Stone Grief (Kai & DJ #3)

By the time I ease two fingers into DJ’s ass, they already have tears streaming down their cheeks, crying in that silent release way that I’ve only seen a handful of times in the years we’ve been together, but that always means something big is going on. I breathe in, slow my fingers down, and wait. Present. Attuning to each of the smallest movements DJ’s body communicates.

“Don’t stop,” they whisper. “Just keep going.”

They make small sips of eye contact, but are mostly having their own experience. Their body shivers, sometimes from their head to their toes, sometimes left to right, rippling like a chill is going through them. I recognize that release, too. They have been so tight, so tense, their body all locked up for months now. I’m so grateful for the request to fuck them tonight. I’d do anything to help them through this.

Their back hole is tight but pliable, and they relax deeper into my hand as I slowly, slowly use my fingers to massage their insides. It feels like I’m unlocking something, that something has been clenched and is now letting go.

I’m completely unaware of the play party going on around us. There are people up on St. Andrew’s crosses, bent over spanking benches, on massage tables, tied to the wall with the eyebolts that are scattered all around this space. We are in the back corner. I snagged the sling as soon as we got here, after we checked in and made it through the socializing space where the cold pizza, nuts, and mixed veggie trays were laid out already for anyone needing a snack after or during their play. DJ is lying back in it comfortably, body completely supported, swaying slightly with the pressure of my hand against their hole. Their legs are up in the sling’s stirrups, permanently hung there for better access.

We could have done this scene at home, but DJ wanted to come here. Not necessarily to be witnessed, though the exhibitionism is something some folks at play parties seek. It is more that they wanted a place to have a big experience, a big release, that was safe and known and comfortable. Plus, they wanted to be in a sling. It’s the best place for them to receive.

DJ isn’t stone, exactly, but kind of stone-ish. I don’t fuck them very often, and almost never strapped on, though they do suck me off sometimes. They don’t have trauma about getting fucked exactly, they just don’t like it very much. It’s not the best way to get them off, I know—it doesn’t turn them on nearly as much as topping, or fucking with their own cock. But I do get to use my hands on them sometimes, especially after we’ve been going for a while and they have fucked everything out of me that they possibly can but are still hungry—that’s when I know it’s time for me to beg to suck them off, and to offer to use my hands if they want me to, which they almost always do. I think it took them a long time to receive while still being in charge.

Like tonight. They’ve been planning this all week—decided what toys we’d bring, packed the bag, made the arrangements, drove us here. They even told me what to wear (jeans and a crisp white tee shirt, often my uniform when we’re out in public anyway, but it was nice to know that they like it). DJ specifically requested a night for release and catharsis, but I probably won’t do any impact play or anything. I suppose we’ll see if they need that or not.

“Keep going,” they whisper again. I move my fingers a little faster and their asshole relaxes around them. They nod, eyes squeezed shut, tears still coming. Their hands grip the chain of the sling and they rock their pelvis a little, swaying the swing. I focus. I keep breathing. I nearly start crying myself with the emotion pouring off of them like heatwaves, I can practically see it. It’s been bottled tight inside of them ever since we got the call that DJ’s aunt, the one who had practically raised them, died suddenly of a stroke.

They are usually pretty good at handling their own emotions. I wouldn’t be with them for this long if they weren’t. But this kind of grief … only people who have gone through it really know what it’s like. My best friend was diagnosed with cancer and died when I was 20 and I lost my shit for a few years after that. It took me a while to even realize what was going on, it just felt like my life was suddenly falling down around me. DJ hasn’t lost anyone this close before, just relatives and occasional community acquaintances. I know it’s their own process and there’s only so much I can do, but I want to support and be helpful when I can. Especially when helping involves adoring their body, which I love to do anyway.

They arch their back in the sling, press their hips further into me. Their body is shuddering, shoulders shaking—maybe they are starting to really cry, those heaving sobs that are rarer still.

I don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say. It isn’t about words now, this is just about their body, the emotions stored in their thick muscles, the tenderness of their brown skin. I use my fingertips to caress them, then rest my palm on their chest, their heart. I can feel them crying through my hand. They press against me harder, and I move my two fingers a little more furiously. Their mouth opens, they cry out a little, sadness and grief and release and pleasure all mixing, still squeezing their eyes shut, face scrunching up in frustration and fury.

