October the Eighth

(here I am, rock you like a hurricane)

It’s currently just gone midnight on the morning of Sunday, October the eighth, and I feel like taking stock.

Partially for your credit, it must be said. The last post to be published on here went up eleven months ago (three hundred and fourteen days, to be exact) and so those of you to whom I speak exclusively on here have been treated to an unprecedented media blackout from the team here at JP Casey Industries.

But that face is that most of the practical realities of my life, and my general outlook on things, have changed considerably in the last year or so, and I feel like writing them down, or at least trying to name a few of the changes, will help me inflate my own ego through the medium of frilly buzzwords like ‘perspective’ and ‘introspection’ and ‘self-improvement’. Or perhaps I wanted to start blogging again, and a brief, ‘previously on JP Casey’-type post was as good a way as any to get started.

So the biggest change, at least according to conventional wisdom, is that I graduated. I received a 2.1 in English Literature and Language from UCL, which, I’m told, is quite a thing to have done. However, the direction of this change defies that conventional wisdom. I’ve left university with the overwhelming sense that I’ve not learned anything, that I’m a less capable and independent adult than I was when I started, and even less sure of the direction I want to take in my life. I feel like this experience isn’t singularly unique to me – in fact, most of my friends seem to be in an identical or largely similar boat sailing across the paradoxical oceans that make up our lot – and I feel like we need to think more intelligently about the actual role of university in society.

Sure, in some cases, a student will be awarded a degree in a subject that leads to a sensible and relevant career, or will give them useful skills with which they can find a sensible and relevant career. But for every one of those, there’s an English graduate who can kinda write tweets sometimes and is left with a part-time dodgeball refereeing position as the closest thing they have to a direction in life. Not that that example is based on myself, of course. No way. Not at all.

University, for me at least, provided questions, not answers. It made me think more critically about who I am and what I want to do with my time, but hasn’t given me the answers to those problems, or even given me the skills to go about answering them myself. It’s ironic that an institution that boasts of learning, knowledge and teaching is actually a black hole of tangible knowledge about oneself; maybe we should reverse the entire process, where students are brought in to ask professors about topics that they find interesting, in an attempt to discover more about themselves through the questions they ask, the answers they expect, and how they respond to unexpected answers. And maybe UCL could pay me twenty seven grand for the privilege.

Another significant practical change that I stopped doing everything. Yes, almost literally everything. I went from training six times a week for three sports teams to playing zero sports. From essays every other week to not writing anything in, well, at least eleven months. From seeing my friends, teachers and teammates every day to locking myself in my room for four days at a time, armed even with several water bottles and bags of crisps so I would be able to sustain myself in my self-imposed social exile, like the solitary dwelling in a bomb shelter surrounded by the nuclear fallout of socialising, the tumbling toxic clouds of conversation, the pungent radiation of human existence.

But then I started reading Asimov and I decided that metaphors such as people being equivalent to nuclear winters are workable.

It is true, however, that my calendar is decidedly more empty than it used to be, not least because I am, at the time of writing, unemployed as fuck. Which is a technical term for when you’ve been applying for jobs for four months without success, and are now equally afraid of not getting a job, as you’ll remain in your sad, lonely stupor forever, and of getting a job, as you worry you’ve forgotten how to wear clothes and talk to people in a vaguely professional environment. It’s a good phrase; I use it often.

I tend to do things in extremes, and that’s no more apparent than in this sharp change. I did enough for three people at university, and now am barely doing enough for a third of a person now that I’m a graduate. I’m perpetually exhausted, unable to work on ‘constructive’ projects such as job applications, writing and working out for more than three hours a day before my brain, knees or arms crumble underneath themselves. Maybe I’m lazy. Or scared. Or defeated. But I like to believe that my laundry list of extra-curricular projects, accumulated over a decade or longer, is evidence against such damning accusations, and ought to be considered more seriously than the messy four months of ‘Oh God Why Am I Awake’ nonsense that followed them.

