More new stuff brought by the aromantic community

7 enero 2020

This is a second contribution for the January 2020 edition of the Carnival of Aros.

In my previous contribution to this edition of the Carnival of Aros, I avoided dealing with gender questions before I had explained my position, but later I decided to come out, so now I can review how the aromantic community has helped me to explore my gender identity.

As I explain in my introduction posts (English and Spanish) and in my contribution for the Carnival of Aces, I could realize my gender identity because I split biological sex and psychosocial gender even for identity, where they are usually grouped together. Bidimiensional models like Storms gave me the tools for picturing separate masculine and feminine axes, so that agender is a legitimate possibility, but the split attraction model allowed me to explore my sex and gender identities by themselves, rather than together. This way I could recognize my cis-sexual and agender features as legitimate and separate, rather than as conflicting ones.

I am cis-sexual because I am pleased with my male body, and I am agender because I disidentify with both the masculine and the feminine axes. This apparent contradiction is very similar to the contradictions an aromantic person might feel for being, say, heterosexual, just for the example’s sake. There is no need to choose the label “straight” focusing on their sexuality, forgetting their aromanticism just because “the only way to be aromantic is being asexual” or crap in this line. Fortunately, the aromantic community, despite having its origin inside the asexual one, recognizes that one can be allosexual and aromantic without contradiction. So, this light the aromantic commutity shed was source of new realizations about my gender identity.

Moreover, it happens that the AVEN subforum on gender has coined a term for people in this situation, cis-genderless, so I was not alone and I could communicate more efficiently with this label and propose it to questioning people. I’m glad that there is a term for what is significant in my life, especially if the term is soundly founded (on the sex/gender divide) and can be useful for many people in my situation. And maybe this new wine require new wineskins.


Growing up cis-genderless without a word

6 enero 2020

This is a contribution to January 2020 Carnival of Aces “Conscious and Unconscious Difference.” Here I compare my difference in unconscious gender identity with what had happened before with my orientation.

Introduction

I knew I was not trans because I have never felt feminine. I have never felt masculine, either. I assumed I was cis because I never wanted to modify the sex characteristics of my body. I lived most my life with this assumption, though something started to change when I discovered my asexuality, which eventually led to my identity as cis-genderless.

Discovery of the term cis-genderless

As an asexual that discovered their asexuality late, I had lived this before around my sexual orientation. I did not fit as either straight or gay, and the unidimensional spectrum of bisexuality left me as lost as the old-times sailors who could only measure one of the two coordinates, latitude. During my first year in the asexual community I was introduced the Storms model, a bidimensional model of sexual orientation, which allowed me to picture a better map of sexual orientation. Indeed, the Storms model is essentially another instance of the splitting model. We can split sexual and romantic attraction, which yields the so-called split attraction model, but inside each kind of attraction we can split the attraction toward each binary gender, getting Storms model. There are two axes for sexual orientation and the low-low combination is as legitimate as the rest. This way I got the concept of asexuality and, together with a better understanding of what sexual attraction was, I could place myself in this Storms map of sexual orientation, near the origin.

The case of romantic orientation was clearer for me. I recognized my aromanticism from the very beginning of my approach to the asexual community, and I felt sex and romance so separate that the split attraction model made a lot of sense to me. Further split kinds of attraction were of great help for understanding myself, especially the platonic attraction. But the splitting model could be applied also to gender, and indeed it was a split model of gender roles what inspired Storms in 1979 for his model of sexual orientation. Having two axes, one for each binary gender, we generate a map for gender identity that, though imperfect, distinguishes a non-binary person with high scores in both axes and a non-binary person with low scores in both axes. We can call agender the latter, what makes the situation very parallel to the asexuality and the aromanticism.

Anyway, the usual definitions of gender identity mix the physical sex and the psychosocial gender. In the same way that a mismatched sexual and romantic orientation causes a lot of confusion in the person unaware of the split attraction model, this mixed definition of gender causes a great confusion in its community: what qualifies as transgender? A solution could be applying the splitting model once again, distinguishing the physical sex and the psychosocial gender. Why not can one be cis-sexual and a-gender at the same time? This might be a faithful description of myself, but this idea kept low-profile in my mind until I came across the term cis-genderless in the AVEN forum on gender:

“The state of being in which one identifies as what they were assigned at birth (usually male or female, though sometimes intersex) without having feelings or concepts pertaining to gender. A genderless individual with no dysphoria.” (AVEN gender definitions master list)

Then this new concept resonated in me as the concept of asexuality had resonated before. It was legitimate to be A with respect to gender while cis with respect to sex.

