Being a Nonbinary Trigender Woman...Maybe??
Today we delve into Courtney’s complex gender history, the limitations of language, the continuous evolution of terminology within queer communities, and the power and pitfalls of labels.
- Sarah Moon: For Fans, BY Fans | Anime in the West
- RSVP to Disabled BIPOC Aces: A Virtual Panel on October 25th
Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Ace Couple Podcast. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce. And today, I have a riddle for you listeners: if I am a woman and Royce is Agender, how are we able to still have an above-average number of genders in our monogamous marriage? I don’t have a pretty answer to that riddle for you, so we’re gonna have a… probably an hour plus conversation about it. So let’s get to it, why don’t we? [sighs] Gender. What is gender? [laughs] Royce, the look on your face when I just asked that question. [laughs]
Royce: I didn’t know I made a look. I just…
Royce: …assumed the question to be rhetorical and didn’t know how you were going to follow it.
Courtney: I didn’t know how I was gonna follow it. I mean, we could say it’s a construct, we could say it’s a means of social categorizing, we could say it’s antiquated — we could say all of these things, and they’re probably all true at the same time. I don’t know why I decided to start this episode getting, like, deeply philosophical, [laughs] with no real intention of taking that question too terribly seriously before we get into the topic at hand.
Courtney: I think it’s just something that we think about, obviously, a lot in the queer community, in the trans community, in the nonbinary community, but really a lot in the Aspec community as well. Because within our Ace community, we know for a fact that we have an above average percentage of people who do not identify with gender whatsoever and/or identify as some form of nonbinary, and I find that really fascinating.
Courtney: But something I’ve noticed — I started noticing it more with you first, when you started articulating what gender means to you, or rather doesn’t mean to you, what gender doesn’t apply to you, using the word Agender, occasionally using they/them pronouns, but generally preferring no pronouns at all. And I really started to notice that even within the queer community, even within the Ace community in particular, we still have very insufficient language for talking about these concepts. Even the communities who think about them and talk about them the most, even the communities who are constantly developing new vocabulary — some of it sticks around for a while, some of it doesn’t, but we’re constantly trying to concept new ways to discuss the way we feel on the inside. And despite that, we still have very insufficient language a lot of the time.
Courtney: And the more I think about, first, your experience of gender, and then my experience of gender, and then the ways in which we have to succinctly convey not only our own identities but our relational identities to other people, the more I just think, “This isn’t good enough. We just need to have conversations.”
Courtney: And a lot of labels are tricky and reductive. I’m not saying they’re bad, and for some people they fit really, really nicely. But something we’ve talked about on this podcast before is, like, the fact that there’s no widely agreed upon term for, like, someone who is attracted to exclusively nonbinary people, for example. There are some folks out there like that. Heck, I might be one of them. [laughing] We’re gonna get into that too.
Courtney: But so much of our own identity labels for sexuality depend on the gender of the subject of our attraction — whether that’s a sexual attraction, a romantic attraction, any other type of attraction. And that gets really really tricky, really really tricky. Because I believe we’ve mentioned before that there have been times in our past where we both considered ourselves to be heteroromantic Asexual, and I don’t think that’s true for either of us anymore. [laughs]
Royce: Well, yeah, terms used in orientation like “hetero” and “homo” are way too simplistic.
Royce: Because they only exist within a binary.
Courtney: And even some of the words that try to transcend the binary, like “panromantic” or “pansexual,” as just an example off the top of my head — even those just don’t quite work for everyone, for a variety of reasons. And, you know, the older I get, the more conversations I have, the more I think back on experiences from my past and try to just patch it together, the more I realize that there is no succinct modifier to “Asexual” that is going to perfectly encapsulate any type of attraction that I may or may not feel.
Courtney: And that’s where it gets really, really tough. Because when I was considering myself a heteroromantic Asexual, I was also considering myself to be a cisgender woman who only had romantic attraction to men. Where I got that, I don’t know. I don’t actually like men. [laughs] I’m sorry to any men who are listeners out there. I’m sure you’re lovely.
Courtney: But, you know, when I was a kid — like, young — the first person I ever kissed was a girl. And you’d think, maybe, that that would tell me, right off the bat, that you’re not super straight, that that was even a thing that I was, like, willing to do and explore and think about, and that that was, like, my first encounter kissing another person. But I didn’t like it. So I just — I was like, “Cool, I don’t actually like girls, fine.” But then I started kissing boys, and I didn’t like that either. So nothing in the realm of, like, bisexual was going to work for me because I didn’t see it that way.
Courtney: And I know that there are plenty of Aces in the community who, at one point or another, identified as bisexual because they were like, “Well, I have no attraction over here, and I have no attraction over there, so I guess that’s the same amount of attraction, so bisexual it is,” even though that maybe didn’t perfectly fit, and they have since developed their understanding of this. For me, it was exactly the opposite. I was like, “Well, clearly, bisexual doesn’t fit, so I’m not going to use it.”
Courtney: But it was really just the way society is set up, that, even though I knew this is not vibing with me, there was just this looming compulsory sexuality, for one, but also compulsory heterosexuality that really sort of took its toll on me. Because, even though I had essentially dipped into “Am I attracted to girls? No. Am I attracted to boys? No,” there were still adults in my life that were like, “Ooh, do you like any boys? Oh, do you have a boyfriend? When are you going to get a boyfriend?” And making, like, wild fantasy stories about this boy from my childhood who we were going to fall madly in love and grow up and be childhood sweethearts. Like, weird things like that happened all the time. So I was just like, I guess, rolling with it.
Courtney: But I’ve also told this story where, even before I ever kissed that girl, I made a pie chart. And this is like… This is, like, we’re talking kindergarten, we’re talking very, very young. I just learned what pie charts are. I basically know, like, a 50/50 pie chart, or I can maybe scrape by with 25 percents, but past that, like, I don’t even know how to do real division yet — very young. And I hid it in my toy chest. Like, this was the age I was. And I was just like, “Alright, this is the pie chart that makes up Courtney.” And I said, “50% boy, 50% girl.”
