Facing queerphobia…

my cute little face in kindergarten filteredI can’t remember exactly how old I was, probably around five or six, but it was summer and a handful of us girls were on “the circle”, an area of grass at the end of our court. We were trying to think of something to do when one of the girls piped up, “Let’s play wedding!”

I was meh on the whole idea. She only wanted to play wedding because she had a crush on Peter and she could pretend to marry him. Then all she needed was someone to marry them, a bridesmaid, and one or two people to hold down Peter so he couldn’t escape. The rest of us were the audience and simply stood there. This really didn’t seem like much fun to me and a hell of a lot less fun for Peter. Then I came up with a partial solution. Why didn’t she marry one her her friends? That at least took Peter off the hook.

There was a song I loved when I was that age by The Vogues called “Five O’clock World” and, in part, it read:

’cause it’s a five o’clock world when the whistle blows
No-one owns a piece of my time
And there’s a long-haired girl who waits, I know
To ease my troubled mind, yeah!
In the shelter of her arms everything’s okay
She talks and the world goes slipping away
And I know the reason I can still go on
When every other reason is gone

In my kindergarten mind I knew I was going to grow up someday and need to work but that when I finished work she would be waiting for me and would hug me and ask me about my day. I never said anything about it to anyone but why would I? It was my normal. And then I made my suggestion to the other girls.

The girl with the crush was horrified. “That’s disgusting!” she exclaimed, staring at me in disbelief. “Why would you even say that?”

“Peter doesn’t want to play,” I protested. “And you’re all friends.”

“Girls don’t marry girls. Ever!” she announced firmly. “That’s gross!

I nodded my head. I don’t know if she was the oldest but she felt like the oldest to me and everyone knew the big kids knew more. And it wasn’t like anyone else in the world wanted to hug or marry someone of the same gender, at least not in my world and they’re the same thing at that age. So I packed up my feelings and buried them away. I’ve gotten very good at that over the years, packing thoughts away in places only my nightmares can find.

There were some cracks in my thoughts and feelings over the years but it wasn’t until I was in my 40’s and was friends with someone who was both openly queer and willing to listen that I started unpacking thoughts and memories I’d long forgotten I’d even had. I’m still unpacking. The 80’s were pretty bad. Like, hey, I’m trapped at a school event beside a teacher and fellow students who are laughing and joking about driving to the “Gay Village” of Toronto to throw rocks at the queers because it was so much fun. “And how many have you hit? Did anyone bleed?” My suicidal ideation started around that time.

Then there was yesterday. I woke up all excited and ready to start the day and even put on my ace t-shirt and rainbow socks for International Asexuality Day. Then after my exercise class I got my bundle buggy and headed out the door, determined to get some walking in plus some necessities, which I did. I also picked up a yummy looking chocolate bar, a fresh cinnamon bun for this morning (it was delicious), my favourite peanut butter cups, and four gourmet cupcakes. By the time I went to all 5 stores (two were only for one item) I was wiped and my buggy was heavier than me. I was soon on the little On Demand bus and heading home. The driver even dropped me off at the front door of my building and helped me with my buggy (bonus good mood). And then my neighbour came running out the door to show the driver her cat.

She came back inside while I was still in the lobby and then started to talk. Soon she asked me how I was doing.

“I’m fine,” I replied cheerfully. “It’s International Asexuality Day-

“What?” she replied loudly so I repeated myself, making sure to enunciate each word clearly.

“What?!?”

Okay, obviously it wasn’t a hearing issue. Maybe she’d never heard of asexuality. No big deal but I was feeling a bit grumbly. I’d brought it up as a segue into my yummy cupcakes and a definition plus a possible q&a were going to take up more time than I’d anticipated.

“Asexuality is when you don’t have sexual attraction toward-

“That’s disgusting!” she announced flatly and with finality.

Fury flushed my cheeks. I wasn’t just going to roll over and hide. Not anymore.

“I’m asexual,” I informed her.

“Disgusting!” she replied then she stormed down the hallway the opposite direction from her apartment. I silently wished whoever she was visiting the best of luck then pushed the button for my floor. One I got home I put everything away then logged into Facebook and recounted what had just happened, ending with:

“She better get coal in her stocking this year! Also, these cupcakes are going to be amazing!!!”

