[Guest Blog] “Open to Trans Girls?” by Velvet Divine

I put out a call for guest blog pitches at the end of July and oh my, you folks delivered! I received some brilliant ideas and would have loved to accept them all. I’m absolutely thrilled to be sharing today’s fantastic piece by a new-to-me writer, Velvet Divine (fae/faer.) You can follow faer on Twitter!

To me, this post really highlights the experience of trans folks and the misconceptions and bigotry that too many cis people still hold. We have a long way to go. I hope that by uplifting trans voices in this space, I can make a very small difference.

– Amy x

Open to Trans Girls?

“Velvet Divine. Fae/Faer. Non-binary. Trans femme. Pan. Aro. Poly. Domme. Targaryen. Actress. Writer. Artist. Vegetarian. Trash fire. Nerd. Gaymer. Goth. For the Horde.” (My dating app bio.)

Due to living in a fairly small, Conservative town and working with clinically vulnerable populations, I am not yet out in my everyday life. I’m sure my identity as a non-binary trans person would compromise not only my employment but also maybe my safety. So, my main method of connecting with people for ventures north of the platonic is via online dating apps.

“Are you open to trans gals?”

Six little monosyllabic words, typed with practiced trepidation or tired resignation, depending on the day. More often than not, this is my first message to women I connect with on dating apps (specifically, cisgender women). Sometimes, it’s the third or the fifth message, following an initial volley of back-and-forth compliments. But it’s always something I feel the need to clarify as soon as possible. Part of it is in the spirit of transparency (pun intended). I like to get it out in the open in the event that it’s any kind of a deal-breaker. But the other part is a visceral fear of coming across as predatory.

Bigoted people have long been pushing a narrative that trans women and trans femme people are predatory, using their transition to gain access to vulnerable women and female spaces in order to sexually harass or assault women. A lot of us have, unfortunately, internalized a lot of this transmisogyny. When you combine that with my hyperawareness of how masculine I still present, you get a knot of anxiety at being perceived as the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. 

I had my first taste of this in college, soon after breaking my egg (trans lingo for “coming out” or realizing one is trans). I began attending the LGBT+ Center’s Women’s Group. The second of the two sessions I attended consisted of the facilitators addressing “concerns” that some were there for the wrong reasons. Cue all eyes on me. I was the only trans feminine person and, more importantly, I did not look the part yet.

They went around the circle, asking everyone to share why they were in the group and what they hoped to gain from it. I don’t recall my answer verbatim, but it was something along the lines of wanting to connect with other LGBTQ+ women and femme-aligned folks. I looked around for some measure of commiseration or solidarity, but met only silence and a crowded room of women who wouldn’t look me in the eye.

So I never went back to the group. After a few times, the facilitators stopped asking me when I would come back whenever we ran into one another. Maybe the others thought that I was there trying to pick up a date and took my lack of feminine clothing and makeup as admission to this perceived grift. Maybe I just projected my own insecurities and completely misinterpreted the situation. Regardless, that pit in my stomach never left me. I continue to feel the need to question whether or not I am intruding upon a space that isn’t for me, or offering my company to someone who is merely tolerating it.

I ask women who match with me if they’re cool with or open to trans girls and they’ll reassure me, many vociferously and graciously, with “trans women are women” or “I love ALL girls”. Others will make a crack about how it’d be silly if they weren’t, considering it’s plastered all over my profile and hard to miss.

I will continue to ask them if they’re comfortable. I will ask them when we plan a date and I explain that I will not be dolled up because I’ll be coming from work or getting a ride from a relative. I’ll ask them again if the subject of sex comes up and we discuss desires and boundaries. I’ll ask them again during the act itself.

“I am Non-binary and trans-feminine. At the current moment, I am unable to access HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) due to my housing and economic situation. I’m on the chubby side and I still have my bio dildo. If any of those are an issue, feel free to exit stage left.”

