0142: Figuring out Why


Content warning: The following piece contains references to a person processing their identities as a nonbinary human being, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Figuring out Why," Karyssa Bickford

When I was in the sixth grade I started to realize I'm not straight. My best friend at the time, Alicia, was bisexual and when I would talk to her about her sexuality it kind of made sense. Back then, I didn't know much about sex or sexuality or gender expression so I didn't really understand what was happening with what I was feeling. It wasn't until freshman year of high school that I came out as bisexual.

Everyone told me I was just doing it to be trendy, because all my friends were, and it hurt because I had suppressed it for three years prior. Nevertheless, I dated my first girl. Her name was Sydney, and kissing her was magical. When I came out to my parents, my mom was angry and forced me to break up with her, which I did. The day before Christmas break. She came into school with my Christmas present, a gothic cross necklace, and I made her cry. I still have the necklace in the top drawer of my dresser.

I went back into the closet and suppressed my feelings for girls. My friend Breana, who I had been friends with since diapers, and our friend Amanda were like the three musketeers end of freshman year/beginning of sophomore. They were both a grade above me. Amanda was also bisexual and I had feelings for her and they were mutual. We started fooling around and my sophomore year we dated. I walked her to her classes, we shared a locker, we kissed each other goodbye in the halls.

She was also the first girl I was ever sexual with.
I didn't know it then, but she was my first love.

We wrote each other love notes and passed them off between classes to read in the next. We'd hang out at her house after school and cuddle in her bed and talk for hours. She always smelled like daisies and honeydew melon. She wanted me to come out and be Facebook official, tell my parents, have a real relationship; so I got scared and I ran. I left her a note on her bedside table while she was showering and left her house. Our friendship wasn't the same and we weren't really the three musketeers anymore. 

I suppressed being queer until I was 20. In the summer of 2015 I came out as pansexual, and I wasn't going back in the closet. I realized I wasn't bi, rather identified more with pansexuality it had been more present in our society so I had the chance to learn about it. You can definitely tell times had changed, because my mom was supportive and asked me questions and listened. 
I was in a long term relationship at the time, and experimented a little bit with gender nonconformity, which I had wanted to do for years, but was scared that he would leave me if I did it in public, so I did it in private.

When he left, I experimented more with it and came out in the summer of 2016 as nonbinary. At the time I was under the impression that I was genderfluid. As I continued to grow, I realized I enjoy being feminine, but my issue is just that I feel uncomfortable being boxed into a gender binary. I always have. It just took me a long time to figure out exactly why. My family still has a hard time using my correct pronouns, but my boyfriend whom I'm with now does it effortlessly and I'm accepted by his friends and mother as nonbinary. It's taken me a long time to get to a point where I'm okay with who I am, and why. But I'm here, and I'm queer.


About the art:

Karyssa is a brilliantly outspoken human being who owns their identities. That's the Karyssa I've known, so it was illuminating to read how much work it has taken for them to find this voice and this confidence.

I was given complete control with this piece of art and I'm thankful for that because it allowed me to take Karyssa's most powerful statement at the end - a deeply queer sentiment - and make a piece of art out of it! I added the "and I riot," based on a protest sign I had seen once! I think it sends an even stronger message and it fits Karyssa's mentality very well.

- Craig.

0109: On Wearing Black


Content warning: The following story contains references to gender and sexual fluidity, expressions, and performance, which may be triggering for some readers.


"On Wearing Black," Angie Tissi-Gassoway

I wear mostly black—I always have. Black is the only color I find comfort in. My choice to wear black is not about fashion or style. I mean, at this point it rarely feels like I have a choice anymore. Wearing black is about my existence and survival. At night, once my head hits the pillow I am typically so exhausted that I literally pass out. Despite the exhaustion, throughout the night I have trouble sleeping—I wake up, toss and turn, and go through the rolodex that is my brain full of all the things I constantly worry about. In the morning it all starts over again—my own version of gender dysphoria that disrupts my every move.

