“Oh come on, try it.” She’d been trying to convince me for the last 5 minutes. Friends had gotten involved. I believe I must have been 14 or so at the time. Eventually, my friends held me in place and put the cursed concoction on my hands. I ran to the bathroom to wash it off. It was a warm vanilla sugar body lotion. My greatest fear was that it would reveal me, that if I seemed happy about it people would know who I was.
My life story up to my transition is like this. I saw my girlfriends doing and wearing beautiful clothing and lotions and scents and dancing. There were the warm sugar bitches, the cucumber melon bitches, and the cherry blossom bitches. They had a friendly, but uneasy, truce. I watched as each of my girlfriends quietly declared their allegiance to one faction or the other, most of my friends were cucumber melon. I had to reject all of it. I had to. It kept me safe.
To be trans and in the closet is to knowingly wear a mask. You construct it with intent. You let it grow facial hair, you add muscle to it, you do what you have to do with the knowledge that it isn’t you. But if your camouflage is good enough, you stay safe from other people. And if other people don’t know, then you don’t have to deal with it.
You can deal with being trans tomorrow, as long as your mask stays on.
And that brings us back to the scene in the wide, tiled hallways of my high school. There I was, back to the cold cinderblock, struggling on the floor while my friends held my arms and applied this cinnamon scented kryptonite to my skin. I felt delighted at it. I washed it off. I tried not to cry. That was close. They might have known.
I lived in a world defined by maintaining this theatre, and all the near misses. People wondered why I liked “that movie,” or that particular song. I kept my hips in check when Shakira sang — my fear was they’d tell the truth. Like bigoted Tyrannosauruses, people could detect the slightest movement. My first time consensually coupling with anyone, it was to a song about lesbians — everyone thought it was funny instead of poignant. Whew.
Hiding this way robbed me of every joy, every connection I might have had. There was a wedge between my girlfriends and me, and I was responsible for maintaining it. My fear was reasonable. A group of three boys once beat me in the changing room of my middle school because I had checked my nails the wrong way the day before. They moved on soon after, policing the movements of other “young boys.” Whenever LGBTQ+ topics came up I watched carefully how the men around me would purse their lips, ball and release their fists, quietly shake their heads. I could hear their breath quicken. Just the mention of people like me had them ready to do violence.
Trans women miss out on so many experiences in their gender, all the little moments they can never go reclaim because they had to say no for their protection. This is different from the experiences denied me by a society that thought me some predatory wolf trying to get in my girlfriends’ pants. These were sacrifices I made at the altar of manhood to keep the gods on my side. They are moments and joys that I surrendered to the endless, empty nothing that could never be satisfied with my performance. It always needed something else. If I performed the rituals, did the chants, and gave up everything I wanted, then I could have safety and the privileges that came with it.
Now that I’ve gone from missed-out to Miss Out, I find myself with a memory full of empty spaces that belonged to those moments I had to sacrifice. So, I sacrificed the manhood that was forced on me, all my safety, and all my privilege to something new. I surrendered all that, and now all that’s left for me is a life full of warmth, love, and sisterhood. Where I once tended to an empty manhood that couldn’t take enough from me, now I feel I’ve found a garden of womanhood that cares for and provides for me. I feel loved. I don’t sacrifice to this garden, because I love it, and it seems I can never run out of love for it.
A dear friend gave me a package recently. I opened it to find three containers: cucumber melon, warm vanilla sugar, and cherry blossom.
I wonder which bitch I’ll be. I can’t wait to try them all.