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. They’re called grey-sexual. Grey-romantic exists too and is very close to aromantic.

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!

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The asexual flag

 

 

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How do I know I’m a boy?

Colin used to ask me this so often and it left me confused and a bit bewildered. How didn’t he know he was a boy? It’s something you just know. So I’d answer the question as best I could.

“You’re a boy because you have a penis and when you grow up you’ll be a man. Nothing’s going to change that.”

He’d calmly accept that answer and skip off, while I wondered if he was being bullied again and just wasn’t telling me. He’d already complained about being called a he-she on the playground, which is what I’d chalked the questions up to.

Fast forward through a lot of years, right up to the Q&A we did a few days ago, where Colin answered the question of “How long have you known you were trans” with…

“I honestly don’t know. Looking back, like when I was younger, I wanted to be a girl but I never knew why.”

All the time I thought he was asking because of being teased, he was asking because he felt like a girl. And that just breaks my heart.

But, at the same time, I had no real idea what transgender was. My only examples were Klinger on MASH, who is definitely not trans and a person in our town who was horribly nicknamed Terry the Fairy who paired a dress with hairy legs. I have no idea how he identified.

Our doctor wasn’t very trans friendly, something we discovered last year, and he’d have been sent to see Dr. Zucker, who is known for being transphobic when it comes to children. He felt that teens and adults knew their gender but that kids were flexible and responded “well” to conversion therapy.

I also would have needed to deal with my ex husband, who’d claim the sky was green if he thought it would hurt me. He’d have fought me long and hard and had someone in the background willing to pay for a lawyer.

So, in reality, it wouldn’t have made a difference, other than giving my ex some more ammunition and possibly traumatizing Colin, but I can’t help thinking of how I tried to help and cringing at my words. And I can’t help looking at Colin’s answer and wishing he’d had a better way and better choices.

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Colin playing in our backyard with our friends’ pick up truck

Colin’s answers…

 

Colin, I would like to know what is your passion, something you always love doing and talking about, or do you have more than one?

I have a few. Computers, video games, and technology in general. On Steam alone I have 170 video games and then I have twelve computers and out of those eight work.

I was wondering, have you gotten more than one medical opinion on the possibility of being able to have biological children if you medically transition? I have read lots of articles about trans women choosing to stop hormones temporarily in order to provide viable sperm. Though there does come a time when it gets past the point of that working. Which could be a worry if you are are really set on having a biological child.
So I know your main reason for not medically transitioning at this time, but I’m curious as to why you have chosen to not continue transitioning socially? Are you truly happy going by male pronouns and using the name Collin? Have you ever considered continuing to transition on a social level while starting to save up money to have your sperm banked? (Maybe one of the online fundraising sites would be useful). Then once you’ve had that done you’d be able to start medically transitioning if you so choose without having that worry. I’m just curious as to what the thought process has been?

It’s more than just that I’m dealing with, more than the fact of having kids. Transitioning, I don’t know how I’d look afterwards. I really don’t have the time while I’m in school so adding transitioning into it really wouldn’t help. I honestly don’t know if I’m happy going by Colin. I’ve seen a few medical doctors and statistics. Statistically there’s been a few trans people who have been able to stop hormones to have a child but it isn’t the majority.

Colin, I am confused why you put so much trust in one doctor that knows a lot less than those in your community (the trans community), in choosing not to transition. I just want to understand where your coming from, as someone who chose not to at a young age, and regretted it in the harshest way later.

The doctor really was helping me out a lot. It also wasn’t just him but others in the transitioning world. It’s not just the fact I can’t have kids which is the problem, I’m having other problems as well. The fear of the unknown strikes again. I don’t know how I’d look. And there’s school, I have a lot of school stuff to do and, once I get into college I won’t have enough time to transition.

Colin, how long have you known you are trans?

I honestly don’t know. Looking back, like when I was younger, I wanted to be a girl but I never knew why.

Would you rather fight one horse sized duck, or one-hundred duck sized horses?

One hundred duck sized horses because then I could just kick them all [vegan Mom: why not just adopt them out]

If you ran the zoo.. which animals would be in it?

