Personal Life

How Being Nonbinary Helped My Dysphoria

For most of my life, I have had a complicated relationship with my body.

The first thing to keep in mind is that I had severe eczema over most of my body until about 2 years ago when I started taking a biologic and the eczema was beaten back to nearly nothing. I mention the eczema in a post about being nonbinary because I want to be clear that a lot of my covering up with hoodies and long pants was because people are weird about rashes. They will give you dirty looks, stare at open sores, and generally be rude. On top of that, eczema burns like a bitch when it’s exposed to the air or the skin touches other skin, so covering the folds of my arms and legs helped to mitigate that constant pain. Due to the eczema, I covered up most of my body, and people often took that for being uncomfortable with my body. I was but not in the way they thought.

My build is what some people would call sturdy. I have muscle on my calves and straight, strong shoulders. Neither fat nor thin, just in the middle but sturdy enough and tall enough (though still average) that I am certainly not petite or slight. My chest is disproportionately large, but I’m not really curvy either. Before I realized I was nonbinary, I didn’t always like my body. A lot of this has to do with growing up in the late 90s and early 00s when the in look for women was thin, almost prepubescent in terms of build, and wearing 85 layers of tight clothing. The alternative was big boobed bimbo. No shade to the bimbos of the world, I love Dolly and Elvira, but the thought of people seeing me that way because my genes decided to grace me with a disproportionate amount of fat on my chest was alarming to say the least.

At that age, I couldn’t articulate how I felt, but the fact that I couldn’t control how people perceived me terrified me. I hate that people saw me as a woman and sexualized me the moment I wore feminine clothing. I already didn’t like feminine clothing. That had been an ongoing war with my mother since I was in late elementary school. I hated dresses, hated skirts, and only wore them when my mom insisted I had to dress up. Around 10, I discovered anime tshirts and cargo shorts in the boys section of Target and let out a sigh of relief. There were other options than the booty shorts or feminine capris the girls section had to offer. T-shirts and cargo shorts hid the things that made me uncomfortable. Puberty had been a special sort of hell as a neurodivergent person and as someone who, unbeknownst to them, was experiencing dysphoria.

By the time I got to high school, the thought of putting on feminine clothing filled me with a special kind of dread. Every time I had to wear something feminine for a school event or a holiday, it felt like I was wearing an incredibly ugly costume. You know the scene in Beauty and the Beast when Beast is in the tub and they give him that ridiculous haircut and he just deadpan says that he looks stupid? That’s how I felt. This was compounded upon by the ease of my cousins’ transition into adolescence where they (seemed) to happily wear makeup, feminine clothing, played with their hair. I constantly felt like I was doing a really bad job pretending to be a woman. The label chafed and sagged, like I filled out all the wrong places. At some point, I stopped caring. I was bad at womanhood, so be it. I kept my hair pulled back, wore t-shirts, jeans, and hoodies/pullovers while giving zero shits, but the fact that people still perceived me as a woman nagged at me.

It wasn’t until I was in graduate school (so around 24-ish?), I stumbled upon the term nonbinary, and it was like everything clicked. In the past, I had debated if I was a trans man. I saw Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars when I was in college, and while I felt not-feminine, I didn’t think I felt that masculine. I was caught in a weird middle ground between masculine and feminine, none of which particularly appealed to me. When I finally understood what nonbinary people were and that they existed, it was like oh, so there’s a word for all these feelings I’ve had for years. All those moments of panic and revulsion made sense. They were dysphoria. It also helped explain why some things that were seen as feminine by others didn’t bother me.

I didn’t hate my body, per se. I hate how others perceived my body. That it was simultaneously seen as feminine yet not feminine enough because I wasn’t petite, because I had strong shoulders and legs, because I didn’t like to wear makeup or wear dresses. None of these things are inherently masculine or feminine, but society arbitrarily ascribes gender to them (aka don’t @ me for this, you know what I mean). Suddenly, my body felt less wrong. I was never a woman. I have always been nonbinary but didn’t have the word for the feelings. My strong body mixed with my long hair, chest, and generally, neutral clothing felt right.

This mix of hard and soft feels right to me and has settled the war between my body and mind substantially. I still panic at the thought of clothing that is too gendered in either direction (or what my brain deems gendered), but my dysphoria has subsided. The freedom to buy clothes I want and to say, “F it, I’m buying from the men’s department,” without caring about other people’s judgment feels right. The more I branch out, the happier I am, and it’s been nice to see my partner exploring more feminine options (often my cast-offs) and loving how he looks.

Personal Life · Writing

Good Riddance to 2018

To be blunt, 2018 was an exhausting train wreck that I am glad to see the back of.

More than anything, I try to be a positive person for my own sanity and those around me, but this year has tested my resolve. It wasn’t like I had any deaths in my family or any grave illness or anything that was an obvious issue. Bad things don’t always have to be grandiose. They can be quiet and subtle, like a voice whispering to you that you are worthless, your work is worthless, and you will get nowhere.

2018 was the year of crippling doubt and disappointment.

As you might have noticed, I haven’t finished The Wolf Witch despite starting it in 2017. I dove into writing that book before I was ready because I felt I needed to produce something even though I was creatively exhausted. That was a massive mistake that led to a mental spiral that probably could have been prevented had I waited a few months to work on it. Instead I drove myself further into the ground, wrote 50,000 words that needed to be totally rewritten, and wrecked my self-esteem and mental health. I felt horrible about myself. I couldn’t write and my draft was garbage (it truly was; it’s not just me being hard on myself). This led to cycle of not writing, then feeling bad about myself, then not writing even more. Since writing is one of my coping mechanisms, you can see how this went downhill quickly.

