The other night there was a surprising online discussion at Naked Readers Book Club about Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica. My story “Taking the Toll” was chosen as the excerpt (color me humbled) and so I figured I’d drop in. As it turned out, I could hardly keep up and was fascinated by not only who was there, but what they shared.
I’ll cop to my preconceived notions — I was fully expecting a (virtual) room full of trans*, queer, genderqueer, and other folks well-versed in matters of gender discussing the finer points of the various stories, political implications, favorite lines, etc. What I got instead was what I found so surprising.
The conversation rarely “stayed on topic,” veering instead toward discussion of pronouns, queries about various terminology (the “cis” in cisgender does in fact not stand for computer information systems, as someone had suggested), their own experiences with gender (or lack thereof), and so many of them commented that they loved how much they learned from this book.
I was slightly baffled that a book I had imagined would primarily appeal to a small niche market had, in fact, drawn a much more diverse crowd of folks. Queers too, yes, but also folks who hadn’t even heard the term cisgender before, yet it hadn’t deterred them in the slightest from taking on a trans and genderqueer erotic book. This delights me. Especially because not a one seemed like the skeazy type that exoticizes or fetishcizes trans* folks in a disrespectful way (y’all know the type, right?). The majority were cisgender, straight identified women, mixed with plenty of other folks, all of whom showed each other’s viewpoints and queries great respect.
Among this motley crew was a wonderfully open commenter who identifies as bi-gender. They graciously offered to answer anyone’s questions in regards to their gender identity. At the tail end of the convo, this person asked me a series of questions. I answered only briefly (so as to not hijack the board) and offered to elaborate more in detail here on my blog. The questions they asked were: How is it to be with someone who is genderqueer? Were you confused at first? Wary at all?
Part of my response is as follows:
I consider myself to be very fortunate in that despite some of the cultures in which I was raised, I never once questioned my queerness. It took lots of reading and life experiences to get to where I’m at now, yes, but I never had to struggle with my attractions (in the ways that so many folks do go through and that’s why I consider myself fortunate because I know how wearisome these struggles can be).
The short of it is: It’s *amazing* and a great privilege to be with someone who is genderqueer. A gift from the universe. Folks who fuck gender and consciously examine it are so very sexy in my world. I was never confused by being attracted to trans and genderqueer and butch folks, no, never even the slightest bit wary. That is where my desire lives (thrives!) and it just feels so incredibly right.
Earlier in the discussion, this same person had said that they saw so much of themself in my story, that they felt so close to my genderqueer character, saying, “It was almost like it was me.”
I expressed my gratitude that they related to my character and said it’s exactly that sort of amazing compliment that makes my work all the more satisfying and worthwhile.
Today, with the scope of these questions having settled upon me heavily, this self-imposed task of elaboration seems daunting. To say the least. So I’ll preface this by saying that I know I won’t be able to do this subject justice; that I’ll barely be able to touch on the tip of the iceberg; that this isn’t even the beginning, let alone the be-all end-all. And, as always, this is just my opinion and experience and I fully recognize and value that everyone’s experiences are so very unique.
I have so much to say that I don’t really know where to begin. I don’t know why I’m so deeply attracted to folks who are butch, trans*, and/or genderqueer. It’s just how I’m hardwired, I guess. Certainly my desire has to do with being attracted to people who really think about gender, sex, and sexuality. Intelligent minds and the ability to use them well is undeniably sexy. Branching out from societal norms for what is considered “acceptable” and one’s ability/willingness to construct their own gender is also a big turn-on. This goes hand-in-hand with how attractive I find strength and intrepidity.
When I told Jacob (an ex/good friend of mine who is exquisitely genderqueer) about how I was going to attempt to answer these questions, they laughed incredulously at the impossibility of doing more than just touching on such complexities; but then offered something quite helpful — a personal anecdote about how a lover they once had expressed some very hurtful words about the challenges of being with them. This is so far from my experience, it almost seems implausible to me.
I’ll be perfectly honest. It is sometimes not easy to be with someone who is genderqueer. But the ease with which we fit is absolute bliss. (Who wants easy anyway? The few times I’ve been with someone who didn’t challenge me, I found myself very bored and depressed.) And I wouldn’t trade my ardor for anything else in the world. I truly revel in butches, genderqueers, and trans* folks. There is nothing more perfect in my view of the world than the ways in which our desires manifest, intermingle, and take flight.
Often times a complicated, beautifully complex sexuality is part of the territory in being with someone who is genderqueer. Ivan E. Coyote puts it more eloquently than I ever could: “I want you to know that I know it is not always easy to love me. That sometimes my chest is a field full of land mines and where you went last night you can’t go tomorrow. There is no manual, no roadmap, no helpline you can call. My body does not come with instructions, and sometimes even I don’t know what to do with it. This cannot be easy, but still, you touch me anyway.”
I think part of the beauty of being with someone who is genderqueer is the willingness to traverse these sometimes precarious landscapes. Occasionally I misstep and that’s where having an open, honest line of communication comes in real handy. As long as my lover is communicative and honest with me (and themself!) about what they need/how they’re feeling, it makes hitting a land mine less painful (for all parties involved). And, eventually, with time and patience and unending love, one comes to know one’s lover’s body with an intuitive precision. That’s not to say that we never hit occasional bumps after some time of being together, but it definitely gets easier.
In the everyday, being with someone who is genderqueer absolutely enchants me. The unique ways we interact in private, having the privilege of being on their arm when we are out in the world. There’s something special to that latter part — I call it Butch Bragging Rights. BBR refers to the particular joy a butch (or genderqueer or transman) feels when having a hot femme on their arm. It’s self-assuredness you experience as someone who queers gender with a touch of bravado. The right to brag that this kind of woman wants me. Yes, even a bit of cockiness. It’s about proving to the world (and disrespectful straight cismen in particular) that genderqueers are not only mind-blowingly attractive and highly desired, but also cherished and adored. Especially by a girl like me. :)
I write erotica for many reasons. One of which is that my communities are under-represented, under-appreciated, and not nearly eroticized enough (in hot ways). I want to voice my desires and those of those I desire. Even my works published in seemingly straight anthologies are always queer. Look closely at how I talk about cock — I always leave it purposefully open to interpretation about whether it’s a silicone strap-on or simply a less tangible energy, whether it’s a home-grown trans* cock or something else entirely.
In an interview about Take Me There with Sinclair Sexsmith, editor Tristan Taormino said, “I absolutely believe that writing and publishing erotica, especially for minorities, is a political act. We must write our own stories, our own truths, otherwise our detractors and enemies will do it for us.”
This is a huge reason why it’s important to me that I write the erotica I do, why I put myself out there on this blog, despite being an incredibly introverted, private person. I know that this type of exposing of one’s self leads to other people learning, growing, finding bits of themselves that they can relate to in my experiences. And this has been a huge theme in my writing lately — how crucial it is, especially for members of marginalized communities, to see and be seen. That is exactly what I wrote my Triangle column on that will be coming out Feb. 1st.
If just one young genderqueer reads this post and sees themself validated, appreciated, and loved through my words/experiences, then that alone is worth it.
I would absolutely love to hear any questions and/or responses to my thoughts here. I realize that I haven’t sufficiently elaborated on these questions here (some of my reply I accidentally deleted — ugh), but I’ve sat on this post too long — it’s time to publish it! I’ll leave this an open question and surely will revisit it from time to time, as more details strike me. Please feel free to ask questions (the more specific the better), as that’ll help me to go further in depth on this topic. I’d love for this to become a conversation. What do you have to add? How would you address these questions? What are your unique experiences? What did you find helpful or not at all?