Writing the Unspeakable

  • Reading time:23 mins read

So sex, right. I don’t like this topic. It makes me cry, and not happy tears. There’s so much built up in and around this, that hurts and scares me to examine. It’s fortunate, sort of, that being aroace means I don’t have to actively contend with it much, except in my own head.

As I’ve unraveled elsewhere, there are a couple ways to frame the relationship and the distinction between my aceness and what has become clear as my pansexuality. One approach is more granular and is about modes of attraction—I don’t experience sexual or romantic, and my neurology and trauma complicate sensual attraction, but there’s an element of aesthetic and platonic is definitely on the table. The other is an innie/outie thing, sorta like gender—you know, like identity versus presentation. That’s an inexact parallel, but it gets at the idea of this outer practical awareness and expression (aceness), versus the theory and fantasy and inner life (panness) that never thinks or wants to cross into real behavior—which doesn’t make it any less a part of me.

The aroace angle is easy enough for me to manage. That was just a matter of identifying, oh that’s why my interactions have always gone this way; that would explain these other things that never added up. Okay, cool, so it turns out that’s just how I’m wired and there’s nothing wrong with me. Phew, good to understand that at last.

The inner modes of attraction are harder, for so many reasons. There are so many layers of shame, and fear, and bad memories and past violence and trauma and blame and accusation. and it is weird and difficult to realign my feelings with my current understanding of my gender.

I grew up ostensibly male in the 1980s and ’90s, in a rural area. It’s not just that “gay” was the ultimate insult; it’s that it was a pathology for those with power over one’s life to be concerned with: You’re not one of them, are you? Do we need to send you somewhere? I had all this other stuff going on as well, of course. I was neurodiverse and I was badly, reluctantly playing out the wrong gender. For reasons beyond my understanding, everything about me was wrong, and I could never betray a word of my full, true thoughts or feelings on any subject, without putting myself at risk.

The most terrifying shame out of all the things I shouldn’t be thinking and feeling, and here we get to the point of this discussion, was my fixation with dicks—a topic I always tried to dance around and not to dwell on, but it would always surface. So here I demystify it: I have always liked dicks, okay. It is what it is.

In the year 2020, with our current nuanced understanding of gender and sexuality, and with all the discourse and controversy about genital preferences, this is sort of a different world to be breaking this down in. but in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, masculinity was super not appealing to me—which made it more confusing. How was I to resolve this attraction?

Back in the present, I know now that I am pan. My block against attraction to dudes on principle has to a large degree melted with time and hormones and understanding of my own gender in particular, though still it feels so fucking strange and triggering to wrangle with. And with that dam down, it’s now clear that my attraction to people—in theory if not in real life, where again it simply doesn’t happen—has everything to do with who they are as people; that gender doesn’t really enter into it meaningfully. (Trauma-based hang-ups aside, of course.) But it is also clear to me that on a personal level, though I can appreciate any equipment based on its attachment to the person who’s sporting it—the person being the only thing that really matters—all things being equal, given a choice, I have an obvious preference and fascination for the penis. And it’s clear that this fascination ties into a lot of other things about me.

I am of course passive as hell in most things, even the topics that engage me, and the aroaceness sure as heck indicates a lack of active engagement with sexuality or attraction. It’s more that sometimes, ideas come to me. and then, there they are for me to manage somehow. And in all this ideation… well. A thing I have observed a few times, with increasing clarity, is the possibly strange way i have always engaged with porn. As I’ve explained before, I tend to see the central figure as the protagonist like any story, and to identify with (usually) her on her journey. And, as it turns out—oh. That’s not just an abstraction, huh. Like, it’s more than empathy and narrative analysis.

Not to cross lines between porn and reality, but, well, again reality doesn’t much enter into my sexuality. it’s all in my head, all the time. But all things considered, I am so clearly a bottom, right. Almost exclusively. It’s all about navigating things done to me, rather than seeking to do them. Which, whee, sheds so much light on my history, such as it is. Which has exclusively been with cis women who insisted on perceived gender roles, and so expected me to take on the behavior of a certain cultural narrative, growing more and more frustrated with my timidness, reluctance, confusion. It had nothing to do with attraction to them or otherwise. In each case they were at that time the center of my life and my attraction was proportionate to my all-encompassing love. That’s the only motivation that matters, right. It’s the performance that freaked me out. Had they initiated rather than always expected me to and grown furious when they felt forced to lower themselves to ask me, and had they taken the lead, I would have let them carry me anywhere. Instead there was this tangle based on assumed roles, that they would not deign to discuss.

To equate the penis with action is of course reductive—I have a dick, and I like my dick, and we’re having this discussion here—but there are connections going on with all of this, right. It’s not the realm of binary black-and-white objective labels, as we’re talking about people. And likewise not everyone with a penis is male, not everyone with a vagina is female, and it’s all complicated and that’s great and weird and as it should be. Again, case in point: me. But my preference for dick, it makes a kind of sense that wends through every part of my being, touches so many things.

It is perhaps messy to be pan, yet to have a clear and unambiguous preference for one mode of genitalia—but we’re messy, right. Of course attraction isn’t based on what’s in a person’s pants, and even if it were, a preference isn’t exclusive. Once you get that far, who cares? It’s messy in the same way that I can be pan but far more importantly aroace, and that it all makes a sort of sense because people aren’t math problems. There is only so much external logic you can apply to a person. It’s not about the outside, about all these boxes and labels. All of that is just death.