Courtney: And I looked at this for so long, and I was like, “This isn’t correct. This is not right. It’s almost there, but it’s not right.” And so, the way my brain at that time, as a child, decided to adjust it, and the thing that I was most happy with at that time, I was like, “There’s something else here, and it’s maybe even more present than boy or girl.” So, in my simplified fractions, I said, “25% boy, 25% girl, 50% other / Courtney.” [laughs] And I hid that in my toy chest. At a certain point, it got thrown away. That was just, like, really the only memory I have from childhood of questioning what gender is.
Courtney: But then as you start getting older… And I’ve talked about some of the added complications that I had with getting sexualized at a very young age — I talked about it some in our boobs episode, I’ve talked about it a couple other times, but I did start getting really heavily sexualized at a very young age. I did have very fetishized traits and features, and society at large ties gender in very heavily with sexuality. And I think that’s interesting. Because, for a while, I was so vehemently against that, 100%, because I was like, “I am a woman, because I am fighting to figure out how to be okay being perceived as a woman, knowing that by being perceived as a woman I’m going to be heavily sexualized as a woman.” So I was, like, fighting with myself to be comfortable being a woman despite this sexualization.
Courtney: So, in order to sort of come to terms with my Asexuality, I had to sort of separate sexuality from gender in my head, and I had to say, “I can be a woman, and I can be not sexual while being a woman.” And that was something that — the idea of that, the idea of removing that for me, especially in, like, preteen years, early teenage years, was really kind of a lifeline to me, to those years. So, it took a lot of unpacking to try to go deeper into what that actually could mean and how it does or does not fit, because that’s something I needed.
Courtney: But I think as a result of that, as an adult, it has created in me a sense of needing to hold onto some form of womanhood. There are certainly people out there who may be AFAB, like myself, who are just… they are nonbinary, end of story. They are not a woman. They exclusively use gender-neutral pronouns. And that is fine, and that is great for some people. But that just can’t work for me. Because I kind of fought for womanhood. I kind of fought to develop my own concept of womanhood that was divorced from the sexuality I saw as going along with womanhood.
Courtney: So, as a result, things are kind of in a goofy area now, because I’m comfortable being called a woman, I’m comfortable being referred to by she/her pronouns, and all that. But there’s definitely more to the story there? I just don’t know if I care enough to adopt specific labels or identities that I can just say, “This is what I am,” and hope that at least people in the queer community understand that to mean something.
Courtney: Because at this point in my life where I’m at, I don’t think there is a new label I could adopt, of the ones that I’ve explored and looked into, that tell the story cleanly enough for me. Which is kind of silly, and maybe I’m a bit of a hypocrite to myself here, because I also don’t think that saying “I’m a woman” is the whole story, but it’s the one that I’ve learned how to be comfortable with, if that makes sense. Because in fact, it actually really wasn’t until… What was the company a couple years ago? Is it Xbox that reached out to us, that was trying to interview us for, like, a Pride thing?
Royce: I don’t really remember, because that didn’t end up going anywhere, but I think it was something under the Microsoft umbrella.
Courtney: Yeah, I think it was Microsoft that reached out to us, and it was because they were doing, like, a Pride controller for Pride Month that had, like, a whole bunch of different pride flags on it, and they wanted to, like, interview at least one person who identifies with every flag. And I think we both had a weird time with that one. Because they obviously found us through Asexuality, but I think they also probably knew, like, that might not be your only identity.
Courtney: But the way the question was posed, they sort of sent us just, like, an image with dozens of flags, and they asked us to respond with each flag that applies to us. And I already think that that was probably not the correct way to ask that question. [laughs] Because, as we’re looking at all these flags, it’s like, “Well, yeah, the Ace flag. That is a thing we have used. That is a thing we’ve identified with. Like, Asexual is a label we have always been comfortable and happy with.” But then you start looking at these other flags, and I start looking at, like… well, there’s also an Aromantic flag, and I have talked before — and will probably go a little bit again into it in this episode — not too deep, because I want…
Courtney: Listeners, a little peek behind the curtain here. We have been talking for a very long time about doing probably a series of episodes on the split attraction model. But the thing is, it’s gonna be a lot more complicated than you think it is. Because there are good things about it. There are bad things about it. There are complex and simultaneously too simplified things about it. And some of you may be familiar with the controversy of the split attraction model — why some Aspecs really loathe it and do not like it whatsoever. There are some people who love it, and that is how they came to understand their identities was even being presented with the concept of this model, so it’s been very useful as a tool to some.
Courtney: And then there’s become this sort of… I don’t know. I almost see it as a platitude, at this point, because I’ve seen some organizations say, like, “Oh, all Aces are valid, including…” and then they’ll just sort of, like, bullet point all the different types of Aces that there are, like, sex-repulsed, sex-favorable, and non-SAM Aces, and, you know, all these types of Aces in a list. And I’ll see people say, like, “Non-SAM Aces are valid,” but then not actually use language in a way that is actually welcoming and inclusive of people that are non-split attraction model Aces. And, I mean, that’s probably a rant for another day [laughs]. Wait for the series. But it’s taking some time, because we want to make sure we cover all of our bases if we start rolling out these episodes.
Courtney: But the more I delve into my own identity or identities, and looking at these lists of flags, I was like, “Well, I mean, Aromantic flag, maybe for the Demiromantic, but it just doesn’t seem as important to my identity at this time as Asexuality.” And I was trying to figure out why that was, too. Because I know people who more heavily favor the Aromantic side of their identity versus the Ace side, and obviously there are people who are Aromantic and aren’t Ace at all, and I love all of those folks, and those are very valid ways to be. So I couldn’t quite figure out why I was applying different standards to myself.
Courtney: Because something I’ve also kind of learned about myself is when I realize that I’m treating my own identity in a different way than I’m treating someone else’s, it’s probably not because I’m literally holding myself to a higher standard than other people. I know that’s a thing that can happen, but I think it means I haven’t quite sussed something out about my identity. But it usually means — the longer I think about it, once I figure it out, it usually means that I am just not experiencing those identities in the same way other people are that are articulating it that way. And I have to sort of figure out what’s different and what about the language isn’t enough to suit my own experience.
