My lover tells me it’s okay. She tells me she doesn’t mind. She tells me that side of me turns her on. But sometimes, I think she wants it to arouse her, more than it does.
She marvels that I’m a boy in a woman’s body. She wonders at my instinctive hip-grinding, my forwardness in love and lust, the way my carriage and character change when I pack my six-inch dick. She smiles and laughs, as though I were clowning. But I’m not. Not entirely. We both know it. And I see a shadow of misgiving behind her smile.
But it’s useless to put me down, fight it back, bite back that side of me. I’ve never been a girl. And I know it. I knew it from the start, from the time my roots were barely in the ground, though it took me years, decades, to find the words or the nerve to say so.
Girl – a female child
Female – belonging to the sex that bears young or produces eggs.
Eggs were always wasted on me. And repeated discussions in my youth about me bearing young, were little more than wishful thinking. Everywhere I went, people marveled at the attractiveness of my family and said, Oh, you’re going to have beautiful children… Just wait till you have a family… Friends and family and strangers alike. What did they know of my gender?
In the company of girls, I foundered till adulthood, shuttled away from the boys’ games by well-meaning care-takers who wanted only to make me more comfortable among my own kind and train me in the ways of women. But their segregation was more confused than I. My heart was astride a rocking horse or a tree limb. My hands longed for hammers and nails, while they gave me cups and plates and pots and pans. My legs cried to race across field and dale, while they asked that I cross them primly like a lady. Like the little ladies all around me.
What did they see in their homemaking games, their nurseries, their dolls and kitchen sets? What fascination did clothes hold? And what were they made of, these little girls, that they could so quickly turn on a dime and shroud their last reaction with a carefully calculated guise? Not sugar and spice and everything nice.
What were these foreign creatures, so dainty, so deadly, who prized pretty things while concealing their intentions beneath pretty words? What were these treacherous, beguiling things, who seduced and cavorted with my emotions, turning my way a leg or a winking eye, a bare arm or a plunging neckline, to cloud my thinking and confuse my intentions? I bared my own arms and flexed my muscles, wanting them to notice the clear definition of my strength. But their eyes were trained to watch others.
I knew nothing of their wiles, their games, their gambits. What I knew, was the open air, the clear intention, the challenge of will tested against danger. What I understood were games of skill, not chance — tests of valor, not intrigue. Any girl could have had her way with me, and many girls did. Whether they knew why they got the best of me, is anyone’s guess.
I was outmatched every time. And the ways of girls were not mine.
Still, my high school guidance counselor insisted that I take my career interests into a more “feminine” field than forest rangering.
Still, the family doctor inquired if I’d consider going on the pill to soothe my menstrual cramps at age 21. After all, he said, you’ll go on the pill, sooner or later.
What did anyone know of my sex? What did they know of my gender? What does anyone still know?
My lover knows. She sees the boy.
Boy – a male child.
Male – of or belonging to the sex that begets young by fertilizing the female.
Now, partly given the wonders of science, I am male. For I am of or belonging to a sex that can beget young by fertilizing a female. Like thousands of other dykes these days, I could sign on at a clinic and buy some sperm. Or I could scout around for a suitable donor, and arrange to acquire some of his semen. I could put it on ice and keep it around for the right moment, then thaw it, load it into a turkey baster and impregnate my lover. I could knock her up, I could fill her with child. Now I could easily enough become male — not only by thought and feeling, but by action.
But the fertilization goes far beyond a surgical procedure, or a private moment between two women and a turkey baster. There are a thousand ways to fertilize a woman, to get her juices going, to spark her creative drive, to create a place where she can birth and grow parts of her that would not survive in the great world beyond her front door, beyond the ironclad facade she turns to the world in guarded moments and drops in unguarded moments of intimacy of all kinds.
There are a million different ways to beget young. Young — a painting, a song, a creation of any kind… a life worth living that isn’t bound by shame or disgrace or humiliation. An existence of integrity that’s a work of art in itself, a continuing work of assistance to those who need it, not only the unborn, not only the infant, not only a new baby suckling at its mother’s breast, but a career of good works and service to light and love and, strange and wishful as it may sound, making the world a better place to be.
There is more than one way to beget young, to fertilize the egg. And there is more than one sex that does it.
My lover knows of my gender. She knows of my sex.
She sees the young man I was becoming, and the male who became invisible to my father when my breasts began to bud at age 10. She sees the boy who my family thought was gone for good, when I got my first real hairstyle, started my period, and began to shave my legs and bleach my mustache. My lover sees the boy the guys in school and at family reunions overlooked when they clustered together to plot no good, or took off in twos and threes and fours to raise hell. She sees the boy I could never forget, no matter how gingerly grown men began to treat me during my teens — no matter how much grown women sought to impart to me their feminine sensibilities, their convictions of what girls do, and what girls are. No matter how wrong they were about me and my boy, I could never forget him and push him out of the home he had in my head. I housed him. I was him.
My lover sees the male most men miss when they talk to me as though I were primly female — diminutive or domineering, sensitive or compassionate. She sees that boy who doesn’t give a damn what any of them have to prove, who knows he could keep up with them in any sport or contest, who isn’t diminished by skirt or pump or pearls, but waits, ever beneath the surface of my public face to emerge from his entrapment at the end of each working day before her wondering eyes.