I figured I’d get some support (if Facebook didn’t wander off with my post and hide it somewhere) and for the most part I did. But there were a couple of dissenters and, as always, they were a complete surprise. Two women I’ve known online since around 1998-2000. The comments hit like blows.

  • Maybe she was just uncomfortable because I was “discussing my sexuality” by saying what day it was and maybe that made her scared so she reacted.
  • It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t know what asexuality is the whole idea of someone announcing their sexuality as a “holiday” can come across rather bluntly and confusing as it should be a personal topic.
  • The whole scenario, if it happened to me, I would be left feeling like a person had no boundaries and overshared details which would leave me feeling very uncomfortable and full of red flags about the person.
  • You are discussing your bedroom with someone who didn’t consent to knowing about your lifestyle.
The platform for awareness is what matters and this was not the time or place to announce you’re preferences for the bedroom.
Then I left the computer for dinner and a much needed break and came back after my lavender and chocolate cupcake (by Sweets from the Earth) and discovered that one of my friends had unfriended me while I was away from my keyboard. I guess I won’t be seeing her sunrise and lake photos this year.
And no, seriously no. Saying three words, International Asexuality Day, is not telling anyone what I prefer in the bedroom nor is it discussing my bedroom.
A “lifestyle” is country vs downtown condo or eclectic vs modern. No one says that being straight is a lifestyle. That’s because sexual orientation is not a lifestyle.
And where’s my consent? Where’s my consent when friends go into uber detail about their dates? Or when eye candy pictures get posted and people talk about dragging him into the bedroom and how hot he’s making them? Straight people discuss their “bedroom” all the time. Who their dating… who they’d like to date… that hot guy on the show… what’s going on with their husband… all of that is fine, normal, and has nothing to do with the bedroom. But I mention a holiday and I suddenly need to bring a clipboard and legal documents to make sure everyone knows exactly what three words they’re about to hear.
In short, there is nothing wrong with announcing that it’s any day, week, or month that belongs to the LGBTQIA community. It does not tell anyone anything about what someone’s doing in their bedroom any more than saying you’re straight tells them what you do.
As my friend Sylvia pointed out, there is a major holiday that celebrates sexuality every single year. I had the same two people deny it but really? They sell frigging red satin lingerie with lace for the occasion. Yes, there’s romance involved but, at the end of the day, the day’s supposed to end in the bedroom with those rose petals and itchy undies. And straight people are totally fine with that because it’s directly marketed to them. International Asexuality Day isn’t marketed toward sex or bedrooms so why is that the one that’s oversharing and overly personal?
Some days I think we’ve moved so far ahead as a society and that maybe, just maybe, it’s safe for me to peek my head out and just be myself.
Other times I realize we’re all just standing in the dust calling anything we don’t understand “gross” while throwing rocks at those we find weird.
And for the love of all you hold dear, can everyone just make enough room to stand and be myself without judgement?

National Coming Out Day…

Guess what day it is? No, sadly, it’s not Free Pizza for Everyone Day. You can put down the pizza cutter. Instead it’s National Coming Out Day! It’s a holiday, albeit one with no food, that was started by the Human Rights Campaign thirty-one years ago. I’ve been coming out every year for four years now but there’s always new readers and the possibility (not likely) that someone might have missed my posts.

Alright, so I’m a demiromantic, panromantic asexual. That hasn’t changed since I’ve come out back in 2015, no matter what someone who’s close to me seems to think. Demiromantic means I become romantically attached only to friends. Panromantic means I’m romantically attracted to all genders. Yes, even your gender. And asexual means I have no sexual attraction to anyone. While you’re thinking “look at those blue eyes… I wish we could bump uglies” I’m thinking “look at those blue eyes, I could stare at them for ages”.

I ran into a friend today. She said “hi” enthusiastically then gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. We did the usual “How are you?” then she looked uncomfortable.

“I saw Colin at the bus stop recently and he, umm, started talking about stuff. Gender stuff.”

