Labels and Sexual Orientation

Pansexuality is a sexual orientation characterized by a potential aesthetic attraction, romantic love and/or sexual desire for anybody, including people who do not fit into the gender binary of male/female implied by bisexual attraction.

The more I meet amazing gender non-binary people and understand more about the gender spectrum (I knew almost nothing about non-binary genders a year ago), the more I realize how little gender affects who I like to be around and who I could potentially fall in love with. Until recently I identified as bisexual because that’s what I felt best described my attractions, but now I think pansexual is more accurate. It’s interesting seeing how my understanding of myself has deepened and changed over the years; for most of my life I thought I was straight, then I was very tentatively bi-curious, then last year I came out officially as bi. Now I’ve been out as bi for almost a year, and I’m realizing it’s no longer the best fitting label.

I love finding out new things about myself. But coming to terms with changing my label yet again took me a little while. When my beliefs officially changed a few years ago, so many major labels changed for me in a seemingly short period of time- Christian to atheist, conservative to mostly liberal (in American politics), Pro Life to Pro Choice, Pro-Traditional Marriage to Pro-LGBTQ rights… People were confused and angry and hurt because I wasn’t the same person to them anymore. Labels meant everything to many of them, and they saw me as having changed “sides” in a culture war instead of simply growing and maturing as an adult. And since I hadn’t felt comfortable confiding these emerging changes to most people because I knew they’d react negatively, all they saw was the end result and not the process.

I was accused of being easily changeable and flighty, even though I had put much thought and time into every one of those changes. I’m not actually easily changeable at all; I’m just open to changing things as my knowledge and experience show me better ways to think or act or identify. But I think that negative association with changing labels stuck with me, and the idea of making yet another change made me hesitant to acknowledge it.

Plus, I’ve gone through SO many changes these past few years I was like “Really?! Another one already? Seriously, this self-growth stuff is exhausting…”

But as with all these many other changes, my curiosity and desire to be the best and most authentic version of myself made it impossible for me to ignore my changing mindset for long. So I’m making it official- I’m pan, not bi. And I’m feeling good about it.

But man, now I have to once again update my bio on my blog and on fet and on Facebook and Pinterest and likely several others too… Meh I’ll get to them all eventually. lol

Dealing with failure.

This is a blog I wrote about a week ago when I was dealing with some really hard stuff. I’m feeling much better now, and I’m ready to share it here in hope that it’ll help someone else. For those who aren’t used to my occasional expressive language, I tend to be blunt when I’m expressing my deeper feelings, so if you want to know what goes on in my head you’ll just have to take me as I am. 🙂

 

Failure. Sometimes we’re just not able to complete a task that we started due to circumstances that are unfortunately out of our control, and that’s ok. Failure means we tried, and we can always try again until we get it right. Most people who accomplish great things have far more failures under their belts than successes. If we reach for the stars and fall short, we’ve still reached higher than those who never try at all. I understand the wisdom in all of this, and I know that I’ll always continue trying. However…

Fuck all that.

Failing at something I worked so hard on feels shitty as hell. Even if I know I did my best and can try again, the fact still remains that I wasn’t able to complete a goal that I set for myself. And it hurts.

I’ve never been a quitter. I usually latch on and keep going until there’s no possible way I can move forward any further. But given the insanity of this past year, I’m being forced to acknowledge that my current mental and emotional state means that I can’t have my usual high expectations of myself.

What I’m failing at is school. I already failed Spanish class this week, and sitting in Music Theory today I realized there’s no way I’m going to pass that class either. I may be able to salvage my Critical Thinking class because it’s very easy and my teacher is so chill, but that’s about it.

Normally being in school wouldn’t be a huge deal. It would be stressful at times, but I’m well versed in pushing through stress. This year, though, my goals were way too lofty. I started out the semester trying to manage a full time course load on top of working part time, dealing with untreated ADD (and who knows what else), enduring massive amounts of situational stress, and so on. I was attempting to learn two complicated languages at the same time (Spanish and Music Theory). I also wasn’t taking the time I needed to recharge and care for my mental health.

Because of this, I was unable to absorb a lot of the material in my classes early in the semester, and I’m still having trouble with it. I feel like I’ve been absent for most of my classes even though my attendance has been excellent. I should have mastered basic Music Theory by now, but I feel like I’ve barely learned anything.

