I know this is super super long (and I spent 9 whole hours writing it), but it all ties together in the end!
Table of contents!
- "Atmospheres" and Happiness
- The Little Things are the Biggest Things
- Discovering your True Self: Starting Without the Labels
- Expressing Yourself and the Need to Do So
- Gender: An Illusion of Identity
- Self Expression over Gender Expression
"Atmospheres" and Happiness
"Atmosphere" is what I like to call a certain feeling of deep, true happiness that I've experienced multiple times in my life. It's named after the aura that the moment and environment feels to emit. It's a feeling that's all about the context of what I'm doing and has little to do with actually what I'm consciously immersed in.
Experiences that are correlated (whether by cause or effect) with atmospheres as I experience them follow (but not all of them are always present):
- Life in the moment
- A lack of worry, concern, and anxiety in general
- Heightened wakefulness
- Furthermore, heightened senses and memory
- Particularly heightened sense of emotional feelings (which are more colorful than they are functional, like a pool of colorful, neon mixed-fruit-juice swirling around in my gut!)
- A deep complete sense of "everything is good"
- A strong feeling of connection, acceptance, acknowledgement, and openness with the people around me
- The ability to enjoy almost any activity
- Feeling like I am in a completely different place even if I am in a place I visit regularly
- Intense immersion, often to the point of mental dissociation
It's strongly influenced by things that happen in the background of my awareness. And interestingly it seems strongest (but can still exist) when that background stays in the background and does not become the foreground. Instead something else is in the foreground of my attention and immerses me, as mentioned above, often to the point of mental dissociation. Yet it typically doesn't make much of a difference what that actual activity is, as long as it consumes my attention.
Reading in 3rd Grade
One afternoon in third grade, I was sitting quietly at my desk reading a book I had recently checked out from the fiction section in the library. My head was down at an angle that couldn't have been healthy for my neck with my nose stuffed into the yellow, musky pages. It was relatively calm in the classroom with the constant gentle sound of page turns, chair scoots, and pencil tapping along with the soothing white noise of the air conditioner which ran more than it should keeping it cold in the classroom. I sat comfortably with my legs wrapped in an awkward-looking position and my eyes fixed sturdily on the words before them. I immersed myself in the story. Despite the sounds of the class room, I only heard sounds in the story. And despite never shifting from my awkward position, I only felt myself standing by the characters. I probably stayed that way for over an hour. For one reason or another I thought to look up from my book. I did, and the classroom was empty.Why am I trying to write like this, I can't write ._.
I was so immersed that the class managed to leave without me realizing. I don't even
know how the teacher failed to see me.
And that's my favorite example from experience of "Intense immersion, often to the point of mental dissociation."
Okay, this one isn't really a story because I can't recall at the moment a specific dream for this. But every once in a while I will have a dream that is really vivid and immersive. It will involve lots of emotion and be very detailed. It'll feel like I've left this world for a while. And when I wake up, I'll stay in bed and the feeling of having been in that other world will linger. This atmospheric feeling is very strong and effects my perception of the waking world. So despite being in the very same place I am every day, it feels totally different. The reason is because my background
mental processes have been changed to that of that other world that I felt I was in. And I love to enjoy this feeling as long as it lasts. It usually lasts for about two hours before it fades away because of my background mental processes being replaced again with those of my normal environment.
One summer a few years ago, I got to meet some of my family that I had never met before. Six people drove across the country to stay for a week at my house. It was one of the best experiences I've ever had. From the moment they arrived, everything was different. Life in the exact same house I've been in for half my life was completely different. We did everything together from eating dinner made by my brother-in-law together to hanging out in my room watching youtube videos or playing video games. I was happy not because we were watching youtube videos or playing video games, all things I could have done before they had arrived, but because we had something to do together, and we did it together. I felt very connected to them, and I had the rare opportunity for me to be myself around other people, especially family. When they left, I cried. And it took a few days before it stopped "feeling" like they were still there. I even told my dad that it still felt as if they were there. There's a kind of saddenning feeling that comes when you suddenly lose something that was giving you constant great happiness.