“You mean he said he was a girl on the inside and a man on the outside?” I asked and she nodded with visible relief.

“I didn’t know what to say,” she concluded.

“I’m sure you did fine,” I replied then she started talking about a trans aunt of hers. At first she started using he/him pronouns but I keep using she/her and soon she flipped to the female pronouns.

All the while I kept thinking of Colin. I know this lady because we were in the mental health ward of the hospital together, which means lots of time for conversation there. And she lives barely a block away so we bump into each other every once in a while. However, I think Colin’s only seen her twice and for a couple of minutes at that. It makes me wonder how many strangers are wandering around wondering who “that guy” is and why Colin was talking about being a woman.

I’ve offered to help him get a free therapist and to join, not one, but two groups dealing with gender related issues but he refused. I guess he’ll keep coming out to strangers and hope someday he comes out again to himself and those he loves.

Jeremy and I

Colin and I at the Pride Parade June 2015

Everything’s coming up aces…

This whole week is Asexuality Awareness Week, which is so needed because most people have absolutely no idea what asexuality is… and quite a few who think they do actually don’t know either.

The very short definition of asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction. That’s pretty much it. There is more though. Asexuality is an umbrella term with several kinds of asexuality under that one definition. There are people who experience romantic attraction (hugging, kissing, snuggling, holding hands) and there are people who don’t. The people who don’t are called aromantic. And there are people who experience sexual attraction only rarely and they have to be friends first. They’re called demiromantic.

There are also sexual orientations that fall under the definition. People can be pan-romantic (like me) and experience a romantic attraction to people of all genders. Or they can be bi-romantic, hetero-romantic, or homo-romantic. And some people are attracted to intelligence (sapio-romantic). This last one is controversial with people claiming it’s ableist. I personally think it should be your own choice who you’re attracted to. A relationship is going to tank if you’re only together to be politically correct.

Then there’s sex repulsed, sex indifferent, and sex favourable asexuals. Sex repulsed can’t stand even the thought of sex. Sex indifferent will have sex, usually to please a partner but would just as happily not have it. And sex favourable asexuals like sex and enjoy having it. They don’t experience sexual attraction but it doesn’t stop them from having fun with sex. And, yes, asexuals can and do masturbate. That has nothing to do with attraction of any sort.

Asexual’s often are referred to as ace or aces (aromantics are known as aros) and there’s a running joke that asexuals want cake instead of sex. It’s probably lasted so long because it’s 99% true (I’d like chocolate salted caramel please). Aces will sometimes wear a black ring on their right middle finger but this isn’t very well known and the couple of people I saw wearing one weren’t asexual at all (and were really confused to be asked).

When you see the A in LGBTQIA, that stands for asexual, aromantic, and agender. There is no ally in the LGBTQIA panoply. It’s not an acronym for straight people.

If you have a question I haven’t covered, please feel free to ask me!

asexual

The asexual flag

 

 

My existence is not up for debate…

I am here as a queer woman. I exist. My sexual orientation is valid. It is not an abnormality or a hormonal imbalance (yes, as a peri-menopausal woman I’ve had my hormones checked), or some sign of frigidity. Asexuality isn’t the same as celibacy, it’s not a choice. It’s just like any other sexual orientation.

Asexuality is also not the lack of a sex drive, there are plenty of asexuals who both enjoy and have sex. Asexuality is simply an absence of sexual attraction, nothing more and nothing less.

For example, Bob gets turned on looking at cute men, Frank gets turned on by cute women, Sally gets turned on looking at cute people, and Jane doesn’t get turned on by anyone. Jane doesn’t find Sally sexually attractive but she is romantically interested and is willing to have sex since Sally enjoys it. Her genitals still feel pleasure since this isn’t an issue with hormones and she can initiate sex since this isn’t some kind of frigidity. She loves Sally and, while she finds Sally’s crush on her favourite character odd, she’s willing to accept Sally’s allosexuality. Sally doesn’t understand how Jane doesn’t find anyone sexually attractive but is willing to accept Jane’s asexuality. It’s that simple.