Some subtleties I need to clarify before going on

In the same way we can distinguish around sexual orientation some different concepts like identity, expression, behavior, perception and others, we can apply the same distinctions to gender. Apart of distinguishing sex from gender, as I did before, I think it is necessary to distinguish the gender one identifies with, which is restricted by the knowledge and prejudices of the subject, from the gender one expresses, which may be restricted by other factors like, for instance, being in or out of the closet. These two categories depend on the person’s will and consciousness, but gender behavior may be unconscious and one might be behaving as a gender different from the gender they identify with or try to express. This is the gender a researcher could measure, while the gender identity can only be asked for. Finally, we have gender perception, which depends on the observer rather than on the subject, and thus it is restricted by the knowledge and prejudices of the observer.

In the same way an asexual person may identify as straight before discovering asexuality, an agender person may identify as cis before discovering non-binary genders. In the same way a man can have sex with men but reject the gay or bi identities, as the campaigns addressed to men-sex-men have spotted, a conservative male can reject any non-binary label and identify as a man while his behavior is far from the masculine roles.

But, finally, what is essentially one’s gender? I do not know if it exists an inner gender, whence all these features arise, or the gender reality is the mere juxtaposition of them. In the next discussion, I will try to make clear which gender feature I am talking about at each point.

Early hints showing I might be agender

Before entering the asexual community, the only transgenders I knew were the binary ones, and I could not understand their strong binarism. Seen from my current perspective, it could be caused by a low or absent identification with either binary gender. Anyway, I saw the opposition to their gender transition as a thermometer of the inequality among genders. Discovering the non-binary world though the asexual community made me more sense than the binary one, both cis and trans, though I did not identify with it since the beginning.

Apart of my history of contact with the transgender movement, I can also find hints of my non-binarism in my socialization and gender dynamics. My disinterest in both masculine and feminine stuff can be seen from my current perspective as a hint of scoring low on both gender axes, according to the bidimensional model, near the agender corner. I know that these interests are only small part of what gender is, and refers to gender behavior, but they are the earliest hints that worry transphobic parents. In my case, I was not pressured into masculine stuff, and I think that agender children can fly under the radar easier that children with high interest in stuff of the opposite gender to that assigned at birth. Anyway, my sister showed tomboyish interests and was not pressured to leave them, either. Indeed, I think she scores high in both axes, what from my current perspective could explain the gender dynamics at home. (This observation of my sister’s gender tries to analyze her gender behavior, but it is essentially my gender perception once informed of non-binary genders.)

When we were alone at home and had to negotiate the housework, she always imposed over me, assigning me the most cores, skipping out on the greater burden, but reserving for her the supervision. Despite me being male and her female, once I got older, I identified with the stories and gender dynamics for sharing housework in straight couples. I guess that the masculine feature is skipping out on the housework cores, and that this applies to gender behavior rather than to gender identity, expression or perception, so that I finished giving up before a girl who scores more in the masculine axis than me.

My current life as cis-genderless

Currently, I am aware of the concept of cis-genderless, but this has not changed my gender expression or behavior. I keep being so non-masculine and non-feminine as ever, same as I keep being as asexual and aromantic as ever. I do not shout it out, but I do not pretend to be something I am not. In the same way as I live happily single not pursuing sexual or romantic relationships, I live happily as guy who does not follow the roles of any binary gender. Though I find a bit annoying the stubble growth or the position of the testicles, they do not cause me any dysphoria. I do not reject my masculine bodily features, and I would not prefer to have any feminine one either. This is what comes from being cis-sexual.

Though I am not a fan of having a grammatical gender linked to the sex for the sexed beings (with the exception of epicene nouns) as it happens in Spanish, I have no problem with using the masculine gender for myself because of my physical sex. This might also come from being cis-sexual, but I do not know any other cis-genderless person who speaks a gendered language.

