I wasn't really ready to start dating until high school. And honestly, even when I finally thought I was ready to start dating, I wasn't really ready to start dating.\n\nFreshman year I was still all hung up on this being queer thing, you know? It was easy to suppress it in this conservative little town where gender roles were so neatly defined. I mean, it wasn't like that at home, where my mom was the breadwinner and my dad was the caretaker. Like I said, it was a feminist household. But the town was a whole other story.\n\nLike our high school had six football coaches or something like that, and when we lost funding, it was always the art and music teachers who got fired. Because you can't touch football. What would we ever do without an Assistant Offensive Coach? Just leave it all up the Head Coach and the Assistant Head Couch and the Offensive Coach?\n\nSo yeah, when your type is basically a tomboyishly androgynous person with like a cute face and cheek-length hair, you don't really find that on the football team. The only reason I had any idea I might be queer were these dudes in like video games and anime that I thought were hot or cute or whatever, but that's way different than having a crush on a real person who you see every day. But still, it kinda scared me. These weird fucking feelings for like pixellated drawings of androgynous dudes. Like Nikki in //Chrono Cross// or Chaos in //Xenosaga// or whatever. I figured I must be a fucking pervert to be attracted to video game characters. So is it any surprise that when I first tried to get into dating, I went for these classically pretty girls with like long hair and that girl-next-door look? Looking back I realize I was really just trying to play a role but I'd convinced myself this is what I wanted.\n\nAnd of course none of them wanted to date me. God, I probably picked them //knowing// they were out of the realm of possibility. Because let's be real, I //so// wasn't ready to start [[dating|Maddy]].
And then, one day at lunch, she asked me to meet her in one of the classrooms after school. She was kind of nervous but it was like this weird nervous energy. Like she had something really cool to show me. I didn't really know what to expect when I met up with her in the empty classroom. I found her sitting on one of the tables with her knees pulled up to her chin. Her nervous energy had crumbled away into lanky middle school awkwardness.\n\n"I like you," she said. "Like... //like you// like you."\n\nIt took a while for the words to sink in. I guess it took too long because I was still trying to process things when she said, "Like... I want you to be my boyfriend."\n\nAnd she reached out to my hand and I just said, "I'm sorry."\n\nI said, "I'm not ready."\n\nI don't remember which of us ran out crying.\n\nI think it was [[Willow|Queerness][$oh_honey -= 1]]. But maybe it was [[me|Queerness][$oh_honey += 1]]?
<<silently>>\n<<set $oh_honey = 0>>\n<<endsilently>>//And what costume shall the poor girl wear to all tomorrow's parties?\nA hand-me-down dress from who knows where, to all tomorrow's parties\nAnd where will she go and what shall she do when midnight comes around?\nShe'll turn once more to Sunday's clown and cry behind the door//\n\n—[["All Tomorrow's Parties"|Skirt]] by the Velvet Underground
So I'm in this sketch comedy troupe thing with some of my weirdo friends—two gay guys, a queer girl, a Hispanic kid who's like ironically into racism, and then me. I'm kind of starting to come to terms with the fact that I might be bi or queer or something but I haven't really told anyone, so I'm probably the most normal one of the bunch. Everyone kind of assumes I'll be the one who will actually go on to be a successful adult.\n\nWell, me and one of the gay guys, whose family is super rich. He has this aristocratic air about himself, you know? He's the one who wrote this skit with me in drag. It's supposed to be making fun of the MEAP, Michigan's standardized test. It's a game show, with him as host. The other two boys are on the "Boys Team" and then it's me and the girl on the "Girls Team."\n\nSo that's why I'm in this skirt, you know? For the symmetry, I guess. And drag is supposed to be funny, right? Like my whole character is supposed to be in stark contrast to me. I'm smart, she's ditsy. I'm quiet, she's loud and obnoxious. I'm a big hairy dude and she's this dainty prissy girl. You can see the [[humor|The joke]], right?
