Exploring the clear deep water that only our best friends can see
Can we ever shake off the idea that “not getting what we want” can actually be a desired state? How to make it okay to want it all?
Trigger warning: there are references to castration in this post, both chemical and physical, as well as other sexual and psycho-sexual practices. Apology: it is a long post. Second Apology: the themes touched on here will be coming back over several future posts.
One of the most beautiful aspects of friendship, especially the deep ones, is how a friend is more than a companion, but also someone who can help you grow. At the margins and in our shadows, we oftentimes struggle to really see ourselves, to even know what we are like. We can’t always see or distil through our blind spots. Really good friends can often do that.
One of my nearest and dearest offered a glimpse into me that might have been casually observed but penetrated several blind spots. One big value of a friend is their ability to advise, contribute, and feedback in a way that can be heard. She described the “wounded inner child” as lying at the root of my slavery. Somehow, along the way, she speculated, I learned that I couldn’t have what I wanted. So, instead, not getting what I wanted became a source of pleasure. A coping mechanism. Are you a slave? If you are, does this resonate with your own experience?
The link to slavery? Well, a slave is not there to have wants but to serve the wants and needs of others. And it is true, I take genuine pleasure in pleasing people. A people pleaser. But when asked by a healer (who in keeping with my therapist who wants to date me or dominate me, this one does too) what it was that the dominatrix “gives” to me, I replied, “a container. She provides a container for me. And we don’t actually need to do anything. I still feel it. It governs our relations. It is the unspoken understood that exists between us. Just knowing it is there, that she is there, is enough.”
This also speaks to the ADD mind which studies better simply when there is an authority figure in the room. The child with ADD is “held” by the presence of the adult, even if there is no interaction between them. Their energy and presence provides a container.
Chastity is the ultimate form of denial
When my wife told me that my sexuality was disgusting to her, I remember the relief I felt in not having to have sex with her anymore. Finally, I had an excuse. I think that is a horrible thing to say, only that it was really difficult to have sex with someone who negates your existence. If it was just the kink, not wanting to play age play games, or some other fetish, somehow that would have been easier, but knowing that part of her disgust related to my identity meant that not once in all the times we were conjugal before that moment was I present with her for even just a tiny bit. My bad for marrying her.
She had many other positive qualities, but her chief resentment has to be that she felt used as a baby carrier. I could, of course, say the same thing.
And in keeping with this transactional aspect of the relationship, what if my refusal to have sex with her was actually a way of bringing the kink into our dynamic without engaging her in it—refusing to have sex with her was just another form of chastity.
I know. Chastity. What more denying can you get? Okay, I have never gone for the ritual in the scene for chastity, but I do get it, and have lived it. Now, my sex change path has already claimed my fertility, my manhood, and has left me chemically castrated. Sexual denial in the extreme.
Being chaste used to be sexual, and it still is with the right person (as is “doing” anything for them), but mostly, it just feels good. And it is more and more just an existential way of being. Although I don’t “play” in this sphere and never have, current Domme is a bit of a keyholder and expert in this area. Her words resonate.
“Who are you letting down when you let go of your vow of chastity? Who are you really doing it for? For yourself. Self-love in this instance is staying true to that vow. I am not ‘making’ you be chaste I am simply a witness. Plus, it is hot as hell to have a man give this up to me.”
A part of me feels that my chemical castration is just that, a surrender to the female.
I remember watching a TV interview with a Dominatrix I really admire. She said that one thing she would really love to experience would be to cut a man’s balls off. I used to want to see her; the interview made me want to see her even more. I mean, this is a gift that is well within my possible. But now, on hormones, my desire has changed, my needs have changed, my perspective has changed. In a way, I am castrated already. In a way, I will be castrated well and truly when I finally go under the knife and upcycle my penis into a vagina. These things are clinical.
Part of me is bittersweet about this. I spent so many years of my life wanting to be castrated. That was a deep fantasy. I could fill a tome with the erotica written on the theme—all unpublishable as it is “too extreme”. And there is a subculture out there which does this. If you do, you are giving your life over to hormone therapy, as not having sex hormones in your body does horrible things to your body.
