Sex & Business (isn’t that what it’s always about?) February Book Roundup

Can you believe it’s the last day of February? I know there are literally fewer days in this month, but it always seems to zoom by, more than other months. Maybe it’s the beginnings of spring coming back and my eagerness for more spring. Fall is my favorite, really, but that baby-green color that the brand new leaves are? And the first signs—the magnolias, the crocuses, the daffodils? I love that so much.

Aside from it being a quick month, I traveled a lot. Which meant I did have some good time on airplanes and transit to read, but that I was usually using it for other things (like going over my notes for workshops). I’m learning that I can’t really multi-task effectively when I travel. I tend to think of the verb “to travel” as something I do in the background, and other things happen at the same time, but really when “I am traveling,” that’s sometimes all I can actively do.

(I know touring artists have said this kind of thing all the time, but it’s still interesting to discover for myself.)

So, this month, I read:

chokeChoke by Chuck Palahniuk. I picked up a few books by him because his work has been recommended many times over the years, and I thought it’d be an engaging, somewhat light read. This was the one I started with (though I did read Fight Club a while ago, after an ex of mine said it was her favorite book). I can’t say I liked it. At one point I tweeted, “I’m not supposed to like this main character, right?” I didn’t, but I understand he’s supposed to be an anti-hero. I guess I didn’t even like him enough for the anti-hero to work, I wasn’t that sympathetic to his stories and I didn’t like his level of manipulation. I don’t know if I’ll pick up another by Palahniuk. If I do, which do you recommend?

allegiantThen, because the first one was such an easy and fun read last month, I picked up Allegiant by Veronica Roth. Unfortunately, I thought it was the second book in the series, but it was actually the third, and because it’d been about a month since I read the first one (and it was light breezy skimmy reading for me, not deep attention), I was a little lost at the beginning but just went with it. I didn’t even realize until about halfway through the book that it was building up to The Big Reveal of the series. A variety of folks who saw I was reading this series recommended to stop with the second one, because the third was so bad; I didn’t think it was bad exactly, and the twist was somewhat interesting, though of course the science is not sound at all. “Because genes!” is not good. I kinda blew the wad with reading the third one second, so I probably won’t go back to the second one. Still, it was a fun read.

specialtopicsI picked up Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marsha Pessl because I read Night Film last month and loved it, but it was what stumped me. I was totally on a fiction roll until I started this one, and then it was just a liiiiiittle too dense and just a little too smarty-pants for me, and I put it down and stopped. I didn’t finish it, though someday when my attention span is a little better, I’d like to try it again.

switchAfter an absence, I picked up Switch by Astrid Knowles again, which I’d seen some smart quotes from on Tumblr I think and figured it might be a promising BDSM novel. Uh, not really. Thin and trite and not very good writing and not very hot. Still, it’s written from a submissive girl’s perspective, with a lot of dominant worship, so I like that part. Enough to finish the book, though not really enough for it to have made an impression.

protocolsI’m constantly in search of really good power dynamic writings, so I picked up two. The first was Protocols: A Variety of Views (Power Exchange Books Resource Series) by Robert Rubel, which was a disappointment. It’s a collection of essays from a variety of well known M/s and D/s folks, many of whom have excellent credentials and have been instrumental in the leather communities for a long time. I suspect that they as people are amazing, and that they have lots of great ideas that I would love love love to learn from, but they didn’t translate very well to these short essays. A number of the essays started with, “What is BDSM?” which could be useful if you’re writing an entire book about BDSM, but these are short essays on protocol specifically, so I suspect the average reader already has some knowledge. I would’ve loved more advanced ideas and less beginner, and more editing so that the writing wasn’t quite so clunky.

eroticAlong with Protocols, I finally picked up Erotic Slavehood by Christina Abernathy, which is actually two books together: Miss Abernathy’s Concise Slave Training Manual and Training With Miss Abernathy. The first, the slave training manual, is quite good. It is a bit elementary, a beginner-to-intermediate level, but I really liked the writing style, the knowledge, and the smarts of Miss Abernathy, and I don’t say that about very many d/s books. The second half of the book is a training guide with exercises, suggested readings, journal prompts meditations, and all kinds of things for a submissive/slave/s-type to explore. I loved it! I wish I’d read it before Submissive Playground, though perhaps it’s good because it could have been influential. I highly recommend it to s-types, and I promptly passed it off to rife to work through.

