Inspirational, Out and Proud: Eirian Nicholson – The LGBTQ Community Probably Saved My Life

Image above credit: Amit Zinman

My best headshot

Sexual Orientation

Asexual

Gender Identity and Pronouns
Non-binary (AMAB) – ‘They’ works, but I’m not picky

When did you know?

The signs were there in high school, but I wasn’t able to start making sense of them until I was 22. I knew I needed to get my testosterone levels down, so I went to Wikipedia and started researching ways to make that happen. I soon found myself reading the entry for asexuality, which clicked immediately. Further research led to the realization that I’m trans.

FaceApp! It went viral around the time when I was mentally debating whether I should try estrogen, so naturally, I played around with it. I don’t actually look like this (yet).

When did you come out?

As ace, immediately – the same day I found that Wikipedia article. I was much slower to come out as trans.

To whom did you come out first?

As ace, to everyone, I knew on Facebook. As trans, to my mom. I didn’t start coming out about that to anyone besides immediate family and medical professionals until a few months after I started medically transitioning. It’s an ongoing process (my coworkers still don’t know).

A cake I baked for Asexual Awareness Week a few years ago.

How did your closest friends and family react?

They’ve all been very supportive.

More intimate questions.

How has your life been enriched by the LGBTQ Community?

It is entirely possible that I would be dead by now had the community not paved the way for my transition, with online resources to aid self-understanding, and with a history of pushing for more accessible and open-minded trans healthcare. If not, I expect I’d still be struggling with severe dysphoria every day.

What are the common misconceptions about being LGBTQ?

Even limiting it to the ones that affect me, that question is broad enough to devote two or three separate blog posts to it, and you’d be better off referring to the ones that have already been written. To throw a few out: that asexuality must be the result of trauma or low sex hormone levels; that sexual attraction, romantic attraction, and aesthetic attraction are all the same thing; that HRT is purely cosmetic ; that trans people are either hyperfeminine or hypermasculine, depending on sex assigned at birth; that trans people are easy to spot; that trans people are really just gay people who’ll do anything to get laid…

Describe the first time someone else read you (for better or worse) as LGBTQ.

The first unambiguous time, at least, was when I was walking to work a couple months ago. A guy pulled up next to me with his window rolled down, and asked, “Are you a trans girl?” Then he offered me a ride, and when I refused, he drove off, but not before telling me I have nice legs. Please don’t do this It’s skeevy.

Who was your first LGBTQ role model or elder, and how did they impact you?

Micah, who runs the blog genderqueer.me (formerly Neutrois Nonsense). That was where I ended up while exploring gender identity online 6 or 7 years ago. Micah’s AFAB, but even so, I related to much of what they had to say, and back then, I had a very difficult time finding other AMAB enbies, much less AMAB enbies who were saying things I found helpful. It was the first I’d heard of anyone doing low-dose HRT, and also where I found a label more specific than ‘non-binary’ that seemed to fit (though I’m not so sure it fits now). More recently, I went back to genderqueer.me and found it expanded with an informative section on medical transitioning for AMAB enbies.

What is the biggest external issue or challenge facing the LGBTQ community today?

The consequences vary, but the underlying problem generally doesn’t: it’s the difficulty of overcoming the Dunning-Kruger Effect, fueled by typical mind fallacy. People who’ve never had cause to question their identities frequently think that sexuality and gender (especially gender) are such simple, straightforward topics that they’re experts merely on the strength of personal experience and what (mis)information reaches them through mass media, and refuse to consider that the reality might be more complicated than that. Many of these people are in positions of power. Of course, that’s not just an external problem – it’s also sometimes a problem between queer subgroups.

The biggest internal issue or challenge?

Probably the tendency to define queerness in terms of adversity: oppression and, in the case of trans identities, dysphoria. It’s really the shared experiences as GSRM, regardless of valence, that matter, and we’ll have a use for the community even when the adversity is gone. In the meantime, focusing on the negative leads to infighting, as some insist on excluding aces, others accuse people who experience same-sex attraction of betrayal or faking when they wind up in hetero relationships, and others police trans identities on the basis of medicalization. Of course, it could just be that I’m seeing that as the biggest issue because I happen to be an asexual enby who has never experienced social dysphoria and took a long time to warm up to the idea of taking estrogen.

Are there any LGBTQ nonprofits whose work you especially admire?

Although their scope is broader than that, the ACLU is the nonprofit I see having the biggest impact, at least here in the US. I do follow several others on social media, but I’m not confident that any of them are especially effective. Full disclosure: I consider queer rights to be a low-priority cause area, and almost all of my charitable resources (including time spent learning about various charities) are dedicated to reducing nonhuman suffering. I vocally withdrew my support from BRO, the NPO that worked to get the X on state ID cards here in Oregon, after seeing them happily post pictures of dead bodies on FB with praise for the chefs as part of a fund-raising campaign.

Who is your personal Queer Hero?

Julia Serano, for diving into the field of trans etiology – historically obsessed with and prejudiced against trans femininity – to critique, deconstruct, and counter the prevailing toxic interpretation of the data.

Do you have any advice for young queer folks who may still be defining their identity, coming out, or learning how to be their authentic selves in the world?

First, do your research. Spend some time surfing Wikipedia, and reading blogs and forum posts. Learn about the various subgroups under the queer umbrella, and look for places where you might belong. Find people who’ve had similar experiences and learn from them. If you think you might need to transition, get a crash course in endocrinology – effects of sex hormones (they do much more than just boobs and facial hair), and options for regulating them – and find out what’s required to transition, medically and legally (this varies by location and health provider).

Second, don’t get too attached to labels. They can be useful for shorthand communication and building community, but they’re still just attempts to map complex and volatile territory that we don’t fully understand – and the more granular you get, the truer that becomes. They’re not actionable. When you’re trying to figure out your identity, the question is not “What am I?”, but “What do I need to do to be comfortable in society and my own body?” Labels follow from that, not vice versa.

How are you involved in or how do you give back to the LGBTQ community?

Apart from showing up for Pride and supporting the ACLU, I have a minor role in the asexual census team. I’m also happy to give advice when asked – I’ve already had one acquaintance approach me with questions about my experience being on an anti-androgen without estradiol (not commonly done).

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