The question of my trans-ness has a complicated answer

It’s not F to M, it’s F to something else entirely

“I want you to bring your harness,” Kyle texts me.

It’s been five weeks since our third date (I’ve been away on the road for work). While I’m on the road across Canada, Kyle sends me GIFs of his juicy ass in thongs from Vancouver and I jerk off to them through my boxers, chafing my clit with increasingly thread-bare cotton. I send him flattering photos of my sun-soaked naked body from the homes of friends of mine across the country and get back OMGs with a string of mmm in the middle.

Kyle’s a cosmic melange of so many things I admire: a nerdy engineer whose idea of a fun leisure time is building virtual reality environments, and a sensitive slut who decompresses by making queer porn for the internet. He’s great at eye contact, emotionally self-aware, and he reads lesbian graphic novels about loneliness. My dick is rock hard for him constantly.

I’m interested in bisexual men like Kyle. I’ve completely lost interest in straight dudes. My Tinder profile reads like it: “I’m genderqueer, my pronouns are they/them. I dress like a boy. I only fuck queer people.”

I’ve been using the word genderqueer to describe my gender for a few years now, and I’ve been describing myself more frequently as trans. I was assigned female at birth; it was the gender assigned to me when I was born based on my anatomy.

With the first few straight men I was sleeping with who used my pronouns, I remember thinking, “I’ve made it!” in some existential capacity, as if them using my pronouns validated my identity. Each time they called me “they” I took it to mean that we were on the same page.

“These straight men were calling me ‘they’ because it was a word that gave them access to my body.”

It took me a while to realize that these straight men were calling me “they” because it was a word that gave them access to my body, to put their cocks in my cunt and my face. But none of them understood me as a person who has a cock just like they do. None of them showed interest in seeing the sleek silicone cock I fuck with. They could cope with knowing my cock exists so long as they thought of it as a sex toy — and even more so, as a sex toy that I use with cis women.

None of them saw getting hard for me as an indication that they were queer, because regardless of what I said about myself they understood their attraction to me as an attraction to a cis woman, with a few unusual and irrelevant verbal qualifiers in the mix. They used the right words, but the words had no meaning.


In the year before I meet Kyle, I go through a stint of overlapping two-month relationships and two-night stands with straight guys who engaged in the terminology of my trans-ness, but not my trans body.

I was fucking my way through the city of Vancouver, trampolining from one guy to the next because reflecting on how little the world understands genderqueer folk was depressing, and way too many of the queer women in Vancouver are trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). The last of these trampoline guys was a socially-conscious CEO named Justin.

Justin had a very typical straight guy Tinder, replete with a corporate suit-and-tie headshot and the painfully unoriginal man in a leather jacket on a Harley photo. But Justin was deeply handsome, made a point of advertising that he made money, and for whatever reason he had super-liked me, so I thought I’d let a rich guy buy me a drink.

Hilariously, it turned out Justin neither owns nor knows how to ride a Harley. Even more hilariously, despite the unfortunate profile curation, Justin wasn’t straight. Justin was the first man to suck my dick.

Justin and I date for about six months. A few months in, I wear my packer (a soft cock and balls meant for everyday wear) as I’m en route on public transit to Justin’s place on a Friday night. It’s the first time I’ve opted to wear my packer at all in front of Justin.

I’m on the bus, and maybe no one’s staring at my crotch, but I definitely feel like everyone is, and thinks I’m a freak.

I watched Boys Don’t Cry as a teenager. Maybe if I hadn’t, I’d feel safer being visibly non-binary in public. Given the plot of Boys Don’t Cry I’m generally afraid that being in public with breasts and a pant-bulge at the same time paints a target on me and puts me at risk of having strangers try to clarify whether I’m a girl or a boy through some combination invasive questions, humiliation, and frankly, maybe rape.

So far when I have appeared in public expressing my gender in a way that is clearly non-binary, strangers tend to give me the elevator look and then physically move away from me. I don’t need to be attacked to feel scared. Being shunned already lets me know that I don’t have a place in the world.

I arrive at Justin’s door with my packer in my pants and my eyes watery with a combination of fear, relief and anger. Justin holds me and feels my cock, through my pants, against his thigh.

“Did you wear that hoping I’d notice it,” he asks a little coyly, as if this is a new role play I’m introducing to our sex life.