I have tried to love this body I live in. I have tried to change this body I live in. I have tried to embody and embrace both the feminine and masculine parts of my body and soul. I have tried many things, but it never seems to be enough. I stand at my closet door every morning with the hopes that the anxiety attack will not begin. I stare into the black hole—making the choice about what black piece of clothing I will wear today.

Is it too feminine? Is it too masculine?
Will I confuse people?
Will people make statements or pass judgment?
Will I blend in because I always wear black?

I ask myself these questions every morning.

The internalized oppression I experience around gender, gender expression, and performance is debilitating and for the most part, unwavering. As a queer, white, androgynous, genderfluid person I often feel invisible and painfully visible all at the same time. My gender identity and understanding of my gender expression have shifted over time Even now—naming my gender in such a definitive way—I have never done.

I have only lived in a world in which my gender has been policed. Often it is policed by those that I least expect, serving as a reminder that I must uphold the expectations placed upon my assumed gender. This complicates everything. I never know what feels right anymore, because I am so jaded by the messaging of what it means to live in this body—what it means to express gender in this body. Is it possible to break free? Will I ever truly understand my relationship with gender, especially if it is always informed by others? The process by which I have explored my gender identity has been intensely private and personal. I have been validated and invalidated. I have found comfort in my neutrality around gender. I have found comfort in hiding—hiding behind and within the black clothes that I wear everyday.

As a professional who has spent years studying, unlearning, unpacking, and redefining gender and sexuality I often find it hard to believe my own words. I work with college students everyday, reminding them of their beauty, strength, and resilience. I work to celebrate, embrace and affirm the fluidity of gender and sexuality. I work and I work, yet, I find it so difficult to apply my teachings to my own life. These are teachings that I deeply believe in—I am rooted in their ability to transform one’s life. However, the fear of naming my gender and peeling back the layers to expose my truth feels unhinged and too vulnerable.

For now, I will continue to be resilient. I will continue to explore my gender and learn to live unapologetically as my true and authentic self. I will take one day at a time and trust that I know this body more than anyone else. I will wear mostly black—I always have. Black is the only color I find comfort in. My choice to wear black is not about fashion or style. I mean, at this point it rarely feels like I have a choice anymore. Wearing black is about my existence and survival.


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About the art:

Angie expressed a love for the macabre, especially bones and all things skeletal. Relating to their story, we thought a full skeleton would be wonderfully representative of the body.

Flowers for me have always symbolized growth, so I wanted some of Angie's favorites to come blooming out from between the ribs. Despite the florals, black and white seemed important in keeping the theme.

- Hannah

0108: My Story Changed


Content warning: The following story refers to someone coming out as transgender, as well as their experience transitioning, which may be triggering to some readers.

"My Story Changed," Kameron Winters

I was asked to write this story because I came out as transgender about two months ago and started medically transitioning shortly after. I was more than happy to share because I wanted to tell people my story. This week, my story changed. 

Earlier this year I was talking to a friend of mine, a gender therapist, about what the process was to medically transitioning from female to male. I had been a masculine of center queer person for most of my adult life and was always comfortable in how I expressed myself. However, I never asked the question, “what does it mean to feel comfortable in your body?” “In the mass that you use to navigate the world every day?”
 
Sure, I wasn’t a fan of my curves or how my shirts lay over my chest, but I thought that was everyone. I knew men’s clothing was never going to fit me perfectly, but I started to realized it wasn’t just what I was wearing.  It was how I looked, it was my body, my gender. I wanted to change it. It wasn’t until then that I realized that I was suffering from gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling one's emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be different than one's biological sex.
 
After going to a gender therapist, I decided to socially and medically transition. I’ve been fortunate because up until this point my parents, friends and coworkers have been extremely supportive. I realize I live in a fairly liberal city and my transition was a lot easier than most trans folk. I also recognize my privilege in the fact that I’m white, can afford to medically transition and can pass as a man. This can not be said for all trans people. I'm lucky that today I’m successfully living as Kameron Reese Winters. 
 
This is where my story changes. 

Only a few days after a devastating election I am overwhelmed by fear. Trump is our President elect and his agenda includes removing the pro-LGBT legislation that President Obama, along with the Supreme Court, implemented.

