I’ve been going deep with my therapists lately. Talking about sex, gender, the breakup of my marriage, narcissism…It puzzles me when I read about people who see therapists but don’t talk to them because they are afraid to open up. But isn’t that why you go? They can’t read your mind. They’re human too.
Okay, I admit, I don’t always talk about really edgy things, raw things, sexual things, because sometimes I just feel like talking, or even skirting the issue, but the truth is, there is nothing going on with me that I won’t talk to with a therapist—because otherwise, how can she help?
Narcissism and Self-Love
I keep bringing narcissism up, mainly because it was a charge levelled at me by not just one, but two people…and the narcissistic thing is apparently to not recognise it. I am preferring to accept the formal, and qualified diagnoses of all four therapists, and two other semi-qualified therapists, who have said definitely not a narcissist. Convenient? Perhaps.
But my therapist asked, “why do you care?”
“Well, for one, narcissist or not, there are traits which are horribly unattractive. I don’t want to be like that. And second, it offends my sense of justice and fairness to be accused of something for the wrong reasons.”
“It really sounds more like she’s the narcissist.”
“I know. And it feels like being gaslighted.”
Why is this relevant? The therapeutic posse in action. Well, my body work therapist (she is a cranio-sacral therapist and talk therapist who looks at how we keep stress in our bodies) opined that I had the opposite problem of a narcissist—that I struggled to maintain my own boundaries. My lead therapist, the talk therapist began our session recently making the connection between this issue and narcissism as two sides of the same coin—where self-love is the root cause in both cases. Implication? Diagnosis and treatment have the same basic goal—to heal the self.
We’re working on that.
Enter Feminine Me
How can you love yourself if you don’t allow yourself to breathe, to live? If you stay in hiding. If you pretend who you are doesn’t matter? Or if you think or “know” that society doesn’t accept you for what you are? You can’t. You can’t think or act this way. You have to let it out.
My path to self-love passes through being out, through embracing me. And it isn’t just coming from me. When I am fully me, in my dress, demeanour, mannerisms, approach, people respond to me differently. Not just women.
I have written about how a group of construction workers carried my bags and hailed me a taxi—and my first reaction was one of fear. But that blissful moment has been repeated. Men that I might stereotypically think of as dangerous have been the most surprising of all—rough and tough, possibly redneck-like in their look, but in reality, these have been the most gallant of all. Going out of their way to hold the door for me, offering to help, being helpful, being polite and considerate. I am stunned.
The other day I was going to an appointment and I wanted to be wearing something different than what I was wearing when I got there. I was coming from a business meeting, so was wearing a suit (aargh, scratch my eyes out!). Part of me wanted to show up in a suit because it smokes—sexy, powerful, positive male energy…but also, knowing that this was not how I wished to present. I stopped for coffee in an industrial building, a kind of artist work space. I asked for the bathroom and was directed to a communal bathroom down the hall.
I stripped down to my knickers and began to get dressed. I heard the distinct clack of the female gate, and so hurried to be decent, throwing on trousers and blouse before a most gorgeously attractive woman walked past, then walked back and came in. And I think she walked past because she saw a “man” changing in front of the sink, and I am thinking about the whole bathroom issue politicised trans thing, but then she came in and saw me, actually seeing me…And its hard to describe, but her features softened, they went from defensive to curious and friendly, and she complimented me, “that’s a really nice blouse.”
I mean, I was so touched, it just melted me, “thank you,” I said. I was still finishing up when she came out of the stall and washed her hands, and she was again so warm, and talked a little about her art. And I realised later, that little moments like this have sustained through my life…when someone, usually female, sees me as me, accepts me, and is warm towards me. This is bliss.
Paying for Intimacy
My therapists were all delighted when I said I was no longer seeing the dominatrix I had been seeing before. Collectively they ascribed it to paying for intimacy. But that characterisation has bugged me, because I don’t think it is right. In a mechanical sense, I was paying someone for their professional skills, and recognising that their time is valuable. More explicitly, I was seeking to learn things about myself, to feel pushed, to have some help in prying me open. And it worked.
Not once did the subject of gender come up in play—yes, she knew I was trans, and she was often complimentary about my choice in panties, and yet, gender is what ended up being the gift that unwrapped. Who knows why, but playing just one time in “little space” with her in a profound way gave me so much strength that I suddenly had to come out, that I couldn’t stop it anymore—didn’t want to.
And when I think about it…I have been seeing therapists on and off for my whole life—and here, in a matter of a few months, the ground we covered, though not explicitly therapeutic, was life changing in a profoundly positive way. The door she helped me open is the one door that leads to self-love, because it led me to say “I’m not willing to keep people in my life who don’t accept me for what I am.” And I am going to be me. And yes, I am beyond disappointed in my wife, whose love appears to have been conditional on an optical illusion, one that she actively created for herself, aided and abetted by my complicity in self-loathing.
