Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: agender

Invisibility is my superpower

I’m used to being ignored. It’s a fact of life that people tend to think in the binary. It’s one reason it’s been so difficult to broaden the public consciousness on gender diversity. It’s also a fact that people are territorial. Us and them is pretty much innate (we can argue whether it’s more nature or nurture, but most people feel it to some extent).

I belong to several groups that are outside the binary. I am not black or white. I’m Asian (Taiwanese), so I get ignored when the question of race arises. I’m bisexual, so again, neither gay nor straight. It’s interesting because in the post about trans and gender-diverse people that I wrote about yesterday (at Ask A Manager), there were several bis in the comments (including me) who have said that we’ve  gotten shit from gays and lesbians, and it hurts more than the shit we get from hets.

Side note: I am not happy with the term bisexual, but I don’t like pansexual or omnisexual, either. If I had my druthers, I would call myself sexual and leave it at that. I reall ydon’t like labels (and not in that smarmy ‘no labels’ way), but it’s because I find them constraining. I’m a sloppy, messy person who doesn’t fit into any one category. That’s why I’ll default to the broadest category possible, but still not be satisfied with it.

I’m also areligious/agnostic, rather than an atheist–and I’m certainly not a Christian, I don’t know if there is a god (though I don’t think there is is a Christian God), but at this point, I don’t care. Not in a negative way, but in a ‘I don’t want to think about it any longer’ way.

I have a similar feeling about gender. I just don’t care about it. I had been chewing it over before I ended up in the hospital, and my brain went in many different directions. The reason I started stepping away from ‘woman’ was because of other women. All my life, I had been told that I was not acting properly as a woman.

This included, but was not limited to–not having children (the big one); not wanting children (a bigger one); not wanting to get married; not wearing makeup; not caring about fashion, cooking, or cleaning; liking to climb trees; dislkiking dolls; picturing strangers on the street naked and how they’d be in bed; liking sports; and that’s just the short list. I’m sure some people would put Taiji weapons and video games on that list, too.

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Gender diversity and me

One thing I appreciate about Ask A Manager is that she often has articles from a diverse panel of people. Today, she has a post about how to include trans and gender-diverse people in the workplace, which is relevant to my interests. I really liked Kalani Kaahi Adolpho and Stephen G. Krueger for their thorough and thoughtful answers and because they engaged in the comments. I appreciated that they were honeest that it wasn’t easy and that it wasn’t cut-and-dry.

It was interesting because it only took a couple comments before someone’s comment was blocked. By the comments in response, I can tell that the original poster made some snide comment about made up pronouns, blah, blah, blah. Later on, there was a lengthy comment by someone who said how hard it was to break the habit of calling someone by their given pronouns. She (and I’m very sure it’s a she) talked at length about how she slipped up with her own nonbinary child often. She also called her cis female friend they because something in her (the commenter’s) friend’s demeanor said ‘nonbinary’ to them. She also noted how her child’s presentation was primarily the same as their gender assigned as birth, so that made it harder on the commenter.

When the commenter got some pushback ranging from ‘try harder’ to how she was centering the conversation on herself, she went into victim mode, saying how she loved her child and would NEVER do anything to harm them, but no, she just needed to TRY HARDER. Which, I mean, yes, it’s difficult. My bestie’s child is nonbinary and my bestie is struggling with their pronouns. Made more interesting because their child uses they/(gendered pronoun), but my BFF does not want to default to the gendered pronoun. She confides to me her struggles, but I’m fairly sure she does not tell her child how difficult it is. Because that would be placing undue burden on her child.

Alison closed this subthread and noted that the conversation was not to be around the feelings of cis people. I really appreciated that because inevitably, these conversations turn down that road. I know it’s human nature to try to relate, but if it’s not about you, it’s not about you. There’s no need to make it about you.

In addition, Alison was quietly moderating the post with an eagle eye. She knew that it was going to be contentious, and she was not wrong. Someone who believed names have gender and was quite dismissive about it had their comment deleted. A pedant (who is in love with the sound of his own voice. He’s a regular commenter with a trans kid so thinks he’s an expert) went on at length how all the neopronouns were not going to stick and OBVIOSULY it was going to be they/them that stuck–and only they/them.

Yes, old cis het white dude. You are the one true truth teller on this subject. He didn’t even state is as an opinion, but as fact. That one was gone in minutes. There was another from someone who basically implied that ‘all this’ was nonsense. Gone in five seconds. It really made me feel better about commenting (and one of the authors actually answered my comment!) as someone who is currently identifying as genderqueer/agender. Gender is not important to me, which puts me in the minority. I don’t want to use pronouns, which also puts me in the minority.