journeyabandonmentThe Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life by Susan Anderson … I don’t have much to say about this. I am still grieving, and on any given day somewhere from 10 to 70 percent of me is in some sort of despair process. I assume it’s temporary, I trust it will keep evolving, but it’s been hard lately. So I am trying to learn about the grief process, to lean on the teachings and helpers who have done this kind of thing before, and not just dwell in my own heartbreak hotel.

sexySexy Sailors: Gay Erotic Stories edited by Neil Plakcy was so much more than I expected. Not just better (though yes, better writing than many of the other books I’d read this month) but also more engaging, more interesting, more fascinating. I’m not really into sailors or boats, but there’s a whole language associated with it, and in addition to the language, an entire men’s culture that is quite curious to glimpse into. And, I really liked all the cock-centric dirty parts. I don’t read much gay boy smut, but I think I should change that. I fucking love Cleis Press—any time I pick up an erotica anthology by them, it never fails to have high quality writing, dirty scenes, thoughtful characters, and so much sensual, smokin’ hot language (which is exactly why I pick up erotica instead of watch some dirty scene). It’s so good for sex geeks like me.

startupLast but not least, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau. I was hoping this had business advice in it, but it reads much more like The Four Hour Workweek, which is useful for motivation but not so much for detailed infrastructure implementation, which is the phase I’m currently in. I’m looking to make some business decisions and studies in the near future, so I took a shot in the dark and started here. Not so much. But I’ll keep shooting—I have some other ideas.

If you have any book recommendations, I would love to know them! What have you read lately that’s been amazing? What do you think I’d love?

PS: Photo of me at Feelmore 510 in Oakland is by Lauren Cohn-Frankel.

To All the Tops Who Are Afraid to Make a Move

One of my biggest challenges as a top—and as a feminist dominant, and as someone who is well versed in and vehemently requires agency and consent in my sexytime play—is making assertions of what I want. This is especially hard if I’m meeting or playing with somebody new. I want to be bold, domineering (in good ways), bossy (also in good ways), sexy—toppy. I want to demand and take and get just a little more rough than expected.

But: I won’t do that, until I have consent. Until I have a very, very clear green light that my advances—my dominance, my toppy-ness—is wanted and desired.

Nothing wrong with that, right? I want to do dirty things with the people I date and play with, and I want them to want me to do those things, otherwise I don’t want those things. In fact, one could argue (and I do) that my wanting to do those things is contingent upon them wanting me to do them. I won’t get it up for somebody who doesn’t want me.

But see, sometimes because I am not making big bold moves, or acting with brassy ballsy swagger, people think I am not flirting with them, or don’t like them, or aren’t interested, or am “not that dominant.”

(Well, in terms of that last one, they can suck it—I believe in consensual dominance, and I don’t believe doms (or anybody) has a right to go around spewing their swagger on anybody they come across. I take up my space, you take up yours. Unless we’re in a explicit power dynamic, I don’t assume that I get to be dominant with you. I guess that’s called boundaries.)

But those other things … that depends. Sometimes I really, really, really, like somebody, and I want to do things with them to them for them, but I am not getting a clear green light, so I do nothing.

And this can be crippling! This can mean that a perfectly good top wrings their hands and wonders, wonders, wonders, whether or not they should make a move, but that the other person is simultaneously thinking, I thought they were a top? Aren’t they going to do something?

That sucks, right? Here’s a few ideas.

1. Make it clear you are (kinda sorta completely) inclined to topping

Talk about it. Bring it up. “I tend to like to be in charge in bed.” Talk about topping and bottoming. Talk about the kind of things you like to do. Do you like rough sex? Extensive amounts of bondage? Strap-on sex nine times out of ten? Always being the one who orders at a restaurant? Opening doors? Holding someone down while they struggle?

And … ask them what they like. Talk about it. Get their Fetlife fetish list from their own expressive mouth. Ask again. Ask about specific things. Be fascinated by their answers. Listen closely.

This might be elementary for you, but I find that just about everybody doesn’t talk or communicate about their own desires enough. ‘Cause here’s the thing: They change constantly. Most of us don’t want the same thing all day every day. So it is a constant practice to be in the moment, figure out what we want, and communicate it clearly.