The solution, then, is somewhat evident: do more things, but not so many that they burn you out. And I’m trying – I work three nights a week, not five; I read regularly but don’t pressure myself to do it every day; today I started work on a rewrite of my novel (yes, for real) and didn’t even set a NaNoWriMo-style word count deadline for each of the next 3,520,349 days – but it might take a while before results appear.

Which is fine. I’m not in any financial rush to find a job, and while my mental health is hardly perfect, I certainly have better days, which are not to be sniffed at.

But I guess the main change is that I’ve stopped looking for change. Woah. Profound af right? Someone get me a Man Booker prize. Is that Leonardo DiCaprio on the phone, asking for my involvement in an Inception sequel?

Joking aside though, I’ve developed a tendency to split things apart into neat chapters, and approach them as such, as if every chronologically separate part of my life ought to have a neat beginning, where I adapt to this new and strange setting, middle, where I encounter problems and try to work through them, and end, where I reach a satisfying conclusion and meet my Prince Charming. But divisions of chronology are not divisions of psyche, and the expiry of my stupid student ID that still reads ‘Casey Casey’ does not necessarily mean the expiry of some part of my person, and its replacement with a new character.

I’m still sad a lot, and overly intense and excited in patches; I play too much Bloodbowl and spend too much money; I enjoy writing but have no idea if or how or when to make it anything more than a hobby; I like jotting things down in extended lists of three but am wont to ruin an otherwise neat observation with a ham-fisted and fourth-wall yanking attempt at a joke.

So I am sorry that I’ve not written a lot lately, if these are things you have enjoyed perusing from time to time. I’ll try to keep these up but, as described above, am not pressuring myself to do anything, so another one of these might float across your reader or your timeline at some point soon. Until then, I’ll try to address the problem that I’ve written over seven hundred blog posts and still have no idea how to neatly end these damn things.

Normalising Femininity

Hello again,

Yes, I am still alive.

My latest quibble is that femininity still isn’t quite ‘normal’ for me. As it turns out, nineteen years of exclusively masculine gender presentation can be a difficult series of personal norms and comfort zones to work out of oneself. Indeed, I’m in one of the most tolerant, open-minded environments in the world – a university English course full of friends across a range of sexual and gender identities – but it’s still not easy. Damn entrenched gender norms.

For instance, when I get dressed in the morning – provided I’m not feeling aggressively masculine or aggressively feminine, in which case all logic goes out the window and I dash for the nearest pair of tracksuit trousers or heels respectively – I float towards jeans and t-shirts. Putting on a skirt involves some additional effort, some conscious decision to ‘be more feminine’; more feminine than what? I’m currently naked, don’t have a lot of facial hair and was probably dreaming about nail care products; yet even when I am at my least obviously masculine, engaging with femininity is still a bit of a challenge.

Obviously, this is something that will improve with time. There was a time where the thought of doing injections before every meal terrified me, and now I’m honestly so used to diabetes that sometimes I take dosages of insulin, and then forget to eat after them; if self-medication can become more normal than even eating, wearing eyeliner should become normalised fairly quickly.

The end goal to all this is a paradox of the critically important and the completely meaningless. I want to be more feminine, sure, and that’s important to me. But I don’t want to be seen and valued exclusively as such; whether I’m in a dress or jeans, I’d like people to talk to me because I have interesting things to say, not for how I’m dressed. This exact thought led to a lot of insecurity around this time last year; if you just want to be exactly the same person, but dressed differently, why is this so hard? my subconscious would ask, why can’t you just wear a dress and be done with it, why the change in name and pronouns, the self-absorbed blog post and the angry emails to UCL to get them to change my ID card?

Honestly, that voice speaks a lot of sense, and I can’t say with any certainty if I completely agree or disagree with it. But I do know that what makes me comfortable, and has made me more willing to see my friends, and get out of bed in the morning, and generally be proud of who I am, is a wardrobe that includes a few more cute skirts, and a morning routine that is just about long enough to allow me to wear eyeliner most days.

