Archive for June, 2012

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Trans* Love

4 June, 2012

Trans* Love
by: River

::feeling dysphoric and unlovable. feeling out of place with gender. feeling alone.::

The mirror is an enemy. It reflects lies. I can’t look like that; it’s not what I see when I close my eyes. I see smooth, clear skin and long, wavy, ginger hair. I see a face unmarred by time and the ravages of testosterone poisoning. I see me and I am beautiful. But the mirror reflects someone else. It shows a middle aged man in a dress with limp, thinning hair. The mirror shows a scarred and weathered face, five o’clock shadow and cheeks sunken from anxiety and radical diets. The mirror, my reflection, is an abusive partner. It shows what I hate and makes me want to self harm.

::picking up the sterilised shard of glass set aside for this.::

It is easy to picture the cut, performed with surgical steadiness. First it will just seem to be a line. Slowly, blood will bead on the line as my pulse causes it to seep out the sliced skin. I will watch it. The beading will become a rivulet, the rivulet will run down my arm, the blood will drop in perfectly circular splashes onto the hospital white countertop.

It would be gorgeous.

::dialling your number.::

Three, four, five rings. Voicemail.

::wanting to leave a message but not sure what to say.::

The tone. A breath. A long pause.

::hanging up.::

The phone rings; it’s you.

::hesitating.::

Three, four, five. The call goes to voice mail.

Immediately it rings again.

::answering.::

It is you. Concern colours your voice. I try to explain how I feel, but the words are jumbled and twisted. They abuse each other, consume rationality and meaning.

::crying::

Your voice is soft, kind. You are on your way.

::sinking to the floor. Making my six foot one inch frame small and impenetrable.::

You use your key and find me pressed against the counter. You kneel beside me and wrap your arms about me. They are stronger than they were six months ago and the hair is thicker, coarser. You run the back of your hand along my cheek, wiping away tears.

::gazing at you.::

Your face is thinner and more angular. Your pores are larger and patches of brown hair are visible on your cheeks and chin. The brown fuzz overwhelms me with a dizzying combination of lust and dysphoria. You smile and my heart melts.

You stand, all awkward charm and help me to my feet. I sway a little from vertigo and you catch me around my waist. With tenderness, being careful not to cut me or yourself, you open my hand and take the glass shard. You set it back in its case and close the lid. You would never throw it out and that is one of the reasons I love you.

You guide me to the bathroom and start the shower, adjusting it to that perfect temperature of steamy, tolerable, scalding. Heat burns the dysphoria off. As the mirror fogs, you unbutton your shirt and drape it across the laundry hamper. You slip out of your shoes and shed your slacks and boxers. You stand before me in nothing but your binder. You give me a moment to take your tan, handsome body in, before slipping my blouse and bra off. They are deposited in the hamper, along with my skirt and the pantyhose I cut the legs off to secure my tuck.

::sighing. helping you remove your binder.::

We step into into the shower. It scalds. I take the pain into my heart, storing it away as pleasure to be reflected on and relished. You caress my double A breasts; cupping them in your small but powerful hands. You kiss my nipples.

::sighing. massaging your clit-cock.::

You moan, you kiss my neck. You slide your hands down my side and between my legs.

::shivering in anticipation.::

You slip two fingers into the soft, pink flesh of my scrotal sack, fingering a make-shift vagina. You gently knead the soft tissue while kissing the spot where I will eventually have cleavage.

::shuddering. weeping. climaxing beneath your loving touch.::

I do not grow hard and do not come, I have not done so in several months—this is the only reason I can let you touch me,—but I do climax. It is an internal tingling that pulses out from my core, enveloping my whole being. It is blinding in its intensity and I crumple into your waiting arms.

We hold each other as the searing water cascades over us, burning away everything we are not.

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A Queer and Pleasant Review

2 June, 2012

The first thing you need to know about Kate Bornstein is she is a compassionate person. She weaves A Queer and Pleasant Danger (May 1, 2012, Beacon Press) from great lengths of compassion and love. This isn’t just a book, she hasn’t produced a litany of entertaining anecdotes for mass consumption. Her memoirs are a love letter written for her daughter, Jessica, whom she hasn’t seen in thirty years and her grandchildren whom she’s never met. Kate is a former Scientologist and her daughter and grandchildren were born into Scientology and are still in it. As a former Scientologist, the church declared her a suppressive person, an SP; for her to contact someone in the church would destroy that person’s life. As much as she wants to see her daughter again, know she is safe, and tell her she is loved, Kate cannot bring herself to shatter the only world her daughter has ever known. That is compassion; that is love. And that is the purpose behind her book. It is an open love letter to her family in case they ever wonder about and try to find her. You and I, Sweetie, are just lucky folk who get to eavesdrop.