2. Make it clear you are waiting for a green light

Or, explicitly ask for a green light. Many people who are inclined to bottoming or submission, or, often, those who would be into going out with a top, are frequently waiting for the top to make the move. Perhaps they think that the way they’re batting their eyelashes, or the way they shined their leathers, or the way they are rubbing their thighs together, is so fucking obvious that of course you know they want you. But still, you are waiting for that green light.

So tell them that.

“I would so love to kiss you, but I’m waiting for the right sign / you to ask me / the perfect moment.” “I know I said I’m a top, but the only way I get all … toppy with somebody is if I am clear they want me to. Are you into that?” “I have this thing about consent—it’s super important to me. So I tend to wait until I get a really really clear green light to make any sorts of moves. But after I get the green light … ”

(Then do that sexy-ass sly top grin you practice in the mirror. Come on, I know you do.)

And then, pay attention to their reaction.

So if you growl, “I really want to throw you down, right now,” and their eyes get all huge and they start thinking about all the grass stains they’ll get, and they say, “Uhhh…” you will know that is not consent. But when they take a step closer to you and say, “I have a really good mattress at my house,” you’ll know they are at least interested.

I hesitate to talk about how consent can be expressed non-verbally, through physical communication, though I do believe that it can be. It’s just harder to pinpoint and talk about, and much easier to misconstrue, miscommunicate, or mistake. For the sake of nervousness or fear or making big bold topping moves, it is always, always safer to get enthusiastic verbal consent specifically.

Regardless of how much explicit consent they give you, always be paying attention for hesitation in their body language or speech. That probably means it’s time to back up, and slow down, and check in.

This can be used when escalating all sorts of play, by the way, not just the first kiss. It could be useful for that moment when you want to get your strap-on out, or when you want to put them in spread eagle bondage, or when you want to hold them down and rough them up, or when you want to ask them—tell them, demand them—to go into the bathroom and take their panties off and give them to you. Sometimes you just don’t know if it’s the right time to do something new, or to escalate, and you don’t know if you have their consent for it. So ask. Make it clear what you’re looking for, so they can give it to you (or not). They just might not know that’s what you’re waiting for.

Sometimes, when I start getting the feeling that it’s time to move in for a kiss or to escalate physical touch with somebody, I make a move kinda like I’m about to do the thing I want to do, but then I catch myself, and say, “Oh, sorry—I really want to kiss you / put my hands on your stockings / grab your belt / take you down right now. That okay?” (Sometimes I say this in a sexy growly voice near their neck or ear while I decidedly do not touch or kiss them because I don’t know if that’s okay—yet.)

And I wait. For their reaction, response, and enthusiastic consent made clear.

3. Still afraid you’re being an asshole?

Here’s the thing: Asking somebody for something, or asserting a decision or a preference, is not being an asshole. You’re not being an asshole when you say, “I’d love to take you out. How about we meet at this great cafe I love on Sunday for brunch?” You’re not being an asshole when you’re on a wandering-around-the-park date and you say, “I’d love a coffee. Want to duck into this coffee shop for a bit?” You’re not being an asshole when you point at a shady spot under a tree and say, “Let’s go sit there.” You’re not being an asshole when you get back to your place and they are on your couch all sexy and biting their lips and you say, “I can’t wait to play with you.”

You absolutely are being an asshole when you don’t honor their response to your suggestion or offer or preference.

If you say, “Let’s go to this great steakhouse!” And they say, “I’m a vegetarian …” When you say, “Great! Meet you there at 7,” you are being an asshole.

Wah waaaaah. Sad trombone. Don’t do that.

But making the offer? Not an asshole. Suggesting a change in place? Great! Shows your flexibility and thoughtfulness. Requesting a date at a particular place? Not too much (until, you know, they tell you otherwise).

Sometimes, being assertive and suggesting things is a relief to the other person. We often defer to each other (especially people we like), saying, “Whatever is fine!” And we mean it! But when someone drives the social decisions, it can be very useful. What’s not useful (have I made this clear yet?), and is firmly in asshole territory, is overriding what someone else expresses they want or don’t want.

So make suggestions. Request—and get—the green light, so you can be confident that your glorious toppy-ness is fully desired and wanted.

PS: I hope this is clear, but just in case it isn’t: This has absolutely nothing to do with getting someone to do what they don’t want to do. Fuck that. This has to do with communicating enthusiastic consent. Okay, clear? Cool.

It’s Valentine’s Day, so here’s some Desert Island Toys

It’s Valentine’s Day this week! You didn’t forget it, did you? Well, you’re lucky—if you place an order before noon on Wednesday, they’ll upgrade your shipping to next day air, with some other goodies thrown in too.