If I ran the zoo, I’d definitely have to have, like, a few polar bears, a few lions, a few tigers, and a few bears. Oh and a few horses [Mom: but sadly no duck sized ones], and a t-rex.

Okay cuz I have one… How does a person help support someone who is either going through the changes of becoming another gender is thinking about it? Okay, two questions what kind of advice or thoughts would you like to offer people in general who are either ignorant (by choice) or just don’t know?

Well it’s always different from person to person. The best thing to do is just ask them. Suggest things like PFLAG if they don’t know about it already but, yeah, just ask. If they don’t know, tell them that it’s their choice, they’re not harming anyone, it doesn’t matter, and that should suffice for most people. But if they really hate it and they’re saying it’s for religious reasons that we have freedom of religion. We don’t have to follow anyone’s religion if we don’t have to. You can also mention the high suicide rate for people who can’t transition even though they’re trans. [Mom: J, I have a resources page on my blog that you can share with your friend and, like Colin, I strongly recommend PFLAG both for you and your friend. They welcome allies with open arms and have lots of information, both in groups and one on one]

Colin wants to know if anyone would like him to do a blog post himself. He’s definitely willing.

Colin on the dock

Colin sitting at the dock waiting for the ferry to take us back to shore after our cliff climb

A Q&A with Colin…

We’re going away on a camping trip but, when we come back, Colin has agreed to do a question and answer post. So, if you’ve got a question, now’s the time to ask them. So put on your thinking caps and write your questions below!

We, of course, will reserve the right to refuse to answer inappropriate questions and will delete any wildly inappropriate ones. But we’re looking forward to the rest of them.

Colin bringing plants from school

Colin bringing plants home on the last day of school

The comment section…

I remember my first exposure to the comment section. I was reading an article from the Toronto Star and noticed they had comments. I eagerly went to read, thinking it would be like the letters to the editor, heavily moderated and edited for brevity. They were no such thing. People were battling it out in the comments, complete with name calling. Later I realized that was the same for almost all sites. The comment section is where you tread carefully because trolls abound.

Then Emma came out as trans. I joined groups and made friends with both trans people and with parents of trans children. And, of course, articles about trans issues began flooding my newsfeed. And the trolls quickly followed. Once the transphobic trolls are weeded out, I find there’s five questions that surface again and again.

  1. The gender nonconforming girl and it’s always a girl. No men ever step up to talk about their gender nonconforming days *cough* toxic masculinity. She wanted to be a boy so badly when she was growing up. Boys had more freedom. So she wore boys clothes and had short hair. She might have even tried to pee standing up. Then she became a teenager and, voila, she because super girly. Loved lipstick and makeup and pretty dresses. Now she’s happily married to a man. If she was born today she would have been labelled trans. But, no, that’s not how it works. Trans children are almost always insistent and persistent. They know what sex they are and say it loud and clear. I’m a boy. I’m a brother. When will I grow a penis? They don’t just want to be a boy, they are a boy. If she was growing up now, she’d be labelled “gender nonconforming” just like countless other children today.
  2. There’s only two genders! Except there’s not. There are cultures all around the world who have more than one gender. Some have as much as five (the Bugis people in Indonesia for example). In North America, the indigenous people had a third gender known as two spirited. They were revered as wise people because they contained both male and female spirits. Our modern culture isn’t the only culture in the world.
  3. Tagging along with two genders comments are the people who say things like “my XX children are girls”. Maybe they think adding a bit of genetics into their argument will make them sound more intelligent. Pro tip, it’s not working. No one seriously thinks you took your children in for genetic testing just so you could rant on Facebook. There are well more than five genetic variants, with things like single X, XXY, XXX for example. If you haven’t tested your child, you don’t know what their chromosomes are. You could be in for a surprise.
  4. There’s always some who trots out the “My kid pretended to be a dog. Should I have changed his name to Rover and let him eat off the floor?” We all know kids love pretend play. They pretend to be cats and dogs and superheros and princesses… and sometimes an amalgamation of several of those. But there’s a huge difference between pretend play and being trans. Trans children are insistent and persistent. They often become withdrawn and confused because nobody else sees them as the gender they know they are. Some, as young as four or five, try to commit suicide. It’s not a game. Pretend play is fun and passes within a few weeks at the latest. Trans stays. The child might pretend to be cis if they’re met with extreme negativity, derision, or threats of or actual violence but they still know they’re trans and most eventually come out, whether it’s in their 20’s, 30’s, or even sometimes in their 80’s.
  5. Last, but not least, are the people who worry about the children changing their minds. How are they going to revert back? The answer is easy and should be obvious. They start using their birth name again and get a new wardrobe and haircut. Reverting back to their assigned gender isn’t very common however and often the child turns out to be non binary rather than being a cis male or female. The people who ask this question are usually quite uninformed and assume that transitioning to male or female in childhood somehow requires surgery. It doesn’t. No one is performing sexual affirmation surgery on children. That doesn’t happen until the late teens at the earliest.