And so in the absence of any grandiose conclusion, about the nature of gender and its relationship to human identity, I’m just doing what’s comfortable. Admittedly, what’s comfortable is still a bit weird, but not as weird as it once was; when I started wearing heels, every step was a physical reminder that something was different, that I was different, and that this was a novelty to be savoured; but now I accept that heels are heels, they’re pretty, they’re painful, but they oughtn’t reshape my whole perception of myself.

So I’ve started wearing skirts around the house, and garish colours of nail paint, or makeup when I know I won’t go out. Because, for me, masculinity isn’t the default, and femininity not an acceptable, but ultimately mostly sidelined, set of values reserved for special events and big nights out. I’m slowly shuffling towards the centre of the gender spectrum, it’s just taking a while.

And doing it in heels will, for the first time in human history, get me there faster.

T-shirt weather

Hello,

‘T-shirt weather’ is a common phrase, used by people from all walks of life: people who like t-shirts, people who (wrongly) think they’re not formal attire, and even some who may not even be wearing t-shirts when they use it, displaying a baffling inability to wrap their head around the true meaning of ‘t-shirt weather’. But I have a more specialised use for this phrase, one that I use with validity as, even when wearing skirts and boots, I wear a nerdy t-shirt on top.

I approach clothing in a layered manner. The lowest layer is the t-shirt itself, a humble, thin garment used to show random people on the street just how bloody obscure and dumb my interests are. The next layer is a hoodie – not a jumper, a hoodie – that is the most flexible of layers, as sleeves can be rolled up or down, zips fastened or ignored, and is the first layer to bring proper warmth to the outfit. The final layer is my jacket – and yes, one specific North Face waterproof I took on DofE and has never let me down – and this is used to keep off wind and rain; its hood, however, is so pathetic that the hood of the hoodie is used for head coverage, explaining the necessity of wearing a hoodie over a jumper.

These three layers allow me to be at near-perfect temperatures year-round, as all of them can be pulled on or peeled off, stuffed into a rucksack on hot days, or dragged out of a bag in winter with no wrinkles or creases. They’re all thin, dark-coloured and lovely. So, when I say ‘it’s t-shirt weather’, I literally mean that a single t-shirt is the amount of clothing I require on my upper body to feel comfortable.

This has led to me coining ‘hoodie weather’ and ‘jacket weather’ as phrases that have confused and annoyed friends and family in the past, as they’ll ask me what they weather’s looking like outside and I’ll respond with my bizarrely individualised system that leaves them none the wiser as to the meteorological features of the outside world.

But this system has broken down recently, because of feminine clothing. Obviously, the t-shirt, hoodie, jacket combo is one worn by many women, but as I’ve spent nineteen years being decidedly not feminine, I feel like I have to make more of an effort on femme days; for me, femininity isn’t a women’s-cut shirt and jeans, but requires heels and a full face of makeup. This may pass in time, but at the moment it’s important to me.

As a result, I can’t apply the same totem pole of clothes for when I’m going out. Sure, I wear t-shirts with skirts, but hoodies with skirts look awful on me and I refuse to wear them; as a result, my feminine coat (the one piece of outerwear I own beyond my masculine jacket) is my thickest and warmest piece of clothing, as it must fill two of the three roles in the torso-warming operation. This also means it is very large and heavy, and so cannot be peeled off and carried over an arm with much ease, and it actually looks very cute, so I’m less comfortable cramming it into a bag like I do with my North Face coat, which is basically the waterproof equivalent of Shepard’s brutalised face at the end of Mass Effect 3 by this point.

I’m sure there are solutions to these issues that keep the tripartite structure to my wardrobe. Maybe cardigans would work, or I could invest in skirts that don’t aim to narrow the waist as much, as a narrow-waisted skirt tends to require a tucked-in jumper, which is far harder to remove than an unzippable hoodie.

But I won’t abandon those three layers of warmth; they’ve kept me safe and sane for about five years at this point, and I’m not giving them up.

