The concept of health in a broken world

I’m in this endless pursuit of this mythical idea of health, and I’m not even sure what that means.  I picture myself hanging by my legs upside down from a 20ft tall geodome as a teenager with no fear of falling, of my body when I was a dancer and could see the muscles beneath my skin.  I picture being able to climb a tree without a second thought.  But what I don’t picture is how much time I had back then, how I climbed that geodome during a summer where I worked and played outside all day every day.  How I was a dancer in high school where walking home from school, between classes, to the metro to go hang out with friends, was the norm.  How I had time every day once school was over to do 200 cruches each morning and night, and how there was really no stress constantly looming because fuck ups were inconsequential and slipped off the glassy surface of my mind without leaving large jarring scratches.  When I climbed trees with no second thought I was carefree, and time outdoors was plentiful, weekends were jaunts in the woods full of energy that didn’t require caffeine or a sugar high.  My ideas of health are all colored by the backdrop of childhood, lack of stress, abundance of free time, everything falling into place with no schedule.  My ideas of health are colored by an absence of trauma responses and chronic pain.  My ideas of health neglect to remember that half the time I was obsessed with numbers on a scale and numbers of calories burned and eating less then 200 calories a day when I could get away with it.  My ideas of health forget the years where I could go the five days in the school week subsisting on mountain dew and nothing else, and the weekend living on two taco hell burritos and feeling like that was too much.

I want the energy and exhilaration I had in childhood.  I hit puberty so early, so I was this tall and at my healthy adult weight by the time I was a teenager, even a little bit before.  So my whole idea of what this shaped body I have now should be able to do, is based on a concept of a thirteen year old with no cares in the world.  When I try and imagine fitness at this age, I can only picture the lean muscular elderly folk I see running the trails at the park.  They’re in their seventies and eighties and probably in better shape then I’ve been in for over a decade.  I think about the ideal of mental health.  I don’t know anyone mentally healthy.  My generation is all people who are traumatized and fucked up beyond belief because we give voice to the problems of the world and they weigh on us like bricks.  How can you be mentally healthy when watching the rise of fascism and the death of your peers for loving a different gender then expected or being a different gender then expected?  How can you be mentally healthy when you see the earth that you want to reach to for sustenance, becoming a ticking time bomb counting down to the extinction of your species, because of the greed of corporations and the wealthy few in power?  For that matter, how can you be physically healthy when there are another hundred cleanses and fad diets birthed each day?  When you are constantly told that health looks like photoshop lies, and comes from on of the thousand one true ways to decrease in size that is marketed violently and splashed all over any physical or virtual environment you step into?

So I wish I had a conclusion to this, but I’m not there yet.  I’m just at the -the world is fucked and my brain is too, but I need to get to a better healthier place, and that’s hard and I have no idea how, but I’m gunna do it anyway- point.  I do hope to offer more insight if I get there though.


Refusing to be erased – on being seen as a trans man

“You can’t be a man, you didn’t play with trucks as a kid!”

“Are you sure you aren’t just a butch lesbian instead?”

“Thank you ma’am” “Uh, I’m not a ma’am” “Oh don’t worry, you don’t look manly” “No, I mean I am a man”  “Don’t say that honey, don’t worry, you’re pretty I’m sure.”

This is just a small cross section of reactions I got when coming out as a trans man.  It is not an easy thing to live your whole life feeling like there is something deeply wrong, or to know that the way everyone sees you is a lie.  It is not an easy thing to wake up one day and realize it after years of not acknowledging it, you have the agony of so many years gone by where your expression of self was mysteriously discomforting or feels false.  Once you finally feel that click, if you aren’t someone who was well aware that you were trans from a very young age, it is liberating for a moment.  The acknowledgement of yourself is sweet freedom on silver wings, it fills you up with golden bubbles of giddy hope.  That moment is often heartbreakingly short before the icy cold dread sets in. You start to wonder who you will lose, who will leave your life, who may hurt you, if you will become another murder statistic if you start trying to present yourself as you are in a cruel bigoted society.  I was extremely lucky, I’ve only been assaulted once (for being trans at least), I lost very few friends, and my family struggled but have managed to come to some degree of acceptance.  I had to fight for recognition for a few years before I developed the infamous “passing privilege” though.  Now when I go out, people see my face even with my new long hair, they hear my voice, and to them it all speaks of man.  The years before that were true, were a hell though.  Once you have felt incredibly whole and at home with yourself when you acknowledge your gender, you have something precious that society can tear pieces out of with every misuse of pronouns or deadnames, with every slur, with every unfeeling comment.