To imagine that a dominatrix might aspire, dream, fantasise about doing something like this was quite exciting. The practicalities are an impossibility, but it seems a shame to waste the opportunity. And part of me does feel that although not person-specific, taking that step is very much still informed by the politics and energy and kink that travel with a male-to-female sex change. I am not saying they are the motivator, but are rather happy bedfellows, a bonus in the sidecar.
And you know what, perhaps the world would be a better place if more men went down this path. But I would bet that 99% of men who are chaste or into chastity are the ‘good ones’, ironically, the ones who want it are not the ones who the rest of us need it to be.
It used to feel like a shame to not have a dominatrix, a partner, someone who might appreciate this ‘sacrifice’, but that feeling has melted away. It isn’t a sacrifice though. It is for me.
Today, in a separate context my therapist asked me to repeat a conversation I had with a spiritual healer who had asked me to explain what it was I got out of seeing a dominatrix. She asked me to be specific and complete. If I were to distil it down, it is this: “the dominatrix provides a container for me.” My therapist wanted to know what that looks like, in its ideal form, and then asked me, “could you be your own slave? What would it look like if you were your own dominatrix? What would you do for yourself?”
I love my therapist.
There is truth to the idea that letting go of my masculinity is symbolic. It is not just a micro-gesture, one combined to my personal need to change sex. No, it is connected to how I feel about the place of men and women in society, and how I don’t want to be on the male side of the border. I am not comfortable there, I am ashamed of it, and I will choose the female at every turn. Part of me feels that I should respect the bodily sanctity that I was born with, and recognise the privilege in living in an age where sex reassignment surgery is possible, but there is no way that I won’t do this.
The spiritual healer reminded me of my words when I first met her…”I don’t want to die in a male body.” So now, I am having a second life, possibly even a third one, and this one is going to be female.
Is it Against God’s Will to Change Sex?
Well, my God does not have will. God just is. In fact, that is what God is. Is-ness. God is everywhere, in all things. The divine is us, we are the divine, and we are all connected, both living things and not. Time, space, the universe. It is all energy. And it is all potential harmony. The more we feel it, the more we step into it.
I had lunch with a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). I know this is a controversial term, but she was proud to wear the badge. Here sister, who introduced me to her, knowingly, expected sparks to fly. And within minutes of meeting she went for the jugular.
“Don’t have an operation,” and then elucidated many reasons why, including that it would be ‘fake’. But I calmly explained why this trans woman had no choice, and by the end of the meal, we were good. So good that she asked me out for tea at another place. And after that, she wanted me to go shopping with her and give her fashion advice. Yup.
Everyone has a view on my impending sex reassignment
My not-soon-enough-to-be-ex-wife said to me, “you’d better go through with it,” almost as a threat–as if she has anything to say about anything anymore. One of my therapists laments about the violence I will be doing about my body—and she is one of the people writing me a letter of support!
All these contrary opinions and feelings swirling around me. The good news is that they are helping me to clarify my own feelings. They have not changed the course of travel. They have helped me clarify to myself why I am doing it, that I will do it, and my resolve to see it through. I will be doing it for myself. Yes, there is the physical aspect of looking down and seeing nothing there. Something I have wanted for as long as I have known that girls and boys were different.
There is also the line in the sand. I understand that there is nuance and complexity surrounding the “transgender issue”. Bathroom access is a real conundrum, and one ripe for abuse. A regular reader of this blog will understand how deep my common cause with women is on this topic—to the point of standing apart from my trans tribe. I am not an influencer, a decision-maker, but for this trans-woman, using the women’s bathroom will only come after the operation. And quite possibly after the paperwork change comes through. I don’t want to go through being denounced and not being able to back it up with my ID.
I do get, however, that others don’t feel this way. A very dear trans friend who transitioned a long time ago, started with hormone blockers in her teens, and is thoroughly and outwardly female in every way but the one that she retains her male bits, uses the women’s room. I would think that she would have legitimate fear in using the men’s room. But she looks different than I do. She transitioned at the “right” time to make passing a reality. I did not, and so passing can never be my reality.
Would I want it? Oh yes. Of course. But I also don’t lament what cannot be. I am beautiful in my own way. And part of me feels an obligation and a pride in transitioning the way my body will allow me to. It is what it is.
