Why I Won’t Transition

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

For some, the very existence of this article may be seen as inflammatory. I want to take a moment to state right here, right now that I'm not writing this article to shame anyone or try to dissuade anyone from pursuing the highest realization of their physical and emotional self. I feel that I have expressed many times in previous articles how proud I am of those who choose to medically, socially and legally transition. It's a huge process, and for many who undergo it, very necessary.

It is important to remember, however, that transgender is an umbrella term. It's a spectrum, and just as there are those who will choose to adjust their physical form to match their internal identity, so there will also be those who will choose not to. This article's purpose is to shed light on the reasons why just one trans individual has made the decision not to transition at all, despite the incongruities between my inner sense of my gender and my outer physical sexual characteristics.


Family is very important to me. I'm very proud of my ancestors and I'm proud to share the same DNA as them. For as far back as I can remember, I've wanted to carry on the family line, to continue my physical lineage on into the next generation and share the legacy that I am so proud of. I'm not adverse to adoption. I think it's very noble, and if I was given a choice between adopting and not having children at all, I would certainly choose adoption in a heartbeat. I am proud of my ancestors, of who they were and of all that they accomplished during their lives, and I want to continue the legacy we've all been building, if I can, as completely as possible.

One of the problems with transitioning medically is that it can render you infertile. This isn't a problem if you adopt, but if you plan on having children that you are biologically related to, it gives you something to consider. Going all the way with your medical transition can also (for some) mean genital reconfiguration, and since we haven't reached a place yet where such a reconfiguration could be so complete that someone like me could become pregnant and carry a child to term, the desire to procreate outweighs (for me) the desire to bring my outsides as closely into alignment with my insides as possible. And man, if I could take on the pain and struggle of pregnancy for my partner, I’d do it in a heartbeat just for the opportunity to experience the creation of life.

Advantages of Being Male:

Even when I spend hours preparing (emotionally and physically) to go out into public with the aim of being seen as a woman physically, I don’t pass. My body is very male, and it’s very obvious to the people who see me that I’m not a woman biologically. As a man, I have been told that I am good-looking, that I am very masculine-appearing. I’ve got a good solid jawline, good musculature, a man’s nose and I’m six foot, four inches tall. To “fix” all of that with surgery, (if that’s even possible) would cost a mint, and if I’m going to spend a mint on something, I’d rather spend it on land I can farm, on board games and the materials I need to make more bitchin’ battle jackets.

So when I look at myself in the mirror, I take a moment to really consider the physical form I’m in. Yeah, my first reaction is almost always “what the hell? Who is that?” but it passes. Like an old familiar ghost I’ve worked to become comfortable with, I’ve learned to accept that the dude in the mirror really is the body I’ve been born into. Instead of looking at it and hating all the aspects that are masculine, I try to turn it around and see the value in what I have. I look at this body and think “well, it’s not so bad as far as male bodies go.” Sometimes I look at my physical form and can almost convince myself that I’ve won the genetic lottery, as far as male bodies go. I try to see the advantages, the benefits that my physical form gives me.

One of those benefits is the ability to walk around nearly naked without being hauled off to jail for having my chest exposed. Another is the effect that a strong, deep voice has when used to shock people (for self-defense) and the fact that my partner really digs this body. Male genitalia have all kinds of useful features, and by being male, I’m immune to the oppressive beauty “standards” (makeup, plucking, eye-liner, body shaving, etc.) that most women feel they have to adhere to religiously. I don’t have to budget for the supplies for the beauty regime, and I don’t have to spend money on chest underwear that costs $20 a piece (at minimum) with the upper limit being in the hundreds of dollars per unit. Let me tell you, the worst part about breasts is that wearing an uncomfortable bra all day long really sucks, and whenever you lose or gain weight, your breasts change size and your bra can become uncomfortable. Add to that the fact that washing machines and dryers can literally eat your underwear (or cause the underwire to burrow out through the fabric enough that it stabs you in the boob) and I think you begin to realize how much being “required” by society to wear a bra really sucks.

So, long story short, I’ve learned to see the advantages that come with wearing this male body and presenting as a male, even if the gender dysphoria is there. I’ve found ways to come to peace with what I have, and even see the benefits of it, the pros instead of focusing just on the cons. There’s power in accepting who I am, and it’s a hell of a lot less expensive than dealing with all of things that are required to completely medically transition to female (I’ll get into those in the next section.)

Medications, Surgeries and Hormones:

If a doctor told me I needed surgery to survive, I'd ask for a second opinion. Unless I was bleeding out on a gurney, I'd think twice about any kind of invasive medical procedure. If a doctor told me I needed to take a medication for the rest of my life, I’d laugh in that doctor’s face and walk out. I have no interest in modifying my brain or body chemistry with medications that work “in theory” prescribed by practicing physicians who are getting kickbacks for every patient they hook to the drugstream. I’m so anti-modification (for myself, others can do what they want) that I have no interest in even getting any kind of piercing. I hate needles with a passion, and consider even shaving my face to be a frustrating chore.

Considering all that is required to transition from male to female, it just isn’t a priority for me. When it’s done completely, gender reassignment therapy for an MTF (Male to Female) requires a lot of cutting, a lot of electrolysis, a lot of medications and injections. The worst part is that once you’re on hormones, in most cases, you have to stay on them for the rest of your life (if you want to continue to benefit from their effects.) Add to that the fact that there are warnings about the dangers that long-term trans-specific medications can have on the liver (and warnings about going off of them suddenly) and it all starts to sound really dicey and full of risk (for me.) To each their own. I don’t judge. The pros of any situation, change or way of life must be weighed against the cons.) For me, as someone who eats organic as often as I can, who does everything I can to keep weird chemical shit out of my body, the benefits of transitioning medically seem small compared to the many risks and sacrifices I’d have to make. For those who need medical transitioning as a life-saving procedure (especially if they are a suicide risk,) I say, 100%, go for it. You do you, and don't let anyone's opinion (or choices) hold you back.

Spiritual Reasons:

I believe that one's relationship to the spiritual is a deeply personal part of their experience as a human being. We all have our own beliefs and experiences, things we doubt and things we seem to know innately. I think there's more going on out there than our minds are currently capable of understanding, but that's just me. Long story short, I think every person's religious or spiritual viewpoint is valid, but only for themselves. If you truly believe that your actions will send you to hell, I wouldn't be surprised if you find yourself there when you die, but that's neither here nor there. For me, the closest label I identify with is Vanatru. I don't believe in the Christian vision of hell.

So how does this shape my views on my own body in regards to gender transitioning? Well, despite the fact that there seems to be evidence that at least some of Freyja's priests were cross-dressers (maybe transgender? Who knows) I simply believe that I chose to come into this life as a male, to learn and work through dysphoria while I'm here. As I stated previously, having a male body has its advantages, and I think sometimes that one of my big spiritual life lessons is learning to see that, to see the beauty and the power in the body I have, instead of yearning for the beauty and power I'd have if I had been born female. A lot of my personal philosophies and spiritual ideas fall along similar lines, that my life is colored by lessons I can experience and work through now, or choose to address at a later date (or in another life.) Facing the problem head on and conquering it, resisting it and staying above it-- that's the approach I take toward my own gender dysphoria, toward self-judgments and worries, and even when it comes to ideas like suicide. No matter how dark the situation you're going through seems, no matter how long you have to live through it, it is still always temporary. No matter what you believe, you only get one chance to be in the body you are in right now. Enjoy it, be at peace and make the most of it, whatever that means to you. My dad has a saying: "The grass is always greener on the other side, by the sewer pond" meaning that whichever side of the fence you're on will have its own pros and cons. Only you can decide which good outweighs the bad that comes with it.

I'm Afraid

Fear is another powerful part of the human experience. It holds us back, but it also protects us. I talk big, I fight hard and I've come a long way in fighting my fears, standing up to them and throwing them off when I feel like they serve no purpose but to limit me. I've vanquished a lot of pointless and destructive fears in my life, but with each new horizon I've opened up within my own experience of reality, there have been new fears to face, new limitations to slow me and shackle me. To say I am free of fear in regards to my transgender identity would be dishonest. I have a lot of fears, and some of them influence my stance on my own body and my decision not to transition to female.

Perhaps most of all, I'm afraid of being unhappy. I'm afraid of taking that long, arduous journey between male me and female me only to find that I'm no more happy (or worse, actually less happy) than I was before the journey began. It comes down to the grass is greener idea I mentioned in the last section. I'm afraid of looking back and going "damn, I had it good. Why did I fuck that up?" I'm afraid that the disadvantages of being a transwoman would far outweigh the disadvantages of being trans without transitioning. I'm afraid of missing something, some positive thing still to come in my life if I stay male. I'm afraid of social stigma, of limiting myself and putting myself in danger by being who I am openly, of crossing a line in the sand between me as a curiosity and me as an unemployable "freak." I'm afraid of being controlled by the expectations that gender roles create within our society of what it means to be a woman, fostering the creation of a hyperfeminine me that is less honest than who I am already. I'm afraid of losing more friendships than I already have, and I know that chances are I'd be kicked out of Freemasonry and lose my loving partner as well if I underwent a full transition. What woman would love me if I crossed that line, if I became a woman to as much of a degree as is medically possible? I know I can survive without love, even thrive in my own way, but I'd rather not put myself in a situation where I'd have to face that. For me, the potential cost of becoming female in this society, in this era and at this technology level far outweighs the benefits.