I did play with trucks as a kid.  My favorite toy for the first seven years of my life was a big yellow dumptruck and I played with it outside incessantly.  I hated dolls and teddy bears, though realistic plush animals were something I adored since I had always loved animals.  I loved my StreetShark action figures. I hated going to a school where skirts were mandatory, and insisted if I must wear them that they be patterned with lizards or frogs and have hefty pockets built in for collecting rocks.  These things mean nothing to determining my gender, gender isn’t built by your toys or your hobbies or your interests.  But when I came out, my father cited my lack of interest in trucks to explain his surprise.  The fact that he’d apparently blocked out such a large portion of my childhood to get that facts wrong was irrelevant.  The message was the same, he would rather forget the markers that could have clued him in if we’re buying into binary gender rolls, and he needed me to justify the core of myself with childhood toy preferences to be valid in his eyes.

My father was the same person who asked me why I couldn’t be a butch lesbian when I came out as a trans man.  As the man who reacted with homophobia when I first had a girlfriend, it was clear what this meant.  He had come to accept I was something he didn’t understand, something he had prejudices against, but good god at least that something wasn’t transgender, and now that it was, he wished for the good old days where I was just a “mild normal queer”.  I tried to explain to him that I could no more be a butch lesbian than he could, since neither of us was a woman.  In fact, I was farther from such then he was, because at least he was interested only in women, whereas I had realized by that time that I was mostly gay.  I spelled out how in being a man who likes men, I was pretty much the opposite of a lesbian by binary gender and sexuality standards.  His response was to protest, “but if you were a lesbian you could still wear flannel”.  Yes father, because I would like to undergo societal prejudice, risk my life by being myself, inject my muscle with a big ass needle every two weeks, subject myself to extensive surgeries, and have to fight to even be seen by the people closest to me….because I want to wear flannel.  If this was about flannel I would have just bought out a fucking L.L.Bean.

A nice woman at school was selling cookies.  She “ma’amed” me, and I was tired of not standing up for myself, so I tried to correct her.  Instead of hearing me when I said I was a man, she tried to reassure me, thinking I was talking down about myself.  It didn’t occur to her that I might actually just speaking my truth, that my words might mean exactly what I had said.  It was easier for her to interpret some imagined hidden message and apply it to me than it was for her to just see me as I said I was.  I spent a week replaying the moment in my mind, formulating the perfect responses for next time to be more clear.  The only thing that usually works is outing myself.  If someone doesn’t want to see you as a man because they don’t fit their notion of it, no matter of insisting on it seems to help.  You have to explain you are a trans man, another breed of human in their eyes so they can justify why you don’t fit inside the boxes they can’t look beyond. So for the few years it took for me to develop a deeper voice and some facial scruff I was faced with a series of choices.  Either I could try and insist I was a man and not be believed, I could crumple inside with every “ma’am” or “miss” and have the words repeat at night until I wanted to disappear or die; or I could out myself, usually in public in the hearing of multiple strangers.  I didn’t know which of those were accepting, supportive, indifferent, or deeply prejudiced.  I saw trans friends dying every year of violence, killed by partners, acquaintances, family, and strangers.  I couldn’t know which passerby might hear me and be so offended by my very existence that I would be the next funeral in an endless procession of trans deaths.

These days my existence is happier, I am safer existing as I am.  I don’t have to make choices between my mental health or physical safety multiple times a day, I don’t have to justify my childhood toys or clothing choices to prove myself.  That spark of joy that shone so bright when I finally acknowledged this aspect of me has been fanned into a bright flame.  There are still shadows though.  My safety is contingent still on not being seen.  I am acknowledged now as a man, that is far more affirming then before.  My identity is respected and seen.  But my experience is not, because I am not just a man, I am a trans man.  I have a lived experience in fighting for manhood that a cis man will never have.  And my safety and comfort on a daily basis is contingent on my lived experience being a carefully guarded secret.  None of this can change until society does, and I fear for my new baby trans friends who are just beginning to come out.  My heart aches for what they might face, especially knowing the road I barely survived was one of the easiest paths to this end.  All I can hope for is those moments of joy and acknowledgment, that exhilarating feeling of freedom and truth on it’s vast silver wings, will be enough to carry them through.  Or society can change, one leap at a time we can stop with the assumptions and the stereotypes and the enforced gender rolls and the bigotry, until this life path is just as much a challenging but engaging climb as any other, and not a harrowing trip through the valley of death.  I still out myself when it might help, when it might change someones thoughts, when there is a chance it might pave the way for the trans folk of the future.  That choice is worthwhile for me, there is still something worth risking my life for, and it is a better world.