Whether you’re single, or have one or two or more hotties you want to share some sexytimes with this V-day, I’m sure you can find a way to … work this to your advantage.

Here’s some of my very favorite desert island toys. Maybe it’s time to add them to your toy box!

Vixskin Maverick shilo tristan

jaguarg SpareParts Joque Harness tomboi

1-1-AB-BE01-2 Liberator Throe Njoy Pure Wand

underbed Crash Pad Series queerpornrevolution

What’s that? You still want more?

Well, okay then. Here’s even more of my favorite products of all time over at Good Vibrations. ‘Cause you’re gonna need some condoms, gloves, and lube to go with those toys, aren’tcha?

Order by noon today (Wednesday) & get free next day shipping, free vibrator, free gift card, & other goodies!

February Feature: Crash Pad Series & strap-on queer porn scenes you gotta see

Hello! This is your monthly affiliate feature, where I share with you some of the reasons you should indulge in a particular product or service. This month, February 2014, it’s going to be Pink & White, fine makers of such queer porn as the Crash Pad Series, Pink & White Productions, Pink Label (streaming on demand), and Heavenly Spire.

I’ve had a Crash Pad membership for years. Shine Louise Houston makes some of the fucking finest queer porn currently available—and I don’t just say that because she features queers of all genders, all body sizes, all races and skin tones, and all kinds of kink. I also say that because I’ve seen boatloads of queer porn, and her stuff is, quite frankly, the very best.

Remember back when the internet was a baby wee “net” and so of course was 65% full of porn? I drew the (mistaken) conclusion that all people who made porn were somehow exploitative, so therefore I would never pay money for it.

But then, a few years later … I saw this:

And I watched it over, and over, and over and over and overandoverandover. It was the. Hottest. Thing. I’d. Ever. Seen.

(And because it was such a significant moment in my sexy timeline, and I watched it two twenty thousand times, I STILL think it is incredibly fucking hot.)

It took me a while before I actually saw the full-length DVD. A year or two? But I didn’t forget this trailer. And then after I saw the actual DVD, I thought … this is a game-changer. You know what this means? There is actually good queer porn.

I’d never seen that kind of queer dyke porn with that kind of intensity and strap-on play in any place other than, well, SIR Productions (like Sugar High Glitter City and Hard Love and How to Fuck in High Heels). I was impressed. I mean like really impressed.

And … well, then I started paying for porn.

I started interacting more with the folks who were creating the porn—the filmmakers, the porn stars, the photographers—and I wanted to support their work. I thought it was important for them to be able to get paid to do this work, so that they could keep doing it and not have to go do some day job they didn’t really like and then stop making porn.

(You can rent the original Crash Pad: Director’s Cut film on Pink Label, and if you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a treat.)

So! Fast forward a few years, and I’ve been watching the online Crash Pad Series religiously. (I mean really: my boy & I have a tradition of watching porn and having pancakes on the weekends, which I consider another form of worship.) I get really behind and don’t always keep up with the new episodes, but because sometimes reviewing porn is part of my job, I love excuses to catch up. Like this one!

So I started watching backwards from the most recent season, and picked some of my favorite more recent scenes to feature and share with you. These all have strap-on play in it, because, well, that’s kinda my thing.

Without further adieu …

Five Amazing Crash Pad Strap On Scenes

Episode 152: Chocolate Chip & Nikki Darling

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“Back so soon, Nikki Darling? And with one of our favorite flavors, Chocolate Chip – a face long-time fans are sure to recognize. After spending a little time cuffed to the bed, Nikki ends up on top of Chocolate’s RodeoH-secured cock. Vigorous cock-sucking ensues, before it’s Chocolate’s turn to bend over for some hot rimming and a magic wand ride. I like the way that cookie crumbles.” – Keymaster

Episode 164: Nikki Hearts & Rizzo Ford

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“When Nikki Hearts brings green-haired, giggling Rizzo Ford to the Pad, things heat up fast. Rizzo has orgasm after shivering, shouting orgasm thanks to Nikki’s strap-on skills before returning the favor with her tongue. Come for the hot queer sex, stay for the gorgeous tattoo eye-candy!” — Keymaster

Episode 165: Kimberly Kills & Brittany Bendz

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I don’t know if you guys know this about me, but I kind of have a foot fetish. (Turns out, all those years of adoring shoes? I guess that was a gateway drug.) And finding queer porn with lovely foot play is, well, pretty rare. And two super hot trans queers? Unh I’ve never quite seen anything like this. And I liked it. Um a lot.

