Trans Joy Interview #7 – 23rd February: Nel

Part One: Trans Joy

What’s your name, and if you chose it, why this name? Also, please share your pronouns.
Okay, so this is really interesting. Even before I realised anything about my gender identity, I was always reluctant to use my real name anywhere online, and in any case never felt that much of an attachment to it anyway. I think because it’s not my ‘real’ real name, because my parents got divorced when I was still a baby and my name was changed even way back then to take account of that. So I’ve always felt that ‘names’ were kind of ‘fake’ anyway.

I have a relatively strong brand image under the ID of ‘barefoot backpacker’, or ‘BB’. This name came about because when I was asking around my friends trying to create a brand identity for my travel persona, and their view was ‘well, you’re often barefoot and you always have a backpack, soooo ….’. But because that’s how I promote myself, that’s largely the only way people know me – and even close friends who know my real name will call me ‘barefoot’ or ‘bb’ because of that.

However, I did experiment with calling myself barefoot backpacker in a real-life context and realised that, even though it’s a gender-neutral name, and even though there’s a commonality that gender-neutral names tend to be less traditional, using ‘barefoot’ as a first name just felt quite … weird to me. Like, it’s a great brand name and very distinctive, but I don’t think it vibes well for everyday use. It’s a bit too distinctive, maybe. So, I felt I needed much more of a standard-vibing name that would allow me to be gender-non-compliant (and therefore probably quite short – my real name is very short as it is, so I’m used to that) but also not raise eyebrows. I ruled out several names for personal reasons (for instance, I really wanted to be ‘Jo’ but I know far too many in my real life), but then something occurred to me. There’s a dialectal word, ‘nelipot’, that means ‘one who likes to walk barefoot’, and while it itself would vibe weirdly as a first name, it can be shortened to a name that exists as a short form of both male-coded and female-coded names. Call me ‘Nel’ 🙂

[As an aside, I am contemplating also changing my surname. As I say, my current surname has already been changed once and I have no real attachment to it, especially as I’ve never lived with anyone who shares it. (It’s complicated, tl;dr my grandmother was a control-freak.) But anyway, I’m musing about changing my surname to one a couple of generations back on my mother’s side of the family, because it’s a cool and distinctive surname. But I’m not open to revealing my full name online, even if I’m not using it yet!).

Oh, pronouns! So, I’m quite flexible with them, partly because when you get to my age, it’s … hard to change them because you’ve spent so long in an identity that it becomes innate. I’ll always respond to he/him (and my current legal name) because, well, I always have, so it’s more of a natural reaction; it’s hard not to. And honestly it probably matters less to me than it does to someone half my age; it’s not going to change my future or affect my career or social path etc. That said, the first time one of my friends referred to me as ‘they/them’, I had a very weird sense of euphoria. It was like, it felt right, you know? It shouldn’t have made as much of an impact as it did. The badge on my backpack says ‘they/them’ and that’s how I always introduce myself in Queer settings if anyone asks, so that’s what I’d say my pronouns are.
The organisation I work for is very keen on inclusivity, and welcomes putting pronouns in e-mail signatures etc. I use ‘they/he’ there, as a kind of compromise. I do sometimes define myself as ‘demiboy’, as it seems the most accurate depiction of how my gender identity feels sometimes, but I definitely feel more non-binary (possibly agender, but I’m still sniffing around the semantics of what flavour enby I am). I don’t object to she/her though; it’d probably give me All The Feels if someone genuinely saw me as female and referred to me as such, but in my own head I’d still be like ‘well, I’m clearly not, thank you for your affectation but you’re clearly in error’.

If you’re out, what was the best part of coming out? If you’re not, what are you most looking forward to about coming out?
Am I out? Am I out?! I don’t know if I’m out or not? Like, I’m sat writing this in a pub wearing dungaree shorts, leggings, painted toenails, and gender-inconsistently long hair. Next to me is a bobble-hat in the colours of the non-binary flag. And if that’s not enough, I attended a travel blogger award ceremony in leggings and a midi-dress with a daisy motif. People of my demographic do not wear midi-dresses unless
they’re making a statement about their identity! For those with any kind of awareness, I’m clearly ‘not entirely cishet’ lol. Quite what I am isn’t exactly clear though, since if nothing else, few people in the wider culture/society know what the non-binary flag looks like, which is great for ‘Queer By Stealth’ presentation. I’m also asexual, which has similar cultural penetration, but, imho, a much less exciting flag. But I’ve commented on flags many times before lol.