A year in review

I have to say, 2018 was one of the most tumultuous years I have ever faced.  It was jam packed full of big intense changes, and well, human beings are not known for dealing well with change.  I survived though, and it was one of the most transformational years I’ve experienced in my lifetime.  In fact, I would say on a whole, despite some exceptionally hard moments, it was a very happy year with an abundance of personal growth.  So here is my year in review.


I started the year off attempting to do Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project.  I had a whole list of aspirations for each month, and wrote a couple sentences about my day in a journal each night, and every day at the end of the day Kelev and I would check off which out our happiness project objectives we had done well with that day.  It was definitely beneficial, I grew a little from that the first few months, but it really wasn’t a format of doing things that I could keep up with.  Also in January, I took the TEAS and scored in the 99th percentile, securing myself a spot in nursing clinicals. The other important event in January was going with Kelev for his social security hearing in front of a judge.  After three years of fighting for disability benefits this time around, and close to six years or more including previous attempts, he finally was able to get in front of a judge and present his case.  We finished January knowing that we had done all we could, and now we just had to wait and hope for a good result in a few months.


On one of the last days of January, I got a message on a site I’ve been on for thirteen or so years, and actually met quite a few of the most important people in my life through.  I was intrigued and responded back, and in the beginning of February began texting back and forth with Hoffy.  Over the next month we fell in love.  I was cautious going into the relationship, because I had previously decided not to get involved with folks new to polyamory, or people who were not out (about polya, sexuality, etc) because I was not willing to be someone’s secret.  He was so intensely open and honest, with a desire to learn and a completely refreshingly curious outlook without judgement.  I make most decisions based on my rational mind, and I knew the intensity of my emotional connection played a part in me making an exception to rules for myself, but I also knew such intensity was something I so rarely felt in my life and I wanted to explore that as deeply as I was able.  Also towards the end of the month, Kelev and I visited a friend and were taught about a couple new kinks that we had not explored before.  One of them, fireplay, had been a limit of mine for year, not because of disinterest, but out of fear.  I decided this was a year to face my fears, and not only did I learn a little about how to engage in a fireplay scene, but I also took the bottom role and let it be done to me, something I would never have allowed in the past.  It was exhilarating, both facing my fears and having such a surprisingly relaxing experience of sensations.


March was a pretty exciting month.  I met Hoffy and our relationship intensified after the weekend we spent together.  I was one of the most wonderful weekends of my life and I was a bit blown away but how much comfort I felt in person with him, as someone who has struggled for a long time with being comfortable sharing space with people.  I also attended my first play party this month.  I went with Kelev first to a rope demo, which was a whole lot of fun, and then to a play party following it.  While I’d experienced several impromptu kink events in the past, this was the first organized one I had attended and it was a whole lot of fun.  I was in awe of some of the scenes I witnessed, one I saw really stuck in my mind because you could absolutely feel the profound connection between the two people involved fill the whole space.  To be honest, how beautifully intense their bond was, and the vulnerability and trust in that scene coupled by an electric energy, almost brought me to tears.  I also tried porcupine quills for the first time, my second experience in bottoming for a scene in many many years, and I was surprised to find that I very much enjoyed it.  It was also my first time getting to that floaty headspace that pain play can produce, and it intrigued me and opened up my mind to the idea of bottoming for more scenes in the future.  I revised my personal definition of myself from strictly a Dom and top, to a Dom with no desire for submission, but a willingness to bottom for scenes to explore all the experiences I am comfortable with in life.  March has a feeling of new beginnings and an exhilarating desire to test myself and experience all I could in life with a curious and open mind.


April was the beginning of the great departure, as I’ve come to think of it.  Since I had left for college at seventeen, I had lived with an increasing number of partners, friends, metamours, and loves.  At the most, I think we at one time had nine or ten folks living or staying for a spell in my previous home, and after buying this home, there were usually four to six of us living here.  I finally hit a point of high stress over the end of last year and through the beginning of this one, where I had decided I needed space and to live with less people.  I also felt for once that I had the place to ask for that.  One of my housemates was talking about moving across the country to be with one of their partners, their partner who lived with us had expressed a desire to have her own place at some point, her other partner who had taken up residence in the basement had not intended to be a permanent fixture here as far as I knew, and our other housemate had moved across the country to move in with us a year prior but with the eventual intent of getting their own place.  That left myself and Kelev, and he has been one of the few people in life I’ve had such a deep comfort with and desire to cohabitate with, that I knew my need for space still allowed for living with him.  Since everyone else was open to the idea of moving elsewhere, I felt for the first time that I was allowed to ask for space, and I had begun doing so months before.  In April my queer platonic partner, James, was the first to move out, getting a place with one of my other partners, Witty, who had been looking to move up to our town.  They relocated to a nice home a few blocks away from mine, which was a perfect mix of being close enough to visit often and offer assistance to each other at a moments notice, but relieving me of some of the stress of a decade of living in crowded homes.  I also got to see Hoffy for another visit in April, which was another intense emotional rush, and really cemented my attachment and desire for that relationship as a long term commitment in my life.