As I stated in the beginning, these are simply my reasons for choosing not to transition to full time female. If you are transgender and you feel that you want or need to completely transition to the gender that you identify with, I am 100% fully in support of your decision. You do what makes you happy and what brings you toward the realization of your highest self. Don’t doubt yourself, and don’t let anyone make you feel like shit for whatever you decide is the right path for your life. Seize your individuality by the ovaries and go be the best version of you that you can be. Whatever you decide for you, you’re right, and if you start to doubt yourself, make a list of reasons why you need to stay strong. You can survive, whatever you decide. You can survive and thrive. At the very least, know that whatever course you chart for yourself, I’m proud of you. Be you in the best way that you can, whatever that means to you.

If you were moved in some way by the content of this article and you’d like to share your own experiences and decisions about gender transitioning, or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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Red Gender

In previous articles, I've talked about the importance of visibility and representation for trans individuals. I maintain that it is vitally important for people within all minorities (the trans community included) to voice their experiences and to be heard. In order to resist and destroy destructive stereotypes and fear-saturated opinions about trans people and what it means to be trans, we must stand up and express our truth and our perspectives in any way that we can.

For me, that means writing. For me, the easiest way to express my experiences as a trans person is through poetry. That is why I wrote the book Red Gender.

Though Red Gender is not my first collection of poetry to deal with trans issues (see my book Trans Physical Dynamics by clicking [here]), it is the first that I've written which deals with trans issues exclusively. Every one of the more than fifty pieces included in this collection is inspired by my life and growth as a trans individual. Some are spicy, some are spiritual, some explore my battles with gender dysphoria and some are full of great joy and gratitude for certain experiences that only a trans person could live through.

In lieu of an article this week, I'm going to include a couple of my favorite pieces from Red Gender in this post. I'd be incredibly grateful if you would also consider picking up a copy of the book for yourself over at my publishing house, Thunderune Publishing. [link]

For One Night Only

Whether we're shaving our legs
stepping out together
as women
as the sexiest
most elegant
and enviable
lesbian couple
you've ever seen
or cropping our hair
back to butch
in black suits
and crisp hats
or slicking back
and going punk
in blood-flecked war boots
in grungy battle jackets
or mixing it up
as one stunning male
walking arm-in-arm
with his buxom babe
until we swap the roles
until we mix it up
and both become
a celebration
of alternate identity
arting up the body
for one night
for one night only.

* * *

Shave Away The Pain

It's about freedom
not fetish
it's about feeling
about being
your highest self
to shave down
all the rough edges
turning every angle
into a curve
until you are you
until you can look in the mirror
and smile
and see
someone you recognize
see you
the inside on the outside
for the first time
in all the dysphoric days
of your upsidedown life.

* * *

Manmade Monster

show your little girls
that they can be heroes
be butch and strong and sensible
and idolize tomboys
and tell them that they are beautiful
in their bald-head bootheel badassery

but never let your boys
grow up to be Nagels
to be proud and elegant
to be bold and beautiful
with eyes that slay
and heels that clack
that demand attention
and each strike
is like lightning

because we all know today
that it's okay
for a babe
to want to be a boss
in pants and suit and tie
in close-cropped hair
with minimal makeup

but put a guy
in painted nails
in a wig
in a cute top and padded bra
with shaved legs
under a pencil skirt
and people look
and people stare
and all because you've made a monster
you've made a man
into a monster.

* * *

If you enjoyed these pieces and would like to read more poetry on the trans experience, hop on over to Thunderune Publishing by clicking the link here: [link] and pick up your own copy of Red Gender today. Thank you for reading!

If you have a story (or poetry) about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

On Passing

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

One of the things that I'd like to talk about is "passing" as your preferred gender. For trans people, passing can become an obsession, the holy grail of our lives, but it doesn't have to be that way. Sure, there can be a great deal of joy and safety and self-acceptance in passing, in being your internal self in the external world, but pursuing it to its highest degree also ignores the fundamental underlying problem of what has to be done in order for a person to pass, and why we would feel compelled to go to extreme lengths to do it at all.

In every trans-centric post I've written so far, I've posted a picture of me from a photoshoot that I literally spent months preparing for. I don't dress like this every day, nor would I want to. It's way too much work, and I've got better things to do than spending hours making sure my makeup slays every time I leave the house. Most days, it's easier just to dress "like a dude," in a shirt and pants, unshowered and unshaven, as many women I know do. Stereotypically female clothing, beauty products and accessories feminize the body and aid in passing, but I don't need to wear a dress to feel like a woman. I don't need to pass as female in the eyes of strangers to feel like a woman. I feel like a woman all the time no matter what I'm wearing. That's just how gender dysphoria works.

So why is passing so important? Fear. I'm not just talking about the fear that trans people feel of being outed against their will or the fears we experience of being judged or assaulted if we don't pass. I'm talking about the fear that drives strangers to judge, to assault and to decry those of us who are different. Every time someone makes a judgment, it ultimately comes from a place of fear, fear of homosexuality and how it could effect them personally, fear of their own inner demons, fear fueled by a lack of information about what it means to be trans. I know that in my younger days, I sneered at a fair number of drag queens, and the first time I ever actually met an MTF individual (at a college PFLAG meeting in 2006) I stared at her and studied her for hours out of morbid curiosity. I have met old men who used to make a sport out of beating up “queer” individuals, men who have turned around their lives and who now live without judgment. It wasn't just time and the mellowing of age that made them change. It was information. Information is the best weapon we have against any fear we use to oppress ourselves and others.

I don't want anyone to get the idea that I think passing is never an important consideration, or that I'm shaming women who choose to wear makeup every day. Cosmetics are as much a beauty-enhancer as they are a form of armor, or warpaint for the woman warrior. To look fierce and beautiful is to become intimidating. Women who are confident, intimidating and strong are fully within their place of power, and are less likely to become victims (I've been told, and I have experienced this personally) as are transwomen who pass well enough to be accepted as women by strangers instead of being seen as "men in drag." What I am saying is that people should be allowed to wear what they like. Hairy legs and cargo shorts, lipstick and skirts, it shouldn't matter, and it especially shouldn't matter what the fears of others drive them to think about us as trans people. We carry our own truths within us, and we can share those truths with others, but we should never squash them, especially to shield others from their own fears. Whatever gender you identify with, whether you are trans or not, you know that you still feel like that gender no matter what you are wearing, where you are and who you are with. It's constant, it never changes, and so why not wear what you want, in any given combination? You're still you. Be you, and strive to be you in your own highest form. If that means pink wigs and frilly skirts, go for it. If that means tanktops and tattoos, go for it. Be you, unapologetically, and fuck what anyone else thinks. Feminine beauty “standards” are bullshit and binding anyway, and most women (transgender or otherwise) that I know personally don't have the time to slay like a supermodel every single day. We've got better things to do than to cater to anyone's fear-based judgments.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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An Article on Timing

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

Coming out as trans (or as anything else that there might be a social stigma attached to) can be a real challenge, and it can take a lot of support from friends and family to get through it. Even so, when it's over, there can be this feeling of “well, now that everyone knows, what's the big deal?” Which can lead to the question: why didn't I come out earlier?

Instead of following that thought down the dark road of self-criticism, I think it's important to explore the reasons why it can take so long to come out. Because my own experiences are the only experiences I really have to draw from, I'll discuss my reasons for waiting thirty-three years to come out as trans in this blog post.

Fear, and a lack of information. I'll just come right out and say it. Fear and a lack of information about what it means to be transgender are the reasons I waited so long to self-identify and to be open about it. Even still, I get little twinges of doubt and worry about what people will think, about the hatred and weirdness I've read about other trans people having to deal with during the course of their everyday experiences. Even still, I think about my friends and family, and worry (only a little now) about whether or not my being open about who I am might drive them to distance themselves from me. I've been destitute in the past. I've been abandoned suddenly by those I cared about, and there's a fear, indeed a deep terror that, when I do something as simple as painting my nails or putting on a wig, I'm sewing the seeds of my own destruction, of my fall back toward homelessness and heartbreak.

But, you know what? It's all illusion. I live in a time, a city and a community that celebrates diversity, and even if I express my inner feminine side openly, I haven't sabotaged anything. In fact, all of the most important people in my life (including my work life) have been incredibly understanding and supportive since I've opened up. It's who I am, and it's common, human decency to accept people for who they are.

The fears still come and go, though, as fears are wont to do. They're there to keep us safe, to keep us keen and on guard against threats that could (literally) kill us. They've protected me, but they've also been like a concrete brick, slowing my growth toward the openly transgender individual I am today. Part of the reason for the fear came from my own aforementioned lack of knowledge about what it means to be trans, and it's that lack of knowledge (and the fear dynamic within it) that I'm going to talk about next.

