No Creative Title: A Lengthy Gender Post

About a week ago, Boyfriend wrote a really thoughtful and thought-provoking blog post for the International Day of Transgender Visibility. I hadn’t known previous to reading that post that there was a particular day assigned to such a thing. I had really wanted to jump on it and write more about my own gender expression and journey but, at the time, I was slogging through midterms and school trumps the blog. But, I’ve been thinking pretty deeply about my gender and how I have gotten to where I am and I’ve been writing a lot about it. I started what I thought would end up being a blog post last night and stopped writing when I hit six pages. I’m not sure there is anyone, including me, who wants read six pages of how and why Alex is the way he is. However, like Boyfriend said, me being trans* is both the most important and most unimportant thing you know about me.

In short, I think my experience of gender can be summed up as ‘I should have known’. I mean, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but it is so glaringly obvious to me that I was never born to be female. I mean, I was born with all the genitalia and reproductive organs that caused me to be labeled female. I have all the secondary sex characteristics that one would use to label me female, but it just ain’t there and never had been.

Lots of stuff has contributed to what my gender is today and some of it seems to be common among some transmasculine people. I was a pretty masculine child and was only shoved in the feminine box when my mother caught a lot of crap for allowing me to be what I wanted. I knew from a very young age that there some things that were very different about me, but I didn’t have a name for some of them. I hid my body a lot as I got older. I had a lot of problems with sex and, despite having a very active fantasy life and a lot of kink experience, I was a very late bloomer in terms of actually having sex. These are not things that all transmasculine people go through, but I know that, when I’ve read how-I-knew-I-was-trans* stories, those are some common themes and they are true for me.

For me, my gender informs my sexuality and my sexuality informs my gender and, in some circles in the larger trans* community, that’s not a very popular opinion or experience to have. One of the reasons [among many] that it took me so long to realize that my gender was not female was that I couldn’t resolve the feelings of difference I was experiencing with the attraction I had/have to men. In fact, my attraction to men was my dirty little secret for a very long time. I hid it from partners and never, ever talked about it because I thought it made me straight. I knew very few FTMs and transmasculine people who had relationships with men and all of them passed [were recognized socially as male] and had gone through a medical transition [testosterone therapy and chest reconstruction], which was something I could and can definitively say is not for me. I thought if I was attracted to men, that meant that I had to either be a woman or a man and, since I couldn’t ever see myself medically transitioning, that meant that I had to be a woman if I wanted sex and relationships with men. I didn’t know this explicitly but, looking back on it, it was clear that this was my thought process.

I kept it together through my teens and very early twenties, though. The cracks in the foundation came when I got active in the kink community. I entered into a power dynamic with someone very similar to myself [assigned female at birth and, although I didn’t recognize it during the course of the relationship, struggling internally with gender issues] and they called me Daddy. This was the first time that anyone had ever assigned me any sort of masculinity and it had more of an effect on me than I realized at the time. I had more trouble with my body then than I do now. I remember a conversation we had where I said that I wished I didn’t have any genitals, as it would make my life that much easier, and that I had no idea what it meant to be a woman and that I wished someone would just tell me. Sex was extremely difficult for me and I spent many years after that not allowing anyone to touch my genitals.

That relationship ended and I had a few more powered relationships where masculine titles and roles were given to or taken up by me. Yet, I never made the connection. Not once. After all, I had a lot of examples of female-identified people who used the same titles and roles I was using and they didn’t seem to think it was overly masculine. At the same time, though I had this secret of being attracted to men, I convinced myself I was a dyke. At the time, it was the only way I had to describe the difference I felt. The only language I had to describe it was that I must have been gay. For some reason, gender variance didn’t exist in my personal perception of myself and I figured that, if I just ignored that pesky desire to have sex and relationships with men, I would be fine.

