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The Cross-Dresser Speaks
by Mikey May
* CW: Reclaimed homophobic slurs. Discussion of transphobia*

“You look like a cross-dresser.”
 

She says this with no malice in her voice, just gentle humour. She knows how it will sit with me, a beaming smile breaking across my lightly made-up face.

“Thank you, baby.”

In the mirror, a man in a black pleather Victoria’s Secret dress grins back. His hair is tied in bunches, lips slick with gloss. Stubble accentuates the squareness of his jaw.

Damn, I look good.

My reflection agrees.

Guy on the bus chants:
“Femboy! Fem! Boy!” Bizarrely,
it’s validating.
 

The moment I came out as a man, I began wearing crop tops. And short shorts. And knee socks. And faces of painstakingly detailed makeup. Blame the boys in the bands, and the boys on the apps, all of the boys who I wanted to be. No, don’t blame them – thank them. Caress them gently through the screen.

My parents tried their best to understand. What could I say?

I finally feel like I live in this body.

Looking like this makes me more of a man.

Only when I left home did I start collecting skirts. Dresses, heels, accessories – anything to make me pretty. Testosterone further unlocked femininity – I grew into the man I had wanted to be.

I still tone it down when I visit my folks, though.

A friend picks up the habit of calling me princess. The first time we fuck, she asks, “Can I be a pretty boy?”

Months later, she tells me she’s found boys online who like being called girls. I’m not sure whether to blush or to cum.

We admit we’re both into it, talk through our boundaries, fall into a scene with pink handcuffs and spanking. At the end, I ask her, “Was I a good girl?”

I am roseblush all over before she says, yes.

Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend who looked like a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend who looked like a

I am a man. I can explain why to the same degree that I can explain the birth of the universe. Poorly, and with lots of guesswork. The Big Bang is a model for understanding expansion. Gender is a model for understanding men. We have evidence for the Big Bang, but not proof. Cosmic microwave background radiation. The hairs on my top lip. Most days, I don’t need explanations. The universe exists because I am in it. My manhood exists because I am in it.

I come home from work and discard my blue suit: too smart for a teacher, too cheap for owt else. My hair free from its ponytail, I pull on a dress with holes lining the hem. I frequently feel I am living two lives. The stress and the sweat of the school day unbuttoned, I mooch round the house with a glass of white wine. What would my colleagues think if they could see me? I am stealth without ever asking to be. I fell back in the closet and swallowed the key.

Gender identity: faggot

Gender expression: fruit

Biological sex: fuckable

Sex assigned at birth: fucked

Sexually attracted to: perverts

Romantically attracted to: sluts

It’s not a kink thing. It is a kink thing. It’s not a costume. It is an act. Performer-performance-perfection-pretention. Pleasure in everything. The night isn’t over til the tboy stops dancing.

I have started using women’s loos again. At 20, I had balls of steel, would walk into the men’s room in a miniskirt and tights. 2018 feels a world away sometimes. Last November, when the cishet doorman threw me down the stairs, some red switch flicked inside my brain. In the ladies’ I move furtively, disguise flat chest and moustache. I hold my piss more often. I have lost my once-honed sense to know just where I might be safe.

I say I want the energy of a transfem egg whose friends just did her makeup for the first time. I scorn trans men who think that they can use the t-slur. I see TME folk side-eye femboys and crossdressers.

Discourse abounds. Language fails all of us. But god – who wouldn’t want to look like a trans woman?

I add a new flag to my roster. Purple, white, green: genderqueer. A label as slippery as my self-esteem. Decidedly not nonbinary. A man in a way only fags understand. A gender dependent on queerness. Transing and crossing, sexing and gendering, dressing and dragging and dressing again. Smoothing the edges of masc and of fem. A girlthing, a boy king, a faery, a fool.

Call me a cross-dresser once again, baby. You know I love it when you do.

Daughter Lavinia
by Sarah Wagner
* CW: Discussion of rape, stalking, and misogyny*

“Lavinia?”

 

She read:

 

Tis present death I beg, and one thing more

That womanhood denies my tongue to tell:

O, keep me from their worse than killing lust,

And tumble me into some loathsome pit,

Where never man's eye may behold my body:

Do this, and be a charitable murderer. 

 

“Lavinia! There you are, sweetie. Are you ready to go?”

 

The scene brings to mind another passage, this time hailing from Genesis.

 

I will greatly multiply

Your pain in childbirth,

In pain you will bring forth children;

Yet your desire will be for your husband,

And he will rule over you.

Lavinia never held a longing for men. She was political property. A hand rises to pinch the top of her nose, sighing.

“Lavinia.”

In birth, in labor, and in death, since the Fall of Man promised by God Himself, women are meant to feel pain. Pain not dealt by strangers, but by those close to her. Punished by God, that Adam would rule over her. 

Even today, a frequent punishment for being deceived by others is pain in childbirth. When women seek to avoid this fate, they are punished yet further with condemnation, scorn, and obstacles against their own bodies.

“Lavinia, it's time to go to school. I’m packing your lunch into the car, okay?”