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“Why measure your pleasure by mere inches? For Kimberly Kills, fun comes by the foot. Brittany Bendz’ foot, to be precise, as they close 2013 with a most impressive game of footsie.” – Keymaster

Episode 160: Odile & Daisy Ducati

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“Some boots are made for walkin’. Daisy Ducati’s black vinyl skyscrapers are made for licking, and that’s just what Odile’s gonna do, providing service with a smile for Daisy’s boots and cock. These two fuck with delicious symmetry, however, and Odile takes a turn on top after trading bejeweled buttplugs. I hate to speculate, but I think we’ll all enjoy the mutually satisfying conclusion.” — Keymaster

Episode 148: Courtney Trouble, Dylan Ryan, & Chelsea Poe

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Okay, okay, you got me: This isn’t exclusively a strap-on scene, though lots of these have other things in addition to their strap-on play. Though there is an appearance, this is more of a take-down kind of scene. Courtney Trouble & Dylan Ryan are two of my favorite queer porn stars, and Chelsea Poe is so fucking hot in this, and they are fantastic together. So consider it a bonus.

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“Dylan Ryan and Courtney Trouble were two of the first Keyholders, so I decided to give them a gift… a little something special to break in the new Pad: Chelsea Poe, tied up with a bow. They immediately put her to good use, taking turns with her face between their thighs. Then Courtney finger-fucks Chelsea while getting fucked by an nJoy-wielding Dylan, until Dylan decides to put on a cock and fuck Chelsea’s mouth. Something for everyone as we break in the new digs!” – Keymaster

PS: As a teeny little aside, I ran into this interview I did with Shine from 2010 while I was working on this article, which talks all about her homage to masculinity, Heavenly Spire. I love what she has to say about being a queer and masculine of center / butch pornographer who is interesting in pointing her camera at cis and trans men. And I really love the artful films in that project, too.

PS: There’s a Valentine’s Day sale going on for new members.

crashvday

Coupon Code: 50E expires 2/15/2014. Sign-up!

On the road again … Portland + Princeton

I’m dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s and fucking the boy one last time and packing a bag (as soon as I can find my suitcase? How did I misplace that?) and having a few meetings and setting up the last week of the Submissive Playground and fighting with the airlines about last minute tickets and getting ready to leave on a round-the-country adventure tomorrow!

FIRST: I will be in Portland at Lewis & Clark tomorrow night, doing my signature college class FUCKING WITH GENDER.

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5pm, Gregg Pavilion, Wednesday 5 February

Let’s explore gender expression, identities, labels, transcending the mutually exclusive binaries, queer culture, and hot sweaty sex. Academics love deconstructing gender—and yet, we still have to navigate this gendered world. How do you build your gender intentionally? Are there ways gender can “hurt” less? And how do you develop your gender in ways that enhance and sustain a satisfying sex life?

THEN: I’ll be hopping a plane (hopefully after visiting Erika) and heading over to IvyQ, held this year at Princeton. Last year was a blast, and though we all got snowed in at Yale, I got to spend some lovely extra time with Mollena and Charlie Glickman and Erika Moen and it was fantastic.

So this time, I’m doing a new workshop that is based on my Advanced Cock Confidence and my Fucking with Gender classes, called FROM PRAXIS TO FETISH: ADVANCED GENDER FUCKERY

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4pm, Friday February 7, Princeton campus.

Beyond the deconstructions of the gender binary, beyond radical gender performance, lies a cornucopia of genderfuckery: self-creation and unicorn pronouns, responsible masculinity and radical femininity, trans* riots and kinky unquiets. Join Sinclair Sexsmith to discuss gender, sex, and the intersectionalities of transgressing the norm, asking questions like: What is “advanced gender”? How do we move beyond deconstruction of gender into embodiment of our fluid and shimmering selves? Are we post-identity or post-post-identity? Is gender a language you speak fluently? How does it intersect with other anti-oppression politics? What happens when our politics don’t go along with the personal desires of our boners? When is sex a political act, and when is it dirty pleasure?

