Fifty Shades of Gender podcast graphic with Mel Dafnis

Episode 8

A conversation with Mel Dafnis

NON-BINARY, ASEXUAL, AROMANTIC

Recorded on 23 August 2020. Duration 24 mins approx.

Mel’s pronouns are she/her, and she identifies as non-binary, asexual and aromantic. Find out what that means to Mel in this episode.

We also talk about fitting in and trying to be ’normal’, living life on your own terms, and how just being you is an evolution as well as a revolution when it comes to soul alignment.

“You can like and not like whatever you want. I’m just not interested in sex and romance or being identified as male or female.”
This episode will go live on Thursday 27 August 2020 at 6am UK time. It will not play before then.

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TRANSCRIPT [expand to read]

Esther: Hello! What’s your name?

Mel: Hi Esther, my name is Mel Dafnis. I am happy to be with you here today.

Esther: Thanks for being here with me. And how do you identify?

Mel: I identify as she. I have never had a problem with that, I know some people do they, but she is fine with me, I am ok with that.

Esther: She pronouns, you mean, yeah, yeah. And you mention the label non-binary which is something you have come across fairly recently, is that right?

Mel: Yeah, I am fifty-five, I will be fifty-six next month, and actually it was last year that I realised that I wasn’t just a weirdo. It was then that [I found] there was actually sort of an explanation – I don’t want to say label – but a name for what I felt all my life but never, I just kind of kept it quiet, I guess you could say. But I have always just been me and I have always been absolutely okay with being me.

I never realised it was anything until I was kind of looking it up on Google and then I saw that there was a book, and I ordered a book online, and started reading about it and I was like: oh! there are more people like that out there! {laughing} I was kind of, I [thought] I was just really weird, or really off, or whatever you want to call it

Esther: What did weird mean? What was that like for you?

Mel: Well I tried to fit in, many years ago I tried to be normal, whatever that was! I actually was always myself, ever since I was a little kid my mother used to talk about chasing me around the house with a dress because I think, when I first had to go school, girls had to wear dresses and I absolutely hated them, hated them! I was like: how can you play in a dress? I am sorry, but no.

Esther: {laughing} This is not practical!

Mel: It is not practical at all. I always hated dresses. I always loved cowboy boots and cowboy hats and I never called them “cowgirl” hats or “cowgirl” boots. I never played with girly dolls or anything. I always did my own thing. If I went to a store right now I would go to a tools store and go look at tools rather than jewellery, you know?

Esther: {laughing} Right!

Mel: I sort of tried to fit in and I had boyfriends, and I actually was engaged once. Luckily for me I am also a very intuitive person and I really could not live a life that I knew was not me. Even though I was trying to be normal, whatever you call normal, I say that now but I know there is really no normal it is whatever you want to be and I just was always me. Whenever anybody gave me any problems about it I just stood up for myself and said: this is me and this is how I want to be, and who I am going to be, and if you don’t like it I don’t have to be your friend or know you or whatever.

My family was always very accepting of me as me, they didn’t force me, my grandmother was probably the only one who ever said: why don’t you get married and have kids and have a house? That was my grandmother but… I was very close to her and she knew who I was, that was just her upbringing, you know, she wanted the best for me and she did it from the point of love, and after a while she realised that I was me and I was always going to be me and she was ok with that.

Esther: And all that normal stuff wasn’t going to happen, yep.

Mel: She actually was very proud of me for who I was and what I did and I know that.

Esther: Ah that’s cool – it is nice to be supported in that actually because a lot of people, unfortunately, aren’t so lucky. So to talk a bit more about some other labels that you mentioned, so asexual is one and a-romantic is another. So is that something that you also discovered, or the labels themselves, when you discovered the term non-binary? Or was that something that you have known about for longer?

Mel: Actually I was looking up: what if you don’t like sex?

Esther: Yeah.

Mel: I just don’t like it, I don’t need it, I don’t desire it, I don’t… like I said, I lived with a couple of guys, I tried but I was like: this just isn’t me, I just don’t like it. I thought: god I am so freaking weird, I am so non-normal, I must be the only person in the world… I know there has got to be something more out there. And that is actually when I started to look things up, and then when I saw the term asexual I thought: that’s a term? Because I only knew the biological term, like an amoeba that can’t reproduce, I thought: oh I didn’t know there was another meaning to the term, I never knew that. So I started looking into that and I am like: oh, there are more people like that out there, this is a thing, this is real, I am not the only person in the world – and really I thought I probably was.