Conclusion

So far, this is my experience. The key that opened the questioning of my sexual orientation, the key of splitting models, also opened the questioning of my gender. Once you have the knife and open your first melon, it is easier for you to open another one.


On the term cis-genderless

5 enero 2020

Versión en español

Note: I distinguish the biological sex from the psychosocial gender.

I have recently found in AVEN forums the concept of cis-genderless. In its Gender Definitions Master List we find the following definition:

Cis-genderless: The state of being in which one identifies as what they were assigned at birth (usually male or female, though sometimes intersex) without having feelings or concepts pertaining to gender. A genderless individual with no dysphoria.

According to this definition, a cis-genderless person identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth (cis) but not with the corresponding gender, lacking a gender identity (genderless). We could say that they are an agender person without dysphoria. The usage of cis as sex identity, rather than as gender identity, could be marked as cis-sexual vs. cisgender. This distinction is very pertinent in our case, since a cis-genderless person is cis-sexual but not cisgender, though not transgender, either.

I think it’s useful to distinguish cis regarding sex and regarding gender when they are not aligned, as well as for highlighting tht bone can be cis-sexual and not consequently cisgender. In the case of cis-genderless it might happen as to romantic asexual people who, when unaware of the concepts, think they must have a sexual orientation aligned with their romantic orientation. In both cases, what happens is invisibility certain A-spectra, which are assimilated to another concept that is usually aligned with it.

Personally, though I can’t find a satisfactory translation of cis-genderless into Spanish (cis-agénero?), the definition resonate in me as it happened with the concepts of asexuality when I read them for the first time, though I didn’t fully identify with them just then. In 2017 I wondered if I could be cis-genderless with the definition I had, identifying as cis-sexual but doubting about the genderless part. As in 2008 I took note of the term asexual and I ended recognizing me as so, now I do identify as agender regarding gender, and thus as cis-genderless.


Sobre el término cis-genderless

5 enero 2020

Version in English

Nota: Aquí distingo entre sexo biológico y género psicosocial.

Últimanente se ha popularizado en los foros de AVEN el término cis-genderless. En su Lista Maestra de Definiciones de Género se puede leer la siguiente definición:

Cis-genderless: The state of being in which one identifies as what they were assigned at birth (usually male or female, though sometimes intersex) without having feelings or concepts pertaining to gender. A genderless individual with no dysphoria.

Según esta definición, una persona cis-genderless se identifica con el sexo que se le asignó al nacer (cis) pero no con el género correspondiente, sino que carece de identidad de género (genderless). Utilizando la acepción de agénero como “que carece de identidad de género”, podríamos decir que cis-genderless es una persona agénero sin disforia. El uso de cis como identidad sexual, en contraposición a la identidad de género, podría distinguirse como cis-sexual frente a cisgénero. En este caso es pertinente, porque una persona cis-genderless es cis-sexual pero no cisgénero, aunque tampoco transgénero.

A mí me parece útil distinguir cis en cuanto al sexo y en cuanto al género cuando no van alineados, así como poner de manifiesto que se puede ser cis-sexual y no por ello cisgénero. En el caso cis-genderless puede ocurrir como con las personas asexuales románticas que, antes de conocer los conceptos, interpretan que deben tener una orientación sexual alineado con su orientación romántica. En ambos casos lo que sucede es la invisibilidad de lo A-, que queda asimilado a otro concepto que usualmente viene alineado con éste.

Personalmente, aunque no encuentre traducción satisfactoria de cis-genderless (¿cis-agénero?), la definición me resuena como me resonaron los conceptos de la asexualidad cuando los leí por primera vez, aunque no me sintiera identificado con ellos de buenas a primeras. En 2017 me preguntaba si sería cis-genderless con la definición de entonces, identificándome como cis-sexual pero dudando si fuera agénero. Como en su día me apunté el término asexual y luego terminé reconociéndome como tal, ahora después de dos años sí me identifico como agénero en lo relativo al género y, por tanto, como cis-genderless.


New stuff brought by the aromantic community

4 enero 2020

This is my contribution for the January 2020 edition of the Carnival of Aros.