In May I went to my first potluck with the local polyamory community I had connected with.  It was a wonderful experience, I have talked before about how fantastic it was to begin getting close to some of the leaders of that group, and how much it inspired personal growth in my to see them grow as people.  May was really the beginning of all that, and I found a group of people who have become like family to me in many ways.  I also began my nursing clinicals in May, and it was the start of what is a much more challenging and invigorating program then I could have imagined.  I started of with an abundance of determination and I strong desire to do better then I ever had before with formal schooling, in this new venture. May was also when Kelev finally heard back about social security and was granted disability benefits.  It was a fantastic victory after fighting the system for years to acknowledge his illnesses, and I was so ecstatic for him.


June was a busy month, school was in full swing and I was scrambling to keep up with a new program that was more challenging than I had ever imagined, but which I was very thoroughly enjoying.  I was also preparing for the continuation of the great departure, Kyuu was getting ready to move across the country in the beginning of July, and Floof and Bear had begun discussions on getting a place together and started looking at apartments.  I also got to see Hoffy again, his visits had become bright rays of light in my year, always full of an abundance of love and a feeling of safety, coupled with a very exhilarating excitement at the intensity of out connection.  I was by that point struggling quite a lot with knowing that our relationship was a secret though.  It was what I had been afraid of when cautiously getting involved, and he had talked about coming out to family and friends after the first time he visited, but I was still waiting for that to occur.  It was a delicate tightrope I felt I was walking, trying to be honest and open about my emotions, but also not trying to apply any external pressure on a big life decision that I felt he had to make on his own time.   I often felt I was hiding the depth of anguish it caused me to spare his feelings, but I knew that during the few frank conversations we had about it I was blunt, and I felt to continue to address it more often just because it was a constant weight on me, would have crossed into pressuring him on a choice I felt was not mine to make.  After this visit we discussed it yet again and I could see how much he was struggling as well, but that he was strengthening his resolve to approach it soon.  Finally at the end of June he told his parents about his sexuality, and our relationship.  I know for him it was probably a life changing moment.  For me it was a huge sigh of relief.  I wanted to respect how big that moment was for him, coming out is never easy and he had hidden that part of himself for a long time, and experience I couldn’t relate to because I had always been explosively blunt about newly discovered parts of myself regardless of what sort of reaction I feared, so I did not know quite what it felt like to speak that sort of truth after a long period of hiding.  I know for myself, hearing about that moment filled me with not just relief that I was no longer a secret and the deception was over, but also overwhelming pride for a partner who had come to mean so much to me in such a short time.  Seeing someone cultivate courage and face their fears, growing so much since I had first met them, it was inspiring and heartwarming in ways I still fail to describe aptly.  June was already such an overwhelming month of highs and lows, and I was gearing up at the end of it to help Kyuu move out, and Floof and Bear soon to follow.  Then Kelev dropped the bombshell on me that he would be leaving as well.  The whole story there is one for another time, but in short is was a profound shock and one that fucked my up real good for a short bit, but once I recognized that it was not a changing of our connection but simply of our structure of life, I handled it a little better.  The knowledge that it was something he needed to do for both his mental health and the good of his family, helped immensely.  I had always taken the role of trying to care for him in any way I could, so doing what was best for his mental health was a decision I fully supported.  His family as well had made me feel welcomed in a way I don’t even feel my own extended family always has, and their best interests were also of great importance to me.


The month of great change.  July is when the big changes actually happened, Kyuu and Kelev both moved out in the first week, and Floof and Bear were gone by the middle of the month.  I was alone in my home, living by myself for the first time in my entire life. I was concerned, I spent many hours alone in my parent’s home as a teen and it had led to suicidal ideation,  depression, self destructive habits, and worse.  I was also concerned I would love it too much, become so comfortable in my aloneness that I wouldn’t want to go back to living with others.  Neither really happened.  I found a lot of joy in my time to myself, it was refreshing and invigorating, the breath of fresh air I really needed.  I did a lot of introspection and worked on myself during that time, and I felt more -me- then I had been in many years.  I empowered and reclaimed myself, and I also found more joy in my relationships with others now that I could truly be alone.  I was also lonely at times, it was a feeling I savored sitting with calmly and accepting. I was looking forward to when I would transition to living with others again, while also treating my time to myself as a glorious vacation and a time to grow into my own skin once more.


