Grieving an identity

Questions and discussions about gender, gender roles and identity.
Raffles
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Grieving an identity

Unread post by Raffles »

As much as I would like to be out, my quality of life has definitely gotten worse since identifying as I did and much worse after I tried coming out. I have come to the conclusion over the past few months that it is best to put this identity away and let it go. I'm just not sure how.

Today, one of the school-aged people at a place I frequent asked me for my pronouns. I tried to dodge the question, but they said, "Is they/them okay for you?" and I said yes. I didn't have the heart to say anything else. I understand that having queer elders is important to young people, and I feel a lot of guilt about not being strong enough to be out for the youngest generation.

Afterwards, I felt envious. They are surrounded by friends and adults who use their chosen name and pronouns. They have queer role models. I am happy for them, really, I just wish that I could experience that too.

It took me about an hour to figure out that my envy was a part of grief. I am experiencing a loss of identity and community. I no longer feel like I can use the label I used to, and I am no longer a part of the queer community. I don't know how to feel or move past it. Anyone have any helpful tips or words of wisdom to work past this?
Carly
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Re: Grieving an identity

Unread post by Carly »

Hi Raffles -- before any of us dive into the advice you're looking for, I'd like to ask a few questions about how you've been feeling about this so we can understand a little more and give, hopefully, some very detailed and specific advice. You've mentioned some of this in threads before, especially your discomfort with being asked about pronouns. If I remember correctly, you liked and were using they/them, but it was causing some distress as most people in your life were not adhering to it. How did it feel to have someone use the pronouns you, at one time, wanted to use? Did this give you any feeling of safety or acceptance at all, or did it mostly bring up these grief feelings? Does it feel really important to be fully out vs. out in safer spaces/with safer people?

Are the feelings of not being part of the queer community related to not wanting to be out or use particular pronouns right now? Can you say a little more about that? Does this feel like a barrier to finding community, or is there more difficulty beyond that?

If these questions don't feel good to answer right now, that's totally ok - just let us know. I don't want to make it seem like I'm completely ignoring your ask, I'm just hoping to understand a little more about how you're feeling.
Raffles
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Re: Grieving an identity

Unread post by Raffles »

It’s okay, I can try to answer as best I can. To be honest, nothing feels great right now, but I think it’s probably just my mental health crashing (again).

How did it feel to have someone use those pronouns: Really, really stressful. They/them is a very instantly outing pronoun. I’ve basically just had to come out to everyone in that space. I’m there frequently enough that a lot of people know me, and now one of the people who knows is the manager so pretty much everyone will know.

Feelings of acceptance or grief: Mostly guilt and grief. I feel like a fraud that told them I’m using those pronouns when I’m actively trying to stop doing that and use exclusively she/her. Also lots of fear about having to be out in a place I don’t want to be.

Fully out vs out in safe spaces: I’m definitely never going to be fully out because of my family. I also don’t think that there are safer places or people. Some of the people who claim to be the most accepting are the ones who made the most mistakes or never used the right pronouns. I get that this might be an exception because there is already someone who is out and respected, but I really just to stop (or at least pause) the cycle of hope, coming out, and getting hurt.

Part of the queer community: I’m not a part of the queer community because I identify as cis and straight.

More about that: It’s not about the pronouns as much as it is the identity. My identity as it will function in the world is a cisgender heterosexual woman. I am grieving the self who was ace, pan, and agender.

Barrier: I think it would make people really uncomfortable if I were to join a queer meet up or group as a cis straight person. I’d feel really invasive about doing that. It is no longer my community, and I feel that loss.

I hope that answers the questions. I can clarify if needed.
nicole
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Re: Grieving an identity

Unread post by nicole »

Hi Raffles,

I'm really sorry about what you've been experiencing. I don't know if hearing this will help, but I do want to emphasize the importance of ever-changing identity. Your identity never has to be set in stone. You don't necessarily have to fit perfectly into a community in order to support those in it. It sounds like you're grieving an identity that you still desire to have, is that right?

Also, as for your concerns about utilizing particular pronouns, if you feel uncomfortable with they/them pronouns, then please try to vocalize this. Your safety is extremely important and if you feel unsafe when people refer to you with they/them pronouns, I would advise you to say something! I know you said that you want to be a mentor-like figure, but you still can, openly queer-identifying or not. I just want to reassure you that it’s okay to be stuck at these crossroads. You have so much time to figure yourself out and open up about your identity when you feel ready and comfortable.

I know dysphoria can be extremely difficult when you are functioning in the world as an identity that you don't feel entirely comfortable with. If you need any assistance with that, please let us know.