Courtney: So all this to say: coming later in the split attraction model episodes. I loved and used the split attraction model for a while, even once it started changing from heteroromantic Ace to question mark something else. I think it was a very useful tool for myself and still continues to be for many Aces. But now, just like with our language of gender, maybe especially as a result of our lack of language of gender, the split attraction model almost no longer still applies to me. So that’s been a really interesting journey, and that’s part of what I want to talk about as well in those episodes.
Courtney: But it was sort of your refusal of gender that sort of pushed me to actually start thinking about this more. Because at the end of the day, labels are personal and they are important to personal identity, but for a lot of people, their sexuality label is often primarily used to attract partners that align with what they’re looking for. And if partnership isn’t all that important to you, if there is an Ace or an Aro facet to that, it can get a little more complicated. But from where I was sitting, I was like, “I don’t really need to change labels or think about this too hard because I’m married now. I’m monogamous. I don’t really need to, like, for example, set up a dating profile and say, ‘This is what my orientation is’ for any random person who might be looking at me as a potential future partner. I don’t have to have that label to, like, advertise myself.” So I was like, “It’s just not necessary.”
Courtney: But now I’m like, “Well, I’m definitely not heteroromantic.” [laughs] And then you start looking into all these other labels. And there are some much more obscure microlabels that people will say, like, “I’m attracted to men and nonbinary individuals,” or “I’m attracted to women and nonbinary individuals,” or “All of the above.”
Courtney: And the thing is, none of those felt right. Because I think, as soon as you were like, “I don’t actually identify as a man,” I was kind of like, “Well, thank God, because I don’t actually like men that much.” [laughs] So it didn’t feel right to be like, “Oh, I’m attracted to men and nonbinary individuals,” because I’m like, “Oh, I don’t actually like men that much.”
Courtney: And sure, there are also, again, some very obscure microlabels of “I am attracted to nonbinary people.” But I care a lot about being understood. And to me, if I take on a label, it’s because that label does enough of the heavy lifting to give someone enough of an idea about my experience that they at least have some nugget of truth in there before I go into, like, my whole life story. And I’m usually willing to go into my whole life story, obviously; I have shared a lot of it here on this podcast already. And I tend to, in one-on-one or small group social situations, prefer just sharing stories and anecdotes than using labels. I’d prefer to tell you my pie chart story if you ask what my gender is, than giving you an answer.
Courtney: Because I think that truly does… you know, storytelling is a way that I connect with other people, more so than labels, and so when it comes to something like Asexual, I was like, “Yes, this is a word that gives people enough. This is enough for them to know, right off the bat. This is therefore useful to me.”
Courtney: And I try to learn as many microlabels as I can, and I have many friends who use microlabels, so I’m very familiar with theirs, of course. But when it comes to me, I want to educate on experiences more than I educate on labels in my own advocacy and in my own storytelling. So I will respect my friends and my community by learning their labels and respecting them and trying to learn more all the time so that if I meet someone who uses that label, I have a better understanding for it.
Courtney: But I don’t want to be the one who’s saying, “This is my label, how I identify,” and have a vast majority of the population not actually know what it means, because that’s just not how I communicate. And that is how some people communicate, and that is great and that is fine. But I’m looking at all the possible… Like, I don’t even have a Tumblr account, but I’ve found myself on Tumblr now when I’m looking at labels. I’ve found myself on Reddit. I’ve found Twitter threads about people presenting options for, “Well, this is what it means to be attracted to nonbinary people.” But first of all, the first pitfall I found was a lot of them included sexual attraction, and so I would then have to take a sexual attraction label and then further modify it to be romantic versus sexual. And I very quickly realized, “This isn’t going to work for me.” And I was also kind of thinking, “Maybe I don’t even need to say that. Maybe I just need to tell people I’m married and my spouse is Agender. End of the story there.”
Courtney: But then things get further complicated because, you see, hindsight is 20-20, as they say. And even though I did have some decent-length relationships with guys in the past, I never felt the same connection I had with them as I do with you, Royce, or in a different way even still, my QPR that preceded you. And at the time, they were identifying as a woman, usually using the label “lesbian.” And so then, when I’m actually thinking about attraction, I’m like, “Well, am I actually only attracted to women and nonbinary people now? [laughs] Because I’ve been saying I don’t actually like men!”
Courtney: But it’s really not that simple, either, because, although I do feel some semblance of a romantic attraction for you, as my Agender spouse, the connection I had with my QPP at the time was very deep and very important and very meaningful to me, but it was something that was distinctly different from what people would standardly refer to as “friendship,” but it wasn’t quite this form of romance either. So… and you know, they and I have both talked about it and we have been like, “Yeah, that was absolutely a queerplatonic relationship.”
Courtney: I also… We are so silly, too, because just recently we were asked for our input on, actually, a YouTube video by SarahKTranslate. Is that the YouTube channel? She’s got a couple of them, so I want to make sure I have the right one. And pull up the name of the video, too, while you’re looking at it, just in case folks want to watch it, because it was a fabulous, well-made video that took a long time to make.
Royce: Yes, the YouTube handle is SarahKTranslate. The name is Sarah Moon.
Courtney: Yes. So, we actually found Sarah because a YouTube video about the translation of Bojack Horseman was just recommended to us. And anybody who’s listened to us for any length of time knows that we love that show. We love Todd as Ace representation. But in that video, Sarah mentioned, you know, Todd’s Asexuality and said, you know, “I am Ace myself.” It’s been a while since I’ve seen this video so I can’t quote it directly, but we were like, “Hey! [laughs] Found another Ace in the wild with some similar interests. This is awesome.”
Royce: Real quick. The video you were talking about is “For Fans, BY Fans | Anime in the West.”
