Dating while Non-binary

Griffon doesn’t know about the genderqueer thing. I’m still not really confident enough to discuss it. I keep thinking that maybe I’m wrong. Or appropriating the title. Or maybe it’s just a phase or an idea that I’ve twisted around. Maybe I shouldn’t talk about it, just in case. These ideas are on my mind, but every time I quiet my insecurities down and actually think about my experiences and self-image, I know that I would be lying to  say that I’ve ever fully identified as female. Maybe I will someday. Just like how someday I might stop being attracted to women or develop a sex drive or decide that I want to create tiny humans in my torso. It doesn’t seem likely, but I can’t deny that it’s possible. And that possibility shadows any potential conversation.

Plus, Griffon is a heterosexual man. I don’t think he’d stop being attracted to me if I told him that I’m non-binary, but I can’t really predict what it would mean for our relationship. Obviously he’s not captivated by traditional gender expression, since I cut my hair short and wear men’s clothing and forego make-up (except on special occasions). From my perspective, not much would change, I’d stay the same person with the same habits and hobbies, except I’d be able to wear my binder sometimes. From his perspective, I have no idea. Honestly, I don’t even feel like I have a comprehensive understanding of gender. I don’t feel particularly tethered to any gender, there’s no gender that I find particularly attractive, all the nonsense about gender roles and expectations has always seemed pointless to me. I’m not trying to seem particularly “enlightened,” in fact, I feel the opposite. Knowledge that comes easily to so many people seems totally beyond my grasp.  As such, I feel completely unqualified to guess what telling my heterosexual male partner that “I’m not *really* a “woman” per se, at least, not all the time,” will mean to him.

Relationship-wise, I don’t like feeling as though I’m hiding things from my partners, and I know they don’t like having things hid from them. Functionally, I want to be able to wear my binder without feeling like I have to change out of it to be around him, lest I  accidentally blindside him into a conversation that neither of us is prepared for.

Relationship post

So I’m sort of dating people? Like, multiple people? I’ve tried looking through a couple of polyamory blogs for help with seeing the future and avoiding unnecessary drama, but they kind of skew towards really heavily sexual relationships. Which is great! I mean, I don’t want to sound like a massive downer about sexblogs, it’s just that blogs about what to expect when it comes to having sex with multiple people don’t help a whole ton when you’re on the asexual spectrum. So I’m pretty much going in blind.

Disclaimer: I’ve already talked to all the real-life people involved about everything I’m about to write and gotten their permission to write about it on the internet. Nobody needs to worry about advising me to tell my partners about my emotions, they already know. Believe me.

I’m not sure how to tell this story, so I’m doing it in parts in no particular order (chronological, I guess?).

1. Griffon: I dated this dude for about three and a half years and we broke up a few months ago. It was nobody’s fault, I just sort of realized that I had needs that weren’t being fulfilled by the relationship for reasons that neither of us were capable of fixing. Basically I didn’t think I could marry him and be happy. It’s difficult for me, because that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to end a relationship. Without getting into too much social conditioning and psychology stuff, let’s just say that it’s taken me until this point in my life to learn that wanting to break up is a perfectly valid and acceptable reason to break up. I keep having to remind myself that it’s okay to have certain things you really NEED relationships to ultimately do for you. I have always planned on finding a partner and marrying them because I wanted to spend my life with them, and if it doesn’t seem like the committed monogamous relationship I’m in can give me that experience, then it is not the relationship I want. Which makes it all sound so easy.

2. Slyph: I met a girl through the internet a while ago. We have most of the same interests and she likes me a lot and I like her back. She lives really fucking far away and we’re both poor and can’t afford to travel. I haven’t been in a lot of relationships, but all of them have been mostly long-distance. I hate doing that. It’s incredibly painful and difficult for everyone involved and it puts so much strain on the relationship. Also I haven’t been dating anyone and I’m a very physically affectionate person, so this is sad for me.

3.I asked Griffon if he was okay with an Open Relationship/Friends Who Also Make Out situation, which he said he was open to the idea of trying. I talked to Slyph about it and she is super cool and understanding about it. I don’t really know how to explain. We aren’t dating, technically, because we live really far apart and pretty much communicate entirely over Skype, but I really like her and I don’t really want to get seriously involved with anyone else if there’s even the slightest chance that this might happen someday. Maybe this will change, maybe it won’t. I am not a fortune-teller.

4. Pulling no punches here: I’m still in love with Griffon. I never felt any need to stop being in love with him, I guess. No one did anything wrong or intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. We get along really well, stayed friends, and kept hanging out, and he’s a really fantastic boyfriend (seriously), we just aren’t a great match romantically in the long-term. It’s kind of hard to get “I don’t love you anymore” out of that mix. This is probably the stupidest part of this entire thing. This is the part that makes me ask myself how I don’t see what a bad idea this is.

