I’ve said this not infrequently, but I am very happy to be trans. Like, given the option to be some cis take on who I am, whatever that could possibly mean, I would say no. I wouldn’t ever want that. What I would want is to have understood myself and received necessary care some 30 years ago. But that’s different.
I am exactly the person I want to be, aside from the damage from the neglect and other people’s problems, right. I don’t want some other body in order to fit someone else’s ideas of propriety. Self-determination is more important than fitting into a broken, wrong-headed world.
I genuinely don’t understand cisness. For decades I played along with what other people told me about myself, because I didn’t know I had another option. But I didn’t like it. I did the bare minimum. I knew they were wrong. I just didn’t have the language to piece together how. I’ve never had a situation where people have known what’s right for me or acted in my best interest. Everything those with control over my life has told me has been wrong, often maliciously. I’m the only person who knows me. Why should I trust their judgment about my very being?
I want to be who I am, not who someone tells me I am. I don’t want to change any part of me so that my idea of who I am matches the ideas of someone who doesn’t give a shit about me. Why would I do that? What purpose would that serve? The only problem with my body again is the years of neglect, that I’m doing my best to mitigate now. Otherwise, it’s a part of who I am. And I like it. What’s wrong with it? Why should I give up what I have just to make other people feel better with who I correctly say that I am?
I just don’t get this narrative one hears, of wishing one were born in another body or whatever. It sounds like some kind of a confused cis fairy tale. Why the hell would i want that? What would it even mean, to a non-binary chick? What I want is love. I want acceptance. I want respect. On my own terms. I’m not going to apologize for my existence. I’ve already done that since as young as i can remember speaking.
I’m great. Being trans is a part of that. If I were to start over with a blank slate, the only thing I’d adjust is knowledge—not having to live in ignorance for all those years. To know that I deserve care.
God, every so often bodily autonomy strikes me again and I am just as amazed as the last time. This is so wild. Being in possession of—well more like having a functioning relationship with—myself. Not owing anyone my body, any piece of my being. Any explanation.
How? How is this allowed?
In hindsight all my past partners have been insecure about their gender or sexuality in various ways and to different effects. And the way it always started was, they saw me as playing into whatever personal issue they were unwilling to examine. Which later they took out on me.
Some were uncertain or conflicted. Some were super defensive. There are a lot of ways for insecurity to play out, right. And I was their object, for all of this unexamined garbage. First as an outlet. Then I was responsible for all their feelings and doubts and shame.
Which itself can play out in all these ways, right. My failure to give them what they want, my threat of betraying to others or giving the wrong impression of what they really want. The threat that comes from showing them themselves through their behavior toward me. How dare I make them act the way they acted toward me, and make them feel the way they did as a result of acting that way? It was obviously my fault because no one else had this kind of an effect on them. It was some perverse manipulation on my part, to make them look bad.
It’s like that thing where somehow bullies always know. The neurodivergent kids, the queer kids, even before they understood it themselves. They can always single them out for torture, and know they will get away with it. Except, to be frank, adult predation. Coercion.
It’s all violence in hindsight, all taking shit out on people who can help ease your insecurity. Whether that looks like open malice or desire, acquisitiveness, it’s just different angles on the same shit. Using the other to avoid confronting the self. Finding external reason.
None of it had anything to do with me, beyond my standing out as a desirable target. Yes, that’s the one. She will give me the satisfaction I need. One way or another.
Hell, immediately before they slid into my life, my ex-spouse had sat across from a friend at a Moroccan restaurant and drawn out a list of exactly what they wanted. This was their goal at that moment, to pursue someone who fit my description (as they misapprehended it). And they had this whole plan, this set of expectations that they had preordained, with deadlines and everything, that I had to fit or else there would be problems. I was never a person. I was an external function to facilitate their desires—desires carefully, deniably balanced between precise social indicators of status and identity, and then whatever unresolved issues they had inside, that they saw in me. And later came to accuse.
Though that’s what they were there for, right. That’s why they picked me. Just so long as I hid them from themself, never let them be reflected. So long as I showed them what they knew they should want, what was correct and unshameful, that could never raise questions in others’ minds about who they really were. When I could not do that, I became the biggest existential threat in their life. The target of all their disgust—not, I don’t think, for me, because it was never about me, was it. I wasn’t real. I had to be punished, until I learned how to hide. Not to hide me; how to hide them. They were so empty and they expected me to give them themselves—but not their real selves. The selves they wanted to see. The selves they hoped to show the world. But that’s not how a mirror works.
All this crap I have been carrying around all these years, it really has absolutely nothing to do with me at all, does it. It literally is just other people’s problems, that became mine when they decided I was responsible for them. Mine to own, because they didn’t want them.
I can’t speak to exactly what their anxieties may have been, and it’s none of my business, either to worry about or to relate. Definitionally, those are their problems. Not mine. I have the broad shapes as they pertain to me, and that is more than enough.
It’s actually kind of sad. Not that I need to take on any special pity either, considering what I suffered. Continue to suffer. Will continue to. Possibly forever. But to be that broken and to lack that much ability to self-repair. To be such a void of a person. It’s nothing even to be scared or angry about, really, is it. Just pathetic people who have no way to cope except to tear the world down to avoid their own pain. And, I happened to exist.
So the journey continues, reclaiming my body for myself, fixing the damage that’s been done to me over the years. There are a few things going on right now, all of which are really exiting for me. One that’s been going on for a while is that I’m finally on Ritalin, and after two months it seems to be having a positive effect on balance (though whee are there ever things to adjust to, some of which play into my inherent problems with food and sleep). The second has now officially begun, and the third I’m gonna pounce on a month from today, at my next HRT follow-up.
In regard to the second thing, it’s happening. I’m all committed now. All signed up. This face is gonna be clear. After HRT, laser therapy was the second big thing for helping me out of this horror show I’ve been living for three decades.
My first appointment was three days ago, and it’s going to recur monthly until this is gone. It’s a bit of an oof financially for someone without a reliable income, but the payment is spread out and if I were actually receiving money on a regular basis it would be negligible. It’s not by the session; it’s for the procedure as a whole, which is guaranteed, unlike with most laser places. Like, it’s a lifetime investment. If any touchups are needed down the line, they’ll already be covered. And you know. I’m barely surviving here, but this is necessary medical treatment, so I’ll figure it out.
The experience has been weirdly positive so far, just dealing with the people. They seem all about making sure their clients have all the information up-front so everyone is talking on the same level and can understand what’s going on and communicate clearly. The main lady seemed kind of nerdy, and appreciated my whole neurodivergent approach to things. They were accepting and seemed to totally get it. They get all the transes there, so they know.
Also she kept telling me how pretty I am, which I guess is her job, but it felt kind of nice.
The procedure itself was even quicker than I had come to expect, and largely painless except for my upper lip and, to a lesser extent, a sensitive part of my throat. Mostly it just felt like someone flicking my face over and over. The upper lip was intense enough that I needed to ask for a five-second breather after every zap. It was bearable, but yikes. I think it was when she was doing my right cheek that the nurse commented on the roots just popping out of the skin, as they can and will do sometimes, the ones that die right then and there. There was this smell of a birthday candle being put out.
To be sure, I don’t have a lot of facial hair compared to some people: very thin, rather fine. Lots of gaps. Grows slowly. I’ve been fortunate that my natal puberty was so underwhelming in nearly every regard. The nurse was poking my upper cheeks, asking me, “Don’t you want me to go up here? Why didn’t you take off your makeup in these places?” And I’m like, there’s no hair there. I didn’t do makeup where there was hair.
So between that and the one-two of my complexion and my darker hair pigment, I want to think that this should be a pretty straightforward procedure with me. A neat thing is, where the follicles aren’t dead, they are likely damaged. The effect here is, the hairs are likely to get finer, fairer, and to grow more slowly. Which is a result in itself, albeit one that may take a little while to present itself.
To that end, it was hard to tell exactly what effect the first wave had until I gave it a couple days for my skin to recover and for me to exfoliate any dead hairs that didn’t just pop out immediately. After the weekend things were less raw, and were easier to judge. The upper lip in particular was too pink to really see what was what. The impression I got after about 24 hours reminded me of past cycles following long periods of compulsive plucking, as stuff would begin to grow back in, a little weirdly at first.
As of today I can maybe assess things a little better. There’s been enough growth that I can shave it all evenly, and the redness has gone down enough that I have decent contrast. The first treatment was no miracle, as I had no reason to expect it would be, but I do see some patchiness developing. It’s not like big sections, right. It’s more that one out of every five or six spaces where there should be a hair there isn’t. It’s thinning out, with the occasional space half the size of a pencil eraser where things seem basically clear, at least for this growth cycle. Which seems pretty much according to plan.