That’s what my usual “disclaimer” looks like on my profiles. I add these because, again, I want to lay my cards on the table. Because I’m afraid that otherwise, people will feel misled somehow. Logically, I don’t imagine that these disclaimers are anything but obvious. I’m thick and, even if cis women thought I was just butch, the mention of being trans and the bio dildo euphemism would make it clear. (I used to use the expression “fleshy strap-on” but that kept going over people’s heads). But you’d be surprised. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that cis Sapphics also often feel like they need to “disclose” that they’re on the thicker side up-front. Solidarity, sisters.

Even among the LGBTQIA+ community, there is a staggering amount of ignorance regarding the trans experience on the part of cisgender folks. I’ve had many people mix up trans women and trans men. Most recently, I had a woman ghost me after I corrected her misconception by reiterating the fact that I have a “bio dildo” and explaining the euphemism. Some of my favorites, though, are the ones who think that being trans is like a Magical Girl transformation and that by shouting that I’m trans into the ether, a la Greyskull, I will immediately undergo years of HRT and surgeries. I wish that were the case.

Though these hiccups are more common than I’d like, I’m grateful that they tend to come from places of ignorance and misunderstanding rather than malice. I’ve been using these apps for years and can count on one hand the number of times that women have been intentionally rude or hateful towards me (men are a whole other story). Women are always a treasure to connect with. Even people for whom the bio dildo and transition were deal breakers have generally been perfectly respectful about it.

I want to thank Velvet again for sharing faer insights in this fantastic post. I pay all my guest writers and would like to increase the rate, hire more amazing writers, or both. If you want to see more new voices on C&K, head to the Tip Jar to support the blog.

[Guest Post] “Body Knows Best” by AJ Power

When I put a call out for guest blogs, some stunning pieces came my way and there were a couple that made me cry. This essay by AJ Power is one of them. AJ tells her journey to becoming the woman she is with such strength and vulnerability that I am just absolutely blown away.

I had two contradictory reactions to this piece. The first was that I wanted to publish it because I couldn’t completely relate – as a cis woman who has benefited by entire life from cis privilege, I will never completely what a trans woman goes through. However, on a different level, I felt I did understand it. As a trauma survivor, my body has always known what I need, what I can handle and what I cannot, and if a situation is right or wrong. It was learning to listen to it that was the tricky bit. In that regard, at least, I related to AJ’s essay very deeply. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to share this beautiful piece with you all.

Amy x

It started with losing my virginity. You could argue for something earlier: myriad stomach issues through my childhood, anxiety attacks I couldn’t recognize as such (much less explain to my parents), or any number of little things I’d only later realize pointed to my being trans. But it’s one thing to dissect signs and symptoms with the benefit of hindsight, and another to get a blaring wake-up call on a chilly October night when you’re as excited as you’ve ever been.

Aubrey was a better person to ‘lose it’ with than I could have dreamed. Vastly too cool for me, sure, but I was not looking that particular gift horse in the mouth. My roommate was out partying, we were both happy, healthy, and sober, and I was about to fall head over heels. Everything was perfect. Except, well, for one horrifying cliché….

I couldn’t get it up.

No matter what I tried (and oh did I try) it was just not happening. I didn’t understand. Yes, I was nervous, and yes, on some level I believed that it happened to a lot of guys maybe even all guys at some point or other—but at that moment there was nothing but shame and betrayal. Aubrey actually handled everything great, but that didn’t stop me from sobbing in the shower the next morning, or from going to student health to try and dig up some reason, any physical reason that this was happening to me.

When my wife and I have sex now, I do think back to those days sometimes. Days when I thought I was a guy. When I thought that only penetrative sex was “real” sex. When I somehow drew a line between Real Dysphoria(TM) and how much I hated seeing myself in  the mirror. It feels like another life, like that was a different person, an unexpected and unwanted detour when somebody else was borrowing my body. But now that I have the steering wheel again, I’m not totally sure how to drive stick (pun intended). So much about me has changed, both physically and deeper than that. I have the same parts, but not the same.

Not really.

And I don’t quite know what this body wants.

When Aubrey and I finally did end up having intercourse I was elated. It took nearly a year, and I was at least a littl bit bothered by that, but we’d fallen in love in that time. We’d grown into each other, trusting, caring, knowing. She was the only person I’d ever told about my depression. About my high school prom, where I mostly thought about killing myself and felt better than I had in months. About how desperately lonely I could get.