I look at my junk, too, both in the mirror and then looking straight down at myself. It juts out awkwardly, and I'm not sure what to make of it. I try tucking it behind my legs and then look back at my reflection.\nMy body looks smooth and uniform. I kind of like it.\n\nI twist around in the mirror to look at myself from behind and I can see my junk faintly poking out the back between my thighs. I frown.\n\nMaybe you've figured out where this is going.\n\n<<if $oh_honey gt 0>>I'm trans. That's what this all means<<else>>Or maybe not. So like, what's the point of all this<<endif>>, [[right|Trans]]?
So that's basically where I'm at when I start dating Madelyn. Of course, I'm changing names again. But let's call her Madelyn. Maddy.\n\nShe was a tomboy. Like are you noticing a fucking pattern yet? But yeah, she was a tomboy and, you guessed it, I thought she was totally rad. She had really cute short blond hair and I was totally into it. She was super into science and the outdoors and like animal biology. She was also super into Australia.\n\nBut she wasn't allowed to date, so we had to keep things secret. And like we didn't really do anything. I never even tried to kiss her. We hugged sometimes and held hands sometimes. Once we fell asleep on a sofa watching //Finding Nemo//. That's probably as intense as it ever got. It's all super sweet and cute and saccharine, right?\n\nExcept you know what? This whole story of me and Maddy is fucked. It's really fucked. If you want the full version, ask me sometime. It's long and complex and just really really fucked. She had anorexia and I had depression and insomnia and we tried to help each other, but you can't. You just can't. When you're fucking drowning you're not going to be able to save someone else from drowning, you know?\n\nBut the best part, and by the best part I mean the worst part, is that it ends with one of our friends fucking betraying us and lying to the police on behalf of Maddy's father so that her father can get a Personal Protection Order served against me. So yeah, that's how it ends. A police officer handing us both documents that basically say our love is [[wrong|Cynthia]].
So I don't say anything and we do the skit.\n\nAnd people laugh.\n\nSo I guess it was funny.\n\nI guess I was [[wrong|Love]].
All Tomorrow's Parties
And then I moved away. Right at the very start of middle school, I moved to a new town. I probably don't have to tell you how much it fucking sucks to be the fucking new kid in fucking middle school.\n\nSo for most of that first year after I moved, my friends were all the other outcasts. You know, like the weird poor kid. The disabled kid. The black girl. It was that kind of town, where there was "the black girl." She was actually mixed race, but pretty much everyone else was white. So in this shitty town, that makes you "the black girl." Her name was Willow.\n\nOkay, so her name wasn't actually Willow, but let's just call her Willow. It's a cool name anyway. And she was really cool.\n\nLike she wore overalls a lot in this Dexys Midnight Runners kind of way. Her hair was big and a little unruly and she just owned it. And we had the same sense of humor and we'd hang out and just shoot the shit. We'd sit at the outcast table at lunch and make fun of all the dumb normal kids in their dumb cliques. Like we both got how dumb all this bullshit was, you know? This popularity contest bullshit.\n\nShe was probably my first [[real friend|Willow]] at that godawful school.
But I'm not laughing. In fact, looking at myself in the mirror, I feel kinda gross.\n\nI'm not entirely sure why I feel gross, though.\n\nLike I have this basic understanding of feminism, not from really having studied it or read any of the major texts or anything but just because I sort of grew up in this feminist household. So I just have this weird sense that what I'm doing is somehow wrong.\n\nLike maybe I'm [[mocking women|The show goes on][$oh_honey -= 1]], you know?\n\nOr maybe it's [[something deeper|The show goes on][$oh_honey += 1]] than that.
I'm standing naked in front of my parents' full-body mirror. It's a different mirror—an earlier one, in the house I grew up in before we moved. From my point of view, the top towers above me, while the bottom is high enough up that I can't see my feet unless I lean in close.\n\nI'm looking at my own body in the mirror, still getting used to this skin and these bones that continue to grow and change every year. I look at my face and my torso and my legs and the proportions of it all. [[This body|Junk]] still has so far to go.