Whee vacation time!  In August I went to Hawaii with my parents, the first trip with them that I had managed in a number of years.  It was a magical life changing trip, I fell in love with the climate and the people there, and oh goodness the food.  I miss the food, I miss it desperately deep in my soul.  I’m a food oriented creature and I love putting raw fish in my face, and Hawaii delivered that in spades.  I also decided it was a chance to challenge all my fears.  I’m afraid of heights, of mechanical failures and depending on human made objects (cars, roller coasters, ski lifts, airplanes, etc), of being underground and being buried alive, of swimming in deep water without assistance, and of ants.  I went zip-lining,  walked across wood and rope bridges high up in massive trees, explored underground lava tunnels, went snorkeling with dolphins with no life jacket, and made friends with a wide variety of insect life including a good many tiny ant friends.  I honestly wasn’t really afraid, I had decided to challenge my fears and somehow that decision to face them helped to nullify them.  Things like being on a wind rocked wood and rope bridge a hundred feet in the air which would have triggered an intense panic attack before, but I had resolved to be a different person there, a person who forged ahead bravely and somewhat recklessly into any adventure I could get my greedy hands on.  I took a bit of that person home with me.  When I got back, I left again a couple days later on a second vacation, this time a trip to Ithaca with James. It was the first vacation of my life that I have planned and budgeted for entirely on my own, with no assistance from my parents.  We explored Ithaca, hoping it might be a landing ground for out intentional community, staying in an ecovillage there and visiting another.  We also met up with Hoffy, all three of us touring the ecovillage of Ithaca together and hiking through state parks.  It was a lovely experience, though we decided that it might not be the place we would eventually settle in.  Coming back from vacation, I started my next semester of school, though I was tired from a break that was more adventure then relaxation.


September was exciting.  I was adjusting to living on my own, and finding that my relationship with Kelev was all the stronger for the change. We went to our first concert together, Alice Cooper, and it was a thrilling experience!  I enjoyed the York fair, the food truck festival, and struggled to keep up with school during a semester of high stress and low motivation.


At the very beginning of October, or maybe the last couple days of September, I got two new housemates.  My longtime queer platonic love and friend Raichu and their partner A. moved in, ending my three month experience of living alone.  I was grateful to be around people again, I know three months does not sound like a long time for living by yourself, but it was enough for me to get a feel for the experience so I could say I had done it once in my life, and then to move forward.  Their coming certainly heralded moving forward.  I had been talking with them over the years about forming an intentional community, and we had begun more serious conversations about it starting in the spring, along with James, Kelev, Hoffy, and a friend of theirs.  They took the leap and moved back from the west coast, so we could begin planning out our dreams and then manifesting them into reality, so our community could begin construction over the next few years and we could come home to it within the next five, or so we hoped. I’m sure if I didn’t also mention that the new Halloween movie came out, Kelev would be distraught, since that was likely his biggest event of the year.  We went to see that and it did not disappoint.


November was the month of Thanksgivings.  Our polycule had our celebration early and it was a wonderful gathering.  Almost our whole group came, Kyuu visited, coming from across the country and staying for a week.  James and Floof and Witty and Kelev were all there, and my partner Shara also came up from Philly which was wonderful.  My parents were in attendance as usual and were incredibly helpful with making the food and being as fantastically accepting of our eclectic little polycule as always. We missed Hoffy, who couldn’t manage to get off work to come down for the weekend, and Kwik, who is up in Canada and had not yet made it down to visit.  And James brought his new partner, a gorgeous badass goth, Nikki, who has now become a dear part of our family as well.  After first thanksgiving, I had second Thanksgiving with Kelev’s family.  It was amazing being able to host them and cook for them, and it reminded me again of how much they have always accepted me and welcomed me, which I appreciate beyond words.  Then Kelev and I celebrated eight years together, going down to Baltimore where he chose a trip to the aquarium for our day of celebration, and I chose the Hard Rock Cafe for our dinner following that.  I also had my first clinical experience with patients, which was terrifying up until the moment it began, and then morphed quickly into a fulfilling but somewhat anti-climactic experience after all the fear and hype.