As one does, I had these ideas in my head that I might be the miraculous special case where somehow half the work is done on the first go. But no, this seems to be be normal. Nothing really obvious yet unless you’re me and you’re staring at this garbage every day while it eats your soul alive, but we’ve got progress. I can’t say yet how any damaged but surviving follicles are doing. I think with my growth rate, what little hair has grown out since Friday is what was still in the sockets, right, under the skin. Over the next week it may get clearer if and how the remaining hair may have changed in character at all.
My next appointment is a month from Wednesday, and that may build on this exponentially. They say typically it’s 6-10 sessions to get everything, so two of them will be between a fifth to a third of the way there. I imagine the progress will be easier to measure at that point.
This should be basically done by the end of the year. Fixing the damage. Reclaiming Azure for Azure. September will be the six-month mark, which puts it on a similar cycle to my HRT. Around the time I’m finished here, I’ll be up on my two-year Azureversary—to which point, we have my third and pending intervention.
Now that I’m up to my optimal estrogen level (any later wobbles and adjustments aside), and that my T levels mope about in the single digits, I figure I’m going to pounce on the micronized progesterone. I know there’s not been enough clinical research, like with any goddamned trans healthcare, but the anecdotal support is overwhelming and provided I go with bio-identical hormones it can’t possibly hurt. And I can just take another pill; it’s fine.
My next HRT appointment is in 30 days, two days before my second laser appointment. And so long as my body isn’t secretly exploding, which would surprise me as I’ve never felt better in my life, I’m sure they’ll shrug and allow it. I looked at the provider’s website, and on their /trans/ sub-page they call it out by name. I talked to my therapist, and she said oh yeah, they absolutely do progesterone there—which isn’t a given, right. I know a lot of providers push back on anything that’s not clinically proven to hell and back.
I hadn’t really considered adding this until the last week or so, when I realized, this will be my first follow-up where I have no new immediate goals to set. And every day I read something new about how great this stuff is. All the transes go nuts over it. And I’m at a stable baseline here now, and this is a year of just improving things, getting my life in order. So, hey. Why not give it a shot. It should be good, right? Just biologically it feels like a missing piece, the more I read on it. If not for my particular medical condition, my body should already be producing this in some quantity that it isn’t.
So this is pretty exciting actually. I know people can get really resentful over having to take medication every day. Two exes ago, my partner yelled at me about how awful it was to have to take birth control. They demanded I get a vasectomy so they wouldn’t have to bother with the pill—though, uh, any and all sex was for their benefit of course.
Come to it, my ex-spouse demanded the same of me. Both times, they started to grouse about getting me snipped shortly before things totally fell apart (not that they had ever been good). And both times, as used as I was to just rolling with whatever they threw at me, I was like, uh, that’s unreasonable. If you are determined to have sex with me, there are other ways to do this without modding me to your pleasure.
Somehow everything to do with sex was always my responsibility despite my never wanting it. Like I was only ever there to maintain their whims, and was only as good as the service I provided. In this as in other departments. My opinion was worse than irrelevant. It was dangerous. I was not to suggest that I was a person with my own ideas about things. I was a toy, and I could be abused or disposed of at will.
Anyway, I get how people who have chronic conditions they’ve been treating their whole lives might not love maintaining this daily thing just to keep going—but as someone with chronic conditions that have gone untreated for 40 years, this is all kind of… good. I like it. I like the routine of taking care of myself in this measurable way every day, knowing that I’m doing something to make things better after decades of misery. It’s a daily dose of self-love. Rebuilding this relationship that was taken from me. And each of these suckers is different. Different color, texture, quantity, schedule. It’s so interesting to me.
I am so grateful and so happy to have all these gosh-darned pills to take now. I mean yeah, in an ideal world my body would just work out of the box in a way that didn’t make life unbearable. But as with so many people, it doesn’t. And now I can address that to some extent. So, hooray? Keep it coming, sure.
I used to get so upset when people complimented my appearance, unless they did it in a super weird way. For one thing I just didn’t want to be seen. For another it was such confusing dissonance from what I was told the rest of the time. And then the terms they used were all wrong.
There was that one guy who went up to me on the upper east side, and told me I looked like the lord of darkness. That was kind of interesting. Random shit like that, yeah. Sure. Baffling, but I’d take it.
Otherwise it’s like, either you’re wrong or everyone else is wrong—and if they’re wrong, then oh no, because I don’t want you to be right like that. The things everyone else said, they sucked but at least they reflected how I actually felt about myself at that time, drowning in dysphoria.
Getting an insult almost felt neutral. Yeah, it was no good but at least it was true. Getting that kind of a compliment—I’ve never been suicidal exactly, but if I’ve ever been close, those moments would have edged me in that direction. At times I remember melting down entirely.
It never made any sense to me, why I reacted like this. Which just added another layer of fuckery to the whole thing.
I mean. Makes sense now. I didn’t want to be that person; I wanted to be me.
Okay, so for a while now I’ve been unfolding and rewiring and figuring out how my sexuality fits together. The major focus has been on dudes with penises, and on how that whole business works with my understanding of who and what I am. What’s my deal with cis women, though?
Well again I’m aroace, so anything with the “big two” attractions is gonna exist mostly in the hypothetical inner space of my imagination rather than something I experience in regard to real people in real life, though I do feel all the tertiary things—and do so without gender. Right now that head zone where sex and romance can exist regardless of any tie to reality is chock full o’ cock, in part I think just from the opening of the floodgates and allowing myself access to this whole aspect of humanity without shame. I’m just me, right. Just a person. But I can and have and do and very probably will continue to feel attraction to binary cis women, same as anyone else—without any real regard to gender I presume, once things iron out and I frickin’ catch up to my own self and decades of repression here.
In all the earlier rambling though, despite these assertions of panness, there’s been this sort of a reluctant quality that seems like it goes beyond my current fixations and freedoms. And yeah, I guess it’s kind of complicated how all of this works with me. Given my history.
I’m going to say this this is less an innate aspect of me than it is just… crap, absorbed from the life that another version of me happened to live, that I have inherited and have yet to sort through and deal with entirely. There are a few things that go into that, that all work together. A super-duper big one is the misapprehensions that I lived under for most of my life—misapprehensions of others, placed onto me, that I never knew how to question or push back against, even as I knew they were wrong from a very young age (as I am rediscovering and remembering).
I say often that my aroaceness is the key to me, and it really is, before anything else. It’s the root of most of the trauma I’ve faced, most of the confusion about every other element of myself, most of the misunderstandings I’ve been caught up in, most of the bad situations. I think this reservation I have toward cis women—well, it’s a sense of caution, with a few sources. The most foundational one comes from the intersection of my assumed gender and my assumed sexuality, and the assumed behavior that would result in from one of my assumed neurology.
There’s a lot here. But most of my life, starting from early childhood, people told me I was a boy; they told me boys were supposed to be interested in girls; and they got very strange and suspicious and accusatory toward me when I didn’t demonstrate this the way they wanted. Which isn’t to say that I had no interest in girls, in theory. But, aroace, right? I didn’t have interest in anyone, in practice. Not romantically, sexually, anyway. Which is the next part of the problem: the lack of nuance to the narrative of allo attraction as it was fed to me.
I’ve messed up a lot of things, confused myself about so much including my basic understanding of who I am, on the basis of what I was told I was feeling, as compared to what I actually felt. I’m a girl, yo. A girl with the genderweirds. And I am drawn to people I respect. I didn’t understand “role models” as they were described to me, but it turns out I did have them. I had all the strange, quirky, smart, pretty women that I deeply wanted to be like, or wanted to be buds with, but had no way of framing my feelings, which didn’t fit the narrative.
So there’s a fuckery in here, right. It’s already getting wound up and complicated, my being encouraged to misread my feelings of commonality as feelings of sexual or romantic attraction, even as I knew there was something deeply wrong about all of this. One consequence there was how it only further walled me off from understanding my gender or my basic attitudes toward myself. Another is that it meant I never really got the benefit of that admiration or modeling, and that I messed up every one of those personal relationships.
So I’m stuck with some garbage wiring here that I have not yet had the patience or motivation to untangle, knowing for a fact that (again in theory if not in practice) I do have access to these feelings for binary cis women. But I don’t want to make those mistakes ever again. Sorting out the nuances of one kind of attraction from another, it’s difficult and sort of beyond what I want to bother with right now. And much of the reason for that burnout is my other big problem: the trauma.
