Opportunity Cost

  • Reading time:2 mins read

I think I have tended to attract people who are insecure in their gender or sexuality, who see me as a novel sort of toy to work out their issues but then freak out when I turn out to be a person with her own ideas about things—and also freak out at what I threaten to reflect about them. It’s like, they use me to explore some unspoken dimension of themselves then—well. The response has had a different balance in each case, but there’s this baseline weirdness and anxiety that I guess I always saw but never quite understood or connected from person to person, that small collection of others I’ve allowed close to me in that way.

Ergo, this inevitable controlling behavior. They didn’t really see me as an independent person to start with; I was just an accessory to them. But now? After they’ve realized I’m technically my own human being with my own agency? Now, I was a dangerous, rogue accessory who might at any time, intentionally or otherwise indicate what they were really like, and then Everyone Would Know.

I guess it was always obvious there was something “off” about me, leading people who had their hang-ups that they dared not voice to project their own interpretations into that and go, hmm, there’s some fucking plausible deniability right there, in mobile form. And what a rube! What an opportunity.

White Christmas

  • Reading time:6 mins read

It is of course Known that HRT changes sexual function. The way it’s usually described, because of course it is, is in pathological terms—which is dumb. Dumb, and misleading, and potentially harmful for so many reasons. Not everyone’s got the same interests or ideas or life goals, yo. Sometimes things just are what they are, and what meaning they carry is what you read into them.

It’s worth stressing that people are people, that there’s little meaningful difference between the Big Two sexes as popularly defined, and that what little difference there is comes late in natal development (or even after!). Everyone is carrying basically the same hardware. Whereas things get lightly specialized in terms of size, placement, and some high-level utility, they are equivalent in purpose and function—because they’re the same parts; just baked a little differently at the very end. so the real difference isn’t hardware; it’s software.

The penis and the clitoris; same organ. prostate and skein’s gland; same basic structure. The testes have a channel through the prostate—and it turns out that the vestigial equivalents of the vagina and uterus are located in the prostate. It’s all there; just differently specialized. So what specialized their form to suit their mature functions, and what continues to guide that function? Hormones, of course. Your penis knows it’s a penis because of the message it’s sent. Your skein’s gland knows to get lubricating because of a chemical beacon.

And—yes, broadly speaking the feminine parts are gonna be told to focus on lubrication, to keep on going even through orgasm—so there signal there is about a sort of opening of the floodgates (both literally and figuratively, with the ongoing free full-bodied sensations and so on). The masculine parts get the opposite instruction. Their task is all about building up pressure for launch. Most of the fluid and sensation there is reserved for a brief moment, after which the mission is done and it’s not only difficult but sometimes physically painful to continue.

So what happens if your specialized hardware starts receiving a different set of signals? Well, again technically it’s all the same stuff. It’s going to be more or less compatible with whatever commands you throw at it. After a brief reorientation, it will learn to obey the software it’s fed—at least, as well as it can. It’s like, you take a black mage and reclass them as a berserker, you may have a curve to deal with.

So in regard to changed function, it’s also fairly well-recorded how differently the feminine penis will behave, compared to the masculine one. Tou may not get random erections so much, if at all. They may not be as firm or last as long. Orgasms change from this narrow one-and-done thing focused on the genitals to a sort of repeatable, full-bodied scalp-to-toes revelation. What I did not fully understand, though, before going into this was the fluid issue. Because, yo, this is no longer a story about semen—that’s not what the body cares about anymore—and that changes things in some curious ways.

Since they’re the same organ with the same basic purpose, the fluid that the prostate produces is basically the same as the fluid from the skene’s gland. Add estrogen, it’s no longer building up pressure to release and it’s not inclined to stir up a batch of semen; all it wants is to lubricate. That’s what girls do, right? Righto! So there’s going to be oozing: slow, fairly constant. the body thinks it’s doing a thing. When we get to orgasm, again we’re probably not doing the spurting here. There’s this sensation radiating from the chest and the brain sort of melts, but not much likely comes out. If anything does, it’s going to be thin and slick and clear—just more of the same lubricant, right.