So I ended up ordering a book online called The Invisible Orientation and it is about asexuality and it talks about it being a real thing, there is nothing wrong with you, you are not screwed up, you are not mentally you know whatever, mentally ill or something like that, it is actually a real thing and there other real people out there. And I was like: oh it is okay! I think being homosexual or heterosexual I think that whatever you are is whatever you are. I have never…it is okay with me, it is who you are. Then I started to realise, oh that’s who I am and it is okay being that way, because even my own sister was saying: well maybe you will find the right guy one day…

Esther: That old story.

Mel: So I am heterosexual/asexual. There are all these little…it goes off in so many different directions that I can’t even remember all the categories. But then I realised that I am a-romantic, I don’t even want to go out with someone, I don’t even want to date, I don’t want somebody in my life. I always thought that I was just a loner, I didn’t like being around people, but I am not really so introverted that way, I am not afraid of being around people, I am not afraid of having friends, I am not afraid of having close friends, and so it wasn’t anything like that.

This was the only book I ever found about it, it is The Invisible Orientation, by Julie Sondra Decker and it is called: an introduction to asexuality. It goes into a lot of things, it is a really, really, good book. It was really hard to find and explains a lot of things. It explains the non-binary, which I never knew was a thing, the a-romantic I never knew, and I am like: sigh oh now it makes so much sense to me. Really it was a relief! A relief to read that book and to realise that.

I remember sitting down with my cousin, who lives in New York, and he has known he was guy since probably his High School days, and he is married and he has lived that way for a long time. I remember him sitting me down one day when I was visiting him and saying: are you sure you are not gay? He was just saying, from a point of love, he was saying: I don’t want you to feel that you have to hide it. Because we had an aunt, my grandmother’s sister, who never got married, never had kids, and always kind of lived alone.

He said (as she was always called a spinster), “maybe she was gay and didn’t know it?”

And I said, “I’m not, I know I am not.”

And he said, “well, you play softball, you ride a motorcycle, you were a jockey, you do all these things that kind of point to that.”

And I said, “no that is really not it, it is just not it, it is just not me, I am not attracted to women – I would be okay if I was, I would be totally okay with it, I would be me if I was, but it is just not…”

And I realised he said that from a place of love, I never held it against him, I never thought anything bad and… I was confused, I didn’t know. I am like: well, there must be something wrong with me if he thinks this and other people think I am just waiting for the right guy, there must be something wrong with me. And then I realised after reading the book that it is not, it is okay, it is who I am!

Esther: Yeah.

Mel: Even though I say I have always been who I am, I always had this thought in the back of my mind, and whenever I would go out with my sister, she would say: well there is this guy here and he might like to go out. And I would be like: I am just not interested, is it okay to just not be interested? I just don’t want that, but I would never be accepted, because they were trying to help.

Esther: Yeah!

Mel: From a place of love, I am okay with that, I know that, I realise that. I am not mad at anyone for trying to set me up or trying to say: maybe you haven’t found the right person. I was like: it is just not it. By finding out those three things, non-binary, I have never identified either way but I have never known I was non-binary. I just wear the clothes I want to wear, I do the things that I want to do and I act the way I want and that’s okay. But now I can say: okay, other people are like that and that’s okay. It was a huge discovery for me just to understand that, just an understanding on my part, just to know that. Ahh okay, it is okay, there are other people… okay I am not just one weird anomaly. Really from reading this book they were saying that asexual people are about 1% of the population.

Esther: That is still a lot of people.

Mel: That is still a lot of people. They call it the invisible orientation because it is not really talked about, it is not really… people think: well that is not biologically correct, you have to be attracted to someone sexually, romantically, they are like: that can’t be. Well, I don’t understand how people don’t like chocolate because I love chocolate. I am like: that’s not natural not to like chocolate, who doesn’t like chocolate!? Well maybe 1% of the population. I always think of it that way, you can like and not like whatever you want, I am just not interested in sex, or romance, or being identified as male or female.