“No. This isn’t a game I’m playing with you. This is for me.”

That night Justin and I make love. He lies on his stomach and I push my soft packing cock all over his body: up and down his spine, into the soft patch of fur between his shoulder blades, between his ass cheeks. Each moment is distinct and each moment blurs.

At one point Justin is facing me. At one point I pull the tip of my soft cock out of the waistband of my boxers and touch the head of his cock with the head of mine. His cock’s pigment is darker than mine. My cock’s close to the same pale pink as my skin. Other than that, our cocks look the same. That’s when I realize that this packing cock, and my strap-on for that matter, aren’t sex toys to me. This cock is my animal body. This cock is my body.

All the blood drains out of my brain and flows directly into my swollen cunt. My mind is so quiet that you could hear a pin drop in my skull. I’m out of my head and in my body. It’s a spiritual turn-on, and a point of clarity, to really see yourself for who you are.

I eat Justin’s ass for a long time that night. I’m all top and he’s all bottom, not because I’m dominating him, but because I have a lot more to give; all he needs to do is receive. I have a lot to give, a lot I want to give: more physical energy, more sexual confidence to pour into my lover. I feel existentially whole in a way I hardly ever do.

Justin notices the energetic difference. The words I speak with have more weight and are more succinct than usual. I’m quieter and happier. I need less cuddling after sex that night because I’m confident that I’ve been seen and experienced for who I am, rather than for who the world has scripted me to be based on my anatomy. I’ve expressed my real sexual identity, I’ve enjoyed it, and my lover has enjoyed it too. Boi-me is calmer. Justin notices it. “Even your voice sounds different” he says.

While this gender expression is some of me at my most self-assured, it’s some of me at my frailest, too. Sure, in the big ways that are obvious: Will I be murdered? Will I be able to get through airport security, or buying a bottle of wine, without the humiliation of having to explain my life story? Will people laugh at me in my gender-affirming garments, as if they are a pathetic attempt to resolve something they think is just a figment of my imagination anyway?

It’s frail in those gigantic ways. But it’s frail in small, quieter ways, too. After 30 years in a body that, anatomically, does not capture all of who I am, I am debilitatingly used to chronic unrest. It’s scary to imagine that I might get used to feeling grounded in my body by expressing my boi-ness more explicitly — and then somehow the world might take that tranquility away.

The denouement of dating Justin felt like that. In social situations Justin brags, flirts, and has sexually-ambiguous friendships to make sure that all eyes are on him. It’s an aspect of his personality I have empathy for (I’ve been that guy), until Justin hits on a colleague of mine in front of me, making one of my work-relationships uncomfortable.

I tell Justin this is a relationship boundary I need: my friends and colleagues are off limits. So Justin dumps me via email.

Black letters on a white screen, surrounded by my cute ninja Gmail background skin: “This is how queer guys behave, so if you think you’re a boy . . . I don’t know what you were expecting.”

It is gross and overly reductive. Justin and I had shared enough tender expressions of gender up until that point, that I know it is not a thing he really thinks. When people say something you know they are smarter than, it’s a good indication that there’s an ulterior motive.

Justin took a shot at my gender on the way out to hurt me. And to show me that if he wanted to, he got to name what queer masculinity is because, being assigned male at birth, masculinity his to own and mine to audition for. Mostly, I think he just wanted to make me afraid to show myself to anyone that deeply again. For a while, it worked.

The fun thing about being on the road for five weeks when you’re three dates deep with a new lover back home is that you end up getting to know each other beyond lust. Kyle and I share daily text updates, we send each other what we’re listening to on Spotify, we share three-hour phone calls about anxiety and what it’s like to go off antidepressants while he curls up on a couch in Vancouver and I kick a stone around a parking lot in Calgary.

When we’re in you’ll-be-back-so-soon countdown mode, Kyle and I send each other pent-up messages about what we want to do to each other sexually. It makes me wet, and it no longer feels like sexting with a stranger.

“I want you to bring your harness,” Kyle texts me. He means my black, dandy, patent leather daddy strap-on harness. I appreciate the request though Kyle didn’t need to ask for it: aside from our first date, I’ve had my harness and my erect fuck-cock in my backpack every time I’ve seen him.