Granted everyone’s different, and if you prowl you’ll see some trans women who are, like, playing Splatoon somehow, but that’s not the typical programming.

Now, the upshot of all of this is that—let’s be honest, whatever your predilections may be—semen is pretty gross, and fucking impossible to clean up. It stains anything it touches. It quickly becomes cement. It gets everywhere. Don’t let it near hot water or it will clog your drain forevermore. But, this clear fluid, the lubricant? Water-soluble, baby. A little greasy, but it comes right out of fabric; will not ever clog a drain or cake in some weird place; doesn’t carry a strong odor. It’s so easy to deal with! On a 1-10 scale of gross annoyingness, it’s maybe a 2-3, tops.

For all that the literature likes to demonize sexual changes and hold them up as a warning of what could happen, there are so many things that just work better, to my purposes and sensibilities. No randomly getting turned on! It’s possible to enjoy things, rather than just furiously trying to reach a goal! And best of all, no more gross mess!

I almost never feel the need to indulge anymore, which is a relief of sorts, but in the rare event it does makes sense emotionally, psychologically, it is so much less of a hassle. There’s no more of this ugh, what was that even for; now i need to clean up, but i feel like dying instead. Now it’s just about appreciating my body and its functionality, enjoying an occasional intimate moment with myself. Showing myself some care and consideration. No pressure, no fast destination, and no punishment at the end. I no longer feel gross or ashamed or overly embarrassed. I’m in control of myself at every step. And then, it all just washes away: no evidence, no harm, no foul. Ready to move on—energized, enriched, rather than half-dead and ready to cry.

I just like myself so much now. I like the way i’m coming to think, to feel. I’m starting to like the way I look. I like the way my body behaves. Everything makes sense to me in a way it never did. I am so glad to be the person I am continuing to become. I didn’t know it was possible to feel like this.

Again, everyone’s wired a little different, responds to things in their own way. so this story isn’t gonna apply everywhere—and maybe it’s not what everyone will want. That’s cool. People have their priorities. But, whee. this would have been a selling point if I’d known. And I never would have, because of the way it’s always been pitched—with every bit as much judgment as everything else I find important in life.

Rolling Gender

  • Reading time:2 mins read

My identity feels like it’s on a rolling 90-day window. Anything older than three months, I feel increasingly out-of-touch with that person as I continue to develop at this rapid rate—existentially, emotionally, psychologically, physically, physiologically.

I know the six-month mark back in August was the turning point, where everything started to click and I just became a new person and left that old shell behind. That’s when the body changes really started to kick in. That’s when I completed my first round of voice training. That’s when I made the connection that all my natural body language, the way I’m wired to behave, is super feminine—that to be the person I want to be is mostly about letting go, letting the scales fall away. That my existence is proof of itself. That’s around the time that I noticed people had gotten way nicer to me than I’m used to, apparently because they were starting to respond to the real me rather than that awful husk.

But four months on, I look back at that person and I think, gosh, they had no idea. They didn’t have my experiences. They weren’t me yet.

Right now, the edge of the person I currently know as myself, that probably sits around late September. That threshold of current me, I think it’s feeling actual happiness for the first time in my life—and just… all that fallout that’s come from that. All the feelings about myself, all the other new perfectly normal emotions that I’d never known before. (Also, haha, my first bra.)

Really I’ve got this buffer of about a month where I can say, yeah, this is roughly still me; I recognize her. Beyond that, it’s like looking at a childhood photo and thinking, who is that kid? And who on earth dressed them that way?

The Face Underneath

  • Reading time:4 mins read

A thing that always encourages me is to see a familiar cis woman with a clean face and to realize again how androgynous most people look when not performing Gender.

Our notions of femininity and masculinity are cartoons that we lean into, exaggerating the slightest of differences. People, the Big Two sexes, really don’t look that different. Any distinction is subtle and mostly superficial—which requires us to blow what slight nuances there are out of proportion, so as to prevent confusion.

