If those of us who felt like we don’t belong stopped trying, the world would lose something beautiful that it desperately needs.
I have been suicidal for as long as I can remember. My earliest childhood memories are of wanting to open the car door on the freeway. I knew from an early age that I did not belong. I was different. I could not explain how or why at the time and there are still things that I cannot explain that make me different, but I have a deep, persistent, aching feeling that I can never belong in this world.
There are days when I wonder why I keep trying. I consider all my options and ask myself why I should stay where I am and continue trying to live this life. There have been a lot of suicides in the news over the last few years. More people of prominence, that are well-known and adored by family, friends, and fans, are taking their lives. And it makes me wonder, why not me? I have thought about suicide all my life. Why should I stay when others are leaving?
I have come to the conclusion that people who don’t belong are more needed than ever. It is in this turmoil and drowning world that those of us who are drowning internally are most needed. We know what it is like to lose everything. We know what it is like to hurt in ways we could never explain. We are experienced in ways that others are not. We see things in ways others do not.
I recently watched “Tomorrow Land” and thought that if there was a satellite making our thoughts dwell on our impending doom, it would make sense to want to “abandon ship” by leaving this world behind. But I wonder if instead, we can be like the girl in the movie who saved the world by believing that it could be changed. We can consign ourselves to our fate. We can leave. We can stop trying so hard. But… What if we didn’t?
What if the ones who didn’t belong just kept not belonging, but stopped pretending? What if we just let people know we don’t belong? I know it is not easy to tell someone to stay when everything in them is ready to leave, but… We’re needed. The ones who don’t belong are needed. And maybe that is a reason to stay.
There are a few things that I hardly ever speak about or write about because they are simply not culturally acceptable. Sometimes that means they are not acceptable in society at large, and sometimes it means they are not acceptable to my immediate culture surrounding me on a daily basis. Homosexuality, gender dysphoria, and sexual attraction are all things that are not culturally acceptable for me to talk about here, or anywhere else really.
I avoid these topics for a few reasons. One reason is that this blog posts directly to my personal Facebook page. I made the difficult decision to do that a few years ago because I realized how much people don’t talk about the hard stuff, and I wanted them to. I wanted to not feel so alone in what I was feeling. So I decided that if I wanted to see this, I had to start doing it.
I do not know how many of my friends know about my mental illnesses, disorders, or feelings toward gender or sexual attraction. I do not know who will read this today and learn something about me that I never would have told them in person. This puts me in an incredibly vulnerable place, but someone has to do it. Someone has to talk about the hard things to make it easier for others to talk about hard things.
So… Here it goes…
I read a post on Facebook that said sexual feelings are from God so we should not be ashamed of them. Since this was a post on a religious page, someone then asked why churches can discriminate between homosexual feelings and heterosexual feelings if they are all from God. How can we say that homosexual feelings are not from God if we believe heterosexual feelings are from God?
I don’t believe we can. I do not believe that we can honestly say that attraction in any form is unnatural, an abomination, or any other form of condemning language often used in religion to denounce the practice of homosexual behavior. If sexual feelings are from God, you cannot say that the direction of those feelings negates that statement.
However, believing that homosexual feelings are from God does not necessarily mean that acting on those feelings is sanctified by God. God gives us certain desires or tendencies that may or may not be for us to act upon. I have had depression for as long as I can remember. I have had the desire to die for as long as I can remember. I do not believe God wants me to act on this desire. However, I do believe that I should not be ashamed of this desire because it does come naturally to me.
We have a tendency in society, and often even more so among church members, to judge feelings as bad or people as bad for having these feelings. If you express natural feelings that are not common place or considered socially acceptable, you can be shamed, isolated, and abandoned by those around you. I do not think anyone should be ashamed of their sexual feelings. Whether you are attracted to the same sex or the opposite sex, the feelings that come naturally to you are not anything to be ashamed of. Again, that doesn’t mean you should act on these feelings (either heterosexual or homosexual) because there are bounds that have been set. But I believe that we need to break out of the mindset of being ashamed or shaming others for their natural feelings and inclinations.
