Things As They Are

There can be no doubt about the peculiar nature of my gender
and the appearance it affects;
the curiosity it inspires is something I have patiently endured
and accepted.
Most will merely stare, only to remove their gaze
as soon mine should cross with theirs,
and some will persist beyond a reasonable glance
with dumb obliviousness of their impropriety.
Some are vicious provocateurs
who intrude upon the serenity of their victim’s mind
with a cruel remark or a threat of violence.
Years of experience have accustomed me to their occurrence,
having the dual effect of habituating and sensitizing my mind
to their poisonous purpose,
but the compassionate and comprehending love,
which I have received
in such abundance from my family and friends,
protects and secures my character
from the compelling imposition of petty malevolence.

Despite the strength of my resolve and the low regard
in which I hold my tormentors,
my composure sometimes falters under the weight
of frequent ridicule from strangers
and the fear that someone will one day follow through
on their threat or even take my life.
Though renewing my resolve is easy enough,
I cannot deny the effect these occasions have upon my senses
and the prolonged, and often hidden, impact
they continue to have.

The integrity of my androgynous identity has frequently been
the subject of praise
but it has also been the reason for my rejection.
The very first man who returned my affections did not
seem to mind at first
but over time he admitted to my awareness his discomfort
and his desire for a more masculine boyfriend.

It would be the first of several such disappointments.
Many other men, being heterosexual, can never love me,
so long as I remain male,
yet I have found myself falling for them
despite how bitterly aware I am of their apparent indifference.
The few men who have had any interest in me
will only contact me in secret
and, though they confess to love my body,
their interest stops there;
after all, men such as they merely want a piece of “auxiliary ass,”
a substitute for the girlfriend who refuses to be sodomized.

Though it does not entirely ameliorate my pain,
I feel far more comfortable in the androgynous category
than in any other
and have determined to embrace it bravely.
Strangers call me she but my friends call me he;
I often find my self-perception shifting freely between the two
and take delight in the intricacy of their interplay—
free to feel whole … and wholly myself
without the traditional gender dichotomy.

Strange Encounters of the Absurd Kind (or, Die Entfremdung des Individuums in der Gesellschaft)

If a friend is, as I am led to believe, a person whose company
one longs for,
then it is perhaps fair to say that I have few …
few who ask if I have some time to spend with them,
few whose thoughts I’d like to know,
few whose absence from my life would bring discontent.
Many of the people I have met I have never missed,
those I long to know I rarely see,
and the few I have loved rarely, if ever, loved me.
A tragedy unfolds each time I dare to compare my life
to another whose company is so widely desired.
Often now it seems to me that others are more needed than I;
and this, as far as I can tell,
is evidenced by the number of people they call their “friends.”

Once it was a habit, all too common to my disposition,
to wait in hopeful anticipation of someone reaching out to me,
but so seldom do such invitations come
that I have become motivated to seek out the company I desire
of my own accord,
yet the messages I send rarely receive the reaction I require.

Some will respond only to confirm their indefinite unavailability
and some do not respond at all,
which leads me to feel like any solicitation is an importunity;
and when those who I like most, counted up, come only to a few,
the loss is even more devastating and sad.
When the life I live is centered only on introverted purpose,
involving little else than the fulfillment of my own needs,
I find myself lacking a great deal more.
When I cannot merge my life, my needs, with those of others
I feel truly alone.

At parties, or other social gatherings, where every other person
is well engaged in conversation with another
and I am left on the peripheries,
silently observing the spectacle,
the fullest extent of my participation is a simple sequence
of response,
of nodding, smiling, and laughing
only at the appropriate moment;
and if I remain thus employed for too long
I begin to feel less involved
and less enthused by what others experience directly.
My “self” demands explanation and quickly resolves
to find the reason for its problems
but the expostulations of fear are suppositious at best.

My mind shifts through various emotions as fluidly
as the dialogues I listen to.
I can enjoy being silent for a while but I want to actively engage
in other people’s lives.
I’m afraid that if I don’t I will quickly lose favor
among my friends,
to be forgotten and surpassed by others.

When their company consistently includes less of mine
I fear they are intentionally excluding me,
the thought of which fills me with dread.
When I cannot cut through the conversation and speak,
I feel disconnected from them
and truly alone.

The savage image of lacerated flesh flashes before my eyes
and I instantly recall the quick rush of warm blood
that once, but briefly, flowed freely from my left arm.
Instantaneously I fear making the same mistakes
I made before and the inevitable setback they entail.
I don’t want to lose my grasp on the world
and all that I hold dear …
to alienate those I love most with peculiar, minor defects
or frighten potential friends with embarrassing improprieties,
but with the faltering of my senses,
by the crippling force of insecurity,
I am thrust into a labyrinthine world of feeling
inhabited only by monstrous thoughts
and where the only sanctuary
from the frightening things outside is a dreadful oubliette.