Cis people often are just as scared as trans people of being misgendered. There are consequences—and it’s easy to do! Just fail to perform correctly. Wear your hair the wrong way, demonstrate the wrong body language, and everyone will let you know.

So for me to see the actual face underneath the gender costume, it’s like—oh, right. she and I really don’t look that different at all, huh. Most of this is just about how you declare and assert yourself, more than anything intrinsic. Gender is a verb. And one can always work on that.

Once you realize gender is 90% performance and that sex is only a hair short of arbitrary—there’s no good reason we classify things as we do, our system is broken as hell, and it’s literally all the same hardware, just with some late developmental tweaks—sexuality becomes absurd. Like, it just doesn’t make that much sense to me to prioritize attraction to one person over another except on an individual basis, based on who they are and what it is specifically about them. If you’re gonna be attracted to people, why be an exclusionist dork? What difference does it make. or are you one of those “I like all music except rap and country” people.

I mean, I’m aroace, so I don’t… actually get the two main kinds of attraction that stop people’s brains from working. Maybe if I were more insane I’d get this thinking.

Our whole system of relating to ourselves and each other is based this weird lattice of fiction and generalization and hyper exaggeration that upsets us so deeply when it fails to match the reality. The dismay when we’re faced with the idea that people are just people—I’m sure you’ve seen the cishet bros who express dismay after seeing a girl take off her makeup, like they’ve been lied to. The fact that she just looks like a person; that a moment ago they were attracted to someone who could just as well have been a dude if she’d performed differently, it freaks them out.

It’s all internalized power structures. That’s the script we’re playing out and reinforcing and policing every time we get dressed, every time we interact with another person in this stupid culture we’ve made for ourselves. We’re playing someone else’s game for their benefit. It’s the last thing we’re meant to realize, that behind all this branding and spin we’re all basically the same—because, what then? Why are we doing all this to each other? Why aren’t we all cool and supporting the people we meet like they’re another part of ourselves?

What’s the point of this garbage we’ve been filtering? Well, it’s to keep us busy, lest we address the, like, twelve people in the world who are taking everything from us. All these rules are there so we don’t take apart these fucking systems that do us no good, that drain us of our basic humanity, to elevate the most inhuman of us all. of whom there are scant few.

I’m not saying, don’t do gender, kids. I’m not saying, do away with makeup or gendered dress or behaviors or this that or whatever. I love being feminine. It just makes me so happy with myself. It makes life worth living. I’m just saying, it’s all dress-up. None of it is real beyond the meaning that we individually give it.

And just seeing that baseline of androgyny, seeing just how close the prettiest woman in the world can look to just, I dunno, a soft boy, feels to me like such a weight off. It’s this reminder of commonality—that it’s all cool. Just, be you. Everyone is an individual. Everyone has these choices.

Bounding Box

  • Reading time:2 mins read

Every sexual situation I’ve been in, I’ve been so scared—and the more scared I’ve been, the more angry that’s made the other person. the more they would yell and berate me and threaten, all while I was completely exposed and helpless.

It’s like how people explode at you for daring to have an anxiety attack in public: how dare you embarrass them like that; what’s wrong with you; you need to shape up right now and apologize and stop having emotions of your own, or there will be consequences. Except, worse.

Part of all this is—I’m aroace, right? So any time I’ve wound up in a scenario like that, it’s because I’ve been coerced into the situation. and I’m doing my best to placate them, avoid upsetting them, by trying to give them what they want. And, it just… never goes well.

All of which is to say, I’m—I have a lot of trouble framing, finding the language for the experiences I’ve had. I don’t want to be dramatic, or to claim a kind of victimhood that doesn’t apply. But the experiences I’ve had, they’re not good. I have regular nightmares.

I feel like every relationship in my life, romantic and otherwise, there has always been a huge imbalance. I am used to being at a disadvantage where someone else controls all the money, the mobility, the plans, the terms. I have nominal input if any. I agree, or I am a problem.

