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.