I’m Pete Carr. I'm a photographer but this isn't a photography newsletter. Writing helps me process thoughts and work through problems. So I write to my computer about issues relating to mental health and being autistic. I then share it with you fine folx. There's nice photos too. 🖖
This week's photos are a little narcissistic. They're all me! It is the evolution of myself over 12 years.
It seems that some thoughts I’ve been having over the years could be answered by getting into… say a "TARDIS" and having a good long think. Roomy.
While in the "TARDIS" a word kept popping up as I researched but was it me? It can’t be because of reasons. Yet it sort of felt right. I kept reading. A great thing about being autistic is when I find a special interest. I absorb everything about it.
I explained the situation to my companion (wife), Sam. She understood and was happy for me. I felt regenerated. A whole new me. But I was still in the "TARDIS". I poked my head out the door to see if it was safe. It wasn’t. There were and still are an absurd amount of monsters on this planet. A deep breath and with flamboyant abundance I swung the door open and took a step outside.
“Hello there. I’m Pete. I’m non-binary. That thing that looks like a closet? Yes I guess you could say I just came out of it.”
intro music plays Dum de dum. Dum de dum.
I have slowly been coming to terms with the fact that I am, that I identify as non-binary. So long male gender. It's been emotional.
So what is it?
Non-binary means I soar in the spectrum between genders. I do not identify as a man or a woman. "Yes you at the back. sigh Yes I look like a man and yes I have a penis. Having a penis does not define your gender." I think we need to break down a few things and then rebuild. Ok?
Sex isn't gender
Sex and gender are two different things.
Webster's UK government defines sex as;
referring to the biological aspects of an individual as determined by their anatomy, which is produced by their chromosomes, hormones and their interactions
generally male or female
something that is assigned at birth
I was assigned male at birth or AMAB. Some people are assigned female at birth or AFAB. That is known as your assigned gender at birth or AGAB.
The UK government defines gender as:
a social construction relating to behaviours and attributes based on labels of masculinity and femininity; gender identity is a personal, internal perception of oneself and so the gender category someone identifies with may not match the sex they were assigned at birth
where an individual may see themselves as a man, a woman, as having no gender, or as having a non-binary gender – where people identify as somewhere on a spectrum between man and woman
Gender is made up. At birth you are assigned your gender based on your sex. Your parents go with it and make you into something based on their beliefs which probably means you like blue things and the army if you're a boy and pink things and princesses if you're a girl. Except of course when it used to be the opposite way around because IT'S ALL MADE UP!
If something is made up it can change over time. Language is fluid. It changes. Doth thou not beliefeth me? All words are made up. Even the cromulent ones? Especially the cromulent ones.
Things like this have been gnawing at me all my life. "But why? That doesn't make sense." This is dysphoria.
What is dysphoria
Dysphoria comes in mainly two forms. Social and physical. Let's get physical, physical, for a moment. Physical dysphoria is where the physical attributes of your body cause a great deal of anxiety and depression. This can be a factor in why transgender people transition. Their body doesn't match up with how they identify.
Looking back over my life I feel that I've had a bit of social dysphoria. There's a lot in my life that I've questioned and often that's as far as it goes due to social anxiety. It crushed me so much that all I could do was question not act. For example...
My name when getting married. Why does my partner's name change? Is it because society says she's property being passed from one family to another and hardly anyone questions that so it's just normal? I questioned the logic of it but I didn't have the confidence to do anything about it. I wonder if this was my unconscious non-binary self trying to get noticed?
Why did the male toilets in Venice not have seat lids? Do Venetian men not poop? I had eaten something that did not agree with me and wanted out. I was not sitting on a seatless Venetian toilet. I nervously entered the women's bathroom fully expecting an Italian woman to start shouting at me. I did not know the Italian for "My structural integrity is failing. Clear the docking bay!" (I've been watching a lot of Deep Space 9) It was empty and they had a toilet seat! Of course what happened was a knock at the door minutes after landing on it. Female Italian voices saying things in Italian no less! All I could do was sit quietly there and hope they couldn't pick a lock. When it was quiet I left and no-one knew. Wait, did... did they do the reverse?! Oh I'm so sorry if they did. Braver than me.
Why can I wear a towel robe (it's a dress) to change in after swimming but not a dress on a hot day when I walk back from the lake? Logically taking one loose fitting, free flowing dress that lets wind get places (and from wearing the towel dress robe this year wind gets...places) makes more sense than taking shorts and a t-shirt. Unless I'm supposed to "man up" and not take a t-shirt utilising my god given privilege to walk around topless. What if I "man up" and walk around topless in a skirt? Sorry, I mean it's obviously a kilt because a kilt is manly where as the exact same thing sold in the store next door but called a skirt is crossing some manufactured line. It’s ok to cycle in leggings as a man but if I put a mini skirt over them then…? That ok? In some parts of the world men wear a long dress like single piece of fabric as it's nice and cooling. If I did so here in the UK to feel cooler and more relaxed would that be ok?
