Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: gender identity

Gender-blending

I am a woman. Or am I? I’m not a man. That’s for sure. Am I nonbinary? Maybe, but that doesn’t really feel like me, either. As always, I just want to sigh and walk away when I think of gender. Introspection is great, but there is a limit to it. Or at least there is when you do it all the time as I do. Introspection is my default and I need to remind myself that I don’t have to do it all the time.

It’s funny to me to read articles about how to get in touch with your feelings and such because it’s automatic for me. I’m a little fuzzy on my positive feelings sometimes, but everything else? I’m on top of it. There’s a thing in Jungian psychology that you need to examine your shadow side in order to be whole. For most people, that means looking at the not-so-nice side of yourself. Your flaws, your shortcomings, etc. As for me, I’ve always been comfortable with my negatives because I was smacked down if I ever showed anything approaching confidence. I actually thought I was good at something? How dare I! I was a piece of shit, and I should never forget it. It wasn’t explicitly stated when I was a kid, but the undercurrent was clear. Only my father was allowed to shine.

Oh, but at that time, I also wasn’t allowed to show any anger, depression, or anything negative, either, because, again, only my father was allowed to feel bad. See the theme? Only my father was allowed to feel anything. As a child with big feelings, it was hard to always have to stuff them down. I was a weirdo from the start and I never had any friends at school. For some of the reasons I was shunned, I can’t blame them. I knew nothing about pop culture and I was Asian. I ate ‘weird’ foods and my mother dressed me in handmade clothing that definitely didn’t reflect the fashion of the time.

I realized that I was going to die when I was seven. Other horrible things happened at that time and I fell into a deep depression. By the time I turned eleven, two things happened–my mother had designated me her confidante and poured all her marital woes into my ear (which she still does) and I became suicidal. These two things were not directly related, but the former certainly did not help the latter.


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Not even a maybe baby

So. I have written many times about my confusion over my gender identity. It’s never been that I feel like a man, though I have wished to be male many times in my childhood. It wasn’t because I felt like a boy, but because I hated being a girl so much. It was so limiting and frustrating. I had to wear dresses. I couldn’t run, scream, or climb trees. I had to sit with my legs crossed and giggle demurely rather than throw my head back and guffaw boisterously. I mean, I did all those things, anyway, but I got so much shit for it from the aunties in the Taiwanese church.

I felt there was something wrong with me, for so many reasons, but not fitting my gender was a big one. When I was in college (so in my early twenties), I realized that I didn’t want kids. I don’t remember exactly how, but it just came to me while I was talking to my then-boyfriend. More to the point, I realized I didn’t have to have them. That sounds silly, but it as so ingrained in me from two societies (American and Taiwanese) that I HAD to have them, that I was merely a breeding cow (how I honestly felt) with no ability to make my own decision. It was the main purpose of my life, I was told by my mother, both overtly and covertly. So the realization that a) I didn’t want them and b) I didn’t have to have them blew my mind. The second I realized the latter, a feeling of intense relief washed over me. I can’t tell you how elated I feel. It was as if a weight was lifted from me and I could fly.

I have never felt that at peace about a decision in my life and it’s still the smartest realization I’ve had about myself up until this point. It’s funny because I’ve had people tell me that I would have been a good mother or hurry to tell me I’m wrong when I said I would have been a terrible mother. Whether I was right or wrong (I was right, by the way) isn’t really the point. The point is that I felt that way, so why try to push me to do something I thought I would be shit at and that I clearly did not want to do? But, no. People couldn’t accept that or the fact that I didn’t want to be a mother–and that it was not a judgment on their choices. Let me be painfully clear–it was women. Men didn’t ask or care, but women were all up in my repo business.

I was so fucking naive at the time. I thought I could make this decision and not have it be a big deal. After all, who did it affect except me? Wrong. I cannot tell you how much shit I got for that decision. I promise you I was not running around saying, “Thank god I’ll never whelp me any brats!” I never brought it up unless someone asked me when I was having children (not if, mind you. When). I’d just say I wasn’t having them and assume that was that.


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The pronoun predicament

One of the way allies are encouraged to be supportive of trans/nonbinary people is by putting their pronouns in their email sigs.  I’ve seen this subject come up from time to time on Ask a Manager. Almost every time, nonbinary folk and trans folk point out that it’s not helpful to people who aren’t out yet. In fact, it can be harmful. They usually get ignored or talked over, which is a shame because they’re the ones who are actually affected by this.

I have another perspective as someone who is not nonbinary or trans, but also not…binary? Is that the right? I’m questioning my gender identity, I guess is the best way to say it. For now, I’m leaning towards redefining ‘woman’ to mean what I want it to mean rather than ditching it completely because I identify most closely with it. I am not a man. I’m sure about that. I don’t feel like a woman, exactly, either, and don’t identify with ‘she’. I’ve written about that ad nauseam as well. However, I feel more affinity with women than men because of shared experiences and my history of being perceived as a woman. For now, I am provisionally neutral about being called a woman. I would prefer to not bring it up at all, but that’s not always possible.

But I get caught out when it comes to adding your pronouns to your email sig or to your Twitter bio or what not. I get that it’s meant to be supportive of trans/nonbinary people, but it just increases the invisibility I already feel. I have this issue with being Asian because we don’t exist in America, apparently, when it comes to racial issues. I’m not trans. I’m not a man. I prayed to God to make me a boy when I was a kid, but that was because I got so much shit for being me while being female, not because I actually felt like I was a boy.