Pros/Cons

Of the situations, not the people, calm down, I am not that petty. Or stupid, Slyph reads this blog. Hi bb!

I feel more inclined to get into the negatives, but that’s more because I want to explain was I was not expecting and the challenges than talk about what I already knew was going to happen. I don’t want it come off as if the negatives are far weightier than the positives, they just take more explaining. I mean seriously, I get all the talk/text/phone conversations I want with people I love! And also backrubs. How can you not love this?

Pros re: Slyph –

We have the same interests for the same reasons, we share similar worldviews, we can have discussions about opposing views without arguing, she makes me laugh, and did I mention pretty? Seriously, she seems like the kind of person I could really fall for. She called me on my birthday to sing to me. It seems like such a silly sentimental thing to get hung up on, but if it’s an indicator of how much silly sentimental stuff would be involved with dating her, then it is a very good sign indeed. I can tell her anything, she loves to hear about my life and my thoughts, I can send her stories without worrying (much) about how stupid they are, she fangirls over things with me and gets excited about my accomplishments, she’s open and supportive and wants me to be happy, and I am honestly excited to tell her about things, even inane details about my day. If it’s interesting to me, it’s interesting to her, if it’s important to me, it’s important to her. Even if it’s only interesting because I’m interested in it, or important because it’s affecting me. This is a big deal! Hopefully I convey some percentage of all this back at her. I think I must, because she keeps liking me.

Okay I sort of went into personal pros instead of situational pros.

Cons: She lives in fucking Narnia. I don’t think I can do another long-distance relationship. At least not long-term. I can’t see a path in which we live anywhere near each other for years, and again, we are both broke as hell. Visiting might be an annual occurrence, and that’s a terrible and barely viable basis for a relationship, especially one that’s just starting out. Also, I don’t know what dating her would actually be like. I don’t know what, if anything, positive or negative, I’m projecting onto her and not legitimately observing. We just don’t get enough time. I don’t know how she deals with relationship things. I don’t know how she’d handle me sobbing on her about godknowswhat at 3 am. And this is a legitimate concern when it comes to dating me. I have some social anxiety and I tend to bottle things up and then have horrible breakdowns about what pretty much amounts to nothing. Or generally something that could have been resolved with a non-crying conversation at a reasonable hour. I have emotions. And it’s selfish and childish to heap responsibility for hand-holding me through them onto my partner, but that’s one of my flaws. I feel like I’m a total nightmare of a girlfriend. For what it’s worth, my sources say I am wrong about that.

Pros re: Griffon –

I believe I already stated that he is a fantastic boyfriend. What with the aforementioned backrubs. I like him a lot, and I enjoy spending time with him. What I’m really enjoying about this relationship is that I can let go of all the relationship anxiety I built up over the course of dating him. The vast majority of the time, I can focus on the here and now. I like him, he likes me, I’m happy and being around him makes me feel good. I really enjoy that I can have that without freaking out about where this is going and what do I want and this particular second isn’t exactly perfect, what am I doing with my life? It turns out that those are fairly common parts of being socially anxious and depressed, so even if that doesn’t make me feel better per se, at least I feel like less of an overemotional freak. Relaxing and enjoying what I have right now is exactly what I want, and when I can do that, I’m so blissfully happy that it feels like I must be getting away with something somehow.

Cons: If I may be so bold as to dispense some advice, readers, don’t start casually dating someone you once planned to marry. It’s really not the greatest idea. :\ Like I said, I love Griffon. We have an established boundary that I’m not allowed to tell him that. Not in those exact words, but that’s the effect. For some reason, that boundary makes all the issues I have with this arrangement much, much worse. It’s a perfectly fine boundary, and I don’t want to make him uncomfortable, so I have to deal. It’s just that, and this is a difficult thing to be honest about: being in a relationship with someone where you get to have everything you used to have except for the part where you got to plan for the future and say you’d be together forever… it really, really fucking hurts. It really hit me when we had the Can I Say Love To You conversation. I never saw myself as someone who could deal with Friends With Benefits/Poly for pretty much this exact reason. Also I get really stupidly awkwardly jealous but that’s a post for another time. I don’t like thinking about the end of relationships. I don’t think anyone does, but it’s difficult for me to even be with somebody if I don’t know if we have a future and knowing we don’t is heartbreaking. I really wish I could approach this relationship with the kind of appreciation poly people seem to have. That idea of “you could be seeing other people but instead you choose to be with me.” It’s a beautiful sentiment, but I’m not sure I can adapt to that. When we hit the bottom line, we’re talking No Strings Attached, and as much as I’d like to be that girl, I love my strings. I love talking about the future. Not having that hurts, and that’s the entirety of it. Well, there’s also the uncomfortable fact that he still feels like he could be happy spending his life with me. Which is amazing in itself, but painful because that means I could have him if I chose to, and I’m still not choosing to, even though part of me wants it so so bad. Maybe I’ll try to coherently explain why we don’t work as a couple another time. Right now all I’m saying is that I know the future does not include us being together, and that fact is painful.