They find my hand with theirs and squeeze, press against me. I stand a little closer, off to the side, to get a better angle. DJ brings their other hand down to their clit-dick and starts jerking it, not quite sobbing but body heaving, beginning to moan. I can’t tell if it’s pleasure or grief or both. The music pounds and I’m starting to sweat, I can feel it dripping on my neck. It’s good that it’s warm in here, easier to be naked that way, and those of us working hard really get a workout. DJ is still pawing hard at their clit, and their hole grips my fingers and I can barely move, so tight, every muscle in them gets so tight, their hips lifting even further, pressing against me, body twisted and contorted, face all torqued like something is in their mouth that they have to swallow. They fist my hand so hard it hurts.

Until … slowly, slowly, the sobs start to come. Then a wail, long and low. Body heaving. I keel forward to offer my body next to theirs and they gladly accept, wrapping their arms around me, pulling me closer to them, crying into my shirt for a good long while.

I still don’t say anything. I can’t find my words. But really, what is there to say? It’s not about me. It’s what they need. It’s the only thing they need right now, to be able to cry for as long as they need to without someone fussing about them. I don’t need them to feel better, or to stop, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I just feel honored that they want me here, that they let me do this for them. I know sometimes they prefer to release their feelings by themself.

DJ slowly pulls their arms through our tight embrace and wipes their eyes and face and nose on my tee shirt. I laugh a little. “Is that why you wanted me to wear white?”

They smile. “No,” they say, eyes downcast. “I just like it.” They sound small, but when they open their eyes and look at me, finally, softly, they are shining and bright, alive.


Featured image from Crash Pad Series Episode #98, Micah Riot and Papi Coxxx.

On Gender Perception, or: Break Your Eyes Open to Genderqueers

This essay, as with pretty much everything I write, is purely my own experience and my best understanding. I’m not trying to tell you what you should or shouldn’t care about, just sharing what my process has been around gender perception and genderqueerness.

For a little more than three years, I’ve been using they/them/theirs/themself pronouns. Notice that I’m avoiding saying that I “prefer” they/them pronouns, because, as many gender activists have been discussing lately, it’s not exactly a “preference.” I prefer green grapes to red grapes, I prefer almond milk to soy milk. But the accurate pronoun for my gender identity is they/them/theirs/themself.

Using a pronoun outside of the standard gender binary is a lot of work on a daily basis. Sure, I do spend most of my time inside of genderqueer and trans communities, and many of those folks are super smart about gender and either ask about pronouns or already know mine, and like to call people what they like to be called. I’m surprised how good it makes me feel when people get my pronouns right, actually. And because often I don’t hear people talking about me—which is the only time they really refer to me in the third person—I don’t hear it very often. The recent Sweet & Rough blog tour is a thrilling example: it pretty much brought tears to my eyes every time the folks on the tour referred to me using they and them. My inner kid—you know, the one who thinks I’ll never be understood or seen or valued—gets all hopeful and touched, and feels vulnerable and seen. I think things like, “Really? You see me like that?” and “You get it! Omg you get it!” and “Are you just humoring me? Or do you really get it?” and “Ergh, I hope it isn’t too much trouble for you to understand that!” and … I feel such relief. My shoulders relax and my body lets go of just a little bit of the tension I always carry.

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Am I mad at the system? Fuck yes. Am I working on changing it? Absolutely.
Every day I encounter a world that doesn’t see the in-between, and that either addresses me as “sir” or groups me in as part of the table full of “ladies,” aka queers of sometimes five different gender identities. I suppose worse still is “miss,” but that just gets me on a feminist rant about women having multiple honorifics dependent on their marital status and all men are addressed as “mister.” And then I remember that the second wave popularized “Ms”—oh right, we already fought this fight, except that clearly it hasn’t permeated society enough because this guy in front of me is still calling me “miss.”

Am I mad at the system? Fuck yes. Am I working on changing it? Absolutely. Are these moments microagressions? Fuck yes. Do the little needles that are microagressions add up, becoming a seeping wound by the end of any given day? Yeah. Could I just take my toys and go home and become a hermit to avoid dealing with this? Yeah. And sometimes I do, and sometimes I really want to.

But after three years of really claiming the identity of genderqueer … honestly? Being misgendered doesn’t bother me as much anymore.

I rarely correct the pronouns people use for me. I tell them if they ask, absolutely. I have lots of conversations about why they/them is the best choice for me, why I use it rather than ze/hir or other gender neutral pronouns, or why it’s grammatically correct despite the rules saying it is plural.