When I was a teen, sexuality was social credibility. If you were gay (or suspected of being such) you would be the target of constant abuse (physical and emotional) from the other students. Every day on campus was a fight to defend myself from attack and prove that I was not gay by acting "like a man," which usually involved using my fists or backpack as a weapon. Homophobia was so rampant that no one used the school's extensive shower facilities after P.E. class, and those very few (one or two) kids who did were ruthlessly teased for it with lines like "oh, you want to smell good for your boyfriend?" Fistfights would break out in the locker room over accusations of one student looking at another student's "junk" during changing. Some of us avoided all of this as much as possible (myself included) by just changing in a stall in the bathroom. Despite this and other precautions I took to avoid caustic situations, I was still repeatedly slammed against lockers for being “queer.” I denied the label vehemently, but children (and teens) can be ruthless in enforcing the social pecking order, and "fag" was the label most easily wielded in that place and time.

The funny part is that I've never found myself attracted to men. It's a heteronormative idea that all women (including those who were born male but who identify as female) must be attracted to men. I can attest, (as can many other trans individuals) that gender identity is a completely separate concept from sexual preference. Trans individuals, no matter how they identify (as male, female or something else entirely) have the same range of preferences as any other group of individuals. Some are attracted only to women, some only to men, some to both, some to neither, and some are pansexual, meaning they are attracted to every kind of gender configuration out there, or nearly so. Assigning a sexuality to a gender is as silly as assigning a race to a creed. You wouldn't assume that Catholics are always Caucasian. There is a rainbow of races within Catholicism, just as there are a rainbow of sexual preferences under the trans umbrella.

It has taken years to work past the flawed programming of my childhood that kept my own gender expression firmly in check. For decades, my mind was filled with horror stories and twisted images of what it meant to be gay and what it meant to be trans. For me, growing up, trans was synonymous with gay, and as a label was applied to only two people: RuPaul and Rocky Horror Picture Show's Doctor Frank-N-Furter, and I found them both to be absolutely terrifying. I wanted nothing to do with that world, and so I shunned it. The woman within me grew and matured, and though I often found myself wishing that I would wake up in a world where I would be living my life as a female, complete and accepted, I never sought to express it on the outside. I didn't want to be the third name in some kind of trans trinity that included RuPaul and Frank-N-Furter.

What I didn't know was that neither RuPaul or Tim Curry are transgender. In his/her own words, (RuPaul is comfortable with either pronoun) RuPaul has said that “drag is really making fun of identity. We are shapeshifters. We’re like ‘okay, today I’m this, now I’m a cowboy, now I’m this’. Transgender people take identity very seriously – their identity is who they are." And so it is with me, and with all of the self-identified trans people I know. We have an identity, a feeling inside that is very important to us. It has always been a part of our lives, our experience and it colors and defines everything we see, do and the very way we live, whether we're out of the closet or not.

So who do we rally to then, as Trans individuals? What heroes do we hold up as ideals to aspire to? Well, let's look to the media. LaVerne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner are well known and probably the first two who come to mind, but where are all of the other voices? The transmen, the bigenders, genderfluid and genderqueer individuals? As a demographic, trans people face the same problems that all minorities struggle with: the problem of representation, and that's where the lack of information comes from. We have precious few suitable role models to look to, and a host of bizarre, fetishistic caricatures (like Frank-N-Furter) that are applied to us against our will as examples of what we “must be” if we feel a certain way. Like so many others, I wandered lost for decades because, to me, even feeling very strongly female inside, I refused to consider that I might be transgender simply because I wanted nothing to do with men getting off on wearing women's underwear. I'm not that kind of person. I have no interest in wearing anything “sexy” and I never have had such an interest. The woman I am is not a neglige woman. The woman I am is something harder, edgier. Something real, something else entirely.

But again, that's where representation becomes important. Trans people aren't all beautiful super models. We aren't all female, and we haven't all transitioned, nor will some of us ever choose to transition. As LaVerne Cox herself says, "The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people" and I think that is such an important thing to remember. Transgender literally means someone who transcends the binary of gender, someone who doesn't fit neatly into the box of boy or girl. There are as many ways to be transgender as there are ways to be human, and that is one of the main reasons why I am writing this, why I am openly identifying as trans. It's the reason why I encourage my trans friends and family to write about their experiences, to put their perspectives into poetry and sing about who they are, about what it is like to be trans. By increasing our visibility, both as unique individuals and as a community, we make the world safer for others like us.

When it comes to the fear and the bad programming and the lack of knowledge, I blame no one. I don't blame my parents, and I never will. They did the best that they could given the tools and the knowledge at their disposal and I am incredibly grateful for the wisdom and the values that they imparted to me. If it wasn't for my dad, I wouldn't be the man that I am today, and if it wasn't for my mother, I wouldn't be the woman that I am today either. If anyone is to blame, I blame myself for being afraid, for lacking the confidence to even research gender identity or explore my own feelings more than I did within the confines of my mind. I blame myself for thinking that trans-ness was fetishistic and involved nothing but gay men putting on panties and getting turned on by the taboo of it. I blame myself for not talking with anyone about my inner woman until I was thirty, for being so secretive that even my ex-wife knew nothing about it during the course of our entire five year relationship (I'm sure she'll be very surprised if/when she finds out!)

More importantly than any of that useless blaming, though, I have to say that I forgive myself. I forgive myself not just because I was young and very much invested in being as male as possible for survival's sake, but also because I'm not hiding who I have always been anymore. I'm standing up, I'm opening up and I'm explaining what it means to be trans (for me) in the hopes that by doing so I can increase awareness and create a safer world not just for myself, but also for all those who are still locked inside the closet, unable to express themselves for fear of social or physical injury.

So if you're reading this and you're thinking about when the best time to come out might be, or how you might go about it, I can tell you that the only right time is when you feel safe and right about it. If you're curious about something, research it! If you feel like you might fall within the transgender spectrum, look for the youtube videos, podcasts, blog posts and articles filled with the voices of people who are openly trans. Listen to what they have to say about their experiences. Take the good with the bad, explore it, and proceed toward your own highest self, whatever that looks like for you. There's no such thing as too much knowledge, so keep exploring.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link] Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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Managing Gender Dysphoria

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

Gender dysphoria is a very personal thing. In my own life, it has been a constant companion, insistent and powerful.

Transitioning to your true gender is one way of dealing with gender dysphoria, but it isn't the only way to move through it. Being unable to transition because of costs, commitments, fears or any other reason can leave trans people feeling trapped, which can in turn intensify existing depression, dysphoria and other such maladies which arise from the stress of one's self image (or soul) not being aligned with the gender of their physical body. Whether you transition or not, if you are trans, you have to take care of yourself, and one important part of that self-care is managing your gender dysphoria.

It's also important to remember that no matter what you may feel in your deepest depressions, you're not alone. You're never really alone, and you don't have to struggle alone. If your feelings of dysphoria are so intense that you have thoughts of suicide, it is important that you seek help and talk to someone immediately. There are professionals out there who understand and who see gender dysphoria as a symptom rather than as a disease (or worse, as something to be ignored.) You might also consider ways that you can begin to transition, even if only partially. Even small adjustments can help ease the discomfort. In my own experience, I have found that even just painting my nails or shaving my arms has helped immensely. Consider changing things up within your wardrobe or your personal aesthetic so that they fit more with the gender that you identify with.

For me, the easiest way to manage gender dysphoria has been to experience life as the highest realization of myself possible as often as possible. Makes sense, doesn't it? If your soul doesn't match your body, then change your body to match your soul and you're golden. For many, that means medical transitioning, but that's not the only way to go about it.

I have a rich fantasy life. There's a reason why I have almost seventy books in print and the vast majority of them feature female main characters. There was a point in my life where I lived within my writing, where I lived as a woman 8-10 hours a day and fell asleep at my keyboard dreaming of being someone other than the man I had to be while at work and in public. Through writing, I sought my highest self and lived within it. In art, there are no limits. If you yearn to experience something completely, one of the easiest ways to do so is to do it through art, whether it be painting, prose, poetry, or any other creative medium. Do not limit yourself—refine your technique, explore and expand. Go beyond your gender. When you envision the highest version of yourself, are you male? Are you female? Are you someone or something else entirely? What kind of individual are you? What are the traits of that ideal self that you resonate with most strongly? What kind of clothes do you wear? What kind of work do you do? What time period do you occupy? What planet? What universe? There are no limits and there are no expectations in art. Even making a list of what comes to mind can help immensely.

Videogames can offer another easy way to mitigate the effects of gender dysphoria. Many games these days offer players the ability to create custom characters with different unique physical characteristics, or at least give players the option to choose the sex of their character. Having the option to play as a female has been a powerful way to keep my own gender dysphoria in check in the past, especially with games that have compelling and gripping storylines which draw the player in completely.

Social interactions with real people while embracing your true gender can help immensely as well. One way that I’ve done this is through crossdressing, then going out with friends to places like the Lavender District, where I can dance and listen to good music in an environment that is (mostly) safe for trans individuals to express themselves openly. Another way that I have experienced social interaction while living as a female was through the anonymity of the internet. In my early twenties, (when I was absolutely terrified of crossdressing and the social implications of being outed for it,) I would spend time with a group of friends I met on Starcraft who knew me only by my gaming handle. To them, I was (and had always been) female. Our group was mixed as far as gender goes, three women and four men in all, if I remember correctly. At that time in my life, the hours that I would spend talking about music, writing and pop culture with the friends who knew me as female were an incredible haven from the gender dysphoria, and one of the few that I knew of at the time.

