Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: agender

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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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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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 blendering

A note: My internet is being really shitty this week. Every day, it blinks in and out in clusters for about an hour. Then it’s fine for several hours. Then it does it again for another hour or so. This happens two or three times a day. One day, instead of that, there was an actual outage that lasted an hour. Honestly, I prefer that to the blinking off and on. That’s way more frustrating, and I don’t know if it’s my equipment or ComCast’s fault. I know I’d rather blame them, but it may or not be the case. Oh,excuse me. xfinity. 

Note 2: It’s hot as fuck here. 94 ‘feels like’ 102. The last few days have been brutal, and I’ve been cranking the air like nobody’s business. Normally, I have it on 78 and turn it down to 75/76 when I’m doing my Taiji in the morning and before I go to bed at night. In the past two days, though, I’ve been keeping it at 75 pretty much constantly.

It’s not just the heat. It’s been humid as well. I hate heat of all sorts, but it’s even worse when it’s humid. I hate it so much. We’re supposed to drop to ‘only’ the ’80s tomorrow. Which is still bad, but much better than what it’s been the last few days.

Anyway. Back to gender shit. Here’s what I wrote about it yesterday. I talked with my Taiji teacher about it today (we’re friends as well as teacher/student. We have similar history with being ridiculed for the way we woman, but we had a very different response.

I was saying it’s difficult because I have completely rejected almost everything feminine. Not on purpose, but because it’s just not me. We were talking about makeup, and she said that she wears some of it because it makes her feel younger, more awake, and that she’s caring for herself. Which, on a personal level, is fine. But as I tried to explain, when 90% of women in society do that for the same reasons, then it because a societal expectation that is a burden to other women.

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Ignoring gender

More dissecting gender here. Yesterday’s post ended abruptly with me wondering about why men and women couldn’t be friends or could only be friends with strict parameters. All the caveats and warnings about it made me depressed. I have never gave a shit about any of that. Then again, I’m queer. Even though I don’t hang around in queer communities much, that’s one thing that queers have mastered–how to be friends with the gender to which you are attracted.

There is less of a hardline between friends and lovers, which I think is a good thing. It doesn’t need to be so binary. Then again, I’m not monogamous, either. I have no interest in a long-term monogamous relationship. What I really want is a fuck buddy whom I can hook up with a few times a week. Maybe more than one. Set it and forget it.

The thing is that most queer communities are rather small. Especially in places wehre there aren’t a huge amount of us. You’re going to probably have to be chill with being around your exes. And, there’s a reason it’s a trope that queer friends have so many exes in common

When I hear about all these rules that het people set for their cross-gender friendships, it boggles my mend. Even when I thought of myself as a straight woman, I never understood the admonishments that men and women couldn’t be friends.

I mean, I can understand in theory not wanting to cross the lines between friends and lovers as decreed in a relationship. It’s disrespectful if you agree what is and isn’t acceptable in your relationship, then one person deliberately crosses that line. That’s just caring about the person you love.

What I don’t understand, though, is having a complete ban on your partner having friends with people of the gender(s) they are attracted to. It’s pretty insulting to assume that you can’t be friends with people from the gender(s) to which you’re attracted. And, in my case, it would mean that I can’t be friends with anyone.

This is where I get hung up. There are people I want to sleep with and people I don’t. There are people I’m attracted to and people I’m not. There are people I’m not currently attracted to, but may be in the future. There are many things that are inclined to make me more or less attracted to someone, but gender ain’t one.

I’m not saying this to flex. I’m not saynig this to be like I’m above all this. It’s just that…I don’t GET gender. I really don’t. I have checked in with myself over and over again. I like my body. Fuck. I love my body!  I don’t feel body dysmorphia (any longer) or body dysphoria (ever). But I also don’t FEEL like a woman, whatever that means. Every time I try to think about if I feel like a woman, I come up empty.

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More gender rending

I wrote a post yesterday about gender rending. I want to continue on with that today. The reason I want to talk about it is because I kind of have the feeling this is like the kids things. What I mean is that I don’t have kids, I didn’t want kids, and I have never wanted to have kids. I never played mommy when I was a kid because it never occurred to me. I had no desire to do it. Just as I had no desire to play ‘getting married’.

Side note: I have heard that this is supposed to be a thing for young girls–planning your wedding, I mean. I never knew that as a kid because my brother and I were pretty isolated from American culture. We didn’t watch much TV and we certainly did not go to the movies.

Still, I somehow managed to know that I was supposed to get married and have children. My mother embodied all of this to her very being. She had my life planned for me from the beginning.  I was supposed to excel at school, go to college, find a husband in church, then get married and have two children. I did the college thing, but I put my foot down on the marriage and kid thing, much to my mother’s deep dismay.

I did have a crush on a boy from the time I was in first grade until sixth grade, and then various boys (very heteronorm in those days because Idid not know better), but that was more about beingdesperately lonely and wanting to be loved. That was the only kind of love that I knew back then, and now, it’s so far down my list of things to seek out.