Many white, cis folks (both men and women) are dismissing our fear. But let me tell you why I feel fear:

1) Trump will create anti-LGBT legislation and allow us to be discriminated against on the basis of religion.

2) I don’t want to lose my insurance. As someone currently taking testosterone and wanting top surgery at some point, will I be able to if my insurance is taken away? Probably not.

3) I haven’t gotten a legal name or gender marker changed and I’m scared to start the process and I’m scared to wait. If I start I might only be able to change my ID, not my passport, social security card and birth certificate. If I wait, who knows if I’ll ever get to change my name or gender marker. 

4) Bathrooms. Bathrooms (which have always been a thing) will be an even bigger thing.

Those are just a few things I’m scared about and this is just the beginning of my transition and a Trump nation. I will not run. I'm going to stay, heal, rebuild, organize and fight like hell to keep the rights we have. To all my trans family, you are loved. Take care of yourself.


About the art:

I knew that when we got to Transgender and gender dysphoria stories that I needed to get Kameron's story. I was so stoked on the first story they wrote for us back in June for Queer pride, and since then, their story truly has changed. And it's changed into a powerful form of advocacy and exposure to the evolution that exists when someone is transitioning genders.

For Kameron's piece, I wanted to recreate a piece of art that Katy forwarded to me, something they found on the internet. It's an amalgam of pronouns, with "she" repeated atop the piece and "he" repeated below, and the dominant imagery comes in the form of watercolors behind the word, "THEY" in white. I outlined the letters "HE" of "THEY" because Kameron uses both He/his and they/them pronouns, so this subtle change makes a bit of a poignant statement.

Feel free to click above for the details of the piece. This one was so much fun to make and I think it came out pretty cool and I can't wait from Kameron to have it in their new office as they begin ANOTHER new chapter of their life at American University.

Could not be more proud of this human, and I cannot wait to cross paths with them again in the near future.

- Craig.

0107: The Deconstruction of Transness


Content warning: The following story references someone coming out as Transgender, and explains their experience as a Trans individual, some elements of the story may be triggering to some readers.

"The Deconstruction of Transness," Jesseanne Pope

Maybe my words will never come together in a way that accurately conveys the thoughts swirling in my mind and the emotions weighing on my heart, but maybe one day they will. I keep writing because sometimes I don’t know where I am at until I see it on paper. Part of being a queer person in an educational role is always being shoved into the token spotlight; always being expected to speak on The Queer Experience™.

There are a few things that play into the development of this situation.

I am a ‘safe queer’ in many aspects: I am white, I am young, I don’t visibly look ‘too radical’, I am assumed to be American and English speaking, I am able bodied, and I am extroverted and well spoken (also a product of my white privilege). The privileges that I hold in my other identities allow me to be a safe trans person for both well-intended and mal-intended curious folks to direct their questions to. So I write to help prepare myself for the questions, although they are never-ending and ever-adapting. 

When/how did I know I was trans?
How did I decide to ‘change’ my pronouns?
How did I realize I wasn’t trans-binary?
Do I hate my body?
Why haven’t I had top surgery?
Am I on T? Why/Why not?
How can I be non-binary if I present masculine?
Was I born a girl?
How do I tell the people I’m interested in what’s in my pants?
How does it feel to be ‘born in the wrong body’?

I’ll go ahead an invite you to check back into my dissertation a decade or so from now, because that’s the only place where I might be able to tackle the mess that is the questions above. For now, I wanted to share a glimpse of my story, and you can take from it whatever you need, as a trans person, as an ally, as a friend, as whoever you are. 

The story from birth to now would include many different pieces to the puzzle that is my transness; however, that’s something I would share 1:1, maybe over coffee? For now, I want to start here. When I came out as trans non-binary I took the anxiety that I had harbored in a deep, dark place in my body and faced it head on. I felt immense pressure from those around me, both members of the queer community and people outside of it, to validate my transness. My social transition started with cutting my hair off, then changing my gender expression to be more masculine, then using gender-neutral pronouns, and then tackling my 24 years of socialization as a woman. 

