Nikki’s office holds a Christmas party each year. I’m usually in the corner, minding my own business and eating some fantastic food. This year though, I got to discuss gender and sexuality… in my corner.
Wouldn’t She Be Straight?
So I’m here in my corner with Nikki at my side. She’s drinking, I’m enjoying watching the crowd. As an introvert I don’t really do well in big shindigs like this. My anxiety has poofed at least! But I’d still rather be over here where it’s easier to move around and hear. Standing with us is one of the new girls at Nikki’s office, who says she barely knows anyone. I’m gonna call her Curious for now.
As I’m on my phone playing FFBE, she’s asking Nikki some questions. Eventually I hear, “I’m gonna get another drink, but don’t worry she’s better at answering this sort of thing anyway!” I… wait what hold up. I wasn’t listening! Okay uh… well here goes. 😱
Thankfully, Curious restates her question for me. “There’s this girl who identifies as a lesbian, but she’s dating… a trans man. Wouldn’t she be straight?” That’s quite the question to ask at a party. Nor am I qualified to speak on relationships that aren’t my own. But let’s just roll with this person being hypothetical so I can!
To answer her first question simply: not necessarily. Alright, that’s not very simple either. I’m not a big fan on how easily abused labels are these days. I’ll get more into that later. But for now, there are a few options to start with on figuring things out. First, PersonA could unfortunately be seeing her partner as a woman. That’s not a healthy mindset by any means, and might lead to disaster eventually. Second, it might be that PersonB is an exception to her. Finally, maybe she’s still trying to figure herself out too.
In any case, I’d definitely recommend that PersonA and PersonB discuss and figure out their relationship together. And whatever they decide, screw folk who want to judge them for it as long as they’re both happy.
Minor Axel reference for y’all this morning. Anyway, eventually Curious asks another question. I’m going to paraphrase and combine here because by golly was I tired at this point. “So if I’m a girl who likes guy things, does that make me a guy? Is there some way people know they’re not the gender they’re born as? And I don’t really understand but aren’t there just the two?”
Gender is a difficult topic to bring up, too. Society does such a thorough job at ignoring or maybe loosely skimming over anything that isn’t cisgender and heterosexual when teaching kids. So we raise generation upon generation that might not have a whole lot of resources or people to talk with to help them figure themselves out. The information age has helped that significantly. People think most of this is a new age fad or chemtrails or whatever, but… no. We’re just able to learn that there are others out there like us now. People who can share similar experiences and see some connecting factors.
Cisgender folk tend to not question it for longer than a brief, “haha wouldn’t it be funny if, just for a moment, and then I go right back?” For anyone who isn’t strictly cisgender though, sticking strictly to the gender you were born as/assigned as (terminology is fun!) is somewhere on a scale of awful. From uncomfortable to the worst nightmare imaginable.
Given this, I like to explain it with another set of questions. It doesn’t work very well with ambidextrous people but, work with me here. “How do you know which is your dominant hand? How would it feel if you had to use the other one for a long time instead?”
To my question Curious responded, “Well, I just know I use my right. And using my left would feel weird and uncomfortable and… WRONG!” Exactly! 🧐
Things that we feel innately can be easy for us to understand. Moreso if we have someone who shares similar experiences who can teach, mentor, or coach us. Picking up details of why others feel a certain way can help explain for yourself why you feel your own certain way. And yet, because these feelings are innate they’re also difficult to explain. However, that feeling of just knowing what’s right, and knowing what’s wrong? That’s the simplest answer. Gender and sexuality are too damned complicated to stick to a set of rules and pin to a label.
In the case of Curious, it’s great that she can be a girl who likes things society has defined as masculine! That doesn’t necessarily make her a guy, nor does it prevent her from being a girl. Nor both, nor neither. How she feels and what she wants to learn about herself are for her to decide. In my case, I didn’t think about it when I was little until about grade school. Then people were shifting others into labels and groups, and I knew I was misplaced but not why.
It’s human nature to want to fit in though, so I went along with the flow. By the time I was twelve, I knew what was going on. But I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, nor be seen as weird nor unloved. There’s a huge lack of normalcy and information about gender and transition where I live. So, I pretend to be cisgender because that’s what I knew. And each night I would pray to be made normal… but never a “normal guy”. Eventually that mask started to even fool myself, and while I didn’t forget about it those days became more a footnote in my life that no one else had to know about.
As an adult, especially here in FFXIV I was able to encounter more people of different backgrounds and experiences. Many people who could respond with “big mood” on experiences that had plenty of similar components to my own. I started to piece things together and understand how I really felt and what that clearly meant. But I was still in denial for the longest time. 🙀 Clearly it means nothing that being this catgirl maks me feel better. There’s definitely no reason why I start feeling ill and wrong when I fantasia her to a male version!
The question gets asked a lot in the form of, “Am I trans?” What eventually ‘cracked my egg’ was instead flipping that around. When I asked myself instead, “Am I cis?” The answer was a crystal clear “Oh hell no.” After that relevation, exploring myself became a whole lot easier. I was able to drop the mask when looking deep within myself and didn’t have to be stuck to what I assumed was my only option in life.
Now I’m here, three months and change in. And I’m doing just fine. I’ve got the greatest fiancee in the world at my side (I LOVE YOU NIKKI!). My Mom knows and accepts me, even if she trips over pronouns a lot still. Y’all reading this blog, those on Twitter, and those in the FFXIV community see me for me. I do wonder if my raid team knows yet but it’s not like I’m quiet about being a trans woman. I mean, my Dad and work still don’t know and uh… maybe shouldn’t for now? We’ll see.
Either way, this has been a good experience and Nikki and I are taking good steps together. Even if they’re small, and one at a time. Seriously people went from asking her about an engagement ring directly to “when’s the wedding?” without missing a single beat like… y’all! Slow down!.
Who Even Is Straight in 2018?
I think one of Curious’ main concerns was why things just aren’t simple. Why isn’t there a simple way for explaining gender and sexuality? What attributes link to specific terms to help classify them? And for that, I suppose we have labels. Labels are a fantastic way of explaining ourselves to others more simply. Especially useful in medical situations–like how when I visit Planned Parenthood I have to specify that I’m a trans woman. I’ve heard of other instances where they can simply keep track of the medicine you’re taking and put two and two together without worries.
Labels are nice for being able to point to a box so we can say, “I loosely fit some or most of these general criteria.” The unfortunate part of this is that society has some kind of fetish for putting things into boxes, and it isn’t at all fond of people exploring or even living outside of them. There’s PersonA above, who identifies as a lesbian but is in a heterosexual relationship. And there’s PersonB who I’ve definitely heard of people who would try to confirm his genitalia for simply wanting to use the restroom. And then there’s me, the trans woman who offline still presents masculine and gets to deal with being called ‘sir’ all day thanks to a military environment. 😭
Our relationship is pretty unorthodox too, actually. From the outside, we look like a heterosexual couple. But for those who know about me, we’re a homosexual couple. Going one step further, Nikki isn’t homosexual but bisexual. And TO GO EVEN FURTHER BEYOND!!!! AAAAA… Sorry. Anyway, there’s also me! You might think that as a woman who is attracted to a woman and likes women aesthetically, I’d be a lesbian. But… nope! For the longest time I thought I was standard asexual. And then I met and fell in love with Nikki, and now I understand myself as more demisexual.
Labels are great, but labels are horrible. Use them for yourself and your own benefit. Just never pin them onto others–boxing people into simple experiences is no good! I’d like to think that for most of us, gender and sexuality aren’t so simple that we adhere strictly to one single label and are done. And I think that’s great.