[image shows: A black and white image of a cut rose on a wooden table with only the red petals in colour.] [article contains: sadness, dissociation, transmisogyny, street harassment]
“I feel like I detransition and retransition six times a day. And each time I do I feel more shame that I’m betraying my true self. Every compromise I make just to receive affection or to be safe in the street, pulls me further away from my own integrity and takes me deeper down into a place I don’t want to be.”
I wrote this in one of those tragic self-pitying moments that I rarely allow myself. I block these feelings so that I don’t get consumed and overwhelmed by them with no hope in sight and no way out. The source? It’s simple. The men I desire, don’t desire me. Even in Berlin, the centre of queerness, a great global capital of possibilities, I am simply unwanted. And it’s getting kind of bad.
The other day, wearing something beautiful and femme and cycling home from a workshop at the feminist sex shop (because Berlin really is that good), I was wolfwhistled by some guys in the street. Now my first thoughts should of course have been ‘what the fuck?’ and ‘who do you think you are?’ and ‘am I safe?’ But they weren’t. My heart raced a little, I had that familiar adrenaline surge in my belly and legs, but not because of fear, but because someone, for a brief moment had actually sexualised me as a femme. Men had noticed me enough to call at me and objectify me. And I was flattered. I know I’m not alone in this and we don’t talk about it because it looks a lot like Stockholm Syndrome. But it happened and it happens and it can feel pretty tragic.
It’s not that I don’t get noticed usually. Trans women like me, non-transitioning, femme, big built, are visible to the point of pain and danger. I’m definitely noticed. And besides, I’m in a period of my life where I can’t imagine getting more attention than I do. Far more people read my work than ever before. I’m recognised in parties. Complete strangers have my book poking out of their handbags. And yet, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more invisible or less desired.
I’m a fixer, a doer, and I don’t let this kind of thing rest if there’s something I can do about it. I’ve tried it all. All the websites anyone can think of, all the consultations and advice that my darling friends have given me. I’ve written whole articles on the subject. But the fact remains that the men I desire – and despite myself, I do really desire them – wouldn’t dream of touching a trans woman like me. And on the odd occasion that there was the slightest idea of flirtation, the smallest hint of attraction, at the end of the night, he will always ends up going home with a cis woman. It’s beyond cliché.
I don’t hate myself for it. I’m surrounded with gorgeous, generous femmes. Each time we share the delicate intimacy of filling the kitchen table with our bottles and mirrors and colours and spend hours dressing up and making up, I remember the power these people have to make me feel like a fucking princess. And I’m read and I’m understood more than ever before and I learned to surround myself with people who treat me right. I even get plenty of sex, as dissociated as it is.
Compared to other points in my life, things are going pretty well.
But also since really becoming the femme and the woman that I always was, I’ve never once been asked out on a date as a woman by a man who likes women. Never been swept off my feet by my crush or taken to the movies. No candles, no intimate nights of kink. No lost weekends in bed. Coming out was the greatest passion killer of all time.
And I know romance is considered ‘passe’ and ‘uncool’ in our scenes, but I also think the people who decide these things are precisely the ones who have most access to it. Cis people and het people could never know the affirmation of being desired as the person you really are by someone you think is pretty. Fuck punk snobbery, I would do almost anything for a bunch of roses.
If this is just the fate of a trans woman with my intersections than I’ll eventually learn to accept it. I’ll continue to feel shame while slipping into boy mode to get intimacy in the dark and I’ll continue to hope and try to find my inner lesbian and I’ll pour all this tragedy into my keyboard to share with the others who somewhere out there, must be going through the same shit. Because, of course, it’s not us, it’s them. It’s transmisogyny. It’s bi-invisibility. It’s a crushing hatred of femininity. It’s not us, it’s them. It’s not us. It’s them. Say it with me.
And don’t worry, I know I’m pretty. My eyes are sparkly and my fuzzy hair is nice to stroke. My make up has never been better and after all this therapeutic pilates, I’m quite certain that people will write poetry about how good my butt looks in tight jeans. Self-love is a lot. Femme solidarity is a lot. Political analysis is a lot. I refuse to underestimate those things and they save me and they get me through it.
And also sometimes it’s not enough.
A box of chocolates might help. Even having the man of my dreams holding me close while I fall asleep. That might be enough. That would work.