Thoughts on Bathrooms

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.

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Commit to Kindness

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.

Gender Identity

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.

My Story- Gender Identity Disorder

Up until this point, I have written one blog post specifically addressing my gender identity. My family and my friends do not fully understand the extent of my gender identity issues. I currently classify myself as gender-less or asexual.

I struggled with gender identity disorder since I was a child. My family does not call me Julia. They call me Chewie. (Yes, after Chewbacca from Star Wars.) This is the name they have called me for as long as I can remember. It is the name by which I refer to myself. Julia is like my undercover name and Chewie is like my secret identity. It feels strange to be called Chewie by someone who does not know me like that. However, I feel like Chewie is the real me.

What’s in a name? Well, for someone who struggles with gender identity, everything. It makes life so much easier or so much harder. Being called Chewie at home gave me a way to cope, a place of safety, a way to be myself.

I don’t hate being a girl anymore. I used to. I used to despise it. I used to avoid bathrooms like the plague. I would pee my pants in middle school to avoid using the girls restroom. I would avoid talking to new people for fear of the dreaded question, “are you a girl or a boy?” I would answer girl but be offended if someone said I looked like a girl.

People labeled me what they wanted, and looked at me strangely if I used the girls restroom or the boys restroom. I could not belong no matter how hard I tried to be one or the other. I didn’t have the characteristics to be a girl, and I didn’t have the parts to be a boy.

It hurts to talk about it. You can read any post, website, or article about gender identity or transgender and see people who don’t understand the conflict. They say it comes down to body parts, but what about people who have both? They make it sound so easy, but many are likely the same people who would call me sir in a restaurant, ask me to leave the girls dressing room, and look at me strangely when I buy feminine hygiene supplies.

It is only by choosing to classify myself as asexual that I have come to peace with my gender. It doesn’t matter what people call you if you don’t classify by either gender. It doesn’t matter if you get kicked out of dressing rooms or get strange looks by curious cashiers. I can finally accept that I will never fit the mold, and I no longer feel like I have to.

What does this mean in regards to the rest of my life? Pretty much nothing. I still attend the women’s activities at my church; I wear a skirt to work and pants as soon as I get home; I shop in the ladies section and the mens section interchangeably. The only thing it changes is my dysphoria in regards to my gender.

I no longer cry myself to sleep because I don’t fit in the gender norms. I don’t get offended when people question my presence or belonging. I am content to not fit in, to not conform, and to be who I am without letting labels define me.

Grateful for Trials

The last week has been difficult physically, but amazing emotionally. I have been in intense pain constantly, but I am super grateful that it happened now. Emotionally, this week has been very rewarding. I have spent time with friends, completed therapy, and applied to get my second bachelor’s degree.

The virtual end of one trial and beginning of a new one has made me contemplate just how grateful I am for trials. It might seem strange to be grateful for something that causes so much pain, but every trial I have faced has made me better.

I am more understanding because of depression, more forgiving because of abuse, more sympathetic because of health issues, more open and honest because of autism, more accepting because of gender identity disorder, more giving because of poverty, and simply a better person because of all those things combined. There is more I could say about my trials and how they have made me better, but it is not so much how my trials have made me better as the fact that they have made me better.

I would not trade all I have learned from all I have suffered to have an easier life. I would not trade a lifetime of pain for a lifetime of ease because I would rather be better than happier, and in the end what I learn makes me happier. I am so grateful to give up being happy for a few moments to make others happier for so much longer. I am grateful to be in pain so that I can understand the pain of others. I am grateful for bullying and ridicule that has made me kinder, gentler, and more careful with my words.

I am just so grateful to have experienced so many difficult circumstances because it means I can be trusted with other people’s difficult circumstances. I couldn’t ask for a better plan or a better life. I am grateful for the trials that make my life better by making me better.

If we can find beauty in the pain, gratitude in the heartache, and light in the darkness, we will be okay.

Bullying

I don’t know why it’s like this, but it seems that kids always look for the differences in others. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be when it leads to bullying.

Since I was in second grade, I have been asked if I am a boy or a girl. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really say the letter R. So kids wouldn’t understand when I said girl. Often when this happened, they would make their own conclusions and label me whatever they wanted.

I haven’t really talked about bullying on here before because it was a relatively small part of my life. I was teased and isolated. I was made the subject of dares. I hung out with all the troubled kids, but usually just avoided kids all together. I avoided using school restrooms to the point that I would pee in my pants during class. At one point I basically stopped trying to make friends because it seemed ridiculous to think that anyone could ever want to be around me.

Why am I saying all of this? Why am I bringing up memories that still make my heart hurt and my throat close?

Well, I read about this girl today that is making a difference. She is talking about bullying and telling her story of how it drove her to suicide. She was saved by her mom, but that kind of thing should never happen.

For me, bullying was just a small part of a much larger problem of loneliness and isolation. The words and deeds used to hurt me did not have as much of an effect as the words and deeds that weren’t done to help me. I wanted to die, not because I felt hated but because I didn’t feel loved.

That’s why having a best friend has made such a difference in my life. She helped me to finally feel loved and for the first time in my life I didn’t think about suicide on a regular basis. The darkness has come again now that we have been apart so long, but her love has made all the difference.

Sometimes I wonder if it could have happened sooner. I wonder how many people didn’t stand up or step in during that time of my life. And how many people did I not step in for. I would always step in if I saw someone being hurt, but I know I missed opportunities to step in when I saw someone sad or alone. I think most of us could probably step in more than we do and make a difference.

I’m glad that people are speaking out and making a difference though. If you want to check out the story of the girl I talked about, click here.

Listing Trials

“Some people deal with depression; others have same-sex attraction or a disability or health issues. We all have our own struggles to deal with.”

I have heard this sentiment more than once. I know that it is meant to be positive. What the person is really trying to say is, “it’s okay that you struggle because we all have problems.” What I hear is, “these are things that I think are really hard to deal with, so it’s not so bad that you just have autism.” And what I think is, “you have no idea.”

See, I don’t just have autism. I do struggle with depression and gender identity and health issues. I have most, if not all, of the things that people consider to be really hard trials. So naming off trials to tell me it’s not so bad does the exact opposite of it’s intended purpose. It makes me feel more broken because if I struggle with all these “hard” things, does that mean I have that many bridges to cross before ever being at the same place as everyone else?

And I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay. Yes, I have a lot of “hard” trials. But no, they don’t hold me back. My life is not a list of everything working against me. My success is not measured by how many hard things I don’t seem to struggle with. I am me, and that is enough.

Tomorrow I hope to be a new me, a better me. That is how I measure success. It’s not about how far I come or how much I endure. Life is simply about being better than you were yesterday and that is always a success.