Back to my point. I don’t have an innate biological clock. I never have, and I doubt I ever will. When I was twenty, I was with a serious boyfriend. He said that if I got pregnant, he would want me to have an abortion, even though he thought that was murder (he was a Christian). Putting aside the problematic nature of that statement, it actually opened my eyes to something–I didn’t want children. This may sound strange in retrospect, but the elation I felt when I ealized that I didn’t want children was the best I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m not being hyperbolic here.

I did not want children. More to the point, I didn’t have to have them! No one could make me (ideally). I felt this so deep in my soul that as much as my mother tried to manipulate, guilt, bribe, and almost force me into having children, I stood strong. Still the best decision I ever made in my life.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mother’s full-court press to get me pregnant was the beginning of me questioning gender. Not mine, but the concept of gender. It wasn’t until I was fifty that I truly realized that gender, for me, was bullshit.

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Gender rending

Thinking about gender again. I’ve heard from many people that gender is important to them. That they feel their gender in their bones. I know many trans people who have felt misaligned with their bodies, and I find all this fascinating.

I don’t feel gender. Like, I know I’m not a dude. In fact, I internally recoil at the thought of it. Other than that, though, I don’t feel like I am any particular gender.

First of all, I love my body. I used to hate it, but not because it felt like the wrong body. I hated it because of fatphobia and my mother incessantly telling me how gross my body was because it wsa fat. Oh, she never said it in so many words, but that’s what she meant. Believe me. I heard it loud nad clear.

Through it all, though, I did not hate the fact that my body is female-shaped. I always loved my hair and was very defiant about my big boobs. I got a tattoo on my left boob in rebellion of all the staring. “If you’re going to stare at my tits, then I might as well give you something to stare at!”

Even when I hated my body, though, it wasn’t because it was woman-shaped; it was because of how deeply fatphobic our society is, especially for women. I did not hate that I had a female-shaped body, but taht it was FAT.

After I died (twice) and came back, I did a 180 on my body. It had carried me through death (twice) without a word of complaint and nary a hitch. Yes, I was in a coma for nearly a week and awake but groggy for a week agter, but then, it was right as rain. Three months after the night of the medical crisis, my parents went back to Taiwan. By that point, I was nearly 100%. Or rather, as close to being back to normal as I could get.

At that point, I was positively intoxicated with my body. About a month after I got out of the hospital, I took a series of selfies (and I’m someone who NEVER takes selfies!) with my hair in all kinds of cute hairstyles. Chun-Li buns, two ponies that were then braided, one pony that was then braided, etc. Even with the Chun-Li buns, they were braided. I have hair down to my mid-thighs, so just ponies means the hair is still hanging down. It’s summer. It’s hot. I hate the heat. I need to have my hair up. That’s true now, but at the time when I did the selfies, it was autumn. So my excuse for my hair then is that I hate anything touching me–even my hair. I don’t hate my hair, but I hate it on my neck. I’m really glad I have very fine hair because it would be such a pain if it were thick and full at this length.

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Hit me gender one more time

More on that gender train. All aboooooard! Read yesterday’s post for more context.  Here’s the thing. In my ideal world, gender would be as important as the person wanted it to be. In other words, if someone deeply feels their gender, then that would be respected. If someone didn’t care about gender, that would be respected as well. I’m someone in the latter category, and I would be happy just to float by in life and never have my gender be commented on.

It’s not about ignoring my gender, exactly. Well, I guess it is. But it’s because in most cases, my gender is not important to what is going on. It’s hard to explain the difference. I was  not ashamed of who I was when I defined myself as a woman. I just was startled when someone felt the need to point it out. Either as a ‘hey ladies’ kind of thing orjust wanting to talk about ‘us women’. The latter wasn’t so startling when I identified as a woman, but the former always annoyed me. It’s an in-group versus out-group mentality. The former is inclusive whereas the latter is othering.

It’s interesting. On Ask A Manager, there are a bunch of women who prefer to be genderless at work because they are in male-dominated industries. That’s why they balk at adding their pronouns to their email signature. Some also use their intitials rather than their names, and while it makes me sad, I understand why they do it, and I agree with it to a certain extent, but if there wasn’t sexism or gender-based expectations…well, then it wouldn’t be this world, would it?

That’s such the issue, and it’s with everything. My idealistic side says, “Why can’t we just treat people as they are? Why do we have to treat them differently because they’re ____ or _____ or ____?” Which is ridiclously naive. Of course we are going to treat people differently based on our perception of the categories in which we slot them.

I talk about heuristics a lot. In part, it’s beacuse I love the word. But in another part, it’s because what are we if we don’t have them? We cannot take each instance that occurs as separate and without context because, well, ain’t nobody got time for that. In addition, it’s useful to make connections where there are some. Plus, groups are stronger than individuals, which is why it’s good to have labels in general. But, personally, there just aren’t any that really feel true to who I am.

