Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Gender Issues

Free to be me?

I’ve been talking about gender a lot lately. Why? Because I don’t get it. I say this with zero snark. Every time I hear people talk about gender, I feel like I’m listening to a foreign language. Follow the way my brain works. I’m going to be as honest as I can be here. Which means that it might be uncomfortable to read.

Other people say that they feel their gender deep in their soul. That being a man or woman (in this case, the binary) is a core part of their identity. People who are nonbinary also feel this deep in their souls. I have heard so many people talk about their gender and how important it is to them.

Whenever I think about my gender, I try to concentrate on what it is, and I get–nothing. I know I’m NOT a man, but as for woman or nonbinary, I mostly just shrug and say, eh, maybe? I’ve used this analogy several times. Being called a woman is like wearing an ill-fitting raincoat. It’s going to keep the rain out, mostly, and it fits, mostly. But it’s uncomfortable, and I’m going to take it off as soon as I can with a sigh of relief.

I don’t mind if other people call me a woman or want to connect on that level (we women, we’re sisters, etc.), but it’s becasue I’ve had similar expenciees. I am coded as a woman and I look very much like a woman is expected to look. I have hair down to my hips and I’m very curvy. VERY booby. And I love my body (now). I’ve never hated my curves, even when I hated my body in general.

I’m very comfortable in my body now. In a large part because it saved me from dying. Twice. Literally. But even at my most “I loathe my body” time of my life, I never hated the boobs, pussy, hips, or ass. Well, mourned the lack of ass, but that’s different than hating my body in general. Also, I can thank Taiji for giving me an ass! Ian has confirmed (very diffidently) that I do have one now.

Other people calling me she doesn’t bother me. Being called sir on the phone (which ALWAYS happens because I have a double alto voice. About as low as possible for someone who is AFAB) does not bother me. I used to be called sir when viewed from behind because I wore a black trench coat and had very short hair (this was on campus for college), and that did not bother me, either.

To be clear, I am not a guy. But I don’t care if someone calls me sir. It doesn’t bother me, even though I don’t identify with it. I am fine (sort of) being called she/her, but I would rather not be. And I will not call myself that. Though I have by mistake.

If I had my druthers, I would just ignore gender. It doesn’t matter at all to me except as to how others treat me. That’s the biggest thing about gender for me–it causes people to view me through a certain lens. Because I’m AFAB and LOOK like a woman, that’s how I get treated.

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Inertia is not my friend

I have said several times that one of the reasons I chose Taiji is because it’s the lazy martial art. My teacher told me this in the first few classes I took. It’s about exerting as little energy/effort as possible for the maximum output. It spoke to me because I’m lazy. Or rather, it’s really difficult for me to make myself do things–even things I want to do.

When K used to live here, We would go out roughly once a month–usually dancing. We would set a time and I would drag myself to her place right on time. But it would take me a half hour to talk myself into getting up and getting dressed. Then, I would sit and watch her for half an hour as she dithered over what to wear. Usually, her husband would finally tell her what to wear, and she would reluctantly put it on. He has great fashion taste, by the way.

Finally, about forty-five minutes after the time we were supposed to get going, we’d leave. she would drive us to where we had to be, and I would get the drinks from the bartender–even if I didn’t want one (I had one a night). This is one reason we’re such good friends–we complement each other. I hate driving; she loves it. She hates getting drinks from the bar; I don’t mind at all. When we went to dinner, we’d split the tab equally and she would pay the tip because she had drinks and I did not.

I have said to her repeatedly that we will be at the same old person’s homeand heckling the other inmates. She laughed, but she knows it’s true. Or maybe not because we’re the opposites when it comes to environment. She grew up in Miami. I am Minnesota born and bred. She’s happiest when it’s over 80. My sweet spot is freezing and below. Though, to be honest, since perimenopause, she has preferred lower temps. And for me, perimenopause has made me actually have chills.

Anyway! We have talked about how difficult it is to get going, even when it’s something we want to do. I think that’s another reason we work well together–because we both understand that overcoming inertia takes a lot of energy. We both like just sitting on the back porch and chilling (used to smoke. Don’t any longer). We don’t even need to talk. That’s the thing I like best about being with her and Ian. With both of them (separately), I can just be me. I don’t have to perform. At all.

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Unmasking and taking off the bra

I don’t wear a bra. Ever.

I think I might have autism.

Bear with me because I think these two things are related. Tenuously, maybe, but related, nonetheless.

I also think I have OCD traits. This, too, is related.