I do want to mention that you are welcome to be your truest, most authentic self on the boards. It's very common for people to be out in one space but not another. Many people have to revert to being closeted for their own well-being and survival. With that being said, please let us know the specific type of support you are looking for when grieving a physical queer community. We are here for you, even as a virtual queer community!
Heather
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Re: Grieving an identity

Unread post by Heather »

Hey there, Raffles.

I just want to add a couple things.

You're only 22 years old. You're both *not* an elder now, you are under no obligation to be an elder for anyone else, be it now, or when you actually are an older person. Given how young you are, I also think it might help out if you didn't approach this as a forever anything, because, again, it's not.

Now, who knows how you might or might not identify throughout your life. I also am not telling you not to feel all the feelings you are having right now: by all means, let yourself have and feel those feelings. But right now, I would keep your focus on showing up for yourself rather than for queer others. Maybe it will help to recognize that those of us who earnestly are queer elders, who have lived through decades of this stuff, have this. You get to have the time that I think it's fair to say most of us hope all young people will give to themselves to figure out, over much more time than this, what does and doesn't feel right for you and what you need for yourself.

When a lot of us came up, there was so much pressure to be out: it was often presented as the only way to be real in our queerness or transness, and that was a terrible error made in framing. The fact that that's been changing, and being out or not -- and to whom, when and where -- is no longer thought of that way is a good thing, in part because it gives someone feeling like you are, whether you're queer or not, the space you need to focus on what's right for you rather than what others need or might expect. Make sense?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
Raffles
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Re: Grieving an identity

Unread post by Raffles »

To Nicole- I’m not even sure that I desire that identity anymore. I think I desire what I thought that it could be (authenticity and acceptance), but now that I know what it’s really like, I don’t want it. If I had it my way, I wouldn’t choose to have any labels or have to explain them to anyone. I would just be me. I think the closet I can get to that right now is identifying as cis because that brings the fewest questions. Regarding pronouns, I’ll probably have to have a talk with the manager about it, but I’m not looking forward to the awkwardness.

To Heather- It does make sense. I think 20s are such a weird stage in life. I’m definitely not a kid anymore, but I’m definitely in a very different place in life from those in their 30s. I work with students anywhere between 8-18 years old. I know that I have more in common with the students, especially the older ones, than I do with my coworkers who are 15+ years older with advanced degrees, houses, and partners/families of their own. However, there are strict boundaries for safety reasons. In training, we were pushed to be professional and good role models (in fact, that is a part of our evaluations). I know that I didn’t have anyone in my life to look up to as a kid in a lot of respects, so I find myself trying to fill that role as an adult even though I might not be ready for it.

When you say showing up for yourself, what does that mean and look like?

To both- The theme I got is that I don’t have to know now and identity is fluid. Logically, I know that I have time, but it’s hard to feel grateful for it when every day feels like a battle in a war I’m losing. My mental health hasn’t been great, and the gender stuff has definitely contributed a lot. I think in some ways it feels like the easiest thing to solve compared to other issues which is why I think I’ve focused on it. That’s why it feels urgent even if it isn’t really. I hope that makes sense.

So given the above information, how do you learn to find peace in not knowing? And how do you learn to be comfortable with being in the closet long-term?
Heather
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Re: Grieving an identity

Unread post by Heather »

When I say showing up for yourself in this context, I mean setting aside concerns about what others might need right now and focusing on your own needs.

For example, even if it might benefit someone else for you to identify a certain way, or be public about certain things, if it's not of benefit to you, or you just aren't sure, you put yourself in front when it comes to what choices you made. You can also remember how big the world is, and trust that there are some things the rest of us can cover so you can worry about yourself right now.

It might also mean reacting differently to the guilt you are feeling, by looking inward to sort out what care and grace you can give yourself around it -- again, putting care of you at the top of the list.
So given the above information, how do you learn to find peace in not knowing? And how do you learn to be comfortable with being in the closet long-term?
The first thing I'd say is that you perhaps try and accept that we really can only know how we feel about things in the past and present. Trying to get yourself okay with something long-term or forever when it's not a given you will need to strikes me as both unnecessary as well as, in this context, something more likely to make you feel bad or fearful rather than comfortable. I'd put your focus on what you can do for yourself now and in the very near future. There's enough in this life to worry about without worrying about very uncertain futures, if you get what I mean.

In terms of how you make peace with not knowing things like this, the best advice I can give you is that adjusting to any of the umpteen kinds of uncertainty about who we are and might be can just take practice and time. Also, an acceptance that in almost every way, we will always be mysteries to ourselves to some degree, and every part of our identities can be fluid, not just this.

Young people in particular often have a strong hunger to kind of know all of who they are in a way that just isn't realistic at any age, let alone when you're younger and you're still so new to life and living and the world and yourself. It's a pretty common part of development, having a strong hunger when it comes to identity. But I'd also say that it's common to even have the idea that's something we can somehow neatly wrap up early on when we rarely can. I think that in a lot of ways, we were or are (if you're still in it) looking for that because it helps give us direction and helps us feel like we can know our place. It makes sense to want it! It just is a want that is not going to be met a lot of the time, and where, even when it is, is often only temporary.

