Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.
Throughout our Pride Month series at the Pond, we have had the honour and privilege to share so many people’s stories about their queer experiences and their varied feelings about what it means to be ‘queer’. A theme we have seen in these stories that we’ve been lucky to share with you all is that how people come into their queer identities is not a straight line – it can be a complicated mess, one where people go back and forth, and may even take time to figure out.
It is a huge honour and delight to have Kait – a book blogger I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for what feels like a very long time! – visiting us at the Pond today. Kait is such a sweet soul, and I feel like I’ve watched them grow into the person that they are today.
I’m so happy to have Kait as a pug, wearing a purple hoodie and holding a lil’ panda plush! I loved what Kait has written, and I feel incredibly privileged that I get to share with you all their queer journey. So, without further ado, here is Kait’s story.
Kait: My Journey Through Queerness
Buckle up, y’all, ‘cause I wasn’t given a max word count!
I’m gonna be honest. I have no idea how to start this post. It’s supposed to be about my journey through queerness and how I’ve come to accept myself, but where do I start? A lot of queer people would start when they were young, in primary and elementary school. They would say that they simply knew, for certain, that it was all so clear. They’ve known for most of their life who they were. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But being queer isn’t a monolith.
And that wasn’t my experience.
Growing up, I rarely had any friends who were girls. There weren’t many girls my age in my neighborhood, so I usually played by myself, with my brother who is two years older than me, or with him and his friends, who were boys. Even in primary and elementary school, most of my friends were boys. I was very much what you would describe as a tomboy: I hated wearing anything remotely feminine, I enjoyed masculine-coded things, and I wore “boy’s clothes”. Seriously, I grabbed a pair of my brother’s jeans to wear one day, and my mom didn’t notice until we were at the bus stop and it was too late to change. She was mad at me, not because I was wearing jeans meant for boys in general, but because I took them without asking my brother first.
That was the thing about my parents: when it comes to how we wanted to present ourselves and what we wanted to do for hobbies, they let us pretty much have free reign. They didn’t care that I wanted to wear “boy’s clothes”, or that I was interested in horror books, or if I wanted to cut my hair short. I didn’t have these strict gender roles to adhere to that other people may have had growing up.
I’m not quite sure if this helped me or harmed me in the long run, when it came to figuring out my gender identity.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m thankful I wasn’t shoved into a box simply because of the gender assigned to me at birth. I would’ve hated it, and I’m sure it would’ve taken me even longer to work through my internalized misogyny.
But thinking you’re a cis woman for 21 years of your life, and then realizing you’re…not? Is definitely a weird feeling.
Especially because my parents didn’t shove me into a narrow box of what a woman/girl “should be.” For most of my life, I just thought, “I’m not a feminine girl. So what? Girls don’t have to be feminine to still be girls.” This thinking was really reinforced when I began to take part in the social justice sphere on Twitter. I learned that gender roles were restrictive, that just because men and women didn’t follow them to a tee, that doesn’t mean they stop being men and women. And that’s true! I still support and believe in that line of thinking! During this time, I was in high school. I kept seeing this message over and over, and thought, “Yeah, see? I’m still a girl.” I ignored how I always felt slightly “off” when it came to my gender, I ignored the discomfort of being addressed as “girlie” by my cross country and track teammates. I just shoved those feelings away, into a teeny-tiny box, for some other time.
This was also the same time as when I was (finally) getting around to thinking about my sexuality. A few years earlier, during middle school, I disclosed to a close friend that I thought I may be bisexual. I just came out of my first “real” relationship with a boy when I found myself thinking about what it’d be like to be in a relationship with a girl. I realized I wouldn’t have an issue with it, and I felt the need to talk to someone about it. So, I texted my friend, but I didn’t have my own phone; I used my mom’s phone to text my friends.
Naive 14-year-old me didn’t realize my mom read my texts. She brought it up when I was getting ready for school the next morning, saying, “Now, I don’t have a problem with it, but your dad might…” I played it off by saying something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m probably not, I was just curious. Nothing serious.” Inside, I was basically a deer caught in the headlights, kinda like I was when my mom caught me sneak-reading Twilight when she didn’t want me to.
In a similar fashion to how I smushed my Gender Thoughts™️ down into a box and ignored them, I did so with my sexuality. And it was pretty easy for me, too, in a sad sort of way. There were no resources for LGBTQ+ folks in my small, rural town. There was no center close by or GSA at school. There weren’t many (if any at all?) ~out and proud~ people at my high school, so it was easy to ignore and shove under the rug. I was busy enough as it is with AP and dual enrollment classes, sports, a part-time job. I didn’t have the time to worry about something like that. Besides, by the end of my sophomore year of high school, I had another boyfriend. That basically made me straight, right? Especially since I didn’t have any crushes on my girl classmates.