Let’s start with the bra thing. I hate clothing in general. It all feels so restrictive and I am allergic to manydifferent kinds of fabrics. Hell, I’m allergic to so many things in general. Let’s go over them, shall we?

Almost every fucking flower/weed under the sun. So many of the manmade scents–almost all of them, too. The last time I had the allergy test where they infect you, I mean inject you with all the different allergens in your thigh, like thirty diffreent allergens, my entire thigh blew the fuck up. It became one giant boil, basically.

I also didn’t know when I used to get allergy shots as a kid that they were injecting me with poison. It was so utterly miserable. My arm would swell up every time, and I would be hot and miserable. And, again, I had no idea what was happening. If someone had actually told me why they were poisoning me, I would have been able to deal with it better.

And did it work? No. I still have allergies. I used to envy my brother for not getting the shots. I found out a few years ago it was because his allergies were too far gone for the shots to be considered effective. Ironically, his allergies are pretty much gone now while mine are just worse.

I’m allergic to mosquito bites. To gluten. To lactose. So many allergies (none life-threatening) to so many things.

Let’s get back to bras. I hate them. I have always hated them. I had a traumatic fitting incidence that left me in tears. It also made me hate my body even more than I did. I found that fitters telling women* to wear really fucking tight bras that crushed your ribs was common, which was what I went through. I wore 38 D. They told me I should wear 34 DD. It hurt like fuck. When I said I ended up in tears, I meant it literally. And I will never, ever, EVER allow a bra fitter near me again. Even if I were to go back towearing a bra. Which I won’t.

Ranodm fact: There was a study that showed people who did not wear bras had perkier boobs than those who did, but that was not conclusive. On the other side, there is no conclusive evidence that wearing a bra keeps the boobs perkier, too. And because there is so much push for women to wear them, I always feel compelled to stand up for the other side.

Even if boobs sag, so the fuck what? If there is no medical problem with it, then who the uck cares? Also, if there is no pain. Look. If someone wants to wear a bra, I am most emphatically not going to stop them or lecture them about how they should free the boobs. I would just appreciate the same courtesy in return. But the fear that they project as they frantically defend the bra is amazing. And tiring. Just chill the fuck out, ok?

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Menowhat? Menopause!

Roughly three years ago, I started having what I thought were menopausal symptoms. Before I get into that, let’s talk about periods. People understand them very little in general, and what is seen is that women get them every month for a few days. The symptoms include cramps. That’s about it. This was what I was taught in sex ed forty years ago, and I dearly hope it’s changed since.

What has been my actual experience with my period? It started when I was nine. I was wearing white jeans and, yes, the result was horrible. I could not wear tampons comfortably, no matter how ‘ultra-slim’ they god. It hurt. It was uncomfortable. I was always aware i was wearing one. So I quit. I started using pads and what a relief. I never went back. Yes, at first it felt like I was wearing some kind of weird diaper beacuse they were so thick and bulky. But over time, they got thinner and thinner, and now, they are barely noticeable.

In addition, I have never had a problem with my period. I almost feel bad about admitting this because so many people with periods have such a rough time with PMS. But, here’s my reality. I got my period every third or four months for three days. It was light on the first day, medium to heavy-ish (never truly heavy) on the second day, and almost nonexistent on the third. I had to carry pads with me almost all the time because I never knew when I was going to get my period. My only sign was a coppery taste in my mouth and my boobs were tender.

That’s it. If my period had been on a regular timetable, I would have no issues with it at all. Oh, and when I was having sex, it was much more regular, but still never once a month. It was more like once everythirty-five to forty days.

When I was getting my period three times a year for three days at a time, I asked my doctor if I should be concerned about it. I mean, I had had it hammered into my mind that I was supposed to get it once a month. I was supposed to get cramps, terrible mood swings, and want to eat my weight in ice cream. None of that was true. I barely even noticed I had it.

Then, a few years before I ended up in the hospital, I started getting it every month but extremely light for like two days. Then it went away completely and just when I thought it might actually be menopause, my period would show up again. I figured I was in peri-menopause and shrugged my shoulders.

Then, about six months ago, I started to get my period every few months. Very light for the most part, but one day, it was heavy (for me). And just when I thought it would never come back, it did.

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I’m always not a woman to some

When I tured twenty-six, my mother commented that she had my brother at that age. I had nothing to say to that so I shrugged and dismissed it from my mind. Quitck backstory. I realized when I was tewnty that I did not want kids. Like, definitely did not want them. I had never been that sure about anything in my life. Ever. Not before and not since. It came down like a message from the angels above, and I shouted out, “Hallelujah!” Ok. No. I did not do that. But the relief I felt when I realized that not only did I not want kids, I did not have to have them, was immense. I can’t describe the weight it lifted off my shoulders.

