Underneath my yellow skin


I was talking about my relationship with gender (none) in the previous post and I want to continue that discussion here.

Being in the hospital changed me for life. One reason was because of the total loss of privacy. I had a team of 2-to4 people 24/7, and one of them was checking my vitals every four or six hours. I don’t remember which. It felt like four hours, but in reality, it was probably every six hours. I had to wear what was essentially a diaper with a tube up my ass to collect my poop. A few days after I woke up, they started guiding me towards the commode/bathroom when I needed to go. I tried to do it on my own once, which was disastrous. I won’t go into details, but I got blood on the floor (I was on my period. Hey, I lost all body squeamishness in the hospital). When I finally called in the nurse, she looked at the scene and sighed. She said she knew I was a strong independent woman, but maybe press the button the next time. I felt really bad about that one–but I did actually make it to the toilet!

My point for bringing all this up is that I had issues with my body and gender before going into the hospital. I’m not going to say that everything vanished after that incident, but I lost a lot of those issues during that two-week hospital stay. To be blunt, I had strangers handling my parts of my body that have not had another human being’s touch in a decade. I had strangers literally wiping the shit from my ass. Men, women, and maybe nonbinary people. I didn’t know or care when they were helping me on and off the toilet.

They were helping me in a way that’s so intimate when I was at my most vulnerable. They were all professional (which you hope for, but is, sadly, not guaranteed), but more than that, all but one treated me with compassion. They used language like ‘Let’s give you a boost’ both literally and metaphorically, without a hint of condescension or weariness. As I said,  they were helping me as I was shitting, which is a very vulnerable time. They never made me feel like I was a bother or that they hated dealing with my excrement. They treated me like a human being, with dignity and compassion.

I mentioned the one exception and in his case, it was just my impression that he considered it his least-favorite part of the job. Which, fair! I wouldn’t want tot wipe someone else’s ass, either. But, he never treated me with disdain or contempt. He was fast, efficient, and thorough–which is all I want in an ass-wiper.

After that experience, a lot of my body issues disappeared. Yes, my body is fat, but it does what it’s supposed to do. I just had my heart doc appointment and he said that my heart was just as strong as any other ‘young’ person (I’m considered young to have had a cardiac arrest). In other words, I’m not in any more danger than anyone else to have another cardiac arrests. Which, good. Two is enough for me.

And my gender qualms disappeared as well. As I said, men, women, and perhaps people who are nonbinary took care of me 24/7. I had no choice in who would be wiping my ass and as I said, they all did it well. It made me realize that gender really is bullshit in so many ways. It didn’t matter in the taking care of me, for which I am eminently grateful.

After I got out of the hospital, gender really dropped down the list of things for me to worry about. Even now, when I think about it, I can’t muster up the same intensity I felt about it before my medical trauma. I’ve used ‘she’ for me with only the mildest of flinches. It’s still not something I choose to use for myself more often than not, but I’m not mad at it, either. I don’t identify with the label ‘woman’ exactly, but I’ve decided that instead of throwing out the label, I’m going to do what I’ve been doing all my life–not giving a fuck about what the label is supposed to mean and redefine it to mean what I want it to mean.

In other words, I don’t act like a woman? Fuck you, I do, too. If I’m going to keep the label, then I get to define what it means to mean. This is something I’ve tried to do all my life, but at this point, I truly don’t give a fuck what others think. I died. Twice. Do you think I’m going to care about something as silly as what other people perceive a real woman should be?

When I was in my twenties and decided I didn’t want to have children, the women who got the angriest were the ones who were most mired in tradition. They had children because it was what they were expected to do and they were angry at me for questioning the status quo. Why? Because it held a mirror up to their face and they didn’t like what they saw in that mirror. They had gone along with the status quo because they didn’t realize they could do differently or they were too weak to buck the tide. I realized much later that the problem wasn’t just that I decided not to have children–it was that I had the audacity to think that I was allowed to make that choice. People who unthinkingly follow the rules don’t like it when others break said rules because they feel it isn’t fair. Well, I never agreed to play by the rules and I don’t like those rules, so fuck it!

This is not revolutionary or groundbreaking thinking. It’s actually trite in a way, but it’s a big thing to me. I’ve had gender issues all my life because of the disconnect between what I felt and what society demanded I be/act/feel as a woman. I reject all that. I am a woman–provisionally–so therefore, what I do is what a woman does. You don’t like it? I don’t give a fuck.