(Short version: I believe language is fluid, and our uses of it change over the years. I find it to be the least awkward in speech and written flow because we’re already used to it as a pronoun in other contexts. If people want to prioritize holding tight to grammar rules instead of smashing the gender binary and evolving our language to reflect the changes and include thousands of folks who are in-betweeners, well then, I guess I have to reevaluate just how close I want to be with that person. As much as I get a boner for really strict grammarians, to see the rules as so rigid that they cannot be malleable to include folks who are marginalized out of our language is not the kind of poet activist I want to be.)

When all those folks out there in the world out there misgender me, calling me sir or ma’am or ladies or she or bro or miss or whatever they might be using, I let it go. It might prick me for a moment, so I store that away as fuel for my activism, and then I try to remember: I don’t need their validation.

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It might prick me for a moment, so I store that away as fuel for my activism, and then I try to remember: I don’t need their validation.
I have so much validation from my genderqueer and trans communities, from my family of origin, from friends far and wide, and from folks I never would’ve expected to step up and be an ally. I feel so seen and honored, so often. I recognize that my position is possibly a unique one, where I really haven’t had any fallout from coming out genderqueer to my family or at my job (which, ahem, is what I’m doing right now). I know many folks don’t have that kind of acceptance from their families of origin, or their closest friends, or coworkers, or the communities in the cities where they live, or even sometimes their partners. But many of us do get lots of support, too.

Because I have so much validation from my close, inner circle communities, and even validation from broader queer worlds, and hell, from more and more people even outside of my inner circle, I don’t need the validation of the bus driver or the guy at the deli counter or the barista at the coffee shop. I just don’t. They don’t see me as genderqueer? Okay, whatever. Or hey, maybe they DO see me as genderqueer, but they don’t really have language and words for it, and even though they’re feeling that hey-you’re-not-quite-the-usual-kind-of-person-with-breasts thing, it doesn’t occur to them that that means not to use the term “lady” to address me. I am interested in doing more activism to educate folks in service professions to use words that aren’t so starkly gendered to address people who are in-between. (I even have a super secret project in the works about this.)

But I don’t need them to understand my gender in order for my gender to be real, seen, valid, and honored in the world.

It’s the difference I suppose between “gender identity” and “gender perception.” It’s only in the last 100 years that the concept of one’s “sex” has been divided into “sex and gender.” As gender theory has evolved, there are many words within the concept of “gender” and what it is. Gender identity is generally (I mistyped it as “genderally”) the identity that I see myself as. For example, I see myself as genderqueer, trans, and butch. Gender expression is usually how you’re expressing your gender verbally and with energy, and gender presentation is usually how you have decorated your body and the visual presentation of it. For me, that’s usually butch and masculine.

Gender perception is how others see your gender.

perception
“Gender Perception” page from The Gender Book

I do understand that gender perception is a serious source of distress for many folks, feeling that if the world doesn’t see and reflect that I am a certain gender, then I am not that gender. It can be devastating to not be recognized, I do understand that. But for whatever reason, it’s not that important to me.

Or wait—let me rephrase that. It’s very, very important to me to be seen and recognized and understood by my communities and my lovers and my family, and sometimes it takes a lot of work to educate and inform and correct and encourage folks to do so. But it’s not that important to me that the world at large understand and get my gender identity and pronouns right this minute. I just understand that the majority of people haven’t deconstructed the gender binary in a way where they can even see beyond it.

Remember that part in the HBO series Six Feet Under, where Claire, in art school, is trying to “break her eye open,” to see new perspectives and outside of her habits? Most people haven’t broken their eyes open to see more genders, yet.

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Most people haven’t broken their eyes open to see more genders, yet.
When it comes to my communities and inner circles, seeing me and reflecting that they see me is important to me. And that’s partly because of validation, yeah, but it’s also because of intimacy. The more they really see me, the more I feel like we are close and that they really get who I am and how I work in the world. That makes me feel vulnerable, touched, and honored. So really, my genderqueer identity and in-between marginalized place and pronoun use mostly matter for intimate relationships and moments.

I want to encourage that process of breaking your eye open to see more genders for everyone, not just within my communities of radical sex and gender minorities. But the frustration I feel when the larger society doesn’t get my gender stems from my unrealistic expectation. In a way, it’s just arguing with reality.