Finally, there is the existential aspect of having a vagina, a neo-vagina. They are different. They are in our bodies, not outside. We wear our vulnerability in a different way for having them. I can’t say that I was meant to have one, but I do want to have one…It is a bit strange to think that removing things from your body can be such a powerful way to complete our bodies…
The prize at the end of the tunnel is being accepted into the sisterhood
Being welcomed into female spaces implies that one must be welcomed. And I wish it weren’t so, but I fear it is. No matter what, I was not born female, but rather in a male body. As a result, any woman could kick me out or try to do so. I hope it will never happen, but I can be sure it will, as I have already felt the kicks from some of my nearest and dearest.
But if I could put in place a ranking of all the things that I want from transition, it is this. To no longer be part of the male tribe, and to be accepted as part of the female tribe. That’s it. The rest is just noise.
The absurdity of Freudianism
Freud saw the world in a way consistent with his times. Patriarchal is a facile handle. But his thinking shaped the field of psychology, and still does. It makes sense that a child seeing the genitals of the opposite sex would wonder both about the difference and their own. To suggest that a boy seeing a vagina would have castration anxiety, sends all the wrong messages.
As if to think that the vagina is something to fear. As if to say that you are losing something by not having a penis. As if to say that the mind even goes to the possibility, inevitability, or fear that such a statement implies. Why be anxious if there are no chances of it happening?
The first time I saw a vagina was the daughter of my godparents. She was my age. We were best friends. We were indescribably young, and one day she hauled me into the bathroom and pulled her pants down to show me and asked me to do the same. It was for just a second. I can’t remember whether I did or not, but I remember how beautiful I thought hers was, and how badly I wanted to be the same. I was probably four at the time, maybe three, maybe five. I’m not sure that I even knew before that that boys and girls were different. It was the last time we played together. I can only assume that she told her parents and that was that.
The metabolic cost of hormones
The sex hormones keep us alive. They preserve us. But they must have a high metabolic cost to produce. A man continues to produce testosterone for his whole life, as he can theoretically get someone pregnant all the way through. So, the body might deem that the cost is worth it.
Nobody would deny that the energetic cost of a woman’s cycle is far higher than a man’s ongoing low level sperm production. In that sense, the energetic cost over a long life might be roughly equivalent, given that a woman is fertile and cycling for 30+ years and a man is producing sperm for 60+ years based on average life-spans. But the demands on the body for reproductive possibility is much higher for women, even more so when the physical demands of pregnancy and suckling and raising a child are added in. It makes sense, in other words, that a woman’s body stops cycling at a time when the consequences of pregnancy are increasingly likely to result in her death.
One interpretation, a sexist one, might say that a woman’s reproductive value has reduced, decreased, stopped, and therefore she has become expendable. Or the body no longer need bear the cost, and thus, the hormone spigot stops. This kind of thinking underpinned hormone treatment and menopause for most of the history of modern medicine. This is now changing, and the therapeutic benefits of ongoing hormone therapy for women at or beyond menopause are increasingly well understood and documented and becoming common practice.
Another interpretation is that getting pregnant when it becomes dangerous, when a woman is older, is more likely to kill her, and that serves nobody, least of all any possible offspring she might have already had. In other words, it was evolutionarily advantageous that a woman stop being fertile—another form of gene preservation. This only makes sense in the context of the much higher investment that women, women’s bodies, women’s minds and psyches, have towards their offspring than their male partners.
There is something cruel in nature about this. In pre-history, when we were evolving most directly in connection with the natural world, women died younger than men absent violent means. Pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous. Pre-modern medicine, infant and mother mortality were very real and present dangers.
These facts and circumstances can play into a patriarchal narrative. And the ongoing, though diminishing, fertility of the male only feeds this. Male control of wealth is an enabler of this—the trope of the older “gentleman” with a younger courtesan or bride is as old as history.
Giving up my fertility
I do want love. I do want a partner. I am interested in women. I can’t help but think that some of the women who I am meeting, dating, seeing must have on some level that I am a potential father of their children. At least they might think so when they see me and think I am attractive to them. Until they know that I can’t do this anymore.
