I realize that updates on this blog have become increasingly sparse– there actually are reasons behind that.  In fact, I blame smartphones.

I think smartphones are the perfect scapegoats– for when you can’t get a gps signal and get lost, it spontaneously restarts and “I never got that text message from you”, or in this case, “I don’t really need to use a computer at home anymore, and so don’t really have much time to sit, think, and blog.”  For some reason, I think best when typing with all ten fingers– blogging is too cumbersome to do on the phone, and too many times I’ve had long comments eaten whole, and so I mostly avoid writing anything too precious.  Which equates to less writing overall.

I’ve also been involved writing elsewhere– some erotica, and lately, some horror.  For some reason, fiction is coming easier to me these days and since this blog more or less took the place of my journal, there just hasn’t been anything to write.

Anyway, all my whining aside, I’ve been thinking of something else over the last few weeks– this blog was always an outlet for frustration, anger, fear, anxiety– for those things that were bothering me as I transitioned.  As I’m nearing a point in my life where most of the physical work of transition is done, I’m starting to think the place this blog has had in my life is becoming smaller and smaller.  I have a set of fears and anxieties that are more or less constant, especially around surgery, but most of my social anxieties have become a thing of the past.  Or so I think.

This blog was always a place where I could feel understood, partly because this was my universe– gender non-conformity was (and still is) the norm here.  But now I feel less and less need to retreat from others, and I find myself coming here less and less.  I expect at some point I’ll cease coming here altogether, but that time hasn’t arrived yet.  It probably will happen, though and when it does, I’ll try to give you a heads-up.

One of the other things I’ve noticed about my own writing here is that the focus evolved– I started out writing about social activism and eventually, realizing I could only ever speak for myself, started limiting myself to those experiences.  The “Trans” category is the most used, at least recently, and that has almost always meant that I was speaking from a place of my own knowledge, my own experience.

But I’m finding I need to “identify” as trans less and less, and so need that category for my writing less and less.  I seem to be sitting in a headspace now that feels female, without necessarily being trans female.  Some of my online presences elsewhere don’t refer to this blog, or even mention that I’m trans, and some of the motivation for that, I think, can be traced to my previous post– if we’re not intimate, you don’t need to know whether I’ve had surgery, hell, whether I’m even trans in the first place.  The only time it does come up is when I’m speaking from my own experiences to a new audience, a group of people who haven’t realized that not everyone in the world reacts favorably to the word “tranny” or making fun of people that don’t identify as cisgender.

In those cases, I out myself, but that doesn’t seem to overshadow the rest of me.  If anything, because it’s such an infrequently seen part of my persona, it seems that people forget as soon as the discussion is over.  I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

I know that I get clocked a lot more than I realize, I know that more people than I know have figured out that there’s something “up” with me, but most are too afraid to say anything.  They whisper, they talk, but for the most part now, I don’t care.  I know enough people who don’t care, either, and that generally makes up for any worry I have over not being perfect.

“So, have you had the surgery yet?”

“Are you still equipped?”

“Do you still have a penis?”

I have, at one time or another, been asked those questions by near strangers. I’m going to start by saying that such questions, no matter how innocent or ignorant the askers’ intentions, are hurtful and rude. There is no excuse for behaving in such a way. If you wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and ask them about their genitalia, then it’s no more appropriate (and you’re no more entitled to an answer) just because I’m a trans woman.

We gender people every minute of every day—that’s a man; that’s a woman; that person in the suit with the hat is a man; that person in the dress is a woman, no wait, it’s a man. We identify and categorize people into gender categories without needing to see what’s in their pants or under their skirts. So, if you’re capable of gendering every other human being you meet without having to grope their genitals, then you’re capable of figuring out that I’m a woman. There’s no need to ask questions— my gender presentation, like my gender identity, is unambiguous.

I’ve had people ask why I don’t put MtF on my social networking profiles under gender, or why don’t I have a, I don’t know, a disclaimer or something in my profile about being transsexual. You really want to know why? It’s because that’s not anyone’s business except for the people with whom I’m intimate. I don’t need a billboard, a private conversation with the right person will usually suffice.