I’m not a guy. Check. This is how I do everything, by the way, by crossing off what I’m NOT and seeing what’s left. It’s not a great way to figure out what I am, but I don’t really have anything that I am to relate to. Back to gender identity. I linger over nonbinary because that feels like it should be the one for me. But, for whatever, reason, it doesn’t quite feel right, either. I don’t care for they/them in describing myself. I just don’t. I don’t like any of the neopronouns, either. She/her is like…at least I recognize those pronouns. They don’t feel like me, but they’re not completely off, either. Like the dorm room I lived in for a year. It’s temporarily home, but not permanent. And I’ve outgrown it.


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Family dysfunction is getting old

I talked in my last post about two letters I’d read in Care & Feeding (Slate), one right after the other. They had to do with highly sensitive people and how parents/grandparents reacted to them. The third and fourth letters were about gender identity and closely related.

The third letter is from a mom grieving as her daughter transitions from M-to-F. She was happy to embrace her daughter, but sad to see the son she took care of leave. She was honestly struggling, which was better than my mother when I came out as bi to her. I don’t know why I did given what I know about her, but I thought because she was a psychologist and because she was supportive of my cousin coming out as gay, she would be at least neutral about it. I should have known better; I really should have. When I came out to her, she said, “But you used to like boys so much!” At the time, I told her that I still did, but I liked girls as well. Now, I’d say that gender wasn’t important to me when choosing a partner or that I welcomed partners of all or no genders. My mother also made the tired old ‘next you’ll be wanting to have sex with animals’–I don’t know WHY sex with animals is always next–comment. In other words, she was not understanding at all. I dropped it because it was clear she did not want to talk about it. Years later, I mentioned something again about liking women and she said in a dismissive tone, “Oh, I thought you were over that.”

I introduced my first serious boyfriend in college to them. It was dinner. My father could not have cared less about meeting my boyfriend and I could tell my mother didn’t care for him. She wasn’t wrong, but they could have at least made an effort at the time. After that dinner,  I vowed  I would never introduce a partner to my parents again, and I haven’t. They are also a big reason I never wanted to get married and have children. Not only because they were a very bad example on both fronts, but also because I did not want to subject a loved one to their venom. I knew if I had kids, my parents would warp them the way they did me. My mom was so desperate for me to have kids (which was a mindfuck all by itself), she said she’d move back here to take care of them. As if that would be an incentive for me to have kids! Even if we were close, having kids to make her happy would be a stupid idea. In addition, it’s not even true. She likes the idea of being a grandmother more than she actually likes being a grandmother. She moved away after my niece and nephews were born and only comes back once a year (before the pandemic, of course. It was twice a year for some years, but then tapered off to a month in the summer–even though it was supposed to be six weeks–and all of this before the pandemic. And when she’s around the grandchildren, all she does is ask them stilted questions and basically ignore them. She complains about them every time she sees them, which again, remember, was maybe two or three times during the four weeks they were here. This time, my father said he was embarrassed that they had been here two weeks and not seen my sister-in-law and my brother’s kids. When they had been here for two months. And they could have seen my brother’s family; they chose not to. When they went on a cruise with my brother’s family a few years ago (I put my foot down for once and refused to go because I knew I’d be miserable. I hate being confined; I hate groups of people; I hate being with my family. Yeah, that would have been a recipe for disaster). I asked them how it went when they came home. They complained for a half hour about the boys (my nephews) misbehaving. The same thing happened when my brother took his family to Taiwan many years ago (again, I refused to go). I got to hear all about how one of my nephews misbehaved.


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Gender-nending

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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The word for today is apathetic

I’ve been thinking about gender lately for obvious reasons (it’s in the societal zeitgeist at the moment), and where it ends for me personally is the same place it ends for me on many issues. A massive shrug, a loss of interest, and a sense of frustration because nothing quite gets to the heart of matter.

I’ve done the same thing with religion (not a theist or an atheist, uneasily call myself an agnostic), sexuality (not gay or straight, reluctantly labeled myself bi), and to a lesser extent, ethnicity/nationality (not Taiwanese and not American, so I guess Taiwanese American).

Now, it’s gender. Here’s my thought process on gender. I’ve always felt like I use woman by default because it was my gender at birth. I hated it when I was a kid because I was told there were so many things girls weren’t allowed to do. Climb trees, for example. I used  to pray to a god I didn’t believe in that He (yes, a He, of course) would turn me into a boy as I sleep. I also prayed He’d give me blond hair, which was the result of being an Asian kid in a white suburb of Minnesota in the ’70s.

I don’t want to be/think I’m a man. I want to make that clear up front. My issues with ‘woman’ are more because of the societal expectations than the actual equipment. I mean, I don’t love my boobs (way too big and distracting), but I don’t hate them, either. They’re just there. I accept them much like I accept my legs. I mean, I love boobs in general, but I’m indifferent towards mine. I do find it amusing how much attention they used to get (alternating with annoyed), but I’m meh towards them on the daily.

I used to pride myself on messing up gender expectations. I’ve lesbians inform me that they didn’t know where to put me on the butch/femme spectrum (yes, I’m that old), which always made me happy. I’m not androgynous but more a mishmash of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ traits. Physically, I look like a woman. Long hair past my ass, big boobs, wide hips, etc. Yes, I’m been told I have good birthing hips. That always made me laugh heartily because I knew from my early twenties that I most emphatically did not want children. Vocally, I sound like a man. I get called sir/mister on the phone all the time. The advice from my father when i was fifteen on how to get a boyfriend was to raise my voice a few registers and let them beat me in games/sports/fix my car/whatever. I am inordinately proud of myself for retorting that I’d rather be single than do all that bullshit which had no effect on my father (he’s a narcissist), but at least I stood up for myself.


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