Which is not to say that I want to exert power either. That’s gross. It’s that it is always made clear to me that I exist on sufferance, and that this can be remedied at any time. Since I was a child, this has been my baseline understanding of life. And, I don’t want it anymore.

It can be really hard to tell what’s normal when one doesn’t have a reference, right—and boundaries and self-respect are just about impossible to measure out when one comes to understand one will always be wrong about everything.

It’s hard for to process all of this. I am all for sex positivity, for other people. You, do whatever you need to, to live a healthy consensual life. But, it’s so hard for me to wrap my head around what I’ve been through. There’s nothing but negative association here.

I just want to wish it all away.

Having and Giving

  • Reading time:9 mins read

I didn’t have a good childhood, right. I guess some people did? Weirds me out. I can’t wrap my head around that. Up until I managed to leave, I was continually told how much worse everyone else had it, so therefore I had no right to complain. If I failed to be sufficiently grateful that my parents weren’t even worse, I was a horrible child and I deserved whatever was coming.

It’s true that that most of my problems were a matter of neglect, rather than active violence or abuse. So that’s something, I guess. It’s just that it was a matter of record that no one wanted me. No one cared that I existed. They vocally, regularly, in so many words, resented the fact that I was there, and tried their hardest to wish me away.

I was hungry most of the time. I was left mostly on my own, to figure out my meals in a house full of things nobody sane would eat except each of them specifically and independently of each other. There were no meals and there was no compromise, middle ground of communally edible food because everyone hated each other. I’m pretty okay at baking because I learned in grade school if I wanted a birthday cake i had to work it out myself.

I has nothing to wear except old, too-small, torn and thin, usually dirty clothes that I had no say over and that often gave me a rash. I knew better than to ask either of them for help or a favor. If they didn’t turn on me, they’d find a way to fuck it up. I learned never to express emotion or betray a hint of what I wanted or needed or intended, lest someone scream or hit me or lock me in my room for a couple days. Best case, all I’d get is mockery.

They were both horrible, but of the two I think my father sometimes took a kind of pity. Like, he wouldn’t actually address anything or many any steps to make it better but he’d make these gestures toward… not an apology, but filling the void in some small way. That’ll do; assuage his conscience.

One of the reasons I’ve all this background in videogames is that around 1986 he found that if he kept up a slow but steady supply of the things, I would spend all my time with them and not bother anyone. He wouldn’t have to think about me again for days. Weeks. That was his parenting done. I don’t want to knock that entirely because, yo, I got a fair number of videogames to occupy me, and to use to escape from… all of that, everything around me. And I know we didn’t have a lot of money. But this wasn’t really about me, right. It was pure fucking guilt on his part.

Anyway, these gifts really made my mother livid. (Which also may inform part of why he continued to do it.) She got so angry at the idea of my… well, having things. So I never got any clothes that i needed. Nothing would ever get washed. She’d ensure I didn’t get any food that I wanted in the house, and again no one prepared anything. Were I to actually ask for something—some toy or book or whatever—well, who did I think I was? Royalty?

The exception being the odd, rare thing she got it into her head to bestow upon me regardless of whether I wanted it or not. Regardless of anything I said, any boundary I put up. I had no right of refusal. I’d unambiguously tell her straight out no, then she’d pretend it was news.

When she saw me receiving things that she didn’t pick out, that I actually wanted and enjoyed, she went fucking apoplectic. It was like, what the fuck was this; I didn’t deserve anything! If she saw me leaving the house with my father, she would scream at him, “DON’T BUY [them] ANYTHING!!

So, okay. Let’s take a step back now. At this point there are a few possible ways to read this, right?

I know my mother used to be all hippie-dippy. I’d heard stories of how when my sister was a teen the former would dig through the latter’s drawers for any bras, so she could trash them. The patriarchy and all, you know. So, a lack of barriers, lack of compassion and theory of mind, Just plain fucking crazy, but second-wave feminism forever! There seemed to be some guiding principle here, even if a stupid one, applied maliciously.