I don't really know. I don't know how to say what I'm feeling so I just don't say anything.\n\nAnd I mean, Monty Python did it, right? And the Kids in the Hall. Upright Citizen's Brigade even does it a little sometimes too. I guess it's mostly just Matt Besser, but he seems cool. I love all these guys. They're comedy geniuses. So it must be okay, right?\n\nThis must be [[okay|They laugh]].
At my high school, it's expected that the senior class will put on a talent show for the entire school. You aren't required to participate, but it's strongly encouraged. So I'm in it, but I'm doing weird sketch comedy stuff, you know? Like during rehearsals, one of our skits was deemed "too controversial" and not allowed to run during the actual show. It was a skit about Hitler drinking Coca-Cola. You know, like mocking Coke commercials by making it Hitler? I thought it was funny, but the principal thought it went a little too far. It's not the first time we butt heads.\n\nSee, I've spent the last four years being a weird mix of punk rocker, indie hipster, and straight-A student. I've sort of convinced myself I'm the kind of anarcho-commie punk good-for-nothing who is working to infiltrate the system and bring it down from the inside.\n\nAt least that's how I reconcile my radical ideologies with the fact that my biggest act of rebellion so far has been some honestly pretty tame drug use. Weed, for a little bit. Before I got caught and swore off risking my life for a cheap high.\n\nBut I still write scathing comics about the school administration for the school newspaper, and go to anti-war protests, and mosh at punk rock shows and shit. One time I went blind from dehydration while moshing to Sleater-Kinney. I was sick with the flu and a little drunk and on Mucinex DM, which makes me dissociate pretty hard because my tolerance is super low. Like not even using it recreationally, I was just taking a normal dose cuz I was sick. So I went blind right at the end of the encore, when they walked off stage while their guitars sat there, still reverberating. It was kind of scary when it happened but now it's just a cool story.\n\n"I went blind at a Sleater-Kinney concert." Like... That's kinda cool, right? That's [[punk rock|Comedy]], you know?
And for the first time <<if $oh_honey gt 0>>in my entire life<<else>>since I've started trying to figure out this dating thing<<endif>>, I feel like someone gets me.\n\nLike, she really fucking gets me, you know?\n\nAnd it feels nice.\n\n\nA year and a half later, I'm wearing her skirt and blouse and looking at myself in the [[mirror|Mirror]].
So yeah. I'm trans. Genderqueer, specifically. Well, probably. I'm still figuring shit out, you know? Like, I know I'm not cis.\n\nAnd all this shit I've just put on you, this is me trying to sort things out, you know? Like it's all these moments where I look back on my life and I'm like, "Why the fuck didn't I know?" And these are just a few big ones in a sea of instances. There are so many little stories I could tell you. Like I could just get way into this thing about me being jealous of all these tomboys, you know? Like that's what it kind of was. It was jealousy all mixed up with normal physical attraction.\n\nBut here's the thing. Here's the point of all this:\n\nI didn't fucking know I was trans until I was like 25.\n\nI didn't fucking know, okay?\n\nAnd I can look back at these moments and I can think, "Ah, look, see? Here's evidence. Here's proof." But why does that even fucking matter? Why am I trying to prove this to anyone, even if just to myself?\n\nSo I'm trans, okay? And maybe these memories are part of it and maybe they aren't but it doesn't fucking matter. Either way, I'm still trans. And if you're reading this, and you're trans too, I want to say upfront that this game is for you. If you're scared and confused and you're trying to sort things out, this game is for you.\n\nBecause if you feel it inside, that's all that fucking matters. Even if it's all messy and mixed up and you're still sorting it all out, I want you to know that's normal.\n\nAnd you're not wrong, [[okay|You're not wrong]]?