I do not have sexual feelings naturally. Thinking about kissing or other sexual touching is not something I enjoy, and my body has an adverse reaction to sexuality in any form. Does this mean that my sexual feelings (or lack thereof) are not from God? I cannot believe that to be true. I believe that God has given me these feelings for a purpose. I do not know that purpose, but I do know that it has helped me to better understand those around me and that it connects me on a more spiritual and emotional level with those around me rather than a sexual or physical level.
Because I feel no sexual attraction towards another person, I am more emotionally attracted to them. I feel the desire to get to know others because I feel their hurt or their goodness or their love or potential. I want to get to know people because I want to connect with them on an emotional level. I want to share their burdens and partake in their capacity to feel joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. I want to be friends with people because I like knowing and experiencing how others feel.
This makes me a good listener. It makes me more understanding of others. It makes me more compassionate when someone is hurting. It also makes life harder in some ways because I am more emotionally involved with others so the potential for emotional damage to myself increases. And it makes it harder to desire to date or find a companion because most people want a physical connection in romantic relationships rather than just an emotional one. In fact, romantic hardly seems like an appropriate term for me because how much romance is there if there are no sexual feelings?
The point of this though is that I believe we need to stop labeling thoughts as good or bad or people as good or bad for having certain thoughts or feelings. People are often quick to judge someone who does not fit their standard of normalcy. But if you believe that we are all created equal, that we are children of God, and or that God is no respecter of persons, I feel it is a contradiction to condemn another person for feelings that come naturally to them. We need to make discussing natural feelings normal if we ever want to understand how people feel and why they do the things they do.
I don’t talk about transgender legislation. I don’t talk about my feelings about gender or sexual orientation mostly because it’s controversial. I avoid conflict or even the very thought of conflict. And in general, I avoid conversations with people.
But today I’m going to talk about a specific topic that I cannot get out of my head. Bathrooms. I have always hated public restrooms. Not because of cleanliness or noise or lack of privacy, but because they are almost always gender specific.
There is a boys bathroom and a girls bathroom, and you have to choose which one to go into. For most people, it’s a pretty obvious choice. You simply go into the one that fits you without even thinking twice. But for someone who doesn’t fit, it’s like choosing between depression and anxiety, you don’t want either one but life might just push you into one anyway.
The worst is locker rooms. There is no privacy in locker rooms. And even though you go into the locker room that correlates to your body parts, you can never feel comfortable changing where you don’t belong. Even though I was threatened with detention every day I changed in the bathroom of the girl’s locker room, I still did it. I would rather be punished every day than be exposed every day.
For as long as I can remember, I have wished that there was another option. I wished that there was a middle ground where you didn’t have to choose between boy and girl, but could just be you.
I classify as gender neutral or genderless. I don’t associate myself with either gender or consider myself to fit into the categories of either boy or girl. I also classify as asexual, which means I feel no sexual attraction to either men or women. In a world of men and women, heterosexual and homosexual, being a gender neutral asexual person feels like being a rock in someone’s shoe. You just don’t belong, and you feel like you have no purpose and just get in the way.
I don’t expect you to understand. How could anyone understand if they have never felt like this? But I want you to know that I’m here, that I see the arguments. I see both sides fighting for what they believe to be right. I see my friends, most of whom have no idea how I feel, post about how wrong it is to choose to be something other than what you are.
I promise that I didn’t choose this. In fact, I choose to conform to what I am not every day. I choose to go into the women’s restroom despite the stares I get. I choose to go on the right side of the room when the teacher decides to divide everyone up by gender. I choose to wear a skirt even though it makes me feel gross inside.
I am not a man, but I don’t feel like a woman either. And I’m not sure I ever will. But I try. I try to fit into your world. I try to play along. I try to squeeze into the boxes I am expected to fit into. But please, before you post how wrong this is, before you tell the world to stop making things difficult, please, please know that for some people this has always been difficult. Please know that for some people, we would rather wet our pants every day at school than have to go into a restroom where we don’t fit in. And please, just please try to understand how hard it is to go through every day hating everything you are because no one seems to want you if you can’t be what they expect you to be.