But yeah, this is all me coming to terms that i’m a girl who dreams about getting railed by hypothetical dicks even as she recoils from any actual touch. And, like. I shouldn’t feel shame about who I am, right. That’s what I am trying to get past, so I can just fucking live here, goddamn.

I like dicks. That’s a part of who I am, and it’s normal and it’s fine. Because people are fucking weird, man. I have talked about this all a little, in bits and and pieces and behind ciphers and in private conversation that has unintentionally gotten weird, for which I feel I hope appropriate chagrin. But here’s me thinking it straight through, finally; coming to terms with it all.

Of course in real life also, sex is gross and unsanitary and awkward and emotionally overwhelming—and with my sensory issues, it is viscerally unpleasant. Perfectly normal behavior just hurts to the point of weeping, in the manner of whacking one’s shin or funny bone. So yeah. no. Fun thing about keeping it in my head is, one can overlook the practicalities like that and work on the basis of aesthetics and fascinations without having to deal with, like, suffering and disgust and a big mess to clean up.

On which note, HRT has also been amazing to me. I swear, nine months in, I have not experienced one adverse effect. Nothing at all. Everything is the way I want it to be, and that I have always felt awful that things weren’t since I was about twelve. It’s a little bizarre how it even affirms my basic attitudes toward sex—which my body did struggle against a bit, when on the wrong hormone path for so many years.

Sex is gross and undesirable and overwhelming and unpleasant, but a feminine penis is so much better-behaved, it’s superb. All the literature they hand out is framed to make this sound like a scary, undesirable side effect to put one off of treatment. But, uh. no? It’s very good. It is such a relief to no longer experience random arousal, and that in the rare event I feel compelled to engage nonetheless, hardly any mess now!

See, the thing about the feminine penis is that it wants to behave like vulva and vagina. It’s all the same hardware basically, right, and the hardware gets its instructions from the hormones it’s sent. so the priority shifts toward lubrication instead of ejaculation. So in all this there is way less of a sense of urgency. It becomes more about the journey than the destination, as it were. (Though yes, multiple destinations are entirely feasible, if one’s brain can handle it.) Which is also in part why it doesn’t demand attention the same way.

Even in the event of arousal, which again is way less frequent, it comes more of a decision point. It’s not a case of, Christ, guess I need to take care of this huh. It’s more like, oh. Well. There’s an option. Do I feel like making time for this right now? 90% of the time if you’re like me, the answer is probably no—because there are other things to do, it’s a hassle, it’s time-consuming, and it’s not very important. For that one time out of ten you do make the time, it’s way less annoying and gross and… depressing, than before.

I feel like I have control over my body for the first time, or rather that I am on a level with it and we are able to communicate clearly and agree on principles and priorities. It’s so wild that everything now works how I want and expect. I guess some people who put a lot of stock in sex might be frustrated, but it’s so cool to me that all my aspects can be friends now rather than constantly argue. I am a greater whole than I used to be, as a result of dynamics like this—of which this is just one dynamic example.

So for like three decades my physiology was one of a million ways I felt like I was fighting myself. This sense of calm that I feel now that all my parts are alight may contribute to my ability to finally step back and take tally of my sexuality and attractions; figure out what I really feel and want for myself.

This shift in function, it plays into a broader shift in my self-image. There are of course a few angles to this: general self-worth, confidence, fear about asserting boundaries, shame about my general weirdness—but my body plays into it big-time.

Historically I have had big old issues about being seen. There was a sense of danger and vulnerability, and also of this disgust and shame I felt for my form. I didn’t want to see or acknowledge myself. I definitely didn’t want to be touched or commented on. I was horrible.

It brought me to tears to be stripped down without my protective layers. Shorn of jackets and waistcoats and sweaters and shirts and trousers and everything else, there was no hiding my horribleness: my long, bony limbs, my weird chest, my birth marks—and of course my terrible skin. It was bad. It took such trust to get me that far—and if trust faded?

It’s funny how late, even into my transition, I processed what all that was. Somehow I’d never connected my body issues with my transness, even after accepting that I was trans. There was just so much rewiring to do, I guess, and it took a while to get to that particular wound—one I had no interest in touching. Appropriately enough.

About six months into my regimen, I decided that I actually really like my body and where it’s going. Suddenly now I am not ashamed to have arms and legs and a torso and a face. (Well, the facial hair is a problem still, but.) It’s all on a knife’s edge every day, and my mood is up and down and all over the place, but I have never felt this before, and like so many things lately it makes me drunk with novelty and glee: Hey wow! I’m not completely disgusting! I can apprehend myself as a person worth seeing and touching. With my hips and my breasts and the changes to my face and posture, I enjoy the way I am now shaped. I can dance naked in the mirror, and think, wow, I love her.

So that would seem to be another hangup in the can—if one were to desire sex, which, still: no. For all the reasons. But, like. Since we’re clearing house here, sanity dictates that I work through the issues that aren’t really about me or my wiring and wants and needs. And my body issues, they aren’t innate. I’m dealing with them. They don’t need to affect the choices that I make.

The goal is to get it down to the necessary hang-ups only; the things about me that I can’t, and don’t want, to change. I want to be making decisions based on truth, not trauma, even if the answers turn out the same. When faced with something as big and confusing and momentous as sex, I want to be able to confidently say, nah, not for me—not to melt into fear and uncertainty.