But am I ‘out’ out? I think one of the things to bear in mind is my age. Partly it’s that I’m old enough for it to ‘matter’ less, I think, in terms of everyday society and career, but more it’s a case that the relationship I have with my family is that much more different, because it’s not like it matters as much what they think, which is great. However, I’ve not ‘come out’ to my family. Not directly, anyway … I do however think updating my profile picture on Facebook to show me wearing a non-binary flag facemask, posting links to both my blog and my podcast episodes where I talk in great detail and depth about my journeys and my identity, and updating all my details (except name) on social media sites to reflect my gender identity, probably counts 😀 That was the best thing for me about ‘coming out’, in a sense – rather than
having awkward conversations with friends and family going ‘I have something to tell you’, I just went ‘blam, there you go, that’s me, read this, lmk if you have any questions but hopefully everything will be clear and answered as you read and listen’. I had one comment on one of my ‘coming out’ podcasts . From my mother. Who listened to my podcast episode on asexuality. And I know she listened to it because she referred to something specific in that episode. But not about my identity, no, she commented specifically on my reference to her preferred newspaper. Maybe that was the best thing about coming out. No-one noticing. Or them not having strong enough views
or concerns about my identity to comment. I will say though that I have several very close friends who have been very helpful in my ‘coming out’ and ‘exploration’ journeys, so that’s been very good for me.

Do you have a funny anecdote about being Trans? What is it?
I don’t think I do, although it’s always nice when people don’t clock me as male. And many of my friends online, when we’ve met (at travel blogger events etc) have specifically said they don’t think of me or see me as male, which is really nice. I kind of straddle the line between Trans and Non-Binary, in the sense that while I generally present as ‘not definitively male’, my body type is still obviously more male than female. Well, I think it is. I had one passing incident in a pub when I was sat at a table opposite one of my cis-female friends. A chap walked past, and I’m 90% sure he said ‘hello ladies’ as he did so, without stopping. He turned to us, looked directly at me, turned away, and sped on. It made me smile, knowing I’d probably fooled him a bit.

What has been the best thing about transitioning, or what is the best thing about being Trans?
Over the last couple of years, there’s been something my friends have all noticed, and that’s an improvement in my self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s very clear to them that my ‘transitioning’ (if that’s the right word to describe what I’m doing) is proving to be very good for me, on a personal level. Accepting my identity and working with it has meant I can dress much more in keeping with my vibe and personality, without worrying about how it comes across to other people. It’s meant I can do things like grow my hair, which I was either never allowed to do or always felt it wasn’t something I ‘could’ do. But mostly it’s the clothing. I am very very fond of dungarees. Gender-neutral, but so much vibe. I do have to be careful what I wear with them though; I had one day travelling across country and wondering why everyone was smiling at me. Turns out blue dungaree shorts with a yellow t-shirt underneath makes me look like a minion. Embarrassing.

Yes, I have done it since, on purpose. I also have a red t-shirt, when I want to look like Super Mario. Again, accidental but now I know, I’m going to play up to it! And leggings, oh my, all the leggings. Plain leggings if my dungaree shorts are patterned, but with plain dungs, the fabulously vibrant multi-patterned colourful leggings come out. Daisies, obviously. But also cosmic patterns, cartoonish feet representations, primary-colour childhood pick-and-mix … the only downside is it takes far longer to go to the toilet than the average male-bodied individual takes!

I look at pictures of myself and, I mean now I’m more content to have pictures of myself – for years I hated selfies and refused to appear on video etc, because I wasn’t comfortable with how I looked/presented, but never really delved deeply why that was. Comparing pics of me now to pics of me even 5 years ago, never mind 10, it’s a huge difference; I look happier now, it’s something very apparent, that other people have also commented upon, and I’m much more comfortable with the way I look.