*suddenly becomes self-conscious*

Hey there,

I was in the communal bit of the library today – for those of you non-UCL people, or scientists who’ve never actually been to the main library – which is a small circular area with benches and chairs that people can chat and eat in, safe from the crushing obligation to do work of the library proper.

I was originally going to write a Local Celebrities post about a woman with a bizarre way of using her laptop, as she placed the computer on a chair then sat cross-legged in front of it on the floor, but have decided against such a thing.

Instead of highlighting the quirks of another, I’m going to write about my own quirks; I have gone from the online documenter, to the online documented.

Because I realised, oh too late, that for a good few people there I would be that guy; that person with a particular quirk or trait you see in public, and go home to tell your friends about in a vaguely smug and sneering manner. It doesn’t matter if you’ve cured cancer or fought crime, if you trip over a kerb and squeal reflexively you’ll be The Guy Who Tripped And Sounded Like A Pig to some idiot and their friends for the next hour.

And today, I fell into that category.

I ate some crisps in an otherwise silent room.

Now, I must stress that I wasn’t breaking any rules. Food is allowed in this space, and most of the people around me were eating, or chatting away happily. But then they stopped eating. And the conversations trickled away. Then the footfall of passers-by stopped, depriving me of the cover of even simple footsteps. It was suddenly silent.

*munch*

*munch*

*munch*

*munchmunchmunchmunchmunch*

Frak. I’d so become that guy. I could feel their looks, their quickly-averted gazes as I worked my way through my lunch with increasing hurriedness, that only served to make my chewing louder and more frantic, disruption born out of the ironic fear of being disruptive. One of them probably runs a blog with their middle name plastered all over the URL for no good reason, and they’re gonna write about me on their sardonic, black-backgrounded online canvas.

Perhaps not, but the idea still works; I’ve been more aware of what people think of me in the last few months, and now that self-awareness is seeping into my (albeit limited) interactions with strangers. I’m not cripplingly self-aware – it’s not like I abandoned the crisps as soon as I realised people might be looking at me – but it’s something that’s registering on my mind, whereas in the past I’d have imagined myself in a bubble where there are no other people and I can act as I please.

Because I can’t act as if I’m the most important person in the world; I’m simply not. It didn’t take a packet of crisps to tell me this, but it’s a nice metaphor.

Casey

On being Straight Edge

Evening folks,

I’m Straight Edge, and often I wonder why.

For those of you unfamiliar with 80s hardcore punk – shame on you – a quick explanation. Straight Edge is an idea that people don’t need things like meat, produce, drugs or even sex, and we would be better off living a more restrained, ‘clean’ lifestyle. It grew out of the 1970s, as rock become increasingly extravagant and ostentatious, and people wanted a more stripped-down alternative. In the early 80s, New York punk band Minor Threat rolled out the song ‘Straight Edge’, whose opening lines ‘I’m a person just like you, but I’ve got better things to do / Than sit around, fuck my head, hang out with the living dead’ quite succinctly sum up the idea. The song was catchy, the fans loved it, and soon frontman Ian MacKaye had accidentally invented a name for a movement.

It’s important to stress two things about being Straight Edge: it’s flexible, and it’s personal. When I was younger, I didn’t drink or take drugs, but still ate meat, and called myself Straight Edge; now I’m a vegan, still don’t drink, and am equally Straight Edge. There isn’t a list of Straight Edgy things to tick off that grants you access to some elitist club, it’s more of a mentality than a movement. Similarly, it’s super personal, as I’m Straight Edge for myself, and have zero interest in spreading it to other people; my friends drink, they eat meat, and they do the drugs, but they’re still the most important and wonderful people in my life.

Which often leads me to question why I’m Straight Edge, and why it’s so important to me, if it greatly differs from all of my other intellectual stances. I think video games are the most important form of art of the 21st century, and want to tell people this – I run a gaming magazine and my final-year dissertation will be a comparison of Old Norse mythology to Skyrim. Similarly, in my opinion Tom Brady is the greatest NFL quarterback of the century, and will happily tell you why Manning just isn’t quite as good for hours on end. I care less about football, and perhaps less about intellectualising games, as I do about being Straight Edge, so why the difference?