The interesting twist to this is that I have dated one woman in my life and that was after years of dating men who had been assigned female at birth. I will admit that I was not so enlightened for awhile and that I didn’t consider those guys ‘real’ men. I equated being male with having external genitalia and, while it didn’t take long for me to undo that assumption, it did allow me to further distance myself from the core of the problem. Instead of examining what my actions were versus my beliefs, I clung to the label of dyke like it was the only thing that was keeping me afloat. In reality, it was only dragging me down further but I absolutely could not resolve my desire for men with the feeling that I was intrinsically different than the people I was socializing with at the time [mostly female-identified folks].

After awhile, though, I decided I was done with the dyke label. I’m not sure what spurred it, but it certainly wasn’t the idea that I wasn’t a woman. I packed up my gender and sexuality issues and shoved them deep under the proverbial bed and they didn’t see the light of day for several years. During that time, I got deeply involved with the gay men’s leather community and I fully believe that, in a lot of ways, this was preparation for my relationship with Mr. Mister. I believe that the Universe steered me in that direction both to train me for the relationship dynamic between He and I and to force me to deal with my gender issues. While I certainly got trained in some ways, I flatly refused to deal with my gender issues. I finally had found a place where I felt at home and where I felt I had an actual place. I worked hard to belong and I earned my position within that community and I had the respect of a lot of men. My gender was never in question because I knew how to behave in men’s sexual space. In some ways, my gender was invisible, which did both good and bad things for me.

However, like all good things, it came to an end. One of my deepest regrets and biggest sources of pain that the destruction of my life has left behind is that I had to walk away from my leather family. I left the men who had cared for me, taught me, loved me, supported me, and accepted me exactly as I was and I have never gone back. In one case, I lost a relationship with a man who called me his brother and nothing will ever replace that. In fact, I’m not in contact with most of them and the ones I am in contact with are distant and busy with their own lives. We don’t really have much in common any more and our lives have gone in vastly different directions. In some ways, I think most of them would take me less seriously if they knew about my gender identity because I think I was genderless [and therefore safe] in their eyes. I don’t think that’s a bad or wrong thing, but it is what it is. In some ways, that loss was a huge lesson in how I connect with people and I often feel that I will never again have that sort of connection with people I am not in an intimate relationship with, partially because I have grown fairly cynical and partially because I fear it being taken away from me again.

However, that experience taught me a lot about masculinity and the relationship dynamic I have with Mr. Mister, but I didn’t apply the knowledge for a very long time. Instead, I made a very large mistake. It was a valuable and necessary mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. I got into a relationship that was Complicated. It was a divinely orchestrated relationship and had a lot of spooky elements to it and was also incredibly abusive. However, the pertinent part of the relationship that ties into my gender is that I chose to live as a woman. Even when I previously had lived under the assumption that I was female-identified, I had been fairly androgynous. In this case, though, I went full femme. I did it for a reason that I wasn’t able to articulate until recently. On the surface, it was because it was what my then-boyfriend desired. He was straight-identified and wanted a relationship with a woman. I thought I could do that. The deeper reason, though, was that I was searching for legitimacy in my sexuality. Up until then, I had never had a relationship with a cis-gendered man. Sure, I had sex with a bunch, but there had never been any emotional involvement and I was convinced I was missing something and that I couldn’t be a ‘real’ whatever-I-was without being in a relationship with a cis-gendered man.

So I did it. I threw out all my male clothes and went full-on girl. I wore make-up and did my hair and got regular mani/pedis and the whole nine yards. As I would later learn, none of these activities are inherently feminine but, at the time, they were for me and they kept my boyfriend happy. I thought I had found the answer. I thought that everything that had come before—the uncertainty about my gender and the feelings of difference—had been solved. I had never really been feminine before and that was clearly where I had gone wrong—I had never given myself a chance. In some ways, there is truth in that. I had never embraced femininity before and had never really tried to be a stereotypical woman, but that’s also not a requirement to decide that you are not a woman—you don’t have to try it out to see if it fits. But I was convinced that I could be happy as a woman. I mean, I had a relationship with a cis-gendered man. I had achieved what I thought was unachievable and I fully planned on living my life out in that manner. We talked about kids and marriage and a mortgage and I thought that was it.