I didn't quite understand why I never liked going to the male barbers. They're all so masculine. Urban woodsman bear hug types. I'm sure some are wonderful humans but they don't speak to me at all. All the hair products for men too. So manly. Ugh.
For a while I was curious about painting my nails. I saw a photo of podcaster Travis McElroy and was like "Huh. He's like a cowboy/urban woodsman with nail polish? You can do that?" I thought it looked cool but crippling social anxiety denied me any further exploration. I was concerned about what it would say about me. Internalised transphobia maybe? One night at the Walker Art Gallery trans activist Charlie Craggs was offering the chance for anyone of any gender to have their nails painted. I jumped at the chance. It was for fun and potentially only for one night if I disliked it. The idea behind her work is that you have a chat with a trans person while having your nails done in a bid to break misconceptions and make allies. In my case it worked and nudged me further closer to who I am today. I loved having my nails painted. I was scared though. What if someone who disagreed saw them? It's been over 2 years since then and I haven't had a single issue. In fact I've had amazing conversations with so many supportive women about my nails. Not many men but lots of women. It's been wonderful.
Identity vs expression
Which brings me to identity vs expression. If I go outside I present as a man. I select clothes that I bought from the mens aisle in clothes stores. I appear to be a man. But hey the TARDIS appears to be a police phone box and yet inside it's quite different.
How I present myself to the world is separate to how I identify myself to the world. You may see a man but I wouldn’t say I am. Fun little rhyme there. spins excitedly in skirt Yes I wear them now. Be brave. Put a skirt on and go for a spin. It's fun.
At home I have experimented with clothes. At home I present as not-a-man. If this was the 1970s I guess you would call it cross dressing. That feels weighted with issues so I do not describe things that way. I would say that in the safety of my own home I am figuring out how to feel comfortable with this new understanding of my identity.
I now have 2 skirts. Mini skirts at that. I'm going for a punk girl kind of vibe. One was technically labelled as a kilt. So technically I can wear it outside without fear of being beaten? shrugs I love the way it flies up as I run down stairs though. Reminds me of Supergirl's cape. It's a lot of fun. I have other clothes that are technically women's dresses but they are t-shirt and hoodie dresses. So I can wear them with leggings and if anyone asked it's a long man product. I have ventured outside in the hoodie dress for that reason. But again it comes back to the towel robe dress thing. There's no logic to it. It's just a bit of cloth.
We do have a yard where we BBQ and I wear a skirt there. If they wanted to my neighbours could see me walk around in a skirt. I've been in the yard in my swimming shorts before. You see more of me in them but they're mens clothes so everything is fine. What if I was a nudist? I’m sat here wondering which would be the more complicated conversation to have with my neighbour. Why am I naked or why am I wearing a skirt? Both could logically be explained and yet both are seen as a sexual perversion by those who do not understand.
pcarrchu is evolving
Ok so we've established a few things.
Sex = your biological bits
Gender = man made construct that you are assigned or can chose to identify as
Identity = who you feel you are inside
Expression = how you present yourself to the world
After reading everything why did I decide that I was non-binary rather than gender fluid (switching between male and female) or gender non-conforming (presenting in a way different to your assigned gender). Put it this way. If I was at a nudist camp I would say I was non-binary. It is my identity. My dangly dongles are just my biology. I do not want to present as a woman and I don't feel like I am a woman. I'm ok with presenting as a man and I like having a beard too.
Being non-binary doesn't mean I am androgynous. Gender is a spectrum. Some people chose to present in an androgynous way. I do not. You can present as male and be non-binary. You can present as female and be non-binary. It is your identity not how you present. Only you can chose how you identify.
My nail polish and my beard / hair dye are my choice in how I present myself to the world. I've been trying to work out why I liked having a purple beard. Most men do not dye their beard. If I'm not a man then I have nothing to worry about. I'm just me. It's my beard. My nails. I'm being me not what others are.
Jumping all the way back to my childhood for a moment. I know this is quite the epic essay. For a time in primary school most of my friends were girls. I was cool with that. I sat at a table with 5 other girls. There wasn't a moment where I wanted to be off playing with the boys and their toys. We made daisy chains. Simpler fun times. I've often felt more comfortable around groups of women than men. (Sorry male identifying/presenting friends) I guess non-binary explains this to some degree? I've only been deciphering this for 6 weeks but I've often felt safer around women than men. I'm 6ft5 and 16 stone yet I feel safer and a little bit more at ease around women.
For 99% of my life I've been fine with he/him. Never questioned it. What about now? He/she/they/them/xe/xir? I've decided to go with he/they. I feel ok presenting as a man but I am shifting away from that being my default. Maybe I'm they/he? They first but I'm ok if you say he. It is possible that as I become more confident with my identity that I simply go with they/them and dump the man part entirely.