Courtney: Yes! So, when Sarah reached out, I mean, just knowing that we are anime fans, just sort of asking for, like, a little bit of a quote from us that could be used in that video, we started talking about our relationship to anime, both as individuals and as a couple, and just sort of brainstorming what we wanted to say and whatnot. And you actually, for the first time in years, actually pulled up the very first messages that we had, like, shared amongst one another, which included that very same day when my QPP, like, immediately messaged you also and, like, told you to get a top hat [laughs], which I did not know at the time, immediately, that they did that, but you’ve been talking to them as long as you’ve been talking to me. [laughs]
Royce: Yeah, I figured it would be nice to actually save those chats when I deleted the account, however many years ago it was.
Royce: But we hadn’t read through them in a long time.
Courtney: I mean, it’s been nine years; it’s been over nine. But yeah. And so, at that time — like, ten years ago — we were not using the vocabulary, “We’re in a queerplatonic relationship. This is my queerplatonic partner.” We weren’t using that language. We have come to understand it that way now. But you pulled up one of these messages, and you were like, “Wow, major QPR vibes.” [laughs] Because didn’t she, like, literally refer to me as, like, “Oh, I hear you’re talking to my platonic wife”? [laughs]
Royce: I think that was the phrase, yeah.
Courtney: Like, “My platonic wife.” It’s like, that was the word that was used, and it’s like, wow, that really was just right there in front of us, hitting us over the head [laughs] and still took us a couple of years to get to that language. [laughs] So that was just a funny little anecdote where, very recently, we were like, “Oh yeah, this is evidence from that era.” [laughs]
Courtney: So now, how, then, is one able to come up with one succinct label that says, “I am not sexually attracted to anyone. I can be romantically attracted to, I guess, nonbinary people, but I also have the capacity to be non-romantically attracted to someone who, at the time, I said, was identifying as a woman”? And I was like, “Well, this is — there’s not going to be a single label for this, so this is too complicated, I’m gonna throw it away.” Well, now they’ve actually come out as nonbinary and are using they/she pronouns. So, now, I’m like, “Well, maybe it’s just nonbinary people, then.” [laughs]
Courtney: Maybe, maybe, maybe I have three genders inside of me, and the only people I can form any type of partnership with, be it romantic or not, they have to have fewer genders than me. [laughs] Maybe I have to have the only genders in the relationship. Maybe, maybe that’s it. I am like a dragon sitting on my hoard. All the gender are belong to me. You can have none of them. [laughs] But even still, is there a better label for that than describing myself as a dragon hoarding genders? I don’t think so. [laughs]
Royce: If we were a bigger channel or account, “Dracosexual” would end up trending or something.
Royce: Or “Dracogender.”
Courtney: I hate that. That’s probably a thing. I mean, I… Google it. Google it. [laughs] This is a really, really, really roundabout way of saying: as I’m looking through this list of flags that Microsoft sent us, there was a trigender flag.
Courtney: Okay, I’m gonna put a pin in that story, because the face Royce is making right now is priceless. What did you find in your Google search?
Royce: Let me read you this sentence —
Royce: — from the LGBTQIA wiki.
Courtney: Oh! Is that up again? There was a big to do, like a year ago when they were going to be deleting a bunch of these pages for smaller microlabels that aren’t cross-referenced anywhere else.
Royce: “Dracogender is when one collects / hoards genders due to being neurodivergent.”
Courtney: Noooooo! [laughs] It me! It me! [laughs] See —
Royce: And that “collects / hoards” directs to a page called “Gender collector,” also known as “gender hoarder.”
Courtney: See, I told you it’s a thing! Like, the thing is, the thing is, as I’m sitting here trying to paint a picture and explain my story, and I very frivolously say “I’m a dragon hoarding genders,” I know I’m not the only person on the face of this earth to have ever have that thought, you know? Like, this has got to be a type of queer experience that other people have heard. And other people have also been like, “I don’t have a proper word for this.” So what do people on the internet do? They’re going to try to find a word for it.
Royce: Another term here, another page: Drakefluid.
Royce: Which is: “It’s an identity in which one’s gender is fluid or fluctuating, but one can’t find just a few terms to describe what their fluctuating gender is, so they hoard gender terms that fit them.”
Courtney: Wow! See, that’s the thing. Like, the story and the visual of a dragging hoarding gender works for me, but that word just isn’t. But if I meet someone in the wild who’s like, “I’m Dracogender,” I’m going to give them a big high five. [laughs] I’m going to be like, “I get it!” [laughs] But I’m not going to be using that. But for me also — and here’s why, you know, gender can inform sexuality, can inform romantic orientation — because to me, the only reason why I’m, even in my mind, creating this gender hoarding visual is because I’m saying, “I’m taking it away from any partner of mine. My partner doesn’t get a gender; I get them all.” [laughs]
Courtney: And so I am understanding it that way in relationship to who I’m forming relationships with. If I were just on my own and if I were still — like, at the time I met you, I was not looking for someone to date. I was not. If I was still in that place, I probably wouldn’t even be considering it this way. So it’s really me trying to figure out my identity, because so many identity labels rely on the identity labels of the people you’re attracted to in the way that our language is set up. So that’s really interesting.
Courtney: But then again, I also start to think, “Well, why is it that I so infrequently feel romantic attraction, and I so infrequently feel queerplatonic attraction? But I have felt them both at various times, and what is the difference between them? What are the conditions that makes this one type of attraction versus the other for me?” And the only thing I can really understand in myself in that sense is the sexual attraction. I think — and I have said that I am probably somewhere in the Demiromantic area, but still that’s a hard label for me to use too often, and outside of Ace and Aro communities. Because at least in Ace and Aro communities, I can trust people to let that label do enough of the heavy lifting for me that it at least gives them something. But it’s still not enough of the story, because I think — I genuinely do not think that I could form a romantic attraction to an allosexual person. I do not think that is possible.
Courtney: And so if I were defining my own type of Demiromanticism, I would say, you know, there
Courtney: s sort of the borrowed language from, like, Demisexual and Demiromantic, the definition you’ll find on things like AVEN, when you Google things, the 101 definition, you’ll see — they use essentially the same language. They just interchange “sexual” and “romantic.” So, you know, “Demiromantic” will very frequently say, like, “You can only develop romantic attraction once a close personal bond has formed.”