Wound up of course in all of this drama is the age-old question of what it means to be trans and to have gendered attraction. The paradox being, by lifting my mental block on a gender in order to nullify gender as a factor in attraction, my brain goes into these gendered conniptions.

It can be hard enough to wrap one’s head around the meaning of gay or straight attraction if one is just flipping polarities, right, from one binary gender to the other. There’s the label logic, but none of this is rational. One’s perception is all based on a lifetime of emotional appeals and enforcement. If you’ve got decades of people incorrectly calling you a boy, then attraction to girls doesn’t feel gay even if mathematically is sort of works out that way. And vice-versa, one presumes.

To be non-binary, though, the labels all become sort of a mockery. I guess, Logically to be non-binary and gay would be to feel attraction to other enbies, right, but, like. It’s more complicated, right, in part because these terms and categories are inadequate. Again, people are weird. So of course the sensible thing to say is, fuck the labels. You’re queer; just do you. Feel what you feel. Who cares. And… right! Sure. if we’re going to be sensible, absolutely that. But, what’s sensible about any of this? To assert that, we’re just dismissing our natural emotional response, which is a sucky kind of a solution. Due to the way this fucking society works, there can be (and in my case is) a lot of trauma and headfuckery to untangle and work through to be able to get to the point of just shaking it out and saying, yeah, lol, whatever, love is love—as true and perfect as that ideal may be.

All of which is to say, to accept myself as in some capacity pan means wrangling with the very visible and visceral hangups over this one angle of attraction, that have been so long wrapped up in fear and threat and accusation, and the labels that I’ve absorbed that go with it.

It’s funny in a way. Because I was (ineffectively and erroneously) raised to be male, I can’t help but read attraction to men as gay. What’s funny about this is that, this should in itself be a good thing, right? Let’s all be gay! Hurrah! And in any other context, it transparently would be. But there’s so much wrapped up in this. For me this isn’t fun-gay. This isn’t happy-gay, iconoclast, freedom, anarchic empathetic human acceptance rainbow self-direction gay. My brain wants to process this to at least some extent as weaponized, accusation, terror gay: the thing to be denied at all cost.

The other funny part is that, like. It… kind of really isn’t? Again if we’re just going mathematically—which doesn’t work when we’re talking about people, but here the architecture serves a support purpose so let’s go with it—how can attraction to males be gay if I’ve never been male?

So it is that there’s all this internalized garbage, that elicits a certain protective panic to surface the moment I start to relax and think, you know, it’s fine; this is true; this is just how i’m put together; I can appreciate all people the same way—yes, even dudes, okay; it’s fine! I try to bring down the wall and make things equal, and just admit what’s in front of me, and something in the back of my head begins to sputter and go, oh no, oh shit, oh God, I can’t be thinking this, no one can know about this, I’m going to get in so much trouble, help. So that’s a reflex I’m going to have to keep working on. It’s nothing inherent to me. it’s just an injury. with a really strong immune response.

To go back to the labels, everything is a big old shrug here. Nothing feels straight; every kind of attraction is some kind of queer. I’m in this weird old gender space where, like, I’ve taken myself outside of normal kinds of polarity, even as I continue to recover from the above garbage. so just the act of feeling any kind of attraction at all becomes—like, no attraction will ever be straight again.

In a sense being non-binary makes it easier to just go, yeah, whatever. Gender is a fuck; people are people; find attraction where you will, or don’t. It’s all the same; don’t worry about it. But to embrace this also adds extra pressure when I recognize my hang-ups. I don’t want any of that mess guiding my thoughts and my feelings, since it really has nothing to do with me and just ideologically it’s gross, right. With all this rumination on dudes and dicks, I feel like I’m putting way more emphasis on this one angle of attraction than it probably warrants, to the point where it comes off as a little weird and fixated—but that is, I think, because it bothers me. I’m trying to wrangle this deep terror, in the face of reality. It’s so hard to admit. I feel like I have to keep looking over my shoulder, like I’m going to get in trouble. But this is one of the last pieces in the puzzle of me, I think; one of the last facets to embrace until it can stop hyperventilating and accept that everything will be okay.

It was so much easier to accept my asexuality, followed a little later by my clearly non-binary gender. Accepting my femininity was more of a drawn-out, mildly terrifying struggle, but I think i’m pretty well committed to that concept now. (Like, seriously. This is amazing.) In broad terms, recognizing myself as pan feels like it should be simple—but then, this. It’s so hard to talk about, especially as I have such a strong aversion to sex and romance, right. On top of the more present and visceral issues, I have all this trauma wrapped up that I don’t know when if ever I’ll begin to unwind. Then admitting this in particular? Oof.

Which is of course why I have to do it. God, I have absorbed so much crap—but I need to fucking accept myself for who I am. I don’t want Azure to have to deal with any of this. She is a new person. We’re dealing with our shit, so Azure can just live her fucking life.

So in terms of my innate qualities we’ve done my lack of attraction and interest in anyone ever, which are 100% valid and important to recognize and assert. We’ve also addressed the neurological issues—the physical discomfort to sex and sense of ickiness about the whole business. In terms of things have been done to me, we’ve gone through body issues, shame, confusion over my orientation and what it means. What I think is left is a sense of physical fear.

To be sure, this isn’t entirely unwarranted. It can be dangerous out there, for men as well as women, but especially anyone femme-coded—and especially if they happen to be transgender. And likewise it is not unwarranted to place much of that fear in the lap of men. I do not, for instance, to get get enbies and women honking at me trying to pick me up outside the grocery store, and that’s far from the scariest this could get.