Certain spontaneous indulgences can help here and there as well. Next time you're feeling pressed by dysphoria (or even just frustrated or depressed,) ask yourself what you really want to do right now. At times, when I have done this, the answers have been conflicting. "I want to take a bath. I want a nice cup of tea. I want to dance in the rain." No problem. Fix yourself a cup of tea, run a hot bath, put on some good music, then turn the shower on lightly so that it sprays a soft rain of lukewarm water over you while you relax. Combining elements like this doesn't always work, but creative solutions can often be playful and fun, breaking the heaviness which comes with depression and dysphoria. Don't think that you have to limit yourself. Make time to be alone and to take care of your mental health in the best ways that you can. Make it fun. Make it simple. Make it relaxing. Feeling good is an important component in battling your gender dysphoria and keeping its impact on your life as minimal as possible.

If you have a story about your own experience with gender dysphoria or have some useful tips that you’ve used to manage it in the past that you’d like to share with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link] Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. If you’d like to share your experiences living as a trans person (or your experiences of living with someone who identifies as trans) drop me a line through the aforementioned contact form. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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On Dysphoria

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

I've never been a fan of the words "you don't understand what it's like," but there are times when I've wanted to say it. If you've never experienced gender dysphoria, it can be a really difficult concept to wrap your brain around. For most of the population (or so statistics seem to indicate) there is no feeling of dissonance between gender (how we see ourselves inside) and sex (what we were assigned at birth.) You’re either born male or female and the way you feel and see yourself in your mind’s eye is completely in alignment with that. You look in the mirror each day and see a person you recognize as you, as the you that you have always been, and you don’t generally find yourself daydreaming about a better life where your sex completely matches your gender. Gender dysphoria is an interesting thing to live with, and in this article, I’d like to try to help shed some light on the experience for those who are curious about what it is like.

To start, I’d like you to imagine something. Imagine what it would feel like if you woke up one day and everything in your life was the same as it is now except suddenly everyone saw you as if you were a different gender than you have been for your entire life. For example, if you are a heterosexual married man, imagine that you woke up to suddenly find yourself in a world where everyone else saw you as a lesbian female and would expect you to dress the part. Imagine the social pressure if you suddenly had to conform to western feminine beauty standards (plucking, concealer, leg shaving, etc.) but didn't feel like it. You go into work, and your boss expects you to wear a dress and makeup, to wear nail polish and shape your hairy (mannish) eyebrows into something more feminine, but that's never felt right to you. Imagine the dissonance you would feel with the world around you, imagine the constant cloud of little judgments that would follow you wherever you go because you don't fit in, and worse, people see it, even if you do everything you can to embrace the sex stereotypes that have been assigned to you. Now imagine dealing with that for your entire life, hiding and changing in little ways so that people don't judge as often, or as harshly.

That's a basic overview of my experience with dysphoria. For as far back as I can remember, I have felt uncomfortable adhering to the male ideal, resonating more with mothers, caretakers and female role models. In one of my earliest memories, age two or three, I remember arguing with my father and mother about it, asking them if they were absolutely certain I was a boy. To them, as parents in a small town in the 1980's, staring down at a naked toddler, the answer was laughably obvious, but to me, inside, I wasn't so sure. I didn't feel like a little boy, even that early on, and the feeling has continued and stuck with me for my entire life. The times when I have been the most comfortable in my body are the times when I have been able to look past the male and simply be who I am inside. In practical application, this has mostly taken the form of simple relaxing diversions (like playing video, paper or board games as a female character) but it has also manifested (as I have matured and become more secure in my identity) in more overt forms of expression, such as cross-dressing and choosing a more feminine name (or nickname) for myself. It’s actually the main reason I have always published under the moniker E.S. Wynn—it’s innately androgynous. It reflects the decision very early on in my career to avoid being tied down to one gender or another. When I chose it (in my early twenties,) I was still considering a complete transition from male to female, and wanted to minimize the effect such a transition would have on my career, if I was to make it.

I know that, in order to simplify my explanation of the experience of gender dysphoria, I’ve talked a lot about beauty standards and fashion stereotypes, but it is important to realize that this is just a simplification. Gender dysphoria is not short hand for “the urge some men have to wear lipstick and dresses.” Gender dysphoria is the ever present feeling that transgender people have that our inner selves, our soul or personality, or however you want to look at it, does not exactly match our outer selves. Sometimes this can express itself in the urge that some men have to wear lipstick and dresses (female fashions feminize to the outside eye, which can make it easier to feel at home in a male body) but that is not the only way it manifests. It’s a silly idea to think that all women wear dresses, or that a dress is needed to feel feminine. Gender dysphoria is simply a sense of unease and self-awareness centered on one’s own gender, but it can be very powerful, so powerful in fact, that it can lead to suicidal urges in some individuals. Those individuals who consider (or choose) suicide in response to a strong sense of gender dysphoria are not doing so simply because they feel they cannot wear the kind of clothing generally associated with the opposite sex. They do so because they feel a conflict between the person inside and the body outside, and they don’t know how to address it, live with it or fix it.

I hope this article has given you a greater understanding of what it is like to live with gender dysphoria. I’ll be talking more about my own experiences as a trans individual in future articles, (including techniques I’ve developed to help deal with dysphoria) so check back every Wednesday to learn more.

Do you have a story about your own experience with gender dysphoria that you’d be willing to share? Contact me about your idea (or send your experience so that it can be shared with the readers of this blog) through the contact form here: [link] Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. If you’d like to share your experiences living as a trans person (or with someone who identifies as trans) drop me a line through the aforementioned contact form. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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Safe (And Scary) Trans People

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

Even before I came out openly as trans, I found myself having to reassure people that nothing in my life was going to change, that I’ve been living as I am for my entire life and that I have no interest in transitioning to female. I had to soothe their fears and make them feel safe. I had to explain the differences between gender, sex and sexual preference, and every time I said something akin to “I’m transgender, not gay” or “I’m on the transgender spectrum, but I’m not transsexual,” I felt a bit like I was throwing someone else under the bus. I felt like by having to reassure people that even though I have chosen to identify as transgender while not choosing to transition or to pursue men, I have done them (and my greater LGBTQ+ community) a disservice. In identifying as transgender, I become a representative of the minority, in my own little tiny way, even if only just for one or two or ten people. I become a representative, and yet I’m set apart from the big scary unknown world of men who become women simply because I’m different from the people who choose to go further. I’m not a gay-club man in a wig screaming in the streets of Greenwich Village. I’m not modifying my body or demanding that people use different pronouns to refer to me. I’m a safe trans person. I’m tolerable because though I use the big scary “T-word” to identify, I’m not one of the “terrifying and weird” trans people.

That honestly pisses me off, because it shouldn’t matter how far I, or anyone else, wants or plans to go in pursuit of their identity. It shouldn’t be terrifying to interact with a trans person at all, regardless of how distant their lives are from the concept of “normal” established by conservative American ideals. I hate that people fear us, any of us. I hate the sighs of relief when people ask “does this mean you’re gay?” and I have to say “no,” and explain the differences between dysphoria and androphilia. I hate how conditional and fickle people can be when the question of “how transgender are you?” comes up. When someone asks me how far I plan to take “this transgender thing,” I am of two minds. My authentic feeling, my honest internal truth is that I don’t plan to take it any further than I already have. My rebellious side sees the blatant transphobia in the question “how often are you going to dress up?” and I want to grin and say “every day, constantly, even while I sleep” just to force them to face their fears. In reality, when I dress as a woman, I wear some very stereotypically masculine gear (battle jacket, combat boots, often pants, etc.) because the artistic expression of it is what makes me feel good. I don’t need special clothes to feel like a woman. It’s part of who I am. I’ve felt like a woman my entire life no matter where I am and how I’m dressed. When I pull on my full gear, (including wig and padded bra) I do it for the art of it. I do it for the aesthetic, and considering what a pain in the ass it is to pull together the full artistic outfit, I don’t see the point (for me) in doing it full time. It’s not practical. I have books and articles to write.

But you can bet your ass that I’m inclined to pull on full gear for every poetry reading I do of my book “Trans Physical Dynamics,” or for my upcoming book “Red Gender”. I’d do it for gigs too if I happen to find a punk band at some point that is looking for a trans vocalist, and also truly at any point if it can be used as a tool in a specific setting to reach a group of people and lessen the weight of judgment that is heaped on trans people of all types (especially the ones that aren’t “safe” like me.) The fear that is leveled at trans people is disgusting to me. No one should fear us, any of us, in any way, regardless of how we choose to express ourselves as transgender individuals. We’re just people, all of us, and the degree to which we conform to gender stereotypes should not be a measure of our worthiness, our reliability, our empathy, our intelligence or our moral character.

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Coming Out

Photos by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

Happy Litha! It seemed appropriate to post this today, in the full sun of the longest day of the year. It’s also PRIDE month, which I think makes it even more appropriate.

It's taken me a lot of time to reach a place where I can openly admit that I am a transgender individual. As someone who has experienced gender dysphoria for my entire life, I fall within the spectrum. It's important for me to acknowledge this myself, and also for me to be open about it because of the limited (and sometimes mistaken) information about transgender people currently available for mainstream consumption. I really respect the bravery of people (including friends and family) who are transgender and who have chosen to transition socially and medically to the gender they identify with inside, but that is not the path for me, nor is it a universal reality for all people who live with gender dysphoria or who identify as trans.