As a trans masculine person I was socialized for 24 years to think, live, be, act, do, talk, walk, and breathe womanhood. Coming out as trans meant that I could finally be authentically myself, and begin to deconstruct the harmful messaging that I had received that had pushed me into a box where I felt isolated, confused, and as though I did not belong. 

I bind my chest whenever possible. I wear men's clothing, and get my hair cut at the barbers. I use gender-neutral language, but enjoy masculine centered language more than feminine. I am self-conscious about the tone and pitch of my voice. Each and every day my body, my voice, my name, my hair; it is all intertwined pain of misgendering, of gender suppression; of denial, self-hate, and loneliness. My efforts to present authentically are also efforts to find a home in my body. To have others see me as I truly am.

For many trans people, surgery and hormones offer a way to do just that. So why am I at a point where that is not what I want? I don’t know. Deconstructing 24 years of transphobia, bedded with homophobia, misogyny, and endless socialized and internalized oppression makes it difficult to address my body as a trans person. I was taught that my worth as a woman lies in my body; that it lies in the ability of my body to fit an extremely oppressive and unrealistic standard of attractiveness to men. So what does it mean for me to change my body in a way that removes the sole place where I have positioned my worth for 24 years? Detaching myself from misogyny means that I have to tear apart the idealized version of womanhood that I was told is where I should strive to be. How do I build self-worth, self-love, or self-acceptance in a body that has repeatedly been valued and rewarded for it’s complacent femininity? 

I don’t have the answers, and I’m sorry to leave you with questions. As I continue to evaluate my soul and redirect energy within my mind and body I hope that I will come to a place where I feel home and where my authentic self can truly exist. However, that may be a lifelong journey for me. Coming out as trans has created a space in my life for me to express myself and share my experience, but socialization runs deep; it is embedded in everything that we do. Being trans means that I fumble through dysphoria every day, some days it’s okay and some it’s worse than others. Sometimes I can find solace in the chair at the barbers, or with a bow-tie. And then sometimes I feel the weight of people’s assumptions about my gender so heavily.

When people look at me and see my chest, or hear my voice, or learn my name and push me back into years of hiding, I feel as if I will never be able to speak again. My spirit is lost in the translation, between misgendering, transphobia, misogyny, ignorance, and exclusion. In these moments I take a deep breath, I center myself, and I validate myself as a trans person, as a masculine person, as a non-binary person, as a queer person whose existence in my world is radical. The way I fit in my body may change, my body may change; I will change.

The one thing that won’t change is my validity as a trans person, because our worth and our existence is not dependent on our bodies fitting into a pre-determined set of expectations. I am real and I am trans, and each day that I live and breathe my existence is disruptive, and that is a wonderful feeling. 


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About the art:

I first met Jesseanne a little over a year ago at Oregon State. We had been in touch for a while before that, and I even helped them along their grad school application process. So I've been able to watch their transition, if even by afar, for some time now.

What I have loved about experiencing Jesseanne's transition and evolution, is that they've have been perfectly unapologetic and open every step of the way. It's been wonderful to witness how they advocate for themselves and the others in their community. It's truly inspiring.

So for this piece, I wanted to take a powerful moment in this story - all of the questions they ask toward the beginning - and write them all out on the canvas. I find that while these questions are pertinent to Jesseanne's experience, they are also reminders of the work they still have to do in their transition, which is completely normal.

I painted the Transgender flag over the questions as an homage to their identity in hopes it will be a positive source of inspiration for them moving forward.

I'm so thankful that Jesseanne shared this piece with us and I cannot wait to see what happens with them next.

-Craig.

 

0106: Shape-shifting


Content warning: The following poem contains references to transitioning genders, which may be triggering for some readers.

"Shape-shifting (a poem)," Tommy Claire

How do you know your nature?
When nurture distorts…
What thoughts creep in and out?
What do you hold or set free?
When you know this isn’t your story, your vibration, frequency
What does it matter?

Survival is about acceptance. 
I’ve had to accept situations and circumstances that I would not have chosen since I was born. 
Gender was a part of that. 

I’ve enjoyed shape-shifting, culture-crossing, dancing with ambiguity.

There has also been a nagging.
It’s like an itch you just cannot scratch. 
Or a cactus thorn invisible to the eye, but easily provoked to agitation and discomfort. 