Sitting alone in my room, leisurely attending to the same
solitary activities that occupy most of my time
I wonder why it is that I, unlike others,
receive so few solicitations while they entertain so often.
In the absence of company, I speak aloud
and pace about my room,
delivering to no one but myself lectures on topics
of any sort or kind and discussing them at length
until I tire my voice and mind.
Dusk brings delight, for at last the day is done,
and whatever thoughts that may be troubling me
are removed from consciousness … one by one.

What I fear most when I’m alone and longing
is not necessarily being wholly worthless
but the possibility that I will be disqualified by necessity,
regardless of any actual personal value,
and declared … superfluous.
When others make new friends easily while I struggle to feel
anything more than a minute interest in my peers,
I worry about my capacity to relate.
What does it take for me to make friends?!

The action of the drama rises yet again and the labyrinth
in which it is staged is growing even darker.
All passages take me in the same direction as before,
towards the wrongful vindication of my worst fears.
I do not trust my senses here;
what they tell me may well be a lie,
but even this (I know) cannot last.
Every journey to this void ends
with the serendipitous discovery of a subterranean river,
from which I drink the liquid of Lethe
and recover with renewed resolve,
feeling as though nothing has ever troubled me;
I am strangely optimistic about what paths
I may take to positively impact my future state
and confidant of the methods at my disposal.

Among the many relational possibilities come a variety of types,
each differing in form, function, and orientation;
but despite their shared effect of fulfilling
the fundamental need for love, each serves an individual role.
The designation of “friend” is a most misleading
vernacular trend
and if I fail to recall what I now know about the unique qualities
that determine the appropriate nature of any given relationship
I will once again be left to the mercy
of fearful misapprehensions.

There are those I like more than most and many
I could easily live without
but all in all I do not need too many people demanding my time
to feel that I am needed, appreciated, and loved.
In times of doubt I remind myself of the potential
my past never had
and how much I have grown;
I think of the moments when friends were glad to see me,
and the one man who, unique among all others,
fills my life with the greatest love I know.

Cause and Consequence

A relationship never ends on formal terms alone.

With false fortitude, I listened politely as he eagerly recited
the various praises and fine attributes of his new lover
and secretly felt an intense, sickening sensation,
in the pit of my stomach,
far worse than any other pain I incurred on his behalf.
For fear of exciting his resentment, I forbore all protestations
and suffered the final injury he would ever inflict upon me.

In a moment of jealous rage!,
I drove the knife as deeply as its short length could allow
and brought forth from the wound a steady stream of warmest blood.
Despite the horror of my actions, I felt neither pain nor distress,
and was gladdened to be sequestered within the sacred confines
of a psychiatric ward—
though it hardly felt like a home, the absence of my former lover
and his dominating presence brought great, unparalleled relief.

Old lovers simply do not make good friends.

Venus Envy

My right leg is covered with approximately thirty
1/4 inch holes,
supposedly made by burrowing insects;
when I apply pressure to the skin
a thick, dark red liquid oozes out from them.

* * *

As fever develops with annual germination,
and revives feelings I thought were well-contained,
nature once again proves that it has the upper hand,
and thus reminds me that this thing I hold in my hand
is more than just an elaborate urethra.
Short, handsome, and good with impressions …
he sedates my bitterness with a joke
and arouses a smile.
I delight in the stories he tells me about … his cock,
fully knowing that it, and he, are far beyond the reach
of my grotesque affections.

Sheltered within the pretense of a stoic ideal
and the bitter lessons of my failures,
I force the greatest indifference to the world and myself,
and make light of lust to hide its familiar face.
Inactivity alone makes me forget
how much I enjoy the warmth of another man’s flesh
and the relief his company promises to bring.

Now, hear me out:
To many my appearance seems a conspicuous contradiction,
of qualities and characteristics that do not mix,
yet I rarely perceive this supposed incongruity anymore.
In fact, such distinctions between the proper man
and proper woman
are now almost irrelevant to me
yet despite my usual comfort
and the cavalier indifference I effect,
a small but vexing desire manifests itself
from some old, unused unconscious waste.
Its demands can only be suppressed and denied,
not relieved but forgotten by distraction,
and inevitably returns in dream.

(Scene: His chamber, a large apartment bedroom
decorated with black, modern furnishings.)