But it is also true that despite a certain share of bad actors, the world is not a field of bogeymen and most people are not in fact monsters. Despite what some first and second-wave feminists may assert, this includes men—because people are just people, right. No one has to be a certain way; largely people behave as they think they’re expected to.

Now that I crunch the obvious, I think that historically this whole patriarchy thing has also helped to unnecessarily gender my attraction. It’s so easy to equate men with toxic masculinity and physical danger, right? In which case, zoop, there goes any interest for me. I’m not going to consciously put myself in a dangerous or violent situation, if I can avoid it—and threat is anything but attractive to me.

But that’s a gross and unfair attitude, and yes it feeds right into patriarchal notions with the presumption that boys just gotta be that way. And to be sure, our culture does create an element of yikes that i don’t want to think about navigating. But since were talking about intrinsic and extrinsic qualities, that’s not the former, right. Dudes don’t gotta be like that any more than I need to be shamed and traumatized over being the person who I am, feeling the things that I do.

I think that engaging with queerness and the variety of ways that everyone can ultimately just kinda be as one—coming to grips with my own gender, having interactions with trans men, and all of this stuff that goes into interrogating the systems that we’re living in—it’s helping to loosen up that deep associative fear, which has helped me come to grips with my reality. If I’m not terrified, it’s a lot easier to let other feelings in.

All things equal, people being equally cool and non-threatening—yeah, in that circumstance it really comes down to the individual. Gender’s not a significant factor. Of course we don’t live in an ideal world, so complications and fuss and worry do abound. A big problem in my marriage was, I did not feel safe. Like, ever. But especially not at my most vulnerable and under the closest scrutiny imaginable. That’s not going to help any sort of attraction or desire. But as that also demonstrates, that fear and danger are not exclusive to a gender. It’s all about the people, as individuals. The fear is individual, just as appreciation can be. Anyone can be a monster, but that’s up to them, and it’s not determined by any objective factor. There’s nothing rational or empirical or necessary about being a cruel person. It’s a choice that people make. That anyone can make, or not.

As I say, 90% of my reason for putting this stuff all out here in public is to help me push through the thoughts in a linear form and lock them into place so I can understand them all better. The other 10% is thinking, maybe there are some other people like me whom it could help—other neurodiverse queers out there, just trying to make their own sense of all this garbage they’ve been handed. Everyone’s different and will have a different experience, but gosh I’d be a lot better off now if I’d had something, anything to work off of when i was younger. So, as I help myself, maybe this is my addition to the global data bank.

Drizzled over all this of course is this glaze of defiance. Just, seriously. fuck all y’all, trying to shame me and force me to be something I’m not just for your comfort. I’m awesome. and I’d never have known that if I hadn’t dumped all that baggage. I deserve to be myself.

In the end it’s hard to see how anything will change. There’s no real visceral end to this introspection. I’m not gonna bang anyone, I’m not likely ever to enter into an intimate relationship. That’s just not what’s happening with me, and it’s such a fucking weight off to understand that part of my wiring. There’s no compulsion, there’s no desire.

What’s important to me is that I make the decisions I do for the right set of reasons. That my actions are guided by what I want and need and I think is best, rather than by fear and trauma and denial. And likewise, I want to be free to appreciate myself and others and the world in general, in the manner that I choose. I’m a grown woman, even if I don’t feel particularly grown, and I have a certain well of compassion and I know I’m not gonna be objectifying others. I’m not gonna be shamed for the things I think and feel. I am who I am, and I am beautiful.

And sometimes, not altogether infrequently, I dream of cocks and all the places they might go. As a healthy living person well might. Such is the folly of our lot.

Just, nobody touch me, please.

Girl as a Verb

  • Reading time:2 mins read

It’s interesting how “feeling like a girl” and “feeling human” are basically the same thing for me. I had no idea how much pain I was in until it started to lift.

Gender is such a weirdness. People take it as a noun, as a thing that is, when nearly all of it is read in terms of doing: how one holds one’s self and moves; one’s vocal timbre and tone and speech patterns. Just posture is this absurd, huge signal. I got into this recently, when I tried on that dress and bracelet and realized how different my face looked in a different context. It’s not about the fact of things; it’s about what they have to say.

To change how I sit or stand, it changes how I breathe, where I hold my tension, and sort of shifts the wiring that tells me who I am, to myself. (And based on how people have reacted to me the last few months, I know it changes the signals to others—mostly but not entirely in good ways.) I feel so much more well, and so much more me, and so much more feminine, when I tend to my posture.

We are all verbs, right. We’re never static. We exist in the doing. Who we are is a matter of procedure: our thoughts, our actions, our feelings, in response to our environment. Change the way you do things, you change the person you are, in your own perception and in others’.

Who we are is a matter of software, not hardware. (And what we are is a matter of opinion, which is its own process.) Act as the person you want to be, and that’s who you will be. The more that you do it, the more that you’ll feel it—and the more that will reinforce what you know to be true.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

  • Reading time:4 mins read

You know, along with this second (much more aggressive) puberty, i feel like a teenager. like, I never really went through any of this the first time—these thoughts, feelings, realizations. I just sort of got older, and drifted through this traumatic haze for 30 years.

I didn’t experience this becoming—this shedding of projected trappings, and euphoria of new agency and potential—that seems to be written in our culture. I literally was never that hormonal. I didn’t develop a matured sense of myself as a person. I kept waiting for instruction.