My blog is a place where interested people can learn about asexuality (first hand) and trans issues (from an ally’s point of view) along with a glimpse into mine and Jeremy’s lives. It is not a debate club. Any comments that deny someone’s existence will be summarily deleted. I’m not here to converse with bigots, quite frankly I don’t have the time for that. If you want to debate someone’s existence, there are plenty of groups on Facebook where you’ll find a welcome. Here is not one of them.

My fellow aces. You are real, you are valid, and you are welcome here. My trans readers. You exist, you are valuable, and you are your gender. You are welcome here. My LGBI readers, you are welcome and cared about. This is a safe space.

ace_of_diamonds

 

Relationships…

She seemed… nice. A bit formal but nice. I had some concerns, mainly over why someone who’d lived in Brussels, London, and New York would want to move to my small city, but otherwise she seemed like a strong possibility for a long term relationship. So why was I upset at the thought of the relationship progressing?

If we did eventually get together would our decorating match? How were we going to sleep together? I’m used to sprawling across my bed at night, surrounded by cats. Was she going to want to snuggle? I still haven’t figured out where to put my bottom arm when I’m the big spoon. Separate beds seemed unromantic and cluttered, not to mention an extra expense, but years of cuddling would be claustrophobic.

Was I worried she might be fake? That was a legitimate concern but not the reason. When a friend of mine discovered her picture on a foreign model’s Instagram page, I felt relief and it finally dawned on me. I’m looking forward to my own apartment. One that’s all mine and no one else’s.

my-stuff

Stuff for my own place

I knew demiromantic fell under the aromantic spectrum but I never stopped to think of how close they were until I realized just how much I want a place of my own. A place where friends can come over to visit and then leave. A place I could have all to myself.

I made a dating profile last month and half-heartedly flipped through the proposed matches a few times but I think I’m just going to let it lie quiet. Going out on a date sounds… okay. But then what? I don’t want to kiss someone who’s essentially a stranger. I don’t even want to hold hands with someone who isn’t a close friend. The whole concept of dating seems odd. Both times I’ve dated, I went out with someone I was friends with first. I’ve never been interested in dating a stranger (which is what someone would be even after chatting a few times online).

So far I’ve figured out I don’t want sex, I’m not interested in dating, I’m not much for kissing, and I want my completely own apartment. A few more identity puzzle pieces fall into place.

Defining sexual orientation…

C: Not a person alive hasn’t felt at some point even if it was brief and fleeting some sort of carnal sexual attraction to another person male or female.

Me: *asexual here* no brief or fleeting carnal sexual attraction.

R: But you have two kids….so….

No! Just plain no! Our pasts do not define our sexual orientation (or gender for that matter). Gay men can have ex-wives, lesbians can share custody with ex-husbands, and asexuals can have children. We are all people, with complicated thoughts and behaviours. Our pasts do not define us.

Sexual orientation is not a simple switch; flick one way for straight, the other for gay, the middle for bi. It’s a broad spectrum with a variety of sexual attractions, intensities, and genders. And it’s not always easy to define.

I know of one lesbian who’s happily married to a man. She (with much confusion) loves him deeply and freely admits he’s the only man she’s ever loved or even been interested in. Meanwhile she’s loved several women and would go back to only dating women if anything happened to their relationship. He’s an anomaly in an otherwise lesbian existence and, as much as she loves him, she feels erased of her identity.

Bisexuals and pansexuals exist and remain existing no matter who they’re with at the time.You can be mostly interested in men and only slightly in women (or vice versa) and still be bi. Plus, despite the name, bisexuals can be interested in more than two genders as well. Which overlaps with pansexuals but, hey, sharing is caring.

You can be asexual and have children. You can be asexual with sexual partners. You can be asexual and enjoy sex. The only definition for asexual is a lack of sexual attraction and, even that gets blurred in the case of grey-aces.

In my case, I had no idea asexuality existed. I figured I was broken and spent years trying to fix myself… right up to and including marriage. I wanted children and sex is one easy way to get them, which I did. I joke I built them from scratch. Now that I know asexuality exists and I’m not broken, I’d rather stick with hugging and cuddling.

