‘Last night I had sex with a guy off Grindr who’s never had sex with anyone with a vagina before!’ So went my excited text message to a friend the morning after the event. Cranked up with caffeine and still a bit drunk, despite epic fantastical nightmares about my genitals morphing into strange monsters —I think something to do with my insecurities as to what cis gay men could possibly want with my body— I felt pretty pleased with myself during the walk of shame, which is never very shameful when you are a complete slut. I mean, as anyone on popular gay hook-up app Grindr will tell you, shagging someone off Grindr is hardly the most accomplished of achievements, but I’d only recently downloaded it and said app is a land of dick pics and hairy naked six pack torsos, not always the place to feel sexually confident if you’re a trans boy who has no dick and/or hasn’t had top surgery, both the case for me.
I’ve done sexual things with plenty of cis men in the past and, even before I took testosterone and started to be read as male more, a few of those guys were gay, but this event still felt like some kind of landmark. Maybe it’s the fact that me and this guy hooked up through Grindr or that he’d only been with cis men before or that I slept over and we had sex a lot throughout the night and there was no pretending my body wasn’t what it was. Maybe the sense of elation came from being let into a fag scene I previously had felt excluded from. But more and more, when I think back to that night with, oh let’s call him Jeff, I don’t feel elated. Now the drunkenness and hangover have both dissipated I remember the things that weren’t so pleasing about the night.
I had a lot going on in my own head the night of Jeff. I ‘pass’ much of the time now, but sometimes I still get read as female. There’s a part of me that still feels female anyway, I don’t feel 100% male, more an amorphous trans boyish combo of everything I’ve ever been, not the binary neatly partitioned woman to man/man trapped in woman’s body line the mainstream media/medical establishment use to understand and categorise all trans people. But in general everyday life being referred to as he and as a boy is the way I feel most comfortable. Anyway, pretty quickly on T I felt like I started being read as male almost the whole time and then for some reason a few months into it, people started reading me as female again and it got a bit confusing. I mean, I was used to people being confused long before, and I don’t support the glorification of hormones or 'passing', but getting used to something changing and then experiencing the change seemingly reverse does make a person feel a bit lost. Jeff came in the midst of this confusion.
When I met up with Jeff and found out he’d only ever been with cis men, I worried about how he would see me. I found myself asking him things like, ‘do I look how you expect me to look? Did you expect me to be more masculine?’ Weird to find myself saying that considering I’ve always found super masculine masculinity a bit gross and hated the way the bar for coming up to scratch as a trans person is how much like a cis person you can look. But despite all my beliefs, I found myself worrying I wasn’t good enough and my mouth, as it often does, was just talking with no filter. And I’ve always been quite happy with my body without surgery, but when we took our clothes off I couldn’t help but feel my body as very feminised next to his and the thought went through my head over and over was but he likes men, what does he want with me? From a purely aesthetic point of view I find the phrase 'internalised transphobia' a bit overly earnest sounding and I hoped it would never apply to me so I'd never have to write it, but there's no escaping that’s what I felt hardcore. Objectively speaking, this guy was gay and pretty into it, so I needn't have worried in that respect, but in other ways Jeff did not exactly help.
One of the first things Jeff asked me was, ‘What did your name used to be?’ What my name used to be is not something I’m particularly secretive about but I hate that question, especially one minute into meeting a new person. I’d just come from seeing my parents and I was explaining to Jeff that they called me by the name I’d chosen most of the time. So him asking what my name used to be probably didn’t seem an unreasonable follow on from that. But as a trans person you generally spend your life being chipped away at by other person’s definitions of you garnered from evidence of your ‘past’ and ‘before’. For me, and for lots of other trans people, there is no mystical before and after, no linear ‘journey’ to becoming. I’ve always experienced my gender identity as a mix of things, I've just felt more comfortable with different words and different pronouns at different times and at one point I took T and at one point I changed my name or my appearance, but cis people change their names and their appearance and cut their fucking hair (so I’m told anyway) so this whole before and after thing is nonsense to me. I appreciate my experience isn’t universal but, even so, what questions like that (or worse versions thereof, such as ‘what is your real name?’) within sixty seconds of meeting a person imply is, you’re not authentic. You can’t be taken at face value like cis people can, you need to be made sense of, figured out. Of course that probably wasn’t Jeff’s intention, but after a life-time of being subjected to other people’s definitions based on stuff like what you’re name used to be, questions like that are kind of shit.
During a break in our sexual activities, Jeff told me he’d really like to see a picture of me ‘as a girl’. Again, this narrative makes no sense to me, except to remind me that when you’re trans lots of people, no matter how ‘open-minded’ they may be, will never take you as you are. You need to supply some backstory, render yourself into an easily legible narrative that revolves around cis peoples’ definitions of authenticity, even when all you wanna do is get off like everyone else.
Jeff was by no means anywhere near the worst person I’ve encountered on the stupid questions front and maybe I goaded him with my own self-loathing questions about whether I was 'what he expected'. In fact what he said was just standard and unfortunately there was probably no way for him to know what was wrong with it and I didn’t tell him. Maybe my excitement over the fact that Jeff had never had sex with anyone with a vagina before was more transphobic than the things he said, I don’t know. He certainly seemed a bit taken aback when I commented on it and assured me he didn’t have a fetish for trans guys. Well, you wouldn’t be doing very well if you did and you've only slept with one, I thought but didn’t say. Actually I didn’t care whether he had a fetish or not. It was more likely he was my fetish; I had no interest in him beyond hooking up.
Anyway, that’s enough over-analysis for one day, at least the sex was hot. The more I think about these things the more my head starts to hurt and I get the miserablist queer anthems of Morrissey in it: ‘why ponder life’s complexities when the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat?’ It’s a shame life’s complexities keep getting in the way, but we’ll probably all keep jizzing on that passenger seat nonetheless.
Next week: Tinder!