My goal in taking classes isn’t to get marks on a paper, although I do value getting good grades. It was to learn new skills and improve on old ones. If I didn’t learn what I needed to this semester, then even if I somehow passed the class I should really retake it so I build the skills I need. What good is a grade if I still can’t read music afterwards?

And yet, the thought of failing not only one class but most of a semester rips my heart out. I value intelligence and knowledge, and feeling like I’m unable to pursue that side of myself the way I want to right now makes me very upset. I know in my head that focusing on building myself back up will result in a far better school year next year, and that I started the semester with very unrealistic goals, but at the moment it’s hard to see anything but failure.

It frustrates me because nothing I’m learning is beyond my comprehension normally- but this year hasn’t exactly been normal.

I hate the thought of giving up on something that I’ve put so much effort into. I feel like I ought to be able to just push a little harder, just focus a bit more, set aside a little more energy. But apparently I’ve already been giving everything I have, and it’s not enough.

But this isn’t the end. One way or another, I’m not giving up. This semester is a setback and it’s going to take a while for me to work through these emotions, but I won’t let it stop me from reaching my goal of getting into the advanced music program next fall. There’s a slower paced music theory class next semester that my teacher recommended. I think it would be a great option, as long as I only take that and violin lessons so I’m not overloaded. I’ll retake Music Theory as many times as I need to, and I’ll set more realistic goals of what I can handle. I’ll be fairer to myself in setting aside time and resources for things that recharge me.

My mental picture of the life I want to create for myself keeps me going. I’m a damn good musician and vocalist, and I know I’m cut out to make music my career. I’ll make it happen… even if it requires taking every fucking class twice to get there.

Learning to Embrace Vulnerability and Self-Care.

Being vulnerable is hard. And asking for help when we’re feeling vulnerable can be even harder.

I’ve always been the one that’s there for everyone else. And sometimes I would give everything out to others, but not get much back in return. Not that we should help others for what they can do for us, but I didn’t know how ‘recharge my battery’ elsewhere. I didn’t know how to ask for help when I needed it; I only knew how to give and many of them were only able to take. And so I often burned myself out trying to solve everyone else’s problems while ignoring my own. I didn’t know how to be vulnerable.

Give until it hurts.

Ignore your own wants and needs to serve everyone else.

Always help others, but your own needs are a burden that no one wants to deal with.

Having needs makes you unlovable. (This one has been so hard for me.)

These thoughts aren’t healthy. Continual self-sacrifice is not the heroic, courageous ideal that I used to think it was. Of course we need to help each other- but if we destroy ourselves in the process, we’re not really bettering the situation because now we’re broken too. It’s like giving all of your food away to others while wasting away from hunger yourself, and then wondering why you’re too weak to hand out bread anymore.

Care for others. It’s important. But care for yourself too. It’s been said that “Your compassion is lacking if it doesn’t include yourself.” (I think Buddha said this?)

It’s still hard for me to show my weaknesses to others, or to ask for my own needs to be met. It still feels selfish, like I’m being a burden. I’m used to being strong, the one everyone can rely on, the one who always has it all together. I don’t know what to do with myself when it’s me on the other end of the tissue box, other than to write lots and lots of journal blogs to spam your feed with as I process stuff. 😛 Part of me would rather suffer in private where no one can see me, so I can pretend that I’m still super girl- ready to save the world single handedly as usual. But that’s not reality, and I’m tired of wearing so many masks to hide the imperfect human being underneath. It’s not weakness to have needs or to be vulnerable.

https://youtu.be/TA6IA7PEmbQ

By the way, I’m doing fine tonight. This isn’t intended to get messages saying “are you ok?” Not that I don’t appreciate them. 🙂 I’m just musing as usual. Or rambling, that likely fits too. 😛 lol. I suppose this is what happens when you cross a talkative extrovert with a deep-thinking introvert who happens to write for a living.

Musings on Love

abbe2097a5d43d479e860eb214022357One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, First Knight:

Arthur: God uses people like you, Lancelot. Because your heart is open. You hold nothing back. You give all of yourself.
Lancelot: If you knew me better, you would not say such things.
Arthur: Oh, hey, I take the good with the bad, together. I can’t love people in slices.

God stuff aside, this scene really sums up my thoughts about love.