Courtney: And it’s like, I guess that’s true. But for me, in the way I understand my ability or lack thereof for romantic connection, is that it has to not be sexual. Because I get uncomfortable to a certain extent when people are sexually attracted to me, whether or not they’re very respectful of it, very respectful of boundaries, it doesn’t matter. There is something about it that is not ever going to fully work for me in a romantic capacity. So I think the only way I’m able to have a romantic attraction to you probably has a lot less to do with gender or lack thereof, and probably has a lot more to do with the fact that you’re also Ace.
Courtney: And I know there are Ace/allo mixed-orientation relationships out there that work, and that is lovely for those people. But they probably don’t have my specific brand of Demiromanticism. [laughs] Because for me, I think that is one of the conditions that needs to be met in order for me to feel that way.
Courtney: Now, with my QPP, for example, they are allosexual. [laughing] They were very sexually attracted to me. There was a time when we went, like, swimsuit shopping at one point and I was like, “I hate shopping for swimming suits. That’s why I haven’t had one in years.” Because I either can’t find one that fits or I find one that has me looking like Jessica Rabbit or some kind of sex symbol, because of the way my body looks. I was like, “I’m either going to look like I’m trying to be the sexiest woman on the planet, through no fault of my own — my body just looks this way — or nothing’s gonna fit, because there isn’t a cup size big enough, or there isn’t a band size small enough, or, you know, all these different things that go wrong.” And I technically did find one bathing suit at the store we went to that technically did fit me. And I remember looking in the mirror and I was like, “I look way too sexy. [laughs] Way too sexy. Nobody is going to look at me and think that I’m not trying to look sexy.”
Courtney: And that’s one of those things where sometimes, sometimes I can wear something that I know people are going to think is sexy and I can just own it and be like, “That’s their problem and not mine,” and sometimes I can sit in that and be confident in that. Other times, this isn’t the time or the place where I want that. And usually things with swimming suits and, like, that amount of not having much of my body covered just really was a rough thing for me.
Courtney: But I remember, like, opening this changing room door to show my then-QPP and, like, their reaction to seeing me in that swimsuit was like a nosebleed scene in anime [laughs] without the actual blood, but everything else was the same: the flushing, the exact — I was like, “That’s my answer. This swimming suit isn’t going to work for me.” [laughs]
Courtney: But you know, we had a conversation at the time where it’s like, “You are very sexual, I am Asexual.” So we were like, “Great, so this isn’t going to be a relationship, we’ll just be ‘besties’” — “besties” in quotes. But there was — like, they were so respectful of my Asexuality and my boundaries that… I don’t know, it was kind of like a switch got turned off. It’s like, “This is not going to be a sexual relationship, so it’s not going to be a sexual relationship.” And that provided me the level of, you know, comfort and satisfaction I needed to start fostering these queerplatonic feelings that we did.
Courtney: And so, based on our limited sampling size of two people, that is the way that I have to sort of understand my Demiromanticism and my Asexuality and my capacity for forming romantic and/or queerplatonic relationships. Now, they have also both happened to be nonbinary people. I think, different types of nonbinary. You’ve used the label “Agender.” That is not a label that they identify. So under the nonbinary umbrella, they are still different experiences. I still don’t have a gender modifier to that.
Courtney: So could I technically say something like “pan” and say, like, “Gender doesn’t matter”? I could, but my capacity for developing these feelings are so narrow and so limited that it almost doesn’t make sense, because it’s going to be very infrequent and highly conditional. So at that point, honestly, just “Asexual.” Just “Asexual” is nice. It is clean. I am not sexually attracted to anybody; that much I know. That much will always be true. So that’s why that is the cleanest, nicest label for me and why no gender-specific romance modifier works.
Courtney: So again, we’ll pull the pin out of my previous conversation. Very roundabout way of saying I’m looking at these list of flags that we were sent, saying “Which flags are you?” And I was like, “Well, Asexual, yes.” But then I was like, “Maybe Demiromantic? Maybe Aromantic by way of Demiromantic?” And I’m looking at all these other things, and of course they have things like… Did they have, like, Demigirl and Demiboy? They might have had those. They had a lot of flags. A lot of flags. And I was like, “I’ve never identified with either of those or anything in that realm.” But then I see “Trigender flag.” And that’s kind of like Dracogender right there. Because I see a flag with the label of “Trigender,” and I was like, “Trigender, yeah, I know exactly what that means.” If I saw someone who identified as Trigender, I’d be like, “Yeah! I get it.” Probably also give them a high five.
Courtney: But here’s, you know, another issue: I’m… goth. [laughs] I have a limited color palette and a limited aesthetic palette. My aesthetics tend to be very dark, and if they aren’t dark, they’re very historical, like Victorian era, earlier eras of history. The Ace flag — like, black and purple have been my favorite colors, like, my entire life. So that was just a super happy, lucky surprise that I was like, “Wow, this is already my color palette.” I look at the Trigender flag and I would never buy a flag of those colors. Even if Trigender was a label that I felt as passionately about as I do Asexual, I personally would not take this flag to a Pride parade because it kind of hurts my eyes to look at.
Courtney: And I feel bad saying that, because I know someone designed this, I know someone is proud of making this, as with all pride flags. But my own personal color palette and aesthetic preferences — there are very few flags that I think are pretty. Some of the even very mainstream ones that you see a lot more often than things like Trigender I also don’t like very much. The Aro flag, for example: not bad. I can handle green. Green, black, gray works for me. I can handle that. The actual, like, AroAce flag with the blues and the yellows — I know some people really like that flag too, but I couldn’t get behind that flag, even if I identify that, yes, I do have a very clearly Aromantic orientation inside of me, which makes me, thus, AroAce in some sense. It just doesn’t work for me. I would much rather have both the Ace and the Aro flag — like, one in each hand [laughs] — than the one that is both. But that is purely, purely aesthetic preference at that point. And everybody, of course, is gonna be different there.