December began with my birthday, and I managed to not have a crisis as I realized I was now only one year away from thirty.  I wondered how, looking back as my life, I had lived so much in a mere twenty nine years, and at the same time how I still felt like a bumbling teenager most days and was close to hitting my thirties.  December has been a chaotic month.  I untitled one of my dynamics after a period of personal growth that led to me realizing the pressure of a title was often instrumental to me pushing people away when I couldn’t handle the expectations I put on myself in certain types of partnerships.  I also had confirmed the ending of a few other dynamics prior in the year, though they were ones that had really just morphed from romantic or sexual shaped to more platonic friend shaped, and it was just a discussion and confirmation of that.  I also began a new kink dynamic with Kelev and one of the amazing folks I had grown close to in the local polya community I found towards the start of the year.  That took a lot of thoughtful communication and soul searching, because I am hesitant about new titles and dynamics as a whole, though I do understand the increased importance of titles in kink related dynamics for the structure it helps to provide when that level of trust and structure is needed.  I also shy away from triad shaped dynamics because of problems with couples privilege and so on, so there was a lot of unpacking to do before that took shape.  During that, I was able to be incredibly vulnerable with D., the other person I got involved with, and had a bit of a breakdown/breakthrough with her, and with help from Raichu, that led to a much greater understanding of myself and how I approach relationships and experience attraction.  That is something to address more in depth at another time, but it helped grow an intense closeness that was already developing between us, and I’m grateful for it.  I also completed my year of sobriety that I had decided on last December 1st, and while I have continued to refrain from drinking, I was fulfilled knowing I had proved to myself I could accomplish that, after the years of increasingly productive moderation that followed my decent into alcoholism and beginning of recovery.  I also chose as my challenge for this year to write daily, and thus far have been successful in that, another path that has led to increasing introspection and personal growth.


There is so much more I can say about this past year, this really just scratches the surface.  There are many events large and small that I left out for last of time and stamina to write about them all, or because I cannot even remember the wealth of experiences this year held.  It was the most impactful year of my life thus far I believe, or certainly high up there in the ranking.  I go into this next year full of joy, appreciation, and hope, eager to see what new changes and experiences are waiting.

A trans Christmas story

I haven’t seen my family on Christmas for four years, they wouldn’t recognize me anymore.  Christmas is a big deal on my father’s side of the family.  While my parents raised me in a Jewish home, my father converted to Judaism, so his said of the family is Christian and they sure do go all out for Christmas.  My Aunt completely transforms her house into a Christmas wonderland, there are two full size trees, one in the living room and one downstairs in the den, both lavishly decorated.  The pile of gifts around the tree in the den usually extends outward four or more feet and often towers so high that it obscures the tree itself.  We would all gather, usually twenty or so members of the family, and there were all manner of snacks and pies and food.  Over two dozen nutcrackers lined the shelves, and every surface in the living room has miniature villages, or extraordinarily crafted wooden Santas. It was a lot, truly, I cannot begin to understand the energy and dedication my Aunt has to create such a scene of beautiful Christmas abundance.  The consumerism of the extensive gifts is a tad overwhelming, but at the same time appreciated, especially by the children.  And despite being the goth sheep of the family, too shy to socialize much, never quite fitting in, my Aunt always seemed to get me something that was just perfect.

I stopped going down for Christmas when I started transitioning.  I wasn’t ready for being misgendered and deadnamed.  I didn’t know if they would make an effort, but even if they did I knew accidents happen.  I was a fragile baby trans and I couldn’t handle it.  Honestly, just having to handle my parents slipping up was too much, how do you tell someone who loves you and is trying, that their accidental word slip-ups make you want to die?  Actually, I’m pretty loud about advocating for myself with them, so I’m sure I probably told them just that, and to get with the program and stop fucking up. I am not loud and outspoken with my father’s family, I’m more the grungy mouse in the corner type, and I knew I wasn’t ready to be my own advocate with them if I needed to.  I honestly wasn’t sure how they would react to finding out their oddball niece was actually their nephew.  I’d like to think they weren’t surprised, but I don’t have any idea how they felt, or how they reacted when my parents (with my permission) told them.

That first year was a bad year for many other reasons, but what I do remember is that my Aunt still sent me a gift.  She was always perfect at choosing things for me that fit her pretty feminine aesthetic tastes, but also captured my edgy goth style.  My favorite for years was a suede and knit sweater with four giant buckles down the front to close it.  It reminded me a bit of a straight jacket and was definitely punk chic. I dreaded opening her gift.  I knew I never quite fit in and my family barely knew me, but the way she had always managed to find something that I would really love and appreciate had made me feel like she saw me and I was accepted.  I also knew how most of my trans siblings had been treated by their Christian families, I knew my chances of being welcomed in as my self and having my identity respected were pretty damn low.  I hoped my family was different, but doesn’t everyone?  I opened the gift, knowing that in all likelyhood it would be some beautiful feminine scarf or lovely tight fighting top, something all together perfect for someone who wasn’t me anymore.  I was filled with dread as I unwrapped the package of what felt like it was surely some kind of clothing, hesitating like I was waiting for a slap in the face. It was a wonderfully thick and warm red plaid flannel men’s button up work shirt.  I almost cried, with how grateful and loved I felt.