I have been having a lot of bad dreams lately. I wouldn’t call them nightmares. My bad dreams are just real life situations that could happen because of the things I live with. Autism, gender identity, depression, and suicide have all been themes of my bad dreams. I have dreams where I am yelled at, ridiculed and rejected, bullied and discriminated against, or simply not believed to the point that I feel there is no other escape but hurting myself.
The world is not always kind. My dreams remind me of that. But my waking hours remind me that there are kind people, that those dreams won’t always be realities. And that if something like that happened to me in real life, hopefully someone would come to my aid and show me kindness.
I don’t know what the future will bring, but I commit to being kind. I hope you will too.
I will always be different. There are a dozen reasons why this is the case, but the simple fact remains that I do not fit the established norms of society. I am not talking about everyone being unique and the fact that everyone is different. I am talking about the boxes that we put people in. I am talking about the labels that we all use to make sense of this world we live in. The truth is that I do not fit the boxes.
Whether we talk about gender or religion or personality or even autism, I tend to defy the stereotypes rather than connect with them. I guess some people might say this is a good thing, but it makes it hard to feel like you belong. The symbol for autism is a puzzle piece. People say the phrase “until all the pieces fit”. What if you are a piece that cannot fit? What if you were never made for the puzzle that is this world and your piece will never fit because it was never meant to?
I do not know what I am trying to say with all of this. I guess I just wish I did fit sometimes. I wish I was a little less different. I wish I could find my box, my place in the world. I wish I felt like I belonged. But maybe I was just never meant to belong in the first place.
It happens all the time… So much that I should be used to it by now. It still surprises me a little though when people call me sir or refer to me as male when I’m wearing a skirt. I understand that it may be confusing when I’m in jeans and a t-shirt, but I would think a skirt should be fairly obvious.
It used to crush me. Hearing someone call me sir was embarrassing to say the least and caused a fair amount of social anxiety and dysphoria. It made me feel like less of a person, worthless, hopeless, helpless. I avoided shopping, using public restrooms, going out to eat.
I was afraid of being called what I was not because I feared that the people I cared about would see through me. I was afraid that if my friends saw or heard someone treat me like a male, they would question my character… as though someone’s perception of my gender would indicate deception or inconsistencies in my life. I was afraid that not being seen as a woman indicated that I was not worthy to be a woman, to go to activities for women, to associate with other women on a girl-to-girl level. I was afraid that people’s perceptions of me created my reality.
I now realize that my thinking was faulty. My friends aren’t going to disown me because someone calls me a guy, and they are not going to question everything they know about me because of a misperception. However, they may stand up for me or comfort me or reassure me that I am okay and that they see me as more than the random stranger that calls me sir.
Still, getting called a man so often makes you question your resolve. It makes me wonder how easy it would be to become a man by society’s standards. How easily could I blend in? How hard would it be to transition? It would likely be incredibly easy and a fairly smooth transition in most areas of my life.
But the truth is, I like being a girl. I don’t like wearing skirts and dresses, and periods are the bane of my existence, but overall I enjoy the quality of my existence. I enjoy “girl talk”, even when I don’t exactly relate to any of it. I actually sort of enjoy shopping, when I don’t have to worry about getting kicked out of dressing rooms or getting strange looks from people. And I love the mother daughter relationship I have with my mom and the sisterhood I share with my only sister.
But, for my sanity, to be okay with being consistently called a male, I classify as genderless. To not get offended or embarrassed, I don’t identify myself by my gender. I am female, but that doesn’t really matter because it’s not how people see me, but who I am that matters.
If I have learned anything from this process of acceptance, it is that it doesn’t matter how people see me, but how I see myself. I am not my inconsistencies. I am not my misperceptions. I am worth just as much when I am called a man as when I am called a woman.