TL;DR: Lots of rambling about life, and also I’m moving my post date to Sundays because work.
Hey everyone! It’s Saturday, and for once I’m with y’all in the whole “OMG FINALLY THE WEEKEND” feels. 😬
I haven’t had time or energy to prepare one of my usual stories due to working full time and also moving and doing lots and lots of adulting in general. It feels amazingly good.
It’s mind-blowing to me just how much different I feel now that I’m financially stable and able to work towards a less dysphorian future. These past seven months since I tried estrogen, subsequently experienced a massive improvement, and then decided to transition have been long and difficult.
And frankly, I owe y’all an apology. I’ve been acting like a self-absorbed ass. I honestly don’t know how my bum managed to suck itself into itself but it did and obviously this explains everything.
In all seriousness though, I had no idea just how truly stressed out about lacking money and stability I’ve been. I’d been dealing with it by trying not to focus on it more than necessary, and that made my GD float to the top of the stress stack and it was all I could see. It’s amazing how much easier it is to deal with dysphoria when you know that you’re going to be okay, that it’ll happen, you’ll get there. And also that you don’t have to worry about food or feel psychological pain every time you need something, like shoes. Suddenly I find myself doing something I’ve never done in my life:
I’m actually looking forward to the future.
Don’t get me wrong. My job is difficult for me. I still only have so many spoons, and most days I run out of them hours before we call it a day. The constant low-key noise of the environment feels psychotic to my over-amped senses, and I have to wear ear plugs that just don’t work near well enough all day long. With ear plugs, I think I hear about the same as a normal person. It still hurts at times though. Sometimes it scrambles my brain in waves and I’ll have a half an hour where I’ll just be coasting along on sheer will and trying to make progress, any progress, but am unable to made decisions and do incredibly stupid things. I oversave files, or close tabs I’m using and don’t need because I’m too exhausted to make my eyes and body work together. Sometimes I can’t make my eyes focus, they get so tired. And the pain... sometimes it’s all I can do to not just, I don’t know. Not do.
But the fact remains: I CAN DO IT.
I cannot describe what a wonderful feeling it is to know I have the physical capability to work a full-time job, even if just barely. It wasn’t so long ago my life consisted of days on end of trying to work up the energy just to do my dishes so that my partner/caregiver at the time wouldn’t have to, and failing miserably. Being that ill, for that long, really taught me a lot and gave me a valuable perspective.
Respect the little things. They matter.
Can you get up in the morning and make it to work? Can you spend time with people you love? Can you be in a public place and have it be okay? These aren’t things to take for granted. These are causes for celebration!
And yet I haven’t been able to celebrate them. I was so focused on understanding my identity and my past that everything just kind of collapsed into my ego and came out the other side organized. It’s kind of like when you move and go through everything in the process, throwing some things away, realizing you still don’t have things you are going to need. And I needed to understand what was happening to me. I needed to understand my transness and what causes it. I needed to learn to come to terms with the fact that men turn me on and women don’t. I’ve been fighting against that last one my whole life and not even realizing that the battle was largely that I’m still terrified of men.
Unpacking repression is like suddenly discovering you’ve lived multiple parallel lives and never known it. It radically changes the way your story looks to you, can add triggers you don’t want, but also makes so many of the frustrating mysteries make sense.
A lot of my recent posts have been about exploring the way my sexuality developed through the environment I was raised in. So many of these stories stuck in my memory in such stark detail because of the sheer confusion they caused. And they’re easier to write about. The truly hard ones are yet to come. I still don’t know just how honest and raw I’m capable of being. Some things are just too personal, or gross, and I’m too ashamed of them to write about it. Some things are better kept to ourselves, I suppose.
Anyway, I hope I’m finally coming out of the self-absorbtion identity crisis phase. I’m starting to regain interest in the things I used to study, which is a good sign, but I’m still not solid in an identity, or solidly okay with a lack thereof, which isn’t. So much of this is a waiting game.
Anyway, next week I’ll get back to the stories and stop the rambling. Because of my work schedule and the way that affects me, I’m moving my posting day to Sundays instead of Fridays.
Thanks for sticking with me!
HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!
This has been a majorly eventful week for me, as I was hired on as the Lead Graphic Designer for an awesome company. I cannot recall a period of my life in which I’ve not felt money stressed, so when I say that it feels bizarre to buy myself lunch and not have a panic attack about whether I’ll be able to afford dinner, it’s really something for me.
It’s been more than three years since I’ve been physically able enough to hold a steady job, and holy mother of a coconut’s dingleberries DOES IT FEEL GOOD!
It’s not just that I can finally start saving for major transition expenses;
It’s not just that I’m no longer starving;
It’s not just that I’ll soon have an actual, stable, place to live;
Or that I can afford to fix my car when it breaks;
Or that I’m a genuinely important part of the company I work for and what I’m doing really matters to it’s survival and reputation;
The biggest thing is simply that I finally have something I can spend my day doing that isn’t hyperfocusing on the pain of gender dysphoria.
I was really worried at first that I wouldn’t be physically up to it, and there have been a couple of close calls- on the first day I had what I can only assume was a silent panic attack and almost literally ran away thinking I wasn’t good enough, in every meaning of the phrase. Instead, I bummed a cigarette and smoked about half of it over the course of the day, and was thereby able to keep my nerves and anxiety levels steady enough to make it through.
On the second day I must have had some tiny amount of gluten in my food because after lunch the usual vague pain tripled at least. I was wearing earplugs because the office is pretty noisy, but even with them in the accumulated sound was enough that it took my brain offline and had me with my hands over my ears, trying not to start sobbing or run and hide in the corner of the room to try and escape the sheer pain of normal office sound. Aside from the insanity happening in my brain, my entire body was hitting about four, while my back must have been a six, maybe seven. It was bad enough that my boss noticed without me saying anything as I was walking past to use the bathroom and told me I could go home, because there was no sense in me just sitting there in pain and that it was okay.