I will sometimes wade into the comment section of articles and dispense answers, not because I think I’m going to get a bigot to think but because of all the people lurking. The people who know nothing about trans people and are willing to learn, the parents of trans kids, and trans people who are getting disheartened by all the transphobic comments. Besides, even if I only change one person’s mind, it could make a life time of difference to their child.

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Colin, when he was younger, in some of his favourite dress up clothes

 

Things psychiatrists should ask…

I like my psychiatrist. He’s thoughtful and actually listens to what I have to say. That being said, there are a lot of important questions him and other psychiatrists rarely ask.

  1. When was the last time you showered or bathed?
  2. How long does it take you to work up the courage to shower?
  3. Do you eat three healthy meals a day?
  4. Are you emotionally able to prepare a healthy meal?
  5. How often do you leave your apartment each week?
  6. When was the last time you left your apartment, other than for appointments?
  7. How long is the time between washing dishes?
  8. What is your favourite activity? How long has it been since you did this activity?
  9. How much sleep do you get a night?
  10. How often do you wake up during the night? And for how long?
  11. Do you forget things regularly? Have other people commented on it?
  12. When was the last time you cleaned your home?
  13. Are you a hoarder?
  14. Do you remember to take your pills regularly? How do you keep track of when you’ve taken them?

If you have any additional questions for psychiatrists, please leave them in the comments section. I think I had more but I’ve forgotten them.

Kathleen’s introductory guide to trans…

There’s a good chance you’re reading this post because a friend shared it on Facebook and you’re curious. You’ve seen Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation via the media and watched Laverne Cox’s character on Orange is the New Black. Maybe you agree that they’re women or maybe you don’t understand why people think “he’s” a woman. Either way you’ve come to the right place.

The best place to start is with a definition. Transgender simply means that someone isn’t the gender they were assigned at birth. Assigned at birth is a common term in the trans community because, when you get right down to it, that’s what happens. If there’s something between the legs and it’s relatively long, the baby’s a boy. If there’s something there but it’s relatively small, the baby’s a girl. If it’s in between that’s what’s referred to as intersex. There is no biology or genetics done here, just a tired doctor eyeballing a newborn’s genitals and ticking a M or F box.

Sometimes people claim to be using biology as proof that trans doesn’t exist. All that does is prove the person really doesn’t understand biology. Gender is a spectrum; there is far more than xx/xy and penis/vagina. Claiming there’s no more to gender than two sets of chromosomes and genitals is akin to claiming algebra doesn’t exist because it doesn’t mesh with what you learned in grade two math. First, as I said above, intersex exists. Second, gender exists in the brain, not between the legs.

Gender and sex development occur in the womb. At the beginning, all zygotes look the same then they begin to differentiate according to hormones and the embryo’s chromosomes. Noticeable visual differences can be seen by the time the fetus reaches 20 weeks. But gender isn’t visible to the naked eye, that develops in the brain and can be seen in brain scans. To put it simply, the fetus’ genitals release small amounts of hormones which are supposed to trigger a hormonal wash to wire the brain. However sometimes the hormones aren’t detected and either not enough or different hormones wash through instead, wiring the brain with a gender that differs from the visible sexual characteristics.