**We can’t love people in slices.** Love, whether it’s romantic or platonic, is not complete if we attach conditions to it. People are not two dimensional caricatures; we are complex, multi-faceted beings that embody both good and bad, intelligence and ignorance, happiness and sadness, strength and weakness. If we only accept the parts that we like about people, then we’re not truly accepting them at all. Instead, we’re holding affection for a false version of them that we have in our heads. It’s like photoshopping a picture of someone and only ever wanting to look at that fake, touched up version of them instead of seeing the actual person. It’s not real, it’s not really them, but we prefer it that way because their real self is not acceptable to us.

If I can’t accept you as you are, do I truly love you or care about you? Or do I only like the plasticized version of you that I’ve created in my head? I don’t think we can say we truly love someone without actually accepting them as they are.

Now it’s true that we’re not always going to like everything a person does or thinks. We may have very different interests and beliefs and feel very strongly about these things being good or bad, and that’s ok. Accepting and loving someone as they are doesn’t mean you personally have to like or do those things, it just means you accept that the other person does, and you don’t look down on them for it. It means that you love the WHOLE them, even if you disagree or dislike some of it. At least that’s how I’ve personally come to see it.

If you get to know me well enough, I’m sure we will eventually disagree on something. I’m very opinionated, after all. 😉 I like seeing intelligent minds sharing their differing opinions in a respectful way. Listening to the perspectives of others is how we learn and grow. If we only ever talk to people who share all of our views, we’ll never be challenged to think anything new.

It should be noted that there’s a huge difference between accepting people as they are and putting up with toxic or abusive behavior, or dealing with a loved one suffering from addiction or obviously self destructive behavior. There are other serious issues at play in these situations besides simply accepting or not accepting someone.

Religious Manipulation Strikes Again

A few days ago, someone from my religious past sent me old photos from my childhood as a nice gesture. Tonight he sent me a religious music video of a worship song that I used to sing all the time when I was religious, one I was rather known for since I sang it passionately in church all the time. The message was clear: He thought that sending me a video of my old favorite worship song would somehow make me want to be a Christian again. 
This person was once a person of great significance in my life when I was a young teenager, he was a mentor figure. Now I can’t communicate with him without him trying to blatantly coerce me back into their belief system. He knew I didn’t like him pushing his beliefs on me because he’d done it before; I removed him from my Facebook friend’s list after repeated failed attempts to get him to respect my wish to not be preached at. So he certainly knew better, and sent it anyways. 

I feel like he used those old photos in a manipulative way to get me to be more receptive to his blatant reconversion attempt. He did something nice for me, so he probably figured that I’d feel obligated to not be mad at his intrusive and unsolicited religious pressuring. 

I don’t hate religion, there are many wonderful religious people that I have a lot of respect for. But I do hate religion being used to pressure or harm others, and I no longer have the patience to let people use their faith to bully or demean me. I’ve grown a backbone over these past years… I started out terrified of negative social confrontation and making people upset with me, and now I have no problem putting people in their place and being unapologetic about having my own opinions. It’s been a very difficult journey of self improvement, facing my fears, and boosting my low self confidence. And like all life journeys, it’s far from over. 

My reply to him was very blunt. I didn’t say anything nasty or mean, that’s not really in my nature, but I certainly didn’t mince words about what I thought of his message. In reply, he preached at me and then insisted on saying “I’ll be praying for you” after I reiterated that I did not like him pushing his beliefs on me. 

I hate this so much. I hate being reminded yet again that people of importance in my life who once praised and respected me when I was religious now think so little of me as an atheist. It’s been several years since I came out as an atheist, and though it’s gotten much better, people’s rejection and negative reactions have yet to stop negatively affecting me. 

I can’t decide if I feel like crying or punching something. Or both amidst some (responsible) weed consumption. But my body says it wants sleep, so that’s going to take priority now that I’ve sorted out some of my thoughts. I find that journaling is an effective way to emotionally process life’s bullshit.  

My Journey With Intimacy

Intimacy doesn’t come easily for me. Although I’ve come a long way from how I used to be, my natural inclination is to shut down my deeper emotions and to only let myself and others see so far into myself. It’s taken a lot of work to get to a place where I can recognize my issues regarding intimacy; effective introspection has taken me years to develop and it’s still a work in progress. 