For all the reasons, every romantically, sexually intimate relationship I’ve had has been with a cis girl. Which is fine, sure. But every one of them has been bad, and misjudged, and based substantially on factors outside my own wishes or interests. Each has messed me up more. How much of this is fair to blame directly on my past partners, I don’t know and I’m sure it varies. In some cases the violations have been unambiguous enough. In response to my unpacking the other day, I had someone encourage me to embrace a certain four-letter word. I don’t know.
Part of this is a lack of understanding of myself and why certain things make me feel so very bad, and my tendency to just… do what’s expected of me, not want to make waves, because I know how wrong I am. To just do what people tell me is correct, and to try not to hurt their feelings. And mostly to fail stupendously. But, like. A good person would respect boundaries. Would care if they were coercing people into things they didn’t want to do. Would care if people were hurt, expressing obvious dismay. Which speaks to the circumstances under which I have wound up in these sorts of relationships.
Not a one of them did I seek out. I have never wanted to be involved with anyone, in reality. (There was one brief period of insanity between long-term relationships that wasn’t really about me at all, where I’m fortunate my inner reluctance held me back as strongly as it did.) It’s darkly hilarious, actually. With all the abuse I suffered in my marriage (and shortly after), in sorting through my old blog posts there was this private one from mid-2009 fretting over how very much I wanted to avoid this—two months before moving in with my to-be spouse. I saw it coming, and I knew it was bad, but I felt helpless. I had no self-possession. I had no concept of bodily autonomy. I didn’t belong to myself. I had to do what I was told. And I was so upset. I was so scared. I did not want to enter into what I saw was coming for me.
My entire basis for sexually, romantically intimate relationships has been as the object of someone else’s desire and lack of concern for my basic humanity. The more that they realized I was in fact a real person with wants and needs of my own, the more disgust; the more control. And as unfair as this association is more broadly and as limiting as it is to me internally until such a time as I figure out how to deal with it, every one my my abusers has been a cis girl or cis woman with no regard to my autonomy. Who actively tried to erase what self I had. So after a few decades of that, close to non-stop, there’s this extreme caution and fear and aversion that’s kind of etched in at this point. It’s not a part of me, and it’s not useful, but there it is. And it makes it hard to appreciate the full range of my feelings for others.
I mean. This is probably a thing for me to actively work on at some point. It’s not a big priority in the sense that of course I’m never going to be in a romantic, sexual situation with anyone again. And also in that, I just need a rest here. I’ve spent so much on that.
So that I think is a big factor that feeds into what’s going on with me lately. I’ve been there, and it’s been messed-up and it’s messed me up. And I could clear the mess and figure things out on my own terms, and maybe I will eventually. I imagine I will. But, not now. Because, jeez. And at the same time as I’m able to set that all aside and just kind of go, “no,” for the moment, I’ve got this explosion of hormones and newly unlocked emotional ranges and newly unrepressed interests and desires and fixations in relation to who I now more correctly understand myself to be.
So. Yeah. That makes sense. I guess I understand why cis girls would be on the back burner for now while the masculine dick parade explodes in my new zone of endless potential—and while all the trans enby GNC warm fuzzy unthreatening comfort range continues its normal pattern somewhere under this new noise. The fact that I can, and now fully accept that I do, feel what I do for dudes, and that this is perfectly okay and normal and nothing for me to be ashamed of in the least, is just such a goddamned novelty that it will probably occupy me for a while before it becomes everyday.
It’s going to be hard to go through and work out how to relate to, how to feel about the narrow segment of people I’ve been basically forced to demonstrate a kind of feeling toward, that wasn’t in many cases what I genuinely felt, resulting in most of the abuse I’ve suffered. Which was, like. That was just specific people who deeply sucked, obviously. I’m not about to tar anyone by someone else’s brush. I’m just broken here, right. And I get to make my priorities for how I’m going to recover, where I place my interests. And that’s way down the list right now.
Again, this is in regard to my own capacity to entertain certain kinds of hypothetical attraction. In practical terms I’m still aroace, right. I’m as able to be fond of anyone as much as another—platonically, aesthetically, sensually. The stuff I had so little access to before. I’m just too tired and messed-up to entertain “big two” thoughts toward this particular segment of my full available range. But, I think that may be healthy for better exploring more general forms of affection and fondness, that I was led to misunderstand for so long.
And again, I’m uh. I’m all set in that playtime zone right now. Got my current set of distractions. And whee, they are making me feel good about myself in a way that I did not have access to before. It’s so interesting!
I’ll be whole one of these days. It’s just coming back in pieces.
My experience and emotional association with sex is of the most profound violation of my sense of self. It has been too big, too strong for me to bear without melting down. And until now I didn’t have the tools to start to understand. It was just screaming.
The thing about sex is, it’s a powerful kind of communication. It serves to connect the mind and body of each participant more viscerally than nearly anything, then to align those wholes to a united sense of being amongst the parties. There’s this intense oneness and recognition.
That is, if it goes well. The problem is, in being so very intimate it tends to entail putting people at their most vulnerable. The level of trust and acceptance has to be close to absolute, or some of that circuitry is going to fire off all wrong. Possibly to horrific result.
When people aren’t on the same page, have different apprehensions of what’s happening and expectations for how things will play out, that can quickly create massive problems. When the terms are non-negotiable and compulsory, then the violence to one’s personhood is indescribable.
Consent is a difficult topic, as it gives the impression that it is so simple. The basic outline feels self-evident, right. It’s easy to explain, makes for good slogans and mantras. But practice is way weirder, because it involves human beings and each of us houses our own world.
It’s difficult to have informed consent unless everyone understands what they’re agreeing to the same way, fully accepts the other, and is willing to reassess at every step of the process. If you’re working cross-purposes, you can inflict some life-changing damage on someone.
In my case there have been a couple of severe bottlenecks. The obvious one is the point between me and the other, where there has always been this presumption and a total lack of willingness to clarify or explain or listen or negotiate. If they have to tell me anything, I fail.
The less obvious bottleneck is within me, between my mind and my body. There has been this basic dissociation my whole life. The wires just haven’t been connected, and the practical elements of my presentation and my physiology and assumed behavior horrified my basic inner self. Like, I wasn’t on the same page as myself, never mind on the same page as them. And even if I were a whole functioning person, I’d still be faced with a near total refusal from my partner to communicate or compromise on the most basic of wants. I still had to know everything.
I’m a girl of course. Never haven’t been. I’m very much a bottom, to the core of my understanding of life. I am autistic, and need assumptions spelled out to me. I am aroace, so though I am able to fuck and to feel enough affection for another as to open that possibility, I don’t myself experience those attractions in the way an allo would (I presume). So if you go in expecting a very different situation from me, refuse to tell me your terms and assumptions, refuse to adapt in any way, and punish me if I fail to adequately perform your gauntlet? It’s not going to go well. And every step of trying to coerce me into your anticipated roles, every moment of refusing to work with or listen to or respect me for who I am, it only forces that wedge in my sense of being all the deeper, increases my basic horror toward everything.
Being told and shown how disgusting and awful and broken and wrong I am, at my most absolutely vulnerable? Making out that brokenness and wrongness as being so foul as to be the offending party, like I’ve done something wicked to you through the failure of my very existence?
I have had anxiety attacks. Full-blown panic attacks where I’ve felt like I was actually dying. I’ve run and cried and cowered and hid. And I was never not in the wrong for showing any of that. How dare I. When I’ve held together, I’ve mostly faked orgasm and gotten out quickly. Not because of any lack of affection for them, or lack of arousal, or lack of sensitivity to whatever needs I was failing to meet. But because I was in that much pain. And I had no terms to begin to address it. And they didn’t care. My pain was itself disgusting to them.
I don’t know what to call this situation. I don’t have a model for it. I’ve never heard anyone talk about this dynamic. But, there’s something about all of this, and the basic premise of the surrounding relationships, that creates for me deep questions of consent. It feels wrong.
The amount of disgust and inhumanity I’ve absorbed to the core of my being from all this, the amount of terror I have learned to associate with sex, I don’t know if I’ll ever fully come to terms with it. I carry it around every day. I just start crying and shaking for no reason.
Part of that is their disregard. Part of that has been my lack of a working relationship with myself and understanding of myself as a whole person. And part is just the sheer power of the kind of connection that sex represents. Which can be remarkable, nurturing. Affirming.
Or, it can be that.