You’ve time-travelled into your own past and found a very sad younger version of yourself. What three things can you tell young you to look forward to?
Ugh. Right. So. Imagine an irked 15-year-old, unpopular, bullied, unaware that I had any options other than compulsory cishetallo-ness, and wondering, even at puberty, why I didn’t seem to be in any way operating similarly to my peers, and also unknowingly in possession of a couple of neurodiversities that, if I’d been able to mitigate for properly, might have made my teenage and early 20s much easier. What would they have wanted to know they could look forward to? It’s actually a really hard question to answer since at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend the ways in ways my mental and personal life could have developed – what I was hoping and wanting at that age would turn out to be complete red herrings as I realised over time who I was, but having that conversation would be like my explaining to my mother about asexuality – something just so beyond my mindset that I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend even the starting point.
So on that note, I suspect my answers will be more generic and life-affirming.

  • 1: You will travel the world.
  • 2: I know it’s going to take a long time to get there, but there comes a point in life where no-one actually cares, in an ‘everyday’, ‘passing in the street’ way, about who you are. This is A Good Thing, because it means you can stop worrying about every little thing about you. They’re too focussed on their own thoughts and their own worries to even notice you. Have sky-blue hair. Dump the shoes. Rock the daisies. Almost no-one will notice.
  • 3: The Internet. Penpals, but instantaneous. Perfect for someone with social anxiety and self-esteem issues.

Part Two: We’re not just our genitals, so here’s some non-trans joy

What would be your ideal way to spend a day?

There are some days when all I want to is lie in bed, scroll the Internet, and do nothing except chill under a duvet. There are other days when all I want to do is go for a long walk – 10-15 miles maybe – into the foothills or along a clifftop. Sometimes I feel I need to spend a few hours in a pub, doing cryptic crosswords or typing up some blog, story, poem, or podcast script. Maybe I’ll do a 5km jog. Maybe it’ll be 10km. But not if it’s raining. I could be on a train or bus going to a new part of town, or in a different country. Maybe I’ll stay at home and cook a curry, while listening to a podcast or three. I don’t think there is an ideal way to spend a day, but some combination of these things will help to make a very good day.

You’ll notice there’s no mention of other people in this. I get my best pleasures from being on my own, and while I like having my friends around, I’m very much more comfortable more of the time in my own company. And while it is genuinely nice to have the company of friends, I don’t feel the need to be constantly ‘with’ them; it’s great when I’m with one of my closest friends because we can feel comfortable just doing our own individual things while in the same room – we don’t need to be talking to each other all the time or anything.

Family are the people who love us – by blood or otherwise. Tell me about someone really important to you (as anonymous as you like) and what’s great about them.

Many years ago, one of my good friends said ‘the friends you had ten years ago are different to the friend you have now, and the friends you have now will be different to the friends you’ll have in ten years’. She has a great point – most of my closest friends now are people I didn’t know ten years ago, while the people I was close to then, I still know, but speak to far far less. Including her. But we’re talking the here and now. I have several friends I’m very close to, with whom I talk (slightly differently) about me, my personal identities, and my life about. Nearly all my friends are (cishet) women, which is something my mother is very confused about. [I like confusing my mother. I once sent her a photo of an Afghanistan visa in my passport, with no other explanation. She did not like that. But I digress.] I’m not going to mention them by name, but they know who they are, I feel very comfortable with them, around them, I can talk to them about my gender journey and know they’ll give me honest answers. And despite my being male-bodied, they know there’s no subtext in my friendship, they know I’m not trying to worm my way into their body. And we know we don’t have to impress each other or anything. Although I do still tidy the flat if they visit; that said, one of them is very germaphobic so I’d be letting her down if I didn’t at least try. Even when they tell me that, sadly, I still don’t meet their high standards. She’s a heat-loving, feet-hating, organised American with a really good memory. We briefly house-shared. It’s a sitcom waiting to happen, I tell you.

Pets, or favourite animal if you don’t have pets.