We all exist on a tapestry of sexuality and it’s no one’s decision except ours as to what thread we chose to weave with. My thread is iridescent, which doesn’t exactly fit in but it’s certainly not extraneous. I think it makes the tapestry look fabulous.

It’s the most wonderful time…

When I was very little, my parents used to ask me what I wanted for Christmas and my answer was always the same. A pretty tree with lots of sparkling lights. Things haven’t changed. Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. I love it all. The lights, the decorations, the glitter, the music, time with family and friends, pretty cards, baking, presents, and an ever present feeling of hope and goodwill. This holiday is me.

This is also the time of year I started writing this blog… three years ago. So much has changed since then. Back then Jeremy identified as a femme, bisexual male (who felt a bit like a girl on the inside) and I was completely and totally straight (and deep enough in the closet I could hang out with the lion in Narnia). Now Jeremy’s straight, agender and alternates between masculine and femme while I’m a demi-romantic, pan-romantic asexual. So the fabulous has broadened to include both of us.

Three years ago Jeremy wanted a hair straightener and Jaffa cakes. This year I got them a strand of light up mirrored disco balls and a big stuffed Freddy Fazbear from Five Nights at Freddys. Meanwhile this is what I want for Christmas…

  1. Self-cleaning kitty litter boxes
  2. Self-washing dishes
  3. Magic refilling fridge
  4. Copious amounts of writing time
  5. A huge green space beside my building
  6. Endless supply of free books on my e-reader from my favourite authors
  7. Winning lottery ticket for $15 million dollars
  8. A stay at a tropical resort

Pretty much the only one that can fit under the tree is the lottery ticket. I’m looking forward to seeing it on Christmas morning 🙂

This year we’re staying overnight at my parents’ house, which is new for us considering we live a 15 minute drive from their place. It means we can hang out on Christmas Eve and open stockings with them on Christmas morning. Plus it’s more like the Christmas I was used to growing up, when we stayed at my grandparents’ house with a bunch of relatives. I’m looking forward to hanging out with them, Karen and her family, and my cousin and his fiance.

Three years ago Jeremy and I would be watching Doctor Who on Netflix but they’ve taken it off the Canadian line up. I did promise them that I’d watch Supergirl with them as soon as they finish the dishes. I hope the show’s good.

My almost, but not quite, relationship…

I’m curious about something
And feel free to say no … obviously
I’m looking to be in a relationship.

Do you think you and I are a possibility?

To say this was a surprise would be an understatement. Ann* and I had previously only messaged each other sporadically on Facebook (mostly her messaging jokes about Canada) and had never met. And I’m a demiromantic asexual. I need to know someone in order to be in a relationship. And yet… I’d never get to know her if we didn’t talk plus I’d never know if we were compatible if I said no. So…

I’d have to talk to you more. I don’t know you well enough. I wouldn’t rule it out though.

Then we started to talk about politics and camping and food and families. It was the most we’d talked ever. But I still didn’t know her. I mean I’d talked multiple times a day to L for three years before we started dating. How do you get to know someone through awkward conversation?

I messaged her “good morning” the next day and got a three word reply four hours later. The same thing happened that night (except I hadn’t texted good morning at that point). I was beginning to think she and I were on different pages when it came to learning about each other through messaging.

Then came a four am message. Nothing good ever comes from a four am message.

Hey

 I’m sorry for being slow on responding
 I don’t even know how to say this.
 Now that I’m working the day shift, I’ve rediscovered a crush I had on someone
 I’m sorry

What could I say to that beyond “It’s okay”? When L and I broke up I’d needed an Ativan in order to start breathing again but Ann? All I really knew about her was she liked chicken and camping and preferred the term progressive over liberal.

A short while later I was warned by a few people that Ann had a mean streak and could get quite nasty. A short while after that she blocked me when I pointed out it was rude to waste a cashier’s time just because she was mad about a bus delay.

It definitely wasn’t a match made in heaven. It technically wasn’t even a match. But it was interesting while it lasted.

me-in-winter-pjs

Me in my winter pjs, just because 🙂

*Ann is so not her real name

Crumbling walls…

I was in my teens when I started having intrusive thoughts, although I didn’t have a name for it at the time. I’d get sudden urges to jump over the railing in our shopping centre, fall in front of moving vehicles, and climb the railing of the bridge over our local huge highway. I didn’t want to die so those weren’t my thoughts. It was that simple.

