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Part III

It Keeps Me Up At Night

By KPPublished 6 months ago 3 min read
Part III
Photo by Raúl Lazcano on Unsplash

It was “locker room talk” with the boys. I waited until I was older and already out of the closet to have sex, but it was hard to stop once I did. I built quite a reputation for myself in that small town quickly. I collected partners like trinkets and talked about them the same. My male friends asked wildly inappropriate questions ranging from the deeply personal to the fetishizing and obscure. I answered them all. The question, “did you scissor” was usually accompanied by vigorously and repeatedly ramming together the space between the middle and index fingers while maintaining uncomfortably prolonged eye contact. Sometimes they didn’t say a word at all, just gestured.

What had my desire to be “one of the guys” done to me? What had my need to fit in done to the women around me? I reflect now on how my romantic life has played out, dragging examples of poor behavior and judgment out of the corners of my mind. They have been holed there for a decade or more. Moments like telling someone she was the worst for not kissing me after a date. When I shamelessly and dishonestly pursued two women at once. That time I cheated on a girlfriend for two years with her best friend. That time I cheated with a bassist from Detroit. That time I cheated with a stripper I used to date. All the times I cheated. Each time more honest with my partners about it than the last, but still cheating. The sort of emotional manipulation I employed was withholding intimacy. Instead of being vulnerable with a partner, I shut down and clammed up.

I don’t engage in monogamy anymore. At least, not how many people understand it these days. I don’t think I own my partners or control their decisions. I don’t value my time and energy more than theirs, and I don’t think they owe me anything. I don’t tell curious men about my sexual relationships with anyone, and I certainly don’t indulge the prying minds of cis-straight folks who have no intention of better understanding me, only to harass and humiliate. I didn’t suddenly become capable of this self-advocacy and change, though. I had to commit myself to doing better than in previous “lives.” This commitment looked like years of intensive therapy and self-reflection. I performed an exhaustive and exacting inventory of the toxic and dangerous traits I had adopted, doing my best to shed harmful beliefs about and expectations of women.

Unlearning is an ongoing and relentless process that needs constant maintenance and checking. bell hooks wrote about this essential work in her book The Will To Change. When I read it, I was on the cusp of starting testosterone. I felt that disappearing into a cis-passing world might be a spiritual death. I wanted to work proactively to unlearn the compartmentalization and repression of my emotions. “To indoctrinate boys into the rules of patriarchy, we force them to feel pain and to deny their feelings.” writes hooks. When I consider how this indoctrination has influenced my behaviors and impacted my relationships, I see how it perpetuates patriarchal dominance. The mechanisms for subjugating women and the feminine are those seemingly banal jokes about “dumb blondes,” “flamboyant men,” or period-induced “hysteria.” The constant barrage of dehumanization, sexualization, and paternalism that women and femme individuals face is easily ignored when a person’s formal and informal education has been focused on the superiority of the “male.” As with any marginalized community, it becomes a depersonalization of the “other.”

The pain that boys and men are subjected to is an emotional flaying, a circumcision of empathy and compassion, a degloving of all things soft and gentle. Relegating these qualities and values to the feminine is a grave disservice to all men and those that may not identify as men but relate to such matters. The disconnection from or complete loss of emotionality damages every aspect of our lived experience and seems unbearably challenging to fix. Although it may happen early and quickly in our youth, the work to reconnect takes years more, sometimes a lifetime.


About the Creator


I am a non-binary, trans-masc writer. I work to dismantle internalized structures of oppression, such as the gender binary, class, and race. My writing is personal but anecdotally points to a larger political picture of systemic injustice.

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