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Bluestem

Hi! (with much confusion!)

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Bluestem

I'm a 32 year old who, at this point in my life, has basically no idea what's going on.  I'm confused of my gender identity, my sexuality--pretty much everything.  I don't know if ace is what I am, but I have never been in a sexual relationship before.  Whenever I know that someone is interested in me sexually, no matter how much I like them as a friend, my reaction is always disgust bordering on terror.  I've tried dating, and while all of them have been genuinely nice people, as soon as someone so much as wants to hold hands, I am overwhelmed with the need to get away.  Usually I cut it off right there.  And yet I long for some form of togetherness.  I'm old enough now that people half my age have more sexual experience than I do, and it makes me feel so...alien.  My friends are mostly all in committed relationships, and have been for ages, my coworkers talk about casual sex with a nonchalance that blows my mind.  It's honestly triggering, and I had to just leave for our break room for a minute yesterday while thinking "what the hell is wrong with me?" and trying not to cry.  I see everyone around me moving on with their lives in the way society deems valuable, and I'm just kind of floating on the sidelines.  I feel more and more vastly different and weird.  I never feel like a woman.  I never feel like a man.  I do always feel like the odd one out.  I have anxiety and depression, and I know a huge chunk of it is due to confusion, and feeling cut off.  It doesn't help that my grandmothers are constantly saying "we have to get you a nice man!" and "why didn't you flirt with him?" and asking me "aren't you lonely?".  It's massively affecting my self esteem and confidence, in a bad way.  After 32 years of aloneness, it's hard to keep from assuming that you must be lacking something, or that that's what you deserve.   

Can someone be ace, when they long for closeness?  All the people I've tried to date were men, and maybe that's the factor that just doesn't work for me?  I don't know.  All I know is that just the idea, at this point, of meeting someone (male of female) fills me with dread.  I can't even explain the fear.  Just a simple "Hi" text is enough to send me to the hills.  I've been in therapy for yeeearrrs, but haven't made any progress.  I guess I'm hoping maybe someone on here has experienced something along these lines?  

Well, asides from all of that heavy stuff, I have a house in the burbs where I live with my cat, dog, fish, and new baby chicks!  I love to write (Star Wars fanfiction hooo), sculpt, garden, and draw.  I'm an animal nut, and I'm super into permaculture.  You can call me she/her, but really, I'm totally indifferent to the way someone identifies me.  Thanks for reading this, and any info about this weird world of sexuality would be appreciated.            

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Amber79

Hi,

I'm Aromantic Asexual and what you're talking about sounds very familiar. I was 37 when I first heard the word asexual. I too panic at just the thought of someone wanting to date me and always have and yet, like you, I also long for a close relationship. Ask yourself have you ever felt sexual attraction? Any interest in physical closeness with someone? If not, then at 32 I'd say asexual seems like a good term. Have you ever felt romantically about someone? This is more complicated, I thought I had experienced romantic love, but after some time I realised that actually I had had strong crushes but had never been in love. Alien and outsider are terms I applied to myself before I knew the words asexual and aromantic.Having said that, don't rush into finding a label, it took me well over a year of reading and talking to work out exactly what terms I felt fitted me. Also don't panic or rush to any conclusions about the way life will unfold if you are ace. When you spend some time reading through the forums, you'll find lots of different types of relationships and lots of different ways to be in a parnership. Welcome to AVEN, I hope you fnd all the answers to any questions you have. Here's some cake :cake:

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Laurann

 

26 minutes ago, Bluestem said:

Can someone be ace, when they long for closeness?

Yes.

 

56 minutes ago, Bluestem said:

All the people I've tried to date were men, and maybe that's the factor that just doesn't work for me?

I think at the age of 32 you probably would have felt attraction to women by now if that was it, but I mean, you could try if you wanted to.

 

57 minutes ago, Bluestem said:

All I know is that just the idea, at this point, of meeting someone (male of female) fills me with dread.

But based on this it doesn't sound like you want to. And you should know that that's perfectly fine as well. Nobody should be forcing you into this. Social norms are stupid. It's your life, you get to decide what to do with it. 

 

I'm going to ask a bunch of questions. The point of these questions is not that I want to know the answers, but that I want you to ask yourself these questions. 