It’s something like seven years since the final time I had sex, and the nightmare has never gotten better. But I may have a few tools now to start to understand it a little. Slowly. Some of those tools are less than weeks old. So this is super shaky. But, I think I may have a beginning.
So okay, after the last several weeks of unfolding, following months of buildup, following years of roiling pressure and repression, I think I’m at a place where I can talk about this more confidently, put the thoughts into an order here.
Anyway, masturbation, right. Whee.
This whole discussion is gonna tie into that business about my attitude toward my body and my sexual role, and the way my attraction works. Like, my views toward my genitals and my bodily processes and my engagement with them and with other people, and how those reflect on my ideas about myself, who and what I am, how I feel about myself as a human being and as a person in relation to everything else.
I’ve gone into this divide I have here in regard to my body. Physically, cosmetically, anatomically, I love what I have going on downstairs and would not change it. There’s zero dysphoria toward my genitals, in part because I don’t gender genitals; in part because they’re great. What does make me feel absolutely awful, though, is sexually engaging with them. It’s worse when, as in past relationships, I’m expected to be the assertive, penetrative party, right. But even for my own alone-time purposes, there’s never not been an essential problem here.
I have not been shy lately about my extreme fondness for cock, right. (At least hypothetically. As pertains to the land of dreams where all pronounced sexuality rests, for this girl.) I’m not going to dwell on that, but suffice my issue is not the concept or behavior of a penis in itself. Like, yeah, I am all about everything to do with that… when it’s attached to a hypothetical other. Super-duper, yeah. Good. But in regard to my own body and processes, it freaks me out. It feels dirty and wrong and uncomfortable and there’s this inescapable shame associated.
This isn’t a thing I really want to “get over,” as it’s not—like, I don’t think of it as an external problem that I’ve taken on and I’m carrying around for no reason. It’s maybe not the most constructive response, but I’m coming to realize its origin is in me, actually. It’s my own signal. It’s not even a hang-up as such. This is hard to disentangle, but it’s wrapped up in my gender and my core ideas about how to relate to myself and others and the world. The wiring, it’s like it sends me this wordless jolt to say, “No, dummy, you’re doing it wrong. Figure it out.”
Historically it has been this uncomfortable thing, having these masculine physiological responses to things that don’t align with my emotional responses, or really anything I want or that matters to me, and feeling this almost coercive compulsion to address it. There was an indignity to my body’s demands upon me and its behavior through the whole process. I never went eagerly into masturbation; it was a matter of relenting—like okay, if I maintain this stupid thing, it’ll go away and I can think about something else, god. And there’s this kind of, every single time it almost felt like I was being tricked by this promise that it’ll be fast and simple and no problem—only to be left with this mortifying mess, that could be hard to contain, was hard to clean entirely. It left me feeling disgusting.
Like, all of this just reinforced all of these negative feelings I already had toward myself. It’s not the penis that was the problem; it was the masculinity, right. It was the behavior everything down to my own physiology seemed to demand from me, that left me distraught. It would be easy to dismiss all of this as, like. Me being prudish or any of the other things my exes have labeled me. But, no? That’s not the problem at all—the fact of sex, the fact of masturbation. Or, I mean, that’s not at the root of it. (One does have a bit of delicacy. I am a girl of some taste and refinement and dignity after all. Goodness gracious. Ahem.)
Coming to understand myself as so unambiguously a bottom, as I have done recently, clarifies so many dynamics at the center of my being, as a person. The way I react, the kinds of dissonance I feel, the things I prefer, the things that scream out as wrong for me personally. And the way my body works now, it feels like one of the missing pieces—my physical reality finally aligning and clarifying everything else about me as a person. It makes so much more sense, and it feels right, and there’s no innate sense of shame attached (beyond social decorum).
So, just gonna leap into the whee zone here. Butt play, right? You’re this deep in the topic, you’re not gonna get too many vapors from this discussion. It’s not like it’s new territory historically, but until lately the focus and significance were unclear to me. There’d always been this interest, circling the drain, but my predecessor never quite knew what to do about those thoughts and feelings and images and impulses. And again, all the roles seemed to demand attention where it was least wanted, so the issue was always sidelined.
Now I get it. As a girl, as a bottom, as this aroace creature with no active drive but this volcano of feelings on the inside, and in my pansexuality—with an aggressive current fixation on men and a lifelong, hitherto confusing, interest in cock. It all, uh. Fits. To to speak. I’m not the one who asserts unto others. I’m the one who entertains and accepts and embraces and nurtures and appreciates, who doesn’t insist on her singular way in the world but takes the world in to make herself more whole. Ideally, hypothetically. Constitutionally.
As far as hormones and impulses and self-maintenance go, the thing about butt play is that though it takes a bit more prep work, it is for me at least substantially less soul-destroying. And weirdly, managing it feels more honest and straightforward than just masculine wanking.
The main concern here obviously is going to be cleanliness, because. Well. There are certain things about a butt, right. But in a way, that concern is so incredibly obvious and immediate and top-of-mind that it feels less insidious than the mess of a promised quick, simple wank. One has to think ahead a bit, plan one’s actions, book some specific time with the understanding of how it’s going to be used. Make an appointment with one’s self, right, with the knowledge that one is going to be exploring and appreciating one’s body. There’s a humanity already. One needs to lay out some tools, make some space. Prepare one’s body. It’s not a quick, easy impulse. There is a deliberation here. An earnestness and transparency of intent. A need for existential consent with one’s self. So just the emotional groundwork is so much healthier.
Also in regard to cleanliness, it’s mostly up-front here, as opposed to being held off as a final insult after this hollow yet physiologically overwhelming and unpleasant experience—Now you feel like garbage, and here’s this awful situation to clean up. Go to hell. See you next time, on my clock. Won’t call ahead. With butt play, cleanup—on the one hand it’s again kind of baked in as an understanding, what issues may exist here and how one may need to deal with them. But overall it’s way less of a problem. Everything’s water-soluble in a way that a masculine ejaculate is aggressively not.
With all the changes to my body, semen’s no longer a thing, right. And good riddance (again specifically in regard to me; it’s fine, from other origins). My body’s working on girl logic, which extends from the fluids I produce to the way I feel arousal, to the mechanics of orgasm, to the wiring of my senses.
None of it is a fully automatic process. Like, I have to engage with my emotions and notice and study the way that arousal comes to me now—not with this petulant screaming flush of blood to one area, but an overall heightened sense of interest and receptiveness. This tingle and warm pressure from my upper limbs, up my torso, to my lips and cheeks. This depth to my breath. This mental clarity. This wryness, fondness, playfulness. And when I’m lying there, every time it’s like the next chapter in an ongoing conversation as my mind gets wired a little closer, those synapses get strengthened, and everything is a little more intense than the last time. My lips feel numb, with the prickle of a foot that’s waking up from a long sleep. The rub of my face on the pillow has this jolt as strong as the rub of my genitals as a teenager.
And—we all have the same anatomy; it just gets specialized late in development, some even after birth. For masculine anatomy, we call it the prostate. Feminine bodies, if we address it at all, it’s usually in terms of its sexual function, and we say “g-spot.” (Skene’s gland, if you want to get nerdy.) It’s the same organ. As one goes on and rewires one’s senses away from one unwanted nexus to one more in line with one’s understanding of the world, everything just becomes so much more wholesome and joyous and holistic and meaningful.
As the connection strengthens and the body responds all the more intensely, one feels so complete and at one with one’s self. It’s about the entirety of me, appreciating my humanity, appreciating my body, my femininity. Strengthening the link between my mind and my body as inextricable parts of a whole person. About feeling human in a way that has always been unavailable, and that runs completely counter to the mode of engagement that my body used to demand of me.
And much like the thoughts that go through my head and the way I engage with my current emotional fixations, none of it feels lurid in the way that I tend to associate with sex and masturbation and the modes of attraction that had I felt been assigned to me. It just feels honest and right and warm and good. It’s very clearly constructive, at least to my relationship with myself and my humanity. But also just, at the essence of my being I think it helps to reinforce this essential love for the world, this compassion for the other. It makes me stronger as a person, gets me in touch with what it means to be alive. As opposed to making me want to die.
This isn’t subtle. It is so deeply etched to my grain, to the way I engage with the world, to my political ideology, my ideas about art and communication. Before anyone else, before any outside projections or assumptions, every piece that I lock into place reinforces who I am. I am in fact a human being. I am a real person. I am a girl. I am full of so much love. These are the ways I see myself and I feel about others. This is what it means for me to be alive. And it’s all important.