Keywords: gender, genderqueer, queer, intersectional, theory, praxis, sexuality, fetish, kink, participatory, Q&A, ask me anything, identity, labels. Trigger warnings: dirty words, frank talk about sex

I’m nervous AND thrillingly excited to be visiting IvyQ again—they haven’t even announced who else is doing workshops there this year, but I’m sure there will be awesome amazing folks and I’m looking forward to hanging out, meeting a bunch of students, and talking to them about what’s going on in the worlds of gender and queerness in colleges these days. I always learn so much when I get to actually hang out and talk to people!

Plus: I’m bringing these little brochures that rife made (he’s such an incredibly talented designer, I had no idea that having a designer as a service submissive would be so incredibly useful to my business, but hey, it really is)! They are super cute and kind of based on my “Unsolicited Advice to a New Butch” mini-book poems, but they have a bunch of quirky text and photos and information about my workshops and how to contact my booking agent, Ripley.

(Ripley decided to get his very own phone number and it’s (512) 93-SEXED, which I kind of think should be (512) 93-SEX-ED, but he likes that it says “sexed!” as in “I am so thoroughly sexed, baby.” These are the kinds of things we have meetings about.)

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Aren’t they cute?

I’ll miss being at home in my little Oakland house where I’m trying to grow some things in our yard and have a routine and train for a 5K run (gulp) and write a bunch of things, but I also really love my job. I feel so lucky.

So hey, want to come out and chat with me? I’d love to meet you. See you in Portland, or at Princeton.

Is genderqueer (or butch) a stepping stone to transitioning?

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Question: if you had been assigned male at birth, all else remaining constant, do you still think you would have identified as genderqueer? i.e. how much of it do you think is an innate identity inherent to who you are, and how much of it political? In a hypothetical society where we actually had full gender equality and the boxes of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ were much wider than they currently are, do you think you would still consider yourself genderqueer, or would you then be comfortable being one or the other?

I’m a trans guy who used to identify as genderqueer, but for me it was more of a stepping stone because I was afraid to come out all the way (like gays who falsely identify as bi at first). A lot of what you’re saying resonances with my own gender history, so I’m curious where the difference lies, given that I’m someone who continues to be uncomfortable with misogyny and male privilege but still wants very much to be seen and treated as male. Or is *that* the difference?

—ASQ, on Coming Out Genderqueer

It is definitely true that I don’t have investment in being seen and treated as male, but I DO have investment in not being seen or treated exclusively female. There’s a subtle difference there. And sure, maybe that is the difference between me and a trans guy. Definitely a few of my close trans guy friends have a very similar gender history to mine, too, and then at the final step 128 or whatever, mine says, “and that’s why I’m butch!” and theirs says, “and that’s why I’m a guy!” Being seen or treated as male doesn’t feel important to me or my sense of self, at least not currently. I reserve the right to change my mind on that at any point, if and when it shifts, but that’s been true for almost fifteen years now, so I am starting to relax into thinking it will remain true for a while. Butch feels good. Genderqueer feels good. Trans feels good, but mostly as an umbrella descriptor, as a community membership. More trans-asterisk (trans*) than capital-T Trans, but either are okay. (Kind of like how lesbian and dyke are okay, too, almost good, but mostly just adequate, though not quite accurate.)

I have a LOT of thoughts about all of this—especially how I identify, and my own gender journeys—that are way more complicated than the “Coming Out Genderqueer” article above. That article is purposefully distilled, attempting to talk to people who aren’t in any gender worlds. It’s a rough sketch beginning of all of that, at best, and sometimes broken down more simply than I mean to for the sake of accessibility.

Honestly, there’s no way I could answer “if I had been born male would I still be genderqueer” etc etc. I have no idea. For as much as I study gender constantly, I’m not really sure what being born male would have changed. Everything? Nothing? I just don’t know. I have speculations, but it seems unnecessary to entertain to me. And “if we had full gender equality and the boxes of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ were much wider than they currently are, do you think you would still consider yourself genderqueer, or would you then be comfortable being one or the other?” I have no idea. A society which had wider expression of gender than ‘man’ or ‘woman’ wouldn’t be where I live, so how many other things would have to change too? I’m a buddhist, I believe in interdependence—I don’t think we could change one big thing without a whole lot more changing, too.

