My Spectrum Identity Struggles

This post is going to get very personal and very much about me, so if you don’t connect with it, that’s okay. Welcome to a diary-esque post!

I am on two spectrums: romantic attraction and gender identity.

In the last year, I’ve discovered that I fall in the aromantic spectrum. I am gray-romantic and in the aromantic spectrum (aro-spec) because my romantic feelings are on par with platonic feelings. There is no such thing as “just friends” when it comes to how I feel about my friends or the non-family people who I love. I love them the same way that I’ve loved people I’ve dated. I wrote a blog post exploring my experience with this: Questioning Part 2.

My identity as gender non-conforming means exactly that: I don’t conform to a gender. I’m not non-binary, I’m not cisgender, and I’m not genderfluid or genderqueer. My gender fluctuates, but not fluidly–it’s really all over the place. I’ll feel like I’m a binary gender as either a boy or a girl, or I’m agender, or I’m bigender as both a boy and girl in varying degrees of boyishness and girlishness. (The fact that I ascribe to a binary means I don’t feel comfortable being called non-binary.) I’m transgender by virtue of the fact that I don’t agree with the gender I was assigned at birth all the time.

So those are brief summaries of my experience on the spectrums of gender and romanticism.

But being in the spectrum, where there is loads of variation, is a bit of a strain on me. I don’t “fit” anywhere nicely. I don’t feel fluid. Fluids can fit into bounds of some kind. Water fills cups, etc.

Spectrum is a little harder. I feel like a rainbow–the whole rainbow, not just a few colours, and not just the ones that are visible to human eye. A rainbow can’t fit into a cup, y’know?

One issue I have being gray-romantic/aro-spec is people mistake it for asexuality very often. And one thing with gender non-conformity is that people will label it as non-binary. People misunderstand and lump together a lot of identities because they “seem similar enough” (see also: bi and pan). And that’s one of my biggest problems of being on a spectrum: it’s devalued compared to “picking a side” but it’s not as wiggly and “free” as being fluid.

I like being able to say “It depends,” because I have the freedom to choose from all the different options that make me comfortable. It’s not the same as being unsure or saying “I don’t know”–I do know, but, as I said, it depends.

It’s hard to find a community, too. That’s the biggest problem I’m having. I’m sometimes agender, or bigender, or boy, or girl; I’m transgender, but not transitioning; my romantic feelings are present, so I’m not aromantic, but they aren’t the same as romantic people.

I want to be a cookie in a cookie cut plate of cookies, y’know? I want to be with other aro cookies and bigender cookies, but we’re not from the same batch of cookie dough. I’m a tasty snack on my own, but one cookie isn’t always enough and it’s lonely to be a unique cookie.

Questioning, Part 2

An earlier post of mine mentioned that I was in that questioning phase again. I’m still there, and it hasn’t been very fun.

What I’m questioning in my identity is something that would affect my relationships with everyone. Not just my intimate partnership right now, but also my friendships. It would also change the way I see relationships in cultural norms and current society.

The gist of it? I literally don’t know what romantic love feels like. All of the examples of romantic love that I see have definitions that hinge on monogamy.

Soul mate. Partner. Life partner. Who you want to spend your life with. The one. Other half.

This type of love is seen as different to other types of love. It’s been very hard for me to find resources to help me question this part of my sexuality, because romance is always, always presented hand-in-hand with either sexual relationships or asexuality—and I’m not asexual.

I’ve felt incredibly outcast, because I don’t fit in with society’s expectations of relationships; and I don’t fit into the asexual community.

In seeing my friends grow up, go through relationships, get married, discuss their future hopes and dreams… I feel like an outlier. Marriage? A spouse? A family? I frown at the idea of having them for myself. I don’t want those things in any large capacity. Maybe one day, but right now—and how it’s predominantly been since I hit puberty over a decade ago—I don’t want a spouse and a child, a shared master bedroom and ensuite, a joint bank account, half a mattress.

That’s the social norms that I don’t feel connected to. This nuclear family ideal that starts with a locked pair of molecules. It doesn’t feel right for me, and I don’t know why.

There’s also this thing called the split attraction model that separates attraction into “romantic” and “sexual”—that’s why you can have labels like “homoromantic demisexual”—and I really struggle with it. I feel like I don’t fit into it, because who I have sexual attraction to isn’t dependent on their gender (hence the “pansexual” label I use and am very comfortable with!) and my romantic attraction isn’t based on gender at all.

My romantic attraction is just… I guess it’s all platonic? But it isn’t all platonic, because my love for some people is shown in different actions that aren’t strictly platonic. My love for my boyfriend, for instance, gets sexual. But I haven’t reserved sexual love for certain relationships (this is me trying to say that I’m fine with casual sex, ok, let’s just put that out there). Hand holding, hugging, kisses, mouth kisses—the more I question myself, the more I question the split attraction model.

Just, what is romance? What is it?

I don’t know. It’s confusing. Hence the “questioning” thing.

I feel like an outcast because I don’t relate to so many people when it comes to intimate relationships. We can all agree on what “intimate” is—it’s varying degrees of close interactions with people. Handshaking, high fiving, hugging, hand holding, kissing (which also has more variations based on where on the body those kisses go), cuddling, fondling, caressing, making out—getting more intensely sexual.

And all of that is stuff that I don’t feel the need to reserve for one person or one type of relationship. Those interactions depend on the person I’d theoretically be doing it with. I’d kiss a pal without wanting to date them. Heck, I’ve had sex with people I had no intention of getting any emotional connection with, and that was fine by me (that casual sex thing, okay? chill). The limitations of what intimate interactions I do with people are set by the relationships I have—both with the person, and with other people. My current relationship requires boundaries in my behaviour, as well as exclusivity.

But I have friends I won’t hug, because I know they don’t like it. I have friends I only hug. I have friends who hug me and pick me up when they do it (and vice versa). I have friends I’d kiss on the cheek or the top of the head or the forehead. I have friends who will put their head on my shoulder. I have friends who would put their head in my lap so I can play with their hair. I have friends I’ve done sexual things with, and we’re only friends. They’re all my friends. They’re all platonic, in that sense. But we’ve done romantic, intimate, and/or sexual things.

Where does “platonic” come up? I don’t understand how it fits into “attraction” when it’s really just… the nature of a relationship.

I don’t know. I’m confused. I’m questioning still. And my worldviews are shattering because of it, and I’m fucking terrified of the implications of this. I want to cry. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if people will get hurt. I don’t know if I’ll come out of this unscathed or without guilt.

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.