Perhaps being Straight Edge is so important to my idea of myself that it’s not up for debate in the way that other things are. My identity has been swinging all over the place for eighteen months now – I’m redefining my sexuality, gender, interests, friends and plans – but I’ve always loved Minor Threat and hated alcohol. It’s important, I now realise, to have a few anchor points of selfhood that let you wake up in the morning and complete the sentence ‘I am…’, and being Straight Edge has been a huge part of that. I don’t want to think about not drinking, it’s simply inconceivable that I would drink.

I’m also aware that it’s all a bit silly, in the end. Like my veganism, I know that other people aren’t gonna drop their burgers and WKDs because the great JP Casey wrote a blog post about it, so I’m not going to bother to try. I’m less interested in people’s opinions on things, and more interested in how they reach those conclusions; it doesn’t really matter if I’m vegan, or vegetarian, or pescatarian, or a conscious meat-eater, as long as I’m thinking about what I’m eating and why I’m doing it.

And while some of being Straight Edge could be considered preachy – ‘I don’t smoke / I don’t drink / I don’t fuck / At least I can fucking think’ – I don’t engage with any of that. I’m not Straight Edge to change the world, or shame you into eating lettuce. I’ll do my thing, you’l do yours, and that’s all there is to it.

But Minor Threat are still a great fucking band.

I wrote more about Straight Edge for Public Pressure, which you can check out here.

*touch*

Hello all,

I like touching things.

Ahem.

I was making some notes on poetry today, and these were annotation-type notes, colourful scribbles and circles dragged across a page of verse. I’ve not made these kinds of notes since year thirteen, when we’d be given a big anthology of poetry and be expected to trawl through it for the exam like searching for a needle in a stack of slightly larger and more painful needles.

University, however, appears to not believe in anthologies as a general rule. All my other notes on verse have been made on lined paper, which requires the painstaking process of writing-out quotes of value rather than simply underlining them. There’s also the far less important point that having the poem printed in front of you makes it easier to get a handle on the geography of the poem, but it’s mostly the I-can’t-be-bothered-to-copy out quotes thing.

Most of the work at uni is conducted on computers, as is to be expected in this century. But there’s a glaring lack of tangible resources, and using them is often unweildly, or just difficult: handouts might be printed out for your convenience, but you’ll probably just be directed to some dark, unnavigable corner of Moodle instead; seminars take on a weirdly Wall-E-esque feel as students peer over the tops of their laptops to register the existence of their peers, before scuttling back behind their screens to their Word documents and Football Manager windows. And this isn’t a holier-than-thou boast (honest), as I do it too; this is merely an observation that for a course that was, until say twenty years ago, conducted almost entirely on paper, it’s alarming how quickly such tangible media have been phased out.

The obvious exception to this is the library, a wealth of ideas and confusing Middle English verse printed on actual sheets that one can touch and spill coffee over and attempt to sneak back to the reshelving box without alerting the nearest librarian to the new caffeinated aroma emanating from them. Honestly, one of the reasons that I love the library isn’t that it’s quiet or “feels” like the place to do work, but that it’s a place of learning being literally at your fingertips, rather than everything being wrapped up in the ether of the Internet. I love the Internet, but it always feels more random and spontaneous than reading a book with a single topic, written by someone with a particular goal in mind.

Also, places like libraries remind me of my Sixth Form days, when I was at my most focused and academically productive.

I think that’s why I prefer some artistic media to others. Painting is fun, but I’m less interested in that because the intellectual and artistic merits of it can be somewhat diluted by the fact that you’re gonna hang that painting behind some glass in a corridor somewhere and only use it to show your acquantances how bloody cultured you are. Meanwhile, books are a thing that must be held, and manipulated with the hands; there’s even a certain amount of challenge in deriving meaning from a book, as ideas must be interpreted and, in some cases, language deciphered to get to the heart of the piece. It’s no surprise that my favourite medium, therefore, is the video game, a form that demands engagement from the audience to reveal its secrets, and is entirely meritocratic in its approach; if you want to fully understand what Golden Sun has to teach us about perspective, you’ve got to play both games in their entirety yourself.