And the reader should feel lucky, because there is a serious lack of authors like Katherine “Auntie Kate” Bornstein in the literary world. Her compassion, honesty, service, and humour are rare and beautiful traits in a society supersaturated with anemic pop culture. She was the first person without a gender I met. Initially we met on paper, in the lines of her wonderful primer, My Gender Workbook. Like Kate, I had been designated male at birth and was living that way, had lived that way for thirty-four years. I scoured amazon.com for the best possible hey-you’re-a-girl-trapped-in-a-man’s-body-but-don’t-give-up-hope-you-have-options book on the market; there are surprisingly few books in this niche. As I surfed the electronic pipeline, I kept coming back to Kate’s My Gender Workbook. It seemed too light, too comfortable with itself and it’s readership, too fun. The book’s subtitle convinced me to buy it: how to become a real man, a real woman, the real you, or something else entirely. This spoke of compassion. Kate genuinely wants to help her readers figure out who they are. Now, fourteen years later, Kate is bringing that same compassion to her memoirs.

The compassion isn’t just for her daughter, grandchildren, and readers. Everyone that Kate writes about in her memoirs she treats with the same tenderness. The world is Kate Bornstein’s lover and she is a gentle partner. Perhaps, it comes from her time as a bottom, the dominated, in the S&M community, though, I suspect, it is from her being a bottom throughout her life. This is something else you should know about Kate: she has always submitted to and served others. From early on she formed herself to the will of others, the world’s daddies, starting with her own daddy. By today’s standards Paul Bornstein would be considered an emotionally abusive man, a self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig who could have served as inspiration for Norman Lear‘s Archie Bunker. Kate recognises that Paul was a cruel man. She is under no delusions about that, but she also sees the good, sometimes just potential good, that was in him. Throughout Queer and Pleasant there is never a sense of judging him, just telling the truth about who he was and what growing up as a son who was really a daughter was like in his household. She doesn’t hide his attitudes and flaws; she accepts that this was who he was without sugar-coating, just truth. She does the same when talking about L. Ron Hubbard and life in the Church of Scientology. She lays the truth about Hubbard before you. She doesn’t demonise him, he does that well enough on his own, what she does is treat “the Old Man” with the same honesty and acceptance she does her daddy. Even as she reflects on Hubbard’s death, there is compassion:

“No one’s come forward online to say they were there when the Old Man was lost, or that they held his hand and cried with him. If I’d been there, I would have.”

I don’t think I could have called up that type of compassion for a man who treated people the way Hubbard did, but Kate is a bottom, and from the bottom it is easier to see just how messed up we all are. And that’s truth.

This is the next thing you should know about Kate, she has an unwavering commitment to honesty. She tells Jessica and us at the start of Queer and Pleasant that, despite the label of suppressive person and the implication of being a spinner of lies, she will tell the truth. Even when she exaggerates or tells you how she wishes things could have happened she still relates what really happened. This is the aspect of Kate’s narrative that drew me in like a walleye on a fishing line. I spent thirty years lying to everyone by pretending to be a boy; now that I’m done playing at boy and living as girl, I don’t have time for lies. And neither does Kate. She went through a myriad of personalities and ways of living, each, she says, its own unique way of being gendered; she married and divorced three times; she did some cruel things to people who didn’t deserve it; she touched a number of people in very deep and intimate ways. She bares all this to her readers with unflinching honesty. But, like I said, this is a love letter and love is honest even when it means showing your own darkness.

Her memoirs, however, are not a Robert Lowell confessional; they do not dwell in the darkness. Like her other works, there is a wry sense of humour that infuses Queer and Pleasant. This is the last thing you need to know about Kate, she possess a levity that enables her to see the humour in the bizarre situations she’s come through. Her pop culture riffs and Doctor Who allusions make her memoirs a joy to read. How can a person who has served in the church of a mediocre science fiction writer who espoused the idea we are all thetans from the Galactic Empire who were shot out of an erupting volcano into a soul catcher and joined with cave dwellers not see the humour in life? How can a female placed in a male body by a cosmic prankster of a God not approach her story with a little self-deprecating humour and a lot of irony? For all the trauma and trials she went through Kate is still remarkably vivacious. If you need proof just consider the book’s subtitle: the true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today.

Reading A Queer and Pleasant Danger was a pleasure for me. I learned more about a heroine as important to me as my Mommy and Grandma, but more important I learned lessons about compassion, love, truth, service, and humour. Thank you, Auntie Kate, for being the lovely lady you are and for sharing that with us. And I promise, I won’t take the personality test.