The truth of the situation was that I did not think I was worth being any happier than I was. I thought being in a relationship with a cis-gendered man was more important than being happy. I gained a lot from it—I was able to discuss my relationship freely with other people without having to explain my sexuality, I was able to pass as straight, my relationship with my family got easier [my mother, though she ended up really disliking him, was over the moon that I was dating someone she could recognize as male], and I got a lot of social benefit from dating him—but I also lost. I gave up significant parts of my sexuality [though he said he was kinky, he was not kinky in the same ways I am] and my desired relationship style/orientation [polyamory was a great thing until he had to be ethical about it] and I took a whole lot of shit from him in the process.

It came to a head when Mr. Mister came into the picture. I had been having very significant experiences for probably two to three years before I got myself in some trouble. I’ve written about it before, but I essentially woke up one day and found myself backed into a corner by a Deity. He took what was desperation, entitlement, and desire and used it against me for His own gain. I have a problem with being satisfied with what I have—I always want to have more or to go deeper. Well, He decided He would take me deeper. I began have very disturbing sexual encounters with this Deity that were extremely violent and likely bordered on rape. He didn’t care about my hidden gender issues—I was always a girl [not a woman, but a girl] in those encounters and I believe that if I had given in to Him, I would still be a girl. Make no mistake—I did it to myself [Boyfriend was actually the first person to tell me that when no one else would] by putting my desperation out into the universe. I wanted to feel special and He decided that fell within purview.

I knew I was in trouble at that point and I sought out help. It was clear that I needed protection of some sort if I did not want to end up belonging to this Deity for the rest of eternity and it was looking pretty goddamn dire. After hours of divination and oracle work, two of the spirit-workers I trust most came up with a name and the name was the common name of Mr. Mister. As soon as he said it, the spirit-worker said ‘..but it’s bigger than that’ and Mr. Mister arrived on the scene.

Now, my gender didn’t immediately explode nor did my life. For awhile, He simply orbited me. I had made no oaths and He only offered me His protection, which I took, and the problems with the other Deity dried up overnight. He couldn’t really do too much because of the relationship I was in and the contract that was held over that. What He could do was plant seeds and provide opportunities for me to make choices..and He did.

The volcano of my gender overflowed at Dark Moon Rising, which is a camping event for pagans into BDSM/kink. I had just finished setting up my tent and I was having a conversation with the same two spirit-workers that had done the extensive divination and oracle work for me. I forget what we were discussing, but it came out that He didn’t want me as a girl, He wanted me as a boy,

I must have stared at them for a good thirty seconds. I felt like I had been plunged into hell. First of all, I was in shock—I had built my life around being female—but I wasn’t against the idea. I knew how to be a girl, but I also knew how to be a boy and I figured that I could do the exact same thing that I had done when I had decided to be a girl—I threw myself in feet first. I was, however, woefully unprepared in the moment. I had packed only feminine clothes. I’m not sure I even had a pair of pants. The two spirit-workers who would become my teachers that weekend were apologetic. They had been specifically instructed not to tell me until I got there. Mr. Mister wanted to see what I would do. I like to think I didn’t totally disappoint. I missed part of the point [and I would learn the lesson later], but I got to work. I borrowed a pair of jeans from one of my teachers and I slapped on a name tag that said my pronouns he and him and away we went. Incidentally, that was the weekend I made my oath to Him and I have always wondered if that would have happened if I had balked at the pronouncement of His desire.

When I went home, I had a bit of a puzzle to figure out. Mr. Mister wanted me to be a boy, but my boyfriend wanted me to be a girl. I didn’t know what to do, so I straddled the line for awhile. Eventually, as my relationship began to disintegrate, I stopped straddling and embraced what I thought being a boy meant. I stopped dressing in ways that I thought were feminine. I stopped wearing make-up. I desperately wanted to shave my head again, but my boyfriend told me unequivocally that he would leave me if I did that again [I had shaved my head the weekend we met and he hated it], so I held off. We finally broke up right after Beltane and, amusingly enough, the first thing I did was shave my head. I haven’t had hair since and it will have been three years in May [I actually had to go look it up—I thought it had been longer].