Somewhere along the way I learned to disconnect sex from intimacy and love. I learned to make it primarily physical. Casual sex comes easily for me- I don’t have to open myself up very much to enjoy that kind of connection. I can have physical closeness with someone without risking a serious heartbreak, both on their end or mine. Not that there’s anything wrong with safe, consensual casual sex; I’ve had some wonderful encounters that I wouldn’t have done any differently, and I’m sure I’ll have more in the future in the right context, especially given my non-monogamous nature (look up polyamory or relationship anarchy if you aren’t familiar with mutually consensual non-monogamy). But casual sex isn’t a replacement for deep intimacy and love. 

One reason I fear getting too close is because I worry that I’ll break their heart. I have a deeply empathetic personality that can’t bear the thought of causing others severe pain. I’ve caused that kind of pain before, and it devastated me. I still bear those scars, and likely will for a very long time. The thought of being truly intimate with someone makes me apprehensive because I know from experience that love doesn’t always last forever, despite what our romanticized societal ideals may portray. Love can and does fade sometimes, and it’s not always fixable despite our best efforts. 

Every time I see memes that talk about “true love overcomes all”, “every relationship is fixable”, “back in my day we didn’t throw relationships away but we made it work” and so on, I cringe and feel society’s never-ending guilt trip for failing to accomplish that. I know I’m not a failure, but some days it feels like it when these narrow ideas of relationships and love are promoted as though they’re attainable for everyone. 

And like many others, I also occasionally harbour doubts that what I have to offer is something that other people will want. If only I were more like this, and less like that. If only I didn’t do this all the time, or forget to do that. If only, if only. But we can’t live our lives on “if only’s”; at some point we have to fix what can be fixed and learn to make the most of what we can’t change. We have to transform those “if only’s” into opportunities for positive self growth, instead of letting them make us feel unworthy of love. 

None of this means that I don’t desire or intend to pursue intimacy and love, because I do. Facing our fears and learning to heal the wounds of the past is a vital part of personal self growth. I greatly desire intimacy and love, despite my fear that I won’t know what to do with it if I find it. Coming to terms with my hesitations and fears is the first step in being able to have the kind of connections that I need and want. It’s also vital in becoming the kind of partner that can contribute to a healthy relationship.  

Writing about and sharing my journey with others has proven therapeutic many times before. Trying to break down what’s in my head to explain it to other people forces me to dig deeper within myself, and hearing about other people’s similar experiences in response often makes me feel less isolated. And I know from being on the other side that reading about someone else’s journey can be a catalyst for our own self-reflection. 

When Christians Question Our Mental Capability to Change our Beliefs

I’ve noticed an interesting trend since my deconversion a few years ago: When we become Christians, we are commended for making a wise decision. Even if we were indoctrinated from an early age and were never shown alternative beliefs as viable options, people rarely question whether or not our decision to become a Christian was based on manipulation, coercion, social pressure, or whether it was used as a crutch during difficult times. However, when we stop believing and become atheists, the first thing some Christians do is question our mental capabilities and our ability to understand our decision.

Here are questions that atheists are regularly asked when they leave their religious faith and openly come out as a non-believer to their religious loved ones. If these same questions were asked of recently converted Christians, they would certainly (and understandably) be considered offensive.

  • “Did someone influence, manipulate, pressure, or coerce you to make that decision? Who in your life convinced you to believe that way?”
  • “Have you really thought it through?”
  • “What trauma or difficult life event caused you to believe this way?”

And then there are the equally offensive assumptions:

  • “You must be deceived by the devil. Your mind has been taken over by demonic influences.”
  • “It’s just a phase, you’ll come back when you’ve come to your senses.”
  • “You must never have been a Christian in the first place; you must have been mistaken about how sincere of a believer you actually were.”

Basically, if you choose to be a Christian, it’s automatically assumed that you’re mentally capable of making that decision without coercion or manipulation involved. If you choose to stop being a Christian, suddenly your mental capabilities, decision-making abilities, and the validity of your deconversion itself are called into question.

Smart, mentally capable people choose Christianity- mentally deficient, damaged, easily influenced people choose atheism. That’s the overwhelming message I received when I came out as an atheist. 

In the words of Adrian Black (see his blog here), another atheist I know who recently came out publicly and whose mental capability was immediately questioned right off the bat:

“Dismissing my decision as something I was coerced, tricked, or forced into is very much questioning my mental ability to decide for myself. It’s amazed me in the times I have been questioned about this how quickly people forget who they’re talking too. To think that I would flippantly justify or be misled on this of all things… If you are looking for the person who persuaded or coerced me, who broke the shackles of my belief, than look here. I am the one who challenged myself… as I always have.