or homophobia, or transphobia or all the others. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All I’m trying to do is make peace with myself and how I view myself. Being bigender is one of those ways I’m legitimately achieving that peace.

Basics of a non-binary gender: bigender.