I’d love to figure out a way to address those misgenderings more easily in the moment, but usually it takes more than just, “hey, don’t call me lady,” for someone’s eyes to break open.

Right now, I can’t change this thing—this problem that the larger culture hasn’t broken their eyes open to more genders yet. I’m doing what I can, and being part of movements that are trying to get that culture broken open, and it is happening right now, the effects are huge and frequent. I can’t change this thing, but I can change my relationship to this thing. I can choose to funnel the pinpricks of not-belonging into more activism and work. I can keep encouraging people to break their eyes open to myriad genders, and I can look to my communities as a source of my validation and intimacy around my gender identity.

Illustration of “Gender Perception” by The Gender Book, reprinted with permission

Coming Out Genderqueer: An Open Letter to My Family & Friends

As published on Facebook, where I could tag at least 20 of ’em.

Dear family & friends,

Especially friends from my childhood and high school years who have found me for whatever reasons on Facebook, and family with whom I’m not particularly close, and coworkers from previous jobs who I have perhaps never had this chat with:

THE “GENDERQUEER COMING OUT” PART

I have something to tell you: I’m genderqueer. That means I live my day-to-day life somewhere between “man” and “woman,” often facing all sorts of daily interactions where the general public doesn’t “get” my gender, from kids in the grocery store asking, “are you a boy or a girl?” and their mom hushing them and turning away, to little old ladies in the women’s room staring wide-eyed and backing out of the restroom slowly, only to then return with a confused and self-protective look on their face, to service industry folks saying, “Can I help you, sir? Uh, ma’am? Uh … ?”

That confusion, that in-between state, is precisely it. That’s who I am. I’m neither, and both. I’m in-between.

You may already know this about me, just from following me on Facebook and doing whatever sleuthing you’ve done about my projects. You probably know I’m queer. But, if you want to know, I’m going to explain a few more things about my gender for a minute.

ON GENDER

If you want to delve a little deeper into my particular gender, I consider myself butch, I identify as masculine, and I consider genderqueer part of the “trans*” communities, using trans-asterisk as the umbrella term to encompass, well, anybody who feels in-between. I’ve been identifying as “butch” for a long time—perhaps you’ve heard me use this word, an identity I consider to mean a masculine-identified person who was assigned female at birth. I consider myself masculine, but as I delve further into gender politics and theory and communities, the boxes of “woman” and “man” feel too constricting and limiting for me to occupy them comfortably.

I have for years thought that it was extremely important for people like me—masculine people with a fluid sense of gender and personality traits, who don’t feel limited by gender roles or restricted by gender policing—should continue to identify as women as a political act, as a way to increase the possibilities of what “woman” can be. That’s really important. And I still believe that is true, and heavily support that category.

Problem is, “woman” has never fit me. I had bottomless depression as a teenager (perhaps some of you remember I was sent to the principal’s office once for “wearing too much black”), plagued often by the idea of “woman” and adult womanhood. I could not understand who I would be in that context. And honestly, I still can’t.

But—even though it is in some ways harder, living outside of the gender norms—this in-between makes so much sense to me.

ON PRONOUNS (This part is important.)

For a few years now, I’ve been stating, when asked, that I prefer the third-person pronouns they and them when referring to me. That means, if you’re speaking of me in a sentence, you’d say, “They are about to walk the entire Pacific Crest Trail, it’s true,” or “Did you hear they just published another book?” or, “I really like spending time with them.”

See? Easy.

Lately, when people ask what my preferred pronoun is, I have been saying, “I prefer they and them, but all of them are fine and I don’t correct anybody.” I don’t mind the other pronouns. They don’t irk me. But when someone “gets” it, and honors the they/them request, it makes me feel seen and understood.

There are other options for third-person pronouns which are gender neutral—or rather, not he or she. “They” is the one that I think, as a writer, is the easiest for me to integrate into sentences. I completely believe in calling people what they want to be called (that has always been one of my mom’s great mom-isms), so I always do my best to respect pronouns, but I still struggle with the conjugations and the way those words fit in a sentence.

Some people—particularly those (ahem like me) who were English majors and for whom grammar rules are exciting—think the “singular they,” as it’s called, is grammatically incorrect. But it’s not. It’s actually been used in literature for hundreds of years. Here’s one particular article on the Singular They and the Many Reasons Why It Is Correct. Read up, if that intrigues you.

WHY THE BIG DEAL?