Apart from being a writer, I’m also an adjunct English professor, which means that I don’t have predictable work (my semesters can range from 1-4 classes) and I’m constantly applying for jobs that might give me some semblance of stability because I’m living below the poverty line and it sucks. I’ve applied for at least twenty teaching jobs and as many writing/copywriting jobs. Toward the beginning of the fall semester, I heard back from a job I really wanted because it was a way to combine my science and writing background while at the same time providing the financial stability I’ve been craving. After an interview and positive feedback, they decided they didn’t need to hire anyone. To say I was crushed is an understatement.

Somewhere along the way, I lost myself this year. I lost sight of who I am and what I want and what I do. On top of that, Anthony Bourdain’s suicide shook me. I looked up to him as someone I aspired to be like. Much like my other inspirations, Julia Child and Tim Gunn, Bourdain was passionate and well-versed on his subject while still injecting it with humor and an openness that I think is necessary for exploration and innovation. When he killed himself, I was in a low point in terms of how I saw myself, and it freaked me out. If someone as together and passionate and awesome as Anthony Bourdain could lose hope and kill himself, how did others in more precarious situations manage to stay sane? Obviously, I don’t know what demons he was fighting, but my situation felt bleak in my mind and I didn’t know how to get out of it.

But what made that easier was my students. My classes this semester were filled with bright, lovely students who made me look forward to work and reinforced that I’m in the right place doing the right thing. Their drive and kindness took the sting out of rejection and hopelessness. I had two really personable College Writing classes that took as much of an interest in me as I did in them, and those sorts of relationships where you know your students care about you and look forward to your class makes it easier to keep going even when things are difficult outside the classroom. So, thank you, guys. They know who they are and some of them stalk my social media, so I hope they see this and know the impact they made in my life.

Do I wish I received the copywriter job? Hell, yes. But do I feel as awful as I did a few weeks ago? No. My hope is still that I will be able to get a job as a creative writing professor soon and that I will continue to write and publish books as I set out to do. Going forward, I’m going to try to stay focused on my goal of publishing two books in 2019, but if I go off course, I will try to roll with the punches and do my best.

It’s all I can really expect of myself. And in the past few weeks, I feel like I’ve come out of the fog I’ve been fighting all year. I’m hoping I can maintain and progress on my book before the semester starts. All I can do is keep moving forward and doing what I can to make a better life for myself.

Here’s to a less shitty year and the people who make it infinitely better.

Personal Life

Ten Years

IMG_1362This is coming a little early, but I wanted to write an appreciation post for my best friend and one of my greatest supporters, my boyfriend. Javier and I have been together for ten years. Yes, ten years as of June 20th. We met through a mutual friend when we were thirteen. We both went to the same middle school, and after speaking on instant messenger day in and day out for probably six months, we started going out. Being an only child without a hoard of friends, he was probably the first person I ever really opened up to. IMG_1187 He’s the quiet sort. If he doesn’t know you, he tends to be reserved, but once he’s comfortable, he never shuts up. Of the two of us, he’s the social one, the one who enjoys a night out but is still content to sit and watch Adventure Time with me and the dogs. What I love about him is his unwavering support. No matter what event I’m doing or where I want to drag him, he’s there. If I need a second set of hands or someone to vent with, he’s there. If I need someone to bounce ideas off of, he’s ready to listen even if he has no idea what I’m talking about (which happens quite often). javier knight Both of us are creative people. Javier is an artist while I’m a writer. If you’ve ever been to his Facebook page, he’s a cosplayer, which means he creates costumes after video game or anime characters and wears them to conventions. Recently, he’s won a few convention contests, and I couldn’t be prouder of him. No one I know works as hard on their projects. We act as a second set of eyes for the other, figuring out if a piece is out of scale or if a character’s motives make sense. Even if he sometimes gets down about his work and believes he sucks, I know he is amazing and will go far in the future. It’s the little things that make me love him. The way he is willing me makes me a cup of coffee just the way I like it whenever we’re home together or how he let’s me hug him like a koala when he gets home from work. Other times he drives me crazy. He leaves messes around, forgets to take the dogs out, and likes to hug me after working on his projects and thus coats me in black dremel dust, but he’s my favorite distraction. I know he’d do anything and go anywhere for me, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Here’s to ten more.

Personal Life

Getting to Know Each Other (Blog Hop)

This blog hop is designed to show our readers a more personal side. We list seven interesting facts to help cast light onto that tough writer’s persona we all like to project. But I am human and like everyone else I have dreams, hobbies, problems and goals. I see this as a way to share some of them with you, my readers.

The rules are that I share seven facts about myself, and links to at least fifteen blogs that I enjoy reading. I don’t think I follow that many blogs, and the ones I have are tagged by other authors already, so I will simply fill it out and forgo the tagging.

Seven Facts About Me:

1) I am in graduate school studying creative writing, but I began my undergraduate career as a biology major (added English in the beginning of my junior year).

2) If I could, I would be a hermit.  Honestly, I would rather stay shut up in my house 98% of the time with my books, tv, and dog than go anywhere.  If everything could be delivered to my house, I would never need to leave (apart from class). Continue reading “Getting to Know Each Other (Blog Hop)”