Like my aversion to exercise, it’s easy to strip out these things that never made sense to me, or that made me feel awful, because of the frame they came with. Because of the way that other people engage with them as if the things, the actions are important in and of themselves. As if they’re all somehow correct and expected from me to achieve some kind of end, an end often rooted in some kind of supremacy or status, in demonstrating one’s value over others according to some system that makes no sense to me and that I want nothing to do with. But, I am my own universe, and I get to make my own terms of engagement. The fact is, I am human. When I deny whole hunks of that from the weight of someone else’s garbage, I’m chopping off essential pieces of myself and crippling my understanding and acceptance of what’s left.
So yeah, this is a piece of me I’m reclaiming. And gee whiz, does it make more sense now. Things can in fact be good. I have nothing to be ashamed of, when I am true to myself. I just need to follow the signals and ask what they’re actually trying to tell me.
I’m feeling happy right now. It’s so good. It’s so novel.
Like. This is new for me, right. This is a new thing for me to feel at all.
I’m noticing, I think—it’s distinct, and it’s not that I’m equating the two, but there is a part of euphoria in happiness, as I understand it.
Like, happiness as I am defining it here, this feeling that I get, it’s… there’s an element that depends on a certain kind of a connection that I did not possess before.
Like, it relies as one of many preconditions on my existing as a person in this world. I have to be able to feel myself. I have to have some kind of awareness of myself and my humanity and how it relates to my body and to others and to this whole shared space that we inhabit, that contains all of these other emotions, right. That serves as the medium for all of these forms of contact and human connection and meaning.
It’s this groundedness, like lying on a patch of warm bedrock in the forest, running your fingers through the moss. But, you know. Of being. Of knowing, and appreciating and enjoying the texture of the passage of the fact of a thing, from one juncture to another.
And I can’t do that if I don’t exist. I can’t see it, I can’t feel it. It just stops at the borders of me.
It’s a shared euphoria in the other, in the moment, in the universal, and it hits me like that spark of understanding of the most brilliantly obvious joke in the world.
It’s a joke without the humor.
Like, what I am calling happiness here, it’s a love of the privilege of connecting to something outside of my self, and enjoying the completeness it brings to my hold on reality—at least for that one gentle moment.
It’s this recognition that I exist as a part of the world, as a facet of all of its love, and that this is good.
My voice lesson the other evening, one of the professors popped into my breakout room with my grad student to comment on a thing he’d seen and heard with my breathing, how I seem to unconsciously seize up and hold it, and how that cascaded to affect various things in my voice. I thanked him, and it made sense at the time because I know my history of wind problems. Like, I’ll just forget to breathe all the time. Then there was that mysterious respiratory ailment that took hold a year after meeting my ex-spouse and let up right after the divorce. With some more thought it was clear that the breath thing, it was a stress response. I’m all up in the freeze and the fawn, right. And I think that’s just automatically the first thing I do; my throat seizes up, almost like it’s afraid to give me away lest someone notice me.
So this is basically this core trauma response that I didn’t fully realize was happening, beyond all these individual data points that I hadn’t really strung together. And the thing about breath is, it’s this load-bearing process that affects just about everything about a person. It’s kind of astounding how much gets lumped onto breath. It has all of these knock-on effects, for my emotional state and my physical well-being, the way I move my body, the way I use my voice, the energy I have to work with moment to moment. And I feel like every time that my breath is taken away from me like this, like that’s a little bit of myself that’s taken away. Like I’ve ceded a bit of my being, as a human.
It’s like my breath is this anchor to my physicality, to my humanity, that radiates out, and underlies and supports all of these other structures, all these other concepts. And by removing my breath, you’re removing all of my power. You’re removing my voice. You’re taking my energy, you’re taking my connection to my humanity, and on a present, visceral level, to my sense of self. I mean, we’re all verbs. We all exist in the doing, not in the being, right.
Just like shame is some share of your soul that somebody else has claimed, I feel like some piece of me is being taken away by the damage that’s been done to me by other people. Like, this response isn’t actually me. It’s nothing directly to do with me as a person. It has nothing to do with me as a person, it’s nothing to do with my core principles, or the way that I’m wired intrinsically. I’ve been miswired over the years in response to my experiences and the abuse that I’ve been through, and this stress response is part of that whole mess.
I think that reasserting—not control, but that conscious relationship with my breath as a core element of my being—a key link between my body and my self—without allowing it to be taken away from me, would be a really substantial step forward in my recovery process.
Anyway, yeah, I am starting to disentangle the ways that the things I feel and the way I feel reflect my basic principles about how to relate to myself and others and the world—how it’s all part of a whole human, each strut supporting the rest. (Including the horniness, yes.) There’s some greater thesis of self behind all of this, and I’m getting closer.
My voice class last night, in the full group the professor briefly went over cursory elements of body language again, then dumped us into smaller rooms. It struck me then, as I gabbed about my difficulty with eye contact and the way that neurotypicals tend to misexplain social expectations in terms of their apprehensions of the behaviors themselves rather than the meaning that they serve to communicate in context—gender, to the extent that it’s a social construct, is all about relationships. It’s a bundled set of signals that serve to demonstrate your basic attitude toward yourself and others, and the world around you; your expectations, your considerations. A lot of that, both the signalling itself and the relationships it serves to affirm, is based in stupid power structures, yes; modes of control or deference. More concretely, it’s emotional.
Much of the basic behavior we code as feminine serves to signal recognition of, regard or care for the other; making connection, making room. Touching base. (To my mind, it’s basically about not being an asshole.) Masculine-coded behavior is mostly about the self: commanding space, showing basic disregard. Showing that no one can tell you what to do. It’s mostly subconscious, right, but all these signals add up to this intangible sense of genderliness that indicates presuppositions toward the way the other will treat you, and will expect to be treated. This basic perspective on life, right.
There are a few other components, of course. Some of it is subconscious signals about, say, anatomy and its implied social, sexual, biological implications. The way that people move, e.g., their gait, suggests some things about their musculoskeletal structure, right. That’s also essentially relational, if a bit more concrete. But really, the interesting thing for me here is the philosophical element; to what extent that gender as a cultural construct (specifically) reflects at least a performance of one’s anticipated core principles and attitudes. Whether or not that performance is genuine comes down to the individual and to circumstance; one can blunder around through space and be the kindest person on Earth, or spend all one’s energy connecting with others only to control them.
Me, of course, I can’t carry enough weight to pretend about anything or play games with people, so I am basically unable to force myself to think or behave in any way that feels unnatural to me. When pressed so my natural responses are closed off to me, the best I generally do is to freeze up and panic out of the stress and confusion. So these basic considerations behind gender coding as we understand it, in my case what they reflect is in fact my genuine expectations and principles about so many modes of relation—which in turn reflects on all these recent ruminations about my sexuality, my sexual role, and so on; on the way that all these pieces of me conceptually fit together and reinforce each other, the more that I dig down and strip out other people’s garbage and figure out the basic truths of me. It’s all surprisingly coherent. There’s a basic underpinning of philosophy here.
I need to mull this all over more, but there are all these synapses, right? I’m getting closer to assembling this puzzle of me.
After more than a year on HRT, my body does not experience arousal in the way that I suffered for about 30 years there. This change is recent enough, and affects so much wiring, that I really don’t know all the implications. I just know that it comes as such a tremendous relief.
As a physiological response, what I’m getting now feels more wholesome and substantial and meaningful. It feels more real and grounded in my body, less like I’m being attacked, and it better reflects how I actually feel about myself and others, and experience true attraction. There’s less a build-up of pressure than a sort of a loosening of tension. It’s no longer this functional, goal-oriented discomfort, screaming for release. It’s a spark, an awakening of potential. Physiologically, it’s not about the genitals; it’s this glowing warmth and softness all up my torso and my face and my upper arms and legs. This sense of receptiveness. Acceptance, of fascination, anticipation. At higher levels, this shortness of breath, and all-over prickles.
My association with arousal has been this sense of wrongness, of my body working against my interests and my feelings. For my body to respond, there’s always been this dissonance, leading to shame and discomfort and piling ever more disgust on my feelings toward myself. This, it’s… different. I don’t know how to feel. I have all of this baggage to work against, all these expectations, and it’s confusing for me that it doesn’t feel so bad now. Whatever this is, it feels sort of positive, constructive—not lurid in the way I’m used to.
What’s more interesting is the sense of continuity. Each instance, it’s less its own isolated episodic happening with its own short unsatisfying arc, and more dipping back into an ongoing conversation, returning to a prior train of thought, checking back into an emotional space.