I could have kissed him for that, since his compassion would have meant more setbacks for his company. But no way was I going to set that sort of a trend. I NEED this job. So I just asked for some Ibuprofen. My other boss hooked me up, and after about forty minutes the pain and fog had receded just enough to finish out the day. I was out at four, but I wasn’t done.
You’ve been needing to change the spark plugs and spark plug cables on your trusty (pronounced “dumpy piece of shit”) 89’ Subaru for months now. This morning, driving to work had been particularly dicey because you kept losing power at really scary times on the freeway. You’re still feeling pretty out of it, but you figure it has to be done, there’s a hardware store right there, and if you’re going to make it to work on time today you have to just do it. Besides, you bought the parts about two weeks ago, and purchased a socket set at the hardware store a few doors down during your lunch break.
After removing the big black air-thingamajig, you discover that your socket set is too small. You shuffle your way back to the store and buy a spark plug socket. They were hanging individually by a plastic insert, and as you are walking back to the car your arms are too weak to pull it out.
Trying to work it loose by bending the top of it back and forth, you end up just snapping the top off with the plug still stuck inside, rendering it unusable. Pain increasing from the effort, you shuffle your way back to the office and try to poke it out with a chopstick but fail. One of your bosses tries with scissors, and he fails too, which makes you feel a little less pathetic. Finally, you drag yourself clear back to the store. It’s only about a block, but at the rate you’re walking it’s starting to feel like ten. Happily, at the store you are able to get the damn plug out. Fuck yes! Finally!
At the car again, you triumphantly put the socket on the spark plug to see if you bought the right size and it fits so perfect you can’t get it off. No problem! You’ll just grab your trusty (pronounced “chinsy”) new socket set and plug ‘er right in!
Of course, the little penis part of the wrench is too small for the gaping square-socket vagina, so you’re forced to head back to the store AGAIN, this time full on limping as your back muscles seize up from the cold. But that’s all you need. You manage to change everything out and then put it back together, and even though you’re ready to drop on the from exhaustion you feel rather proud of yourself. You turn the car on and it works! What a relief!
You don’t make it even as far as the freeway exit before it starts doing the thing again, only worse. You pull a *very* awkward u-turn in a bad spot, tick some people off, and barely make the thing reach the parking lot again. You are far too tired and in far too much pain to even consider being frustrated, so you stop at the bar and use the restroom and the internet, then ask for directions to the max station. Once directions have been acquired, you replace the contents of your hippie purse-bag-thing with a change of clothes, locked your car, and set out for the MAX. It’s only a two block walk, but when your back muscles are seizing up and you’re ready to drop from the effort, it feels like a mile. But you make it. And ride for an hour of screeching cables and people who suspiciously can’t figure out how to turn their gangsta rap volume down.
The true gauntlet of the day is making it from the MAX stop to the place you’re staying. It’s eight blocks, and the noise of the max and the fact you can’t rest yet has made everything rise to screaming levels. It feels more and more like it used to feel almost every day before estrogen, and as you walk up the stairs you can feel it use up energyyou hardly have. Going down the next set makes you anxious about falling because your knees aren’t remaining steady.
The next few blocks are an excercise in sheer willpower, and at some point you realize you’ve passed hyperventilating and begun wheezing out loud. And then it starts hailing. Knowing you have to eat, You shamble into a Whole Foods and somehow manage to order a burrito bowl that’s too complex to comprehend and then clutch it for warmth as you make your way into the house where you’re staying. At this point, every step is lead. Walking requires walls, and you can’t make yourself take your shoes off in silence. The pain in your back is probably closing in on a 9 out of 10, and you interact vaguely with the denizens of the house as you eat as fast as you can and then head to the shower. The warm water does wonders for the pain, and you fall asleep easily, thouroughly exhausted.
You wake up forty minutes late for your alarm because it didn’t go off. It takes several seconds of investigation before you discover that the reason it didn’t is because you accidentally set it to wake you up Sunday-Thursday instead of Monday-Friday. There’s still a bit of residual pain, but nothing like last night. You text your boss, then take the max and arrive half an hour late. It’s all good, and you make up for it by working through part of your lunch break.
The good thing is, you’ve got things down today, and you’re starting to make noticeable progress! Also, there are no crashes or panic attacks and you get through the day without needing to smoke.
You take your car to a nearby mechanic who fiddles with the cords for a bit, then decide to risk the drive since it’s the weekend. About five miles out, the car (pronounced “piece of shit”) starts working correctly.
A family picture taken around the same time as the events of this post. I’m on the far right, wearing one of my favorite shirts.
You aren’t supposed to be running up the stairs, but you do anyway, two at a time because you can. It’s a great feeling.
At the top of the stairs is a group of boys around your age, huddled in a ring around something they all seem to revere. You try to break your way inside, but as usual the boys aren’t particularly keen on letting you be a part of whatever they’re doing. So instead you loiter close by, trying to eavesdrop and keeping an eye on who’s in control of the thing. If they all revere it, and they don’t want you to see it, it MUST be amazing.
Unfortunately, all you can hear is the occasional and conspiratorial “oh my gosh she’s so hot” from random boys in the group. What does “hot” mean? You ask yourself, baffled and more curious than ever. When the ring finally dissolves, you ambush the leader, Jay- he’s the new kid in church and super worldly compared to everyone else. Like, he wears sunglasses to church. It’s a level of cool you’ve never previously encountered. Too bad he doesn’t like you either.