Before that, i just assumed that I had to have them because that was the culture I grew up in. The Taiwanese culture, I mean, though it was backed up by the American culture, too. Women were nothing if they did not get married and have children. It was what they were born (and bred) to do. We were chattel and cattle, and more than one person referred to my birthing hips when I was in my twenties. Excuse me. Not person–but woman. Because it was only women who pushed me to have children, who nagged me about not having them, and who tried to make me feel selfish for not having them.

It was never men. I emphasize this because women are often the worst when it comes to upholding the patriarchy. There are many reasons for that, but that is not the point of this post. The point is that the fifteen years I was pushed to have children, mostly by my mother, is what planted the seed that I was not comfortable calling myself a woman.

My mother actually said at one point that it did not matter if I wanted children or not because it was my duty as a woman to have them. Think about that for a minute. Let it marinate in your mind. I was supposed to put aside my personal feelings and procreate because that was my express purpose as vagina-bearing person. That was what my mother was saying to me. That’s pretty horrifying if you think about it.

Oh. the one exception to men not pushing me about kids–when it came to the question of an abortion. More than one man I’ve talked with was firmly against it. One was a Catholic guy (claimed liberal) who said that if a woman ‘played’ then she should have to ‘pay’. Which was another terrible way to view parenting. It’s a punishment for your sins. That’s literally what he was saying. He claimed it was the same as if you were skiing and broke your leg. You had  to deal with the broken leg. I pointed out that ‘dealing with a broken leg’ did not include leaving it broken and saying, “Well, I broke it, so I have to keep it broken.”

I mentioned that if  iwere forced to have a baby, I would probably kill myself to get out of it. And the fetus would die with me, so two entities would be dead. How was that any better? He said that I could get a note from my doctor in that case. I said why should that be necessary? Why should I have to prostate myself and reveal my mental health issues just to be able to do what I wanted with my own body?

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Feminists are not the ones who hate men

I was talking to a friend recently about the oft-repeated canard that feminists hate men. It gets spread around by the Republicans (and the Tories in her case) that we feminists are just grim-faced, no-fux, sexually-frustrated women (because in their world, only women can be feminists) people who hate the mens.

I have always, and I mean always, claimed that it’s the men  who said that men are dogs who hate men. I mean, listening to these men talk about men, it’s really quite horrifying. “Men are dogs who can only think about sex. They have no sense of autonomy to say no to a pussy that is in front of them. They are just hapless victims to their raging libidios. Boys will be boys, you know. You can’t expect them to act like decent human beings.

Which, I mean. If this is truly the case, then they should not be allowed in polite society. One of the things that we should be able to expect (yeah, I know) in a civilezed society is that someone who acts in a way that is threatening or harmful to others should not be allowed.

I love men. Not all of them. Not even most of them, but there are plenty of men I love–or at least, like. In many ways, i get along better with men in general than with men. My interests tend to run more masculine (typically) than feminine, and I have had so many women question my womanhood.

I will say, it’s more circumspect than in the past. These days, no one is flat-out saying that you HAVE to think about fashion and makeup to be feminine, but there’s still covert implication that this ist the case. There was a time when I was in my thirties that I thought maybe it was finally going to be ok to be a woman who didn’t wear makeup, care about fashion, and discarded the bra. But, no. We’ve done a full double-down on you have to wear makeup, a bra, and care about clothing to be a woman.

It’s interesting how many women say they don’t care if other women don’t wear makeup, but for them it’s X, Y, and Z. I view that in the same way I feel about women who say it’s fine if other people are fat, but not them. And there’s nothing like a woman who’s maybe five pounds overweight going on and on about what a whale she is.

Let me be blunt. If  you (general you) go on and on about how you feel so ugly or whatever without makeup on, I am going to make inferences about how you feel about makeup-less people in general. Which, fine. But it’s not gonig to make me feel warm and fuzzy.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. I like men. A lot. One of my best friends is a man. The other is a woman because I’m balanced like that. I expect men to be better than they are, which is to my detriment at times. Here’s the thing. I don’t see them as dogs who are driven by their instincts and cannot control themselves. I believe that they can be friends with women and not try to get into their pants. Am I giving them too much credit? I don’t think so!

