Whoops! A little late on this post. Can you believe half of 2016 is gone? What an amazing half of a year it has been. All year I have been working on month-long challenges to build mindfulness, and thus far I’ve gotten way more than I bargained for! This post will reflect on June, look forward to my new July challenges, and discuss more developments in my gender/identity exploration. This June my challenges were: no lying, and reading every day. I failed at both pretty immediately. June started with a surprise trip to Florida for my friend’s 30th birthday. The surprise involved a fair amount of lying, and the trip involved a fair amount of…pretty much everything except reading. Other than the trip, however, I have done decently well at both challenges. I have been mindful about lying, and have learned that I rarely do it. The only times I lie seem to be: when I’m out with others and make concessions for the sake of the group, when I want to delay a conversation until a more appropriate opportunity presents itself/until I have gathered my thoughts, when people flippantly ask me how I’m doing, and when I lie to myself.
Lying to myself is a difficult topic to grasp. I have found through my mindfulness exercises that it is easy to lie to oneself without being fully aware of it. It is difficult for me (for anyone, really) to think critically about the ways that I have been conditioned. It has proven arduous and demanding to shed the things I was taught to believe, value, expect, and be. This process, although difficult, is necessary for relearning who I actually am and rebuilding my idea of who I want to be. Additionally, I now have different expectations and more patience for the people around me because I have learned more about the depth and breadth of invisible, individual struggles. My personal explorations in identity, although they have lead me down a rabbit hole of self-obsession (sorry everyone), have lent me a greater sense of empathy. Ultimately, this critical examination is an extremely positive experience, even though it has required me to deal with shocking levels of shame, anxiety, fear and vulnerability.
On to July. It is becoming difficult to come up with challenges, so please send me ideas if you have any! This month I will take away ordering food, and add at least 20 minutes of exercise every day. First, about the food. I have been ordering food more than ever before, and it has been bad for my wallet and my waistline. I have been gaining weight due to a mixture of low thyroid levels and increased food ordering. My levels are now balanced after adjusting my thyroid medication, but I can’t blame my weight gain on that entirely. I have simply not been eating well. Not ordering food will jolt me back into the habit of grocery shopping and cooking more often. I will still allow myself to go out to eat, but I will no longer order lunch to work or drunk snacks to my house. Should be easy enough. Exercising for 20 minutes each day aims to achieve a similar goal. I need to spend more time and effort on my personal health and fitness, which has been steadily declining for a few months. I have been having a hard time balancing my social life with self-care, and am now being active about my desire to balance the two.
My weight is an aspect of my identity that has been causing me some anxiety recently. In some ways, I feel more celebrated for who I am than ever before. I have been blessed to model (in a very casual way) for Kirrin Finch, Becoming, and Nik Kacy Footwear. It is amazing to be represented, not because I necessarily care to be a model, but because I think I represent a very average person. I hope that when people watch me walk a runway or notice my photo out in the world, they see themselves in me. I at least hope my image helps others feel less alienated than traditional models may make them feel. Despite this validation, I am having trouble with my body image. As a lifelong athlete, I am used to being in great shape. Ever since I wrapped up my career as a competitive athlete, I have been struggling to re-imagine myself without a sport to train for. As much as I would love to be in competitive-athlete-shape again, I am not willing to make the lifestyle changes that it would require. I do not want to sacrifice being social and working on my side projects so that I can exercise rigorously and consistently. I bike to/from work, but very inconsistently. I often leave my bike at work if I have evening plans, which sometimes means it will sit there unloved for days at a time. That being said, I can easily fit some level of working out into my schedule. Even a little bit could go a long way, and 20 minutes of exercise a day seems like a reasonable goal. As always, I will reflect on how it goes at the end of the month. Fingers crossed.
Now I would like to do some reflection on my gender identity. I started the year with the momentous decision to give all of my dresses and skirts to my younger sisters, and boy does that seem like forever ago. Since I began to be more open with myself and others about my gender identity, I have developed with incredible speed. My biggest changes have come after meeting and talking to people of varying gender identities, and making new friends who didn’t know me before my open genderqueerness. Sharing my identity so publicly and receiving the incredible love and support from those around me has left me with an unquenchable thirst for authenticity. I have explored so many aspects of my identity, and as a result, have changed a lot of my habits. This is most evident in the ways that I handle the symbolic, visible representations of my identity. Some of the many ways that I have changed this year are:
- Nails. Having painted nails is something that I never enjoyed, but occasionally did for the sake of looking “put together” or “polished.” My mom loves getting manicures, so I enjoyed going with her as a bonding experience; but I never really liked having feminine hands in that way. I now have consistently clean, short nails, and I love them.