So, I don’t have any pets. I have, in the past; I’ve had dogs, and that’s been great, as well as providing me with an incentive to get out and walk more. But honestly, I don’t have the mindset for poets, I’m not very good with commitment, but I’m even worse with admin and responsibility, I don’t feel comfortable or secure with the idea of being responsible for another living thing. It’s similar to why I’ve never wanted a management role in my career path; no-one should ever give me responsibility for anything, and it involves far too much

Now, as someone who’s travelled the world, you’d’ve thought I’d’ve seen a lot of unusual and exciting animals in different environments. This is undoubtedly true, but animals as a concept aren’t something I really get excited by. Like, I’m not high on the target audience list for a week long safari in Tanzania, for instance. I’ve seen some awesome animals in the wild, like elephants, giraffes, hippos, and warthogs, but it was only a couple of days out the trip on a side adventure and making that the focus of a holiday would bore me, let’s be honest. My knowledge of birds is notoriously awful; on one hike I did with a friend, she said ‘oh look, isn’t that a golden plover’- I looked into a distance and replied ‘it’s got wings; all I can tell you is it’s a bird’. One of my bosses at the organisation where I used to work said that I reminded her of Skrat, the squirrel from the Ice Age movie series, and tbh I resemble that remark…

What’s your passion? Hobby? Favourite music, book, food, your team, your job, anything; what do you really really love?

There’s a podcast I listen to on a semi-regular basis (their schedule, not my backlog!) called: “Or, Learn Parkour”. It’s a podcast about ADHD by two people who have ADHD (which explains their schedule), but one regular segment in it is the ‘Dopamine Trampoline’, where the two hosts talk about what’s been giving them all the thrills since the previous episode. I mention this because that’s sometimes how I feel – my
passions tend to be patchwork in style; all in your face but never for very long. My current ride on the dopamine trampoline is cryptic crosswords. I’ve been doing them off and on for most of my life, but I have to be in the right mood for them. Which is now. For those who don’t know, a cryptic crossword is a crossword puzzle but where all the clues are more cryptic rather than simple ‘you either know it or you don’t’ facts. The clues use anagrams, wordplay, abbreviations, absolutely dreadful puns, and other techniques and tricks to guide you to an answer that fits. A particularly egregious example from the most recent one I’ve done is ‘Note what Lincoln has’ (6,1). The answer is ‘Middle C’, being a (musical) note that … well if you spell Lincoln, you’ll see its middle letter is a C. {pause for effect}. Yeh, that’s what I thought as
well. Some clues have me thinking, pondering, researching for 20 minutes before realising the answer and throwing my pen down in a mixture of disgust and admiration.

Aside from that, I have more general hobbies/interests – kind of ‘background radiation’, as it were. I’ve always been a runner, and am regularly to be found at Parkrun (which, btw, has recently allowed for a non-binary option in their stats. You get less of them, but since their stats are mostly about how you compare to other people in your age and gender bracket, and since non-binary is both very wide and less populous, it’s probably accurately inaccurate to compare one enby against another). I’m invariably distinctive in bright, vibrant, leggings, sometimes an un-matching athletic crop-top (I even have one in the colours of the non-binary flag!), and occasionally even bare feet as opposed to running shoes – this is more dictated by weather conditions than anything else. I also do regular jogs around my local suburbs, again weather-willing because I find rain is nicer to look at than be in.

I have similar vibes about walking/hiking. I don’t drive so I tend to walk everywhere (a few years back I hiked across the entire island of Great Britain, from the most easterly to the most westerly point). While I might grump about it while I’m getting ready to leave, I love going for walks even if it’s just for a couple of hours around my local area. The city I live in has far too many railway stations for a city of its size, and I’m using them as kind of waypoints to go ‘well, I’ve not walked past that station therefore I’ve not visited that part of the city’.
And of course, as casually passed over earlier, I like travelling. I firmly believe ‘everywhere is interesting’ (yes, even Luton), and people travel all over the world to see something special, without necessarily realising other people travel all over the world to see things you pass every day without really noticing. I’ve always been very curious about the world and everything in it, from what lay beyond the edge of the A-Z when I was growing up, all the way to small oceanic islands that few people know exist. I’ve been to over 80 countries, I think, but I realised long ago that not only is counting countries little more than a tick-box exercise, but also there are so many different definitions of both ‘country’ and ‘visit’ that it’s easier just to enjoy the journey and worry about it later.

What have I not asked that you’d really like to talk about?
I don’t think there’s owt. I’ve managed to shoehorn most of the important points into the other answers. I waffle. It’s fine. Good luck editing this. 😀


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