While the information era has brought far more advantages than disadvantages – not least the practical concern that if we print much more crap on physical paper there will literally be zero trees left on the planet – there’s something about physical media that excites me. It might be the nostalgia of reading books as a kid before the Internet was really a thing that children had access to, or my scholarly ideal of sitting in an office, drowning in Old Icelandic manuscripts and Skyrim players’ guides.

Either way, I got to hold my latest seminar prep in my hands, and it felt great.

Casey

I’m too old for this

Hello,

I play dodgeball, and one of my signature moves, if you like, is to drop to the floor and flatten myself against it to avoid oncoming throws. It works very well, especially against high throws, and I’m agile enough to be able to pull it off fairly regularly.

But I’m starting to suffer as a result of it.

When I started playing eighteen or so months ago, I could crash to the floor and bounce back up several times a game, and be no worse off; but a year and a half of being punched in the face at karate, slammed at American football, grabbed at handball, and having had my knees, ankles and hips slowly ravaged by walks and runs, I’m no longer as resilient as I was. Now, I’ll slam to the ground and make my hip sore, or collapse awkwardly over an ankle and it’ll bug me for the next week.

I know there are steps I can take to combat this – stopping the body-slam dodges, applying creams and apothecatic mixtures to my body, wearing braces and bandages – but I don’t really have the time or the interest in taking these steps. It won’t take much effort to strap up an ankle before playing, but I like darting out the door in my normal clothes fifteen minutes before a session starts, playing in a t-shirt then wandering back home and settling into an essay without showering or eating. It’s how I’ve always approached sports – although I’ve had to abandon the no-shower principle since starting to roll around in the mud of Regent’s Park for the sake of my American football team – and until I’m horrifically injured, I honestly don’t see myself making a change.

In the past I’ve always relied on my body to be naturally good at things, which may be a somewhat ironic statement coming from a type one diabetic with Osgood-Schlatter syndrome and dodgy eyes. I’ve always been able to bounce back from injuries and fatigues to play and train day-in day-out, and I’ve had a good enough metabolism to be able to eat my body weight in chips every other day and not put on weight. But as my metabolism starts to melt away and my body starts to break down – both of which have happened, by the way – I’ll need to start caring about my body and take steps to look after it.

I’ll add it to the list of summer projects.

Casey

I improved a dish

Evening folks,

I make no secret of the fact that I’m terrible with food. Be it down to my inability to taste (I don’t have a sense of smell so I can’t really taste much of anything), or my apathy towards everything other than playing Madden and translating Old English, I’ve just never got into food. I’ve never really liked the eating of it, the making of it, or the discussion of it. Some of my friends, meanwhile, are both very good cooks and very interested in food, so my pathetic attempts to nourish myself often resemble a small puppy trying to excavate an archaeological site alongside a small armada of mechanical digging contraptions; I deserve a few pitiful pats on the head, but little more.

However, today was somewhat of a watershed moment. I’ve enjoyed a vegan garlic pasta recipe for a while now – this one, to be exact – but I’ve often found it somewhat stodgy, particularly when I’m into my fourth portion because I’ll literally cook enough to give me leftovers for a week, then eat it all in one go.

So today, I took the unheard of step of deviating from the recipe. And not just a deviation born out of lacking – I’ll usually skip over the bits in fancy vegan recipes when they ask for blended almond-and-avocado paste – but a deviation born out of desire. I wanted it to taste less stodgy, and more zingy. So I did a thing.

I added salt to the sauce,

Now, I understand that this isn’t a particularly revolutionary step, as salt itself is a fairly basic component of a kitchen. It wasn’t even hard to do, nor did it take a lot of planning beforehand and a venn diagram to illustrate the advantages and disadvantages associated with such a culinary misadventure. I thought it could do with more salt, so I added more salt.