I think I’ve mentioned how it just feels like 20 years are missing for me—which I guess isn’t uncommon with trauma. But, I imagine that also plays into this a bit, probably. I have been in this holding pattern for 30 years, waiting for just my teenage years to hit.

This may speak a bit toward why I feel such difficulty accepting the notion of myself as a woman, but am a little giddy at being a girl. Heck, I never have really thought of myself as an adult, regardless of the gender I’m wearing. Adulthood is a thing you grow into, and I never got that chance.

I’ve been on pause for so fucking long, and my life is just getting started now. I feel so amazing, being me. It’s so confusing and embarrassing, but I just need to run with it and figure it out. And, fuck it; this is my life. Why am I treading water, trying to be good and not bother anyone, and afraid of the smallest frown of disapproval from some misery?

A few weeks ago I cried with what must have been happiness, because nothing else made sense, which made me realize that’s an emotion I had never in my life felt. Since then, on and off, I keep feeling it. My eyes sting with it now.

Holy shit, I am a real person. I am alive. A pandemic is the most awkward goddamned time to come into all of this, and fuck this poverty, but oh my God, I don’t have words for the relief. The weight that has defined my understanding of being, it has been melting away like so much salt in the rain.

I just want to exist. For the first time, I want to be alive, and to feel all of the things I’m feeling. I don’t know what i’m fucking doing. I have so much going on inside me that makes my face glow red, and I can’t figure out how to frame or describe, that I have come to know bothers everyone when I try to talk it out. But, just. Whatever, lol. Teenagers are meant to be fucking dummies, right.

I am going to keep clomping around in my wooden clogs and there will be toes caught in the process. I don’t need to be proud of that to be able to say, look, if you love me like I love you, you need some patience. I am going to be a little nuts for a while. It’s long overdue.

Tou gotta know my aim isn’t to make things awkward or do anything malicious. But, like. Fuck. I need to figure out what it means to be alive. This is all new to me. And it’s gonna be annoying and embarrassing, And you’re understandably gonna want to look away. But where’s the fun in that?

I am going to just go with it. and I am going to regret nothing. I am going to be a complete fucking mess. and you are going to love me anyway. Because you get it. It’s finally my turn. I get to do this now.

For once, I’m not gonna do the suffering. I’m gonna be suffered. Azure is gonna paint the sky blue, and you’re going to grin and pretend it wasn’t always like that. Because this is going to feed something magnificent. I don’t know what. Beyond, you know, me. But maybe that’s enough, right.

So, yeah. I am going full cringe. And this is going to get so very stupid.

Pan Between the Ears; Ace Between the Sheets

  • Reading time:3 mins read

The thing is, I am non-binary but i am also a girl. I am aroace but I am also pan. The second, deeper part of each is the scary one to embrace and contemplate and perform, even for my own benefit and familiarity—but to do so is necessary to be a whole, unashamed, self-loving person. For me it’s this big fucking leap in each case, and I just have to trust in my knowledge of what I know to be true about myself—and in the patience and kindness of the people I choose to assemble.

I don’t know if there’s existing terminology or theory around this, but my efforts to square the circle of my sexuality lend me to think in terms of internal and external attraction. I want to make loose parallel to gender identity versus expression, as point of reference.

It is simultaneously true, I am finding, that I am aggressively and proudly aroace, and that my well-being is tied up in embracing this—and that I am also obviously, confusingly pan. I can and have whittled this down to all these granular modes of attraction, and fine, yes, but. Really what it seems to come down to is outer and inner identity. In theory I can be attracted to anyone, gender being no particular issue, and in creative terms have been kind of melting over this realization. but in reality…I don’t. I won’t. I can’t. It’s not how I’m wired. And I don’t want it.

This is, I sense, a thing many aces struggle with. There’s the real and practical side, then there’s this breezy theoretical side that finds its outlet in art and literature, that is genuine and valid and important—but there’s this boundary. It’s appreciation, with no desire to act. That appreciation is equally valid and important and true, and both that and the internal side are parts of who I am.

I feel like I am invisibly growing queerer and queerer inside my head, burning up with all this baffling new insight and appreciation and potential and dying to explore it creatively or whatever. But in practice, expression? Just. no? I will never be attracted to a real person. Never mind the active aversion, sensory issues, trauma, and all of that. Don’t feel it, don’t notice it, don’t want it, kinda freaked out about it, find it super unpleasant.

As for the nuances of the internal side… whee, uh. There have been a lot of realizations there. but they feel so weird to talk about, and it seems to create the wrong impression when I try to put it all into words, so I’m gonna have to stew on that a while longer, I guess.

Planting the Forest

  • Reading time:11 mins read

So there’s this online clothes service… thing, where you give them your measurements and vague preferences and on request or stated interval they send you a mystery box of curated stuff with a free return envelope for whatever you don’t want/can’t afford. I got a $35 credit, so I figured what the hell. Worst case scenario, they send a bunch of stuff I don’t like; I send it back, and don’t pay anything. Best case, I get one or two things I do like, that are covered by the $35 credit, and I send back the rest—and still pay nothing. If I get just one piece of free affirming clothing that I like, it’s worth a trip to the fucking mailbox.

Right?

Turns out, I was both overly and inadequately optimistic.

Like most places that carry women’s clothing, this service, their sizing is all weird and byzantine and bespoke, but I did my best with the fairly rigorous measurements I have assembled—which to my surprise mostly worked out. Sometimes astonishingly well.