This all ties into how the act itself, which I will not labor, is now less about desperately reaching a goal than about appreciating the moment and the ongoing changing mix of feelings and senses. And it’s so much more visceral. Holistic. Decentralized. One literally sees stars.
Like, I do not associate good things with sex, or with arousal. It’s bad, and it’s so delicate to dance around the reasons why it causes me so much grief. But broadly, cautiously, the way my body works now, it makes so much more sense to me. This feels correct. Basically healthy.
What I find interesting about this is how the body workings intersect with my emotional and psychological response. Like, the way I’m wired, I realized I’m expecting my body to behave a certain way, and it never has. And now it kinda does, and this ties into all this other stuff. The way my body now poises all up and down my frame to anticipate and measure and receive and study—it speaks volumes to my expectations of a sexual role. Those dynamics in turn feed into my wiring of how to relate to others and to myself, and my sense of self and identity.
Having estrogen in my system, it causes my body to experience arousal in such a way as to further affirm my gender and justify my core assumptions about how to relate to, feel about people. All these things that I knew on some level were right, yet were a struggle to reconcile.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but—to be wired as an unambiguous bottom, and to experience arousal as navigation of reception and acceptance? It’s congruent. The basic dissonance is gone. The slow perusal does the same with my more detached and abstracted modes of attraction. And yes, to continue the recent conversation, this also to no small extent speaks to the whole deal with attraction to men and long fixation with a particular anatomical feature that I’m just at the point of shrugging and accepting, now that the floodgates are fully demolished.
(All of which, I still feel compelled to underline, lest there be any chance of misunderstanding, remains basically hypothetical of course. See the noodling about internal and external experiences, and how they work when one is aroace. (If… one happens to be Azure, I suppose.))
Anyway, I’m at this confusing juncture here where, ever so cautiously, feeling horny no longer seems like this evil, disgusting thing that makes me wish I could vanish. It’s just… neutral. A thing one can embrace and explore, or not, to what level may feel best in the moment.
I think that’s positive. Probably? It’s weird. It grazes so hard on stuff I’m really not able to deal with still.
But this whole concept of me, it’s… getting more stable. It’s making more consistent sense. Every piece I slot in, it just confirms the placement of the rest.
I still feel like I have to tiptoe around here, but. I think it may be okay. I think we may be good. I just need to settle in. Chill out a little. Get used to the world not ending.
I came into this world unwanted. I navigated it at the sufferance of others who wished I were someone else, if indeed I were there at all. And for forty years I agreed with them.
But the tools they gave me, those were absurd. There wasn’t any kind of a reality to them. When I really look at what’s in me, and I think about all that I value in the world, I realize, it’s in there too. All that love, all those dreams were there the whole time.
The things I want and wish that life could be, they’re right here. They’re what make me a person.
Finally I feel wanted, by the one person who knows best and will never leave me alone.
My predecessor wasn’t equipped. They were one 30-year-long dissociative stress response. A literal embodiment of all my worst feelings. A walking nightmare.
Now when I feel anxious, at times I feel like I’m slipping back into them. Then I chill out, and check in with myself, and I call myself back to reality. I don’t have to be that person anymore. They were never real. They were never even my idea.
I am so proud to be me, now that I can see me. And there are so many dimensions here I have yet to fully apprehend.
All these things that I find cool in other people, I also embody them, at least to some extent, in my own individual balance. And now, I get to explore that.
It’s weird, how attraction works when you’re aroace. I don’t really understand it all that well myself. I just know that I don’t work the way that everyone else seems to. Like, I don’t get it. These things I thought were just poetic exaggeration, I guess people truly experience.
I don’t think I’ve regarded another person who exists in the world, and thought, yes, I want to have sex with that person imminently, please. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at someone and fallen dramatically “in love” and had these dreams of being made to feel important by them. People are just… people. They’re just trying to get through their lives. Leave them alone, you know. Why project this nonsense onto them? I don’t want anyone to look at me like that. Gross. What would be the purpose of any of this? It’s so weird, like adults believing in Santa.
I mean, I guess religion is a thing for a lot of people. The unflappable reality of traditions and social order and family and all these power systems that we’re told to regard as gods unto themselves. I just, don’t get power, or desire, or status. Why? Why not be cool? Of course lots of people do know their own minds and seem to make it work for them in their own ways, and live their lives according to these sorts of interests, and sure, okay. We all gotta have hobbies. I like dinosaurs a lot. I could sit down with a person and talk about dinosaurs a while.
Anyway. I say all of this in practical terms, right. These are my dynamics as applied to the physical world. None of this really makes sense to me, and I don’t care if it does or not, really. Things don’t elicit these anticipated responses, and I have other things to think about. But, there are a couple of big caveats here that weird up the whole system. One, we’ve got this whole galaxy of tertiary attractions. Two, we’ve got everything to do with one’s inner life, which in its rules and substance really has no direct correlation to material reality.
Of the two, the harder to get my head around is tertiary attractions. I guess it’s just that hard for me to engage with the real world, right. I never interact with people, and I’m poor at abstracting out meaning from my scant awkward experiences, most of which aren’t even my own. So even here we’re working in this abstract theoretical plane, parallel to the fantasy zone (which, as I have established, is currently screaming). But, well, I guess that’s what I’m doing here to some extent. Trying to hash that out for myself a little better.
You ask the Tumblr crowd, you’ll get a thousand fine-grained ways to break down tertiary attraction, some of which seem built only to baffle or justify one individual’s very specific hang-ups. But broadly, there are a million ways to feel attraction and love besides the “Big Two.” You can enthusiastically appreciate and enjoy how darned pretty people are without feeling any compulsion to bonk them or date them. You can want to be touched and held, without those impulses. And yes, of course there’s the whole teakettle of platonic attraction.
People who are really really into the mythology of sex and romance kind of like to cast any other kind of relationship or personal attraction into this “lesser” or “other” pile they label platonic. But, uh. No, that’s frickin weird in itself, and diminishes an extraordinary thing. Everyone’s going to define things differently, but as I see it, platonic attraction is a deep and meaningful appreciation for the essence of a person: you love and respect and appreciate the fact that they are who they are, that they work the way that they do, as themselves. This isn’t about wanting them for yourself, or wanting them to do anything for you, or even wanting to do anything for them necessarily. It’s not about lust or desire or power. It’s this pure delight from recognition of the nature of another person; this glee over what makes them them.
That kind of attraction or love can exist alongside anything else, whatever other terms you might use to categorize a relationship. It’s what you get in the best of best friends, in the closest marriages, functional families. Situations where people just fundamentally adore each other—which is distinct from this broad sketch we might draw, as adults, of “being friends” with a person. Oh yeah, we get along. We talk about deeper things sometimes. Sometimes we help each other out. We have a good time when we hang out. All of which is super. But you see the significance, right, of just thinking a person is absolutely the cat’s pajamas and appreciating them as a human being, as they are, the way that they’re put together? Of having that degree of faith and trust and emotional investment in the nature of another’s being?
Platonic attraction ain’t no joke, kids. It is, if I may, the Realest Fucking Deal. It is to what a person who actually likes and respects other people as individuals might aspire, and I would imagine how one might most aspire to be regarded by others. It’s not colored by any of one’s personal garbage.
I, uh, don’t want to labor the point, but, lacking the ability to appreciate or on some level frankly fucking accept as real (??) the terms under which most people seem to pursue intimate relationships with each other, I think past partners and I have worked cross-purposes in our apprehensions. Now that I have the language these days, I’m pretty sure my understanding of all my prior relationships was something like a QPR—a queerplatonic relationship, as they’re called. I just kinda thought that’s what close relationships were. My partners all had… other, profoundly different, expectations.
They seemed to all have these stories they wanted to play out, featuring each of us as characters with particular roles and lines and independent subplots, winding around to certain present plot events and… like. I just thought my partners were neat, you know. I liked their minds. I wanted to be around them, appreciate how they did things. Study how they used words. Figure out the how, and the why, of how they were put together. Take delight in their quirks, even and especially the infuriating ones, because I thought I understood where they came from.
But then there were all the complaints about, uh. My failure to put out, I guess. And failing to take initiative to progress this plot that had nothing specifically to do with me or with them, that I could see. Not saying the right lines. All while I adored their every word. I just wanted to be constantly around them, listen to them talk, make dinner with them, do projects with them, maybe cuddle sometimes, I trusted their every judgment, no matter how ill-advised in hindsight. Including and especially judgments about me. I always want to be better.