Just accept it. This fly by the sun… this is the body I got. 
Put it to rest.

But rest never came. 
I searched wide and far for another answer. 
Just don’t let it be gender… and it always was.

Finally, I decided to baby step in curiosity. 
What would it reveal to look behind that door?
What if I could acknowledge this part of me?
How far would I go to live in alignment of self?

No matter what anyone says, no one really understands this. 
How could we?
We are all bathed in distortions- roles, bodies, rightness, wrongness… righteousness.

I do have my own compass to guide me. 
I know when I feel lighter, more free.
And when I feel tighter, smaller, confined. 

Taking testosterone? Lighter.
Taking a little more? Lighter.
Using they/them pronouns? Lighter. 
Having top surgery? Lighter.

“Transition” is a word that somehow became the talking point. 
A reference point.
To medicalize the supernatural.

Just because you can describe something does not mean you understand it.

We are all transitioning all of the time. 
It’s called aliveness.

I feel more alive than ever before in my life. 
Alive in the joy, freedom, hope. 
Alive in the grief, pain, despair.
My senses have come alive- to meet the world. 
I decided to join the planet. 
To touch down on earth, in this form of my creation and choosing. 
I decided to forgive myself in order to love myself whole again. 


About the art:

Tommy is one of my most favorite human beings. They were my first supervisor in grad school and from our first interaction in a hallway, in passing, I knew we would connect immediately as our work moved forward.

Over the last three years, I've been able to learn and grow alongside Tommy, being with them at various points in their transition, and their developing agency over their shape-shifting body and identities.

In making this painting, I knew that Tommy is from the Southwest, loves a good hike, and the outdoors. So I wanted to make a bright piece that could remind them of being out in the sun, kick in some of the earthy tones with light browns, and a white splatter.

The quote is taken from this brilliant poem that Tommy wrote to express the various emotions, phases, and experiences of transitioning. It's a quote that stood out to me because I can tell Tommy needed to write this poem to get a lot of these experiences out. And I'm so glad they did because it has given us a great look into their life.

I hope it inspires more folx to share their experiences as well!

- Craig.

0104: Question Everything


Content warning: The following stories contains references to a person experiencing gender dysphoria, which may be triggering to some readers.

"Question Everything," Shay

About a year ago now, I started questioning my gender. Around the same time, I cut off all my hair. I’m not sure which came first-- for me the two things kind of went together. Like many women, I worried about the extreme change to my hair because what if I regretted it? It would take so long to grow back. But I never have. If anything, I wish I’d done it much sooner. Getting rid of my hair was like shedding the part of my identity that didn’t belong to me. 

I started identifying as demigirl, but now my gender is just queer. I don’t like the term “nonbinary” to describe myself (although I will use it in certain contexts) because I feel that the term itself reinforces the idea that there IS a binary. Although I’m not a woman, my gender is strongly tied to my feminism. I can relate to the experiences of oppression that women have, but I can’t identify with femininity as a positive feeling.

Looking back, I have always experienced gender dysphoria, but never recognized it for what it was. As a teenager, I would overcompensate (unconsciously) with very feminine gender expression, which included hypersexual behavior. This is because of the ways women are sexualized in our society, in media and advertising. When I started identifying as trans/gender non conforming, I no longer felt comfortable in women’s-only spaces. However, I have embraced my connection with the queer community, and I wouldn’t have gotten through the last year without it.

It’s hard to be like this. Some days I wish I was cis, or at least binary trans. How do you explain nonbinary to people who insist there are only two genders, or they/them pronouns to people who insist they’re grammatically incorrect? Which bathroom do you use? What do you wear? No matter what I wear, people won’t see me for who I ameven though when I look in the mirror, I don’t see someone who looks at all feminine.

I’m not publicly out at school yet, and as a consequence I’m unintentionally misgendered all day, every day with the wrong pronouns, the wrong name. I’m scared to come out because after that, it won’t be unintentional anymore. Then I’ll know how few people are really on my side. 