I lived with my now-ex for a couple more months while I looked for an apartment and, despite all his flaws and all the ways that he hurt me, he isn’t stupid—he knew something was up with me gender-wise. He did something that was probably the nicer than anything that he had ever done for me during the course of our relationship. I was preparing to go to a pagan event and I had been told that, for a ritual that was to happen, I was to wear a white three-piece suit. I had been running around getting the suit, getting it tailored, getting a shirt custom-made [Mr. Mister has expensive tastes], finding the right shoes, and generally working myself into a tizzy. He wanted a white silk tie and I just could not find one that He liked. Behind my back, my ex went to a formal wear shop and ended up ordering me a white silk tie and pocket square to go with my suit. He gave it to me one night and said something that I cannot recall, but it has stuck with me since then. It was the only nod he has ever given to me acknowledging that I am not what he thought I was and it was,and still is, incredibly meaningful to me. I didn’t see it for a long time because I was busy being absolutely filled with rage at him, but it is one of the few things that keeps me from writing him off as a total asshole.

Once I moved out of that apartment, things got busy for me gender-wise. Mr. Mister decided that He had seen enough of what I thought being a boy meant and He started laying down directives that left me very uncomfortable. For awhile, I had to paint my nails. He was lenient and allowed it be a neutral color, but I was still horrified. I was even more disturbed when I wasn’t allowed to leave the house without some sort of make-up on. I was so paranoid for those six months or so because I was convinced someone was going to see and point me out as a faker and decide that I wasn’t a ‘real’ boy. Of course, it had everything to do with me and nothing to do with outward perceptions. In fact, I don’t think anyone ever noticed and, if they did, they never said anything.

The lessons were ones that I had missed from the very beginning—that trappings do not a boy make and that I could not have masculinity without femininity. I had to get over the idea that there were things that were male and things that were female. If I couldn’t do that, then I could not do the Work that He had planned for me. Unlike some of His lessons, I learned those quick and I think I’ve done a pretty damn good job of internalizing that and living it. It made the rules He set down about my gender expression [more on that in a minute] much easier to swallow and it allowed me the freedom to actually BE me instead of being what I thought He wanted or what I thought being a boy meant.

Prior to this, I had only had one rule about my body and that was that I was no longer allowed to put female hormones into it. During my relationship with my ex, I had been on hormonal birth control off and on but that was to be no more. No more hormonal birth control and no medical treatments that require me to take female hormones. However, after this lesson, I got a whole lot more in the way of rules. I am not allowed to permanently remove any of my body hair. I may not enter into any relationship, casual or serious, where my gender is not recognized and embraced for what it is. When asked a direct question about it, I may not lie about my gender [I can answer a question with a question, but I can’t say I’m a woman or that I’m female] unless an honest answer would put my life in danger. I am not allowed to pack [wear a prosthetic penis] unless I plan on using it to fuck in the near future. Save for packing [it makes me feel weird], these rules are not ones that I find particularly easy to live by. I don’t enjoy some of my body hair, not being able to pass as a woman in relationships cuts down who I can have sex with or date, and I really fucking wish I could say that I’m a woman sometimes because it would make my life less unwieldy.

However, the rule that I thought I would have the most trouble with, and the one that other people have the most trouble with, is that I may not alter my body in anyway that would allow people to socially recognize me as male. That means I may not take testosterone on a regular or permanent basis [I am allowed to try it out if I want], I may not have chest reconstruction [though a radical breast reduction is on the table and will be a reality at some point], and anything that alters my genitals is right out. I didn’t even blink at this because I have never wanted to medically transition [so far]. I don’t want all the effects testosterone impart, chest reconstruction would leave me with terrible scars [the surgery is much more forgiving on people who are not as amply endowed as I am], and I just do not have a desire to change my body. Any dysphoria I have is directly related to my weight, not my sex. Other people, though, think this is a huge deal and awfully bizarre. I’ve been told I’m not really trans* because I don’t want to alter my body, I’ve been told that I will change my mind, and I’ve been told that queer cis-gendered men will never have sex with me because I look too much like a girl. Out of all those reactions, the last one hurts the most because it is the closest one to reality. My dating pool is very limited. For whatever reason, I do not live in an area where queer men are okay with transmasculine people who don’t want any surgical or chemical interventions. I hear that it’s different on the west coast, but on the east coast, not so much. I have yet to run into a queer cis-gendered man that I am interested in dating who is interested in my body as it currently is and I will not lie and say that doesn’t suck. But, I do not believe that ship has totally sailed and I am confident that, somewhere, the right dude/dudes are out there.