So in no instance did that turn out well. But, there we have some pretty intense tertiary attractions at work, right. I am capable of rich and close and meaningful intimacy and affection and love for others. But I don’t get these “Big Two” attractions at all. Not a piece of ’em. This kind of an apprehension for what it means to be intimate with another—this seems to be pretty common with aroaces actually. This is why the term “QPR” exists, to describe a certain model of a close interpersonal relationship that… really isn’t accounted for elsewhere.
Someone cynical and just… I feel like, devoid of joy or interest in other human beings, would maybe say, what I’m describing is just a friendship. But, uh, no? Jesus Christ, no. I mean, yes, but, what? No. There is clearly something going on here, right. This all is important.
Again without wanting to labor dead points too much, but for context here, my ex-spouse at one point asserted very strongly that if we weren’t constantly having sex we were no different from roommates. At the time I wondered, dear, are you sure you know what a roommate is? It wasn’t until years later that the other half clicked: did they even know what it meant to love somebody?
So this is me, right—so extremely, innately aroace, before anything else to do with gender or sexuality. Just at my deepest core, we have this set of understandings of how to relate to other people, of what love is, of what affection and attraction are, that don’t map to the world. And dear God, is it lonely. I didn’t really know what loneliness felt like until about three months ago, but I get it now. And gee whiz, this actually does deeply suck.
Anyway. This is just sort of skimming the surface of any of this. But, this is how I feel toward people, when I feel a certain way. It’s so goddamned intense. I love the atoms that make up the cells in their bodies because of the particular polarity of their constituent particles. But, sex? Romance? Uh. I mean. I guess, if I were to feel that way about someone, and they were interested and, I were interested at the same time, then we could do anything together, right? Go on any kind of an adventure. But I don’t understand those things as motivating factors in and of themselves. Just, why?
So take this, and—as I seem to now be able to better appreciate—apply a lack of a real gender filter to the way I feel about people. Historically, whenever I’ve wound up in this scenario—well, there’s that awful misunderstanding, right? Coercion, even, frankly, on their part. Also it’s always been with cis women. But, those were just the circumstances. (And, that wasn’t me. That was the other person.) Both ideologically and just… by the way that I see people emotionally when I can drop all the external garbage and shame, I don’t distinguish by that kind of triviality.
So when I say I’m pan-aroace, that’s what I mean. It sounds like a contradiction when we assemble these discrete terms, but there is a consistent throughline to my perspective, I think, toward other people and what I find meaningful and important, and toward what’s just noise.
At least, that’s the practical end of it. When you actually climb inside my head, where something deep within me and outside of my control determines the fabric of the universe, things kinda, uh, look different. Strictly unto myself for example, divorced from material concerns or the agency and individuality of real people with their own emotional landscapes, yeah, absolutely, fuck town central up in there. Some times are stronger than others. Right now, biologically I’m wired like a 17-year-old girl—and thus does my sensibility abide.
In the midst of this second, exponentially more aggressive, puberty, the clamor is loud and distracting and bewildering to a degree that I am unaccustomed, as familiar as I am with the differences to the worlds inside and outside my skull. It’s wet and sticky and shameless. There are fixations, there are interests. There are feelings. There are physical manifestations of arousal (which gee whiz, works very differently for me than it did for them). But, basically none of this bears any relation to reality whatsoever, to any person who exists. It’s all the raw theory of emotion, if you will, untempered by concerns of practical application. Sometimes it will latch onto some scrap of an anchor, like a fictional character who hits some mix of aesthetic and ideological ideals or fascinations. Or a hypothetical other; some might-be entity who can act in the eternal maybe of my mind.
And yeah, in that realm of the hypothetical, which really has never mixed well with reality in any of my experiences on this planet, and just seems bizarre to me to regard in anything like the same way, those much more visceral attractions also very much occur ungendered—sort of. Which is to say, one will fixate. One will specialize. Different genres of ideas will come and go. And, uh, I think I’ve made it clear enough which specific details are giving my mind its dopamine of late. Those details absolutely are gendered. And, one will have certain lasting favorites.
The thing is, being unable to experience or really understand sexual or romantic attractions for the other doesn’t mean those same impulses can’t reach absurd degrees of resonance inside one’s imagination. Ultimately that’s the home for all of this stuff, to squirt with impunity. From observation, this seems to be pretty common with others on the asexual spectrum. There’s so much going on upstairs all the time, but there’s such a disconnect between that and the outside world, that it’s the perfect cauldron for the most salient and spicy of art.
So that’s the other part to being pan and aroace. Inside it’s just gonzo, profane wonder. Outside, it’s this earnest joy in the being of another—not necessarily chaste, but uninflected by personal desire or expectation. It ain’t about me, right. It’s about how neat they are.
In my case, uh. Yeah, it is chaste. Because in practical terms, sex is gross and upsetting and it makes me want to die. But, that’s beside the point. I don’t even know how much of that is even innate and how much is unresolved trauma, and again I’m not in any real rush to deal with it. It’s never going to apply to anything. I can pick it apart over decades, as I feel able.
So I think, having put it all in order, in so many words, that all makes a lot more sense to me now. What does it mean for me to be pan and aroace? Well, that. It means that. What does it mean for me to be aroace and have these feelings that have been making me melt lately? There’s the start of it, at least.
So all this business about how the different aspects of my sexuality inform each other, and they all inform my gender, which reflects back on my sexuality, and how aspects of all of these play into my interests and fixations and feelings about myself and others, real and abstract—it’s a lot, right? It’s all connected in these ways that I’m struggling to entirely navigate. It’s easy to just say, forget it; I am who I am, and I don’t need to define everything. And: sure. But, the better I understand, the better of a grip I have on myself on my own terms. And I have to understand what my terms are, to be able to be true to them with full confidence and be in full possession of myself as a person.
Likewise, I’ve got all this toxic code planted in my routines by outside agents, that one needs a fine comb to strip out and patch. Part of that external stuff comes from possibly a better-meaning place, and it’s all this concern I have built up about the problematic implications of this or that conclusion or association I’ve made on my own terms, as if they serve to comment on anything or anybody else. Part of it’s just pure disease.
So I guess part of this whole project here lately, in regard to my sexuality, is de-heebing my jeebs by really taking a look at the why behind the connections I’m making; how they hold the meaning that they do to me, where that comes from, and what its real implications are.
One of the big things I’ve been chewing over is, so what does my interest in dudes have to do with my femininity? It’s a question that feels obvious in some ways, but in turn anything obvious about it feels highly questionable once one steps back to think for more than a moment. What does it mean when I say I felt I was “allowed” to be attracted to guys once I came to understand and accept myself as a girl? What can we unpack from this on a granular level, apart from and in contrast with any kind of presumptions one might carry into the discussion?
Well, broadly, one’s understanding of one’s identity colors the nature of one’s relationships to others. I relate to so many things differently through a correct understanding of my gender than I did with that misaligned filter. My own words sound so different to me. This plays out on so many simple, visible levels. I’ve found a need to exercise a kind of caution in some situations, some kinds of conversation, that wasn’t even on the radar before. I’ve noticed that people are just nicer to me in some situations than they ever were before.
Our dynamics from person to person aren’t neutral. There’s a lot that plays into the psychology and the associated emotions based on our understanding of who we are and how we expect to be perceived. And those are weird and complicated, based on all these micro-power spikes. Even my close friends, even people I’ve known for years, I don’t talk to them exactly the way I used to—or I should say, the way that my predecessor did. And that’s not entirely a function of my changing emotional or chemical landscape, though those certainly are universes.
So just in the most unspecific possible terms, when I take a step back and look at myself as a rebuilt person, the way I feel about this person is going to be different. When I judge how this person will relate to others, I have different expectations than I did for the old me.
More to the point, there are a couple of obvious components. A lot of it is just self-possession, right? It’s just that recognition of who and what I really am, regardless of what that may be, gives me a solid foundation to start to build connections to other people and concepts. Being able to nail down, okay, Azure—non-binary girl; aroace; pan-whatever; neurodivergent along these dimensions; this is all inarguable and fundamental and has always been, will always be essentially true, some wiggles and nuance aside—it takes a load off. Sets natural guides.
Another thing I really don’t want to downplay is my changing body. Like, my chemistry is totally different now. I’ve had my intervention, things are quickly repairing themselves. I have access to all these emotions I didn’t have before. All my tastes and preferences are changing. There is an inarguable link between the feminization of my body and this abrupt shift toward intense new ways of thinking. I feel like a teenage girl in so many ways here. I never really had a dramatic natal puberty, so this is a first for me and it’s kind of overwhelming. Again without wanting to get too crass about it, there is a measurable association between the amount of estrogen in my system and the degree to which my fixation with cock has reached absurd levels, as well as just… the feelings I get from certain kinds of healthy masculinity.