You think he’s kind of weird looking though, at least compared to Benji. Benji is the pinnacle of what you feel a boy should look like: his hands are beautiful, and he has an eleven-key piano spread at eleven years old. His incredibly handsome long face makes him look wise, and he’s the first friend you ever had. Sometimes you wish you were him instead. His dad almost never spanks him. You know it’s because he’s better than you, than you’ll ever be and so it’s somewhat fair, but he’s not that much better. Dad’s just extra strict because he’s important.
Benji and you have been pen pals from age five, sending notes back and forth written in secret codes (with the code key included in each letter just in case). But as the years have passed Benji has been increasingly cold to you. Unless it’s just the two of you alone together he’ll just mock you in front of everyone. It’s betrayal, and it hurts. You’re still loyal to him, and do what you can, but nothing works. So now he’s your best friend, but you’re not his. What on earth did you do wrong?
Maybe if you can figure out why the guys don’t like you, you can fix it and then they’ll include you. So you’ve been trying, and failing, for going on years now. And when there are only about a hundred and fifty members in the church that makes up your entire world, including the kids, there aren’t a lot of options.
Not that you can keep up, anyway. None of them seem to mind beating each other with sticks and they’re all so much stronger and faster and more agile than you. When they won’t wait up it feels like their entire game is to stay away from you and you feel left out and can’t stop yourself from crying and calling after them, bleary eyed at being abandoned. It won’t occur to you that this is precisely what you’ve been doing to your little brother for at least another year.
Of course, they just pick on you for that. But then it’s hard to blame them- dad does that too. It’s just the way you are.
Luckily, there’s no running in the house after church, so you manage to catch up to Jay in the next room, a side entry where people keep their shoes and coats during the service. He’s trying to stuff something in his coat pocket. Luckily there are no other kids around, so chances are he’ll talk to you.
“Jay?” You ask, kind of timidly. “Err, um... can I see?”
At first he looks sort of surprised you’re talking to him, but then he smiles conspiratorially and stops trying to stuff the CD into his coat and hands it to you.
It’s not that interesting. It’s all ruddy reddish and there’s this photo of some girl on the cover with bubblegum in her mouth and it says “Britney Spears” on the cover. You look up at Jay, trying to figure out why this caused such a commotion before, but he’s looking at the picture with this leering look on his face. That’s when you decide he’s actually kind of creepy. You give him the CD back and head off to look for Tarina or Rain to see if they want to swap embroidery thread colors, and to show off the eight-color friendship bracelet you’ve been making that’s still safety pinned to your pants.
What on earth was all that commotion about a picture of a girl? There are girls everywhere. What’s the difference?
Boys are weird, you think.
Church is held in Mr. Matthew’s four story house deep in the woods, near a popular hot spring. Initially, the house was a single-story, inset, basement level, single- bedroom brick affair wedged into the side of a hill. Mr. Matthews wasn’t content with that, however, and he and your father led work parties every weekend when you were small and built three more stories on top of it over a period of months. You’d actually been forced to help with it at times when you were very, very young. Remembering freezing hands and feet, tears, splinters, the insane screaming of chainsaws, and sawdust in your eyes, you stop thinking and instead scan the second floor living room for signs of the girls.
Mostly, it’s adults wandering around and doing their usual after-church things. Presumably, then, the kids must be outside or upstairs or following orders. Several men are clustered near Mr. Matthews’ chair, discussing the sermon and passing around a bright green book called “Holiness”. Women are moving back and forth, preparing the after-service potluck.
For whatever reason, all your thoughts have vanished, because suddenly men and women look different to you then they ever have before.
As an eleven-year-old, you aren’t particularly knowledgeable about the world, but you do know that the normal, natural order of things means that you’ll become a man and marry a woman. This is something you think about constantly, because if you could marry at sixteen maybe you could get out of your dad’s house two years earlier. And also because you really want to have kids. Lots and lots of kids. At least a dozen. Minimum. And then you’ll raise them and understand them and take care of them and never be like dad. You’d be like mom would be if dad weren’t around making her do things you can tell she doesn’t like. Anyway, to do that you have to get married. And the girls seem fine, you suppose. They’re fun to play with and way nicer than the boys.
The problem is, girls start looking really weird when they get older. And you’ve just realized it’s going to happen to the girls you know, too.
Something happens to them, and they get all lumpy in all sorts of weird places, and then the older they grow, the more saggy and weird-looking they get. The other boys are always talking about how hot older women are but no matter how hard you try you just can’t relate at all. Maybe you’d understand if they’d just tell you what “hot” is supposed to mean in the context of girls, but they won’t. It seems like it must be one of those things that you have to automatically know.
Oddly, men are the opposite. They start out being boys, and then they just get better and better looking. They get strong and muscled and hard and bearded and also kind of scary. Even when they’re really old, like forty, they just look so handsome and distinguished. And they grow all this hair everywhere and it’s just so cool. It’s like women are really just plain, lumpy men that don’t have any plumage and men get all the really neat stuff. Humans and peacocks are actually a lot alike, you think. You giggle as you visualize Mr Matthews with bright blue iridescent body hair. Too bad that’s not how it is. For a moment you feel a surge of pride at being born male.
You’re a boy, so you’ll be a man someday too. And that means that you have to marry one of the lumpy people. It’s oddly disappointing, but then that’s just the natural flow of things. And it shouldn’t be that hard- after all it’s just kissing that makes girls have babies... right? Or something like that.
You try to visualize who you’ll marry. Will it be someone you know now? Will it be someone you haven’t met yet? Will you ever get married? You can’t imagine marrying Tarina or any of her sisters, and probably not Rain, either. And not Raquel. Well, maybe Raquel- the adults are always saying it’ll be the two of you but you don’t like each other like that. Oh well, you guess. Anyone will be fine. After all, only God knows that sort of thing.