You see, this would still be a point of contention for me whether I were pre-op, post-op or non-op: it is simply no one’s business unless I choose to make it otherwise. Just because I post pictures of myself in various states of undress on Twitter doesn’t mean that we’re lovers, doesn’t mean that we’re friends with benefits, and certainly doesn’t mean I’ll spread my legs for you. Even if we are friends, that still doesn’t mean I’ll let you fuck me. So, if your chances of getting me in bed are somewhere between slim and none, does it matter whether I’ve got Cthulu himself in my panties?

I hope and expect my friends would respect the dignity of every person, whether those friends or those people are cis, trans, non-binary, het, gay, queer, lesbian, bi, pan or… If you believe a person’s value lies only inside their underwear, or in who they’re attracted to, then I’m the wrong person, hell, the wrong friend for you.

That information doesn’t headline my social networking profiles because while I may be a trans woman, that is only one descriptor, one facet of my life. It is not the totality of my being. I am not a fetish or a hard limit. My gender identity is completely female, hence the capital F next to my name. I’m a woman where it counts.

I was thinking about how to title this post, but something wittier just didn’t feel right. I’m going up to Pennsylvania in December and we’re going to do this and it’ll be over.

The consult:
We drove to the office on May 3rd.* It’s three and a half hours away, so that felt like going on a real trip, like this was serious business, but when we got there, it was like any other doctor visit. Forms to fill out, releases to sign. The doctor talked to me about the surgery, about the health risks and complications (and yes, just like any surgery, I could die), told me a little about recovery times and post-op care. She also told me to quit smoking or else the skin graft that forms the lining of my vagina wouldn’t take and I’d lose it. I don’t think I need to make a snarky comment about how bad that would be, so I quit smoking the very next day. That’s probably snarky enough.

I paid my deposit, got a bunch of paperwork, and now starts this long haul to December; genital electrolysis every week and what feels like endless waiting. It reminds me of sitting in a doctor’s office, in the exam room, with your clothes off, in that silly paper clothing, waiting, waiting, just waiting. Five minutes feels like forever. Is it even July yet?

So while I’m anxiously awaiting this coming December, which will hopefully contain a Christmas where I will no longer sit down in the corner of the shower and cry until long after the water has run freezing cold, that excitement is tempered by several things.

I was in the front office, writing my deposit check to secure my surgery date and something felt… off. It’s hard to put it in a single word, but it felt like something had died, like the sun was less bright, like there was somehow less to the world. For the last twenty years or more, I’ve had to deal with being trans. I prayed about it, I hurt, I cried over it. I cut over it. And while I was overjoyed at getting the surgery I’d always wanted, something else occurred to me as well– there was no miracle cure. My signature on that check attested to the fact that I no longer believed in miracles, in the healing, restorative and curative power of prayer. God wasn’t going to poke his head down, apologize for not getting back to me sooner, he’d had a lot of other things to deal with, but abracadabra, you’re a girl. A real girl.

Writing that check, I realized that part of me still hoped, still prayed (however silently, however subconsciously), that there would be a miracle. One can argue that surgery, that a skilled surgeon, is a gift from God, a miracle, but honestly, the end result of surgery isn’t a fully functional vagina, is not a miracle. I may have a vulva when the doctor is all finished, but I may never be able to have an orgasm again. My body won’t be self lubricating, I won’t be able to get pregnant. I will have to use a dilator for the rest of my life. This isn’t a gift from God, it’s a human being trying to fix something that’s wrong with another human being. I do not see divinity at work.

God, as I have recently been musing, is either trying to teach me a lesson, or work out some ineffable plan (Q: How do you get two otherwise straight women to form a lesbian relationship? A: Make one a transsexual, and have her transition after they get married. Easy. Except it’s not.), or maybe this just has nothing to do with God at all.

In that situation, God is either weak and powerless, or he’s a sadistic fiend who deserves the exact opposite of adoring worship. Considering the degree to which I’ve presented myself as a Christian in the past, it may give a reader pause to consider how much things have changed since I started writing this blog.

While other things in my life have been changing as well, the most noticeable improvement, I think, is my emotional stability. My last suicide attempt was early March and while I’ve had some hard moments since then, I have never since been without hope.

That particular incident in March that I referred to, which I have come to think of as “The Hanging”, was as predictable as it was earth shattering. The predictable part I’m sure you can guess at. The earth shattering parts, well, maybe you can guess at those, too, but they certainly caught me by surprise.

