Life, love and transgender adventures in Italy


Daily life takes place in a small town in Northern Italy.  Just as I was coming out, I could have been forgiven to think that I am the only transgender person in my town.  But out with one of my children one evening, the most exquisite trans woman walked by—in her twenties, so effortlessly gorgeous.  The last thing that most transwomen want is to be clocked, but as a fellow sister, we see things that others don’t.  My child didn’t realise and only saw her as a pretty young woman.  I had the joy of realising I was not alone.

But with so few sisters around, this ballerina giraffe get’s stared at.  By men, sure, but more so by women.  And it isn’t happy and supportive staring either.  It is more, “you freak.”  And rather disarmingly, when you stare back, they don’t turn away like the English do…there is no patina of politesse.

I don’t like it so much that the place I call home, the country I love to be in more than any other, is likely soon to be no longer my home.  I am casting about for a new place to hang my hat, one where I can be comfortable just being.  These are the cities on my list in rough order of suitability: New York, London, Amsterdam, Miami, Lisbon.  I love the ocean.  I love warm weather, so in terms of likelihood, Miami could just be at the very top of the tree, though it is the only place someone has shouted at me.  Ironically, it was one of the few times I was rocking boy mode, and no, I do not look gay, but he decided I did, and shouted out “faggot” as he rode by on his bicycle.  Silly boy.  Nobody dared to speak to me when I lay on the beach in a string bikini [bottoms only, though that will soon change—after all, I’m not German].

I am desperate, however, to make Italy work because I love it here.  And in truth, I do feel that I have a duty to stand out as a transwoman because by doing so, all those who suffer in silence might find their voices.  I am alarmed by the statistics around transgender people—100x more likely to attempt suicide, poverty, joblessness, real victimhood. Having benefited from the patriarchy as long as I have, with all the trappings of a successful professional life, one which I might never have earned in the same way as a woman, I have a level of insurance against the kind of discrimination that a younger me would face growing up even today were I to transition pre-puberty which is the only way in the current society to make this work.

But “passing”, such a defining goal for most trans people, is such a patriarchal pile of sxxt.  Yes, I would love to look like that, love to be that pretty, love to be quintessentially female.  But I’m not.  I am this gigantic creature, half-man, half-woman, female brained but mostly male-bodied.  A beautiful freak.  Yes, a transwoman can be a ballerina giraffe.

Dating in Italy

I went on a date the other day with a lovely Italian woman.  She has gotten to know me through our initially casual interactions and a therapeutic relationship.  She let me know that she was single and open-minded.  She asked me, quite stricken I’d say, “but what will you do, sexually I mean, if you have the operation?”

“Well it doesn’t work already.  And you know what?  Thank goodness.  Who says that the thing is even required?  It’s just a distraction.  Without it, I can just focus on her pleasure.  What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, I’m open,” she said.

I asked her out. A few days later we were enjoying a lovely dinner.  Fun conversation.  Opening up to each other.

And then she called me a word I didn’t know.  “Zerbino.”  I said, “I don’t like the sound of that.  It sounds like some kind of ugly animal.”

“No, no,” she said, googling it on her phone.  Italians love to use their phones at all times, including on romantic dates in nice restaurants.  And then she showed me.  Oh gosh.  It was a picture of a doormat!

And of course, in English, and in submissive circles, and love and dating, there is nothing positive about being a doormat.  But clearly she didn’t mean it that way.  I think she might have even meant it as a compliment.

“In Italian,” she said, “the word doesn’t have a negative connotation.”  I haven’t figured that one out.  “You are not a general doormat, just a doormat in specific.”  She was saying that to someone I care for, that I became this way.  She is extremely perceptive.

“You sure see a lot,” I said trying to think back about what I might have said or done in the hours we have been together which would have sent out even the faintest clues.  I couldn’t come up with anything.  I debated going full Monty with her and sharing with her the naked truth—that I am a slave, but then thought better of it.

“I am not a doormat in real life.  I am an anti-doormat.  Nobody would think of me as a doormat.”

“And yet I know you are,” she said.  And then the word took on a playful life of its own, it became a verb, and I was okay with it.

Later, she walked me home and then came inside for a cup of tea.  Was I supposed to kiss her?  There goes that existential crisis.  I will never be the one to make a move without explicit consent.  That is the legacy of male me and was the only way I could accept being romantic in a male body.  And we don’t know each other well enough for me to ask, and I was concerned about boundaries, and not wishing to turn our relationship into something other than the friendship that has been blossoming between us for some months.

But there was something else.  She is a dominant woman.  Not in a superficial sense.  In a profound sense.  Philosophically, she believes that women have won, that men are irrelevant, and that the tide has irrevocably turned.  She congratulated me on “capitulating and giving up my manhood.”

I felt really weird butterflies in my tummy when she was next to me.  And her hands kept brushing against mine when we talked.  And it was putting me into space.  At times it takes so little.  The most intense feeling of space I ever had were two times at a restaurant with ex-Mistress, once the first time we met and I shook like a leaf the entire time, and the second time we went back to the same place, and I felt thoroughly and utterly an embodied slave.  I felt those stirrings with this woman.

As we sat next to each other sipping our tea she told me of a personality test that I would do with her the next time I saw her, only she already knew what my type was.  She told me what hers was too and instructed me to read about it. The subtext? “I want you to know how to be with me.”

To be called a doormat as a compliment, to be walked home, to be teased gently and sexually over tea, and to be shown and told that women are superior to men was a powerful experience, and left me aroused in a way that I have not been since starting GAHT (gender affirming hormone therapy).