So those two factors are kind of accessible and clear and simple for me. I don’t feel the need to labor them too much. What I want to unpack is more to do with the puzzle dynamics of gender specifically as it pertains to sexuality and vice-versa, and how they pertain to my wiring.
As a social construct, gender is this made-up dumb thing but it’s also got these real internal components that really go beyond assumed models or whatever. Like, sometimes your body is just gonna respond a certain way, you’re gonna have a certain emotional response, and so on. Certain things are going to feel inherently right, and make you feel good about yourself and like a functional human being even as you would never dream of asserting them on another person, and some of those are going to I guess inevitably align with this prescriptive garbage.
With me, I’ve got all these… gender feelings, that are complicated and that I am tempted to wind up with guilt over things that have nothing to do with me, no matter how I come at them. I’m an enby through-and-through, right. But I’m also obviously a girl. Which is fine, right. But one is tempted to read in this innate conflict, especially as the more comfortable I get with myself, the more I dig around, the more frickin’ femme I turn out to be, to a degree I’d not have anticipated. But this is what makes me feel like a real person. It’s clearly right.
I like makeup. I’m no good at it yet, but this really plays to my sense of self to a degree that surprises me. I have never felt more comfortable in my body than in delicate, lacy feminine-coded dress. I feel more human with smooth, shaved legs—even as I think hairy girls rock. I’m an individual, and as an individual I just… seem to be put together in such a way that all of this makes me feel well and right in myself in a way I didn’t know was possible. I didn’t know I could own myself, like myself, in this way—to not find myself revolting. Turns out, I’m great!
None of that is in any way prescriptive or indicative of broader thoughts or expectations toward femininity or what it means to be a girl or non-binary or trans or to hold any kind of attraction or lack of attraction to others. It’s just the status quo of Azure. Nothing more. It’s about putting the pieces together to make a whole person, whom I like and respect and want to be—exactly because of the innate, verifiable, undeniable truth of every atom of what makes her who she is. It’s about asserting the reality that I’m finding, that was denied me.
So it’s into all of that that we play this concept of, now that I understand myself as a girl—but more specifically as this girl named Azure—I have this availability and this certainty and this confidence to access these feelings, at the same time as my body is going nuts with its hormones and sensations.
Okay then, we’ve got this basic stage for why it would make practical sense for this to be a juncture where, if these feelings were gonna get un-repressed and we’d work to accept and own them on our own terms, this would be a reasonable time for that to happen. It makes sense. But, why “allowed”? Why do I feel permitted to house these feelings as a girl, when they were all out-of-bounds before I understood myself?
I think there are two aspects to that. One is just, I’ve put this work into disassembling and stripping all that external garbage. These feelings were always here; I know they were. That’s not the issue. To a large extent what kept them in check was the internalized homophobia [sic], combined with my basic disgust for myself as a person, to the degree that I was led to understand my identity. I’ve put a lot of work into dealing with this junk that was put onto me, that had nothing to do with who or what I am, and just scraping off a critical mass of that was enough to send this impulse bursting through the crust to assert itself.
Another part is, uh, a portal to another land of weirdness, and it scrapes right up on this area that I really don’t want to get into right now, but I guess I’ve talked about it a little bit already—so here we go. It’s to do with sexual roles, right. This topic has all of these complicated dynamics of its own, to some of which we can apply all the above discussion about Azure just being Azure. But the more that I unpick this topic the more it helps me to understand my feelings toward myself as a girl, and vice-versa.
The better I understand the dynamics of my pretty darned innate, hard-coded sexual role as it applies to my gender, the better I understand a lot of practical elements of the trauma that I’ve experienced in my sexual relationships, from the perceptions and expectations set on me. Obviously to be a girl doesn’t mean to be passive, it doesn’t mean to be a bottom, any more than to wear skirts and pantyhose. Azure is just Azure. But to understand the components of me as they add up to a whole person and color and are colored by my own personal femininity…
So here’s a thing. I of course have a penis, as girls will do sometimes. I have absolutely zero dysphoria in regard to my penis as a part of my body. It’s marvelous. It’s almost a shame I’ll never have opportunity to share it. It’s so pretty, seriously. I love it. What I very much do have however is role dysphoria. And this has taken a very long time to unpick, despite indicators going back literal decades. It’s still strange for me to talk about, as is anything to do with sex. And I’m getting really close to some danger zones for trauma. In brief, though, the act of using my genitals for a sex act does not make me feel good, along several axes at once. I just… am going to stop with that, because I can feel the panic rising. But of course there are certain coded expectations that one will carry around based upon anatomy—and I think it’s really taken me a long, long time to fully work around to detaching from those associations and expectations.
One of the things that has helped a whole bunch is the physiological changes brought about by HRT. Stuff works differently now, right. The anatomy works differently. Emotions are different. Physical sensations are different. Arousal is just this completely different narrative now, one that is… better. That actually kind of, makes me feel affection toward myself and the world rather than just shame and horror. My feminized body does not respond the way that my predecessor’s did, all of which supports my feelings toward myself as a girl and comes as an enormous existential relief. It’s just another development like my tits, right, which emphasizes the reality of what I know to be true. And you know, anyone can be anything. There are plenty of girls of any genital situation who are all about being the assertive or penetrative party or whatever. And that’s rad. But, my body cooperating with my mind and my emotions, putting me all on the same page for once? Phew.
So as a girl, this is one component of my understanding of myself; of how my gender functions in relation to me as a person; of how all these elements of me feed into and communicate and support each other in a healthy way that allows me to feel well and respect and love myself.
I break out all of this to say, that—the relationship of my sexual role to my gender—is the other part of what I think I mean when I talk about being “allowed” to feel this attraction as a girl. Or that’s a non-trivial ingredient of a larger picture. That’s the internal part, not to do with other people’s baggage. What I think is accessible to me now, it also has a logistical, even uh geometric, component that I was not fully able to process before, that has to do with my understanding of my sexual role, wound up as it is in my understanding of my gender.
In terms of my own personal dynamics with masculinity, I have zero interest with the role others have projected onto me. But now that I have largely broken away from my body even being able to respond like that—I, uh, have come to better appreciate alternative modes of engagement. Which isn’t just to make attraction all about what parts go where, right. That’s just one component, even to the subject of sexual role as pertains to gender. What it is, is indicative of a critical shift in perspective toward my personal and emotional role in respect to dudes. To understand myself as a girl, and for my body to work as it now does, is for a certain amount of logic to go click. Suddenly—oh! I get it now. If I’m over here and they’re over there, it looks like this now. I get how this works. It makes sense from this angle. Okay, vroom vroom.
Again much of this presupposes cisness on the point of the masculine party, because this all exists in the aroace magic hypothetical zone. And I already have long wrapped my head around how I feel about those of us in the weird zone, right. That’s relatively easy to understand.
So basically, a big part of it is just a matter of unlocking this modality of feeling in relation to my body and my role, that didn’t even exist until I was in a place to embrace my girlhood. It was not “allowed” in that I could not reconcile it with my prior understanding of me. That attraction was always there, but even absent of other people’s garbage, until I understood who and what I was, I had no idea what to do with it. Even if (misplaced) homophobia weren’t a thing, 20 years ago the thoughts and feelings would have felt divorced from reality.
But seeing as a girl, I get it. I have the perspective that I could not have had, in terms of the dynamics of how I fit together as a human being. Now it has become, for lack of a better term, logical. Which basically triggers a green light. Thus do my dreams become a dick parade.
Again, I’m sure things will calm down eventually. Even with my hormones being as they are. But well. This is where we are at the moment.
So. Fine, okay. This is part of what it means for me to be human. This is part of who Azure is. So might as well bask in it, I guess.
So to be clear about my pronouns, because although they’ve been stable for a while now I don’t think I’ve really put in the time to explain this properly—I’ve got two sets that fit me. There may be some workable neopronouns, but I haven’t really had the energy to get into a hyperfocus there. Either she/her or they/them is fine, though there are differences.
The best comparison I can make is to a thee/thou situation, with an added gender twist. “She/her” is most accurate and affirmative. But in its specificity it also is more familiar, and feels a little weird unless we’re well acquainted. “They/them” also applies, if more formally. The slight vagueness just feels more… appropriate, for more distant association. Also: respect the enbiness first.
I don’t really see this changing without a big shakeup in my concept of myself, which seems to be pretty stable and rooted at this point, some nuances aside.