You’ve realized by now, I expect, that I’m quite bad at actually killing myself so I’m going to skip the actual details. One night, a few days after The Hanging, Christine came down into the basement while I was sitting, crying. She told me that my parents were giving me the last of the money I needed for surgery. I looked at her with tears in my eyes and called her a spiteful bitch for lying to me like that. She told me that she wasn’t lying, that she had been on the phone with my parents and that they had said they cared more about me than a few thousand dollars. I still didn’t believe her.

A few days later, I was on the phone with my Mother. Towards the end of the call, I asked her about what Christine had said. She said they didn’t care about the money and wanted me to go get surgery. She said she loved me and both she and my Dad wanted me to be happy.

I felt two things– immense relief and an overwhelming sense of worthlessness, sort of like what I’ve heard of survivor’s guilt. I was going to be able to afford surgery. That last bit of money that was going to take us years and years and years to save up was just being dropped back into my bank account. And then I remembered my friends, some of whom have been without any kind of hope for longer than I’ve been in transition, some of whom have succeeded in killing themselves. What about any of them? Why do I get to hit this goal and some of them don’t and never will? How is that right? If I do this, how am I not just helping to perpetuate a system that is inherently unfair?

One friend of mine said that she figured I had suffered enough. That thought still makes me shudder a bit, as though we all have our dues that we must pay the universe in order to be made whole just so we can live our lives like, well, like normal people. I don’t think that’s what my friend meant– in fact I’m pretty sure she meant the exact opposite, namely that no one deserves to hurt like this, but if no one, than why any of us?

When I talked to Christine about it, she said it was because my parents loved me. But why my parents and not someone else’s? Why mine and not that girl’s parents there? Why did they throw her out of their house when she was 16? Why didn’t mine?

I refuse to believe in destiny. I refuse to believe that it’s anyone’s or anything’s master plan for some people to suffer and some people to obtain salvation. If there is such a thing as salvation, and a hell of which we’re in peril in the first place, that salvation shouldn’t be something that’s awarded based on a randomized drawing. It should be for everyone.

When I think about this kind of division of happiness, that some people get what they want and others don’t, it reminds me of that parable in St. Luke’s gospel about the beggar and the rich man. I’ve been in Lazarus’ shoes already. And now I feel like the rich man. If there is a God or destiny or karma, what’s going to be expected of me now that I’ve been given the one thing in life that I want the most?

————————–
* I realize it’s now nearly the beginning of July. Two months may seem like a long time to sit on this, but well, I’m still trying to parse all of it. This is a very big deal, after all.

If you won the lottery, or at least, got your hands on a sizable sum of money (let’s call it $100,000 for the sake of argument, not that I have that much), what would you do with it? Pay off a mortgage? Credit cards? A car loan? Maybe do some home improvements, or just drop it in the savings account for a rainy day? I’m sure you don’t even need three guesses to figure out what I’d do.

I recently inherited a small amount of money. As it turns out, it’s the last of the money I need for my own medical expenses related to transition– I have money to finish up all of my electrolysis and also to pay for surgery. In the few months since my last post, I’ve resumed electrolysis on my face, started electrolysis on my genitalia*, and booked a consultation date for surgery with Dr. Christine McGinn in Pennsylvania.

And now, surgery looks like it may be less than 10 months away and I feel terrified. I’m excited of course, and thrilled and happy and I’ve felt better than I have in years, but still, I’m scared. Surgery is a big deal and this is, it really is, irreversible. The trach shave was, of course, but big deal, I’d be a guy without a hugely prominent adam’s apple. And I wouldn’t have a lot of hair on my body or face. But, those are hardly the kind of roadblocks one would worry about when de-transitioning, if one decided to do so.

This though, as I’m starting to get bald patches around the surgical site, is starting to really sink in. If I detransitioned now, it would be a weird thing to try and explain why I had almost no pubic hair.

If you’ve noticed in that last paragraph, I used the phrase ‘surgical site’, which is how I’ve come to relate to my genitalia. I used to use feminine words when talking about my body, calling each part by what it would eventually become. Now though, it’s just a surgical site. I’ve actually found that as I start thinking about surgery and what will happen to my body that it feels weird to call parts of my body by names that don’t fit yet– a caterpillar is not yet a butterfly. And so that doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I imagine that my relationship to my body will continue to evolve in the next several months, as the date is fixed and then gets progressively closer. And that’s actually the one thing about surgery that’s most on my mind at the moment– how will my relationship to my body continue to change, especially post-surgery?