People use the quote “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” on a regular basis and this goes doubly for gender. If you don’t want to be judged by outside appearances, why judge someone else? Women and men come in all different shapes and sizes (and so does everyone in between). I’m sure everyone’s had an incident where they’ve been told they can’t possibly know something about themselves, that someone else knows better. Maybe it was over something silly like developing a taste for a food you hated as a child and having your Mom refuse to serve it to you. Maybe it was over something serious like having your beliefs or sexual orientation dismissed as merely a phase or some sort of rebellion. There’s a frustration that boils up inside when people claim they know you better than you know yourself… an anger and discomfort at being ignored and patronized… a feeling of invisibility. Now imagine how much harder it would be to have the core of your identity ignored and devalued.

Your sex was the first thing other people defined about you as soon as you were born, usually even before your birth and often before your health. Your gender was the first thing people asked about you as a baby. It permeates every aspect of your life from the clothes you buy to the recreation you enjoy. If you’ve been arguing that trans people are wrong about their gender, it’s time to ask yourself why. Why do you feel you know more about their gender than they do? They know what genitals they have and are probably far more appalled* by them than you are. Isn’t it better to trust them to know such an integral part of their life better than you?

Sometimes when people disagree with being transgender, they bring up irrelevant arguments. Quite frankly, someone thinking they’re a dog is as relevant to an argument about trans people as someone wanting to marry their toaster is to an argument about equal marriage (whether it’s same sex or interracial). Someone thinking they’re black as an argument is a little more relevant since it happened recently. Rachel Dolezal splashed into the media this spring as a white woman who claimed to be black so incessantly that she got appointed the president of NAACP. As usual, the reality was complicated. She didn’t come up with this notion out of nowhere, she has black siblings and came from an abusive family. Rachel isn’t black, she’s a woman struggling through the aftermath of abuse who identifies with the people who supported her in early childhood. Colour really is skin deep. You can’t do a brain scan and determine whether someone’s black or white. Race is based on where our ancestors lived, a melanin umbrella for sun protection. The closer the equator… the darker the skin. Gender, however, can be recognized through brain scans.

I am a cisgender (or cis) woman. To put it simply, when I was born the doctor looked at me and said, “It’s a girl!” and I am one. Meanwhile the doctor told me that Colin was a boy and zie’s not. Cisgender is not an insult unless it’s been shortened to something like ‘cis scum’ and, in that case… seriously? What the hell did you do?

Don’t tell me, I don’t actually want to know.

It’s not a label you can refuse either (unless you’re trans). You can’t claim to dislike this one label when you’ve accepted every single other one. Claiming it’s an “invented word” doesn’t fly either. Is the rest of our language organic and free range? Were the other words all carefully hand picked off the etymology tree? This is a label that will turn up so rarely in your life that you don’t really have to worry about it. Even if you hang out with a bunch of trans people you’re far more likely to talk about phone cases, chocolate, and that amazing new Thai restaurant that just opened up down the street. Although honestly I’m more partial to the Chinese restaurant two blocks over (their homestyle bean curd is so yummy!).

My friends agree that dysphoria is the hardest part of being trans but there’s another difficult part… a whole bunch of misguided comments and cringe worthy questions. I’ve asked a few friends what comments or questions they get, but first I’m going to share a video made by trans activists:

As you can tell by the video, our society has a weird obsession with trans people’s genitals. My biggest tip is just don’t. When was the last time you asked someone if they were circumcised or if they shaved “down there” or you pondered the size of their labia? I’m really hoping the answer to all of the above is never. Give trans people the same respect. Plus let’s stop with the “chopped off his penis” comments. A trans woman’s penis is not cut off (presuming she chose to have surgery in the first place). The penis is very neatly divided and looped around to form a vagina, labia, and a (usually) functioning clitoris. This is done by a well trained surgeon and team, not the trans woman and a pair of scissors.

Alongside rampant discussions and questions about genitals comes a whole other debate. Bathrooms.

Cue the sound of trans people hitting their heads on the keyboard.