When I first started hormone therapy, the advice was ‘if you ever think you might want to have children, then bank your sperm’. I did want this, but I didn’t want to wait, so I didn’t. I did think that I might meet someone and that having the joy of sharing children with a partner is one of the greatest joys of life, and that I wouldn’t want that door to close for me with potential love interests. One of my closest male friends warned me about women wanting to get pregnant by me like something straight out of the movies. “But I would want that,” I said.
In the end, I decided I couldn’t wait one more day to take hormones, and I started. For a while, fertility is recoverable. I am almost certainly past that point. That will never come back. In that sense, I have shed the most fundamental aspect of male privilege.
In a way, the steps I am taking are gradually stripping all of those benefits away. But in many other ways, I am not picking up the privileges of being female. This is not a complaint. I can never be pregnant, can never carry a baby; I cannot be desired in a way that a woman experiences desire; I cannot be beautiful in a way that a woman is beautiful; and worst of all, I can never be fully a woman.
Instead, I will be a transwoman. I get other forms of beauty and life experience that I share not with the other half but with the 0.5% of people who are transgender, and more specifically with the half of those who are male-to-female, or perhaps the 0.1% who are defined as non-binary. My feelings and experiences thus far suggest that the trans experience is unique and special.
I know that many trans people end up coupled with trans people. I understand that. In a way it is easier. But I don’t think that is where I will land. Instead, it is the born female that I am drawn to. I don’t want to explain it. It just is.
I was asked to be on a career panel recently, as both a nod to diversity, but also because the people who were asking were genuinely interested in the perspective I could bring to life in the working world as a trans woman. I said no.
My explanation was that it hasn’t been long enough. My transition hasn’t gone deep enough yet, and more importantly, nothing has changed for me professionally yet. I don’t have a job. I would need a job in an environment that accepted me fully as I am. It is reasonable to demand that from the world. Acceptance is a form of being ignored. My gender should not interfere with my chances of work in my historic profession.
There is no doubt that anti-trans prejudice courses everywhere. Even my natural allies at times espouse views which are fundamentally anti-trans—and no, it is not enough for them to say ‘you are different’ or to accept me. Bigotry is group. My tribe is trans people. Acceptance of me is insufficient unless my tribe is accepted.
I do not doubt that I will encounter prejudice. That I will see it. I already do. It isn’t just an abstract concept. I live it. It is bigotry. It has a name. When I first began my journey, I wrote a post about how warm an embrace I felt from African-American women. This solidarity is rooted in their understanding that what I am doing is accepting that I am setting aside privilege to a position of being on the receiving end of wilful hate. I wondered about this in my original post, but one day, in group therapy, I talked about my experience, and afterwards, an African-American woman came up and gave me what must have been one of the most delicious hugs I have ever had, and we both bawled away…she said that I had put words to a life lived when people just don’t like you because of what you look like.
Bring it on.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard (transition), or that it won’t be. But I accept that. I accept that this needs to be a crusade. When I played submissive games and wrote about chaste love, of sacrificing self-interest, of setting aside the ego, I could not have meant this, and yet, curiously, it feels apt.
So, why must I have a vagina? Because I am all in.
I do meet women. Attractive women. I make friends with them. It is very life-enriching. This applies to all walks of life. And yes, I expect this of the people around me. My investment in you is to be reciprocated. I can’t do it otherwise. In a nutshell, that’s what drove my marriage into a ditch. Superficially (hah!), hiding my true self to please my wife and to fulfil her need for a ‘male’ partner that fit into certain stereotypes, was certainly a burden. It nearly drove me to suicide. I did it for as long as I could. Although her reason for seeking divorce is that she doesn’t want to be married to a trans woman (bad roll of the dice, dear), the truth is that the equity imbalance was just too great.
I don’t mean that there wasn’t equity. Each person has their own equity tally—are my needs being met. Ex-Mistress spoke to me of the dangers of quid pro quo thinking. On some levels she is right. On another, however, our needs matter. Giving to get is not okay. It is an essential component of narcissism. But expecting to have your needs met is a legitimate part of any relationship. When what you are giving is way out of whack with what you are getting, there is a problem.
Being in a loving marriage for two decades is evidence for not being a quid pro quo operator. But I also cannot deny that one day I woke up and realised that ‘this person doesn’t give me anything. Nothing at all. She denies my fundamental nature. She is disgusted by my sexuality. She wants me to be someone I am not so that she can feel whole in herself. She relies on me for fantasy, for life, for dreams.’