In other words, what if surgery doesn’t do anything to make me feel better? What if I’m not happy? What if, instead of feeling out of place with male genitalia, I feel out of place with female genitalia that are, for lack of a better word, artificial? What if I don’t feel like a real woman when it’s all said and done?

I’ve had this particular thought before– that part of what supports the thesis that I’m not a real woman is that without shots and electrolysis and surgery I wouldn’t be a woman. If I were trapped on a desert island, I’d eventually start looking like a man again. Consequently, my top three desert island must-haves: lifetime supply of 1.) estrogen, 2.) syringes and 3.) needles.

This view is, of course, very short sighted, but it represents a very real fear and a very real misgiving in my own psyche– it’s even evident in my “About” section on this blog– that what we feel is not the entirety of the experience. After all, my thinking goes, if all it took to be a woman was to feel like a woman, then the government wouldn’t require that we have SRS in order to change our social security accounts. Evidently, there’s something within the institutionalized ideas of gender that are based on our physical bodies and it seems I’m carrying that around with me– just because you say you’re an orange doesn’t make it so.

If I had to pin down the fear, it’s that in this process of moving from apple to orange, from fish to fowl, I’m worried that I’ll end up, not stuck in between as I feel now, but in some third place, as neither, and that the unique state of being will not be superior to either of the known points. What if I end up in a worse place than I’ve ever been, what if I feel like a person who couldn’t be a woman without a surgeon’s intervention? What if the despair at the end of the road is worse than I’ve ever plumbed?

A friend once echoed my sentiment that dysphoria is a known quantity, that it never gets worse than it is. It comes and goes, but when it’s bad, it only gets so bad. I know how lousy I can feel about the way my body is. But once the entire world is turned upside down again, what will that dysphoria look like? How lousy can I feel about the way my body will be? I’m afraid of that answer. Part of my surgical recommendation is to stay in therapy for at least a year after surgery and I fear that I won’t make it that long.

But, even with all the uncertainty, this is still going to happen. It has to. I can’t imagine having come this far and not taking the final step no matter how scared I may be of what’s on the other side. It’s not unlike being at the border of Aslan’s country– some risks have to be borne, no matter the consequences. Sometimes we have to move forward, no matter the people behind us that think it folly.

So, that’s what I’m doing with the money in the bank. I’m not saving it for a rainy day, I’m not investing it, I’m not doing anything responsible– I’m going to go blow it all once in a single place– a town in Pennsylvania called New Hope. We’ll see if it is.

———————–
* Electrolysis in the pubic region is quite possibly one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever endured. Even with a topical anesthetic, a large quantity of alcohol and several ibuprofen tablets, I still end up crying every week. It hurts that bad. I’m convinced that if we, as a nation, really wanted to torture people, all we’d have to do is strap them down to a table and burn a few hairs off their genitalia. We’d get whatever information we wanted from even the most hardened individual within a matter of minutes. If you doubt me, try plucking a couple of hairs from down there and then multiply the pain factor about 10-fold and decide how long you could hold out against that.

Not my own work, but this was too damn good not to share with everyone.

re-posted from:
http://genderqueerchicago.blogspot.com/2011/02/how-to-make-love-to-trans-person.html#comment-form

by Gabe Moses

Forget the images you’ve learned to attach
To words like cock and clit,
Chest and breasts.
Break those words open
Like a paramedic cracking ribs
To pump blood through a failing heart.
Push your hands inside.
Get them messy.
Scratch new definitions on the bones.

Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.

When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it’s highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she’s “had the surgery.”
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.

If she offers you breastbone
Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
Than the flesh that rises to meet itLet her ripen in your hands.
Imagine if she’d lost those swells to cancer,
Diabetes,
A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
Would you think of her as less a woman then?
Then think of her as no less one now.

If he offers you a thumb-sized sprout of muscle
Reaching toward you when you kiss him
Like it wants to go deep enough inside you
To scratch his name on the bottom of your heart
Hold it as if it can-
In your hand, in your mouth
Inside the nest of your pelvic bones.
Though his skin may hardly do more than brush yours,
You will feel him deeper than you think.

Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They’re just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It’s what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That’s the important part.
Don’t worry about the bodies.
They’ve got this.

So lest you think that Maryland has been a complete disaster for me, there have been some positive developments– I’ve not just been wallowing in a deep pit of despair. Hopefully this post will contain some small evidence of that.