Most of the time, when you see me in person, I won't be adhering to any kind of feminine beauty standards (meaning, I'll look like a guy. It's more practical for me anyway.) My relationship with Alex is healthy and happy, and she's known about my gender dysphoria since before we were even dating. We've talked about it extensively. Heck, she even took the photos and helped me with the makeup. I have no interest in transitioning medically, socially or legally. Pronouns matter very little to me. You can call me Ellie, Earl, brother, sister, dude, whatever. My soul is firmly female, but I've been living in a male body for thirty-three years now and I've gotten used to it. It has its advantages.

For the most part, nothing will change, except that I'm finally being open now about something I've kept hidden from almost everyone for my entire life. Being open about it is a necessary step for me in feeling more comfortable with and accepting myself just as I already am instead of living under an armor of cultivated masculine traits that keep me on edge whenever I'm in public. I plan to write a series of articles on my experiences as a trans person (I actually have several here already) and hope to do interviews of other trans people who are open to sharing their experiences as well. I want to talk about gender dysphoria and help increase awareness, visibility and understanding so that those who are weirded out by trans people (or the transgender label,) because of bad information (or a lack of information) can see that we're not weird or scary at all. We're just people as ordinary and unique as anyone else.

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On Preference

Pink Carbide - By Dannonlee

As humans, we tend to like to put things into boxes. We like definite answers more than spectrums and gray areas. When I was first exposed to the concept of what it means to be “transgender”, it was in the form of flawed information. For me, even through my early 20’s, I thought that transgender literally meant a gay man who liked to wear dresses. I didn’t realize at that time that women could be transgender, or that sexual preference is not linked to gender identity. What I discovered by being brave enough to really wade into queer culture and do the research necessary to understand trans issues (instead of avoiding them out of fear) is that transgender as a term is an umbrella. It is a spectrum, and has nothing to do with preference.

It is a heteronormative idea that women who identify with male gender and men who identify with female gender must be homosexual. This mistaken idea comes from the normalized idea that men always mate with women and women always mate with men. This, of course, erases homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual and all other preference identities. The fact is that some women, whether they were born as women or something else, are sexually attracted to other women. We tend to call these women lesbians (or bi, or pan, if they are not exclusively attracted to women.)

This basic broadening of concept is pretty easy to grasp. Where it gets fuzzier is when we dig deeper into gender and stereotypes. If a woman transitions to male and identifies clearly as male, looks male and changes his legal documents to reflect his male identity, one might say that his label (in regards to sexual preference) is pretty clear. If he’s into women exclusively, he’s heterosexual (even having been born female) and if he’s into men (exclusively) then he’s homosexual.

But what if an individual is born male, identifies firmly inside as female, doesn’t have any interest in transitioning his/her body (transgender without being transsexual) and is exclusively sexually attracted to women? Does that make *him* a lesbian? Is it transphobic for bio-born women who identify as women to tell such a man that he cannot use *their* label? Does it even fit him, really? How would such a person communicate his/her preferences to potential partners? How would two such individuals in a relationship describe their preference or the nature of their relationship?

The thing is, they shouldn’t have to. Yes, labels and boxes are part of our experience as humans in Western Civilization. Yes, we like to categorize and define things that are a part of our experience (especially if those things are just coming into the range of our understanding for the first time.) We like solid ground, but at the same time, it’s also important to mind our own business when it comes to what other people do in the bedroom. It should never be required for anyone to have to explain their sexuality or sexual preferences, but human beings are a curious lot and it will come up. As such, there are certain scientific terms that exist to define specifically what a person’s preference is (instead of using potentially vague terms like gay and straight.)

Androphilic individuals are individuals who like men and male traits. Gynephilic individuals are individuals who like women and female traits. These are easy to remember when you consider that Andro- is a Latin prefix meaning “Man” and Gyne- is a Latin prefix meaning “Female.” Think “Andrew” (Andro) and “Jenny” (Gyne) as a way to remember the difference. The –philia suffix should be easy for sex-obsessed apes such as ourselves. It’s often associated with all kinds of taboo acts of a sexual nature. These terms, of course, (Androphilia and Gynephilia) describe only exclusive preferences. Bisexual (attraction to men and women both) Pansexual (attraction to all, including gender identities outside of the binary) and Asexual (attraction to none) identities do exist, and people of all kinds inhabit these identities. As stated earlier, transgender is not a sexual preference, nor is it associated or linked with a specific one. It is something separate entirely. Transgender as a spectrum includes people who literally transcend the binary (the two categories of gender, male and female) in a wide rainbow of different ways. Transgender identity is about how you see yourself, how you identify, not about what kind of people you find sexually attractive.

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On Badassery

Our ideas of what it means to be “strong” and what it means to be “weak” are too simplistic. One might even argue that they’re misogynistic, if one buys into the idea that women are naturally more emotionally expressive than men are. A “tough” person in idealized form in the west seems to be a person who never cries, who never allows themselves the release of pain necessary to keep from bottling everything up inside until it explodes into psychosis or manifests as a truly spectacular meltdown.

I’ve given this dynamic a lot of thought in my life. I’ve even meditated on it a bit in my article “Why I Need Feminism”. I have always prided myself on my strength, my toughness, my ability to take powerful emotional hits and push through them without falling down, without breaking apart and giving up. I’m proud of how tough every major life event I’ve lived through has made me. When I look back at the person I was five years ago, (or ten, or fifteen,) I can see a marked improvement. I’m proud of the scars that I’ve earned, and I’m proud of how, with every deep wound I’ve been dealt, I’ve gotten a little tougher, a little more resistant.

The first time my heart was broken, I didn’t leave the bed for two weeks (except to eat, etc.) I spent those weeks reading books my ex-girlfriend loved and trying to find the smell of her hair on the pillow. To be fair, my whole life had fallen apart and the breakup was just icing on the proverbial cake, but when I look back at how I handled it, how hurt I was over the ending of a toxic relationship with that horrible, manipulative, misandrist abuser, I almost want to laugh. I look back and think, man, I was weak. I had a lot to learn. I certainly had a lot of maturing to do.

I bounced in and out of a chain of toxic relationships after that, and with each one I got a little tougher. I suffered some major failures and had some dreams crushed, but each one that fell apart made me stronger. I lived through some gnarly situations, dealt with legal threats, death threats, and a crazy ex-girlfriend who stalked me on campus so relentlessly I had to start carrying mace with me. Eventually, I got married, and amidst the maturing that happens when you become a husband (especially a house-husband who has to do literally everything for your partner) I reached a solid place where I felt like I was safe, like the worst of the pain was over. My father used to tell me that the only thing that scared him, the only thing he thought that could break him would be losing me. A year after I married my first wife, I told my father that the only thing that scared me, the only thing that I thought would break me would be losing her.

When she reconnected with an old boyfriend of hers and suddenly demanded a divorce in late 2014, after four and a half years of being in a relationship, it broke me, utterly. My worst fear, my only real fear at that point, had come to pass. When I look back at that moment, I look back with mixed feelings. I was tough enough not to retire to a bed for two weeks, but I was weak enough that I still took her back four times after that, even against the advice of friends and family.

What I look back on with a sense of pride though is how I handled the pain those first few weeks, those weeks when the shock was strongest and the knife in my heart was at its keenest. I took a week to pack everything I owned, arranged transport and decided to move back to my hometown. I had no reason to stay in the city, so I figured I’d start fresh closer to my friends and family. For the first week back in the Gold Country, I hauled brush from dawn until dusk and consumed little more than chicken broth and coffee. I listened to U2’s “Wake Up Dead Man” on repeat and during my nights I spent time researching my options, looking for jobs locally and looking into joining the US Air Force. In one week, I lost 30 pounds and two belt sizes. In two weeks, I went from being able to run a quarter mile without stopping to being able to run a mile and a half without stopping. When faced with adversity, I chose to fight. I took action and got strong. When I look back now, I smile a little, because the foundation I set down during that year, during one of the most hellish years of my entire life, established me where I am today, and left me a great deal stronger than I was before.

So what does it mean to be badass? In my mind, the West has it all wrong. A badass isn’t someone who carries a gun and who holds her tears inside despite a soul that’s so wounded it’s tearing itself apart. A badass isn’t someone who gives up and collapses and cries at the drop of a hat either. In my mind, a badass is someone who feels, who cries openly when the pain is great, who releases anger in creative, non-destructive ways, who sees a problem and chooses to move (or fight) past it. A badass is someone who knows that the pain will pass, who focuses on the future, and on how to make things right again. A badass is someone who might be the victim of others, but who chooses to not remain a victim. A badass is solution-oriented. A badass feels pain, but does not indulge in it. A badass says “yeah, this sucks, but I’m going to fight until it doesn’t suck.”

That’s what being a badass means to me.

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Why I Need Feminism

There was a time, not so long ago, when I thought feminism was useless.

Looking back at the past, I could see the ways that feminism had been a powerful force for positive change in our society, and how it made things more equal for both sexes. In our modern day, however, it mostly seemed like a lot of misandrist whining. Now, there is certainly a toxic side within feminism which trends toward misandry (consider the folks who sent death threats to scientist Matt Taylor during ShirtGate) but that’s not what I’m here to address. No movement is without its shadows. Trust me, I'm no friend of the MRA movement.