I also wouldn’t have gotten through the last year without my partner, a cis man who is supportive and affirming. He uses my real name and pronouns. A few of my friends do too. Hearing someone use my pronouns, it feels like I’m taking a deep breath for the first time in forever. I filed my name change paperwork a few weeks ago.

My chosen name is a nickname I’ve had since high school, a shortened version of my birth name, so a lot of people call me that already, but not everyone. Hearing my birth name or she/her pronouns to address me is like getting punched in the gut. How many times can you get punched in the stomach and survive?


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About the art:

In recent months, Shay has become one of my favorite people. They are brilliant, stoic, and incredibly thoughtful with regard to how they navigate spaces and the world.

In knowing Shay, I know that one of my most favorite aspects of them is their bright and colorful tattoos. As well as their colorful hair. So I wanted to create a piece that was bright and colorful to match these traits.

I didn't want to fill up the background of this piece with too much color. Normally I gloss the entire canvas over with a layer of color, but I wanted these three colors to POP, so to speak. And I think I achieved that pretty. It stands out pretty vibrantly on a wall and/or in a room.

The quote is pretty dynamic and comes from  the penultimate paragraph of Shay's story. Right when they're talking about the importance of when someone gets their pronouns and/or name correct. That relief is something that comes through so much in this piece and I just wanted to echo that emotion in this painting.

I'm thankful that Shay had the courage to put words to their experience and I hope it inspires more people to do the same.

- Craig.

068: I (fucking) Love Who I am


Content warning: The following story contains a story in which a survivor discusses coming out in multiple queer identities, the post also contains some homophobic language.

“I (fucking) Love Who I am,” Katy Hamm

 

Have you ever found yourself surrounded by a group of people, and thinking, “what do I have in common here?”

--

Flashback

I grew up in a small farm town in Wisconsin.

I’m sure you have a general idea of where this is going already, but hear me out. 

I remember a friend of mine in high school being harassed for being gay. He wasn’t out at the time, and I wasn’t really sure what “gay” was, but it sounded bad. I remember yelling at two guys who were calling him slurs with the response, “shut up, he’s not gay.”

He was. He is. He just wasn’t out. No one was. You weren’t queer in my hometown. It wasn’t an option. 

--

Fast-forward to college

I had struggled through my first year - overwhelmed by depression and anxiety, depending on an unhealthy relationship, and losing my best friend Emily to a drunk driver. Emily was one of the most wonderful, and accepting human beings I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. She was one of the few people I knew who was constantly excited to learn about differences in people, and I'm so lucky she taught me that skill before college. 

I was the first in my family to graduate from college. During my five years there, so many things blew my mind, especially in terms of learning about and respecting the experiences and identities of others.

I made so many different types of friends through student organizations, living on campus, in classes, etc. I hadn’t thought much of it as it was happening, but I suddenly found myself surrounded with a group of wonderful human beings who pretty much all had one thing in common. They identified within the queer spectrum.

I remember attending our school’s Rainbow Alliance for H.O.P.E. (Helping Others Perceive Equality) meetings. This club was basically the Gay-Straight Alliance type organization, and I was there to support my friends. I learned SO MUCH through those meetings. I quickly became driven by queer issues and wanted to be the best ally I could possibly be. 

Once my college career was wrapping up, I decided on a career-path change to student affairs, and my next turn would be to graduate school. In my second year, I served as an intern for the university’s LGBT Resource Center.

This was the first time I met an asexual - and my heart sank when I heard her explain what it meant.


-----

WHAT.

WHAT?

WAIT.

WHAT???

You mean -- THAT was something I can be?!

Everyone was supposed to be sexual, right? That’s literally all I’ve ever known. All that has been surrounding me. All that has been portrayed in the media.

At the time, I was in a long term relationship. One where we consistently struggled with my lack of sexual desire.  He thought I wasn’t attracted to him anymore. That I didn’t want to be with him anymore.

I blamed myself, my depression medication, my busy schedule, my body - which would NEVER cooperate through sexual activity. I was broken. My brain didn’t work without my medication, and my body didn’t work with it. 

Sex was painful, but it had always been. Literally since the first time. But it was supposed to be, right? I was basically conditioned to think that this fear and anxiety surrounding sex was normal. It just never stopped like it seemed to for everyone else. 