From the remains of two suicide attempts since November of last year, I realized that I needed to get busy living or get busy dying, if I may borrow a phrase. Dying, since it seems to be so damn hard for me to actually do, gave way quickly to looking at what on earth I was living for. I figured if I couldn’t find a good reason to get out of bed in the morning, I could always go back to the tylenol and the razor blades. Maybe just the razor blades. Or something else.

What I came up with was this: no one gets up each and every day so they can go to some crappy job. In fact, I’d imagine that even a person who loves their job probably rejoices with the weekend just like the rest of us. So, I concluded, I’m definitely not living just so I can work. I do like my job, but just not in that way (I almost feel like I’m giving that break-up speech where I say, “It’s not you, it’s me.”).

The next thing I considered were things– possessions, stuff, crap, junk– whatever you want to call it. That one probably seems pretty obvious– I don’t know anyone who’s ever said, “I live for my awesome flat screen TV.” Sure, we all love a good movie, but if the Wiimote goes flying through said TV, as I’m sure it inevitably will, I wouldn’t kill myself over the loss of either of those things. The things we own, just like our jobs, are replaceable, or at least, not so singular that we are unable to live without them.

I found myself running out of things to consider living for. And then it dawned on me. I had friends. I have friends. There are people I know and love; there are people who know and love me. I may not live for my job, but I certainly enjoy the time I spend with my co-workers, talking, laughing, joking, eying the cute pre-doctoral intern in the next lab over.

My friends, the people who wrote to me while I was in the hospital last year, the people who have either stuck with me through this transition or who have become my friends after and in spite of it, I realized, have become more important to me than family. That foundation is important, especially since the solid base I thought I had in my family disintegrated over two years ago.

What I have realized is that our connections make our lives worthwhile. I’m not talking about those Facebook friends that I added because I wanted to kick ass at Mafia Wars. I’m talking about the ones that got added and I only later realized were cool people, chatted with, maybe cybered with. Those connections, those genuine moments where we can be ourselves and allow others to be authentic at the same time, I believe, are the greatest gifts we have to give and receive.

My connections with most people back in California, sadly, are starting to drift, but I’m also starting to make solid connections out here. One of those new friends I’ve made is a woman who is probably the best amateur therapist I’ve ever met. She’s not just someone who listens, she’s someone who can actually give you decent advice, not by telling you what to do, but by asking you questions and letting you figure out on your own what needs to be done.

As I was talking to her about my transition, I had said to her something that I’ve said here probably a dozen times or more– of course I hate the man that I was, the body that I have. If I didn’t hate those things, I wouldn’t transition. In truth, that was a driving factor in my decision to make those changes in my life.

My friend then asked me whether I wanted surgery. Of course I want surgery, I replied. Wouldn’t I just love to have things the way I imagine them, the way I envision them?, she asked. Of course I would. Won’t I love my body after all is said and done? I imagine so. Do I really want what I will eventually love to be born from flesh, from a life, that I hate so much? Of course. Wait. Maybe not. No.

I want to be beautiful. I just don’t think I can get there from a place of hatred. That’s been a hard thing to admit and a harder thing to put into practice. I wouldn’t say that I love myself, nor would I say that all my discomfort with my body is gone. Those palpable problems still exist, but the form, the experience, is slightly different.

This same friend, interestingly enough, has challenged me on some of my behavior in the midst of my social experiments. I’ve referred to these experiences in the past, but if you’re reading the last post first, let me put it this way– if you’re not used to being treated like a woman, it’s a little hard to know how to respond in any given situation, especially if you identify as a woman and like being treated like a woman. So, in some cases, I act, I perform and I take mental notes on the reactions of people around me.

How do people react if I wear heels? If I wear flats? What draws the least attention? I’ve gotten quite good over the last few years at blending in, at being invisible, at deflecting attention. The guy working in the supermarket will forget me as soon as he tells me where to find the ranch dip powder and I’m out of eyesight.

If I were to try and build an analogy, I’d say I’ve moved past the phase of being in middle school where I’m going to do all I possibly can to make sure that I fit in. I know that I fit in. Now I’m at that point in high school where I can branch out, where I can explore a little bit and determine, stylistically, what I consider cool and where I want to go as me, as an individual. I no longer want to be the forgettable woman in the supermarket.