Still, the doormat discussion led me to this blog post on male codependence about doormats as an “Agreeableness” feature.

I’ve always had a hard time understanding Italian women.  Starting with Alexandra, the grade school dominant girl whose slave I became in 4th grade to all the women who hit on me and put me in strange situations that I couldn’t cope with, like the woman who lived in the apartment next door when I was in college who drove me out into the countryside to show me her breasts before putting her top back on and driving us home, to their intense Catholicism and guilt.  Boy, what a mix.

And it was this backdrop that led me to ask an Italian male friend with whom I was having a pre-Christmas, post-shopping drink, “I can’t understand Italian women.”

“You’re the ultimate man,” he said without a trace of irony and with full knowledge of what I am doing.  “You have the brain, mind, outlook, demeanour of a woman.  You’re sensitive, understanding, listening, kind, nurturing.  But you’re also gorgeous.   And you’re not threatening.  Any woman, especially an Italian woman, who is fed up with macho, is going to want to eat you up.”  I’m not used to men telling me I’m gorgeous.  Even straight, hetero, married men.  Guys don’t talk to each other that way.  Ka-ching.  Victory.  Even my male friends don’t see me as boy me anymore.  Even when I’m in boy mode.  My features are changing.  The differences are subtle.

I can’t remember where I read this, but I read an interesting article about middle aged men.  That a man between 40 and 55 is at maximum attractiveness to women.  That he is perceived as financially stable, emotionally grown-up, secure, dependable.  A man coming out of a long term relationship, a 20 year marriage, is seen as even more so—and not one afraid of commitment.  I don’t know how true it is, but it would certainly explain just how lively my dating life is.  And what’s wild?  It seems as if these women are excited by the idea of having a slave.

I went for a coffee with a woman a few weeks ago in NYC.  It was the second time we had met, the first serving simply to exchange numbers.  I can’t remember even why or how it came up, but it did, and within two sips of having sat down, I said, “I’m a slave.

“Are you?” she asked, perking up.  “What does that mean?”

“I haven’t figured it out yet,” I said, “but caring for, taking care of, serving, being dedicated to, are all really important aspects of my life.”

“Isn’t it about chastity?” she asked, “I’m not very aware of these things,” she said.

“It can be,” I said, “but I’m not really into that…it’s too male.  I don’t like being reminded of that aspect of my anatomy.  And anyway, chastity is like looking in the mirror.  If slavery is about me, and not about the person I am slave to, then something’s wrong.  All I care about is the emotional connection.  Yes, I am kinky, but there’s no point in being kinky if the other person wants something else.”

Thirty minutes later I walked her to a date with a man.  I held her umbrella for both of us, but mostly her and we talked about life, love, and relationships.  She invited me to come in to meet her date, but I had to go, to rush to the airport. “This was most interesting,” she said.  Now we are in daily contact and planning to travel together.

Meanwhile, back in Italy, Christmas shopping is a real treat.  All these little shops with such high quality things, hand-made, the culture of artistic craft still very much alive.  I was in a glover’s shop.  I bought beautiful leather gloves for each of my children.  As I was getting ready to pay, I spotted a most sexy garter belt behind the counter.  I asked the saleswoman about it.

“What size?” she asked.

“It’s for me,” I said holding up my hands as if to say ‘go figure’.

“Is she like me, or bigger or smaller?” she asked, not getting what I had said.  I unzipped my coat.

“I wasn’t kidding,” I said, “it really is for me.  These are real,” I said, cupping my breasts.  Her whole demeanour changed.  She reached across the counter and put her hand right on my breast.  I was took taken aback to move.

“Beautiful,” she said ‘bello’…I corrected her pronoun…’bella’ and she stepped into it, “si, bella, corretta,” you are right.

“Normally, I’m a medium, but that looks kind of small.”

“Try it on,” she said, “let me show you,” and she placed it on the counter.  “It’s so beautiful what you are doing,” she said, “I’m so proud of you.  Your children must be so proud of you.”

The garter didn’t fit, but I loved it, so will find the brand with my size, but that was nothing compared to the rewards of our conversation.

She commiserated with how hard it must be to be out in Italy only now seeing that I was dressed in an androgynous way.  She complimented my style.  “You’re so elegant,” she said.

“It’s the first day in a month when I am not wearing a skirt.”

“You’re so beautiful, gosh, clothes look fabulous on you.”

“That’s so nice.”

“Do you want to have a boob job?”

“No.  What comes naturally is what they will be,” I said.

“I love it.  You’re amazing.  People don’t understand it when you just are you, and don’t bend to social expectation.”

“I can’t not do this.”

“Will you have an operation?”

“There’s no way I won’t.  I haven’t come this far not to embrace the ultimate prize.”

“Beautiful.”

And as for being a doormat?  Well, I told one of my children that they were deeply disrespectful of my boundaries and that were they unable to talk about it with me, to apologize for it, to recognize it, they were not welcome in my home.  Pretty heavy sxxt.  We create more space for our children than for anyone else in our lives, cutting them slack.  But when you say to your child, you can’t push me any further, this is a red line, and they cross it anyway, they are no less exempt from sanction than anyone else.

Our ability to love, to give love, to give, to grow, to develop, to just be fully alchemized human beings is predicated on a loving and complete sense of self, and that requires more than anything else bodily and psychic autonomy, boundaries and their maintenance.  Slavery is teaching me that in ways that nothing else has been able.  Because vulnerability is a powerful master.

Happy holidays.

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