- Face. Similar to my nails, I occasionally used to wear makeup. I was under the impression that it would make me more attractive, approachable, feminine, and normal. I know now how ridiculous, but not invalid, that was. In some ways, makeup can perpetuate the unattainable beauty standards in popular culture. There is nothing wrong with wearing makeup if you like it, I just don’t like being made to feel like I have to do something. Personally, I like being able to touch my face and rub my eyes whenever I want. I also like that people see me plainly as I am. Again, I am not knocking makeup, I just don’t like it for myself.
- Wardrobe. I have been spending a significant amount of time thinking about my wardrobe. The first step was going through my closet and giving away or tossing any clothing that I didn’t truly feel good in. I have since been focusing on finding clothing that fits me well and is comfortable. Although I have found a lot of styles and brands that I enjoy, there are still some gaps to fill in the fashion industry. I am optimistic that it will continue to get easier to find clothing that fits and flatters me.
- Shaving. I did some experimenting with not shaving my legs and armpits. I have shaved consistently since in eight grade. I spent a few months growing out all of my body hair, and came up with some conclusions. As much as I would love to leave my legs unshaven, there are bald/thin spots that I am not happy with. I wouldn’t shave my legs if I had leg hair that I enjoyed, but I don’t, so I went back to shaving them. My armpits are a whole other story. I am loving the unruly little tufts under there, and they are here to stay. It makes me a little nervous to wear a tank or go to the beach with certain groups of people who don’t know me very well, but I am not going to let that anxiety control my actions.
- Name. I have started going by E. It has been a difficult adjustment, but I am really happy with it. I was worried that no matter what name I chose, I would be unhappy and want to change back or change it to something else, but I am loving E. I still sometimes introduce myself as: “Eile…I mean E. Just E.” Usually people respond completely normally, but sometimes people look at me inquisitively, or ask me to repeat myself, or say “like…the letter?” Regardless, I am embracing E, and am growing more comfortable introducing myself and being referred to as E.
- Pronouns. In a previous post I asked people to use E/e, as in, refer to me by my name E whenever possible, or in place of he/she just use /e. I have realized that it is harder than it seems. Although E/e are still my preferred pronouns, I have come around a lot to they/them/their as pronouns. More on that later.
- Chest Binding: This is my newest exploration. What is a chest binder? It’s basically a corset for your chest. It took me a while to get to this point. I used to wear regular bras, then I switched to wearing sports bras on a daily basis, now I’m consistently wearing a chest binder. I was so nervous when I started wearing it because, to me at least, the change is extremely noticeable. I’ve been wearing it for about two weeks now, and very few people have noticed! Well, perhaps people have noticed, but only a few have said anything. I started wearing it as an experiment to see how it felt, and I don’t think I will be going back. It feels right. I enjoy the way my clothes look and feel with my chest bound. I like looking down at my body and seeing flatness. I am fortunate that this change is actually pretty small. I don’t have large breasts to begin with. I’m not sure what this change means for my future with my body, but for now this is what I’m doing. Take a look for yourself! It’s a small physical change, but a huge psychological one:
While I have been doing a wonderful job exploring and making changes by and for myself, I am still working on asking others to refer to me in the way I would like. I initially did not like the pronouns they/them/their for two reasons: 1. I was uncomfortable with any alternative pronouns at all, and that one seemed to draw particular attention to my alternative identity and 2. I hated the incorrect grammar. With time I have come around to accepting the pronouns as I have increasingly accepted myself. The grammar issue was largely alleviated by an article that described “they/them/their” as newly grammatically accepted pronouns for a singular person. I’m into it. I know E/e can be hard, so if folks want to use they/them/their to refer to me I am on board. More than on board; I am into it! I definitely prefer it to he/she/his/her. It is hard to ask people to do this for me, and I know it is hard for people to adjust (especially my long time friends). Thank you for trying. Let me know if I can help. It is one of my goals to start being more vocal about my desires with both my name and my pronouns, but I still do not use them in every setting (work and most of my family are the two exceptions).
To wrap up, I would like to invite you to join me in a project I am starting. I have been reflecting a lot about how writing has helped me to explore my identity, mindfulness and make changes to become a happier, better version of myself. I have also heard from others about how reading another person’s story has been helpful for dealing with their own experiences and learning about aspects of sexual/gender identity that they didn’t know about. Maybe you can help in the same way. I am looking for people to contribute their own writing. I am working on a website, genderqueery.com (not yet live), where I will be collecting stories and providing resources, but first I need your help! I have some prompts if you are interested in contributing, but don’t know what to write about. I also welcome writing from everyone, regardless of identity! I would like the writing to be LGBTQIA+ focused, but we all have related experiences. You can write from your own experiences with yourself, your gay friend, your trans daughter, etc. Feel free to be creative. I am also happy to work with folks on editing/brainstorming/anything you need! Writing your story can be extremely healing and transformative. You might be surprised what will happen if you take the time to sit with yourself and piece together a story. Give it a shot! Please let me know if you are interested and please spread the word!
If you or someone you know would like to contribute, please email E@genderqueery.com
Thank you. I love you.