But I did think about flying their banner once. I thought about it because I saw a problem. I saw a lot of problems, and I didn't know how to fix them or who was causing them. I think it's a logical (if flawed) step to take to say "Female problems are addressed by feminism, so men need a movement to address the places and ways that we feel oppressed." The problem is, you have to be able to differentiate between genuine oppression and the kind of daily, ordinary sufferings that we all deal with. Most MRAs I've observed voice that they feel oppressed (essentially) because they don't have a  female partner (who complies with oppressive female beauty standards) to have sex with.

I shouldn't have to say this, but that isn't oppression. Being lonely sucks, but it doesn’t mean that you are being oppressed.

So how are men oppressed? Why do we need a movement?

I would argue that we already have a movement: Feminism. Now, four years ago I would have laughed at anyone who'd written that statement. Why? Because feminism is for women, right?

No. Feminism is for men and women, because the issues that it addresses directly underpin the issues that create a need for a movement that addresses the ways in which men are oppressed. As in, solve the issues that feminism exists to tear down and you solve the issues that oppress men.

So back to the question: how are men oppressed?

Let me digress with a personal example:

I grew up surrounded by "strong women." They were in my TV shows, they were in my books. Every woman in my family was "strong." They were warriors who wore pants, who openly wore tattoos and shaved their heads. They were the kind of feminists who marched in the streets and wrote letters to congressmen about the kinds of oppression they faced. They built and founded rape crisis centers and open-carried handguns.

That's awesome, but there's a problem with it. The problem comes with the word "strong."

When a woman shaves her head, she's strong. She's bucking the trend. She's no longer a long-tressed beauty slave fluttering her eyelids at the men of the world. She's standing up and owning herself and saying "fuck that patriarchy noise" in a very aggressive way. When a woman binds her chest and wears a tanktop or fierce piercings or identifies as "butch", she's strong.

But why is she strong? Because she's bucking the established beauty standards of the world around her? Because she's standing up against oppression and censorship?

One could say "absolutely not. That's not the reason."


Because if you flip it on its head, a woman who is confident in skirts and long tresses and who loves living a housewife life is not considered strong.

Because if you go further, a man who is confident in skirts with long tresses and a househusband life is not considered strong, even though he is bucking the trends and standing up against oppressive beauty standards.

Now, I personally think that anyone who does what they want without bowing to oppression is strong. The problem isn't what I think. It's what pervades the mainstream. Take this example: two people, a man and a woman, could work at the same company and crossdress and only one of them would get sent home or fired on the spot. So let's think about this: Why is it (socially) okay for a woman to cut her hair short and wear pants to work but it is not okay for a man to wear his hair long and wear a skirt to work? Why is it so offensive for a man to wear a skirt and heels that people will actually jeer at him while he walks down the street?

Because of all the issues we have around what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Because we still see masculinity as strong by default, so when a woman "becomes" a man, she is seeking to become stronger, and that’s good. When a man embraces his feminine side, he is seen as weak. In fact, the more he embraces his feminine side, the weaker he becomes, and it's worse because he's doing it to himself. He's not being torn down or emasculated by some other person. He's self-emasculating. He's choosing to be weaker.

Because he's choosing to be a woman, or woman-like, or rather, to embrace an aesthetic that our society assigns to women as a woman-only thing.

There's a lot more to it than that, of course. Men cross-dressing brings up all kinds of issues (homophobia and sexual deviancy among them) rooted in how we view men and women. As someone who has battled dysphoria my whole life, who enjoys cross-dressing and even considered transitioning to female at one point, I can tell you that I've seen all kinds of unaddressed issues that even the most enlightened carry around (myself included.) I've found myself having to explain that just because I'd love to go to work in an outfit so good that I have passing privilege and I'm virtually unrecognizable doesn't mean that I have any sexual interest in men. I’ve had to tell family members and friends that even the simple act of painting my nails doesn’t mean I’m signaling to the world that my back-door is open for a back-alley rendezvous with strange dudes. If anyone tells you that women are no longer seen as sex objects, then ask them why people assume that a man who dresses as a woman must be trying to seduce men. See the issues in that? See the homophobia, the toxic masculinity, the objectification of women all rolled into one there? The assumption that, if you’re dressing up in any particular fashion, there must be a sexual reason for it? A desire to attract the male eye? A desire to be objectified? I both love and hate it when people assume that I am gay or bi. I love it because I’m confident in my sexuality and I know there’s nothing wrong with having any kind of orientation. I love it because it creates visibility for the oppressed, even if I’m not part of that minority. If someone else identifies me as belonging to a particular group, then I give that group a voice, even if it is just a whisper on the wind, a glance in passing. “We are here, and we will not hide ourselves. Get used to seeing us.” Going deeper, we can see that men who embrace their feminine side, or who have a sexual preference that people assign a notion of femininity to (drawing from heteronormative conditioning), are oppressed by society, and they are oppressed because we still see stereotypical expressions of femininity as weak. If you are a man, you must be strong. If you’re not, there’s something “wrong” with you. If that something isn’t immediately visible (i.e. you aren’t gay,) then it must be something deeper and “darker.” That’s the rabbit hole people go down, and it all comes from the notion that “women’s” clothing is worn only to titillate, to attract men for sex.

What we need to teach is that the character and confidence of anyone is what determines their strength, not how they dress, what their gender is or what their sexual preference is. Whatever you wear, rock it. Do it for you. Be you, and be confident in it. That's strength. That's how you fight oppression. That’s how you break apart the societal standards that oppress all of us at once.

That's why I need feminism.

- - -

Straight Queer

This article was originally posted in 2008. I'm bringing it forward because, though the ideas and language come from a younger me, the meat of the post is still valid.

What do you think of when you hear the word "Queer?" What comes to mind when a person identifies with the word, stating "I’m a queer"?

Well, when I was in High School, a Queer was someone who was Gay, no questions asked. There were no female "queers", only men whose sexual orientation was thrown into question. Even today the word "Queer" is heavily associated with homosexuality for a lot of people, but what all this sadly overlooks is the fact that, in truth, the word has its own history, and this history alludes to a definition that is so much wider and more inclusive than that of the vulgar slang it has been devolved to in the minds of many people today.

So what exactly is queer? Consider the older, more traditional definition of the word– "deviating from the expected or normal; strange" says the American Heritage Dictionary. If you were Scottish in 1508 when the word was first catalogued and defined, it was synonymous with "strange" and it wasn’t until the late 1930’s, over four centuries later, that the term became associated with homosexuality.

So what does it really mean to be "Queer?" It means you’re different. You’re not "normal" in regards to the mold society has cast for you, you don’t fit into the traditional carousing bread-winner beer-swilling football-obsessed male role as a man or the simpering make-up covered housewifey role as a woman. You’re that man who’s more skilled with children than with a hammer, or that woman who holds a full time job at a construction site and knocks down whiskey in the bar after work. Still sound too distant from who you are? Still can’t identify with the term "queer"? Well, maybe you are that perfect "Man’s man" or one of those docile doe-eyed women that would rather clean the house and cook dinner to make your hubby happy than go out and get an education, but I doubt it. Few people are nowadays, and more and more people (I’m thankful to announce) perfectly fit the definition of Queer. I know I do, and I have no interest in other men whatsoever!

So in order to provide an example of what a Queer is, it’s only fitting that I present myself and what makes me different. Take a moment to consider all the things that are "Manly" in mainstream society, what is considered to be a "masculine" trait, and then read on to see how I measure up.

Well, for one, I think education is the most important thing we as a nation and as a species should spend our money on. Not bombs, not tanks, not bullets or oil pipelines that destroy thousands of acres of virgin wilderness in the name of "human progress", but real, honest to goodness, proliferation of knowledge. What else could label me as queer? Well, how about the fact that I’m not afraid to hug complete strangers, even if they are men? Or the fact that I get all worked up about domestic abuse and think breast cancer awareness and rape crisis centers are causes everyone should get behind and donate to? How about the fact that I, as a man, get totally passionate about women’s rights and issues like abortion (I’m pro-choice, by the way) or the fact that, of all the Physical Ed classes I could have taken in college, I chose to take Modern Dance?

Unlike the budweiser-swilling cowboys of the mountain town I grew up in, I don’t drink at all, or hardly so, and on the rare occasion when I do, I like sweeter things like berry cordials or cosmopolitans, drinks traditionally associated with women. I can’t stand beer– I think it’s disgusting, and after a hard day at work, alcohol is always the furthest thing from my mind. I like it when women make the first move– there’s nothing quite so satisfying as a woman who actually chases back instead of always playing "catch me if you can!" and then laying down to play the totally compliant lover when you "win" her. Actively pursuing a man says something important about a woman– it says she’s genuinely interested, that she’s secure in who she is and what she wants and that she’s willing to take risks because she thinks you’re worth it, and that’s, for lack of a better word, sexy.

What else? Well, have any skulls or knives or naked buxom women tattooed on your body? Yeah, me neither, but it’s manly, isn’t it? Manly like the marines. If I went into any branch of the military, it would be the air force, regardless of how pansy the jarheads seem to think those brave men and women are.

