Her hand rests on my shoulder for a second before she begins to run her fingers down my side, across my ass, looping back up across my thighs. I'm lying, propped on my side, in the big bed, almost swimming in blankets. There's a late afternoon sun struggling to slip through the holes in the curtains, and I can still make out the tinge of green in her eyes in the light.
Her hand rests for a moment on my thigh, and I have a fleeting thought of shame, self-critiquing the size of my body, the parts that aren't soft enough, aren't thin enough, aren't hairless, aren't... I look up at the wall behind her, my eyes land on a photo I took of a friend years ago, and I push the thoughts back where they belong. I have strict rules about the bedroom, and one of the most sacred is not to critique my body or anyone else's in this space. Bodies should be adored, worshiped, touched, fucked, and even (consensually) flogged, abused, and manipulated -- never treated with shame and disrespect. I bring no judgment of someone else's physical appearance here, and I expect and demand the same -- of myself and others.
"Where are you?" She sees my eyes wander.
"Thinking about gender."
"Hm." Her fingers slow their creep as she focuses on the conversation. I find I'm glancing off into the distance again; it's a protective measure, a precursor to revealing something intensely personal.
"I... I'm thinking about 'genderqueer.' It's been on my mind a lot lately. I was playing online one day, as I am wont to do, and stumbled upon an author I'd never heard of before. Ze had some photos on hir blog, and I realized that ze might be the first person I've ever seen who identified as genderqueer and, yet, was also somewhat feminine in appearance."
"The first? Really?"
"Can you think of others off the top of your head?"
Her silence is telling.
"Ok. Let me change that question. What do you think of when you think of someone who is genderqueer?"
"Androgyny. Playing across the gender spectrum. Younger people. That's tough. It's a complex identity."
"Agreed." Not-so-secretly I love these discussions. "I guess, where I'm going with this... I didn't realize I had any preconceived notions of genderqueer. But when I think through everyone I know who identifies as genderqueer, they are all young, often women, often very masculine or androgynous. Sometimes trans, and sometimes wildly varied in their gender expression. But... and here is why I'm thinking so intently on this... I know that I still carry some of the hang-up that I hate, the one that says that the way you present your body, the way you dress, the way you choose to look, reflects on your gender identity."
"Well, it does." She's very quick to respond to this.
"Does it? Maybe on the surface. But I think identities are personal, identities are chosen and claimed by individuals." I roll over on my back, putting my hands under my head to prop myself at an angle. She runs her pointer finger over my nipple ring, giving it a really strong tug. "I don't give a shit what you look like; you can wear dresses and makeup and tell me your male-identified and I'll use any pronoun you please. I have no criticism of anyone else's gender identity, expression, or pronouns and terminology. But when I flip that back toward myself, I find I still have this mental block that I can't be genderqueer because I'm too feminine physically. Does that make sense? Finding this author, who identifies very strongly as genderqueer and uses gender neutral pronouns -- it almost clicked. Like I had..."
"Realized something was missing?"
"What do you think that means?"
I'm wandering, tangeting round about. We both know where this is going, and mostly, I'm not going to admit that I'm scared. I'm not going to admit I find playing with gender infinitely harder than playing with sexuality. I'm not going to admit, out loud, that I've backed myself into a corner where I'm simply comfortable, or until I've let fear tell me that I'm comfortable, and secretly I'm playing with a lot in my head. Eight years after coming out, I'm still figuring this all out, and it's still fucking scary. Even though... if someone else came to me, I'd encourage it. Hell, I'd tell them that identity and self-awareness are a lifelong process, a part of being in flux, and that changing the way you look and exploring identities is a huge part of growing comfortable with yourself, finding your place. I'd also say that all of this, while fascinating, is also pretty topical. "Do what you need to do to be happy. Respect and embrace the choices of others in doing the same." I say these things to others, often, over and over again. And yet, I'm boxing in myself.
"I... don't know." But this is what comes out. "I truly believe gender is a spectrum, and the more I think about 'genderqueer' as a word, the more I think it means embracing that -- no matter what part of that spectrum you fall on. I think when I see the boxes for 'male, female, and other,' I unfailingly check 'other.' I think... I need to play with this more."
"I think you know what you need to do."
I turn back toward her and our eyes lock. She's still dead serious, but there's a mess of playful in the way I look at her. "I do know what I need to do. I need to fuck you."
"Do you, now?" I love when she gets a little rough, a little strong. Ok, maybe more than a little.
I hook my hand behind her head, pull her down, deep into the covers, into me, letting this conversation melt into a kiss.
"I can't argue with that logic." She pulls away after a moment to kiss my neck. "Why don't you get on your knees and suck my cock," I whisper right next to her ear.
"I think I can handle that." With her palm, she pushes me down hard into the mattress. "Your cock, hm? I do think you should put some thought into that genderqueer identity." She reaches down, under the comforter, and slides her fingers down my shaft.
As an aside, after writing this, I was reading Sinclair's blog and found this post on butch identity really interesting. I don't know anything about Butch Voices or their changes and controversy, but I did think the commentary illuminates this idea that identity language is a) incredibly personal, b) empowering, and c) defined completely differently by various people.