You forget about searching for the girls and plop down on the blue-carpeted stairs instead, determined to complete the eight-color friendship bracelet before lunch so you can give it to Benji before his family leaves. Maybe then he’ll see how much you miss being his friend?
“No thanks,” says Benji, when you try to give him the bracelet, “I’ve already got too many- Lindsey just gave me one earlier.” He pulls up his sleeve to show you several bracelets, some old and dirty and faded, and a new one that has to have at least a dozen colors.
“Oh,” you sigh, hating Lindsey even more than you already do.
Disappointed and unsure, you give it to the next kid you see.
Happy Friday everyone! This week, I’m taking a break from the darker subject matter. Sometimes it takes me a little while to recover from some of these and I’m just emotionally drained from some of the flashbacks.
So this week is the story of something I never thought I would actually tell anyone since I became incredibly embarrassed of it: the story of my first truly favorite band.
Considering current life events, it makes a lot more sense, and since I no longer have to hide the fact that I’m basically a basic bitch, read on! Also, bonus photos from that time period!
You’re thirteen, and you have never heard music like this. Most of music you’ve heard is goofy or old but this, this is incredible! Something about it is incredibly cathartic, and while sometimes music is helpful, this just melts you and makes you feel warm in a whole new way.
“WHAT IS THIS?” You ask her, completely enthralled. She shows you the CD cover, all bluemetal greys and five handsome men on the cover standing in a flying-goose formation as her disc-player blares:
“All you people, can’t you see, can’t you see;
How your love’s affecting my reality;”
You study the cover as the music plays. It has the band’s name on the front, and the title, “Millenium” which is unbelievably cool, emblazoned beneath their feet. It’s the most epic music you’ve ever heard.
“And thaaaaat makes you laaaaaaaaarger than life!”
It’s a revelation, and the first band you’ve really truly loved since that time you were crying on the stairwell from the sheer beauty of Benji playing Pachabel’s Canon in D on the church piano.
“What do you want?” Asks mom, in the Burger King drive-thru.
“PLEEEAAAASE can I get a CD?”
“But mom they’re only two dollars! Please? They’re so good!” Mom rolls her eyes and relents. You get a couple of cheap cheeseburgers and a Backstreet Boys promotional CD. You put it into your hand-me-down battery-sucking portable disc player. You can’t remember where you got it, the headphones are janky, and it doesn’t always work right, but it’s suddenly become your best friend. The disc only has three songs, and that’s completely fine. They’re good ones.
That night, the six of you stuff yourselves into the camper your cousins are letting you stay in as your parents separate. Maybe you’re cramped, maybe no one likes you, but as you listen to the first music you’ve ever really wanted on repeat, the world feels hopeful for the first time in a long time.
“You are my fire
My one desire”
If only someone felt that way about you. Anyone. If only you could have just one friend! You fall asleep, pretending with every fiber of your being that they’re singing only to you.
Your cousin Noah is showing off his new radio/CD player in the living room one day, and he’s playing something really weird. You don’t know what it is, but it makes you feel uncomfortable.
“Can I have a turn? I have something really good! Way better than that!” You plead.
“What is it?” Noah asks, raising a skeptical eyebrow.
“Yes!” Says Noahs sister, Julie. Noah is two years older than you, Julie one year older.
Noah looks at you in abject horror. “What are you? A girl? That crap is terrible!”
At first you’re genuinely surprised that anyone could hate the Backstreet Boys, and then you’re insulted. Especially because this is not the first time in your life he’s simultaneously insinuated both you and girls are some kind of lesser species and it makes you feel angry, but mostly at yourself. For not being better at life.
“I’m not a girl! They’re just really good! Come on! You’ve been listening to yours!”
“Come on, Noah.” Says Julie, taking your side. “I like it too.” You can’t tell if she does for real or if she’s just taking your side over it.
It’s two against one, but Noah’s big and really popular and always wins at everything. So it’s still a shock when he gives in. Excited, you pop the three-song CD into the player and turn the volume up, singing alog with Julie until Noah has had enough of it and turns your music off before you even get through the first song. When you start pouting, he explains he just can’t stand it any longer. Then he puts something else on, something he calls Tom Petty. It’s not so bad, you suppose. But nowhere near as good as your little CD either. So you put your headphones on, and head out the sliding glass door to grab your sketchbook from the camper and find somewhere private to doodle and listen to your music where Noah can’t make fun of you. You settle for the hay loft in the upper garage where they keep the horses and tack. It’s a bit scratchy, a bit full of land mines, but at least it’s private.
At least until Noah starts playing basketball right outside. You decide that inside the camper is probably the safest spot and try to get past him without him noticing but Noah notices everything and trues to recruit you. He managed to convince you once, when you first got here and you absolutely hated it. It wouldn’t have been so bad if Noah wasn’t so physically aggressive, but he kept knocking you over and stealing the ball. How on earth is it playing if the whole game is chasing him around trying to get a turn? You tell him you’ll play HORSE with him, but he’s not in the mood for that- he wants to compete and, of course, “HORSE is for girls”.
Not for the first time, you think that boys are baffling. Why on earth do they all seem to actually want to get all bruised and scraped and knock each other around? And like shitty music.
Months pass. One week with dad, one week with mom. One with dad, one with mom. And then mom makes a decision that has you grinning in anticipation for weeks.
You finally get to go to public school!
They place you in the ninth grade for your first year. You get a new backpack and books and notebooks and a binder. Grandma buys you a new set of clothes- a slick silky pair of blue track pants and a matching jacket, which you will wear every day for the first two weeks of school and which will be the impetus for your first important social lesson: people who do not live in the country wash their clothes more often than every two weeks.
Things are looking up. Mom obtains full custody, your parents file for divorce (which is the best news of your life), and your mother finds a four-bedroom apartment with government assistance.