But in reality, what do I do for a living? Well, I think the job that takes up most of my time is babysitting, and I actually enjoy it, because it means I get to make a positive difference in my little sister’s life. Sure, I sell swords too, which is kind of "manly" but I think that’s probably offset by the fact that my greatest dream is to be a bestselling author as well as an English teacher that can help change the system from within and help kids appreciate English again.

What else makes me queer? Well, how about the fact that I’ve never had any interest in sports? There’s a running joke among my friends back home in the mountains about the fact that I know so little about Basketball that at one point in my life, I actually thought Soda Popinski, Donnie "The Toast" Yost, and a host of other equally unlikely characters/people, were the names of prominent Basketball players. So I couldn’t tell you what events they do for the Olympics or tell you who’s on such-and-such a team, or even what sport they play without googling it– I just don’t care. I’ve always felt like I have more important things to do than sit around and watch grown men chase a ball (that’s just personal opinion– no offense to the sports fans out there!)

What else? How about the fact that I face and accept my emotions. That’s not very "manly". Or how about the fact that I enjoy romantic comedies, or actually give a damn about my spiritual life? How about the fact that I read, or have exceptional language skills, or have long hair, or think floral print, button-up shirts rock, or think rainbows are awesome? I don’t give a diddly squat about the specs of cars or motorcycles, my favorite author is Storm Constantine (you’d understand how that’s "unmanly" if you’ve read her) my favorite characters in movies are "Rosie the Riveter" types, and I think chicks with short haircuts are absolutely and unequivocably the paramount of hotness.

Perhaps also not so "manly" is the fact that I don’t get embarrassed when I’m holding a purse or a box of tampons for someone, and when I go to the mall, I’m immune to that invisible barrier that keeps all the men out of the girly accessories stores that women pass through without shame or incident. That’s right, while the line of uneasy men stirs outside waiting uncomfortably for their "womenfolk" to come rescue them, I’m in there with my little sister, pointing things out and having a blast watching her try on the pinkest, most sparkly and frilliest things in there.

Sure, I lift weights, I do a lot of my own maintenance on my car, I make grunting jokes about fire and "guy movies" around the barbecue with "The guys" on gaming weekends, and I stand up for what I believe in. I get out there and beat on the walls and show the world in a very progressive (and unfortunately associated with "manly") way that the system is broken and oppressive and needs to change so the people who are victimized by it and can’t fight back don’t have to suffer quite so much. The first words out of my mouth are "need me to kick his ass?" when a woman tells me she’s been abused, and I actually have the "balls" to drive a bumpersticker-plastered cop-magnet art car and smile at the looks I get, knowing I’ve just added a random element to someone’s life that might shake up their stagnant reality a little. I think Terminator 2 is a masterpiece, and I all but drool over the sleek designs of fighter jets like the ME-262 Schwalbe or the F-14 Tomcat. I think shooting cans at the gun range is fabulous, and I’m a hell of a shot too. I think impact wrenches are absolutely "the shit" (power tools-wise) and I love my car, even though I couldn’t have told you (until someone pointed it out to me about six months ago) how many cylinders it had. I open doors for people, and I bend over backwards to pay for the meal when I go somewhere with a woman I’m interested in. I listen to metal, I air-guitar to sweet electric riffs, and I make my own way in the world like the maverick Wynn I am.

So yeah, I’m queer. I’m straight as up and down, but I’m not mainstream, I’m not "normal". I’m a person, and I set my own rules for myself, live by my own code, and do what I want and what I feel is right regardless of what other people think. I live outside the box and transcend the stereotype of male, and I know lots of other people who do too.

So now that you’ve read this, I challenge you to look at yourself, look at the role our society has cast for you as male or female, and see how you measure up. Are you "normal?" or are you queer?

Spread knowledge, spread awareness, and spread acceptance. Have the ovaries to get up there and tell the world how it is and help instigate change for the better. If you’re queer like me, tell the world, and tell them how wonderful it is to be different, because if you don’t do it, then who will? Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if everyone was exactly the same?

Transgender Freemasonry

This article was originally posted in the FEB / MAR 2016 newsletter for the lodge of which I am a member. In it, I speak my truth, and I think it is still valid today.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . .

As Americans, we all know these words. We all know that they come from the Declaration of Independence. We have all heard them used as a sound-bite, as a rallying cry and reminder regularly offered up from society’s oppressed to their oppressors. Heroes of our great nation have delivered these words in their speeches with such passion and drive that the words themselves can, at times, seem almost sacred, like scripture brought forth from the book that we write with our actions during the course of each passing day.

But when we hear these words, when we hear the word “men”, should we interpret the language to mean that only white males of a certain age and with certain social characteristics are created equally? Some do, and throughout history, many have, but in today's more socially progressive world, we have come to understand and accept that these words refer to something else. They refer to the whole of mankind. Men, white and black, gay and straight, male and female. Men. All men are created equal.

Masonry has similar language, and the more rigid interpretations of the word "man" in our own ritual and Masonic Code have caused all manner of consternation and incivility amongst brothers in lodges all over the US, indeed across the entire world. At one point, and even still in some places, the language of our ritual has been used to preclude some men from being accepted as brothers based solely on factors that have nothing to do with the quality of their character or their worthiness as men, factors such as skin color and sexual preference. In our own lodge, we are fortunate that the word "man" has come to include a wide variety of uniquely interesting brothers involved with wide and varied interests, heritages and belief systems. We do not turn away men of color, nor do we turn away men who proudly march under a many-colored flag. We celebrate our differences as brothers, and share fellowship with good men who move in social circles we otherwise might never have any insight into.

Given the wider definition of the word “man” as it is taken in lodges like Oak Plains #789, I would venture to ask, what traits then specifically “make a man” according to Freemasonry? Are they overt, physical traits, like the configuration of a brother’s generative organs? And if so, why should that be our standard? Would any lodge deny the hand of brotherhood to a man who has been gravely wounded in combat in ways that remove his ability to procreate? No. Do we preclude brothers who were born female and who later, through hormone therapy (and sometimes varying degrees of surgery) become men? Not generally. We do not turn away old men or men who, due to birth or accident, must have certain physical accommodations made for them. One might say that Freemasonry has a very American definition of the word “man,” but as always, it could be argued that our definition falls short in at least one very specific area.

Dig around a little, and you’ll find stories of brothers who were abandoned by their lodges, by their friends and by the fraternity itself when they chose to cross a very specific line. These brothers did not share the least letter of our secrets with the world, nor did they commit any recognized crime, yet all (or nearly all) were forced to demit from their lodges when something external, something not rooted in or indicative of the quality of their character, was changed. These brothers , these men, were American Freemasons who were brave enough to stand up and change their lives in a way that better fit the way they saw themselves as individuals. These men, all of them, decided, and each for their own personal reasons, to merely change the way they present themselves to the world. To put it simply, these men became women.

A rigid and conservative interpretation of the word “man” as it appears in the CMC and in our rituals as Freemasons (an interpretation inconsistent with interpretations of the same word as it is used in the American Declaration of Independence) has closed the doors of our craft to any and all who gender identify as anything other than male. Those who were regularly initiated as males and only later chose to identify as female are almost universally tossed out in the cold by the very men who once called them “brother.” Some of the first-hand accounts I have read of transitioning and transitioned brothers within our fraternity are terrifying. The violence, disgust and disdain often visited upon these men in addition to their being forced to demit from their lodges is shameful, and the only fitting response, I believe, should be to raise a flag or a hand and call attention to such issues within the fraternity so that we might address them levelly and with civility. Certainly California, (unlike Georgia, which actually has a Grand Lodge stance against allowing transgender individuals to join our fraternity,) is open enough, indeed progressive enough, to lead the way in re-interpreting the ritual and the CMC so as to promote fellowship among the membership instead of fostering more dissention and cruelty between brothers when our world is already full to the brim with the same.

Consider, my brothers: under what grounds should we force a brother to demit? Under no grounds, I would argue. A man who has been properly investigated and regularly initiated into one of our lodges is a brother, as completely as any flesh and blood relative, and should be treated as such, always. Denying him (or her) fellowship will not "cure" their skin color, their sexual preference or rid them of a non-standard (or rather, non-male) gender identity. The world can be cruel enough to transgender individuals, and the process of undergoing the journey of transition can be challenging and lonely. What such individuals need most is support, fellowship and civility. We men, all men, in the human sense, in the sense that we’ve come to interpret those sacred lines of our own Declaration of Independence, both need and desire fellowship, especially when we are undergoing any form of major life change, whether it be divorce, the loss of a parent or child, or the transition from one gender to another. I ask, as Freemasons, as upright and ethical men, why would we ever deny the hand of kindness to our fellow man? Why would we ever deny it to those we do, or have in the past, called brother?

