3 WORDS: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
by Joshua Bastian Cole
Durham, North Carolina.
Crappy gay bar in Raleigh where I get hit on by guys who think I’m under age. At the bar, I have to order all the drinks for my lesbian friends because the male bartenders will, without fail, shortpour women. Mediocre to okay looking guys, none of whom can dance, but man do they try. My feet are the proof of that! Gay men seem to have limited or no inhibitions in terms of space. They get right up on me. I’ve had men grab and squeeze things, and some of those things they squeeze should have tipped them off that well, I have breasts, but they never seem to really notice because I just pass too well.
Some nights could give the appearance of a successful night out. However, I am not sexually attracted to non-trans men, so... under the surface, the whole thing is a bust.
Only real pro of this experience: music all right enough that I don’t want to hurl.
Crappier lesbian bar in Durham. Overpriced drinks, shitty music, women who don’t dance; they hump. Worst of all is the overwhelming and devastating misogyny - from catcalling and butt-pinching to full-on girlfriend stealing, and the inevitable ensuing dramafest.
I observe all this from the sidelines as a bench warmer, or better yet, a book-keeper doing the stats. Who’s getting with whose girlfriend and who’s macking on whose ex and oh my god no she didn’t. One time, I sat at the bar for three hours and nobody talked to me, even though I looked really cute. Well, okay one person did talk to me: the only guy in the whole place, the token gay guy who got dragged along with his dyke friends was the only person to hit on me. Typical. I am perceived as too much of a man for that kind of lesbian space.
Only pro of this experience: being completely ignored all night by the archaic and somehow patriarchal mullet dykes.
Okay; two down.
Oh yeah, nothing.
Hmm... who can I call?
I call my friend, a queer woman partnered to a transman. She tells me there’s a party, a game night, where all the straight transguys and their equally invisible girlfriends play charades or some shit and drink cheap wine. They talk about buying houses and babies and share stories of how they met.
All right, well fuck this. I’m a femme. It’s Saturday. I want to get cute.
Shower. Axe exfoliating shower gel with stimulating guarana on a shower poof from Bath and Bodyworks.
Shave. Trim the goatee and burns.
Nivea for men aftershave balm.
Kenneth Cole Black cologne.
Garnier Fructis extra stiff hair gel.
An outfit pieced together by Paul Frank, Express Men, Tommy Hilfiger, Ben Sherman, Gap, Banana Republic, Hot Topic, Fossil, and Steve Madden. Okay, well, Steve Madden ripoffs. Close enough.
I get in my 2-door black Hyundai Tiburon with a rainbow sticker on the trunk and drive to 9th Street.
I spend an hour alone reading at an espresso and gelato bar.
I walk down to the diner-themed restaurant and eat dinner alone. A hamburger. Strawberry milkshake.
I go home having seen no one I know, having been seen by no one.
I go online and see information about a big FTM conference in Seattle. I contact some FTM friends of mine from Seattle and make plans to attend the conference; one of the many I’ve attended in my six years as an out transguy.
I like to go to conferences because there I can be surrounded by my kind. We are the majority for once. If you present masculine at an FTM conference, you’re assumed to be FTM. The rest of my life, I exist invisibly as a perceived male, but I prefer to be read as an FTM.
In terms of dating and fucking, I want trannyfags, other guys like me who make out and fuck each other... guys like me who make out with and fuck me.
Part of why I go to conferences is to get the chance to finally hook up with transguys. I have many long-distance connections and it is rare that I am actually able to interact with them physically. One of my long-distance boifriends once compared my conference sex marathons to a squirrel collecting “nuts” for the winter. I’ve got to rake it in because who knows when I’ll get fucked next?
So I go to Seattle, and I am not disappointed by the ocean full of trannies just swimming and splashing about everywhere. I dive in, abandoning my life raft. It drifts in a still sea. The initial plunge is exhilarating.
So this is where they are, huh? Back in Durham, I’m often made to feel like I am the only person in the world like me, just because there are so many cookie cutter couples. Now, I am sure they are all really nice and have individual hopes and dreams, but because I am not part of their heteronormative monogamous behaviour system, I am a social deviant inside the small circle of people who themselves are social deviants as well! At queer conferences frequented by queer transmen, I feel relieved and surprised every single time. It’s like my first time to the shore... trannyfags as far as the eye can see. As the sun sets beyond the horizon of the waves, the romantic strolls on the beach begin.
15 trannyfags in a men’s bathroom.
After thorough negotiations, I have a big orgy with these transguys from all over the US and Canada. Then, I’m invited to a hotel with a couple of transguys from Chicago.
I’m propositioned to stay the night at yet another transguy’s house, but I just can’t handle it. I had a year’s fill of sex in one night.
I had to.
My friend, who was there, said it was like watching a train wreck. It was like a horrible disastrous collision, but he couldn’t help but watch it happen.
But then, the vacation and the fantasy always end. I swim back out to my life raft and row myself back into the real world; my world in North Carolina where I can’t have sex with 15 bois in a bathroom. It’s not because there aren’t 15 bois, but because there aren’t 15 gay bois. Some identify as radical and queer, but they may still have monogamous femme female partners, creating invisibility for them all. Regardless of identifying as straight, gay, or queer, they are definitely monogamous and therefore unavailable.
To clarify, I am only referring to the transsexual community as I witness it in North Carolina. There is a subculture of hipster genderqueer anarchist punks here, too, and in plenty. And that crowd is polyamorous and open and slutty and all that, but they’re a little too crunchy for my taste. To them, I’m again a social deviant because I wear brand names and use shampoo.