I woke after a few days to a phone alert that the box had been delivered. And—well! As it happens there’s no fucking way I could afford any of this, but the experience did make my head swim with new ideas and help me to confirm a few things about this new person whom I am.

Like, say, jewelry. I mused earlier about piercings, and have rattled on internally about necklaces and rings and bracelets—and this package has only solidified those thoughts.

As would become a trend, the piece they sent was… not quite right, and I doubt I’d have kept it even if the price had been other than ludicrous, ($74?! Haha! I’m no expert, but I’ve passed mall kiosks before.) But more importantly, it felt good to wear. I liked the weight and the movement. It just feels good to have something like this (if not this in particular) on my wrist.

There is, as it turns out, a real stim value to jewelry, which—the concept feels like a revelation to me. I want to associate jewelry with, like, Christmas trees, right? I’ve always thought of it as pointless baubles and decoration. But there’s this visceral quality that matters, on a nerdy psychological level. It’s so soothing to have this jangly thing on me that I can fuss with as needed. The sensation makes me feel more grounded, more present and real.

Getting more into the meat of the wardrobe, bottoms have long been an issue for me. It’s hard to find men’s trousers that are both long enough to fit the limited range of acceptable cuff lengths and thin enough to fit me without tying a fucking rope around my waist. Also my hips and thighs and waist and butt are changing, if ever so slowly, and it would be nice to get something that I can wear outside when it’s no longer skirt weather. But, well. Here we start to run into some well-documented systemic issues.

These things are still cut a little low for me personally—I want coverage up to my navel, so my hips are taken care of—but otherwise the fit is… absurdly close yet exactly right. It’s funny; my leg length is completely normal in women’s pants, yet causes all these issues in men’s sizes. And with the stretchy material, these sort of mold to my thighs and calves even. I don’t know if I need all my clothes to be as tight as all that, but now I do know my measurements, and that I should be able to find something in my size with little trouble. Finally.

Thing is, I’m used to paying, what, $20 for a new pair of jeans? More often $5-10 from a thrift store. So what do they want for these? $78.

hahahahahahaha get real.

It’s then that we get into the particulars. I start to make concessions and excuses, and think, well, these pants are kind of nice, and maybe the waist isn’t quite what I want, and I didn’t expect them to be this tight but there’s a place for that, and maybe if they cost $55 less I’d keep them. As I strut around, though, I notice all the little things, most prominently that famous bugbear:

There are no pockets.

I don’t mean the pockets are stitched closed (why does this happen?), or are shallow but could maybe be extended with a little seam work. I mean, there are stitches that indicate the appearance of pockets but there is nothing actually there. It’s entirely cosmetic. A false front.

For seventy-eight dollars, fancy dress pants that are entirely useless.

Whee! Yeah, okay. This is the world we’re living in now. Okay. This shouldn’t have been a surprise, but as with so many things sometimes you just need to live it for it to click entirely.

So frustration aside, we now stroll into the realm of confusion.

I don’t know what this top is supposed to be, but, uh. No. I guess I like the whole paisley print thing, but I don’t understand the cut and the fabric is strange, and… it doesn’t suit me in general. On the upside it’s the cheapest thing in the box, at $38—almost affordable! On the downside, it’s not my thing at all. I mean, paisley is good in principle. Otherwise? Yeesh.

Two interjections before we move onto more viable territory:

  • Excuse my bedhead in all of this. As I say, I literally just pulled myself out of bed to find the package delivered.
  • I swear, my mirror cannot be un-gross. I clean it, and ten seconds later it’s magically just a wall of handprints—even if I haven’t touched it (so far as I know). Must be the ghosts.

The next thing is nearer to a thing I might conceivably wear. Thing.

I’m told this shawl-smock whatever is meant to be a kimono. I don’t really see how that makes sense. But whatever it is, it’s rad and I want to see more like it. But, probably not for $44. Because again: i am poor. Chop off, like $15, and maybe we’ll start to think about it. Even then it’s pricey.

If this is meant to go with that paisley top, I’m… like, that seems like a dangerous intersection of patterns. Confuse your enemies. Dazzle your friends. With a flat color it should be fine.

And finally, the centerpiece:

I’ve never actually worn a full dress before, and this one confuses me to put on. I keep burrowing into the wrong holes. But, haha, the cut is novel and it seems to fit just right.

I mean, the dress isn’t super duper interesting in its own right, but gee does it open my head up to new ideas. It seems to fit just right. And I don’t think I’ve worn anything more flattering in my life. It is… a little scary how accurate it is in terms of what it feels it should emphasize, and not.

As with everything, the problem here is the price. I guess maybe $68 could be reasonable for someone, but not for me. That’s just money I don’t have, and if I did it would be going to keep me off the street and to keep the power on. If I could afford it, though? I guess I would be exploring more dresses like this. Because, jeez Louise.

So although I don’t get to keep any of this, the adventure has been constructive. I know I have my sizing correct. And I know that a V-neck is good, for the way I’m shaped now. I guess I work well with a low cut, even. If I go for a dress, a wrap style might not be a bad plan apparently. And now that I know how good I look, it’s hard to keep my mind off of it.

Just as a garment, this is so comfortable and natural to me. I mean, yes, the fabric is soft and warm and stretchy and nice. But also, I just feel confident in a way I’m not used to. It’s like, wearing a dress like this, everything clicks. I make sense to myself.