Again … I saw him in a dream, this time embracing,
his body undressed and mine,
although it technically was and still is a secret to me.
My mind filled in the necessary details
and guided our actions with remarkable ease and skill,
fulfilling the longstanding desires I tried to forget.

On most occasions I manifest as female
to better fit his parts
but on some I become the crude invader of his needs.
He resists my hands, my humble offer of affection,
and cries out from the pain of penetration;
I panic, feel shame and guilt for the crime,
but at the height of the drama the characters vanish,
leaving only their wretched yearnings behind.

I’m told: “Breasts won’t grow quite as large
once the body reaches thirty years,”
yet I do not feel that this is who I am.
I am neither man nor woman,
and no manner of magic divining rod
will assuredly lead me to the well of vital necessity.
This is the same old moral I am forced to recall
after each and every painful cycle:
What some might believe to transcend all
does not, in fact, pervade all!

The path on which my course is seemingly set may not be
the only route open to me,
for I can never know what new and more promising avenues
I will find on my way
yet in spite of my periodic doubts I can reasonably assess
what direction is ultimately best for me
and the meaning of my destiny.

* * *

My right leg is covered with approximately thirty
1/4 inch holes,
supposedly made by burrowing insects;
when I apply pressure to the skin
a thick, dark red liquid oozes out from them.
I hear their threatening buzz but do not fret;
their instinctual task amuses me.

Often a Mistress but Never a Bride

When I look back on my love life prior to meeting my husband I cannot help feeling uneasy about discussing it. My love life was almost void of physical interactions yet it was filled with emotionally intense interactions that shaped how I perceived and evaluated myself. My first boyfriend lived many miles away and over the seven months of our relationship (and the year of strained friendship that followed) we only spent three weeks within touching distance. A friend of mine at the time dismissed it, insisting that the distance did not make it a real relationship, but despite my friend’s objection, it felt very real to me. We were emotionally involved and committed to a relationship, even if it was primarily long distance and dramatically shortened by mutual discontent. It may not seem like much to other people but these experiences have had a significant impact on my life. Strangely, it was the lack of activity in my love life was a part of a more complex and personally painful problem.

I got off to a slow start. I wanted to date more than anything after I came out but I was rather shy about. The internet helped to compensate for my social anxiety and connected me to many people I would never have known without it. However, even as I was making friends, I wasn’t having much luck meeting guys and it was largely due to my purposefully androgynous appearance. I did not fit the masculine type these men wanted. That I preferred to wear skirts instead of pants was enough of a reason to reject me outright. This kind of rejection is always painful to me and has frequently intensified my gender dysphoria. On a number of occasions, I was bluntly told, “If I wanted to date a woman, I wouldn’t be gay.” The fact that I was and intend to remain physically male did not make a difference to them.

My first boyfriend was not exception. He liked me at first and flattered me with many compliments but all throughout our short relationship he frequently tried to turn me into the kind of man he actually wanted. He openly told me that he thought I wasn’t cute enough and discouraged me from wearing women’s clothing. f course, he wasn’t always as mean as this and we had our good times but our problems never went away. It became increasing clear to me that he would never accepted for for what I am and this hurt me considerably because I sincerely believed there would be no one else for me. The pain became so bad that I started cutting myself, punishing myself for not being the person he wanted me to be, and even spent two nights under psychiatric observation after I stabbed myself with an X-Acto knife.

The only men (apart from my ex) who expressed an earnest desire for me were what are colorfully known as “tranny chasers.” These are men who are specifically attracted to transgender women or crossdessing men. At the time, I thought little of it. I was young, inexperienced, and eager to make a connection. Their attention gratified my need to feel attractive and wanted by men but interacting with these men quickly became unsatisfying and even humiliating.

Our interactions were pretty simple. They would send me a message, complementing my appearance and bluntly asking for pictures or for an exchange erotic emails. I was young and assumed this was typical for gay men. After a while, it became clear to me that the exchange was unequal, tilted forever in their favor because I was eager to gratify their desires for the mere promise of reciprocity. Many of these men became hostile when I refused to continue with these types of communications and several harassed me online for months afterward. (That’s in addition to the daily onslaught of harassing messages I got at the time from perfect strangers on social networking sites.) One man, in particular, pursued me for more than year. Of all the men I interacted with online, he was the only man I ever met in person or slept with. I took his consistent interest as a positive sign and, fortunately for me, he turned out to be very nice. Even when I broke promises to meet him again, he never became hostile or angry. However, as nice as he was, his interests were still exclusively sexual and was, to me, just one of many reminders of my undesirability. I was the mistress and nothing more to these men, without much hope of ever becoming the bride.