Time passes. I’m still in North Carolina.
Eventually, I receive an invitation from one of my internet boifriends to co-star with him in a new trans porn being filmed in a San Francisco mens’ sex club.
All I can say about that is: dream come true. Getting paid to have sex with transguys!
Of course, I say yes and immediately make plans for the trip.
I can tell even before I arrive that I’m heading in the right direction. At my layover in Chicago, I see hints of a foreign land, a culture I was born for. In the airport lounge, while waiting for the connection to San Francisco, I see others waiting for the flight. Amongst them are men like the kind I try to be. I see extremely effeminate men, dressed well and with actual product in their hair. They chat enthusiastically on cell phones with their San Franciscan boyfriends.
San Francisco, California.
A transfag picks me up from the airport and informs me that we are going out and that afterwards, we are fucking.
Both things sound good to me.
I think we hit every gay bar in the city, but oh no, every bar is a gay bar, just different kinds. Leather, Goth, Bear, Cowboy, you name it, and there’s a bar for it.
I get checked out in every one.
There is even a Starbucks just for Bears!
The boi hosting me holds my hand as we walk down the street. We stop. He pulls me to him by my shirt collar. He kisses me.
People walk by us and smile sincerely.
At his apartment, we fuck on the floor (a poly rule with his partner: no fucking in the bed.)
The next day, we fuck on camera.
Photographers, camera guys, directors, and other porn actors are watching.
I hear someone say, “that was hot.”
I think to myself, ‘why don’t I live here?’
Can I live here? Does this place even exist or am I making it up? Is it only my own fantasy world; this place with people who not only understand me, but are like me, and are attracted to me?
A place where I am happy. Comfortable.
A place I could have a social life - friends, and actual real-life, in-the-flesh, boifriends.
Contact when I want it.
When I need it.
Durham, North Carolina.
On my drive from work, I get a phone call from my queer woman friend. The one partnered to the stealth hetero transman. She invites me to dinner in Chapel Hill, and afterwards we go to a farm where they make their own ice cream on the premises from their own milk cows. We sit on the porch in rocking chairs that are chained to the porch. We sit, and rock, and eat really fatty ice cream. My view is of a dairy farm in the south. It resembles a postcard. I even say so out loud, that what I see looks like an image from a postcard or a book or a movie. Not something I ever thought I would see in person, let alone be in the same town where I live or work. I say out loud that this is not my home. It could never be. It doesn’t feel right to me.
My friend tells me about how she spent her day playing tennis with a few transguys and their women partners. She mentioned that the guys took their shirts off and ran around. I’m glad I wasn’t there. Besides, of course, the couples dynamic, on top of the hetero atmosphere and expectation, I have no real personal interest in top surgery, but when guys start ripping their shirts off together, I suddenly become an “other,” different from them. It’s not something I care a lot about, feeling different from stealth, straight transguys. However, being a transguy at all, I have always been different. When immersed in that group, there arises a pressure to conform and assimilate. I know that I would either leave my shirt on as a result of the pressure, or feel a need to cover after taking my shirt off. I don’t mind revealing my chest, but a vibe would be there from guys who hated their chests. It would be uncomfortable all around, for me and them. I’d be the different one.
And also, when transguys take their shirts off around me, it has a whole other meaning than it does for this group. For me, it would be a come-on, flirting, and possibly straight-up foreplay. Not the male bonding it is in this case for a bunch of straight guys playing tennis. I don’t know how to relate or interact with that. I have so much more in common with their girlfriends, but I don’t think it’s fair to me to be excommunicated to the femmes (even though I am femme-identified) because I have boobs and would probably prance around a tennis court if I were even invited to play. I’m still a dude, too. I feel this group doesn’t see me this way or respect me as a guy regardless of the fact that I pass full-time, and better than some of them, because I am different from them.
If I were playing tennis in San Francisco, prancing, shirtless non-op transguys would still be male bonding.
We’d just have to make sure not to mess our hair.
I tell my friend that I’m about to take another trip. She comments that I travel a lot. I tell her that I travel a lot because I have to go other places to be with the people I want to be with.
The people I want to be with are not here.
I spent about a year complaining to my therapist about how uncomfortable I am in the south. She, a butch queer, valued my presence. I have heard this same thing from other people down here, transmen and genderqueers alike. I’ve been told that my difference is not necessarily a deviance in the negative way I feel it is given to me. My therapist, along with a handful of queers, have told me that they are glad that I have been here to show everybody what can be and what is out there. It doesn’t have to all be one way or another way, say genderqueer or transsexual for example. I always felt like all trans people should realize that, but it’s amazing how buried that concept becomes. But these folks have thanked me. I was told that I have a purpose here. I’m here to educate, to inform, by existing. I was told to exist. Keep existing, for the good of the trans community in North Carolina, and to help make the Queer South a Radical Queer South.
But I don’t want to be constantly reminding people that femmes aren’t only women, that transmen aren’t all male-identified, that transmen can date each other, that transmen can be gay without being into anal sex and non-trans cock, that transmen can like their bodies, and many other things that blow people’s minds down here.
I just wish everybody knew this stuff, but they don’t.
Is it my job to teach them?
I’ve been told it is.
But I think I’m ready to just go to a place where everybody does know this stuff.
Goodbye Carolina... it was...
Hello San Francisco. Welcome me home.
All images and content copyright © Joshua Bastian Cole 2007. All Rights Reserved.