It’s always a question of ‘good enough’. I remember when I first realized I was attracted to men and women (thirty years ago, it was just those two categories), I thought long and hard about what I wanted to call myself. I didn’t like any of the options, so I reluctantly defausted to ‘bisexual’.

This is my life. I have a mania for precision and truth because my parents have always been fast and furious with reality. My father just saw things through his lens which never lined up with reality. My mother retconned everything so that if she didn’t like the way it made her look. She would forget it ever happened, which drove me crazy. I started questioning myself because she would blatantly refute something I knew happened.I used to think she was lying or in denial, but recently, I saw this happen in real time. My father chased her into the living room, shouting at her. She was crying, and it just got uglier from there. I stepped in, raised my voice at him, and pretty much shut it down.

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Gender again

Back to gender once again! Yesterday, I was complaining about Whataboutalism and how baked into our society it is. Oh, but maybe it’s not sexism. But maybe it is??? Today, I’m going for a different angle. The angle I call–what is gender anyway? It’s a personal angle, though there are other people who feel the same way. I want to say, as I always do, that this is just for me, personally. It’s not a statement about gender in general. I understand that most people feel their gender to varying degrees and that is important to most people. With that out of the way, I’m going to get into it.

I do wish I felt a gender. I wish I could say with confidence that, yes, I am a woman. I can’t, though, and I never have been able to. My next wish would be to be fine with not feeling strongly about a gender.

Let me rephrase. I know I’m not a dude. Wishing to be one because of discrimination is not the same as feeling that gender. I know I’m not a guy, but, man, life would have been easier to be a white cis het dude. With money. Yes, just in general. It would negate the negatives I deal with while keeping the positive I already have (money).

But that’s not going to happen, so let’s just toss that out. I’m not a guy. I don’t feel like a guy. Moving onto nonbinary. In theory, this is where I should feel comfortable. Nonbinary, genderfluid, genderqueer. I like confusing people about my energy. Masculine? Feminine? Androgynous? I’m hard to put in a box, which is exactly how I like it.

Twenty years ago, I would have been thrilled to be called androgynous. But I did not look androgynous, genderqueer, or genderfluid. To the untrained eye, I look like a woman. I have huge boobs, curvy hips, finally got junk in the trunk, and my hair is down to mid-thigh.If you only hear my voice, well, you’d mistake me for a guy. But if you saw me, you would assume I was a woman.

Which is tolerable, but not ideal. I’ve read several people who have said that they are fine with other people calling them the pronouns of their at birth gender, but they did not want to claim them for themselves. This is how I feel. I have said this myself. I don’t mind (much) when others call me ‘she’. I don’t mind (much) if someone calls me ‘they’. But I don’t feel connected to either. I don’t like the neopronouns for me. I just…am Minna. My brother of all people said, “You just want to be called Minna.”

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The gender divide

More musings about gender. Yesterday, I was talking about my confusions as to the concept. And, how I got along better with guys when I was in my teens and twenties than I did with women. I mentioned how it was so much a cool girl thing. “I’m not like the other girls.” I would make fun of other women when the guys did, and it felt good to be in on the inner circle. It took me many years to realize that I was there on sufferance. As long as I laughed at the silly girls, I was accepted. If I stepped out of that narrow confines, then I would have been one of those silly girls, too.

Here’s where it gets more complicated. Most of my interests are coded as male. From a young age, I had have been told constistently that I am too loud, too boisterous, not feminine enough, etc. As I said in the last post, much of this came from my mother. I should not sit with my legs uncrossed. I should not run. I should not climb trees. I should not, should not, should not.

As a young girl, it seemed to me that there was so much I could not do as a girl. That’s why I wanted to be a boy. Not because I thought I was one, but because I envied the freedom they had. More accurately, that I thought they had, but it’s the same at that age.

I had no interest in makeup, clothes, dolls, cooking, or sewing. When I was a kid, i got picked on all the time. All I wanted to do was read. I read for hours so I could escape the world and my life.

In tandem, my mother was a firm believer in her kids learning things all the time. Very much a tiger mom in mentality, though she did not push it as far as other Asian moms. I took dance classes from the time I was two until I was twelve. I took piano lessons for a few years, and then played the cello from age eight until eighteen. I played t-ball and softball while a youth and teen; tennis and table tennis recreationally. We went to summer school every year as well.

I’m not saying all of this was bad, but I will say that it didn’t feel great not to have any choice in the matter. Same with things like  going to the State Fair every year. I hated it. My brother loved it. We had competing issues, and she chose to placate him over me. I can understand it now, but it doesn’t make it better. To be clear, my brothe in probably autistic and I’m very sensitive to noise, crowds, etc. I hated going, but he loved it. Since he was a terror as a kid, she did whatever she could to get him to shut up and ignored my distress. She definitely treated us differently based on our gender, which did nothing for my depression issues and my non-existent self-esteem.

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