Since I’ve mastered (more or less) how to be invisible, now I’m trying to learn how to actually hold someone’s attention, to control it through my own behavior and elicit the responses that I want. It may sound manipulative and it is, but it’s also something that every single one of us does every day when we address a customer as “Sir” or apologize for standing on someone’s foot.

While what I’m talking about may sound too deliberate for a behavior to ever appear as anything but a performance or an act, I would argue that all of our interactions are scripted by a social feedback loop from which we’ve been learning since we were children. The information I’ve been working off of for the last twenty years doesn’t hold for a woman, though. So I had to scrap all of it and start over and figure out what kind of behaviors are acceptable for girls. For young women. For older women.

In an effort to accelerate the learning process, I will, on occasion, deliberately throw a monkey wrench into the cogs of the machinery just to see what breaks. It’s not willfully destructive– I’d actually say it’s quite the contrary. I have always believed that one of the best ways to learn how something functions is troubleshooting it when the proverbial smoke is pouring out of the wreckage. But just because something may stop working temporarily doesn’t mean it’s broken.

What I’m talking about above is more theoretical. To put these ideas into practice, I’ve learned that the best way is just to go ahead and try it. I’ve already taken bold steps, done daring (and probably stupid) things. Eventually though, all belief, all theory, must be put into everyday use. Just like with my clothing, my hair, my make-up, I try a bevy of different things. Simply because they get tried, though, doesn’t mean that they’re a permanent part of me. I’ve always discarded the things that don’t suit me (have I ever told my story about blue eyeshadow and red lipstick?) and reinforced the things that do until they become second nature. In fact, once I find those things that suit me, they barely need to be reinforced. At that point, I find myself, I find my style and I find all of it feels incredibly natural.

Another friend recently said something to me that nearly knocked the wind out of me the moment I heard it– the woman I am just is. I like that because it rings true. We are who we are. But I also know that we are all meant to change, to evolve. If that must happen, then I want to learn how to change gracefully. I hope that my stumbling steps at the beginning will give way to something more fluid as I understand myself better.

I have a feeling that most of my readership (what little there is) must be feeling that I fell off the proverbial map, so here I am, writing the first real post in what must be four months. A lot has happened in that time.

I’m employed. I had to move. I thought about, and tried, killing myself at least two or three times (what else is new, right?). I’ve lost some friends. I’ve made some new ones. Some things have gone horribly wrong for me in the last few months. And some things have actually gone so far awry I think they actually crossed over and ended up working out for the best. I’ve been busy. Hopefully you’ll accept all of that as decent excuse for my absence.

I’m still sorting out what to tell you and maybe as I write I’ll be able make up my mind about those things.

I could explain, in gory details, how my latest BDSM relationship went atomic but that would involve violating the privacy of several people that have not given their permission for such a discussion. I think I can say the following without crossing any lines: I harmed someone, albeit unintentionally, but that harm occurred nevertheless. That it was not physical harm simply means that no one had to go to the ER. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t fuck up. In fact, emotional distress is probably more serious, at least in my mind, and I can do nothing more than offer my apology to the individuals involved.

The problem was trying to figure out how a trans woman who has issues with her own body (namely, me) can relate to the trans body of another woman, and in the end, I blew it– rather than risk alienating this woman from her own body, I ended up alienating her from myself. I was so afraid that I was going to do something wrong, that I was going to set off one of her triggers, or worse, one of my own, that I ended up hardly relating to and interacting with her at all.

The way around this, I’ve discovered, is to openly discuss how each of us relates to her body and how we ought to relate to one another’s bodies. It seems so simple, but I was already afraid myself, feeling so vulnerable and exposed, and I knew (or at least thought) that she must be feeling the same way and I was too scared to just talk through it for fear of setting one or the other of us off. Yet, all that was really needed was a bit of talking. This girl was a friend of mine but still, I was too afraid to relate to her as a friend, to find out what she needed from me, to tell her what I needed from her, and just like a smothered fire, we died.

I suppose the reason I’ve shared what I have of this that I feel like pointing out that I’m just as capable of making bad decisions, that I’m just as capable of doing stupid and hurtful things, that I’m just as capable of making a mess of things as anyone else. I am responsible for the harm I caused another person and there’s nothing I can do at this point to make it right.