When I was in college, I had many male friends. The guy I was dating at the time told me that all my male friends wanted to get into my pants. I accepted that at face value at the time, but looking back at it, I think he was wrong. And it wasn’t a very nice thing to say to me. It was pretty dismissive of me as a person for one and of the other guys in general.

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Gender! What is it good for?

I’ve been thinking more about gender. In part because I am writing a novel for NaNoWriMo that has an agender protag and a nonbinary love interest. Partly because I’ve been talking about it with different people. It’s just fascinating to me that of the four women/female-adjacent people I’ve talked to (five if you include me) all have similar feelings about being a woman (it doesn’t have to have a rigid definition), but the resultls have been very different.

All of us agree that society has put too much emphasis on A WOMAN MUST BE X, Y, Z, and is harsh on anyone who does not fit that very narrow build. It’s depressing to me that in 2023, we still haven’t made as much progress as I had hoped. When I was in my mid-to-late twenties (a quarter of a certury ago), I got hounded about not wanting children. I was taken off-guard because I had mistakenly thought that it was just a personal decision that had no effect on anyone else.

I was naive. Oh, I was so naive. It should have been that way, mind. It shouldhave been as unremarkable as me saynig that my hair is black or that I like Taiji weapons. A lot. Ok, that latter one has caused some distress as well, weirdly, also related to gender. When I talked about Taiji weapons while I was still on Twitter, the responses I received were divided sharply along gender lines.

The men wanted to fuck me. It was clear that they found it really sexy. I mean , at least one if not more sent me pics of sexy women with weapons in movie clips. I’ve read female cops say that they had the same issue with men. There were those who were immediately turned off, yes, but there were other men who were extremely turned on by them being cops.

On the other hand, women were shocked and appalled that I was ‘so violent’. One went so far as to say she never would have thought it of me. There was nothing I could do to convince her that I wasn’t violent, that loving the weapon forms wasn’t inherently violent, and that my love of the weapon forms was not unseemly.

I get it. My teacher and I have talked about how she (and her teacher before her) would have to talk men down in terms of, “You don’t have to go a hundo all the time, and ease up on the muscles.” Men are taught to always be on edge, to have to one up, to overpower their opponents (and problems). Women, on the other  hand*, are slammed hard if they step out of their lane. “Be nice” is so prevalent, and the cost for breaking that edict is swift and harsh.

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Removing gender from the equation

One frustrating things about isms is how pernicious and pervasive they are. In addition, people will make constant excuses why what they do isn’t sexism or is somehow benevolent or benign. (Speaking specifically of sexism. When it’s racism, it’s usually how they didn’t mean it that way or they didn’t mean you. Also irritating and exhausting, but in a different way.)

I remember reading a comment section at Slate before I self-banned myself from reading the comments on that site. It was about sexism and there was a guy who said that he held the door open for his female friends, and he was not sorry about it. Now, presumably, if they’re his friends, they don’t mind (though perhaps they just don’t want to make a fuss. If it were me and it was just a casual friend–liek a friend of a friend situation, I would internally roll my eyes and ignore him). But if he’s doing this for random people or people at work (and I think this was a letter about the latter? I don’t remember. Wait. Was it Ask A Manager? I don’t think so. Not that it matters).

He could not be talked out of his position that this was a nice tihng he was doing for these women. No matter how much he was grilled on it by the other commenters, he doubled down on it being respectful. I think he even said that was how he was raised. When it was pointed out to him that there were many women who were pointing out that they didn’t find it respectful and would not want him to do it, he kept repeating that he was doing it to be respectful.

He could not get it in his head that if the recipient of his gesture did not find it respectful, then it wasn’t, indeed, respectful. It’s surprising how many people don’t get that. Personally, I hold the door for anyone who is within five feet of the door when I get there. I don’t care about their gender. It’s just polite. But if someone were to make a big fuss about it because they were male and perceived me to be female, well ,then we would have an issue.

With this guy I mentioned (I’ll call him Eric because that’s the name he used), he made it clear that he did not do this for his male friends. In addition to being old-fashioned, it’s just weird if you’re in a group of friends and you only hold the door for some of the people and not the rest. Would he do that for, say, black people and not white? Highly doubt it. The excuse that it was considered respectful fifty years ago doesn’t hold water at any rate beacuse things change. Customs change. Would he also not give a job to a woman because she is  supposed to be at home taking care of her children?

And what if he doesn’t know the gender of one of his friends? Does he ask them? Or just assume? I would be annoyed as hell about it. Like I said, if he was an acquaintance and it was a one-time thing, I probably wouldn’t say anything. But I would definitely demote him in my mind.