School starts in late October, in the second quarter, because the timing of custody prevents you from starting at the beginning of the year. You ride to school with Noah and Julie, in Noah’s car, and it is on one of these rides that Noah brings it up. Again.
“Cuz, I love you, and I don’t want you to get mad because I know you really like that CD of yours, but you have to understand. It’s okay if you like it, but at least don’t tell anyone what you’re listening to.”
“What? Why not?”
“Because people are going to think you’re a fudge packer and beat you up.”
“Why? Maybe you just have bad taste in music. It’s so good!”
“If you’re a thirteen-year-old girl.”
“Julie likes it and she’s fourteen!” You say, instantly proving him completely wrong.
“Hey, don’t get mad. Sheez, what, are you gay?”
“Goddamn it, NO!!!” You yell, in spite of yourself, and then immediately feel guilty for taking the Lord’s name in vain. Still, you’re getting really f**king tired of that question. In fact, you’re getting really f**king tired of this conversation. Ninth grade was bad from the start. People immediately assumed you were gay and have been accusing you of stalking various guys. You spend most of your time out of class just trying to hide or to not cry.
“Then try listening to something good, cuz.”
“Like what.” It’s more of a dare than a question.
“Like Limp Bizkit” he says, popping in a disc. Speakers blare. The music *hurts*. You’ve never heard anything nearly so violent before.
“It’s just one of those days, feeling like a freight train
Everything’s fucked, everything sucks, and you just wanna justify
RIPPING SOMEONE’S HEAD OFF”
In a strangely bold move, for you, you turn the volume completely down. You’ve never heard anything so offensive in your life.
Julie, who has been quiet up until now, pipes up from the back seat to thank you for turning that down, and then chides Noah for listening to something like that because he’s a Christian and that music wasn’t godly. Noah, who is in the process of turning the volume back up, checks himself.
“What about Chili Peppers?” He asks her.
“Yeah, cool.” She says to him. Then, addressing you, “you’ll probably like this”.
This is how you discover a second band worth listening to.
It’s mid-February of 2001, a couple of weeks after your fourteenth birthday. The family has moved into the apartment above Hamburger Hill, and things are beginning to settle. Dad’s coming for a rare visit today, and he says he’s bringing a present.
The present turns out to be Benji, and you are unreasonably excited to see him. He seems awkward though, and a bit distant. But he brought you a present.
“I know you wanted this really bad, but I don’t know if you still do, so...” He says as he hands you a CD with two fingers, like it’s infected.
“I thought you liked the Backstreet Boys”, you say.
“Maybe when I was a kid.” He looks embarrased. It hurts. You want to hug him, but there’s a feeling you don’t quite understand between you and so you don’t. You feel like a pariah. You wish for the billionth time that you knew what was so wrong with you? Why does everyone hate you?
The moment does something to you that Noah’s incessant attempts at intervention never could have- it makes you dount your taste in music. In your mind, Benji is the consummate musician, a virtuoso pianist, and he really knows. And you like something he thinks is for kids, or probably girls the way everyone else does... oh. He probably just thinks you’re gay too. Thus the weirdness. Why does *every person* think that? Even your friends keep telling you it’s okay to be gay. But you’ve seen just how well they all treat Charlie. You want nothing to do with that.
The increasingly familiar depression comes over you. You wish it was just you and Benji again, the way it was when the two of you were little kids, writing letters back and forth. This gift feels like an ending, and it is.
It’s the last time you’ll ever see him.
It’s saint Patrick’s day. You’re wearing a shirt with dark green stripes. It should work.
“Heyyyyyyy, phildo, whatcha listening to?”
The group of boys is stalking down the hallway towards you. You turn and ignore them, and walk up the stairs, only to meet Jordy and another boy. “Oh look, a faggot”, says Jordy, a short latino kid who has proven to be your biggest tormenter.
You try to play it cool by protesting your sexual orientation. In your wallet is a photo of Rain, which you’ve been using as a way of proving to people that you really are straight, not that it’s worked. Somehow they can always tell that you’re lying through your teeth. You reach for your wallet anyway but before you can get to your pocket Jordy bunches his fingers and jabs you, hard, right in the balls.
The next thing you know, you’re on the floor, gasping for breath and crying involuntarily. Jordy is laughing his ass off. People are gathering. “Why...?” You gasp, totally confused about the purposeless violence. “What... did I do?”
“Should have been wearing green!” Jordy says.
“But...I am...wearing...green!” Did you not make it obvious enough? Did you forget to account for the lighting? Why do you always make stupid mistakes like this? You really are completely worthless.
“Oh, oooooooops. Thought it was black.” This is total bullshit, and everyone knows it. But it doesn’t matter. Because they all actually think you’re gay. Specifically, they think you’re in love with Cass. But you aren’t on either count. It’s just that Cass is so funny and popular and everyone likes him and you’re only staring because you want to figure out how to be his friend.
Paulie shows up and saves you. He’s got a speech impediment but is somehow immensely popular, from your point of view, anyway. He’s one of those kids who can hang out with group of kids, though he doesn’t seem to have much luck with girls.
It’s hours before your balls stop hurting, but the Backstreet Boys soothe your soul.
You don’t recall exactly when the abuse and loneliness became too much to bear, but it’s sophomore year, and you’ve long since stopped listening to your favorite CD. You’ve replaced it with more socially acceptable options- The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and various Christian CDs from your mom’s collection. An album of wind instruments from the Andes Mountains called “Condor’s Flight”. A disc of orchestral music with Pachabel’s Cannon in D, and as you listen you imagine Benji playing it on the Matthew’s piano, his long fingers moving so rapidly and precise.
A girl next to you is talking about the Backstreet Boys. You have an involuntary feeling of terror and a sense of being exposed. Are they testing you?