"Freemasonry embraces the highest moral laws and will bear the test of any system of ethics or philosophy ever promulgated for the uplift of man."
-- Brother Douglas MacArthur

- - -

Cool Blues of Fresno Bay

            The decision comes easily. Tonight, I will be male.
            The choice is purely an aesthetic one. The silicon mote embedded in the neural tissue of my frontal lobe responds to the thought, shifts sections of meta-biomatter until the curves are there, the lines and the bulges. Muscles surge as I flex, observe, adjust. Meaty is what I'm going for. Strong, toned, but not too strong. Too strong, and I'm likely to attract the wrong kind of partner, something other than what I'm in the mood for tonight.
            Simple thoughts adjust the focus and cant of the smart mirror, show me every inch I'm uncertain about. Little adjustments here and there, thoughts that shape flesh, tailor the skin and muscle until everything is perfect, until my naked body is exactly as I want it to be. Clothes come on next– fashion apps that flicker through my mind like images in a catalog. Outfits, pieces of outfits– assemblers in my skin spin up the illusion of fabric, of plastic and leather. I try a shirt, a tank top, a beat-up vest covered in spikes. A dress, a skirt, a kilt– a dozen options pass before I flick back to a silver and blue suit that catches light, throws it back in odd, isometric patterns. My nails flicker through colors as I adjust the tie pin, the cufflinks, the little touches that the right potential partners will notice, will appreciate.
            My nails settle on silver, same shade as the accessories. The hair comes last, shifts through shades of silver and blue, dances into red, grows and retracts, all at the speed of thought. Brown is the final color, dark brown, almost black, same shade as my eyes. Simple business cut, sharp and precise. No curls, no frills, no errant hairs or cowlicks to muss it up, give it even the slightest edge of roughness. I take another look in the smart mirror, check all the details twice, then nod, lock the look down for later, shift immediately back into a neutral form.
            I try not to look in the smart mirror, turn it opaque with a thought before I catch a glimpse of what I look like without the suit, without the precise hair, the jewelry, the carefully sculpted maleness. Neutral forms are comfortable, easy to lounge around in, easy to travel in, but they aren't pretty, not to most potential partners or viewers. Gray eyes, gray skin, clear nails, all short and even. Hairless, totally hairless, with no curves, no bulges, nothing to flex, nothing to hide in the name of modesty. My mind flips absently through half a dozen fashion apps as I cross the apartment to the DomestiPrinter, drop a thought-order for a meal-shake and hook into the main highway of the global network. Certain outfit combinations jump out at me– ideas for later, ideas for cosmetic lures designed to catch exactly the kind of potential partners I might be in the mood for later, tomorrow, the next day, maybe. A quick ping from the DP and I reach out without looking, scoop up the meal-shake, press the printed straw in it to my lips, hardly register the flavor, the bouquet of fruits it simulates over the course of every few seconds. I'm in the network completely, gone completely, just another neutral looking for a lead on who might be where, what kind of people might be cruising what clubs, looking for a male like me, like the look I'll be wearing when I hit the street in just a few hours.
            And almost immediately, I find him.
            Two thousand points above me in the social rankings for the channels we're both looking to hit tonight, but the L4G boards are thick with newbies. Even with my ranking, I still stand out. There's only one other person with a higher ranking than me looking for a partner in our channel, but I don't sweat it. I've put a lot of time into my look, into my game, my network profile. Silently, playing it like I'm only half interested, I watch as the profile I want to partner with scans through a dozen or so newbies, takes a couple of serious looks at the only other the person who ranks higher than me, then settles in to scan my stats. I wait for him to finish, wait for him to soak in my details, then at just the right moment, I ping him with a partner request, wait for him to accept.
            This is the only part that ever gets me. If neutral bodies could sweat, it would be this part of the process that would leave me glistening, breathing heavy. The waiting, the wondering, cut off from all relevant sensory data, unable to peek into or see the mind of the person behind the profile, the person who will accept or reject my offer– it registers only as an uncomfortable quickening in the rhythm of my thoughts. In a moment, it will be over, I tell myself, breathe. In a moment, just a moment.
            And then it happens. The connection between us flashes green, links us as partners. Almost immediately, I hear his silky baritone in my mind, the simple hexcode address of the club he wants to meet at. A quick check while flipping through voice apps brings up a map of the club– other side of the bay, unfamiliar crowd. Could be a real winner. Quick thoughts select a voice only slightly higher than his, slightly younger, and I stream my vocal reply, my simple acceptance, watch it stick in his neural web, absorbed at the speed of thought. Two seconds later, and he disconnects, but I have a date. I have a partner for the night. I have a shot at raising my rankings.
            Night falls with the same ancient rhythm it has for billions of years. A little redder at the staggered, concrete horizon than it was for our ancestors in the time before the ocean rose perhaps, but still timeless, a rare constant in an ever-changing world. Fresno Bay glitters with the last rays of the sun, but I don't linger to watch it. I catch the mag-rail to Coalinga, lose myself in idle network research and finger practice as the shining ivory curves of the rail bridge rush past, usher me across sunken, saltwater valley to the shining spires just beyond Coalinga Beach. I keep my body neutral almost until the moment the mag-rail arrives at the station, then extract my consciousness from the wikisphere and load the look I built earlier as I'm rising, walking toward the door. By the time I step out on the platform, I'm perfect, wearing the body I've sculpted just for tonight. Silver and blue, I catch eyes as I move, as I make my way to the club, cross inside, find a seat, wait.
            The automated club administrator drops me a note even before I sit down, and as I place an order for a drink that will augment my look, I check the club's schedule. Twenty minutes. Enough time to catch the final few songs of the Thai-Metal Fusion band that dominates the stage while I wait.
            Twelve minutes pass, and then he arrives. Sleek, suave, with older fashion apps that seem less out of date and more classic in their look. I ping him and he turns, offers the kind of tired smile that fits perfect with his “old jazz man” inspired look. His drink arrives before he does, and as the Thai-Metal Fusion band hammers down the last few notes of their final explosive, screaming riff, I sip for the sake of appearance, watch as my partner raises his martini, gums the edge of the glass, sucks gin with so much authenticity I can't help but envy him.
            And then the call comes in from the club administrator. As one, we rise, cross to the stage. My partner gives me another smile, more reassuring than tired this time, and for a moment I almost find myself believing that he might have worked all day in some sweatshop job, that the performance, the act of losing himself in the music is the one highlight in an otherwise gritty, bitter life. No one works anymore, not like that, but somehow. . .
            His hands open first. I take it as a cue and immediately follow suit. He's exactly what I'm looking for– the emitters in his palms carve an upright bass from a flash of light as his fingers take up familiar positions on the neck and body of the luminous instrument. By the time it's solid, real, I'm shifting my stance, raising the saxophone my own palms are still weaving, lips seeking the mouthpiece.
            And then he starts to pluck the strings of his bass, sets the tone with an unplanned, resonant rhythm. Quick exchanges of ideas sent silent from his mind to mine augment what's already in the air, and when I start to play, when my fingers start to move across the keys, I close my eyes, let myself sink into the music we weave together, simple and rich, timeless.
            As cool as the breezes which blow in off the Central Valley Sea.
            Someone joins us a few minutes in; a simple, silent query, a scanned portfolio, a recognized body of work. Neither I nor my partner miss a note as we decide, send invites, welcome him to our local network. Fashion apps still settling around the lines and suit-fabric of the body of a wiry old jazz man, the newcomer crosses to the stage behind us, spreads his arms. In an instant, his clothes flicker, fly out like streamers, banners, and then he becomes a vista of color and light, becomes a view, a montage of sunken cities, of memories from centuries so long past they exist now only in the monochrome frames of grainy documentaries. Our playing becomes a ballad for the deluge, for all the inland seas with their concrete relics, their silent streets thick with silt, cracked with time, and as a trio we work together to weave a tapestry stunningly beautiful in its complexity, its sentiment, its spirit.
            And then, sooner than I'd like, it's over. The man with the upright bass has other partners to meet with, other looks to adopt, other instruments to play. I wipe the faux sweat of genuine exertion from my forehead, check the weathered watch-app at my wrist as the last few notes float in the air. Hour and a half without a break.
            The gathered crowd applauds, so many of them in speakeasy specials, quick-set fashion app kits that only disguise the neutral bodies underneath with a simple textured overlay of a suit or some modern take on a flapper dress. It's a courtesy, something I appreciate, but I take the time to nod only to the few souls in the crowd who show up with real bodies carefully carved by apps, bodies like mine, like those of my partners. Kindred spirits. Without exception, they smile back, nod knowingly.
            A nudge from the club administrator opens me up to our stats, our ratings for the performance, and at the same moment that I see the man with the upright bass smile only slightly, I find myself grinning. A sharp spike in my social rating, in my network visibility. Two hundred million people caught our stream, felt the way we sought to make them feel. My two partners are more visible than I am– their network rating has risen too, but only a little. It's spare change to them, nowhere near as memorable an experience as it was for me.
            In the dying applause that follows, I shake hands with my partners, thank them, smile as they tip hats and leave for other shows, other gigs. Briefly, I envy them, wish that I'd booked something else for the night, but the feeling is fleeting. To me, the music we wove, the experience we created was transcendental, cathartic. I feel satiated, purged. Even before I leave the club, I shift back to a neutral form, lose myself in the streets, in the countless gray bodies moving from club to club, station to station. Only when I notice that both my partners have silently bookmarked me as a preferred partner for future gigs do I smile again, wide and genuine.
            I smile, and it sticks all the way back home to Fresno Bay.

You can find this story and others like it in the collection entitled Astride Twin Seas. Click on the cover below to read more:

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