I haven’t sat any of my family—immediate or extended—down and said, Hi, I’d like you to use they/them pronouns for me. I don’t generally tell people that unless they ask. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I haven’t told you, what I’m afraid of, and what is keeping me from this conversation.

I’m not particularly afraid that you won’t “get it” or that you won’t honor it. If you don’t, that’s actually okay. I am part of some amazing trans* and genderqueer and gender-forward communities full of activism, respect, advocacy, and understanding, and I’m very lucky to feel whole and respected in that work.

And really, I believe that the very vast majority of you actually really wants to know, wants to honor my choices. I think you are probably curious about this. But for whatever reason, my (and probably your) west coast sensibilities are keeping us from having a direct conversation.

So, here ya go. It’s not particularly personal, but it’s the beginnings of something, and it’s my offering to you to talk about this, if you want to.

See the thing is, by not having this conversation with you, by not giving you the opportunity to respect my gender and pronouns (even if you think it’s weird-ass and strange and don’t get it), I’m limiting our intimacy. I’m not giving you all the chance to really know me. And maybe … you want to. Maybe this will open up something new between us.

Or maybe you’ll just go, “Huh. Okay. Whatever.” That’s fine too.

If you have questions, or want to talk about all this gender stuff, I am open to that. Ask away. (You don’t always get a free pass to ask weird questions, so you might want to utilize this opportunity.) But before you do, you might want to check out The Gender Book for some basic terminology, concepts, and ideas.

Sorry I haven’t told you yet. I’ve been telling myself that it “isn’t that important,” but actually it’s been a barrier between us, in some minor big ways.

Sincerely,

That kid who was in English class with you in high school,
Your former coworker,
Your cousin,
Your nibling (did you know that’s the gender neutral term for neice or nephew??),
Your grandkid,
The older sibling of your childhood friend,
Your best friend from 6th grade,
That queer who was crushed on you before they knew they were queer,

Sinclair

PS: Feel free to steal this idea for your own Facebook pages.

On Pronouns, Mine

I’ve had almost half a dozen people ask me in the past few weeks about my pronoun of choice, so here’s the deal.

When referring to me as Sinclair Sexsmith, I go by the masculine honorific – by Mr. Sexsmith. That, I do feel strongly about. Pronouns have generally then followed, so I am often referred to as “he” and “him.” That’s fine, and I think the masculine character that I have cultivated here as my alter-ego fits quite well with masculine pronouns. I didn’t expect it to happen and I didn’t quite plan it, and I don’t know if I ever would have asked for my friends or lovers to play with male pronouns in my personal life, and I very much like it, more than I thought I would.

But, female pronouns in referring to me as Sinclair are also totally fine. In fact, in some ways, I like that some people refer to me with male pronouns and some with female pronouns, because I firmly am occupying both spaces. In some ways I like the gender neutral pronoun options like ze and hir (pronounced “here”). The Gender Intelligence Agency introduced the pronouns pe (pronounced “pay” not “pee”) and per, short for person, which I quite like but which is proving incredibly awkward in speech. Maybe I’ll try to write a story with them in it sometime, just to try it out, get more used to it.

Problem with pe and per is that it doesn’t have a third possessive adjective version of the pronoun – the “his/her/its” version. I guess that would be per, again? To borrow wikipedia’s structure, it looks like:

Pe laughed.
I called per.
Per eyes gleamed.
That is pers.
Pe likes perself.

Yeah, I like the philosophy behind that. But looking at the fifteen different gender-neutral pronouns that wikipedia lists as potential options, I hesitate to think that we need more of them. I guess we keep making them because the others don’t quite work, yeah? I kinda wish there was more consensus, but some part of that has to come about organically, about what gets put into use in daily life for a significant piece of a community.

In my offline life, I do not go by male pronouns, at all. As things go on, that is becoming more strange, actually – my sister referred to me recently as her sister, and I thought, oh yeah, I’m a sister to someone. I’m a daughter. Someday I’ll be an aunt, a mother. I think lesbian dad is rubbing off on me that way, in that I don’t know if I’ll ever be “mama.”

I do go by sir, sometimes boy, and other masculine words like that in a sexualized context … but there really aren’t very many of those words for butch tops in bed. But that’s a slightly different post.

So yeah, did I make that clear? Either pronoun of the main two pronouns are fine, neither of them fit exactly – but please do use the masculine honorific (and thanks to jesse james for finding that word for me).