 

Have you ever been attracted to anyone? Have you ever wanted to be in a romantic relationship with anyone, or maybe even a sexual one? Have you ever wanted to have sex with anyone? <- the answer to those questions would determine whether you're ace and/or aro.

 

Is your need for closeness a need for a romantic relationship, a need for physical closeness, just a need to not be lonely in general or could it even maybe be societal pressure that tells you in order to be normal you shouldn't be single?  

 

Aromantic people still get lonely. Some aromantic people want to be in relationships that are platonic, but have the same level of intensity as is usually reserved for romantic relationships. So they may live in a house together, spend hours a day together, raise kids together etc, but still not feel any romantic feelings towards each other at all. This is called a queerplatonic relationship. Does that sound appealing to you?

 

Would it help you if you separated different types of attractions and figured out which of them you feel and which you don't?

Spoiler

tMPYX5d.jpg

 

People being sexually attracted to me is very off-putting to me as well. It makes me sick to my stomach. So yeah, you're not alone in that at all.

Being put off or repulsed by other people's romantic interest in you is also something I've heard aro's (aromantic people) describe quite often.  I think they call it romance repulsed.

There's a website that's like AVEN but for aromantic people http://www.arocalypse.com/forums/

 

There's another orientation called lithromantic, which means you feel attraction to other people, but as soon as it's reciprocated your attraction to them is gone.

 

I don't know if it would be wise to dig into your gender at the same time as orientation, because it really can get very overwhelming and it's not like there's a deadline, so maybe one thing at a time, but here's an explanation I wrote somewhere else that I hope can clear up some gender terminology for you:

Spoiler

What is 'transgender' and 'non-binary'?

Basic definitions & explanations

First of all, this is the first definition of transgender that pops up in Google, written by a transgender author:

 

Transgender:

Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.

 

But what is meant by 'sense of personal identity and gender'?

  • Sex is whether you’re biologically male, female or intersex.
  • Gender is psychological, not biological, and should be separated from sex entirely. From here on, I’m going to leave sex out of the equation.
  • Sexual orientation is even less relevant to this conversation. It's who you're attracted to, not who you are. I'm leaving this out of the equation too.

There are a lot of different aspects to gender.

  • Gender roles/norms/expectations are unwritten rules society has for how men and women should behave. (Men can't wear make-up. Crying is for girls. Women shouldn't be too assertive.) These are not part of an individual's identity. They are part of a society's culture.
  • Gender expression is what your gender appears to be to other people. (Includes gendered things like clothing, colors, make-up, mannerisms, tone of voice, way of walking, gestures while talking, how intensely emotions are expressed etc)
  • Gender identity is a very complicated concept and it is the core of what we are talking about when we’re discussing trans issues. Before you can know what ‘transgender’ is, you need to know what ‘gender identity’ is. 

So there are a lot of theories on what gender identity is, and these two here are the most relevant to our discussion:

 

First you've got the (in my opinion outdated) theory put forward by Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir and the like. They resist the idea that any aspect of gender identity can be innate. As de Beauvoir says "One isn't born a woman, one becomes a woman." This basically means that you feel like a woman because it's what you're used to. You behave like a woman because that's what's socially acceptable. In this view people act how they're supposed to act according to the gender roles in their culture. The constant repetition of doing what they're supposed to do gets etched into their brains and becomes their gender identity. For Butler and de Beauvoir, gender identity is the internalization of culturally imposed gender norms and expectations.

 

Then there's a newer theory about gender identity. This one builds on the first one and accepts it as partially correct, but asserts that gender identity is also partially innate. If it wasn't, then it would logically follow that trans people simply can’t exist, because your gender identity would entirely depend on what you were raised to be.

Joan Roughgarden, a transgender evolutionary biologist who wrote a whole book on the science of lgbt identities, is a proponent of this one. According to her, ‘gender identity’ is a deep-seated sense of self that's been established from the time you were born. In her book 'Evolution's Rainbow', she writes:

 

I envision gender identity as a cognitive lens. When a baby opens his or her eyes after birth and looks around, whom will the baby emulate and whom will he or she merely notice? Perhaps a male baby will emulate his father or other men, perhaps not, and a female baby her mother or other women, perhaps not. I imagine that a lens in the brain controls who to focus on as a “tutor.” Transgender identity is then the acceptance of a tutor from the opposite sex. Degrees of transgender identity, and of gender variance generally, reflect different degrees of single-mindedness in the selection of the tutor’s gender. The development of gender identity thus depends on both brain state and early postnatal experience, because brain state indicates what the lens is, and environmental experience supplies the image to be photographed through that lens and ultimately developed immutably into brain circuitry. Once gender identity is set, like other basic aspects of temperament, life proceeds from there.