One night I asked if she wanted to go back to school, to study something, to develop a hobby…I was more than happy to pay for it or support her on a program.
“No, I get all that from you,” she said.
“But you can’t rely on me for your happiness in that way. You have to be able to create your own.” Later, she told me that she thought that was the cruellest thing I had ever said to her, that anyone had ever said to her.
I understand it. She felt the equity balance worked. And no doubt, she was proud of how she gave to me, and was also very happy with what she got from me. Her needs were being met. Mine were not. In other words, the fundamental premise of any successful marriage was not present, a partnership. A healthy partnership depends on equity. We didn’t have it. How could we have ever had it when her own needs required me to sublimate mine? To sublimate my most fundamental self?
“I think you hate me,” she often said to me in the last year or two of our marriage. I don’t and didn’t hate her. Even now. When she is plumbing the depths with hateful behaviour, I can’t bring myself to that. I did love her. That’s why I stayed. I would have never left. I needed to, but would never have done it. I am grateful to her for ending things, though I could do without the nastiness. Now I just pity her.
In a way, this was the mirror image of what undid my time with ex-Mistress. On a transactional basis, I got way more than I gave. Paying for someone’s time just seems so insignificant compared to the gifts received. I can’t speak for others, and maybe the way I engage with providers is different (how would I ever know?)…I certainly don’t do it to have fun, or to get off, but instead it is spiritual-emotional. The ones I have met and played with are genuinely fascinating, lovely, and wonderful people. That’s the best part. Ex-Mistress’s gifts as a professional were beyond fabulous, and she was relentless fun to be with. But receiving those things from her made me feel that it was too much about me, and it created a burning need in me to feel that I was bringing her equity of equal weight. She said to me that she was getting what she wanted. And yet, in me, there was something telling me that this wasn’t enough—not for me, but for her. As in, I needed her to need more of me than just money and politesse and being good company and doing things for her. And that led to me fearing her, fearing the fragility of the connection.
My need to be giving to someone in ways that create real value is so fundamental that it becomes a big part of how my own needs get met.
It is the bedrock of emotional security. In other words, the kind of emotional landscape we traversed felt very dangerous without the kind of trust that real emotional equity implies. Without that, it could not work. And that is what happened. And ironically, that proved to me that my fear was justified. That may be completely my own defect. It doesn’t really matter. One is perhaps a fool to think of a provider as a relationship. But I wouldn’t do it any other way. Friendships take time to cultivate, but the absence of friendship in a relationship is a sign that it shouldn’t be.
My wife and I were friends. And given that our marriage was a sexless one, that is an achievement. That is also why I think she is so angry with me. She has discovered that I found our relationship to be without equity. That what she gave was not what I most valued. The elephant in the room was to be accepted, loved for who and what I am. Everything else would have fallen into place. But when her own needs required the burial of myself, me saying ‘I can’t live like this anymore’ was like saying to her, ‘I reject the me that you have created, and therefore, I reject you’. Of course that isn’t true, at least for me, because I did love her, to the end, but for her, it is real, and has shaken her to her core. She defined her sexuality, her femininity, by my masculinity. But my masculinity was her construct, was a simulacrum that I participated in. My complicity nearly killed me, and certainly made my dysphoria worse.
Would I be so needful of transition now had I been accepted along the way? Possibly not. Might this change? It doesn’t feel like it. My first fears have all been passed and in retrospect feel so easy. The arrival of breasts is no longer a cause of concern, but a daily joy as I watch them sprout and bloom and give me all kinds of wonderful new sensations and feelings about my body. Coming out, the fear of discovery, have all been replaced by the joy of discovery. The novelty has worn off. It isn’t forbidden. It is who I am.
My lawyer says don’t marry the same thing you’re divorcing. My close friend points out that going with someone who doesn’t embrace kink is another version of the same thing all over again. Another betrayal of the self in this process. They are both right.
After all, what’s the point of getting divorced if you don’t make a change?
The women I am attracted to seem to like men. In other words, straight. They are not lesbians. My wife’s cruel words, “if I were a lesbian I wouldn’t be interested in you,” may be a general comment, though the few lesbians I know have been very friendly to me.