I’d say that my most important identification is in being in-between, or outside of, a binary system. Would that still be true if I was male? I don’t know—probably. Assuming that I would have roughly the same personality, would still be a writer, would still really love satsuma oranges, would still crave the ocean, would still get stunned looking at the stars, would still find so much joy in swing dancing—assuming all those personality things were still true, then yes, I assume I would still crave being on the outskirts of things, the margins, where the weirdoes live, on the borderlands (to borrow from Anzaldua). I like the view from here. I get a better view, though it disenfranchises me a bit, too. The edges of things, more than anything else, seem to be where I am drawn. Not to one particular thing—masculinity, or genderqueerness, or transness. It isn’t about those things so much as it’s about being on the edge, for me.

And, a part of me is softly hurt by your comment, of yet another person asking me yet again, basically, if or when I am going to transition. Or rather, if butch is a stop over on the train to maleness. Or, if I was male, would I “have to” be genderqueer. I can’t tell you how many dozens (hundreds?) of people—butches trans men femmes, genderqueer agender androgynous queers, all sorts of genders, over the years, friends and lovers and people who talked about me rudely behind my back, so many of them at one point or another said something, either directly or indirectly, about my—and often, EVERY butches’—inevitable transition. I think butches get this all the time.

I think it’s quite a common story for many trans guys to spend some time presenting as butch, or as masculine identified women in some way, or as genderqueer, or as rejecting gender in some way. Like you wrote—(like gays who falsely identify as bi at first). Yes, that is sometimes part of the story. But it doesn’t apply to everybody all the time, and just because it happens sometimes doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who find a butch identity and stay there, people who never transition to male, who never secretly wish for maleness, or to be seen and treated as male.

Folks in the bisexual identity—to continue to borrow your example—get this all the time too, with people around them assuming, at least for quite a while in the beginning, that bi will be a stopover to gay town. Sometimes it is. But sometimes, it isn’t.

So, is genderqueer a political identity for me? Fuck yes it is. Is it an innate identity? Uh I mean how can we know what’s “innate” and what’s learned, especially when it comes to gender? But say, for a minute, that I do know—I would answer, Absolutely yes. Which one is more powerful? Fuck, I have no idea. That’s like asking me to rank my oppressions, or tell you whether I identify as an Alaskan or a writer first. I can’t hierarchize those. It is a radical, political act to reject the two-party binary gender system, and I like radical acts. I get off on ’em. It also feels like home in my body in a way my body never felt like home when I was dressed up more femininely, and never felt/feels like home when people refer to me by he/him pronouns. They/them and genderqueerness and in-between feels like all kinds of parts of me can be acknowledged—not “the man and the woman,” because for the most part I feel like those don’t even apply. None of the above. But the writer and the Alaskan, the swing dancer and the cockcentric top, the pretty good cook and the freelancer, the stargazer and the reader, the masculinity and the love of ice cream. The traits that I have that are traditionally masculine, the traits that I have that are traditionally feminine, and whatever in between.

I want to be able to pick + choose whichever ones suit me from whatever possible category. And I want others to have that ability, too, should they want it. I think it’s possible.

Also, I’m sorry—I don’t mean to be snappish about this, and I explicitly DID say, go ahead and ask questions. So, thank you for asking. I’m trying to answer honestly as best as I can, and honestly? Part of me is frustrated with that question, and the commonness in the queer worlds. I am heavily invested in butch as an identity all its own, regardless of the other genders or identities that that person carries too. I am invested in butch identity not only politically, not only for other people, but for my own sake. I am invested in my butch identity. Am I going to always be butch? I don’t know. Do I have secret longings to be male that are unrealized? Not currently, from the best that I know about myself, no.

Do I reserve the right to decide otherwise in the future? Fuck yes.

But … I hope, if I do decide I want to transition, to identify as male, to be perceived as male and treated as male, that I will honor the 35+ years (or, I suppose, arguably, the 15+ years, since I was mostly some other figuring-out-puzzling-frustrated version of me until I was about 20) I spent as a female genderqueer trans masculine butch. One of my most touching moments at BUTCH Voices in New York City in 2010 was when someone, during our ritual/keynote, held up a stone and offered: “My commitment to my trans voice is to honor the butch woman I was for 40-some years.” I know that many trans men were never butch, that if they were a masculine-presenting-woman for some length of time it might’ve been part of their transition, part of their path to male, part of survival, the only option they had, or who knows what kind of other things, and perhaps they never fully occupying the claimed identity of butch. And, similarly, some butches are never secretly wishing to be men.

I only speak for myself, but I, for now, am eagerly comfortable and loving the in-between of genderqueer.