“My gender is not his fetish, and I’m not his ticket to a new world, mystique or radicalism.”

I’ve been waiting to fuck him since I bent him over his couch and humped his perfect ass on our first date. I tell Kyle all of this, and while it’s new information, he registers zero surprise.

“It’s my body. I bring my body when I see you,” I tell him.

“Makes sense to me,” he says nonchalantly.

The first time Kyle sees me with my chest bound and wearing my packer in my pants in public, he has the same nonchalance about it. My gender expression is respected, and it’s also a non-topic. He hugs me, and tells me he is exasperated about some engineering work thing from his day.

He wraps his arm around my back the way he always does, tickles my ribs the way he always does, and we talk about how good his pout-pink eyeshadow looks as we walk down the street.

My gender is not his fetish, and I’m not his ticket to a new world, mystique or radicalism. He never ascribes aspects of my personality to my gender. I never interrogate his pronouns against the fact that he’s happiest when he’s puttering around his loft in jersey dresses that belong in the pages of Seventeen magazine.

On the odd occasion that folks check in with Kyle about what his pronouns are, he answers, “He and him is fine, but I’m femme AF.” He tells others to use my pronouns, and when they fail to, he enforces it. And, when we’re alone together, Kyle is just Kyle. I’m just me.

A while ago a longtime friend (who has witnessed me move from using she/her pronouns to them/they) asked me if I now identified as trans. I told her it’s a complicated answer.

For so many of the trans people around me, there’s a trajectory. A plan. A sequence of action. Hormone replacement therapy. Top-surgery. Hysterectomy. Maybe bottom surgery. I have deep reverence for that process, the expense, the physical impact that all surgery carries. That process is also not something I’m sure I want for myself.

“It’s not F to M, it’s F to something else entirely.”

I often feel deeply connected to my breasts — though I don’t particularly look at my breasts and see something feminine. At times it has felt appropriative to call myself trans because what I am, and what I want for myself, isn’t about passing as much as possible as a cis man. It’s about becoming something that is all things at once. A woman and a teenage boy simultaneously. A reliable lover and an unrepentant rascal. It’s not F to M, it’s F to something else entirely. F to X, in which M is part of the equation but not the answer.

I show up at Kyle’s the day after I get back to Vancouver, a woman and teenage boy in the same body. Kyle’s full lips suck my cock, Kyle’s full lips suck my tits, I go to town on Kyle’s nipples, and there is nothing casual about the sex. Everything is full of feeling. My body, a body capable of pregnancy, locked in eye-contact with my sweet, greedy bottom twink boyfriend, a lifetime of longing to be seen hanging in the sex-stench air between us, as we are still for a moment, really looking at each other.

His eyes are always wide, and I’m always shocked by how close I feel to him. Strangers jerk off to him daily, and I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve had sex with. We both, off and on, try to trade anonymous access to our naked selves for a sense that our gender expressions are sexy. We’re both still genuinely surprised by real intimacy.

“I know that I was assigned female at birth. I know that assignment doesn’t fit me, doesn’t fit how I fuck, doesn’t fit how I feel.”

He turns onto his stomach. I lube my dick. Every time I touch my lover there is a world of importance in it, no matter the act or the parts of our bodies. Every inch of my face pressed against Kyle’s spine as I slide my cock into his ass is like bathroom wall dick graffiti, and scrawled hastily in Sharpie up the length of the vein at the base of the shaft are the words, “I love you.”

I arrive at confidently calling myself trans slowly. Not in the pre-op/post-op sense that one day I’ll be a real boy. I don’t know what the future holds. I know that I was assigned female at birth. I know that assignment doesn’t fit me, doesn’t fit how I fuck, doesn’t fit how I feel.

I use “they/them” to articulate to people what they can’t readily see. I use “they/them” to protect myself from falling prey to the outside assertions that people like me don’t exist, that people like me are mentally ill, that people like me are deluded.

And as Kyle’s deeply hard dick slides against my silicone fuck-cock and our fingers touch, I know that words fall short in describing identity and always will. Words are so much smaller than our souls.

Katie Sly is a performer, playwright, visual artist, community organizer and the producer of Too Queer: A Bi Visibility Cabaret. They are the 2016 recipient of the Buddies Queer Emerging Artist Award, and are the 2017 artist-in-residence with the frank theatre company.

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