Courtney: But regardless of the flag and whether or not I like this flag, if someone’s saying, “What flag do you identify,” I’m not gonna be like, “I identify with that flag.” Because, first of all, flags are not orientations. But if the question posed another way — if Microsoft was like, “We would like to identify someone who is Trigender,” I’d kind of have to take a step back and think of my pie chart from childhood and be like, “Well, technically…”
Courtney: But at the center of all these shifting identities — or I wouldn’t even say “shifting,” because I don’t think they are shifting for me. They… like, identity is fluid and all those things for many people, but for me, I think it’s just been my understanding evolving. I don’t think I have changed. I don’t even want to say “womanhood,” because I don’t think that’s necessarily correct. But femininity is very important to me. Very important to me. And I know, logically, that gender presentation is not always going to line up with gender identity.
Courtney: But here’s the thing: the type of femininity that I identify with and the type of femininity that I have fought for and divorced sexuality from is a very, very high femme type of aesthetic that in some ways is almost so over-the-top caricaturized femininity that it has now wrapped back around to being queer. [laughs] Like, does that make sense? There’s a type of femininity — so, think about lots of different high femme, very dramatic sex symbols that have become, like, huge queer icons despite not actually being queer, like Dolly Parton, Morticia Addams, Elvira — like, very, very dramatized femininity. That’s what I am. And I have said before, in one of my anecdotes in trying to explain how I experience femininity, I have said things like, “I’m not a woman because I’m a woman; I’m a woman because I’m a drag queen.” [laughs] Like, I have said things like that. And, like, I’m sure my drag queen friends can attest, like, I have a very draggy aesthetic, and that is the type of femininity I’m comfortable with.
Courtney: So, if I have this very vampy, very witchy, like, low-cut — I talked about this a bit in the boobs episode also — like, low-cut, with capes on the sleeves, floor-length black gown I am so okay with someone thinking that that is a sexy look, because it is gothic, it’s dramatic, it’s over-the-top, it is so high femme that I now feel absolutely untouchable. Like, “Why, yes, sure you may find me sexy, you may perceive me as a woman, but I am, like… I almost don’t want to say, like, I am the sexiest woman. I am the most womanly woman.” [laughs] Like it’s a contest. Like, if you’re going to look at my physique and automatically be like, “Well, that’s a woman,” I am going to be the most ridiculously over-the-top woman that exists, and I am going to be on such a level that I am untouchable. I am — I will become a sex symbol [laughs] just so that you know, you don’t actually have a chance with me. This sounds so pretentious. I am just talking out of nowhere at this point.
Courtney: But I’m trying to figure out how to convey the fact that I am AFAB. I am a woman. I’m also not just a woman. So I’m, like, cis-ish, but the only way I’m able to exist in femininity and womanhood is a dramatized version of it. Like, gender… I’ve heard folks, trans or cis, say that gender is a performance, right? And I think a lot of people would agree with that. And I would even say a lot of people who refuse gender agree with that, because they’ll say, “Well, gender is a construct. It’s a performance, and I don’t want to perform. I don’t want to play the game. I want to opt out of it.” That’s great. Me, I am a performer. [laughs] I am a performer, so I will perform, thank you very much.
Courtney: But there also just aren’t very good words for saying that you don’t inherently feel gender, but you enjoy the performance of gender to an extreme sense — other than, like, “drag queen,” or “drag king,” if you’re a drag king. For me, I love art, I love costume, I love self-expression, I love drama.
Royce: Well, that is a potential note or deeper conversation to be had on the topic of gender euphoria or dysphoria. Because I have heard some people who have come to a different understanding of their gender identity at some point in their life, and have either gone from having a sort of neutral outlook to their gender or a negative outlook to how they were perceived, to trying some new things and actually feeling good about it — like, feeling a positive emotion, feeling euphoric. I don’t understand either of those things.
Royce: Like, I’ve never had a connection to gender that I could describe as euphoric or dysphoric. I do think that I have some potentially generalized dysphoria, as in, sometimes I feel a bit disconnected from my physical form. But generally, I’m just annoyed by gender because it doesn’t fit.
Royce: Or, I think I mentioned in the earlier episode on gender that, as a child, the way that I saw gender manifesting in society around me was stereotypes, and I also had an early childhood understanding that stereotypes were often incorrect and oversimplified, and so I was just annoyed by this entire concept.
Courtney: [laughs] At what age did you find yourself annoyed by the concept of gender?
Royce: I don’t know.
Courtney: Was it, like, pie chart age or younger?
Royce: As soon as I became aware of the notion that you were supposed to like or do certain things because of how you were born.
Royce: Like, that was immediately stupid —
Royce: — at a pretty young age. And it wasn’t even something that was forced upon me by any means. I just — I kind of did my own thing anyway, but I knew from hearing adults talk sometimes, or just from my TV, that there is this expectation. But anyway, talking about… you were at least experiencing something positive by performing a high feminine presentation.
Courtney: Yes. And that’s… I mean, I think I’ve said this before as well. There’s a pretty famous drag queen, because, you know, they were on RuPaul’s Drag Race and everything. But Gottmik is a trans man who is a drag queen. And I know there are some people that, for a period of time, had trouble wrapping their head around it. Like, why would you transition to be a man just so you could be a drag queen and dress up in, you know, these elaborate, sometimes feminized ways? But, like, I got it, I understood that. But I don’t understand it on the level where I would ever consider, like, I’m a trans man who likes to be feminine. Because for as much as I fought for femininity and womanhood and to be comfortable in this and to remove it from sexuality and to enjoy the presentation of being high femme, I don’t really have the same appreciation for masculinity or manhood. And that doesn’t mean that I would reject it altogether. It’s just less important, I suppose.