And here I am. I don’t ever remember a time previously where I have been so comfortable with myself. I surprise myself with how much I don’t care about how other people see me. I mean, if you look at me and think ‘girl’, I’m going to worry about your eyesight but it doesn’t upset me or drive me towards any self-hate. If you don’t know my pronouns and you use the wrong ones, I don’t really care [which is not to say other trans* people don’t care. I find that most do, an awful lot]. Half the time, I don’t care enough to have the conversation where I correct them. I think other people get more offended on my behalf than I do. And, there are parts of my life where it is okay for me to be called ‘she’ and ‘her’. I haven’t changed my Facebook over to male pronouns because I don’t feel like having The Conversation with people I went to high school with and others that I am not super close with. I use female pronouns at work because I both work at a female program and because it would take the focus off the clients treatment and put it on me. I let my parents call me by my birth name and female pronouns because I feel, in some ways, that they’ve earned it after putting up with me [I was a crazy kid] and because I don’t feel like opening that can of worms, though my mother has said explicitly that she would be okay if I legally changed my name. It’s just way more complicated than just that. What is important to me is that the people I am closest to see me for who I am and not just what I appear to be. I know I confuse the hell out of people sometimes because I have a knack for doing things that people don’t think are feminine—I almost always have painted toes, I wear make-up occasionally, and, though the trend lately has been for me to be naked since He likes to show off my/His tattoo, I often run around in girly underwear at kink events because I like it, my ass looks good in it, and both Boyfriend and Mr. Mister think it’s hot. It pushes people’s boundaries and itches their comfort zones, but that’s part of my Job, in some ways. It’s one of many reasons why I believe my gender is holy—being who I am is not only a key part of my relationship with Mr. Mister, but it is the embodiment, literally, of Who He is. He pushes boundaries and challenges assumptions and leaves you questioning everything you have previously known to be true and why would I, as both a [kinda] possession and a tool, fall outside of that? In that way, I am a useful thing to Him and I, by my very presence, can help Him accomplish His agenda. I get the side effect of being utterly and totally amused when I confuse even queer people. I was at a kink party recently and, after I was done playing with Boyfriend for a little while, I walked across the space in a black tank top, combat boots, and lacy underpants. I walked by a group of people who have known me for almost ten years, and one of them asked another if I was a boy or a girl and I loved that they weren’t sure because it not only made them explicitly question what they knew about me [they had always known me as a boy] but, in a roundabout way, it made them question themselves, whether they knew it or not.

Me being trans* really is and isn’t the most important thing you could know about me, but it is probably the most important thing you could know about me spiritually. Thus far in my journey, everything has sprung from that. I don’t know if it will stay that way forever, but it’s been that way for awhile. I am blessed to love a God [and a Boyfriend!] that values the liminal in me and thinks I’m sexy because of, not in spite of, this inherent gray area. This has been one of the biggest gifts I’ve received so far in this lifetime and I value this feeling of contentment above most other things. As I have been so fond of saying lately, I am a very, very lucky boy.

I could say a lot more but this long enough as it is—the page count on this topic is about twenty pages right now. It is 5:30AM and this was my night off from work, so it is time for this boy to go to bed. This is not, however, the last time you’ll see this topic.

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~ by Alex on April 8, 2013.

2 Responses to “No Creative Title: A Lengthy Gender Post”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, I’ve been having a bit of a gender snafu and reading this helped. 🙂

    • I’m glad it was helpful! If you ever want to talk about it with an internet stranger who has some fairly non-standard experiences of gender, I’m all ears. 🙂

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