And that's my favorite example from experience of "A strong feeling of connection, acceptance, acknowledgement, and openness with the people around me," "The ability to enjoy almost any activity,"
and "Feeling like I am in a completely different place even if I am in a place I visit regularly."
And all of these experiences have led me to feel that the background noise in life in more important than the focus! (But that's just my own personal experience.)
And this is also why I really love things like music, video games, imaginary worlds, architecture, and just generally a lot of things. Most of the beauty of music comes from the details that you can't consciouslly notice (unless you are an accomplished musician) and usually gives you something prominent to focus on (like a melody). Video games put you into a completely new world with activities to do. Without that other world, it's hard to appreciate fighting a monster, solving puzzles, or assuming a role in an RPG. They are all examples of the importance of the background over the foreground.
The Little Things are the Biggest Things
Background over Foreground, Foundation and Context
It seems completely unintuitive to me to think that the background would be more important than the foreground! We think of them as the little things in life. The smell of cooking food, talking with a friend about trivial matters, things you do in your "spare time," you know, the things that aren't your "occupation." Yet that's what all of my experiences point towards. I wouldn't be happy doing "what I love" in a terrible environment, yet I would be totally happy doing things I don't care about in a wonderful environment.
That is to say, the what
in life comes secondary to the who, when, where, why, and how.
Why? I think that in the real world, nothing happens without context. Though we have brains capable of extracting abstract meaning from concrete examples, those abstract ideas never
actually occur in their pure forms. It can't exist without the context from which it was derived. In art, the background is the foundation upon which the focus is presented. In music, the dominant key defines
the tonic key which isn't perceived as tonic without the tension of the dominant resolving thereinto. It seems that there are many examples where the perception of the foreground depends
on its background. And that's why I feel like the environment is extremely important and why I think the previously mentioned atmospheres are so influenced by the environment
Labels, labels, labels. We label everything so we can refer to it. We label our thoughts, our surroundings, and our experiences. Labels are important! It's how we communicate. But they aren't perfect.
Failings of Labels
Labels are ambiguous. They can mean one thing to one person and another thing to another person. Such a thing can often lead to heavily buried miscommnuication. When it is (unwisely so) so strongly assumed that both parties understand certain labels to mean exactly the same thing yet there are subtle unnoticed distinctions, it is easy for the two parties to misinterpret each other and potentially become angry. The best way to prevent problems is for each party to understand that they are both logical beings, and if something doesn't make logical sense to one of them, but to the other it does, then there is obviously a mismatch rather than one of them having inferior logic skills, and the best way to diagnose it is to break it down and figure out exactly where the difference in understanding is. It's natural to feel angry and frustrated and want to take that out on the other party, but it's much more productive and with a happier ending to be understanding."It's hot, turn the AC down."
"You mean up?"
"That would make it hotter."
"If I turn the air conditioner up more, it will cool the air more!"
"No, it will make the temperature higher!"
The hidden misconception being whether up and down refers to the temperature or the power usage.
Labels are inaccurate. It's impossible to truly define
real life phenomena. As mentioned in the previous section, though we have brains capable of extracting abstract meaning from concrete examples, those abstract ideas never
actually occur in their pure forms. Labels can only really give us a vague (to varying degrees) idea of the intended meaning. In addition to vagueness, they often imply details that we don't want. But we might have to resort to a particular inaccurate label just because we don't have a more precise option. The best way to get around this is to be more wordy. Unfortnately, being more wordy means, well, more words, and that can quickly become a lecture instead of a conversation if you are trying to explain something particularly exotic!"Do you wanna go fly in my new lawn mower?"
"Lawn mowers don't fly."
"Planes don't mow lawns."
What would you call a flying, lawn-mowing machine?