What do you think about all of that?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
Raffles
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Re: Grieving an identity

Unread post by Raffles »

To be honest, I'm not sure what I think. Word vomit ahead.

I feel like I'm pulled in a lot of different directions in terms of care. If I care about my stress, I would go back in the closet completely. It would eliminate stress at work and everywhere else and take care of my fear of being outed to my family. If I care about my sadness, I would find some places to be more open. It might help to feel included and accepted in a community (though I'm not sure that's something I even want anymore). If I care about the practicality, maybe just not thinking about it as much would help? I can't take back what I've told people, and it is not up to me what they do in terms of which pronouns they use and whether or not they tell others. It might make me feel bad and cause me stress to do nothing, but it might lower the intensity of those emotions if I learn not to care about it as much. It sort of feels like taking care of one aspect means neglecting another if that makes sense. Care is something I'm generally bad at, and it probably shows here.

As for the time related things, I feel really uncomfortable in the present which is why I've spent time planning for the future. I have to start thinking about jobs for next year (hiring season starts in January, but I have to start putting in my requests as early as December) which is why I'm trying to prepare for long-term things even if it isn't super helpful for me right now. And that brings me to my next question, how do people get more comfortable with being in the present when the present is uncomfortable? I think it will probably look like trying not to care as much, but I'm not sure where to start when it's gotten into every aspect of my life. The place I go to frequently used to be the one place I could just be me and no one cared, but that sort of ended when a kid asked me about pronouns and told the manager.
Heather
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Re: Grieving an identity

Unread post by Heather »

I feel like I'm pulled in a lot of different directions in terms of care. If I care about my stress, I would go back in the closet completely. It would eliminate stress at work and everywhere else and take care of my fear of being outed to my family. If I care about my sadness, I would find some places to be more open. It might help to feel included and accepted in a community (though I'm not sure that's something I even want anymore). If I care about the practicality, maybe just not thinking about it as much would help? I can't take back what I've told people, and it is not up to me what they do in terms of which pronouns they use and whether or not they tell others. It might make me feel bad and cause me stress to do nothing, but it might lower the intensity of those emotions if I learn not to care about it as much. It sort of feels like taking care of one aspect means neglecting another if that makes sense. Care is something I'm generally bad at, and it probably shows here.
This is all just so real, and feels to me like the conflicts a lot of people feel when it comes to being out about orientation and identity. I'd say it happens pretty often that it can feel like being one way would help in one regard, while it would cause strife in other ways. This, to me, is something where there often won't be a unilaterally great choice, and it becomes a matter of just trying to make our best choices when none of them feel super great, you know?

I do want to just make clear that you do have this community, and you get to both have the history you have of the way you have identified here, and still identify however you want in the present. Now, maybe for now, there's just us like that, but I want to make sure that a) you know you have us, and b) you know that the mere fact that we can exist for you and others in this way shows you that's out there if you want it, and probably not just here. Flatly, I feel like any community that can't offer us the bare basics like this probably isn't community worth having.

In terms of how you get okay with being uncomfortable, I'm not sure I'd say that's about learning not to care so much as it's about learning to just let yourself be uncomfortable, accepting it as a feeling, and doing whatever you can and need to for yourself when you're feeling that way. So often, it's something people try and push out or fix, but I'd say that more times than not, the "fix" is often just accepting we are going to feel that way sometimes -- and for some of us, a lot of the time! -- and just going through it, and getting whatever it is that it gives us through that process (which can be things like figuring out what we do need to feel more comfortable, or even just learning how to live with some kinds of discomfort).

If it helps to know, for me, places where I think I have been best able to learn those lessons are when living with chronic pain, in my own Buddhist practice and in writing/teaching from that sector of folks, living in poverty, mental health therapy, some kinds of sports training, and book publishing, a whole industry I haaaaaaaate with a whole process I despise (not the part where you write books: I love that part, but sadly, there's a lot more involved).
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
Raffles
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Re: Grieving an identity

Unread post by Raffles »

Thank you and everyone at Scarleteen for being there. I worry a lot that I’m here too much and will become dependent which is why I am trying to step away again, but it is difficult when I lack the support offline.

Part of it is that online makes it so easy to identify or try labels out, where it is a lot harder in the real world. In real life, I feel like I haven’t “earned it” or that I’m just doing it for attention. It’s translated to spending a lot of time on here because I feel like I could label myself how I want and be accepted even if I personally can’t/won’t and don’t even know how to anymore, but I digress.

Anyways. Thanks again and happy Thanksgiving if you are celebrating!
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