Well, around that time (beginning of 2015, when I was in the last half of my junior year) was when my sexuality said, “Oh. You sweet summer child.”
And proceeded to rip the little box I had it in for so long to shreds.
I can’t pinpoint a specific time or event where it just dawned on me — honestly, I don’t remember a time like that with any of my identities — but I eventually realized (…again, lol) that I’m not straight. I felt connected to the pan label, so that’s the one I chose among the other multi-gender attraction labels. (Also, I just like the pride colors ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) The only people I told IRL at this point were my boyfriend and a friend — the same one I told when I thought I was bi three years prior, actually.
Eventually, I came out on Twitter, but it wasn’t until I went away to college in fall 2016 that I felt truly comfortable. For one, I wasn’t around my parents, who I didn’t tell for almost two years. But there is also a queer student organization on campus, and I made my first queer friends. Looking back, I never really talked a ton in front of everyone at the meetings, but that organization still holds a special place in my heart for allowing me a space to be openly queer and bond with other queer students.
By the time spring break came around in 2017, I wanted to tell my family, minus my brother. Coming out to them was something to be desired, partially because I wasn’t given space to explain pansexuality as a label because “you don’t need labels” (all I was able to get out was “I’m not straight”). Like. Just because some people are comfortable without a label doesn’t mean I am, but okay, But I digress. Because like. Remember back in 2012 when my mom found out I might be bi? Y’all. I thought she just forgot about it because she never brought it up again.
Guess who didn’t forget. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Literally, that conversation was:
Me: I’m not straight.
Mom: I know.
Mom: we talked about it a few years ago, didn’t we?
Me: HOW DO YOU STILL REMEMBER THAT.
Anyway, by this point, I was really comfortable in my pansexual identity. I’ve even started to play around with “queer” because that’s easier to explain to most people than pan is a lot of the time.
Oh boy, BUT THEN.
I learned about asexuality. And not the incorrect definition of “asexual people don’t like sex.” No, I learned that asexuality is simply the lack of sexual attraction. I learned about the split attraction model. I learned that asexual folks can have sex, even like sex. And for various reasons, whether it’s because they want to pleasure their partner, or because they themselves enjoy it, or both. I learned about how diverse ace people can be in their attraction, and that started another “What if…?” train. I did shove it in my brain someplace and ignore it, but not for nearly as long as I initially did with being bi/pan.
‘Cause let me be frank with y’all. Remember that boyfriend I had in highschool? Yeah, we’re still together (it’s been over six years, how cool is that??). We have sex and engage in sexual activity. And I like doing it! I like making feeling close to him in this particular way. This was the the reason why I thought I couldn’t be asexual — because I thought ace people didn’t have/like sex or sexual activities.
Once I learned it was literally just not having sexual attraction, it felt like everything clicked into place. I’ve never looked at someone and thought they were “hot” or “sexy”; I never had fantasies about specific people. Honestly, if my boyfriend decided one day he didn’t want to have sex anymore, I would not have any problems with that. Because I don’t feel sexual attraction, and I’m one where if I never had sex again, it wouldn’t really matter to me.
I was so, so ecstatic to find out I was asexual, much more so than when I found out I was pan. Because I am still pan — panromantic! But everything just clicked when I learned what asexuality really was and how variable ace experiences are. I still crave a relationship, and I absolutely adore the romantic aspects of my boyfriend and mine’s relationship. I like being intimate with him in sexual ways. I just don’t hold sexual attraction! And finding that out is as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’m panromantic asexual (or just queer ‘cause now it’s definitely easier to say/explain), and my attraction finally feels right.
You know what still didn’t feel right?
If you guessed gender, you’d be…well…right!
Ya know, that pesky thing I talked about in the beginning of all this? Yeah, I’ve shoved that part of me away, so far that I didn’t think about it for years. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments here and there. For example, I bought a hoodie from the “men’s section” at Target because I wanted to look more masculine. I still thought that I could still be a woman while dressing more masculine. Which is true! But if that were true for me, then it would’ve felt right, but it didn’t. At that time (my first year of undergrad), I still wasn’t ready to really think about my gender and what it meant to me. This went on for a few years, and I even described myself as a cis woman in my honor’s thesis my last year of undergrad.
I didn’t actually do anything until after I graduated, the summer before grad school started. I noticed one of my friends from college changed their pronouns, and I asked them about it. We got to talking about gender, and I admitted that I was questioning what gender meant to me, what being a woman meant, and more. I told them that I didn’t (think I) had gender dysphoria, and they reiterated that you don’t need to have gender dysphoria to be trans or non-binary.
Y’all. I knew this. I’ve been saying this for years, in support of trans and non-binary folks.