False label implications have a tendancy to be artificially realized. If you use a label for something that doesn't necessarily fit, or otherwise implies things (through experience or otherwise) that you don't immediately see in what you are describing, and you continue to use that label, then that item is more likely to become
(according to the eyes of the beholders) everything that that initially inaccurate label implies. It's even stronger when you label people. If you tell someone they are smart, they might start acting like how they see other "smart people" acting, because they subconsciously see themselves as a part of the same group of people having that label and begin to exaggerate their commonalities. A lot of these extra hidden implications of labels possibly come from the content from which they were originally derived, which goes back to the idea that things never really exist out of context.A person gives another person a chopstick.
And they procede to cut their steak with a stick.
Labels are only secondary to the actual experience. But they still have a very important role because the actual experience isn't always available to everyone. They are most effectively used with awareness of their shortcomings.
Discovering your True Self: Starting Without the Labels
What makes someone who they are? From a subjective perspective, I think it's all of what they experience. From an objective standpoint, I think it's all of what they do. How do you find out who you are? If you are what you experience, then pay attention to what you experience. If you are what you do, then pay attention to what you do. If happiness comes from what someone is naturally driven torwards (I understand there can be a lot of different meanings for happiness! But this is how I am using it.) then finding out who you naturally are can be as simple as paying attention to what you naturally feel drawn to, or from an objective point of view, by paying attention what you naturally do.
But in order to find out what you are naturally drawn towards, you have to be exposed to opportunities. If you don't know what's out there, you can't be drawn to it. In early childhood, it's easy to be exposed to the world from a pure point of view. That is you can see what's really before your eyes without much bias, because you haven't been alive long enough to develop much bias. But the older you are and the more labels you have for things, the easier it is to be exposed to the world from a impure, filtered, biased point of view.
Labels aren't the real thing. They are inaccurate symbols for them at best. And as such, seeing the world solely through labels is impure and limiting. Think about life without words. If you relied on words to see the world, you wouldn't be able to see.
Labels come from language, which comes from communication, which comes from other people. So seeing the world through labels is like seeing the world through someone else's point of view. More specifically, through the point of view of the hypothetical common person who is the aggregate of everyone that speaks your language. Of course you can synthesize these labels that come from other people and use them in a way that has only ever been used before by yourself, but you are still limited to expressing the atoms of meaning that are contained within those labels.
You have to see the world through your own eyes instead of someone else's. You can't depend on someone else's labels and the meanings contained within to tell you who you are. You have to be able to see things that don't have words yet!
So if you search for yourself in the hypothetical common person, you are missing out on a lot of potential self discoveries. Everyone is so much more different than they think, because they are so used to seeing only what they have in common. To find your true self, you have to be willing to look in other places than soley other people that you hope to have things in common with.
None of this is to say that labels are bad and that it's bad to have things in common with other people. Those things are very important as well. For one, seeing the world from the point of view of someone else can be extremely insightful. And having things in common with other people can make you feel accepted and validated. The point is just that it if it's the only place you look, then you are missing out on a lot of insight and can become doomed to thinking you are just a common person with the same interests and feelings as everyone else.
Expressing Yourself and the Need to Do So
As you discover who you are you probably want to share that with others. Why and how?
Why? If you express yourself, you are being yourself. If being yourself is what naturally makes you happy, then by expressing yourself, you become happy. If subjectively you are what you experience, and objectively you are what you do, then when you express yourself, you bring the subjective and the objective together. When you express yourself, the world reciprocates. You see in the world reflected back at you what you feel on the inside. And that can be extremely validating. It's the world saying "you exist." Lastly, if nobody expressed themselves, then new ideas would never spread or develop, and we would live in a world without content.
How? If the desire to express yourself to other people comes from the desire for ackowledgement, then you have to show people who you are. You can't acknolwedge someone if you don't know they exist. Showing people who you are can be as simple as being yourself before them. But what if you have to explain
to someone who you are? Then you are stuck with using language, and that means labels.
In order to communicate who you are to someone, you have to use labels that they understand. This can be frustrating because of the previously described shortcomings of labels. Furthermore, most people aren't willing to read a biography of you (a previously mentioned work around for label inaccuracies is to use a lot more labels) just to get to know you. People want to know who you are as soon as they find out about you
. They want you to fit into their labels so they can feel like they instantly know everything about you. Unfortunately that's not how the world works. But it doesn't stop people from trying and being heavily habituated to doing so. As such, if you want to express yourself to these people, it's probably in your best interest to "sum your self up" using the most accurate labels you can find (as long as you don't fall into the traps associated with labels, as previously mentioned).