Esther: Yeah, yeah, that is such a good point because I have a few friends who are asexual, or a-romantic, and I think maybe sometimes people think: oh there must be something wrong with you if you are asexual and I do think that maybe some people are asexual maybe because they have experienced trauma and other people are just asexual because they are asexual. But to be honest “the reason” is irrelevant, it is your choice or I don’t know if you want to call it a choice, some people might not call it that, but in the end the reason doesn’t matter, because it is valid and you can be that if you want to be that, or if you need to be that, or if you feel that is who you are and that is all fine, so yeah.

Mel: And if I had known earlier in my life, jeez I came up through High School in the late 70s/early 80s, back then nothing like that was talked about a lot. And I went through all the thoughts: maybe I am gay and I don’t know. So I tried and I thought well maybe I can make myself have a regular life and I just…it never worked out, it never worked out because it was not who I was, it was absolutely not who I was. After a while I just said: do you know, it is not who I am and it is not who I am going to be and I am just going to go on and be me.

Esther: Yeah because in the end it is just society telling us we have to be a certain way and if we are not then it is like you get the peer pressure from basically everyone, with good intentions, some of them, and some maybe not, but still, it is that pressure anyway isn’t it? So that is basically, you have kind of always, by the sound of it, lived life on your terms?

Mel: Yep, yep, it hasn’t always been easy, it hasn’t always been accepted, but I personally have always just believed in that. It was so funny because when I became a professional jockey, there were a few women jockeys, and it was just because I loved horses and it was a childhood dream and I had a chance to fulfil it. I fell into it accidentally and I had a chance to go for it and I did it. It wasn’t until years later when somewhere or someone mentioned, oh that is one of the only sports like that, and I think maybe car racing, where women compete absolutely equally with men, on equal terms.

Esther: Really?

Mel: There is no extra advantage, there is no nothing! And I never went into it because of that, I just went into it because I never saw myself as male or female, I am like: I just want to be a jockey, I couldn’t care less if there are fewer women than men. Then I realised I never even thought of that, I never thought: I am a woman and I am going to be in a man’s world. I am like: who cares, I am me, and I want to do this, how can I do it?  It is interesting to look back, you know hindsight is always 20:20, you look back and go: oh yeah! That’s right.

Esther: It is like moving away from gender altogether… it doesn’t mean anything. There are obviously these biological differences between us as people but besides that, who cares, right?

Mel: Yeah! That’s what I always thought, nobody else has to get up in the morning and pull my pants on and live my life, I do!

Esther: {laughing} I love that!

Mel: I don’t care what they say because they are not in my shoes, you know? They are not putting my shoes on and they are not walking through my day and they are not being me, so who cares what they say?

Esther: Yeah! So how do you, now that you have kind of found all this stuff out or learned these terms and thought, wow! there are other people out there like me, what do you feel that has done for you?

Mel: Oh that’s a good question! I think it has validated that I am not just a weirdo. {laughing} Honestly I have felt, when I read the book I felt very relived, I think I read through the whole thing in like one or two nights, it was like: wow, I can’t put this book down because it is explaining all the things that I felt. And seeing that other people went through that, I felt validated, like okay, alright, this isn’t just…and honestly when you are kind of like that, you kind of feel like you are the only one because I really don’t have…because I haven’t been socially in those groups growing up, being able to meet other people like that, or even in other groups, even in the whole spectrum of people, I haven’t been in there.

Even in the book they talk about how asexuality is sometimes an outlier of hetero-and-homo-sexuality, because I am a heterosexual asexual, I am attracted physically to men, but I don’t want to have sex with men, and I don’t want to have a romance with men. So I am sort of not in the homosexual group so it is kind of an outlier thing, and it is okay with me because for me it was just a validation, luckily I had it validated by my whole life.

I think for younger people growing up, and feeling that way, I have been very lucky and blessed to — I don’t know why or how I have been the person I have been, and maybe it is because my family, they didn’t fight it, and they were: you are who you are and we will accept you for who you are. I wasn’t pushed, I could have been pushed more into fitting a certain stereotype but luckily I never was in my family. In fact my dad and I have been riding motorcycles together and we used to play football outside, so I was kind of the son he never had — so I am kind of both his daughter and his son at the same time. He was cool with that because it worked out. I was lucky – there are a lot of young people that are made to not feel that it’s acceptable.