What’s even more stunning, however, is that I actually tasted the change. It was slightly zingy, and sharp, and helped break up the goopy texture of the rest of the dish.

The world has moved on.

I have levelled up.

Casey

My Gender

Hi again,

If you’re checking back to this blog for a second consecutive day thank you! Two days in and we’ve already doubled the amount of content on the site.

For those of you who followed my old blog, this kind of post won’t be a surprise; a few months ago I wrote about my sexuality and, and this is exactly the same thing, only with gender. I’ve told some of you in real life already, so for you guys think of this as more of an explanation, rather than news; for everyone else, this is, indeed, news.

I’m genderfluid. There are a million interpretations of what this actually means, but to me it’s a conceptualisation of gender identity as a spectrum, and my own place on that spectrum varying from day to day, or even hour to hour. On one extreme there is total masculinity – short hair, trousers, beards and scowls – and on the other is total femininity – makeup, dresses, sitting down to pee and actually being affectionate towards one’s friends. This scale may be problematic for some, as it operates largely off stereotypes, so I’ve refined it to involve three levels (because, as Julian of Norwich will tell you, complexity must be described in threes).

The first, most fundamental level, is biological sex. This tends to be binary, although not always, and I would describe this level with ‘male’ and ‘female’. Personally, I am biologically male – I have a penis and testes and chest hair and terrible body odour – and am not trying to change this.

The second level up is what I’d call gender identity, and can be described with ‘man’ and ‘woman’. Again, there are many other ways of looking at this – I’m neither a man nor a woman, after all – and it is a far more complex set of characteristics than biological sex. Instead of this being a set of physical features that defines the term used to refer them, this is more of a subjective, personal judgement call. So, I could identify as a woman, and I would be a woman because it’s my body and my gender is what I choose it to be. Similarly, I could call myself a man, and no-one would have the right to question it.

The final level is the most intricate, and is what I call ‘gendered characteristics’. These are individual features of behaviour or appearance that are themselves indicative of a gendered identity: having long hair, for instance, is a gendered characteristic that is indicative of femininity; meanwhile tattoos are a more masculine characteristic. You’ll notice, however, that many men and male people have long hair, and many women and female people have tattoos; this highest level is the most fluid and malleable of the three levels of gender, as people of various gender identities draw from traits all along this spectrum. For instance, a biologically male person, who identifies as a man, could have many feminine features to their behaviour; these could be as small-scale as wearing earrings, or as grand as publicly cross-dressing.

So, for the sake of clarity, here’s how I fit into these levels:
– Biological sex: male
– Gender identity: genderfluid
– Gendered characteristics: usually masculine, occasionally feminine

When these three things are considered together, suddenly the term ‘genderfluid’ makes more sense. My feminine gendered characteristics are quite dramatic – I don’t just want to wear nail paint, I want to wear a dress and heels to the Sports Ball in a few weeks – and so from that I have constructed a broader gender identity that reflects those characteristics. Sometimes I want to wear a skirt and makeup, but more often I like hoodies and NOFX shirts; my gendered characteristics vary quite wildly between very masculine and very feminine, so ‘genderfluid’ is an effective term to encapsulate them.

But at the end of the day, this is all a bit lofty. We can sit here and talk about the line between stereotyped traits and personal identity, or the hazy middle ground between being unique and just appropriating wholesale the well-established features of a different gender, and it makes no real difference. I didn’t realise those three levels of gender all at once, they’re the product of wanting to wear dresses but also trainers, and the resulting few months of rationalising and researching and thinking. I call myself genderfluid because of what I wear and who I am, not the other way around.

That’s why this has all been much harder than coming as as pan-demi; there’s a certain arbitrary, almost smug artistry to thinking about gender in this way, as if its some academic subject to be studied and probed and chatted about over cigars and coffee. Yet it’s a very real, tangible feeling, that I want to wear eyeliner but feel like I can’t because people will misinterpret my intentions, and judge me negatively.