There will be some people that take the time to see through their labels and get to know you in a more pure way. But even they will ever truly be able to know who you are, because they are fundamentally not you. Labels are important aids of communication and people are going
to use them, so despite their inability to truly portray you, knowing as well as you can which labels communicate which ideas to the other people, that people are going to assume many untrue things about you based on the labels you choose, and how to use those effectively is the most effective way to make an impression of yourself using words.
I like to say it this way. Everyone will misunderstand you, but you have some control over how
they misunderstand you.
Gender: An Illusion of Identity
Man-Made, Culture-Specific, Prepackaged, Stereotypical Identities
Now I'm going to start bringing all of this around to gender identity. But first, some ground.
Sex is a biological distinction. Living beings can be male, female, intersex, or even sexless. Gender is social construct. Societies associate roles, perceptions, and expectations with multiple genders (some societies even have more than two.) Genders are typically assigned to people based on their sex and have a one-to-one correspondence with sex.
When two ideas become too similar, it's easy for them to become conflated. Especially when the two ideas use the very same words. (That's one of the failings of labels, as previously mentioned!)
In this case, the ideas of sex and gender, while theoretically being completely different concepts, are in practice tied together so seamlessly that they become easily confused and thought to be the exact same thing. And it doesn't help that the words for male and female sex are the exact same words for male and female gender. Thus it is an extremely common misconception that gender and sex are the exact same thing. They're completely different.
Another difference between sex and gender is that sex is a naturally evolved distinction among living beings, and gender is a man-made idea. The gender roles in a society, while most likely being influenced by some degree by the natural typical
differences in behaviour among the different sexes, are arbitrary
, and that is further confirmed in that in different cultures, gender roles can be completely different.
The reason gender becomes so important is because it is heavily engrained in society. The rules of etiquette that apply to one gender don't always apply to the other. Different career paths are typically expected from different genders. It's even embeded into the very core of our language. It's almost impossible to get by speaking without verbally acknowledging someone's gender role (pronouns, gendered nouns, etc.). There can be strong stigma associated with acting outside of assigned gender roles.
Someone's gender identity is the aspect of a person's identity as it relates to the gender roles of society. When someone feels comfortable with the gender role assigned to them at birth, we say that they are cisgender. When someone feels uncomfortable with the gender role assigned to them at birth, we say they are transgender. Seeing as how gender is so strongly a part of society, it can quickly become a challenge for transgender people to feel comfortable.
Now for what I really want to talk about.
Gender roles are but labels. Not only are they labels, but they are forced upon us whether we like it or not. Try as you might, but you will never be able to stop people from trying to assign a gender label to you when they acknowledge you. Thus when it comes to expressing yourself to people, gender labels quickly become prominent.
In a handicapped quest to find out who you are by seeing the world solely through labels (as mentioned in a previous section) one of the most obvious encounters you will come across is gender. How you learn about gender might vary from what you see in media or see with your own eyes. You are most likely to end up with highly abstracted visualizations of what it means to be of each gender. And they will most likely be stereotypical examples of such. This creates the illusion that there are a few premade identities, ready to be assigned to people at birth, and the differences among people are as trivial as a simple gender distinction.
Then you question your gender identity. And you ask yourself, "Which of these ready-made identities appeals to me the most?" And kudos to you for questioning your gender identity, but be careful! These are labels we are talking about. And these particular labels are some of the most vague and inaccurate labels of them all, simply by virtue of the fact that they are forced upon everyone in an unnatural way.
You'll be able to more precisely figure out who you are if you don't look for yourself in one or the other of these incredibly vague ideas of each gender, but rather you look for yourself in what you naturally are drawn to regardless of what gender role it's associated with. You are much freer without the boundaries of a gender label to define you. And it rids you of the danger of becoming victim to the third flaw with labels that I described, that "False label implications have a tendancy to be artificially realized." If you think you fit one gender role perfectly, you are in danger of actually becoming that instead of who you purely are.