She supposed that, maybe, that's why horror feels different based on if the author was a boy or a girl. One story was a fictional exploration of a thrilling fantasy. The other is a warning of reality.

Though she was not yet a woman, Lavinia felt sympathy for Lavinia. The world did not see them as being that different, either. Hands, sticky from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, gripping texts with eager curiosities. She liked that people didn't mind it if she read grown-up books because it meant that she was smart. Maybe. But they would let her read, leave her alone.

She thought about how, at age seven, she was already feeling like her body wasn't hers anymore. Her boy classmates didn't play chase with her anymore and thought that her stories were weird. It wasn't fair that there was a mother in her head—that Lavinia, Eve, and Virgin Queen Elizabeth crowded her mind.

“It's time to go, Lavinia. Put the book down and get in the car.”

She liked space, the color pink, chihuahuas, and winning Mario Kart DS. She wondered if Lavinia would have liked to read Warrior Cats too. Maybe Lavinia wanted to learn about galaxies with her. Lavinia would have loved her dad’s Miata, she thought to herself.

She didn't understand when Sunday school would forget parts of the Bible she really wanted to learn more about. Did Lavinia feel that way too?

“Lavinia, if I count to three and you still aren’t in the car…”

Lavinia didn't want her mom to be sad, so she didn't tell her how school didn't feel good anymore and that her friends sort of didn't feel real. It felt like something was wrong with her. Did no one else feel this way? Was something wrong with her? Or was that what being a woman was like?

She didn't like Tamora. Or anyone else in the play, really. Limited as her understanding was, she was taught about the general idea of virginity and how it's important to value yourself. But it made her sad, that Lavinia begged to die.

Would she beg to die, too? Was that what being a woman meant?

When did her classmates get so mean? Why don't other girls hide in books or under the desk? Sometimes it felt like she was cursed. She didn't know what rape really meant. Didn’t understand why she had to put pants over her leotard before leaving gymnastics.

Lavinia didn't hold a longing for boys. So why did they long for her? Don’t they know that if you pester something too much, it will start to resent you? That's the first thing Lavinia learned from her cat. 

Hands wrapped around the waist, lifting and settling into a booster seat. The world seemed loud, a familiar routine. 

When Lavinia grew up, she would be different. Speak her mind, stab back! Her mom always said she was kind, but there must be a way to be kind and strong and cool all at once, and Lavinia would grow up to be an astronaut, a vet, and a surgeon.

 

She reread the words: 

 

…keep me from their worse than killing lust,

And tumble me into some loathsome pit.

 

And this time, she understood.

 

Lavinia was right; the mother in her head, as she read Genesis, had spoken like prophecy. Lavinia rarely cried anymore due to its difficulty. Being that vulnerable would be a mistake in self-preservation.

Every woman she spoke to, there would always be empathy. A relatable experience that they were powerless against. The men gawk, saying how terrible it was, how some other men act.

Why did she not hear about women stalking men, too? Are men told, too, that if it were legal, they would be raped first? Are they called selfish for not wanting children? Do they get told to have a backup plan for their field? She didn’t think her degree was a ‘boy’ degree. Everyone likes stars and galaxies.

But no matter what she said, what she accomplished, how kind or how mean she was, there was always a man saying how cute it was. How her hobbies were charming. How she’ll change her mind about kids when she finds a man determined enough and discovers how adorable children are. How he, too, plays piano a little bit. That he knows what linear algebra was, he took it in high school like everyone else did. That his wife loves taking care of the kids, and that you’re being a bit dramatic, aren't you?

Her tongue was cut out, her voice meaningless. Her hands were chopped off, her work inherently less worthy than her peers.

The only means of communication that functions, at least partially, appeared to be writing. Wooden stick in bloody mouth, drawing in the sand.

If dramatics are what it takes. 

What does it mean for Lavinia, lacking both tongue and hands, to be communicating the way we are right now?

Us.

Me.

You.

Do not fret, for you can tear your eyes away whenever you need to.

But I cannot.

Even with hands chopped off, tongue cut out, I cannot change what I am seen as.

Despite the privileges fought for me, the education and financial power— I face different obstacles unique to half the population.

When you see ‘unfeminine’ women, do not fret, for you can tear your eyes away when you need to. It is encouraged.

When you see something you do not yet understand, ask questions. Read, learn, grow, for that is what it means to be human.

But when you want to experience how it feels to be a woman, how it feels to be your wife, your daughter, your mother.

Beg to die.

And be forced to live anyway.

how to fix a girl
by Elisabeth Flett

if a girl is too talkative

use a soft paintbrush

to wear down her edges into something more palatable

 

(make sure to stick the bristles far enough down her throat

that she starts to choke)

 

she must never recognise her own voice

especially on the telephone or in a work meeting

if she shows signs of having opinions

make sure to take out her spark

remove the top cover if excessively dirty

and replace fully empty.

 

cover her eyes with a damp cloth

if she shows too much interest in her surroundings

and try to run any ambition under cold water

before it starts

to take hold

 

keep your girl in the dark

preferably somewhere cool

and empty of hope

 

repeat as necessary.

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