My Uncle always sends me a card on my birthday. The first few years after I began transitioning, he just began addressing it to R.  It meant a lot that he didn’t use my deadname, but I wondered if discomfort with who I was, was preventing him from using my actual name.  My first initial hadn’t changed, so maybe it was a way to appease his comfort levels while also respecting mine in a way.  Or maybe he just didn’t remember what I had changed my name to, just because he had always been my favorite Uncle didn’t mean that I was important to him in the same way.  This year my card was addressed to Rhaegar.  That meant more then any other message written in it.  When I opened it, I knew that, while I already had plans for this years Christmas, next year I would try and return home.

I’m a different person now, I don’t know if they’ll recognize me.  I’m missing a few pounds from my chest, my voice has dropped a couple octaves, and I have a scraggly patchy beard these days.  My hair is actually longer then it ever was for years. Finally being assumed to be a man by strangers in public all the time regardless of hairstyle allowed me to grow it out, because it was no longer an enemy that would get me misgendered at a longer length. I have a confidence that comes of being comfortable in my own skin.  I still have the same garbage fire goth aesthetic, but I no longer am that grungy mouse in the corner.  I’m the sort of person that strikes up conversations with complete strangers with ease.  They may not know me anymore, although back then I wondered if they ever did.  But I am starting to believe that whether they really know me well or not, they are willing to love me regardless and they will see me for who I am.

Five things to know before dating a trans man

So you want to date a trans guy

So you want to date a trans guy, who could blame you, most of us are really hecking awesome!  When you get involved with someone in a dynamic that in some way doesn’t fit societal scripts though, you may feel somewhat at a loss.  That is why there is so much communication before folks enter polyamorous dynamics, society doesn’t tell you what the rules are, so you make up your own.  When dating trans folk it might feel equally daunting, you don’t want to make any assumptions and bungle this up, but you don’t know if the usual societal script in a relationship will fit.  So here are a few things to remember if you are looking to start a relationship with a trans man.

Examine your motives

Why do you want to date a trans guy?  If you are interested in a trans man because you are sure your sexuality is one way, but want to experiment with a person who you see as kind of the other binary gender but not quite, you should fuck off with that noise.  People don’t like being used as an experiment.  If you fetishize trans folk in particular, you should also probably fuck off with that.  There are a few rare trans folk who really like chasers, but for the most part, that is a hard nope.  Most people want to get into a relationship with someone who likes them for who they are as an individual person, not because they are an interchangeable fetish object with any other of the million plus trans men in the world. If you met someone that gives you warm chest fuzzies or makes you feel tingles in your pants and it just so happens that they’re also trans, you’ve got the green light to move on to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to discuss how sex will work…but only if you’ve gotten to that point

So when I start talking to someone and one of the first things they ask me is what I like in bed, I’m probably going to tell them to fuck off, or eat their soul and leave their corpse for the ravens, who knows.  Most people don’t like that. If you haven’t both specified that you’re just in it for a hookup, this conversation comes later in the game. But when you do get to the point where sex is on the table, and you both have said you want to do the funky tango under the sheets, you need to discuss what you want out of that.  Now this is good in any dynamic, never assume what your sexual partners are and aren’t okay with, consent is key.  When dating a trans guy though, some important things to cover.  Firstly, what parts are they willing or not willing to use for sex?  Some trans guys have vaginas, some have had bottom surgery, which can mean that they have a penis or in some cases have a penis and a vagina (yup, you can keep your vagina with some types of bottom surgery, that is a thing). Some trans guys don’t have bottom surgery, but get enough clitoral growth from testosterone that they can use their clit/dick for penetration. Some don’t like the touchies of their genitals at all and prefer to use a prosthetic.  Some just like to bottom, but only for anal sex.  There is no assumption you could make about what kind of sex a trans guy wants that is going to be correct with all of us, so ask!  Also, ask what to call various parts.  Some words can be triggering, and you don’t want to be all revved up for sexy time and then refer to his vagina as a pussy, when the only word he’s comfortable with is bonus hole, and suddenly instead of sex you’re dealing with helping him through intense dysphoria when you could have just asked first!