Self Expression over Gender Expresion
Gender expression, as important as it is (though artificially so), is only one aspect of who you are. But if you know who you are, and you want to express yourself with words to people, seeing as that you still have no choice but to be a gendered being in others' eyes, then you are going to have to decide how you want them to percieve you in relation to gender. Like I said before, you are going to be misunderstood, but at least you have some control over just how you are misunderstood.
Honestly, all of the previous stuff was just groundwork for being able to talk about what I'm about to talk about. Now I get to talk about me!
From what I know about myself so far in life, why would I, as a transgender female, prefer to be seen as a female?
I could say because the appearance that I, in a vaccuum with no limitations, would prefer to have is one that would be described as feminine. (Notice that I didn't say that I prefer a feminine appearance, but rather that the appearance I prefer is feminine, a categorical difference. Rather than saying that I like what I see through the feminine label, I said that what I like would be better suited under the feminine label than another label. And I have to say, the stereotypical image of a female that I have in my mind, I absolutely loathe
. But being myself is not about being what other people expect me to be, duh!) I could say something similar about personality characteristics, though it's more blurry, and a lot about me wouldn't fit well under a masculine or feminine label, and many things would even fit better under a masculine one.
But for me that's not the point.
To be honest, I would prefer a society without the forced gendering of everyone. I would personally feel more comfortable with that. But there is forced gendering. 99.999% (no statistics on that) of the population will
put me in a box. So I have to pick.
For one thing, since I have some choice over how people will misinterpret me, I rather be a misinterpretted female than a misinterpretted male. Secondly, as previously mentioned as one of the characteristics of labels, is that there is baggage associated with labels. This is especially true of such extremely vague and encompassing labels as gender labels. And I am more comfortable with the baggage that comes with being labeled female than the baggage that comes with being labeled male.
What is that baggage specifically? I wouldn't be able to tell you actually. But I know it's there. For example, imagine a female for five seconds, and then imagine a male for five seconds. They were different visualizations, weren't they? You likely saw them dressed differently, presented differently, you have different memories associated with each of them, and you felt differently towards them. They are deeply subconscious differences in conceptions that are difficult to analytically distinguish. And while neither of the images you imagined, or any of you imagined, are likely to be even remotely
close to how I feel on the inside, the female image you imagined is most likely closer
to how I feel and is a better start
for someone trying to figure out who I am (since they so insist on using labels in the first place).
Why do I want you to have an accurate of me? That goes back to the need for self expression. When someone gets a feeling about me that matches my feeling about myself, and then in return expresses that feeling back to me, I feel validated and like I actually exist.
How can I rely on something I can't pinpoint, differences that are so subconscious? The same way I can confidentally tell you that my favorite color is gold without the slightest idea of what even gives people "favorite colors." By comparing experiences in my mind and knowing what appeals to me the most, whether I specifically know why or not, that's how I know who I am.
Why Does it Matter?
Gender is something that goes on in the background. Most people don't want to consciously "pursue their gender role," I've never heard of such a thing (though if that's you, there's nothing wrong with it if that's what you want to do, whatever it means to you!!) Most people put their focus and conscious energy towards a concrete activity that they enjoy (or require) doing. And as mentioned somewhere near the beginning of this journal, it seems totally counter intuitive to make such a big deal about what goes on in the background of life rather than the foreground of life. But as I mentioned before, the background is the foundation upon which the foreground rests without which the foreground has nothing to define it. If you skipped that section of this journal, you might want to go back and read The Little Things are the Biggest Things
WHEW, that ACTUALLY took 9 hours to write followed by another 45 minutes to read for errors. o_o If you actually read to this point, you are a hero!
Or even if you just read part of it, that means a lot too. Thank you~Disclaimer: I like to emphasize that this is all based on my experiences and in no way do I expect them to automatically apply to everyone!