She sees the boy concealed each weekday morning beneath propriety’s garb. She sees him re-emerge each weekday night. And she sees him, prancing and packing, each Saturday morning — with a vengeance.
She sees the male who cannot strike out against female. She knows the one who cannot find it in himself to return harsh words for harsh deeds from women… who cannot for the life of himself use his power to keep women back… who has sworn, on some cellular, karmic level, like a reincarnated courtier of eras past, to never raise a hand or word against the female of the species. No matter what they may do, no matter what they may say, no matter what discourtesy or indignity they enact against this male… My lover sees the part of me who has sworn to protect and provide and serve all his born days, this mystery we call woman.
What does my lover think of all this? I’m not sure. Part of her hates and fears men. Part of her wants to castrate and kill them. She’s been harmed by them once too often. She’s seen too many women exploited and oppressed too completely to ever fully trust them.
What does my lover think of the boy in me? I’m not sure I want to know. I have to wonder if she perhaps doesn’t hate and fear this part of me, as well — this male, who wants only to conquest, conquer, subdue, overcome, exploit, stake his claim, make a name for himself and fashion a world to his specifications. I wonder if part of her perhaps fears that I’ll become what she sometimes despises — a male of the species — or if she fears that perhaps I already am just that, and she’ll be forced to love what she detests. I wonder if there isn’t some part of her that doesn’t want me to be just that — a man — and if that part doesn’t secretly desire that which she proclaims she hates — subjugation, denigration, ejaculation.
She says they smell bad and are animals. She never contradicts me when I proclaim that women are superior to men in every way. Mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, we surpass them in every respect. She never contradicts me.
It’s not just the social conditioning of boys that bothers her, she says. There’s something really wrong with men.
When she looks at me and sees the boy, does she think there’s something really wrong with me?
When she sees this dark shadow rising, does she find reason to doubt me? I know she senses the erection I have in my dreams coming into my waking day. She senses the cold drive, the fevered thrust, the push of this aspect against the inner walls of my female flesh, seeking expression in any way possible. She sees my angles harden, my walk become different. Does she see in me just what she’d hoped to forever escape, by getting with me?
And so I hide the boy from her when I can. When she’s smarting under the lash of the world’s indignities and inequities. When she’s holding men responsible for what’s wrong and grows silent and wary at my ways. When she’s venting the pressure that builds in her gut and lets slip a curse on the male of the species. When she grits her teeth when the word “men” passes her lips.
But she tells me it’s okay for me to be this way. As though she were giving me permission to be the way I am — rebellious and randy and ready to jump off a cliff on a long elastic band. She says it’s okay for me to want to skydive, scuba-dive, try stunts, to push the envelope. But she’d rather I didn’t try. She tells me that the wild child is a side of me she enjoys.
But her permissions seem mainly for her own benefit. What makes her think I need her permission, an excuse, a voucher of political open-mindedness, to simply live what I am? Why should I ask her leave, to allow this side of me to live and breathe and grow? What unwritten rule is there that demands that your girlfriend has to pre-approve every physical impulse? How can a political committee broker desire?
She says she wanted a woman when she got with me. She says that’s why she got with me in the first place. Because I’m female, not male. Now, when she sees this dark shadow of maleness rising in me, she recoils, becomes distant, and starts making snide comments about men.
I curse the group houses she’s lived in, the collectives she took up with, when she was my age. I wonder what she might have been like, had her own masculinity been allowed to flourish and grow, instead of pulled up short, reined in, nipped and tucked into the tight-fitting flannels of 1977, nearly invisible, pulled in close to the body for all the world to wonder about, concealed beneath a taut veneer of what her sisters once told her womanhood should be. And still present, still there, still falling free in unguarded moments, still demanding routine attention for the most basic of habits. She takes charge and wields a hammer the way drag show participants relieve pressured bladders — of necessity and with a sigh of relief at the release that’s no sooner enjoyed than ended.
She obscures the male she has. And she excuses the male I sometimes live.
But I cannot obscure what I am — male. And I make no excuses.
I have to wonder… Will she want me, when she sees my dark cocoon splitting open, and the pupae I sometimes am, stepping from the shadows into the light? Dense and mutated and full of the drives she resents and fears… Will she group me together with the biological males of the species and take out on me the anxious resentment she feels, resentment she can’t vent in the daylight, for there are too many men who would stand up and put her down, resentment she can vent in the safety of our own home, where my boy huddles in shadowed corners, waiting for a moment when he can come out and just be…
When he insists on coming out and won’t go back and she finally sees me, will she still tell me it’s okay to be this way? Will she still tell me she doesn’t mind? Will that side of me still turn her on?
Will I still need her permission? Will I still want her to give it? Will I still worry about what she thinks of me, after the many years that we’ve been together? After many years, when I can no longer completely conceal the dark shadow, the hot solidity, the drive. Will the drive ever ask her permission?
I can conceal my whole self from her, for only so long. Sooner or later, she sees the boy.