“You like the Backstreet Boys? They’re so gay. They sing like a bunch of faggots that haven’t been fucked in ten years,” you say, hoping this will score you enough points that maybe people will like you or at least leave you alone. The girls look offended and move away from you, and the guys give you a skeptical look. What did you do wrong this time? Isn’t that the sort of thing normal guys say? Hello, fellow males. I, too, am a normal heterosexual male! Shall we bump into each other violently on the grass together and compare our manly muscle masses?
Still, you can’t help feeling exactly like the betrayer you've become. But Sophomore year is the year for cowardice. And when that loses you all the friends you’d had, Junior year becomes the year of foiled suicide.
And in any case, the year of the “Millennium” has come and gone.
It’s a beautiful day, the first beautiful day in weeks: spring is finally here! Bright colors glow through the open cabin windows. Birds seem to appear out of nowhere, as if the leylines of the world had kinked, twisted, and spun them directly into being about an hour ago, just earlier this morning.
It’s a day earlier than you’d planned to shave, since usually you’d wait until you’re heading into town, but you just can’t take it any longer. Your skin is crawling, clothing feels rough and sticky, as though your skin has turned into velcro. Your breasts are growing sparse, rough hairs again, and your face has been in short stubble mode for four days now. Hopefully you’ll be able to get a few hours of mostly smooth face today, but that comes last. Your stomach and legs are also sprouting hairs, almost as if your body is rotting, mold spores extending their way out of your skin.
Fucking broken, cross-sleeved piece of shit. Why does it even do this? What a fucking waste of resources! A part of you considers just starving as a way of not giving your body fuel with which to grow the horrid stuff, but patience is a thing and anorexia actually causes extra hair growth as your body tries to keep itself warm. You’ve been on hormones for six months now: it’s only two more months before you’re projected to begin seeing differences in your body hair growth patterns. For six months in, you’re not doing too badly. Body-wise, anyway. At least until you wake up in the morning and see your shoulders, which seem almost dislocated, they’re so broad- and sometimes you wonder if they are. Your shoulder joints are so flexible that arm locks don’t work on you, which once freaked out your Karate Sensei, during the six months you studied. Luckily, it’s actually fairly easy to fix this, since they seem to have a legitimate second width setting- you just have to roll them back and they click into place, hardly wider than your hips and suddenly it’s your body again.
You’ve already accepted that you are basically screwed facially- it’s going to take expensive surgery you can’t imagine ever being able to afford. But heavens, it would be nice to look in the mirror and not see a man-head tacked onto your predominantly femininely-shaped body. All in all it’s not a bad looking body. Perhaps, at 6’1” you’re taller than most people, but then so is your sister and no one assumes she’s trans. She’s an inch shorter, but in the scheme of things an inch isn’t a hugely meaningful difference. And somehow she learned to love being tall, and got herself a giant man, so there’s hope for you yet.
You can’t stop yourself from waxing stupid at this point, wishing for the billionth time you could just find a rich guy who likes your art so you could stop worrying about survival and actually paint. It’s this kind of thinking that hurts most, however, and you clamp it before it goes any further. It will only lead to the despair you feel when mulling on things that you’ve always known are impossible for you.
But still, happiness looks like a studio of art supplies. Stacks of fresh canvas. Oils in every conceivable color arranged in arcing rainbows, divided by tones and hues. Brushes lined up in holes. Seven easels in a line, and no pressure for anything to be perfect, or to mean anything. Just paint for the sake of itself. And perhaps, a small wildflower inserted into one of the brush-holes. Ah, me.
In the meantime, you’re trapped in this limbo between genders, not fully passing as either. Clearly phenotypically male, yet also visibly transitioning even when you try to hide it. It’s probably the boobs. So far, the best way you’ve found to deal with it is to just pretend you don’t have dysphoria while you’re out and about. Just act normal, do your thing, and people keep on liking you. Pretend you don’t care about pronouns when the truth is they all bug the hell out of you- male pronouns because you’re afraid they’re about to try to recruit you to do something manly, and female pronouns because you’re hyper aware that you have a bad case of dude-face. And the gender neutral ones just frustrate people and in the end it’s all so petty. It doesn’t matter. Going out into public hurts. But then, it always has. Nothing new to see here, thank you very much.
And this is Portland, after all. You live in tranny mecca. People like you flock to this city from all over the USA because the people here see weirdness as a point of pride, and that keeps us from having our asses kicked for existing. It’s a pretty good gig, all in all. Or it would be, if you actually liked many other trans women, who seem to come in two clear types: really fucking smart and so stupid you’re impressed they can tie their shoelaces. Guess which one’s more common? Mostly, it’s just that every time someone asks you about your pronouns thet end up relating a story about offending some insecure trans woman and being called transphobic when they clearly aren’t, and your sick of having to clean up their mess again. What are you? Their goddamn mother?
God, someone’s grumpy today.
Anyway, you tell yourself, the point is, no one cares.
Unless you try to practice your voice. Then the world freaks out. Or at least almost everyone who knew you before transition.
You step into the small unfinished bathroom. Despite the fact that the uncovered window makes you feel incredibly exposed, you strip naked, turn on the hot water, and plug the sink that is still propped on black plastic sawhorses. Time to shave.
Before beginning transition, it hadn’t occurred to you that the one thing people would push back hardest about is your voice, but it is. Most people have been fairly supportive about everything else, but work on improving the pitch and timbre of your voice and people will explode all around you and beg you to stop being so fake. Of course it’s fake, you tell them, you’re practicing. And that’s when they start bitching about how stupid gender is and waxing philosophical about why it matters.
Because yeah, using female pronouns at you will somehow make you and the world around you blissfully unaware that you sound like a man. Easy-peasy! Just don your Sunday hat and POOF! You’re a real woman! Either that, or they just love your man voice.