I suppose that’s kind of the overarching theme in this post– relationships are– hell, life is– messy. We are never perfect moral agents, not even in our own stories. Even those whom we elevate on pedestals rarely live up to our expectations– the specter of abandonment looms large, even when we are told they’ll never leave.

Which brings me to my best friend. The Domme I met last year– the person I’ve been most reliant upon for stability since I tried to kill myself last July– has removed herself from my life. The rationale isn’t as important as the impact. There’s a huge hole in my heart that she filled and I miss her terribly every day.

I initially felt let down and hurt that someone’s connection to me could be so easily broken. As I’ve gained more distance from her though, I’ve realized that while she had a lot of positive influence on my life, being away from her has been a good thing for me, as well. I learned a lot from her, but being around her was to be in a very controlled environment. While she helped me feel more stable at a time when I was very emotionally not, the atmosphere was a lot like being in the hospital– everything with her was rigidly structured. In a sense, I needed that stability, but at the same time, I didn’t learn how to survive outside that controlled environment.

This may not sound like a bad thing on its face, and it really isn’t, but as I alluded to previously, I recently found a new job. I had to move across the country– I now live in Maryland, about 45 minutes away from Washington, DC and what might as well be light years away from all of my friends back in California, all the people I knew in the lifestyle. I felt like my Domme, like my best friend, was on the other end of the solar system.

So, as I was saying, once I moved, I was completely unprepared for life outside my Domme’s control. Now, I’m not saying that’s her fault and I’m certainly not blaming her for trying to help me when I needed it most last year. I wouldn’t have gotten through that troubled time were it not for her presence, her near constant availability when I needed her.

But once I was outside the sphere of her influence the foundation of everything in my world was shaken. I just didn’t know what to do without her. I would go in the bathroom at work and cry for 30 minutes at a time, feeling completely alone. I felt so disconnected from everyone, that nothing was going right and all I wanted was to go back home and feel the sun on my face again. Not two weeks after I moved out here I swallowed nearly every tablet in a huge bottle of tylenol.

No hospital for me this time, no ambulance rides. I didn’t even get through all the pills before my stomach had hit the proverbial eject button. Aside from being probably the grossest thing I’ve ever personally experienced, I felt miserable for the next three days, physically sick. I did recover and pills are now forever off the suicidal ideation methodology protocol.

My Domme knew all about the suicide attempt and in light of this latest demonstration of despair, decided that she wasn’t going to go down with me. I don’t even remember the last words she ever spoke to me– I tried calling and never got an answer after that. For weeks, I was nearly non-functional and all I felt was alone and abandoned, by myself at a time when I most needed a friend. I cried nearly every day.

But, time passes, and as fall became winter, I started to get settled in the new job and the new surroundings. That vast expanse at the edge of the world which started out as an unknowable and terrifying quantity became just another part of the scenery. I have, through all the negative experiences and ruined relationships that marked my first months here, realized several very important things, themes that seem to get repeated over and over in my life.

For one, this new place is not quite so terrible as I first imagined. To the contrary, I have the freedom and the anonymity to be myself, whoever that really is. There is no dichotomy of Jessica here– no one has ever known Josh. Only a few friends have even seen pictures of what I used to look like. I get the most amusing looks from people when I try to explain that I used to have a beard and mustache and that I shaved my head every few months. The experience is as odd for me as it must be for them, as though part of my past doesn’t equate with the woman in front of both of us.

Aside from feeling disorienting, this new found breathing room is also very liberating, as I’m sure you could guess– it allows me to be myself apart from the known history of being a trans woman to most people. I’m afforded the space to explore myself as a woman, just a woman and not necessarily as a woman who used to be a man. So much of my life has been organized around being trans, by beating it down and then embracing it, that sometimes it feels like all I know is myself as a trans person. Now though, I feel like I can figure out what the rest of me looks like. It’s the temp job from last summer writ large, expanding to encompass every aspect of my life, not just work.

Looking back on the wreckage of my friendships as I talk about finding myself, being more myself, I believe there is a fundamental disconnect that has brought me to this point. Up to now, I have failed to believe that those who love me also care to know what I need. It is a failure of communication, a failure to confront fears within that affect my relationships– specifically, fears of abandonment and fears of body dysphoria. On a larger scale, I think if we applied a simple correction to all of our relationships, if only we believed that our loved ones would want to know what we know about ourselves, then maybe some of our hurts and the hurts we cause others could be avoided.