Courtney: But I know, like, when I was a kid there were instances of, like… I would do plays where I would, like, be gender-swapped and I’d, like, play a man or a boy. And, like, that never bothered me. I was always glad to play a character of any gender. Even some elements of my very high femme wardrobe are kind of inspired by historical masculinity, like top hats. And, I mean, the cane is, like, it’s a mobility aid. I walk with a cane often, and that is necessary, but I’m also like, “I’m not just going to pick up a cane at the pharmacy and use that. I need a very dramatic, swanky cane. I need to look like a Victorian gentleman as I’m walking with my cane.” So, there’s certainly an element of that. And, like, when I think about the type of, I guess, masculine gender performance that I would like, it’s like, tailcoat, top hat, smoking a cigar in my study with a decanter of scotch. [laughing] Like, it’s very dramatic. It’s very out there.
Courtney: But it’s also something that… And, like, props to anyone else who just doesn’t care what their natural body looks like and is going to wear and perform whatever they want. I think those people are so cool and so awesome. For me, I would be so frustrated if I tried to wear, like, a three-piece suit with tailcoats, trying to look like a Victorian gentleman, and I just couldn’t because I have massive boobs. I have boobs so big that I have no way of binding them. I will never achieve the flat-chested look of a Victorian gentleman. So I would just be too frustrated to try. [laughs] Because, like, it’s kind of… A lot of it boils down to aesthetic, for me. A lot of it boils down to aesthetic. And it’s just… it’s not going to work. It’s not going to be the same.
Courtney: I’ve thought about the same thing for drag performances, too. Because I have performed in drag shows. I have considered, like, “What would it look like if I did a performance in boy mode? What if I — you know, what if I performed as a man, dressed as a man, did, like, a very masculine song, sang something, you know?” I’ve considered what that would look like. But I’ve also looked at all the drag kings that I’ve actually admired and it’s like, they’ve all, in their own way, got an aesthetic that I love so much that works for them that isn’t gonna work for me.
Courtney: And the thing is, I’m happy enough with my high femme presentation that I don’t necessarily want to go through the hassle of trying to figure out a masculine presentation that [laughing] would work for me, because, I don’t know, I’m always gonna have these boobs. They’re so big that they can’t be hidden. And the only way I could think of possibly hiding it to achieve a, quote, “masculine” — and I know this is very binary — and I am not applying these standards to anyone else. I’ve said in the previous, like, boobs episode, for example, that folks who are, like, trans men, who have similar bodies to me and don’t want or feel like they need top surgery are some of the coolest, most confident people I think out there, period.
Courtney: But for me, I’m like — my waist is so tiny compared to these big boobs, and I’m like, “I am not.” First of all, it’d be horribly problematic to, like, try to put on, like, a fat suit. Like, I think as a society we’ve gotten past the “performers wear fat suits for a character or a bit.” And even if I wasn’t trying to make fun of it or be a comedic character at any bit, even if I was just trying to disguise the fact that I have massive breasts and a tiny waist while trying to perform as a man, like, to me that wouldn’t fit my aesthetic preference, and I don’t know why I’d go through the hassle when I still love high femme. So I can do high femme. I am comfortable with high femme. I know what that looks like on me in my own personal body, so it’s kind of just where I sit and where I exist.
Courtney: And so there are situations where it’s like, even if I thought about adopting “Trigender” as a label, it’s like, I suppose one could be a Trigender woman. Like, we have nonbinary women; we have several versions like that. And I was like, “I suppose that could be a thing.” It’s all just very odd [laughing] and very complicated. And even if I did one day decide, you know, “Yep, let’s try out Trigender for a while, either just that or Trigender woman, let’s just do it,” even if I wanted to or did. To go back to one of our original points, that still surely doesn’t help with gender-reliant labels for me or for you! What’s your romantic orientation, Royce? [laughs]
Royce: I’m trying to think of the last time I had to answer that question. I think there have been some very simplistic conversations where, given the person I was talking to, “heteroromantic” was what moved the conversation along fastest, without getting into the gender of it all. I’ve thought about words that basically mean “attracted to women” before, but the only one I’m really aware of is “sapphic,” and I only really hear that used in lesbian communities. Plus, there’s also —
Courtney: Yeah. [laughs]
Royce: Plus, there’s also — like, there are complicating factors in there where the “just attracted to women” isn’t a 100% fit.
Royce: Like, I’ve never been attracted to a man. I…
Courtney: Me neither. [laughs] One of our very first conversations, when we were just talking about, like, “What does heteroromantic Asexual mean to you?” I remember you saying, like, “I am attracted to, like, the form or the presentation of a woman, but indifferent toward genitalia,” I think was what you said, which was probably also a very simplified thing to say at the time, and your understanding has maybe grown since then, also. But that’s just, like, one conversation that I know was a very, very early one that we had.
Royce: That was part of trying to resolve where I’m at in the Asexual spectrum, as someone who would be on the more sex-neutral or favorable side of things, where I think my further explanation about that was — did you just say “indifferent to genitalia” or something like that?
Courtney: I think I remember you, at one point, saying, “I am indifferent to genitalia.”
Royce: Yeah, there was that realization that hit me. I think one of my big, like, surprising to me Ace moments was when I was talking to someone new, and texts started going back and forth, and then a couple of pictures showed up.
Courtney: [dramatically gasps] Did you get a sext? [gasps]
Royce: So I… Tangent. Looking back at my late teens, early 20s, I’m pretty confident now that most of my early, like, relationship courting stuff was just all, like, role play.
Courtney: [laughs] You’ve kind of said that. You’ve kind of mentioned. Because, first of all, I don’t understand sexting whatsoever. I mean, clearly a photo of genitalia — like, to me, that’s going to be gross, no matter who it comes from. Like, just don’t. [laughs]
Royce: So, the thing is was, the kind of back and forth and the understanding of the sort of societal expectations. Looking at it now, it feels very much like role play. Like, I understand the character, and there was… I do remember that aspect of being interesting or being exciting, at least when it was new.
Courtney: You hadn’t discovered D&D yet. [laughs]
Royce: True. But also it was getting to know someone with the intention of being in a relationship and knowing that they are enjoying something. Like, being a part of something that someone you like enjoys, and, like, knowing that you’re contributing to that and seeing that reaction. Like, that is also an exciting thing. But I do remember getting a picture one time. And I remember the conversation beforehand being interesting and exciting. And I remember this was on, like, an old flip phone —
Royce: Like, images — you’d get the notification and then you’d open your phone and it would, like, slowly —
Courtney: Oh, no. Disaster.