So! Guess this is fully my thing now! Every day, becoming a little more human, huh.

I think if I had a dress like this, I’d want some kind of a necklace to break up that space. I guess we’re entering the jewelry zone, huh. (It’s mostly gonna be silver. Or, you know, white metallic.)

All in all this was a reasonable, if not quite right, menagerie. That top is kind of weird. The rest of it, some good beginnings of ideas at least. I like the feel and cut of this dress. Turns out, I like a jangly bracelet. Everything beyond the ideas, it needs to go right back before I do it any damage or wear. (This is making me a little paranoid. Better hope the return mail works properly.)

Altogether that’s $302 they wanted for those five items—which… you know, I’d hope to have paid like maybe $75 for, by whatever impoverished fantasy bubble my mental calculator currently lives in.

Someone out there surely will mock me for this, but I don’t get paying that much for clothes. If we weren’t in a pandemic, thrift shops are of course a thing that exists. Often you can get a decent top for a couple bucks. Maybe five, for a pair of jeans?

So yeah, this service ain’t gonna work out. But hey, fun dress-up session. Again also, it’s also good to know that my measurements seem to be right on—and that it is possible to find clothes that fit me! This is such a novelty! And an important point. I have never in my life found masculine clothes for my frame. And, that’s because, not only am I not a dude; I’ve never been shaped like one. And now I’m really not.

All of which speaks to—hrm.

A thing I’ve been learning just recently is—presentation-wise, my tendency has been to play it slow and safe, right? Dress down in public, even as my tits become harder to hide and my face changes and my hips grow. I’ve been reluctant to go too overtly femme, as I didn’t imagine I could pull it off and I felt kind of vulnerable to think about it.

But, turns out. It suits me. Like, this is actually me.

It’s not only fine; it’s not just that it works okay and I shouldn’t worry about it. It actively works really really well. way better than the half-steps I’ve been settling with and way better than anything I’ve worn in my life. And I feel amazing. Like, I found something here. Maybe if I could dig up something similar, but cheaper—and with a bit of lace? A dress, and maybe some cheap, stimmy white-metal jewelry. I hadn’t at all considered the stim factor, and now I want to keep going with it. (Again, god, I wish thrift stores were a thing one could reasonably visit in the year 2020.)

I just had this flash. Imagine waking up in the morning and actually being excited to get dressed—like, it being a fun thing that served to enrich one’s day, rather than a thing one had to do. I bet that’s what it’s like for some people, assembling themselves each day.

It also is becoming clear to me just how much clothing affects one’s presentation. I mean—duh, right? But normally I don’t much notice clothing. It’s just a thing that rests atop the essence of a person, and my attention brushes right past it like the furniture of an entryway. It’s decorative, not structural.

The thing is, no detail exists in a bubble and clothing isn’t just about the clothing; it affects how everything else is read. Weirdly I think even my face looks different when attached to well-fitted, clearly feminine-coded dress. The brain, it picks up all these different peripheral contextual clues, which add up to change the overall perception, the meaning of any component detail. Change the bulk of the signals, and that changes how one reads what’s left.

Even a face, it’s relative, not absolute in what it serves to communicate. My face is more masculinized than feels comfortable to me—the jaw, the brow, the chin—but much of the significance to those elements seems to dissolve next to a form-fitting, low-cut dress and other distractions.

Masculinity, femininity; they’re arbitrary and exist on a scale. Different people have different faces, and even with testosterone damage mine is fairly androgynous really. So take a broadly androgynous face and surround it with all these other signifiers, and one’s perception shifts to fit one’s expectation. It’s kind of like color theory. The features look different as dimensions in a broader context than they might seem on their own. Lots of women have an angular face, and if everything else is coded feminine nothing seems all that strange about it.

Figuring out a lot here that I hadn’t really thought about. I’m going to be chewing on all this for a long time.

Elasticity

  • Reading time:7 mins read

So much of the pain and upset and conflict that we experience comes from trying to put things in boxes and realizing that they don’t fit. What’s wrong with the data, we demand, as we jam it in, try to force it into the system we have, instead of asking, what’s wrong with my system?

If the reality doesn’t fit my way of organizing things, maybe that’s not a problem with reality. Maybe I need to change the way i’m dealing with what’s in front of me.

The most horrible people all seem to get that reality as we understand it is what one asserts it to be—it’s all a matter of framing—and they are so afraid of anyone else realizing they have exactly the same power.

I probably would have realized and accepted that I was trans much earlier if it weren’t for a couple factors:

  • a lack of bodily autonomy
  • a lack of understanding of gender theory

Without these, my head wasn’t in the right place—so even if the thought flitted in, as things do when they’re obvious, it didn’t stay. It’s not like I hadn’t repeatedly entertained the idea for decades, on a “ha ha, wouldn’t that be something, huh ha ha, oh well” level. but it took tangibly understanding that I could, was allowed to go there, and what it would mean for me to do so, to finally connect those dots.

Basically my whole life I rode with this idea that my body wasn’t my own; that I had no right to mess with what was in effect other people’s property. If made any of my own decisions, down to getting a new style of haircut, I would get in trouble with whoever was in charge at that moment.

That lack of autonomy, it tangled me up with a few thoughts. One, I wasn’t allowed to make any potentially permanent changes, because what if! What if someone else wanted [x] from me down the line? No matter if I didn’t want it myself; I would regret it! They would make me regret it! It would ruin everything!