I still had trouble performing sometimes. I figured it was an anxious sort of feedback loop—worrying about worrying and ending up just as nervous as I’d been the first time the issue had cropped up. But I’d made my peace with it, I thought. We were happy. Problem solved.

Lest I make this into a pity party, I love sex. Touching and being touched, desiring and being desired—it’s amazing and beautiful. The journey is fantastic. The destination, on the other hand….

It’s not that I can’t orgasm. Give me five minutes with my vibrator and, well. But no matter how well things seem to be going with another person, it remains out of reach. Sometimes I think it’s just that it’s so much easier to forget what body parts I actually have when it’s just me. When I can have the barrier of pajamas, panties, or pornography to keep that knowledge shunted off to the side of my conscious mind. As opposed to the unmistakable fact of skin or lips wrapping around me. The fact that there’s something to wrap around at all. Other times I wonder if, despite the intervening years, the hormones, and the anti anxiety medication, I’m just still too much in my own head when it comes to sex, and I need to learn to shut my brain off and enjoy the moment.

In most situations, the anxiety takes hold because I’m desperately afraid of disappointing someone or letting them down. But even when there’s little-to-no risk of that, it’s tough to reassure myself. Because no matter how anyone else feels, the one I so often let down is me.

I wanted to scream at myself to just shut up for once in my life. I had Lauren in my bed. Lauren, who I’d gotten involved with way too quickly after Aubrey. Way too quickly after Lauren’s last breakup too. I was having trouble performing again. We’d both been drinking a little—just enough to relax, at least in theory.

My body just wouldn’t listen to me. Again. I was so sick of it, and I just wanted both of us to have a good time. I told myself to focus on her before I gave any thought to myself. Her body. The way it moved. The way it felt. I tried to shut out everything that was complicated or difficult, or…me.

I didn’t give much thought to the fact that when I masturbated, or even when I had sex, I rarely (if ever) pictured myself in the scene. It was like I was so focused on the woman in front of me, that I was barely a presence, even in my own fantasies. That night, I tried to switch. To focus just on Lauren, and then to enjoy the moment as myself. I wasn’t over Aubrey, and I figured that that was why I was so disconnected from myself. But the truth was, part of it felt good and right, and part of it didn’t. That was the last time I ever had penetrative sex.

The strangest part of the dysphoria I still have is that I don’t hate my body. Even the things I wish were different, I don’t hate. They just don’t feel entirely like me. I know that mental health issues are a process, but I feel like I’m past a lot of hating myself too. I can feel happy, proud, beautiful in ways I never would have been able to a few years ago. There’s just this one part of me. This last question that’s more confusing than anything. What am I supposed to do with you?

It wasn’t long ago at all now that I was lying in a hotel bed on my wedding night, feeling like I’d just seen the face of god. My wife had just driven me completely out of my mind for what seemed like forever, and when she asked me if I’d climaxed, I had to say I didn’t know. I didn’t feel like I’d had that release, but how else to describe how it had felt? Was this another part of me changing? But for once, I didn’t think about it too hard.

The truth is, my body knows me. In every fantasy that I thought I wasn’t an actor in, in every time I got lost in the curves of someone else’s body when I had no love for my own, my body was trying to tell me something. That the need and want I was feeling weren’t just about loving women, but about being one. Like calling to like. The shape of me on the inside trying to find something that would fit around it and make it home.

There’s something magic in learning to feel like yourself, at home in your own person. I felt it when I bought my first dress. I felt it when I started liking the woman I saw in the mirror. And I felt it the first time I fell in love, and the last. It’s a soft sigh and an intake of breath, a sense of “Oh, so that’s how it can be.”

I always thought that when my body misbehaved it was because something was wrong (or that it was just being an asshole), but even with the things I have yet to figure out, I know it’s not about right and wrong, or a problem to be fixed.

It’s about the fact that I’m not finished yet. I still have more to do, to grow, to change.

And if my body has taught me anything, it’s that change is good.

AJ Power is a 28-year-old trans writer and editor. When not writing, she can usually be found watching movies in bed or reading…probably also in bed. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her wife. She tweets as @write_errant.