I went back and forth with doctors to try and solve this problem. To get rid of the pain, and increase my interest. Tests came up with zero answers. I was doomed to live with being consistently convinced into sexual situations, each of them ending in intense pain.

Not having sex wasn’t an option. That was just something people in relationships did, right?

Right?


------

All this went on in my brain while she was describing asexuality. I came out of my ‘JD from Scrubs’ dream-like state, and walked away with a newfound sense of clarity about my life.

A couple weeks, or maybe months later - I was begrudgingly participating in an intimate encounter when I broke down crying. I was frustrated that I wasn’t interested. Frustrated that my body wasn’t cooperating with what I was supposed to be doing as an ‘adult’ in a relationship. 

That’s when it came out...“I think I’m asexual.”

I remember this moment so vividly. The first time I said it aloud.

Months went by with no changes. Eventually, he and I parted ways - I couldn’t give him what he wanted or needed from a relationship.

I felt doomed to be alone because of my lack of sexual desire. No one will ever want to be with me - and there is no way I will find someone else like me.

---

Flashback to early college

I finally felt comfortable in my skin after years of feeling ugly, inadequate, and uninteresting. I felt beautiful. I felt sexy. Can one feel sexy and not want to have sex? Nah. That’s not a thing. I found myself in sexual relationships because of course I did. That’s all there was, right? Anyone I was remotely interested in romantically always wanted things to go further, and I accepted the fact that I had to participate to be in a working relationship. To be wanted.

There isn’t anyone who is romantically interested in someone without sexual attraction. Sex is a part of a relationship. Sex is a part of a relationship. 

Sex is part of a relationship.

---

Flash-forward

Nothing in my behavior changed after I left my ex. Any time I found myself romantically attracted to someone, I assumed that had to lead to some form of intimacy. I didn’t allow myself to experience my world without that pressure.

Okay, don’t get me wrong. There have been times when I have enjoyed being intimate - but those times definitely do not increase my interest in repeating it -  and it definitely has no relation to my attraction to someone. And I can DEFINITELY be physically/aesthetically attracted to someone, which has made my brain a very confusing place to be.

---

Then I met my current partner. 

One night we were in deep conversation via Facetime (he was living on the east coast, while I was still in the Midwest), and he admitted to me that he had faced struggles with his desire for intimacy in the past.

I broke down crying. 

Finally, someone who understood. Finally, someone who I had a desire to be with who won’t constantly pressure me into doing something I don’t want to do. Finally. 

Finally.

---

Flash-forward to moving to Massachusetts to search for a job, moving to Boston to start a job, and finding my home at Lesley University.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been brought to (happy) tears by the beautiful, accepting, activists that I have the pleasure to call my students. So many artsy, queer, gender non-conforming, activist, weirdos that I wish had been in my life all along. So many people like me.

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My college roommate: “I am more attracted to personalities than what body they are housed inside.”

A student in the LGBT Resource Center: “I just don’t want to have sex, and that’s fine.”

A Lesley student: “I use the pronouns ‘they/them’ because I don’t feel that I fit inside the gender-binary.”

My partner: “I love you for you.”

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I’ve been terrified to finally come-out to the world, because I’m not sure how my family will react. In fact, I’m fairly convinced it will be negative - but for the past two years, I have embraced my identities openly at work, and in my personal relationships; and it has made me so much happier overall.

Have you ever found yourself surrounded by a group of people, and thinking, “what do I have in common here?”

I've been there. It may not be easy to find yourself, or how you fit in, but as one of my brilliant students has said, "Don't worry about how long it takes you to blossom. It will happen."

--

I’m asexual.
I’m panromantic.
I’m agender.

And I (fucking) love who I am.


katy%27s piece bw.jpg

About the art:

I read Katy's story several times and felt it out. I mostly do floral work but didn't think that vibe totally fit, and I liked the idea of that neutral-masculine look they often have, so voilá. Ink pen and marker.

The colors I chose are from the asexual, agender, and panromantic flags.

- Kelsey Chaplain (new artist)