There is comfort in knowing that I don’t have to be or even aspire to be an archetype—male or female—the bookends of the gender continuum. If I were pre-pubescent in today’s world, I don’t doubt that I would transition all the way, and don’t doubt that I would have achieved what so many trans people live for—to pass. But I also do not regret my life one bit. I have the greatest gift of all—children. For them, for their existence, I would accept any pain or suffering.
Before I woke up one day about a year or so ago and realised that I had to see a dominatrix, I was experiencing intense feelings of dysphoria. I’ve written about it before. The main charity I give to is a transgender suicide help line. You needn’t know anything more about trans people than that we are 100 times more likely than cis people to attempt to end our own lives to give us room to breathe. While some of this is body-related, most of it is social—gatekeeping, politicisation of our bodies, suspecting our motives, demonising us…and that piles on top of this fundamental tear in the fabric of our identities.
I had a wonderful chat with a divine person recently who commiserated with how difficult it must be to wake up every day and feel so disoriented about what is probably the single most core aspect of ourselves, our gender—she couldn’t imagine how hard it is. And it was this conversation that ultimately provided the context for this post. She also talked about the cis straight heteronormative sexual experience, and this resonated with me, because I’ve really enjoyed that. It has felt like work except for with 2 or 3 people, but with those 2 or 3, our dynamic was laced with so many other things that sex was a lot more about deepening our connection.
We talked about touch. About the concept that male sexuality is goal-seeking whereas female sexuality is about the process. And that is something I can latch onto. For me, it has always been about the process, and the idea that there was a goal, just interfered with that.
What does sex look like for someone like me?
A year or so ago, I had never even heard of love languages. The idea that touch was my primary love language was a total unknown that I only discovered because I welcome the touch of a dominatrix. I have refused the touch of my wife for years. I refused the touch of my mother as part of our unhealthy dynamic. But this refusal to be touched by these people was born from a frustration, from the pain of non-acceptance—how can I let you touch me intimately if you don’t even accept who I am?
But I realise now that the essence of sexual connection for me is touch. That I yearn for touch and to touch, and to explore…I’ve been wondering about tantric massage, and touch, and learning more about this…but as I contemplate what might be sex in a non-binary world, it surely revolves around touch and much less about penetration. Much less about the goal, must less genital. And I have always assumed that would make me undesirable, but I am sure there is someone out there, who doesn’t feel that way.
Continuing to see Dominatrices
I told my therapist that I didn’t like the idea that she was happy that I stopped seeing the dominatrix. That she didn’t like the idea of me paying for intimacy. This is what I said.
“If I were a woman, I mean a real woman, a born cis woman, I would want to be a dominatrix.”
“Why is that?”
“There’s something really deep and profound about that life choice which inspires me. First, they have a kind of empathy and human understanding that goes beyond what most of us can contemplate—and they have to hold space for people which society largely rejects. You might not like the idea of Sex Work, but that is noble, there’s no getting around it.”
“Second, to choose Sex Work as a career path is to choose a hard path, to choose to do something unacceptable, something that is marginalised or hated by huge swaths of society. It takes one hell of a person to have the strength and sense of self to do that.”
“I can see that.”
“I think it is the highest expression of self-empowerment; I think it is beautiful.” I could see on her face that she was taken aback by this idea—’surely being a psychotherapist is a nobler calling?’ But no, I don’t think so. This is a huge part of what draws me to the professional dominatrix—a kind of existential respect. I really, deeply love what they do…not for me, but for a community of people in their orbit. It is beautiful, healing, and in some cases, holy.
“I know you are drawn to them.”
“So I was miffed with you when you said you didn’t think I should see a pro Domme because of this ‘paying for intimacy’ idea. I’m not going to stop. These people are artists, they have so much to teach, and I have so much to learn, and it is sheer joy to be in their company and to be open to their energy.”
“I’m glad you said that,” she said.
“It is powerfully healing to be in the presence of a dominatrix and to just let go, to respond to her, to let her lead, and to know that on some level, by doing so, you also feed her soul.”
Thankfully I have a number of friends who are adept at meeting people, and who are tripping over themselves to teach me how to use various apps, how to write a profile, and so on. Several of my girlfriends have struggled to find men and have shared with me the trials and tribulations. I can’t believe that these beautiful, accomplished women, are still single. It gives me hope that someone out there will be open to me in all my non-binary glory.
I said to my therapist, “I wonder if I should discuss this with my wife?” Her reply was a relief. “You don’t need your wife’s permission for anything anymore.” This was the same message she gave to me about telling our children that I am transgender. I will still respect my wife’s wishes in this regard, but I am resentful for her insistence. Let’s call it what it is—we’re separating because I’m trans. Nothing is going to change that. They might as well know the real reason.
I’m confident that my children are woke enough not to care, and have grown up with enough love that they would never begrudge their parents’ needs to find love of their own.