He kept repeating that he was being courteous and gentlemanly (or something like that). Which showed that he was more wedded to the idea of looking good than actually being good. Not that he would look good these days for that kind of behavior–at least not like it was viewed fifty years ago. But how very white male of him. what he thought as a man about how he terated women was more important than how actual women told it made them feel. He didn’t care if it was actually respectful of the women he was purportedly saying he was treating with respect.

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Agender as default

More on gender. But a quick note first. My internet was not the problem–it was my keyboard. Apparently, it was fritzing out so it was hitting the internet availibility button without me knowing. Then, it died completely. The keyboard, I mean. I am so hard on them. They’re supposed to last BILLIONS of keystrokes, and then they die in less than a year. I don’t think that’s keystrokes, though. It’s probably because I eat near my laptop and shorted the USB cable on the keyboard. Fortunately, I have my desktop keyboard until my new laptop one arrives.

Since I figured it out, I have not had any issues with my internet, knock on wood. I also talked with Xfinity and restarted my machine, too, so at least one of those things did the trick. Probably a combo of all.

I maundered on more about gender yesterday. Today, I’m going to maunder some more. Then, I’m going to call it a day and move on for now. Not really, obviously, but I’m getting tired of thinking about it. This is how I end up on almost every identity issue, by the way.

I (not-so) blissfully go about my life not aware of why I feel so weird, but acutely aware that I don’t fit in. Ever since I was a little girl, I was unhappy in my own skin. I had no idea why, but I just wanted to crawl out of it. I would have clawed it off if I could and if it would have mattered, but that wasn’t possible, obviously.

I didn’t know why  I was a freak; I just was. It took me decades to realize that my parents were not interested in American culture at all. Well, my father wasn’t, and my mother did whatever my father wanted her to do. Sometimes, begrudgingly, but in the end she always gave in.

In this case, my father was very much nationalistic Taiwanese. He was for the Taiwanese Independent Movement, and I remembered marching on the streets of St. Paul for the cause. I firmly believe that he would have went back to Taiwan as soon as he got his PhD if it weren’t for my brother and me. The fact that he went back right after I (the younger one) graduated from college was indicative that he was only here by force.

He had no interest in American culture. Not the food or the pop culture or anything else. He only wanted Taiwanese food, Taiwanese entertainment, and Taiwanese friends. We went to a Taiwanese church, and that was all the interacting he did outside of work.

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Gender fatigue

If I were to be completely honest, I wish I never had to think or talk about gender again. I don’t care about my gender. At all. I don’t think about it other than in context of politics. What I mean is that, sadly, gender is not simply personal.  It would be nice if it were, of course.

Yesterday, I wrote about how to separate the personal from the political–and how difficult it is to do that. Like, each individual woman saying she chose to shave because she did not like the feel of hair on her legs/armpits and because she did not like the reaction she got isn’t a big thing in and of itself. But when the majority of women respond in that way, then it becomes societal expectation.

When my Taiji teacher said that she wore lipstick and mascara or whatever because it made her feel younger, like she was taking care of herself, and more confident. But, men don’t do that and aren’t expected to do that,  so it’s inherently sexist.

The thing is, though, that we all do things that are part of the patriarchy one way or the other. You can’t escape it being a part of this society. Just like we can’t help being racist, queerphobic, and any other ism that any society has. In my case, I have hair hdown to my mid-thighs. That’s very feminine, and I’ve had more than one person comment on it positively. I’ve had short hair before, and I did not get compliments when I did.

In addition, I used my boobs to get drinks in the past and had no qualms about it. I don’t think showing off my ass…ets to my advantage is a bad thing. I don’t know where I draw that line.

I’m naive in that I keep hoping that people will just take each other as they are. I know that people won’t stop judging (I can be very judgey myself), but in the end, if something about a person doesn’t affect you, then why care?

I really don’t get why someone’s gender and/or sexual identity affects anyone other than themselves or whomever they may choose to be with. Me being bi (ugh. I really should find a better word for it) matters why? If you’re not someone to whom I am attracted, than why do you care? Unless you’re just mad because I’m not attracted to you, but that’s not my fault.

I do not get why my gender and sexual identity matter to anyone. Or my lack of procreation. Or me not being married. Or me not being religious. I mean, I get it on a surface level because people are very much about themselves and in-groups. But on a personal level, I don’t get it because who the fuck cares? What I do or don’t do does not affect anyone but me. I mean specifically in the case of whether my gender is female or not, it doesn’t matter to my daily life.

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