But I didn’t realize until that moment that I felt like it couldn’t be true for me. I thought that since I had little to any gender dysphoria (or euphoria, for that matter), I couldn’t be the “right kind” of non-binary person. When I say you can support something for others, but still internalize negative thoughts about that same thing…
Anyway, I will say that that point was my big “ah-ha!” moment, when I could be something other than a cis woman (I know I said I didn’t have these moments, but I’ll let you have this one, lol). Y’all, lemme tell you, I pounced on “genderqueer” so quickly. In its simplicity, it fit. It’s just “not identifying as strictly a man or a woman,” and I fell in love with it, much like how I fell in love with the “queer” label in general. I’m not heterosexual heteroromantic, and I’m not a man or a woman. Simple as that. There were times I would mouth “genderqueer” to myself over and over because I liked the feeling of it on my lips. It was basically love at first sight, let’s be honest.
I just don’t feel connected to womanhood. It never felt right to me. I mean, I never had any horrible reactions, it didn’t outright feel like the worst things ever, which I initially thought was what gender dysphoria was — but instead, it felt like. Like a piece of clothing that doesn’t quite fit. It’s something that you could wear, but it just feels…uncomfortable. A half-size too small or too big, something that isn’t too noticeable until you really pay attention to it. It was easy for me to ignore it most of the time…until I couldn’t. Until the piece of clothing became just tight enough that I noticed it regularly. I would cringe whenever my co-workers called me “girlie” or included me in “ladies”; I became uncomfortable when people used she/her pronouns when referring to me; the more I thought about womanhood, the more unappealing it seemed. And it only took a few moments to know for sure that manhood wasn’t anymore appealing.
So that left me with…personhood, I suppose. Just me, a person, not a man or a woman. When I told my boyfriend that I was genderqueer, he was confused but he was supportive. He doesn’t understand, but that’s okay. He asks questions, and I try my best to answer. I’ve told him, and I’ve told Twitter. I’ll get around to telling some of my other friends, but I won’t tell any of my family except maybe my sister. I already know their thoughts on trans and non-binary people, and I don’t need that added stress in my life. It’s sad, but…it is what it is.
As the months passed by after that, I learned more about what gender dysphoria I do have, and how I can combat it with instances of gender euphoria. That discomfort with being labelled anything to do with girl/womanhood? Surprise, that’s dysphoria! Now I use they/them pronouns, and I love them. Really, 10/10, singular they is amazing. I started getting my hair cut shorter, and it feels amazing! But I learned that having my hair grow out now is pretty dysphoric for me (RIP me during this pandemic ‘cause I can’t get a haircut, lol). I feel…kinda apathetic towards my chest? It’s weird because I like wearing sports bras most of the time in order to compress it, but if the outfit calls for it, I have no problem with wearing a regular or strapless bra. I’m thinking about getting a binder in the future, but it wouldn’t be something I would wear all the time. I dunno, I just feel “meh” towards my chest, not harshly one way or the other. While I want to dress more traditionally masculine, I have some really cute traditionally feminine outfits, too!
I’m still learning what being genderqueer means to me, as well as how my gender fits into everything now. But let me tell you that I haven’t felt this relaxed about my identity…ever? I can’t wait to see what I learn in the future.
And yeah, that’s basically my journey through queerness. If you’ve gotten all the way through this, I hope you learned two things: first, know that knowing and accepting your identity(ies) isn’t a race. A lot of people know when they’re younger, but just as many don’t know until they’re teens, or young adults, or middle-aged, or hell, even when they’re older than that. I figured out mine in fits and starts, when I was 17, 20, and 21. That’s the other thing: this stuff doesn’t have to be linear. I thought I was pansexual for a few years before realizing I’m actually ace and panromantic. I started in small doses about questioning my gender before fully plunging in when I was ready.
Thirdly (ope, looks like there’s three things instead of two, lol): queerness is so, so variable. There are so many different experiences within the queer/LGBTQ+ community, and if you, like me, are having any doubts about being “[blank] enough” (gay enough, bi enough, ace enough, trans enough, etc.), please know that you are enough. Your experience may not be exactly the same as someone else’s, your relationship with a label may be different, but that’s okay. That’s what makes being queer and part of this community so cool: we can all come together, but we have our own unique spins to different labels, our own relationships with them.
And that’s rad as hell.
About the Blogger
Kait is a 20-something graduate student who tends to spend their time screaming about books — when their blog isn’t on hiatus, that is. They are an asexual panromantic (gender)queer person who tends to listen to audiobooks way too quickly and loves any sort of queer book they can get their hands on. While they aren’t studying, reading, or building up their city of cats in Minecraft with their boyfriend, Kait likes to play Pokemon and listen to the soothing sounds of heavy metal.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: it truly is an honour that The Quiet Pond can be a space for people to share their words and truth with all of us here.
A huge thank you to Kait for visiting the Pond today and for talking about their personal experiences of being ace, panromantic, and genderqueer. I loved how affirming and empowering it is, especially for those of us out there who may still be figuring it out and taking their time to do so. Thank you, Kait.