Honestly, I’m still not totally sure what my gender is or where it goes from here. I don’t know how I’ll apply for jobs that ask for candidates to submit their applications alongside a binary gender box, and I have no idea how I would date anyone if my gender flips so often. But I’m working it out.

All that I ask is that you refer to my as ‘Casey’, and by the pronouns ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘their’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’. Language both shapes and is shaped by our thoughts, so thinking about and referring to me in these terms would be a big help. Beyond that, I guess be prepared in case I wear an atrocious dress to a social event sometime? I’m still not very good at picking feminine clothes.

So if you have any advice, I’d be all ears – I like full skirts, skater skirts and heavy eye makeup, for the sake of style – and if not, thank you for listening. It’s good to talk about this stuff.

Speak again soon,
Casey

Hello again

Hey you,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, a while for some of you maybe; others of you might be totally new to this whole experience, in which case welcome! I hope you enjoy what you see.

This first post, however, is directed mainly at the people who followed my last blog, and my real-life friends, because I’ve been seeing you guys for months, after all. As some of you will know, a lot has, and a lot hasn’t, happened in the last few months, and I’ve been personally and mentally all over the place.

And that’s not really cleared up, nor do I expect it to ever fully resolve itself; I’m stressed and afraid and upset as byproducts of my more colourful, varied and wonderful life, and I think it’s worth taking a few afternoons of sadness for the longer periods of joy and great company. So I’m not too beat up about it; my life has changed, and my old blog wasn’t really an appropriate platform any more.

It was too bitchy, too full of knee-jerk reaction posts, and instances of me exaggerating a particular pet peeve into an unnecessary assault on groups of people or, in some cases, poor individuals I was too afraid to name, and too afraid to confront in real life. I started that blog to have a daily creative outlet, but as I took on other, more enjoyable creative projects, that blog shifted to be a daily spiteful outlet, a platform for me to rattle my sabre against all the things that I was too afraid, or too weak, to take on personally. And that’s not a very healthy use of an artistic platform, and it’s certainly not a very healthy use of my mind.

So this blog will be different. And not just cosmetically different – the selfies and white background aren’t just the ‘good’ to the snide grins and black borders that made up the ‘evil’ old blog – but different in a more fundamental way. I realise now – after eighteen months of almost daily oversharing on the Internet – that human beings are built to be social creatures, but social creatures with boundaries. And opening up some of my deepest fears and most harmful gut reactions to the world, as I did on that last blog, can be a very destructive thing; I’d write a post about how medics are bastards, then wonder why my medic friends hadn’t spoken to me in a week; I’d not said anything to them in person, but they’d all seen the post where I called them awful things, and I didn’t even realise.

Eventually, this took its toll; I ended up being stretched between people I engaged with in real life, and online. I wasn’t sure who I’d complimented or offended, and on what platform, and what my current conversation partner did or didn’t know about me. I almost had to juggle two identities – a raw online persona and a restrained personal one – that left me socially paralysed and generally afraid of human contact, all while pouring more and more personal details into people’s minds through that blog. It was a weird disconnect of oversharing, yet feeling like I had no-one to talk to; and it has been a factor, though not the only factor, in my recent bouts of feeling awful for nothing in particular.

So this blog will be different. Cleaner. More professional. Yet still personal. Think a poet who puts slightly more personal details into their work than their colleagues, rather than a random person who starts describing their preferred sexual techniques in limericks, and bellows them to the world.

On this site I intend to tell you who I am, and what I think, but not how I think, and why I think that. Obviously, these are related terms, and I’ll probably overstep the line somewhere, but that’s the plan at least.

And, just to make it explicit, I’d like to apologise to anyone I’ve offended, annoyed or spoken about when inappropriate in the last eighteen months. It was wrong of me – I could kinda tell that at the time – but it took me three months away from WordPress and a lot of reflection to start acting on it. If you were one of those people, and you’re still reading my stuff, thank you for the second, or third, fourth, fifth, chance.

And to everyone else, welcome.

Hope we get on,
Casey