In the audio, a private conversation between my partner and me about our evolving relationship with our sexual bodies. Even years after surgery, these powerful euphoric moments come over you. There’s always more to discover about the ways our bodies can meet. She teaches me ways to use my body; to say it is vulnerable is an understatement. Things I knew before surgery, I have to discover all over again in this new body.
If we have any advice for couples going through this together? It takes time, patience, and most of all… a sense of adventure.
That’s us in the track photo. <3 I wish all partners could approach the marathon race of gender transition with the grace that she has. I know what people will say, ‘Oh, well, she went through it, so of course she would.’ You’d think, but there are ignorant trans people just like anybody else. It’s been a process of learning and unlearning for us, too.
Case in point, way back early in our relationship, a cis lesbian in our community tried to commission her to write a song about hating penises. Despite having a mountain of baggage on the subject, she cringed. There are so many people who don’t have a choice in that. Trans women who want their body as it is, trans women who don’t but don’t have a chance to change it, and trans women who would rather never think of penises again. That third camp was where she was when I met her.
Gosh, way back years ago we even used to use such abstract sex toys, nothing even vaguely realistic: rosy pinks, green, and blue in bulbous glass or silicone. And that was how we framed them, too– toys. I never allowed myself the thought of not… having the kind of penis I felt as an absence. She could not even say the word penis if it came up. She would talk around it. We were holding up the world’s weight in the idea of a penis and how we fled from it. Some nights when I would be awake unable to sleep, I would allow myself to think of it: but it felt more masochistic than hopeful. I put the thought away, boxed up and stored for another season.
One day, there was a tipping point. What caused it? I remember the scene: We had been biking, exploring the back roads that led to old horse stables, marshy glens, and finally we discovered a creek down the slope behind the first cemetery in the town. None of the roads led this way. It was like we had found a place past time. It is prairie. When we sat in the parted grass– no doubt flattened there by a resting doe with fawn– the twilight rested on us. Lightning bugs emerged like a spell from the amber wave of little bluestem.
“I have a secret,” I had told her. But the words couldn’t come out. How her brow furrowed, trying to follow the collage of feelings on my face: a grimace of shame, a breath of anticipation, a plea for gentleness. A mosquito bit me. The creek smelled like water plants and the life within.
A second time, the words couldn’t come out, so I wrote them on a slip of paper and passed them to her. I had written, “The reason I don’t talk about penises isn’t because I hate them. It is because sometimes I wish I had a penis. Sometimes. But you wouldn’t like me if I had a penis.”
Every system within my body paused as she read my note and wrote back. The paper came back from her, “I don’t hate penises, love. Sometimes I even miss mine. Your body is just right to me, any kind of way.” Gosh, she is beautiful. With the simple sentences which followed, it was if a cloche globe grew out of the earth, then to preserve that air we shared in trading that most secret truth. Inside our bell, we could inhale as deeply as we wanted. The rest of the world could never spoil the strength of the paradox whispered in rarefied breeze between us:
The body parts do not matter.
The body parts matter so much it could kill you.
The body parts mean only what we say they mean.
The body parts bear their own power to make body feel so alien you’d sooner the earth swallow you whole than mention the way it had formed– against your will.
Your body can live in the spaces your mind does. No one can take that.
But, if I were to have said, “I don’t have a penis,” or, “I gave birth,” then– it would be as if those words emptied my lungs of buoyancy, and I would sink, sink, sink, plunging in an inner death depth toward the ocean trenches.
The difference is just embryonic androgen differentiating the appearance.
Genitals present in a gender spectrum.
The difference could make you so heavy that some days, you don’t want to move.
I– I had to change mine.
The day I told her, “I have to change mine,” she nodded and stared right back in my eyes. She did not fill the pause with her thoughts. Expecting rejection, I had challenged, “Well, how do you feel about that?”
With a warm, subtle smile and a twinkle in the eye, she told me that she didn’t know. But we would find out one day.
Today– I get that cousin of queasiness, that lower-belly arousal, when I recall the vision of her mouth on my… penis. I probably have a shade of disbelief on my face when she blows me, washed over involuntary ahegao. ‘Finally, truly real?’ I ask of my senses. I could savor for an eternity a singular moment of one– one!– of the sensory dimensions in the finally-truly-real. Her face, my flesh; the mouth depth my tongue knows, but now she shows me another depth. Her closed eyelids lifted and from the corner lashes, she caught my glance. It was as if we had held hands and caught flight directly up: Oh, she makes my spirit soar.
In the after-sweat, overheated limbs splayed and then knitted in an embrace beneath the fan, I swear– a single tear rolled down my left cheek. Can I just click and drag this moment into the dictionary below poignant? You could live a thousand years and never feel so understood. She said, “I like your penis. It’s… It’s you. A few times I overthought it and worried myself. You think about change and the unknown, about someone else’s body. But your body always feels like home to me. This isn’t any different.”
We started conversing, and eventually I thought to record the pillow talk.
[Readers, would you like to hear more of our couple-conversations? If it is helpful, we can record more. Is audio more challenging to access, since it cannot be translated automatically? Otherwise I can stick to photos. Whatever is most helpful.]