 

So a cisgender female baby instinctively emulates women, a transgender baby with a female body instinctively emulates men, and a non-binary baby instinctively emulates both. Simple. 

 

The innate part of gender identity is the part that decides which of the two genders (or both or neither) you will instinctively emulate during your life. The behavior of that group of people then supplies you with the learned aspect of your gender identity. So the innate part tells you which gender(s) to imitate and the learned part is what kind of behavior you're actually imitating and internalizing.  

 

Gender identity as Roughgarden describes it, is a deep-seated, immutable sense of belonging or kinship to a gender (either to the social construct or to the group of people). A sense of "I belong with those people, or the other group, or maybe both or not really with either."

 

You can't change this sense of belonging by raising someone differently. There have been cases where a doctor made a mistake while circumcising a baby boy and accidentally cut of the entire penis. For example, there’s David Reimer. That boy was raised as a girl instead, from birth, but still always felt like a boy. They had to tell him when he was 14 because it was just not working.

 

Gender identity is at least partially innate and biological, not just cultural, so the argument that your gender identity can't be anything but 'man' or 'woman' because that's the only two genders that exist in our culture is not applicable. Gender identity =/= gender as a social construct. Gender identity is to which degree you instinctively identify with those two culturally established genders.

 

Wm1KqL3.png

 

My guess is agender people don't feel at home in either group, genderfluid babies could emulate their dad during some activities (like boxing) and their mom in other situations (like socializing), and neutrois people sort of feel stuck in between the two groups, but I don't know. The only way to know is to ask them. Our neurobiology science skills aren't advanced enough to read people's minds yet.

Gender Identity versus Gender Expression

Yes, of course everyone has a feminine and a masculine side, but that's not what we're talking about here. For example, a man can be feminine, he can like wearing make-up and dresses, talk in a stereotypically feminine way, and still identify as a man. Is his feminine side a 'deep-seated sense of identity', 'a cognitive lens that determines which gender(s) a baby will emulate from the minute they're born'? I doubt it. I think it's gender expression, not gender identity. For a nonbinary person, that's different.

 

A nonbinary person is not someone who simply dislikes the gender role they're put into. A guy who likes to break gendered expectations by wearing dresses is a crossdresser, a drag queen or a gender-nonconforming person, not a nonbinary person. Those are terms for people who have non-standard gender expressions. A nonbinary person is a person who has this innate, deep-seated, unchangeable sense of belonging to both genders, or to neither. If their body or the social role people ascribe to them doesn't line up with their inner sense of what they are, this leads to dysphoria. Dysphoria is an integrally important sign of ‘transgenderness’. Its opposite is gender euphoria.

 

Gender dysphoria is either a feeling of discomfort/distress with gendered aspects of your body (meaning you'd feel a need to change your body = transition) or a feeling of discomfort/distress because of what gender people perceive you to be (meaning you'd want to take steps in order to be perceived differently = transition).

Gender expression includes gendered things like clothing, make-up, mannerisms, tone of voice, way of walking, gestures while talking etc.

The innate part of gender identity doesn't have anything to do with any of those things.

Are NB’s trans?

(NB = Non-binary, also called enby)

 

                                                                Trans people

                                                       ↙                                  ↘

                                    binary trans people                nonbinary trans people

They're all trans.

 

Nonbinary people can transition, so even if you were (in my opinion incorrectly) basing your definition of ‘transgender’ on whether or not transition is possible, you still wouldn’t have a reason to say NB’s aren’t trans. NB’s can transition medically (through hormone treatment and surgery) as well as socially. Social transition isn't easy. It should be taken seriously. http://gender.wikia.com/wiki/Social_Transition

 

An NB transitions for the same reasons a binary trans person transitions, in order to have their body reflect their inner selves more, and in order to be perceived differently. It's true that in this culture NB's won't 'pass' as their true gender, because not enough people know that nonbinary identities exist, so they won't automatically recognize someone as 'Oh, that person doesn't look quite male or female, they're probably nonbinary,' as they would (most of the time) correctly recognize a woman to be a woman and a man to be a man. However, that's a problem with our culture, not with nonbinary people.