Do not ever out someone without their permission

This shouldn’t need explaining but it so often does.  Being trans can put someones life at risk.  Being trans is for some, a huge part of their identity, but for others just a part of their medical history that they don’t discuss unless absolutely necessary.  Being trans often comes with dysphoria, a never ending feeling of discomfort day in and day out that makes you want to crawl out of your own skin, and sometimes a trans person may want to just exist in the world without constantly wondering who knows and what they think of them if they do.  It’s exhausting wondering who secretly hates you and wants you dead or judges you as a freak, every time you leave the house.  And when you decide that your amazing man is coming home with you for Christmas dinner and then he gets hit with a barrage of questions about his genitals and surgeries from Aunt Muriel when he just wants to be enjoying some fucking ham, that ranges from uncomfortable to excruciatingly painful and rage inducing.  Don’t put your guy through that.  If you are ever wondering if you should mention to your friends or family or coworkers that he’s trans without asking him, the answer is always NO.  If you have a reason to want to tell someone, you can ask him if it is okay, but honestly, if he wanted someone to know he could almost always tell them himself.

Consider gender in regards to your sexual orientation

As a trans guy who usually dates other guys, I’ve been with some gay guys that have questioned if they were actually gay because of being with me.  Yes you fucking are.  Trans men are men plain and simple. You can totally question if you’re gay because maybe you’re finding you aren’t just into men, but dating a man with the limited edition genital package at birth instead of the stock version, is still dating a dude.  I’ve also seen in the lesbian community that a lot of lesbians will date trans men but not trans women.  Not liking penis is okay, I encourage unpacking those kind of feels because often time there is a hidden societal influence to them, but if you find you just prefer a hole to a pole that is perfectly fine.  But if you are dating a man and you are a woman, that is not a lesbian relationship.  You can identify as a lesbian because that might be your overarching orientation and you just happened to find a rare exception, but make sure to also validate your partner’s gender and reassure them that you do in fact see them as a man and recognize that you are in a relationship with a guy. As a whole, sexuality can be a complex fluid thing.  Labels are very useful for explaining it in shorthand, but sexuality can be a lot more complex and is sometimes filled with “I’m only attracted to xyz, except when a…and maybe sometimes when b….and that one weird time with c but I’m not sure I’d do that again, who knows?” So definitely figure out what labels are comfortable for you, but do not invalidate your partner’s gender with that label by insisting they fit in that box if they don’t.  If there is a conflict there, make sure they understand that you see them for who they are and maybe your sexuality is just a little more variable then you expected.

Respect pronouns (duh) and respect triggers

I shouldn’t need to have respect pronouns on here, but just in case it somehow didn’t occur to you, use the pronouns a person is okay with.  If you don’t you’re a shitbird, and hopefully they aren’t going to actually date you anyway.  If you’re a trans person reading this and your partner is not willing to respect your pronouns, you can do better I promise you.  Less often thought of, respect triggers.  When I say triggers, I am not referring to things that get your jimmies in a bunch, a trigger is something that causes a significant effect on the mental state of a person and often inhibits their ability to function.  Think an army vet with ptsd who can’t leave the house for three days after the fourth of July because of fireworks, that is a trigger.  If you downplay the triggers that other marginalized folks face but can understand that one, you need to think about it for a bit, and learn to cultivate some compassion for anyone’s experience of trauma. When you get involved with a trans guy, you are most likely getting involved with someone who has experienced some amount of dysphoria and discrimination.  I’ve had one of the smoothest and easiest experiences of all the trans folk I’ve known, and I’ve gotten death threats, been shoved around in bathrooms, lost friends when I came out, and faced legal discrimination.  When death threats and physical assault are an easy time, you can imagine what some of us have been through.  Also dysphoria, the feeling that your own body is betraying you to the point that existing in your skin is excruciatingly painful and you just want to tear yourself apart and disappear, not a fun time.  Find out what triggers these things in your partner and don’t do them.  If you do them by accident, offer comfort in the way your partner prefers.  DO NOT self flagellate and make it all about how sorry you are.  If you fuck up and refer to them by the wrong pronoun and now they’re in tears, your response should be a quick “I’m sorry” and then focus on helping them. When you spend five minutes apologizing and center yourself after being the one who did the fucking up, that’s shitty. They’re now struggling to function and have to worry about assuaging your guilt on top of it.  So learn triggers, be respectful of them, and when they happen, react in a way that actually helps to comfort and heal the pain you caused and does not center yourself.

In conclusion

So those are my top five things to remember if you find yourself feeling those good old wibbly wobbly feels for a trans man.  Remember, every relationship is unique, and you should always communicate in depth before jumping in because different people need different things.  Hopefully this at least gives you some good ground to start on.  Let me know if y’all have any others you think are important to add to this list, and when you find a shiny wonderful trans guy has stumbled into your life, enjoy your luck and don’t be a shitbird!