Royce: And the image popped up. And I remember, sort of, like, freezing and stepping outside of myself a moment. Because this picture could have been a picture of paint drying or grass growing.
Courtney: [laughs] “Well, this does nothing for me!”
Royce: The absence of anything that I felt viewing that image was so prominent —
Royce: — that I had to, like, step to the side and look at myself and go, “Huh, that’s not what I expected.”
Courtney: You had to be like, “Well, that’s out of character. This is not the character I put on.” [laughs] Yeah. And, I mean, here’s… And, I mean, I sort of asked you that question, and if you have more anecdotes or more of an understanding now that you’ve developed that you can start sharing a little bit more about, then maybe that is interesting.
Courtney: But all this is kind of mostly to just say, like, we’ve sort of, as a queer community, almost dug ourselves into a corner by revolving so many of our own labels around who we form relationships with and how we form relationships with them. And I think that can, like, accidentally, sometimes give people, like, an identity crisis. And I mean, like, straight people aren’t immune to this either. Like, clearly, clearly, straight people get rattled all the time when they realize maybe they aren’t completely straight, in whatever form that looks like to them. But, like, I really shouldn’t have to be thinking, like, “What are my labels, knowing that I only have relationships that have worked with people who are nonbinary of some kind, but the relationship types are different and these conditions need to be met.” I’m like, “Why does what I am inside actually… Why is the label going to change based on who this other person is?”
Courtney: And it’s not, and it doesn’t have to, but it’s kind of a pitfall in the way we’ve arranged our language around queer identities. Because there’s so much, you know, homo, hetero, bi, pan, and, like, those modifiers just get borrowed by all the other communities, because heterosexual became, you know, heteroromantic or homoromantic or homosexual, and just sort of gets — like, these prefixes get borrowed all over the place. And we see that with Ace and Aro, too. Like, Demisexual gets borrowed to Demiromantic, and Asexual and Aromantic.
Courtney: And that’s part of the beauty of language, is that you can borrow things and use them how you see fit. But with so many of them being contingent on another person you may or may not develop a relationship with, it’s kind of a flaw in the system, especially for folks who don’t see relationships as being a vital part of who they are.
Courtney: So, yeah, I guess, what would you say now? If we went to a party tomorrow with a bunch of presumably allo queer friends and they said, “What are you?”
Royce: I would probably just say, “Ace.” If they specifically asked about romantic orientation, I would probably just look at you and see if you had a word on the tip of your tongue.
Courtney: If I was on the other side of the room.
Royce: That’s the… The issue is that there isn’t a single word.
Royce: So, I guess, at that point, we would have this conversation that we’ve had around the microphone at the party full of queer friends.
Courtney: We’d be like, “Do you like podcasts? [laughs] Did you know we have a podcast?” [laughs] So I guess, all this to say, Royce had a gender episode. This was sort of Courtney’s gender episode. But the way in which I have had to understand gender also has a lot to do with Asexuality and some form of Aromanticism and the fact that I just don’t really develop partnerships that work with cishet people.
Courtney: So, I don’t know. I know when we did your Agender episode, there were a lot of listeners out there that felt really reassured by, I suppose, your apathy toward a lot of it. So I hope there are at least a few of you out there who were able to resonate with at least some element of my story and my journey of trying to understand these things and why there are some labels that might, like, legally be correct [laughs] but may still be imperfect, perhaps even to the point of not being a worthwhile thing to lead with. And hey, maybe it gave you a little taste for an upcoming mega-series on the split attraction model. We haven’t decided how many episodes that’s probably going to be, but I’m thinking it at least needs to be three.
Royce: You must have a lot more to say on the topic than I do.
Courtney: I do! [laughs] Because I have been the one who has been deep in the trenches, observing years and years and years’ worth of discourse across many platforms within Ace communities about why people do or do not like the split attraction model. And I have developed some of my own opinions based on my own experience. And I also have observations about when I think the Ace community just doesn’t really show up for certain community members. That’s all I’m going to say.
Courtney: So I don’t know. If I think it’s going to be about three, watch it be, like, six. How many episodes did we think that — the episodes about the letter for the Respect for Marriage Act was going to be? We’re like, “This is going to be two-part. Just kidding, this is going to be three-part. [laughing] Just kidding, it’s four.” [laughs] That just kept getting longer and longer.
Royce: Before we started recording, I think the estimate was, we might have to cut it in two. And then we recorded for eight hours.
Courtney: How do our listeners deal with us? [laughs]
Royce: Well, the episode got cut down from that. It was eight hours of us sitting at this table.
Courtney: Literally. We recorded those all in one shot. I don’t know if we said that before, but those four episodes all recorded back-to-back, nonstop, no breaks. [laughs] Lots of pots of tea were brewed that day.
Courtney: So on that note, thank you all, once again, so much for being here. If you’re on one of the popular podcast sites like Spotify or Apple, please drop us a rating, a review. It certainly does help. If you are listening on YouTube, give us a like, comment, a subscribe, all of that fun stuff. And, as always, you can follow and Tweet at us at @The_Ace_Couple on… I guess they aren’t called Tweets anymore, but I don’t know anybody who’s actually calling it X. [laughs] It’s funny. We had so many — I think every podcast guest we’ve had on for the last year, at the end of the episode, when we’re like, “Where can the listeners find you?” They’re like, “Well, I know the state of Twitter right now is a big question mark, but here’s my Twitter, if it’s still around,” [laughs] and now it’s not technically Twitter anymore, but everyone’s still just calling it Twitter. So you can Tweet at us at the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Royce: My response to that so far has been that X is the standard placement holder variable.
Royce: And, when speaking of the social media platform, the appropriate thing to put into that placeholder is “Twitter.”
Courtney: Twitter. That is how everyone is using it these days. So with that, we will talk to you all again, same time, same place next week. And keep hoarding those genders, my friends. Goodbye.