So I haven’t felt that I need to go out and find a group of people or to even go into that, because at this age I am like: I am who I am and I am good with it. I am very happy, I feel very validated to know that I am not the only one and that there are other people out there and that it has a name, I am not just out there floating around. Yeah, what it has done for me mostly is to just brought me to terms with what it is and made me more okay with all of it as a person and I think that was a step in my evolution, you kind of know where I have gone with starting a new business – align soul revolution – that was all part of it, that all fell into line with aligning with my own soul, and who I am, it is who I am, and I am okay with it.

Esther: I love that because I find that if you run your own business or do your own thing it is a personal development journey like no other, right? I think it is interesting, because for myself as well, with starting a podcast and this project it has made a lot of things fall into place and it has really evolved me, like I am evolving through it, or something. I am not quite sure how to put it, does that makes sense?

Mel: Absolutely, it is a revolution and an evolution at exactly the same time.

Esther: Absolutely, love it.

Mel: And one other thing I will mention is that it has helped me to, my name is Melissa, my family has always called me Lisa, my name was supposed to be Melisa, but it turned out to be Melissa. It has always helped me to just claim the name Mel, you know? And I like that because it is like, okay, Mel. To me that helps me to put out the non-binary, okay, Mel, they look at that name and they don’t know if I am male or female, which is fine with me.

Esther: Fair enough.

Mel: It has helped me to claim that. That’s the name I prefer to use now.

Esther: Okay, that’s cool. Moving forward, living your life on your terms, what does that look like?

Mel: That looks like for me helping other people do the same thing, maybe even helping other people… I know there are people out there my age or older who probably have the same thing. I have met a lot of single women who were absolutely fine with being single and we have always like: oh they are single women, in the old days they would have been called spinsters, or whatever you want to call them. People always thought they just like to be alone but that’s not true, I don’t necessarily like to be alone, I always thought I liked to be alone, but I just don’t want a romantic or sexual partner and I don’t really like labels. Even the labels I have now, I am not even labelling myself, I have always been me, there is just a name for it.

And, there are women out there who are older, and there are young people who feel that way and they don’t know what to do with it. There are people who, it doesn’t matter to me if they are heterosexual, homosexual, if they are asexual, non-binary, male, female, whatever, they just want to align with who they are. And since we are born and since we are taught to grow up and fit into society we are taught to fit in to specific ideas that society has for us, whether it is as a gender, or as a person, or as a race, as a whatever it happens to be.

We are taught, well you are a female, you need to act like a lady, you know? There is all that. There is all of that stuff! Well you need to dress nicely. Well I do dress nicely for what I want to dress like, I am not going to go out there and put on a dress and heels just because somebody else thinks I should. You put on a dress and heels and still how you feel. Especially men, you no, they are like: er no thanks.

So going forward I really want to help other people to align with their soul completely, not just sexually, gender-wise, whatever it is. With the life they want to live, who they are, who they really are as a person. That really lights me up, I mean when I say that, that’s it.

Esther: Lovely, yeah. So where can people find you online if they want to look me up?

Mel: To find me online if they want to look me up: alignedsoulrevolution,com – all one word. If you put links in you could put that in there.

Esther: I will do.

Mel: That is where my heart lies, I have a side gig where I do technical work for people, website stuff, but that will probably be on that webpage somewhere, but really it is about aligning with your soul and not waiting until you are 54 years old to finally figure out that you are not the weirdest person on the planet – that is important.

Esther: Absolutely, I love it. Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap up?

Mel: If I have one thing to tell your listeners it would be to really sit and think about who you are, who you are not just as a person, and not just as a physical entity representing your being, but who you are as a soul that wants to come out. Whether it is through meditation, whether it is through insight, whether it is through intuition, just be who you are, be okay with who you are, it really is okay and you can get through life just fine through doing that and being that, that is the one takeaway that your listeners can take away: don’t feel bad about who you are, just be you.

Esther: Amen to that! Thanks very much Mel, I loved talking to you.

Mel: It was my pleasure Esther, thank you for having me on here today, I appreciate it.

About Mel

Mel Dafnis believes in freedom and possibilities. A former professional Jockey in the US, she has always lived life on her own terms. In 2015 she sold her house and most of her possessions to follow her dream of living and travelling America in an RV. She now helps others follow their own dreams through The Aligned Soul Revolution, an online business that supports women in aligning with their soul, following their heart, and making a difference in the world.

You can find out more about Mel on her website, Mel on her website, AlignedSoulRevolution.com or on melissadafnis.com

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