Thursday, 31 January 2013

My Invisible Freak Flag

Last night during a post-dance class pub discussion on changing identity, I was made to think a lot about how my identity has changed over the years, Mostly, about how I see myself, and about how to world sees me.

The thing is, right now, when walking down the street, or passing through my daily life, I appear as the epitome of privilege. White, middle-class, heterosexual male. This realisation was a bit of a shocker for me. Other than the fact that I’m white, something I cannot change, none of the others are things that I have been, or appeared as, for my entire life. For most of my life, I've been - rather visibly, some sort of marginalised group. I've been a woman, I've been in poverty, I've been queer, I've been homosexual, I've been ‘alternative’. I've also spent most of my life trying to appear ‘normal’. And now that I do, it just feels weird. I've always felt like I had been born with a freak flag etched into my forehead, but I suppose that isn't true.

I think the most shocking of all, was the realisation that I’m pretty much straight these days. I could never say that I was completely heterosexual; I still find men attractive, and it is likely I will have sex with a man again at some point, but the truth of it is, is that I no longer have any interest in dating men. When walking down the street, I no longer find myself ‘checking out’ guys. I seem to be adopting more heteronormative behaviours and mannerisms. It’s all a bit alarming!

I still remember when I started dating women again some years ago. The ability to hold someone’s hand in public or kiss them, without the fear of having the shit kicked out of me was foreign, but exhilarating. I was then, and still am, aware of the privilege this gives me, and I hope beyond hope that in my lifetime, everyone will be able to experience that, regardless of who they are or who they love. I also never have to think twice about disclosing the gender of who I date when talking to new people, colleagues, etc. I have to admit, that most of the time I like this.

I think this sort of ties into some sort of ‘queer-invisibility’ issue. Despite my ‘normal-looking’ exterior, I still feel like an outsider, an ‘other’, a deviant. And I know that I am. I’m trans, I’m kinky, I’m poly. All of these things firmly put me in the ‘not normal’ camp, but I no longer present as that in public.

As someone last night pointed out, there is nothing wrong with all this. We ebb and flow, and change. Who knows, maybe some years down the line, I will be something completely different. But for now, I suppose I need to get used to the way the world views me, how that affects the way in which I move in the world, and how I can use that advantage to help others.

All the while, finding ways to still fly my freak-flag high.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Poly Means Many - NRE or Bust

NRE, or New Relationship Energy, is a phenomenon experienced in all relationships, monogamous or poly, partner or fuck buddy, lover or even friend. It is the surge of wonderful new feelings we get when first seeing someone new. It could be that ‘can’t keep my hands off them’ lust and passion, or feeling like you want to spend all your free time with them. It is what gives you butterflies in your stomach, and makes you think about that person almost non-stop.

Eventually, NRE fades away, and gives rise to a more settled, consistent affection and stability. Things eventually level out and plateau. In popular culture, renewing this energy is what people are striving for when they ‘spice things up’, or ‘rekindle the romance’. It feels wonderful, and as such, it is easy to understand why those in monogamous or long-term relationships make effort to get a bit of that buzz back further down the line.

As polyamorous people, we have the opportunity to experience this feeling more than once, and sometimes simultaneously. When we bring a new partner into the fold, we get NRE with them, just like we did with the partner we already have. There are definite positives and negatives associated with this. It is important, when, for example, we have a stable primary relationship and we start seeing a new person, to not get too caught up in this NRE, and neglect our primary partner. It is also important not to seek this feeling out in order to smooth over or mask cracks in our existing relationships. On the flip side, this NRE can rejuvenate an existing relationship, and give it new life and new energy.

Some people thrive on NRE and lose interest in relationships when it is gone. I’m not one of those people. I find the experience of NRE nerve-wracking, and fraught with stress. The period in which we experience NRE is usually in tandem with the time when a relationship is least stable. We get caught up in the headiness of it, and it can create foster false expectations, false promises and blind us to potential problem areas. But it feels good, and sometimes we can just ‘go with’ things that we might not otherwise.

What I always long for is what comes *after* the NRE; the stability, which some think is mundane, fosters security, consistency, and familiarity. I know what to expect, and where the boundaries are.

It is important however when having NRE with someone new, to occasionally step back and analyse things. Ask yourself: Am I devoting more time/money/resources to this person than I really afford? Is this really love I am experiencing, or is it just lust? Am I devoting as much, or enough attention to my existing relationships, or getting caught up in the excitement of something new? If we are smart about it, and strive to ensure that NRE remains firmly grounded in reality, it can be an amazing and exciting time. Enjoy!

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month six bloggers - ALBJAn Open BookDelightfully QueerMore Than NuclearRarely Wears Lipstick, and The Boy With The Inked Skin - will write about their views on one of them.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Resolve and Resolutions

So earlier this week I wrote a whole blog post on resolutions and what I wanted out of this year, and then promptly deleted it. It was incredibly self-indulgent and ethereal, unrealistic and unattainable.

Recently my friend Amanda posted about Rules for New Years Resolutions, and upon reading it, I was inspired to go back to the drawing board.

Lately I have been trying to move away from the concept of wanting things - in the sense of 'wishing things were different than they were'. I have been trying to live more in the moment, and enjoy the life I am living now, not the life I hope to be living down the road, or even the ups and downs of the life I have already lived.

But, the fact is, there are some changes I want to make in my life. There are some things I feel I could be doing to improve my life, not only for the enjoyment of my life as it is now; but to better my future and heal my past. So this year, instead of whining and wishing, I am going to make actionable, measurable goals which will, if achieved, actually improve on the things about myself and my life that upset me.

Firstly, I identified some common 'complaints' I had, and used them to brainstorm on ways I could healthily, and realistically achieve the core change they revolved around.

Whinge #1 - Displeasure with my body

Whinge #2 - Estrangement from my family

Whinge #3 - Missing travel/hobbies that make me happy

Whinge #4 - I'm broke/I can't afford to... (specifically related to whinge 2 and 3)

And from these, stem my (slightly tardy) New Years resolutions:

  1. Working out - I have already started, and will continue to do my home-based workouts every other day, when possible, with the ultimate aim of being able to do: 50 unassisted pushups, 20 unassisted chin-ups, and 100 sit ups - each in a single set.
  2. I am going to visit my family next year, preferably during the Christmas break. I know this will be incredibly difficult, for many, many reasons, but it is something I really cannot put off any longer.
  3. I am going to go surfing for at least 1 full week in the 2nd half of 2013.
  4. I am going to save the money necessary to achieve the last two resolutions above. I have found a very basic and manageable (even for a student) saving plan that will help me save the money I need to do both. It is called the 52-Week Money Challenge. Adhering to this will ensure that I have earmarked enough to book a flight to Canada and a week's surfing trip.
  5. And, entirely unrelated to the above, but very important to me, are some university-related resolutions. 
    1. Get on a summer research project
    2. Maintain a first overall

So, there you have it folks! Feel free to check in on me and see how I'm doing, and call me on them if you think I'm slacking!