In hindsight my queerness was so fucking obvious, but my life was this long series of interventions from the age of six, with the people who dictated the rules of reality doing all they could to prevent me from recognizing and accepting it, lest it in turn become real.

As late as the back end of my marriage, my ex-spouse kept up this running commentary about trans and queer people—not that they were bigoted, heavens no: what kind of mental illness led them to destroying their bodies, how they lost their right to make that sort of a decision once they entered a relationship. This, on top of just going overboard in control over every aspect of my presentation and behavior from the way I stood and walked to the expression on my face, to the point where I couldn’t go out for milk without them forcing me to change three times to make sure I didn’t reflect badly on them in the event someone saw me.

They didn’t spell out their accusation long-form, but they knew! They knew, like everyone always knew, as they lectured me out of the corner of their eye. The whole goal was to keep me from developing my own ideas; to try to force their own version of reality by sheer force of will.

I think ironically it was the intensity of their control and general violence toward me that made the void all the starker when I cut them out of my life. They achieved such a total successful wipe of anything I had been before I met them that without them to maintain the facade I was… open, raw, in a way I might not have been otherwise. The whiplash forced me to recognize that for me to survive I needed to find my own control, figure out what was really going on with me.

To understand that the decision was no one’s but my own, that it didn’t meaningfully affect anyone but me—

To know I had nothing else to lose, and that I didn’t have to play by anyone else’s standards to do it—

To realize that if I asserted it, if I wanted it to be true, that’s all it took to make it it true—

Finally, it clicked.

Of course on top of the basic autonomy, I needed to fucking understand what gender was. which isn’t really intuitive based on what we’re handed from the culture around us—or it wasn’t to me. There’s an element of agency to this as well, in terms of people trying to control one’s behavior and make sure they fit this or that mold, but it’s also about theory. First principles, that let you build bigger ideas.

To fully grasp the difference between sex and gender, and the range of ambiguity to both of them, was this lightning bolt. To not have to fit this model of, “Well, if I’m not what they tell me then I have to be the other caricature here, and I don’t think I’m really that either…”

See, right now I’m all on this kick of embracing my femininity, which rocks and is great and I just want to run with this forever, and I’m medically transitioning, which is making me feel like a human for the first time—but I’m doing this within my rejection of an opaque gender binary.

This is what I need, and i’m pursuing on my own terms. I’m not doing it in order to fit someone else’s ideas about what it would indicate if I rejected the gender that was forced upon me, with all the sneering and insecurity and stereotypes involved in that. This is just about me.

To get to that understanding, one has to shed so much. There are all these dumb concerns one has to wade through, based on gross internalized ideas like, “If I were a girl, I would be an ugly girl, so ha ha, what would be the point?” But, well:

  • Who’s to say you have to be a girl?
  • Who’s to say what ugly is?
  • Seriously, listen to yourself. Would you talk that way about anyone else?

Between that garbage misogyny and the whole what-if-i-regret-it, i’m-not-allowed angle, all constructive thought shuts down in this rationalized collapse of hope that one doesn’t really dare to pick through and inspect closely. Of course, there is also a flip side:

  • What if you regret not looking into it?
  • You’re allowed to do whatever you want with yourself; no one owns you.
  • No one owns gender, either. You’re allowed to read it however you want to.
  • If you love yourself, then you’re beautiful.
  • No one has the right to gatekeep your basic fucking existence.
  • Seriously, it’s okay.

That gatekeeping is is a big hurdle to get past. Everyone wants to preserve this order they’ve been handed, that they’ve spent their whole lives trying to game in order to win—in this unfair culture that says winning is a meaningful goal. It’s a hurdle that everything around us wants to prevent us from understanding, from our capitalist social structure down to individual interpersonal grief.

You owe yourself more. You don’t have to be what other people want you to be. And your only options aren’t the ones they hand you, which are stacked to feel hopeless.

You can just… figure it out. Figure you out, on your own terms, and call it what you want to call it. There are no real gates to keep. They’re imaginary. They’re just a box. A box that was never made to purpose, and is only distinguished by a label scrawled in sharpie on a peeling piece of masking tape.

Once I understood that I actually could just do it, and decide who I was—that truth of self was just a matter of assertion, and that i could make my own rules in the process—it all just exploded. The barriers dissolved, my brain did the same thing my body is now doing on HRT. It’s like letting go of that rubber band. It knows where it wants to go, and it’s not going to delay any further.

Appendage

  • Reading time:6 mins read

Seriously, how did I go over 41 years without breasts? How is that a thing that happened, where it never occurred to me, hey, something’s missing here? I know these things are sexualized in this culture—and I squeam at sex stuff, including words and basic ideation, when it involves me—but, like, that’s not the point of them, either biologically or in regard to why I’ve been going so mental about this lately.

It’s just, imagine suddenly having hands after never thinking about them much before. Boobs aren’t quite as versatile, but there’s this element of, oh, holy shit, that’s it; we’ve got it now. How did I not understand that a piece of me was missing? (Two pieces, I guess?) Now it’s just so obvious.

Have you ever met someone and immediately you sort of forget you didn’t grow up with them? You feel they’ve always been there, and it’s weird to think there was technically a before-time? It’s that, but with an actual physical piece of yourself. This is rewiring so much, so quickly. There’s so much “oh.”

I am literally becoming a more complete person here, and it is so fucking wild, I can’t stop obsessing.

To that end…

I swear to god, don’t expand this post.