I turned 13 years old in 1983, right at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Back then the only choices for sexuality, as far as I knew, were gay, straight (aka normal), or confused/just make up your mind. I knew I was interested in boys, but had no concept of aesthetic attraction at the time. Everyone else must just be thinking he’s cute, right? People didn’t really want to have sex with a total stranger. I didn’t have a close friend to talk to about sex and relationships. I barely had any friends at all.

me in Yorkshire with County Town Singers

Me (in 80’s glasses) with the choir in Yorkshire England.

Things changed when I was 18 years old and the youngest member of an adult choir. We were having a concert and the director decided that one song needed a violin accompanist. The violinist was about my age and cute, in a vaguely anime sort of way. I was blown away by his talent and kept watching him. One of my fellow choir members noticed.

“She’s very good, isn’t she.”

She?

I looked more intently and realized that, yes, she was female… just very androgynous. And the feelings of interest hadn’t faded with this realization.

I didn’t want this. I deeply didn’t want this… in the same way I didn’t want random thoughts of suicide. This was the 80’s, when students and teachers alike talked about going to the gay community in Toronto to pelt passerby’s with stones and cans. It was considered a fun weekend activity. And I was bullied to an incredible extent. My assessment counsellor didn’t blink when I detailed my plans for suicide. She looked so horrified by my summation of bullying that I cut it short. I didn’t want more bullying. I couldn’t handle more bullying, so I pushed that thought deep and continued pushing.

On the rare occasion I had a thought like that girl is cute, I’d think of images of men I’d thought were cute to assure myself that I was indeed straight. I was completely, 100% straight. I had to be. Just like there was no way I could be suicidal. Those thoughts were all locked away as tight and hidden as I could possibly make them.

I grew up and had children and my collection of friends expanded. And the fleeting thoughts changed. Before it was just aesthetic attraction. Now, with close friends it was “I want to kiss her”. That’s the downside of demi-romantic. I have to be friends to have any interest in someone and I rarely have single and interested friends. Rarely meaning it’s happened exactly once. Again, I chalked romantic attraction to the same unknown issue that caused me to think of falling in front of cars. And, again, I pushed it as far away as possible. I was still 100% straight. Those thoughts weren’t mine.

It wasn’t until last summer that I looked up asexual and realized the description explained most of my feelings. And it wasn’t until I had working antidepressants that I realized the intrusive thoughts and the attractions were not from the same source. Depression does not cause romantic attraction. The walls started crumbling. I posted here about being asexual and hinted more and more blatantly on Facebook. And then a friend posted this in response to an article about an amusement park employee telling a gay couple they weren’t allowed to hug…

ShelleyAnn

She wasn’t an online friend. She’d been a coworker for two years and a friend for just as long. We did our Christmas shopping together and went out for lunch and a run to Michael’s Arts and Crafts last month. And she blocked me after I told her I wasn’t straight. The last of the walls crumbled with anger as I posted this on my Facebook wall…

This image is a post a former friend of mine made on a Toronto Star article about two men hugging (nothing more) in a line up at Canada’s Wonderland on Gay Day.

I messaged her privately, explaining I’m not straight (and as a demi-romantic asexual, I’m not), and asked if she still wanted to be friends. She assured me she did and that she’d posted that in defense of other people. Umm, not likely but I let it slide. We left on a good note (as far as I could tell).

Just now I went to tag her in a post about the new Ghostbuster’s movie and, whoops, she’s not there. I’ve been deleted and blocked.

I’m going to be blunt here. I’ve only been off suicide watch for two and a half weeks at this point and am still deemed too emotionally fragile to even attend full on group counselling. Please do not string me along, pretending to be friends and allowing yourself into my life, only to disappear because I *might* be romantically interested if we’re friends. This person was a real life friend who was going to attend my birthday and went out for lunch and shopping with me last month.