You hate it. Always have. Transition is an opportunity to change it into a voice you actually like for once, but people push back, you can’t afford to actually progress in any meaningful way beyond hormones anyway, and insurance doesn’t cover voice therapy. So you just stop practicing and wish you had more friends who weren’t cis.
But now that you’ve finished shaving your legs, life has already improved. By the time you finish the rest of your body, the feeling if spring is starting to catch up with you and the world is looking brighter. You shave your face- the most difficult and lengthy process- and you’d waited long enough. Smoothish skin and almost no shadow! Just that much changes your features drastically and suddenly your face looks... well, at least sort of androgynous? At least you don’t feel so fucking hideous and infected.
You get dressed, and for the first time in days you can feel your clothing. It slips over your skin smoothly and suddenly you feel like yourself. You can’t help it- you do a quick, simple makeup job and put your hair up. It’s a desperate relief, especially since for the past few weeks when you look down you don’t see a man. You wish he didn’t either.
Oddly, though unsurprisingly, movement suddenly makes sense again. Dysphoria has a way of overwhelming your sensory experience and taking the pleasure out of basic things, but once you eliminate most of it the world seems to open up. It’s almost as if everything is just a pattern of interlocking leylines and you just have to jack into them if you want to flow. Walking becomes dancing. Doing the dishes becomes dancing. Everything becomes dancing, and it will continue to be until the effort of normal daily exertion hits you at some point later in the day and the pain shuts down the music. But for now, you’re alive.
Nobody is here to judge you or insist you’re acting fake or vapid, so you can let yourself go and just be. No more need to conform to everyone’s expectations of you or feel awkward when someone refers to you within earshot. And so, you dance.
The feeling lasts through the evening pain and into the next day, where you have the opportunity to stay elsewhere, in a house with a working shower. In the bathroom, there is a huge mirror in which you can see yourself as a whole for the first time in a while, and your reflection is... off, somehow. Wait, what if...
You reach behind and under and pull your junk out of the way and the relief is palpable. It’s odd how little you notice how profoundly those bits bug you until suddenly you can’t see them. Ninety-nine percent of the time you really don’t care. But right now, yeah.
The image staring back at you isn’t perfectly feminine. But if you didn’t have an adam’s apple and your jawline were just a bit less square, you’d probably have a chance. You’re still really androgynous, but things are definitely moving along.
It’s not every day you have a chance like this, so you spend ten minutes evening out your facial skin tone and correcting your hairline, and then you snap a photo or two for a later transition timeline.
The next day you head out to perform, feeling girly as shit. But as you get up to play and all the eyes are on you, the usual pre-performance nerves kick in and you set everything you are aside and surrender into performer mode.
As your bandmate sets up, you engage the crowd, get them laughing, and then the song starts.
The moment you start singing it feels like there’s a clamp around your heart. And yet, you have to sing. It doesn’t matter if it hurts. It doesn’t matter that you’re working build a reputation on something that will probably prevent you from ever being able to just disappear and blend into the woodwork. For you, music is not a choice or an option: it’s a compulsion, an obsession, and an escape.
It doesn’t matter that someone is taking a video recording of the song or that you can feel how people see you. It doesn’t matter what you feel: you’ve got the talents you’ve got and develped them the way you have. It’s just a meat sack you’re living in anyway, so you use it for it’s capacities and forget about hiding it’s flaws. All that matters is that you’re there and performing. None of them know how it feels to be you.
Once you stop stalling and get started, you allow dysphoria to fuel your voice, adding emotion and intensity to the performance. Your bandmate is on an absolute wavelength. People love it.
When it’s over, you want to crawl under a rock. Instead you settle for a few drags off of a cigarette to calm your nerves. For the rest of the evening people come up to you and talk about how awesome your performance was. You smile and keep on doing the “I give zero fucks” personality.
It’s funny how everyone believes that one.
The fog of memory clears to reveal a hallway, in which you stand, shaking.
“What are you not telling me?” Asks your father, his shadow draped over you. Talking isn’t easy right now- you’re still in the throes of the involuntary after-spanking hiccup-spasm-sobs that are part relief and part declining panic. Your cheeks are salted and a little crusty.
“Nothing,” you lie, because what you’re really thinking is that you didn’t deserve that, and that dad is a liar and a hypocrite and that you’d like to run away.
“Don’t lie to me. Lies are a part of the sin-nature.” His tone is deadly serious, almost threatening. “You need to bring your sin into the light so that God can cleanse it. Tell me the truth, or we’ll turn around and do this again until you do.” He’s always saying things like this. He always means it.
The thought of another spanking sends panic through you, and while the prospect of more pain on top of what you feel now is not enticing, what scares you more is the shame you feel for being such a horrible child. Of all the kids of all the people that are saved, you’re the worst. Dad says so all the time, and he’s not wrong- most of the other kids claim to only be spanked once every few months. Last time the subject came up, you lied and said it had been a week, but the truth is you’re so bad that you’re usually spanked several times a day, though that’s usually because you’re often punished multiple times for the same crime. Thus, it is shame rather than fear, and the certain knowledge he’ll get you to open up anyway that compels you. “I just feel like, I don’t know, like maybe I deserved it but...”
“So you’re angry?” He cuts in, as if he already knows the answer. You look at the floor. “Look me in the eyes while I’m speaking to you!” He commands. You comply so he doesn’t smack you in the face or grab you roughly by the jaw and try unsuccessfully not to glare at him. “Stop lying” he orders, “tell me what you really feel.”
Something in his tone tips the emotional balance and suddenly rage overwhelms fear and shame and the floodgates open. “I hate you! I didn’t do anything to deserve that and you take away everything I care about just because it makes me feel better!”
“I take things away because you idolize them. You worship toys over God. But your place is to be a man. Remember that the apostle Paul said ‘when I was a child, I spake and I thought as a child. But when I became a man, those things I put aside.”