For most people, public washrooms are an irritation. Will there be toilet paper? Will the paper sit neat and clean in the dispenser instead of strewn across a waterlogged floor? Will it smell like a circus outhouse on a hot day or an artificial version of roses. Trans people get all that plus the added concern of being yelled at or beaten up and, in some cases, having security or the police called. Simply because they wanted to pee.

There’s a concern that some cis people have that men are going to sneak into the ladies room in drag, pretending to be trans, and rape someone. Won’t someone think of the children?!? This ignores the fact that a) that same man is going to have to walk through the store in drag, which is hardly inconspicuous (I’ve seen people literally turn in place to continue staring at Jeremy when we’re out) and b) there are trans children who need just as much protection as their cis friends and siblings. These fears also conveniently ignore a huge swatch of trans people, namely trans men. If people were forced to go into the washroom of their assigned gender, that means trans men would have to go into the women’s room…

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Yep, he wouldn’t be conspicuous at all

When people argue against trans people using their correct washroom, they forget about men like Michael Hughes. How exactly are you supposed to tell if he’s trans when he’s in the washroom? If a woman is scared of having a man in the washroom with her, I’d think she’d be more upset about a muscular bearded man than a woman who’s in there to pee and (possibly) check her lipstick. For that matter, how are people supposed to tell in general? Are we all to drop our drawers before we enter? Are they going by gender stereotypes? There’s already at least one cis woman suing in the States for being harassed and escorted out of the ladies room for not looking feminine enough.

Plus these arguments ignore one crucial fact. There has not been one single case of a trans person attacking or harassing a cis person in the washroom. Not one. The closest I could find was a case where a couple of young teens claimed to be exposed to a trans woman’s penis while changing for a team event. Not attacked, simply exposed. Plus it turned out that the two girls snuck into a member’s only section of the gym, an area they were clearly told was out of bounds, and then proceeded to open up a closed and private sauna room door where the trans woman and her friend happened to be sitting. Conversely, I wouldn’t have the space or time to write down all the times trans people have been harassed in the washroom from this year alone. It’s not unknown for trans people to suffer with bladder problems stemming from holding their urine for hours instead of using a public toilet. They’d rather suffer from bladder problems instead of being attacked (again). But they’d really rather be safe.

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So not a risk to anyone in the women’s room. Very much at risk in the men’s room.

There’s another act of violence against trans people, misgendering. This occurs when people refuse to use a trans person’s pronouns, instead using the pronouns the person was assigned at birth. Colin is continuously misgendered. Akin to misgendering is the act of using someone’s birth name, also known as their dead name in the trans community. Both can cause a great deal of emotional distress to a trans person, as well as disrespecting the right to their own identity. At least 22 people have been killed this year because they were transgender women. I say at least because some end up being dead named and identified as male. Their names were read at our Transgender Day of Remembrance service this year and an appalling number were identified by the phrase “unknown woman”. Outing someone is an act of violence. Telling people your female friend “used to be male” puts her at risk of being beaten up or murdered. Telling people your male friend “used to be female” puts him at risk of being beaten up or raped. If you have a trans friend that’s great. Don’t betray their trust by outing them so you can appear cool or trendy. Don’t betray their trust because you’re struggling with accepting your new information about their gender. Introduce them with their pronouns and chosen name then move on.

We are all human. We all have hopes, dreams, hobbies, and a burning need to know why Facebook keeps switching to “top profile” (the last one might be just me). Don’t let a label get between you and another person.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them below and I’ll do my best to answer them honestly (and possibly by frantically messaging my friends). This blog is unapologetically a safe place. Any transphobic or homophobic comments are deleted and the person is blocked from commenting. I’ll make allowances for honest ignorance.

* Most, but not all trans people, deal with some degree of gender dysphoria. Some, like my teen Colin, are perfectly happy with their body including their genitals. One of my friends refers to her genitals as “that thing” or “the abomination”. Another friend of mine had to hide sharp objects for fear her daughter might try to cut off her own penis as a preschooler. Many of my friends have posted pictures which show a man and woman on opposite sides of a mirror, while saying that’s exactly how they feel. They feel themselves completely as one gender and it’s continually jarring to have everyone else see and refer to them as a different gender entirely.