When I talked to a few of my friends about these experiences, they encouraged me to take it as a compliment. To be honest, I dearly wanted to take it as a compliment. To some extent it was nice, as sex often is for many people, but at the end of the day, it was all that I had or felt that I could expect. The inevitable disappointment this type of sexual contact entailed haunted me every day but I could not entirely draw myself away from it because my loneliness always returned. Although I stopped interacting with “tranny chasers,” I still sought out casual sexual encounters. Since I lived with my family at the tome, could’t drive, and had little money, I rarely ever met any of men with whom I made plans. When I look back now, I’m glad my circumstances had prevented me from taking on easy hookups. At the time it frustrated me but I do not doubt that the alternative would have been much worse.

Memories of my sexual past still evoke some pain but the wounds I once carried with me have healed. Time can heal some wounds but love is by far the stronger remedy and I found that with me husband. He gave me all the things I had always wanted but could never get from other men—romance! He took me to restaurant and bars, gave me gifts and introduced me to his friends. He wasn’t embarrassed to be seen with me. For the first time, I felt genuinely and completely appreciated and loved. He did not make me feel ashamed of my appearance as my first boyfriend had but embraced it. Before I met him I did not think I would ever find such a person, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have him in my life. With him by my side, I can finally close an unhappy chapter in my life and live as I always wanted to, a valid person worthy of love.

Our Second Wedding Anniversary

DSC02131Today my husband and I are celebrating our second wedding anniversary. It also happens to be the fifth anniversary of our first date. It’s a great convenience having only to remember one date for two significant events in our lives. It wasn’t entirely intentional either, as it was the earliest time we could schedule or civil ceremony following the repeal of Prop 8.

Our civil ceremony was very simple. We went down to our local courthouse, alone and without any friends or family, and tied the knot. Some of our family members were upset by our not arranging a ceremony but having one was both beyond our means at the time and not the most appealing option.

Speaking for myself, I’m not one for elaborate ceremony. They make me nervous. Nevertheless, I do somewhat regret having the opportunity the throw the bouquet. I can just imagine my best friend shouting at me from the crowd of our friends and family, “Gene, you’re not supposed to aim!”

For my husband, our civil ceremony holds a special meaning. His maternal grandparents both served during World War II and got married as soon as they could after the war. They weren’t even officially discharged from service and went to the courthouse in their uniforms; and since they had come alone, a witness (an old man who hung around the courthouse precisely for this reason) was provided. Coincidentally (or perhaps providentially), their wedding anniversary also falls on July 23rd.

They marriage didn’t require much to be special and that’s how my husband and I felt about ours. We love each other utterly and we felt confident about our future together pretty early on in our relationship. My sister-in-law frequently makes beeping noise and announces them as the “perfect relationship alert” whenever she observes us being affectionate towards each other. I don’t think she’s far off. I could not have asked for a more supportive and understanding husband.

My androgynous appearance and preference for women clothing, rather the conventionally appropriate dress for my sex, was a problem for my first boyfriend and frequently discourage a number of homosexual men from ever considering me seriously as a partner. My husband, on the other hand, appreciates my sense of style and finds it compelling for many reasons. My husband had not been very lucky in love either and fear, as a result of too many disappointments, that he would never find anyone who could tolerate him.

Even as same-sex marriage has been universally legalized throughout the US, it remains a controversial topic—even among queer people. Some reject it as a symbol of middle class values and the perpetuation of systemic power structures while others regard it as meaningful expression of their commitment and a necessary legal provision.

Personally, I do not regard civil marriage, as it currently exists, as the final or best form. Marriage should not be the means to gaining citizenship, healthcare, or financial support. We can and should do more to provide for the fundamental needs of all citizens. With the current health care system in place, we making important stride towards fulfilling these ideals but we still have a long way to go. Nevertheless, civil marriage establishes a necessary legal relationship between two individuals. It makes your spouse you next of kin and gives them the responsibility for making medical decisions when you cannot. While these privileges can be given through wills and advanced directives, it is convenient to have them specified in one legal document. For queer individuals without supportive families, this legal provision can be of consequence. Civil marriage won’t solve many of the social problems affecting queer people but neither will it’s abolition.

Of course, there are those who oppose same-sex marriage on the unreasonable notion of heterosexual superiority but those opinions are hardly worth discussion here, as they have been so widely discredited by intellect far greater than myself.

My attitude toward civil marriage is fundamentally practical and pragmatic. Aside from certain legal provisions and rights, I demand little else. The rest is between my husband and my self, the love we feel for one another and the life we intend to share together.