To end on a lighter note: Cons of the whole relationship – I have nothing to call these people. For Slyph, “friend” isn’t descriptive enough, “crush” sounds unrequited, “girlfriend” implies more than what is actually going on… Conversely, calling Griffon my boyfriend implies more than what’s going on. I’m rather partial to “ladyfriend” but there’s no male equivalent. “Gentleman caller”? I am in an open relationship that is both sexless and I’m technically dating no one. What is my life.

ETA: WordPress suggests I add the tag “unnecessary drama” to this post. I’m not sure I like your tone, website.

I just bought my first binder

[Trigger warning: descriptions of gender dysphoria]

I live in the Bible Belt. I managed to get through two middle school “sex ed” courses and two high school classes all about having babies and raising babies without even learning the term “vulva”, let alone learning about gender expression and sexual orientation. It’s not surprising that it took me this long to find out that I’m not a complete freak. When I was growing up, there were two sexual orientations, Straight and Gay, and I was lucky to have that much. Thinking back, my high school was surprisingly progressive, we had a handful of Out gay kids and a transvestite that nobody dared mess with. Granted, he was a drag queen built like a linebacker, and he only showed off his femwardrobe in public once, but damn. Still, I was a bit of a loner and a lot insecure, and I really didn’t know what was wrong with me.

In the last year, I’ve come out as asexual, which is a huge relief as it was my biggest area of confusion, and I’ll probably talk more about that later.

When I was growing up I thought I was trans. I didn’t have the vocabulary to identify it, but I thought I had to identify as one gender or the other (because of course there were only two) and I was not 100% comfortable as a woman, so maybe I would be happier as a man. I never talked about it to anyone, and generally it wasn’t an issue, because I just kind of accepted that I was never going to be happy purely female and went on with my life. I’ve always been a tomboy. I had more guy friends than girls, I liked playing sports and hiking more than gossiping and makeup, etc. I sound like I’m stereotyping, but seriously, you should have seen the kids at my school. Eventually I found less “girly” girls that I identified with, but I never really felt like I belonged in their groups, many of their shared experiences were foreign to me, and many of my issues were alien to them.

It wasn’t until very recently that I learned about gender dysphoria, and even more recently that I realized that’s what I was experiencing when I was feeling betrayed by my body and out-of-place. I’m not trans, I’m sure about that. I’m not a man, but I’m not a woman. I’m uncomfortable with both labels, it’s just that when I was younger, I didn’t realize that there were more options. I really like the term genderqueer, and I feel like it describes me, but I also worry about appropriating it. I’m comfortable with female pronouns, and I have come to actually like my body (to varying degrees depending on the day). These are luxuries that many who identify as genderqueer do not have. I’ve hesitated to enter into genderless, genderqueer, or androgyne spaces because I feel like I am too at peace with my body, and I would be an unwelcome and overly privileged voice.

But

I have days where I feel unquestionably female, and days where I am equally male. I have spent most of my life hating myself for one reason or another, and much of that self-hatred was directed at my body. It’s hard enough growing up cisgender, but going through puberty with no idea who you are or what you actually want your body to look like is a living nightmare. Some days I would wake up and be too curvy, too soft, too feminine, and then I would turn around later in the same week and not be curvy enough, no hips, no breasts, too broad-shouldered and, my jaw was too wide. When I got my first period, I was so disgusted with myself that I cried in the bathroom and spent most of the day locked away. I may be comfortable with the state of my body now, but it was a long road to get here.

I have reached a point where I feel comfortable with the term genderqueer, at least in my own head. The thing is, I’ve been spending some time with various communities (LGBT+, genderqueer, asexual, feminist, social justice), and all that has taught me that it doesn’t matter what the accepted definitions are. I don’t fit into the most widely understood or accepted boxes, and that doesn’t matter. Despite what my teenage self thought, ‘finding myself’ doesn’t mean changing myself to fit labels, it means changing labels to fit me. Of course there are still boundaries to this, appropriation still exists and it’s important to understand what that means, but I can be Queer and Ace and Panromantic and Non-binary and GQ all at the same time, and the only person I need to justify all of that to is myself.

I bought my first binder today, because to me, being comfortable with my body and myself doesn’t mean presenting as female at all times. I’m comfortable with myself because I am comfortable changing myself to fit my self-perception, and I’m adult enough to understand that this won’t always work well for me. I know I’ll likely always be perceived as female, no matter how short my hair or how flat my chest or how baggy my clothes, but fuck society’s perception. I realize how privileged I am to be able to say that, and I am so thankful that I live in a place and time where I don’t have to force myself to conform.