 

'Binary trans' and 'nonbinary trans' are two different types of being trans. If individual nonbinary people don’t identify as trans, then there's probably a personal story for why they don't, or maybe they just aren’t aware that nb’s are trans, or maybe they’ve made the common mistake to confuse gender expression with gender identity and they’re actually gender-nonconforming. You won't know until you ask them.

 

NB's not identifying as trans is kind of like black feminists not identifying as feminists. Some black feminists don't identify as feminists because they don't feel represented by white feminism. They feel white feminists aren't committed enough to ending all forms of oppression, instead of just to ending sexism. I believe they call themselves womanists. They're feminists, but refuse to identify as such for personal or political reasons.

 

That's what it's like with nb's too. They're trans, but some refuse to identify as trans for personal or political reasons. These reasons are very diverse.

 

Here's a cute little representation of the complexity of gender, sex and sexuality. Where would you fit on each of these sliders?

xlQNFjq.png

 

 

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Lichley

Welcome! It seems that @Laurann and @Amber79 have covered most of it. All you need now is some welcome cake, and lots of support, so you've come to the right place :)

Take your time to look into it and see if these labels fit you, but don't force yourself to take a label if you don't want one. Have a look around the site, Questions about Asexuality is a good place to start, as it will cover the basics and help you get a more rounded view from a lot of different people. In the end the choice is yours, I wish you the best! :D

rainbow+wedding+cake+6.jpg

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TheAngel(of)Peace

 

Hello there, and welcome to AVEN! :cake:

As part of my welcome to you, I'd like to point out some important threads that might be helpful in your first few days here. :) The Terms of Service is here. We recommend you read it over, and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to send either myself or any other administrator or moderator (the "admod" team, as we're called) a message.  Also, there's a handy forum called Site Info, which has some useful information including a thread outlining who moderates which forum. If you ever need something done in or have questions about a specific forum, please message the mod of that forum. And if you have problems with the site in general, or any single member, please message any admod. 

The following are also nifty links to take a look at:  Welcome Lounge Mini Manual | Welcoming 101 | Quick Guide to the Forums | Asexuality FAQ's

 Again, welcome to AVEN and I hope your stay is everything you hoped!

 

712219-bigthumbnail.jpg

 

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Lotta_Biscotti
22 hours ago, Bluestem said:

I'm a 32 year old who, at this point in my life, has basically no idea what's going on.

Sometimes I feel like that's all of us! Not to make light of your situation, but to relate to it and let you know you're not alone. It may be sexuality, or dealing with other people, or trying to figure out taxes, but just know that a lot more people are improvising all the time than you would expect or hope.

 

22 hours ago, Bluestem said:

I'm confused of my gender identity, my sexuality--pretty much everything.  I don't know if ace is what I am, but I have never been in a sexual relationship before.  Whenever I know that someone is interested in me sexually, no matter how much I like them as a friend, my reaction is always disgust bordering on terror.  I've tried dating, and while all of them have been genuinely nice people, as soon as someone so much as wants to hold hands, I am overwhelmed with the need to get away.  Usually I cut it off right there.  And yet I long for some form of togetherness.  I'm old enough now that people half my age have more sexual experience than I do, and it makes me feel so...alien. 

Sounds like you're sex-averse or repulsed. And that's okay! It's not common, but you came to the right place. We've all felt alienated to different degrees around here.

 

22 hours ago, Bluestem said:

 Can someone be ace, when they long for closeness?  All the people I've tried to date were men, and maybe that's the factor that just doesn't work for me?  I don't know.  All I know is that just the idea, at this point, of meeting someone (male of female) fills me with dread.  I can't even explain the fear.  Just a simple "Hi" text is enough to send me to the hills.  I've been in therapy for yeeearrrs, but haven't made any progress.  I guess I'm hoping maybe someone on here has experienced something along these lines?  


Well, asides from all of that heavy stuff, I have a house in the burbs where I live with my cat, dog, fish, and new baby chicks!  I love to write (Star Wars fanfiction hooo), sculpt, garden, and draw.  I'm an animal nut, and I'm super into permaculture.  You can call me she/her, but really, I'm totally indifferent to the way someone identifies me.  Thanks for reading this, and any info about this weird world of sexuality would be appreciated.            