What I am noticing is that trans me appears to be more attractive to women than straight male me. I get far more looks, more lingering conversations, and that is true whether I start or they start. They even start. There could be a lot of reasons for this.
- I seem less threatening
- They are intrigued/curious
- Being me is bringing out the best in me, and they respond to that
- They are genuinely attracted to me
Any one of those reasons is flattering. And I am okay with them processing me as somewhat male, or mixed…they seem to be totally okay with it. But funnily enough, with the one trans woman I have spent time with, I had a problem with my own perception that she was processing me as male—it felt a little competitive. And in truth, I was not attracted to her in the same way.
My friend used this series of points to introduce a recommended course of action, somewhat controversial.
“You want to attract women, don’t you?”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
“Well, this woman finds you sexiest when you are on the edge. When you are ambiguous, neither male nor female. When your clothes speak to both.” She was referring to what I was wearing, which was jeans but a dress over them, a dress which looked a bit like a smock. It was actually rather fetching.
“But I like skirts,” I said, “and dresses.”
“They don’t do it for me.”
“I have great legs.”
“I’m just saying.”
“I have so many skirts.” She just shrugged and smiled. You can believe this got me thinking.
I mean, what she was saying was that if I am to get what I want, which is female companionship, then I need to float in the zone that non-binary should theoretically excel at. Maybe it’s a phase. But I think I look good in skirts and dresses, so I will keep wearing them.
Later, she observed, “you don’t seem to have any problem attracting women.”
We were talking about love, and how I have many potential female love partners, but don’t “close the deal” with any of them. My friend wondered if not closing the deal, simply having the potential, was the source of excitement…And the answer is ‘yes’. Her thought was that this is just a form of denial, and instead, my energy and happiness would be better served by moving away from this and choosing instead to let myself have it all.
“Somehow you learned at a young age, that you couldn’t have what you wanted,” she said.
“Starting with not being breast-fed,” I noted.
“Yeah. Your mother’s protection, love, and affection.”
“It’s left a rather big hole.”
“Well, you’re filling it now.”
“I have the same problem too.”
“Yeah, but I’m getting out of it now.”
“I do a lot of mantras. Working on manifesting things. Framing your desires in that kind of positive language forces you to tackle your demons, all the self-sabotage. It isn’t a magic bullet, but it seems to work. It just takes time.” She showed me some examples of ones she had written down. Reading them was immensely inspiring to me. It is something I need to incorporate into my weekly review practice—the ‘what I accomplished, where I am, what’s next’ complex.
Separately, the woman who I am consulting about surgical interventions that might help me feel happier about my body is someone who has created an incredible business for herself. She is the epitome of a self-made woman, having come from nothing, and now living a kind of professional success and celebrity status that few people can dream of. Her motto is to be vicious in the pursuit of your goals…not towards others, but in the sense of not only not letting nothing stand in our way, but also being relentless in creating the space for ourselves to thrive, demanding it of ourselves.
Be vicious in the pursuit of your goals. Be determined, single-minded, focussed. She is very right.
The Fallacy of Male Giving and Female Receiving
I have been listening to and watching an internet sensation who advises women on how to be empowered and become rich and successful. She talks a lot about her autobiography, but part of me feels as if she is living off the “suckers”, the desperate women who have nowhere else to turn. That is harsh, because I know someone who has really benefited from her teaching.
I would be onboard with her except that she seems to make the focus of female empowerment ‘getting a man’. That isn’t really interesting to me. But also, how deflating. Surely female empowerment, anyone’s for that matter, is all about ‘getting the self’?
She talks a lot about the divine female as a receiving energy, and the cultivation of the erotic self is what it takes to attract money, which she sees as the gift of men. I find it very problematic, and have spoken with her about it, and she said “swap masculine energy for ‘men’.” It helps, but it still doesn’t work. I’ve been trying to absorb this, wanting to, knowing that 100,000’s of people follow her and listen to her stuff, which seems to be really about being as sexy and sensual as possible, as that is the essence of female power. Is she right?
Thankfully, another protective woman friend of mine said, “don’t believe everything you hear,” and with that, the spell was broken.