Relearning Sexy (P. 3): The Time In Between

I felt invincible.

One summer night, my parents were both working and out of the house. I loved being home alone, mostly because I refused to practice my music in the company of others. But this night, I was thankful to be alone for another reason. Ever since that intrusive thought had infiltrated my mind in gym class, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So, I took to my closet, hoping to find something to make me feel more at home in my body.

As I mentioned, I gravitated towards v-necks and form-fitting dresses. Not necessarily what you need when you’re trying to hide your chest. I found some older jeans buried in the back of my closet and slipped them on. I forced an ace bandage around my chest, not yet knowing how to bind my chest safely. Over top of the bandage, I layered a black t-shirt. My chest still looked too exposed to me. I dug around some more and found (ironically) an oversized Victoria’s Secret black hoodie. I threw it on as I headed into the bathroom. After pinning my hair up in my beanie, I completed my armor by smearing gray eyeshadow where my 5 o’clock shadow should have been.

Source: Emmett Patterson

Source: Emmett Patterson

I stared at myself for a long time. This was completely unlike the person everyone else saw at school or at work or in the pool. I felt like an entirely different person. Even though this picture makes me burst out in laughter when I look at it now, in that moment I felt so handsome it hurt. The faux eyeshadow beard and the Bieber-esque hair swoop are completely ridiculous now. But that night, it changed me.

All dressed up and nowhere to go? Absolutely not. I hopped in my car and drove to a gas station a few towns over. I was still afraid that someone would recognize me. I put gas in the car, never talking to a station attendant or another traveler on the road. It didn’t matter. Although my chest was constricted and I was hiding in plain sight, I felt like I was finally free and could breathe easy for the first time in a long time.


Source: Emmett Patterson

The next few weeks at school, I began binding and presenting more masculinely. Part of this storytelling project is finding pictures of myself from “the time in between.” I thought only I noticed that I was spending time in between. But before long, my parents and friends took notice. I knew I had to begin telling my loved ones how I truly felt. During this time, I began mandatory gender counseling, just one of the requirements trans people have to undergo in order to access legal document changes, hormones, surgeries, you name it. As part of this counseling, I had to look back on my life and try to pinpoint any feelings of gender nonconformity. If you’ve never tried it, think about what your favorite food was in May of the year you were 5 years old. Now, your parents may be able to tell you what it was. That’s a fact. But do you remember how that favorite food made you feel?

That’s what is so difficult about looking back on our experiences. When I thought back, I couldn’t think of any feelings of gender nonconformity in my childhood. I could only see the facts. Yes, I hated dresses. Yes, I made friends with boys more than girls. Yes, I portrayed what outsiders might call gender nonconformity. But was I ever cognizant of how these rebellions against femininity affected my gender? Not that I can think of.

But when I looked to more recent years, I found my intimate relationships coupled with my discomfort with certain parts of my body played a key role in my identity formation. Not every trans person’s experience is the same. But for me, the source of my discomfort came from these sources. Sitting in the armchair of my therapist’s office, I recounted times where I just felt discomfort being with Nate+. The reason I broke up with Nate in the first place was because I assumed this discomfort had to do with my sexual orientation.

“Oh. If I’m not attracted to him, I must be attracted to women.”

For the next year, I dated mostly female-identified people. I still felt uncomfortable when I was intimate with my partners. I had partners who loved me because I was extremely femme. That made me uncomfortable. I had partners who said their favorite asset of mine was my chest. That made me uncomfortable. I had partners who refused to let me wear my binder went to bed. That made me more than uncomfortable. I was exploring women as a queer woman and I still couldn’t find solace. I could never pinpoint the source of the discomfort.

That is, until I met Rueben+.

Find out more next time on the final installment of Relearning Sexy.

Next on desexy, how to create truly inclusive and sex-positive sex education.


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