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Insidious gender norms

Gender is a hot topic right now and it’s something that I’ve reached an uneasy alliance on. I’ve settled on genderqueer, which, while it’s not exactly what I want, is the closest. That’s my M.O. for many issues, by the way. Close enough for government work.

But, there is much food for thought in the subject, obviously, and it’s having a moment right now. Especially with all the terrifying legislation being crafted such as the Don’t Say Gay bill in Florida. Which, is totally not about being queer, claims the Republicans, which is obvious bullshit.

The thing, though, is that as frustrating and infuriating as those bills are, there is another level of gender bullshit that is more insidious–gender norms on the level of ‘women must wear makeup’. Ask A Manager’s readership is overwhelmingly female. Something like 70-80%. They are also progressive, white, high-paying, and white collar. They are very much feminists, but for whatever reason, there are a few pockets of ignorance or refusing-to-see that just annoy the fuck out of me.

The number one is that anytime a woman or female-presenting person writes about not wanting to wear makeup at work, but worrying that they may be penalized for it, without fail, commenters offer ways to wear a little bit of makeup, but, honestly, it’s not really wearing makeup. Like only foundation. Or only mascara. Which, it’s still fucking makeup! I don’t understand how ‘I don’t want to wear any makeup’ keeps getting read as ‘Maybe you could wear a little makeup?’. I say that, but it’s rhetorical. I know why it’s happening. Patriarchy. The idea that it’s not possible for a woman to have her face be all naked and shit! Horror!

In this case, it was a letter by someone who identified their pronouns as they/them. They work in the luxury beauty industry, mid-level, and have gotten comments about their skin that they find intrusive (including suggestions for hiding bags under the eyes and acne) whenever they go into the office. They are female-presenting and uncomfortable with the idea that they may need to conform to gender beauty norms and asked if not wearing concealer may harm their opportunities at their workplace. They also noted that they don’t like wearing makeup now for many reasons. They just wanted to know if they had to wear concealer when they went into the office.

The very first comment asks why they took that job in the first place whereas the second one uses the wrong pronoun for them. Then there are several comments suggesting tinted moisturizer (!), sunscreen (!!), and other makeup-adjacent solutions. Which…I mean…just, no. They clearly state that they don’t want to wear makeup and just wants to know if it’ll negatively impact their career.

There were a few people pointing out that this was sexist in that men would not be asked any of these questions, even in a luxe beauty industry. Also, that that doesn’t mean makeup and that the OP might not have a client-facing role. Some commenters also pointed out that you can work in an industry without personally using the products.

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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.

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My recent medical trauma has changed me in many ways. None of them are visible from the outside ,but they’re still there. Things such as the pandemic. I was a hermit during the first year-and-a-half due to the intense fear of COVID-19. Not that I went out much in the first place, but I scaled back to only going to the pharmacy once a month. I was so hyper-aware of the fact that COVID was rampaging through the country and I gave it too much thought. I mean, yes, it’s a bad thing, but it’s not the only thing. I can give myself some grace before the vax because it was terrible.

Once the vax was a thing and I got both, I eased up a bit. By a bit I mean I went to Cubs twice (in a month) and my brother and I picked up lunch from the local Thai restaurant once. So it wasn’t as if I had gone wild, but it was three times more than in the last month (I also went to the pharmacy).

Then, I ended up in the hospital because of non-COVID-related pneumonia (followed by two cardiac arrests and a stroke) and suddenly, COVID was wiped from my mind. Partly it was because I was drugged to the gills and not thinking about anything much, really. But also, everyone around me had masks on but I didn’t have to wear one except when I was being transferred from room to room. And, given everything that happened to me, COVID got shoved to the backburner.

Now that I’m out of the hospital, I am still much less concerned about COVID than I was before. Granted, I’m doubly vaxxed so that’s one reason–which is valid. But it’s also that I got some perspective. COVID sucks and is really a strain on our society. However, it’s not going anywhere. We had a chance to eradicate it, but we didn’t. My brain doc agrees that we’ve moved from pandemic to endemic and the best we can hope for now is that it’ll be like the flu. I still mask up when I go out and I’ve been out more than I have in the past (in part because of my doctors appointments)  and I sometimes forget my mask–probably because I didn’t go out much before the hospital.

One big thing that was weighing on my mind before the hospital was my gender identity. I have never felt comfortable with the label ‘woman’, though it didn’t reach the level of dysphoria. It wasn’t ‘man in a woman’s body’ kind of feeling–it was…let me see if I can explain this. It’s going to take some time as is my wont and it goes back several decades.

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