All this time, these forty-some years, I figured, okay, what a flaming asshole—but anti-consumerism, anti-materialism? Sure, okay, I get it. Again we didn’t have much money, and I can see how especially in the 1980s, putting all this value on owning stuff would be perceived as, like, not so superb. Even now, I’m not totally ascetic—I have my books and games and movies, my small collections of things I’ve hung onto all my life—and I am so fucking broke that buying things isn’t really an option. But even if I weren’t, I’d think twice before any purchase. Do I really need this, I think. Do I really want it?

Here’s the thing, though. Just now while eating my garlic bread, I remembered a pretty key clarifying detail. My mother, who was so adamant against my having appropriate clothes to wear, food to eat, anything of my own that gave me a little joy in the void of humanity that was my childhood? She has a fucking consumer addiction.

She will never not spend money on any random thing you put in front of her, no matter whether she wants or needs it or likes it or has the money or not. She lives like a fucking trust fund kid. She will sit and watch QVC for 16 hours a day and buy at least two of everything they show. It gets so she’s afraid of the mailman because she doesn’t even know what she’s ordered. After the divorce, she got the house, completely paid off. Within a few years she’d taken out two mortgages, to pay off credit card bills from all the stuff she orders every day.

All this woman does all day is buy things for herself. Non-stop.

So. It’s taken me all these years to connect these dots, right.

She was so against my ever having anything at all. It was obscene for me to ask for so much as a sandwich. But it wasn’t about a lack of money. It wasn’t about anti-capitalism or anti-materialism. That wasn’t a problem at all. All of the neglect, the active denial of care or support, the rage at the idea of my being on the receiving end of anything but the scraps she hand-selected—it was all about me.

All of which to say: holy shit. Fuck her.

Just. Goddamn.

I cannot emphasize this enough: Fuck. Her.

What the absolute shit.

What.

I knew that my parents always hated me, but. Like.

I just.

So.

Yeah.

There we go.

I have no guilt, no qualms whatsoever, about wiping her from my mind. Any lingering crap about cutting her—anyone related to me—out of my life, I just.

No. Fuck her, absolutely and forever. This is not a person worthy of my pity, my guilt, or anything else. She can just fall down a well and die.

I’m not especially angry, even. I just—no.

I mean, I’m a little angry. but it’s not this overwhelming rage. It’s too tired for that. It’s more that I’m done. I solved the puzzle. I don’t have to ever think about this again.

Time to shut down that runtime. Clear that space.

Still at 42 years old, I feel such intense guilt for wanting anything at all for myself. It’s a thing I’ve had to actively work against since coming to grips with who I am, and recognizing my need to recognize and affirm and support this person whom I’ve discovered I like and want to be. And, that’s why all that garbage is there, inside of me. That’s who put it there, and that’s why she did it.

All this shit, it’s from some jerkass who called me an “interloper” for happening to be alive through no action or desire or consent of my own. Who actively wanted to deprive me of any agency, means, joy, or respect even as she ran up the bill on her own interests.

To her i was an “interloper.” To my father I served only as an excuse for her not to get a job. He was open about my older sister being the only good thing that ever came out of the marriage. Nobody wanted me, so for me to assert my existence, to remind them that I was there, was fucking evil to them.

And I just—no.

Despite everything, somehow—despite the pieces that I’m made out of, despite all my experiences and neglect and a fucking lifetime of trauma—I’m actually kind of awesome.

I never deserved to be treated like that, by anyone. Nobody does. Nobody would.

And, I love me. Finally. Despite everyone’s efforts.

I deserve to want things, materially and otherwise, within whatever ethical structure strikes me best. My basic needs deserve to be tended. I deserve joy and reward and support. I deserve to be a fucking human being.

Which is a thing that nobody in my life has ever told me.

Despite everything, here I am: still alive. and everything that I’ve been accused of.