Right now I’m not romantically interested in anyone at all. The closest to anything romantic wise would be Andrea and this would be so not a surprise to her. And if you claim it is I’m blowing a raspberry at you pffft LOL. Even then it’s pretty much just joking around. At this point I’m pretty much ready just to say screw relationships and get another cat (but not for another year or two as Angel would have a coronary).

So, if you’re anti LGBTQ, please hit the unfriend button and shuffle yourself out of my life because, quite frankly, I can’t handle you right now.

As for the rest of you, thanks for staying *hugs*

The rest stayed and were overwhelmingly positive, which was a huge relief. Then I had my 46th birthday party yesterday and all my friends treated me exactly the same as before. Which is how it should be, because I really haven’t changed, but I know that isn’t always the case.

I don’t know what will happen in the future but my walls are down and someday I’ll start dating again.

Seventy-two hours…

Content Note: frank discussion of suicidal thoughts

It was a gorgeous day. I carefully packed my bag for group therapy. Water, notebook, phone, sparkly pen, tissues. I didn’t usually bring Chapstick but was reasonably sure I was going to get admitted to the hospital. It went into the bag as well. I should have gone to group the day before but I’d been crying for most of the night and was too exhausted when my alarm went off. Today I was determined to go.

The therapy class was more of a holding class until space was available in the main group. Most of my classmates had already moved up (I was due to move on Monday) and only three of us were left. Everyone else was new. And quiet. My group spilled out everything in the introduction. This group shared first names and ages, nothing else. The instructor tried to start up a group conversation only to have it fizzle. Then she tried again.

“Yes?” she asked. Why was she staring at me? And when had I raised my hand? What should I say?

“I’m thinking about suicide,” I replied.

Apparently that.

“Thinking or planning?”

“Planning”

“Not every suicidal thought is serious,” she pointed out. “Sometimes people think about suicide but have no intentions of following through. Is this something you intend to do?”

Jeremy had brought in my fairy garden the night before so I didn’t need to go onto my balcony. Several nights earlier I’d messaged a friend in tears and sat chatting with her on Facebook until Jeremy came home, terrified I’d jump. And I couldn’t stop thinking that it would be like flying… and then nothing. I couldn’t keep living like that and, while I wanted to die, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Someone was going to be hurt finding me and it was going to happen sometime soon.

“Yes,” I said quietly. Every single person in the room was staring at me.

“I can’t hear you,” she said.

Seriously? Like this wasn’t hard enough already.

“Yes,” I said a bit louder and nodded for emphasis. She informed me I needed to see her at the end of class.

Class ended, she arranged for someone to cover her next appointment, then set off with me through the back halls of the hospital… right back to where Karen and I started a month and a half earlier. Thankfully this time the waiting room speaker had been disabled. Once again we went through triage and to the nurse’s station.

“She needs to be put on a form one,” the instructor said urgently.

Form one? Oh, she’d discussed this in class. That was a seventy two hour involuntary admission. As long as there was a bed somewhere relatively quiet I didn’t care. I’d only been up for three hours at that point but I was already exhausted.

I saw a doctor next. All I remember is him handing me paperwork explaining my involuntary admission and that the number 42 was on top.

42 ~ the meaning of life. There wasn’t anyone to share that bit of information with. Security was on the other side of the room, carefully keeping an eye on me. A volunteer saw me hugging myself and gave me a sheet. A security guard told me I could have another one if I was still cold and warned me I’d lose my phone soon and to copy down any numbers I needed. I knew Jeremy’s number, and my parents still have the same number from my childhood, but I didn’t know Karen’s number.

The psychiatrist called me into a room. It was bright and had plexiglass windows in the middle and a door. She sat down and gestured to the seat in front of her. Had anything happened recently?

A madman shot up a bar.

But that was half a continent away in a different country and would bring up too many questions.

“My boyfriend and I broke up at the beginning of May,” I said hesitantly. Hesitant because I’d answered these questions multiple times before and pretty much knew what to expect.

“Who instigated the break up?”

“It was mutual,” I replied quickly. It hadn’t been but I didn’t particularly want to get into blaming. “It wasn’t a good time for a relationship, there was lots going on.”

“Like what?” she asked, leaning forward.

Great.