//Sunday morning and I'm falling\nI've got a feeling I don't want to know\nEarly dawning, Sunday morning\nIt's all the streets you crossed not so long ago\nWatch out! the world's behind you\nThere's always someone around you who will call\nIt's nothing at all//\n\n—[["Sunday Morning"|Boy Meets Girl]] by the Velvet Underground
You're not wrong.\n\n\n[[http://bumpnlevelgrind.blogspot.com/]]
And yeah, that fucks you up. A lot. The only reason I didn't kill myself is that I couldn't even muster the energy to get out of bed. But I mean, I went to see a therapist. And after like a year, I started getting back to normal. At least I kind of started to sort things out. Maybe.\n\nI sorted it out enough that I tried dating again. I kind of had this friends with benefits thing with this one girl, only without the actual benefits. But it's like super flirty, you know? And then I dated Cynthia. I'm changing her name too although let me assure you, it's not to protect the innocent. She's far from fucking innocent.\n\nCynthia was verbally abusive. She treated me like shit. Nothing I ever did was good enough. I wasn't allowed to make mistakes because I was supposed to be "better than that." We never really saw each other because we lived a half hour away and every time I set something up, she stood me up. She always had some excuse.\n\nShe was way into those super androgynous Japanese guys from visual-kei bands. Like Gackt and Hyde and Hide (I always mix those two up). She made it clear that I couldn't live up to them.\n\nSo literally the only good thing she ever does to me is break up with me.\n\nAnd of course, I'm fucking heartbroken.\n\nGod, I was such a fucking [[idiot|Emily]].
//I find it hard to believe you don't know\nThe beauty that you are\nBut if you don't, let me be your eyes\nA hand in your darkness, so you won't be afraid\nWhen you think the night has seen your mind\nThat inside you're twisted and unkind\nLet me stand to show that you are blind\nPlease put down your hands\n'Cause I see you\nI'll be your mirror//\n\n—[["I'll Be Your Mirror"|Naked]] by the Velvet Underground
My first relationship was a mess. It was a fucking mess.\n\nNo wait, let's back this up. My relationship with girls has always been kind of weird, okay?\n\nLike there was this girl in elementary school and I guess we were friends. Or maybe it was a crush? My best friend had a crush on her, that much I know for sure. I remember that I officiated a fake wedding between the two of them once.\n\nBut I think I had a crush on her too. Or maybe we were just friends? I don't know, what does any of that even mean at that age anyway? She was kind of a tomboy, so I thought she was pretty [[cool|Tomboys]].
I'm standing in front of my parents' full-body mirror, looking at myself in a skirt and blouse. If you look at me from behind so you just see my clothing and my hair, which I've let grow out to my shoulders, you might mistake me for a woman. Maybe.\n\nIn fact, even with just my long hair, I've sometimes gotten, "Excuse me, miss!" while working my after school job at Kmart. It's a pretty conservative small town, where most men walk around with football buzz cuts and most women never let their hair get much shorter than shoulder length, so from behind and at a distance, people sometimes read me as a woman. Briefly. Like, for a second.\n\nBut as soon as they see my face, it's clear. My bushy beard makes it patently clear, and that's just the start of how hairy and masculine my body is. The broad shoulders, my tall lumbering frame. This is not a girl's body. Even in this skirt and blouse, it's obvious that this is not a girl's body. I twist my hips so the skirt swishes around my hairy legs and I think, "No, these clothes just seem to make it all the more obvious."\n\nI'm borrowing the skirt and blouse from my girlfriend. She's the same height as me, but thinner, so the fabric clings a little too tightly. I feel like I've just been swallowed by one of those cartoon snakes that conform perfectly to their lumpy, oversized prey.\n\nBut that's the point, right? It's supposed to be cartoonish and comical, isn't it? After all, this is supposed to be a [[costume|Sketch comedy]].
It's not long after Cynthia dumps me that I start dating the girl I would eventually marry. We were friends beforehand, and when I get dumped, she knows how hard I'm taking it. She knows the depths I've been to before. So she invites me to come hang out with her and a mutual friend.\n\nSo there I am, sitting in a basement with two girls, watching //Kino's Journey// and eating ice cream straight out of the carton. Like I literally get over my break-up by eating ice cream out of the fucking carton and talking about feelings. And then these two girls, they put make-up on my face. I think I even try on a skirt or two.\n\nCan you believe it? This [[guy|Emily2][$oh_honey -= 1]] having a [[girl|Emily2][$oh_honey += 1]]'s night in.