What they did to me was wrong.

What my ex-spouse did to me was wrong.

And the list can keep going on, filling those gaps in between.

And I absolutely cannot carry that around with me any longer.

Never Not Queer

  • Reading time:5 mins read

With the end of my voice lessons, and the sudden nascent social need that followed, I followed my therapist’s advice and did that local trans Zoom meetup thing. It was… weird, and awkward, but I guess it reached a sort of equilibrium by the end. I don’t know if this sort of a thing is for me. I feel so lost in groups like this. Still I tried it anyway. So: bravery points for Azure! Would she have done this six months ago? No way!

I think I feel kind of weird in organized queer spaces, to be honest. I mean, any social situation is going to be odd, but—like. there are elements here, it’s like the Red-Headed League or something, right? Creating a space based on this sort of thing, it’s like, “Hey, you have Gender too? Amazing! Let’s both sit here and wait for one of us to talk!” That baseline of presumed trauma that underlies the queer experience also makes it, like—saying anything is a potential minefield. So that adds this extra layer of awkward. And I am So Very Inelegant in this regard, despite my efforts. So, whee, what do we do here, right? I’ve a notion I might manage better in spaces that are About Something, which also just happen to attract people who are very probably queer. That makes more sense to me.

It may not help that a third of the conversation was devoted to awkwardly sitting in silence while one of the members, logged in from her phone at a laundromat, yelled at someone else in the laundromat without muting the phone. At one point I had to ask, are we all on the same page? When she rejoined the conversation, she’d just start talking about whatever she felt like regardless of what anyone else was saying, and… often one sentence would bear no relation to the previous one, in a way I found very difficult to follow. She eventually left.

Another thing about all this is—I don’t know how to spin this. So let’s just air my internalized garbage, right. I’ve been doing my transition almost entirely in a bubble here. There’s been the COVID, under which I’ve rocked the medical angle. Before that, I was dealing with too much trauma to go outside or look at or talk to people in any form.

I tend to think of myself as, like… moderate, in my transition goals, right. I’m not a binary woman, but I do want to embrace the femme on my own terms. I’m my own kind of a girl. Likewise I’ve only been at this for so long; I’ve got a long way to go. I don’t really know what I’m doing yet, and I’m only ten months into the body stuff. But sitting there in my lace top and skirt, a face full of carefully if ineptly applied makeup, nodding and listening patiently to these other trans women rant and talk over each other about cars, I have never felt so prissy in my life.

Gender is what you make of it. It’s made up social garbage. Nothing matters but figuring out a version of yourself that you can actually like. Hell, I am extremely non-binary by ideology and just my lack of understanding of, feeling grossed-out by, gender extremes and stereotypes. This isn’t about anyone else, really. It’s just about me, and… like. My trouble feeling like I fit in anywhere. No matter how tailored the space might sound.

I’m accustomed to feeling prissy and overly feminine in male spaces. My parents made it clear what a prissy child I was, and punished me for it. My ex-spouse made me feel extraordinarily prissy in the scope of my marriage, and made it a regular point of abuse. Here, though, I went in expecting, okay, there would be some common ground. Maybe a couple of super-girly femmes to make me feel normal, haha. Just left of androgynous.

Well. Guess not as much.

Again, this is just about me. Other people can do whatever, and it’s all valid. I just, it’s so hard to find a space that makes sense to me. I was so clearly the odd girl out here. as is ever the case. It just felt particularly extreme last night. Which is the last thing I expected, the last place I expected to feel that way. I’d mention some of the things I’ve been doing just for my own sake, to support my ideas about myself, and there’d be this collective shrug. “Yeah, I don’t really see the point of that.”

Then back to, like. Sports.

So, oh well. I need to get it in my head, I guess, that nothing is ever going to be set up for me. None of this is my world. Every little thing I do, I need to put it together myself from first principles or it ain’t gonna work at all and I’m going to come away frustrated, lonely, and miserable.

So when we come out of this pandemic… I guess it’s time to get building.