“BUT I AM A CHILD! IT’S NOT FAIR! Everyone ELSE gets to play and be a kid!”
He looks down at you with mock pity, and then changes his tone to condescension, almost baby-talk. “Aww, MEAN dad? Do you think you’re being abused? Is that what you think? You’re not. You’re just a sinful, rebellious, boy. This is mercy. Rebellion is born in the heart of a child, and you, we, deserve eternal damnation!”
It’s not the first time this conversation has occurred, and so when the resolution crosses your face, he knows exactly what it means. “Oh, you going to run away? What are you going to do? Go tell the neighbors and tell them that MEAN DAD gave you a spanking? You think they’d take you in? If they’re smart they’d just give you another whooping and send you right back.” He’s sneering as he says this, and you know you deserve it for being so stupid as to think that anyone out there would want you.
But you’re twelve, and too old for this, and now you’re sobbing so hard in despair and anger you can’t see. Right now, it doesn’t matter if he’s right or not. You make a plan. Dad orders you to go back to work. You ask him if you can use the bathroom first. He says yes, but that if you aren’t back at work in five minutes you’ll be spanked again. It’s not an idle threat.
You have five minutes.
You go into the bathroom and close the door, lift the toilet seat and make sure it smacks against the tank loud enough that dad definitely hears it. His bootsteps recede, and you wait with your hand on the doorknob until you hear the sliding door to the kitchen close. The moment it does, you spring into action. Bolting to the bedroom, you grab your backpack and put your favorite crystals inside of it, the garnets you found on the Steens mountains, your pyrite cube, the quartz and the clear topaz you stole from a pile of rocks a kind old man let you rifle through. Your fluorite diamonds. An assortment of others. You stuff in your collection of wildflowers pressed onto cards, each with their english and latin names. You chuck in your cross-stich gear, mostly the embroidery thread in case you want to make a friendship bracelet for someone you meet on the road.
That finished, you race to your parent’s room, throw open the drawer in which he’s hidden all of your money, the money YOU worked for and which he will probably spend on tools or something. It’s eighty dollars. That’s a lot of money, should last you a month at least. Maybe you can even buy some legos and he won’t be able to take them away from you. Or maybe one of those super cool Polly Pocket things. Funding retrieved, backpack donned and clanking from your few worldly belongings, you check your watch. It’s been three minutes. No time to lose!
Vision blurred, teardrops very likely flying behind you dramatically, you dash to the front door and slam on your hiking boots as fast as you can. The sliding door opens behind you before you can finish tying your second boot so you abandon it and jump up, open the front door and make it as far as the stoop before you’re caught roughly by the ear and yanked backwards, sprawling to the floor.
From here, the fog of memory descends, and the scene ends.
The bag of silver coins is heavier than it has any right to be, and the coins themselves are amazingly beautiful. Dad decided to invest in silver, and it came today. This evening, the family has been hanging out on the sofa in the living room, playing with the flashy metal discs before Dad puts them away.
There’s an almost jovial mood in the house for a change. Something about the fascination with the heavy silver coins seems to have brought a fresh wind into things.
You decide that it would be neat to stack them into a flat-ish pyramid and start with a 5x5 base, then 4x4, and then 3x3. Just as you are finishing up the 2x2, Dad says it’s time for the kids to brush their teeth and go to bed.
“Okay, just let me put this one last coin on top!” You say, excited to see the completion of your mound.
“But Dad, just...”
“Now!” He commands, the mood changing instantly. But you *can’t* just leave it unfinished, that would bug you for days, so you place the last coin as you move off of the sofa, hoping you can get away with it.
You don’t. Dad grabs you by the arm and yanks you over. “Did you hear me? I told you to brush your teeth and go to bed! When I say now, I mean NOW...”
You’ve already started to cry, because you think you know what’s coming next. But this time, he’s not punishing you. He’s just angry.
“Oh, you gonna cry? Am I MEAN DAD?” His tone has dripped into condescension with every successive word, but now it snaps into cold anger. “You want to cry? I’ll give you something to cry about!” At ten years old, you’ve long lost count of the number of times you’ve heard him say this.
Mom says Dad’s name from across the room at the same time that he kicks you to the floor.
“Get up. Go to your room!” You try to stand, but before you can get to your feet he kicks you to the floor again. “Come on, Hurry up!” Kick. “Rebellious child.” Kick. You keep trying to tell him you’re going, you’re going, but you can’t because he keeps kicking you across the room and berating you as he does so. Mom says something that makes him pause so he can order her to stay out of it- this is what you deserve.
There isn’t enough time to stand, and you have a gut feeling that if you take the moment to run he’ll chase you and the next kick will be even harder. Thinking quickly, you do the opposite and cling to his leg. Maybe if you hug him it will remind him that you’re real and calm him down, and also if you’re closer he can’t kick you very hard.
Everything is happening incredibly fast. One moment you’re on the floor, sitting up through the pain and panic and wrapping your arm around his leg, the next you’re flying backward, striking your skull on the leg of the upright piano and your body colliding with the bench. It takes a moment for you to catch your breath. Dad isn’t interested in waiting for you to be able to move again. He grabs you by your arm and yank/throws you towards the hallway. Mom is calling out his name again, trying to get him to stop, but he ignores her. You’ve given up on standing and now you’re just trying to crawl towards your room, while Dad keeps kicking you over and over and over until he’s kicked you right into your room.
As is common with you, you cry yourself to sleep, melodramatically wishing you had never been born. Or that you could start over and be a baby again. No one kicks babies. As you fall asleep, you realize you’re more afraid of the light beneath the doorframe than of the demons lurking in the dark.
Sometime later, you wake up to your mother holding you and apologizing. But then, it could just be a dream.