“We’re both struggling with mental health issues and [boyfriend] has some physical health issues too.”

“And what else? You said lots.”

“[Boyfriend]’s just starting his transition,” I replied. Maybe she would know what transition meant.

“What does that mean?”

And maybe not.

“Gender transition,” I replied.

“Oh… he’s going from male to female?”

“Umm no. He’s…” [Boyfriend] wouldn’t want to be described as female in any way but I couldn’t think of a way to explain.

“So he was born female. Did you know this ahead of time?”

I nodded and was relieved when she didn’t appear shocked like the last professional. Although leaning back in her seat wasn’t much of an improvement.

If I fall in love with a woman, would that be seen as wrong?

The questions went back to suicide and the final question, “If we released you, would you feel safe?”

It would be like flying… and then nothing. I remembered curling up in my chair, hugging my stuffed animal, scared to even go near my balcony and shook my head.

“Okay, follow me,” she left the room and gestured to a security guard, the same one who’d offered me a second sheet earlier.

This time he gave me pants, complete with a hole in the front, and a three armed shirt. I knew what the hole was for though I’d never worn pants with one before. The shirt left me baffled.

“Here,” he said as he took back the shirt and mimed putting it on. It wrapped around so that one arm went through two holes. Then he took all my belongings and gave me a pair of blue throwaway slippers with a seam across the soles.

I spent most of my time in emergency sleeping, which I’m sure relieved the guards. Actually, I know it did because one commented on it as he relieved the other.

“Whew,” the second guard said. “It sounds like an easy shift.”

One guard gave me a heated blanket when I started shaking and talked with me about books. He told me about a new movie too but my thoughts were too scattered and I couldn’t remember the title. It sounded interesting through.

I stayed in the emergency room hallway until 8pm, missing both lunch and dinner, before being wheeled to the psychiatric ward. It’s a small ward with a P shaped hallway, a TV room with plastic chairs, and a cafeteria that doubles as an entertainment room. The blinds are tucked away behind a window pane so no one can hang themselves. The mirrors are silvered metal. And there’s no bag in the garbage can. Meals are served at 8am, noon, and 5pm with a plastic fork and spoon. Have you ever buttered cold toast with a spoon before? It’s, umm, interesting. And chewy. The toast, not the spoon.

I’d been terrified of going into the ward. I knew I needed the help but had no idea what to expect other than, well my mind drew a blank. Honestly, while I hated being locked in… unable to leave, the ward itself wasn’t bad. The nurses were uniformly kind and the patients were friendly and understood “sorry, I’m getting overwhelmed… I’m going to have to go lie down”. I made three friends immediately and we hung out together, playing cards, colouring in those intricate adult colouring books, and singing. I’d been told that people don’t like to remember being in the psychiatric hospital but the other patients showed no sign of that. Multiple times I heard people conversing and reminiscing about previous visits. Remember so and so from two visits ago? He’s here now. Oh hi doctor! I was your patient during my last admission.

One thing that I love about this hospital is that the ward is mixed gender. During my stay there was one very effeminate gay young man who was much happier and comfortable hanging around the women and one young person struggling with gender dysphoria who had no idea what their gender was. Considering they commented on hacking off their long hair to buzz cut length because they’d have died if they didn’t, I think being forced into a women’s only section and female garb would have been very detrimental. And, yes, I did assure them it’s normal to be unsure of your gender and that it can take years to sort out.

some won't come and that's okay

People say that you learn who your real friends are when you hit your lowest point and that is so true. One of my friends, who I trusted completely and was positive would always be there, walked away from me completely during this time. It was a heartbreak and one I’ve sobbed about more than once. However that friend’s abrupt departure was more than offset by the number of people who walked in. The friends sharing messages of hope and love. My fellow patients who repeatedly commented on my kindness and showed me kindness of their own. And the anonymous person who left a spray of daisies on my bed the day I left the hospital.

I have no idea about the future. Right now I’m considered emotionally fragile by the psychiatric team, too fragile for the group I was to attend. But I’m feeling better now than I have in years and am ready to take each day one step at a time.

coming home

Me leaving the hospital after a week’s stay with one of my anonymous flowers.