I've already changed my social media pronouns where possible. Shame very few accept them. I'm also looking for Mx (pronounced mix) on postal form websites rather than Mr. Mr Carr was my father. I'm Mx Carr.
The interesting thing is that someone did male gender identify me the other day and I freaked out a little. Maybe they/them is coming sooner than I thought?
Am I LGBT+ now?
As a non-binary person I can call myself trans / transgender. Not everyone does though and I'm not sure whether I will or not. I think I will identify as non-binary and if questioned will explain that it is under the trans umbrella.
Do I want to transition? I don't feel that. I don't have physical dysphoria. My body could be in better shape but I don't feel the need to go through surgery to externally become how I feel internally. I am ok with this shell.
I had massive respect for the trans community before this but having walked a few centimetres in their shoes I have a deeper understanding of how they feel on a daily basis. The fear. The desire to simply be accepted. If I think about it for too long it is overpowering. How has anyone tried to live this way for decades? You're all incredible.
Am I happy?
Yes. I am happy. My partner Sam is also happy. We're together, closer than ever and a wonderful team.
Things I’m happy about
First and absolutely foremost. My partner Sam. She has been 100% behind me and completely ok with everything. I've been open with her about it all and we're moving forward together and closer than ever.
Gender neutral bike by Brompton. Never thought about it at the time but I’m super happy it’s not a man’s bike. Just a bike.
ASOS is great for trying out new looks. I can order at home. Try and see what works for me and easily send everything back. No-one needs to know what's in the box.
Reducing anxiety. That illogical world of yours is not for me. I'm making my own world and I'm happy here. I'm trying to rid myself of the fear, doubt and disbelief. I'm trying to free my mind. What I mean is no more "But why?" Instead "Is that for me? Let's see."
The Matrix, one of my favourite movies, is perhaps even more meaningful to me now. It is a movie about transition by transgender people.
The future? If I can own my identity and remember that people's issues are in their heads and they need to deal with that rather than me then maybe there's a bright future for this bag of mostly water called Pete who looks cool in a skater skirt.
I feel more connected to the LGBT+ community. I love photographing Pride each year. I've been doing it since it started I think. There's so much love and warmth there. Next time I will go as an LGBT+ person not just an ally. Exciting!
Things I’m not happy about
Seemingly every day attacks on the LGBT+ community make me afraid to be myself.
Toilets. Is it really that bad to have a gender neutral cubical?
I fear I won’t be accepted by some people in my life.
I think my autistic brain has been looking at the world and as it loves logic it hasn't been able to accept the broken logic of society. So much doesn't make sense because it's all based on a series of unwritten made up gender rules that change from society to society. What is right? I suppose whatever you want as long as it is free from oppression, toxicity and doesn't hurt anyone.
Unlike autism or ADHD there’s no test I can take to prove the feelings I have. No-one can 100% tell you whether you are or not. It is something you feel and if you feel it strongly enough then you are valid. Of course this leads to push back from people who feel strongly the other way. What I would say to those is please be happy that I am moving away from those days when I was so depressed I wanted to step into moving traffic and kill myself. Do you want me to go back to being that person? Think hard about who you are. Is your happiness more important than mine?
Which leads me to where I am today. I'm done with trying to figure out the world. I'm autistic and that means I am medically different to 99% of people. This is a world made for neurotypical people. Gender is just another thing that isn't for me. You can take your made up illogical nonsense and shovel it. I am different. Being autistic makes me different. The past 3 years of coming to terms with that have empowered me to embrace being different. I think that has helped and allowed me to accept being non-binary. These past years I've tried new things and been open to what is different more than I used to be. I guess I'm no longer fighting to be included in a "normal" world and worrying I'll look different. I'm flat out telling everyone. "I'm different! I'm autistic. This is me." My nails and my beard are external signs of my difference. Remove the anxiety from my brain and it works. My confidence grows. My self acceptance grows. I'm open to new things and in turn new things help me understand myself in ways I couldn't have imagined.
So... looks back at the TARDIS ... This is me coming out. I'm coming out? Great Scott! I'm coming out! I never thought I was in there to begin with but I'm coming out. This is wild. Surreal. Absolutely super terrifyingly scary. Am I ok with the world seeing me in a skirt? Not yet. A hoodie dress? Just about. Am I ok with the world knowing I'm not a man? Er yeah I think so. Saying things out loud makes them real. So I'm coming out.
Being non-binary frees me from the worry of whether something is for a man or woman. I simply decide whether it’s for me.
The above photograph is me wearing clothes all purchased from the women's tab at ASOS. I'm standing outside enjoying the sun and Pokemon Go. I'm happy.
I identify as non-binary now. I present as male when I am outside of my safe space. Inside my safe space I love wearing a skirt and I am developing a sort of punk rock chick aesthetic. I am under the transgender umbrella but I am not transitioning from male to female. I am comfortable in my fleshy meat bag. Sam and I are together. She is happy that I am happy.
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“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.
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petes out - huh that's got a new meaning now eh?