Absolutely. And there are many types of closeness. Intimacy doesn't have to be sexual, or even physical. It's okay to be questioning if it's something in the standard equation that isn't working for you, but just as important to question the thing itself, and the things sexuality doesn't address and may not be responsible for, such as feelings of social anxiety.

 

I think you'll feel very welcome here if you take the time to read through the forums. There are a wide range of experiences here, and while no other person is you, you may find something reflected of yourself in their experiences, and things that helped them. Just keep questioning, while keeping in mind that it's okay to be you and feel the things you're feeling.

 

And I bet you can find some other permaculture enthusiasts here, and we have plenty of animal lovers. :)

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Fortune_Leia

Hi @Bluestem! Reading your post I felt like I was listening to the thoughts in my own head.  It seems we've both have very similar experiences.  I too have anxiety and depression, feel absolute terror at even the ping of a text message, even though I was the one who reached out for contact (in terms of dating).  I want to have togetherness but am terrified of it at the same time.  Since realising that I'm ACE, a lot of things have fallen into place for me.  I don't feel particularly womanly or otherwise.  I am a woman biologically and I'm ok with that.  I know that I like men because I find them more romantically attractive than women.  I have no sexual desire at all for others and find the whole thought of it quite disgusting.  The good news here is that you're not alone.  You're just starting on a journey to finding out who YOU really are, without the expectations of family, friends and society.  This is what I'm trying to do with my membership here on AVEN and I'd love to chat with you more about how you feel.  Maybe we can support each other a bit.  Try not to let the depression and anxiety get in the way of who you really are. I'm lucky that I'm on a good day today but I know how difficult that is and honestly, on a daily basis you're gonna struggle with it, but once in a while a moment of clarity will come along and you'll feel better, hopefully, a little bit at a time.  The rubbish thing about our anxiety and depression is that it'll never go away.  We have to live with it.  That doesn't mean that we can't be ourselves though.  Take Luke's advice and "breathe, just breathe".  We'll get there!

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Bluestem
On 10/17/2017 at 11:19 AM, Fortune_Leia said:

Wow, thank you for these responses.  I have to say things spiraled pretty badly not long after I wrote my initial post.  I was suicidal and admitted to an inpatient behavioral medicine hospital.  I've met with my therapist and psychiatrist since then, but honestly I haven't gone more than a day feeling 'good'.  This was further driven home to me today while trying to shop for clothes, bras in particular.  Maybe I have body dysmorphia.  I don't know.  But I hate having breasts (DDD's here).  I hate being curvy and soft.  It just doesn't feel right.  I don't understand femininity in that way.  I've always dressed androgynously, though my body is anything but and trying to put clothes on myself that don't look like a a sack, but also aren't flirtatious, glittery, or otherwise 'feminine' crushes my self-esteem a little more every time I shop.  I forced myself into a Victoria's Secret today, hoping to find a bra that would actually fit, and I lasted for about 45 seconds before booking it out of there.  *shudders*  Things were just so 'female' and all the people in there were very female (or what our culture tells us is female) and...I just don't understand. 

I've made no headway in trying to become close to people.  Frankly, I feel empty.       

Hi @Bluestem! Reading your post I felt like I was listening to the thoughts in my own head. 
...Take Luke's advice and "breathe, just breathe".  We'll get there!

Fortune Leia--thank you so much.  I've never heard of anyone else feeling like me, and the fact that someone out there does is incredibly helpful.  Thank you!  And--using a Luke Skywalker quote: Yesss!  

 

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.Lia

Hello there, and welcome to AVEN! :cake:

As part of my welcome to you, I'd like to point out some important threads that might be helpful in your first few days here. :) The Terms of Service is here. We recommend you read it over, and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to send either myself or any other administrator or moderator (the "admod" team, as we're called) a message.  Also, there's a handy forum called Site Info, which has some useful information including a thread outlining who moderates which forum. If you ever need something done in or have questions about a specific forum, please message the mod of that forum. And if you have problems with the site in general, or any single member, please message any admod. 

The following are also nifty links to take a look at:  Welcome Lounge Mini Manual | Welcoming 101 | Quick Guide to the Forums | Asexuality FAQ's

 Again, welcome to AVEN and I hope your stay is everything you hoped!

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