Side note: When I saw my heart doc on Monday, he brought up again that I had cracked him up when we talked in the hospital a few days after I woke up (which I didn’t remember). I asked what I had said that cracked him up. He said that he was running down what had happened to me as he always did. I said, “So does that mean I died?” He said yes. Apparently, I looked at him and said, “That’s so fucking cool.” That’s what cracked him up, which is better than offending him!

My point in bringing it up is that it shows that I’m strange. I’ve always known this, but it’s nice to have a life-and-death example of it. It also shows that I’m funny and that I like to swear. Both are big parts of my personality. Well, the latter had been slowly weaning itself out of my vocabulary, but I’ve reclaimed the word fuck lately. And it’s a really good word.

My heart doc also told me that I’m in good shape for what I went through. Both he and my head doc have expressed amazement at me coming out of my medical trauma basically intact. By the way, I cannot thank my medical team enough for the care they’ve given me. Not only in keeping me alive, but in treating me with compassion and humanity. I have been impressed by the consistent high quality of care from all my team members–and I’m thrilled at the diversity. Different genders, races, ages, and sexual orientation (I know at least one of the women who cared for me was in a same-gender relationship). It was beautiful to see and reassuring to a fat, old, Asian queer like me.

My point is that I am keeping the label ‘woman’ and  fuck anyone who doesn’t like it. I still will probably avoid pronouns as much as possible because I’m more agender and apathetic about gender than anything else, but I’m not going to put too much energy into it, either. If other people want to use ‘she’ for me, I’m mostly fine with that. If It happens in a situation where I’m not comfortable with it, I’ll bring it up. Otherwise, I’ll roll with it.

If I liked ‘they/them’ or felt any affinity for the terms, I’d use that instead. But, I don’t. I don’t feel an affinity for any of the pronouns. I’ve said this before in terms of sexual orientation in that I picked bisexual/bi because it’s the least offensive to me, but I have no attachment to it. I hate pansexual and omnisexual and bi is not as wince-inducing. I would prefer just to use queer or sexual, though, rather than bi, but I don’t want to contribute to non-mono-gender sexuality assumptions. Basically, I’m attracted to whomever and it has no basis on what genitalia they may or may not have. Who I’m physically attracted to can be different from who I’m mentally/emotionally/intellectually attracted to.

When it comes to gender, this is what I’ve decided. I don’t want to think about it any longer. If people want to think I’m a woman and call me she, I’m not going to fight it most of the time. It’s not exactly how I see myself, but I’m not mad about it, either. I am most definitely not a man and not a he, but I’m somewhere in the middle. And I know that I could technically call myself nonbinary, which, fine, but I don’t feel any affinity for that term, either. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter that much to me.

I’ve been having fun with my hair since getting out of the hospital. I can’t wear it in my usual bun atop the head for reasons, so I’ve been experimenting with hairstyles. I did the Chun-Li buns atop both sides of my head for a bit, but it’s hard to sleep on those. Currently, it’s a medium-high pony that’s braided, which is a lot of fun. I’ve had more interested in fiddling with my hair since getting out of the hospital, but it’s for more practical reasons. I had an open sore on the back of my head, maybe from lying in a hospital bed, motionless, for a week. I needed to air it out to let it heal, which was why I stopped doing my usual high bun. An additional bonus is that my hair doesn’t get nearly as tangled now.

In addition, I have my new funky glasses that I would never have gotten before my medical trauma. In April, I bought a floral deep red tunic for Ian’s Zoom wedding. It’s way out of my usual wear zone and definitely feminine. The funny part is that I have done all of this without really being into more girly things. It’s just fun to do. I’ve been thinking of changing up my hairstyle again just because. I didn’t deliberately think, “Let me do more typically feminine things”–I just did them.

And you know what? It’s been fun! I get frequent compliments on my glasses and I’ve had more than one person exclaim over my hair now that I don’t keep it wound atop my head. And I’m ok with that! That’s another weird thing. Before the hospital, I was rabid about not having my picture taken for many reasons. Now, I don’t care. It’s still not something I prefer doing, but I don’t go to great lengths to avoid it, either. It simply doesn’t matter any longer and you know what? I look good with my glasses!

There are so many new truths I have to deal with since getting out of the hospital. It’s not been easy, but it’s also not unwelcome. It’s a bit disconcerting how decades of stress over an issue can disappear overnight, but I’ll take it. As for my gender, this is who I am. Female-shaped, but not quite a woman. No pronouns–just me. Take it or fucking leave it.

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