When I discovered aromanticism, it was new for me to learn that sexual and romantic orientations could be separate, and also that their homo and hetero components are better pictured as separate as in Storms model. I didn’t identify as aromantic immediately, and as asexual even later, but splitting what was socially tangled opened new doors to me. When I revisited these new concepts, I identified as aromantic without hesitation, since it matched perfectly my feelings. Paraphrasing Lord Kelvin, there were only two clouds obscuring the horizon of my aromanticism, but both were unified in a different category. This new category was the platonic one, and the word squish was coined for my feelings.

In the nineteenth century, the geologists had a trouble around some strata between the Cambrian and Silurian systems. Some geologists attributed them to the former and some to the latter. In the same way, my platonic feelings were misattributed to romance in the case of girls and to friendship in the case of boys, when they were more consistent among them than with any of these traditional categories. The solution of the Cambrian-Silurian issue was to establish a new geological system between them, the Ordivician, at the same level of Cambrian and Silurian, and to attribute there the disputed strata. The same solution applied to my own feelings: distinguishing a new platonic category at the same level.

Sharing the terminology of “squish” with other people aware of aromanticism has allowed me to express clearly my feelings and even to establish a queerplatonic relationship, though I didn’t know of the terminology yet. It’s hard to express a squish to a non-aware person, at risk of being misunderstood. Fortunately, I could enjoy this queerplatonic relationship while it lasted. Now, I don’t hesitate to categorize together my squishes toward boys or toward girls, and I distinguish them from desiring standard friendship o romance.


My experience with “love” being aromantic

26 diciembre 2019

This is my contribution for the December 2019 edition of the Carnival of Aros.

An unaware aro might say “love, thou’rt just a name.” Or even an excuse for sex. This is what my experience with people led me to think. A lot of people believing in love as a Platonic idea that must be shared by everybody else, including by their partner, including in the most specific details that depend on the local culture. The only objectively common point was sex, hence my conclusion. And it is sold as if it were the only form of love, or at least the strongest one, forgetting many kinds of love that are inherently non-romantic.

These kinds of love arisen within family are easy to point out after the least questioning, but other kinds seem too close to romantic partnership that they are assimilated or dismissed. Nevertheless, the aromantic community, having this great red light off, has explored the area and has described other kinds of attractions and relationships that are useful for its members and newcomers. I find especially useful for myself all the platonic category, especially the squish attraction and the queerplatonic relationships. If I hadn’t found the aromantic community, I would have assimilated squishes toward girls to crushes, and dismissed those toward boys, although both lack sexual and romantic features in my case.

I don’t think that there are specific forms of love for aro people. They are the same present for most people, but they are often dismissed as lesser forms because of the romantic experience and the position that our society gives to it. For instance, the platonic experience is usually put on the top of the scale of friendship, but below the ranks of romance. In my opinion, they lose the insight of the aromantic community because they are dazzled with romance.


Navigating relationships as aromantic

31 agosto 2019

This is my contribution for the August 2019 edition of the Carnival of Aros.

Aromantic, squish, queerplatonic… some words that have resonated with me when I learnt of them. A squish is an instance of platonic attraction that I could describe as different from crushes, so that I could develop relationships outside of the sexual or romantic framework. Queerplatonic was a term I learnt after my first relationship of this kind ended, but it helped me to speak about it again outside of the sexual or romantic framework. These words have helped me a lot.

Some time ago, I wrote some posts on the tetrachotomy romantic/platonic/social/acquaintance versus the trichotomy romantic/friend/acquaintance and an analogy with 3-level vs. 4-level vowel systems. I find more useful the tetrachotomy for my thinking, but I am aware that the general society uses the trichotomy, so I must be aware of the phonological issues that may arise. For instance, when I speak of the platonic sphere, I may be lumped with the romantic or with the social, depending on how is listening. The asexual community tends to romanticize platonic stuff, while the rest of society goes the opposite way.

So, being platonic aromantic, and aware of it, has impacted greatly on the relationships I have formed and especially on the relationships I have not formed. Not falling in love prevented me from entering romantic relationships, and being aware of a squish allowed me to forge a friendship of the queerplatonic kind. All this would have not been possible without the terminology developed by the incipient aromantic community, although then still inside the asexual community.