Anthony Doubeck on a transgender man’s battle to love his body.
My heart was racing, sweat rolled down my body, I yelled out in both pleasure and complete emotional pain. While my nerves experienced a new and wonderful sensation, my mind, gut, and heart were all fighting against the weight pressing in upon me. I felt like everything was wrong and that I needed to run away, to hide from everything that was happening and let the emotions pour out of me until I was empty.
This was my first orgasm. Or, more accurately, my first several orgasms.
As a transgender man, my relationship to my body is slightly different from your average cisgender straight guy. My body and I have spent many days at war with each other, each attempting to shove the other into a box shaped only to constrict us.
So when my body was suddenly being shared with a new person, my body fought for the attention, but my mind craved to be sharing something different, something it could feel without dysphoria, something it identified with and could get along with. While my body attempted to create an intense sensory experience, my mind was racing through every anxiety and counting every imperfection. My mind would not accept any feeling of pleasure; it was too distracted by the fear of being trapped in a body that would never feel complete.
In my first relationship I learned that the tomboyhood dreams of having a beard and a toned muscular build, running around shirtless saving the day were not as insignificant as I had hoped. I found the reason I had never been able to form a full identity. Living my life never feeling quite whole, it was difficult to describe who I was. Every time I had to talk about who I was I would find the cursor sitting idly at on a blank white screen. I felt like a blank and hazy screen would describe me more accurately than a list of words attempting to construct a fictional character that loosely resembled the image in the mirror, but was a complete stranger to the spirit behind my eyes.
Even when I finally was able to clear away the fog masking the identity I would grow into, I still struggled with the baggage that would come with that journey. To this day I fall beneath the weight of it all and sometimes it takes a while for me to get back up.
To my future partner, I wish I could give you a manual that would help you avoid the landmines and booby traps that my gender dysphoria has set up. Alas, I did not come with instructions. Even if I did, it would be on edition number 23 by now and would continue to change every year.
This manual is a description of who I am in the fall of 2014. It is a manual only to the person I am in this moment in time. It will change a thousand times over again before my final moment, but it is a starting place. It is a reference point, a guideline, a reminder.
I give you the unofficial guide to my ever-changing body in the hopes that it will act as a switch to turn my light back on.
As difficult as it is to live with gender dysphoria, I can only imagine how difficult it is to love someone who struggles through gender dysphoria. To watch a partner hurt when there is nothing you can do about it is possibly the most frustrating feeling I can describe. I have had enough panic attacks in bed to know how it affects the person laying next to you.
There have been multiple times where I have cried out for clothes and curled myself into a tight ball of tension and self-hate. It is at this point that I usually express the need for an instruction manual and apologize for not giving one to you. You often tell me that you don’t need one, that you’ll be here for all of this, and that there is nothing for me to apologize for. But I still hear the sorrow in your voice when you ask me what you can do as you gently rub my arm.
I never know how to answer this question in the moment of panic. All I want to do is claw my skin off and take shelter in the shell of a cisgender guy who has his shit together. But when I am here, fully here, I know what you can do.
Just be there, be present, remind me it is only temporary, grab a box of tissues, hold my hands, help me feel physically stable and safe, and help me come back down to earth.
Taking a trip through my mind in the throes of an attack may help you understand what is happening and why I have suddenly gone somewhere far from the space that you and I wrapped ourselves into.
We are tangled up, far from the world of fighting for the recognition of the legitimacy of our identities. Nothing is holding us back, not a single distraction pulls us from sharing ourselves with each other. Everything else has melted away.
Then something changes.
Suddenly I can feel with a terrifying surreal-ness everything that ties my body back to a person I worked so hard to no longer become. Every nerve goes numb in an effort not to feel while my mind pinpoints every incomplete part of an identity I am fighting to legitimize in my own self.
My breath catches in my throat, a cold spell right out of the pages of a childhood book with cloaked rotting hands takes hold of my body, and shaking is all I can do as I stare off into space. I’ve been told at this point that it appears I have left even my body behind. I am still there, I have just closed off everything but the sections of my mind fixated on every wrong, mistake, hurt, and flaw I try to forget.
The words “I’m sorry” slip from my lips like a prayer. I am begging forgiveness for not being complete enough to give myself to you. You never needed to see the pain of a body stuck in a world that demands something more. You never would have known this pain and I grieve for the lost happiness I could have given you had this cold not gripped my throat so unexpectedly.
Your voice gently echoes in my mind as you tell me it’s ok, that you knew this about me that you signed up for all my baggage when you signed up for me.
It may not show, but these words will calm part of the storm I am struggling to navigate.
I wrestle enough control from the phantom inhabiting my chest to want to come back to you.
I begin digging into my arm, not in an attempt to hurt myself, but in an attempt to feel again. If I can feel, I can come back. I am trying to scratch away the shell that keeps me from you. But should you worry, lover, then take my hands in yours and press your calm soul deep into the palms of my hands. Push out the dark energy consuming my spirit and replace it with the rhythm of gentle waves and soft winds carrying fall to our lips.
As you feel the tension ease from my blood my eyes will finally meet yours and the apology for my troublesome body will again cross to your ears.
My blood, empty of all feeling, will calm and the shaking will commence. I will rest into your arms and recover from battle as your fingers brush through my hair.
You may be scared for me, worried, tired, or even frustrated, and for that I am truly sorry. Though it is not my fault that these attacks are a part of life, I still wish for you not to go through the fight with me. Because no matter how determined you are that you should be with me in my fight, you are still going to get hurt along the way.
With this look into my mind, you are probably asking how you can prevent me from falling.
Falling is inevitable, it is a part of life for everyone. But there are ways to make it happen less.
As a man who crosses the gender divide, my body is slightly unusual, and my body parts may have names that do not match your elementary biology qualifications for that word. But what are words other than what we construct them to be? Why can’t we construct our own meanings for those words?
Please join me in my private rebellion against the binary view of society by giving our vocabulary the freedom to describe us all.
Please don’t treat me as though I am fragile, like a glass sheet about to crack under the slightest pressure. Treating me as fragile reminds me just how fragile I can be. Also where does all the passion go when you’re worry keeps you from getting lost in the moment?
Leave gender roles at the door with me. There is no code telling us what we have to do. If we want to fix the car while baking brownies together, who is to get in our way other than ourselves?
Saying “I’d never been with a girl before” when you’re referencing our relationship implies that I am still a girl in your eyes. Our parts look similar, but our genders lie on different points of the spectrum.
Remember that whether my clothes lie on the ground or still hide some of me, I am not hiding from you.
When in doubt, pay attention to my body language. My heart has never rested solely on my sleeve and will get you the status update you need.
And finally, the love you show to me I will show to you in return. Come as you are and I will give you no mask or façade. Come without the fears placed upon us by a society demanding perfection and we will create our own idea of beauty. That idea will light itself in our darkest moments and remind us that without pain we would never understand joy.
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This article originally appeared on Boxers and Binders.
Photo by http://Wix.com/palla200/