Like a dick pic that runs out of the room

How’s that for click bait (or aversion therapy)? Read on, or not. I understand. Obvious CW apply.

My mate and I were sharing sexual awakening stories, as ya do. Well, I don’t, usually, and I felt vaguely horrified and mentally exposed. I kept saying, but do you want to hear the most disgusting part? Knowing full well that he is germ phobic these days, despite (or perhaps because of) all the revolting things he got up to as a lad. I kept looking over at his screwed up face and laughing, then telling him more, and feeling exactly the way his face looked.

Finally I couldn’t take it any more, and we changed the subject. Relief all round. Talked about food instead. And that bloomin’ virus, as ya do.

The first penis I saw was at a neighbour’s house, when my now-deceased friend jumped out of the wardrobe, dropped the towel from his waist and waved everything at me, before running away. We were around nine years old and I had never experienced such a bewildering performance before. I couldn’t grasp his motivation, let alone what he expected of me. But I was there to play, so I found someone else to play with and we never spoke of it.

When I heard of his death, this was the first thing I remembered, and I didn’t tell a soul. It was him to a T, but I tried to come up with something more dignified to share in the memory book. There was the time we crawled around together on the lawn, pretending to be cows, grazing the grass. The time he told me my house had burned down in the bushfires, during lunch break at school (it hadn’t). Beyond that I had nothing, so said nothing, while the memory of his penis exposure played on a loop, like a dick pic that runs out of the room.

That’s not what I was telling my mate about though. Oh no. Those stories are not being told again. And I don’t want to give him more ideas for ways to make me laugh during tv commercial breaks. But I took your mind off current events for a minute or two, hey? Distraction’s a useful tool. As was my now-deceased friend, it has to be said. RIP, you ratbag.

I love Ivan

So I am reading Rebent Sinner, by Ivan Coyote, and having a “thank God for you!” moment. So many familiar experiences, expressed potently and with flair.

Word choices are crucial, and fun, even with small vignettes. Ivan’s an expert, an artist.

* * *

I left my psychologist’s office feeling odd, yesterday. It’s taken me a lot of late night writing, and now reading, to get the gist of why.

It’s hard for cis people to get the gist of what I say, even if they’re open to it, or gay. I’m a little ahead of them with my years of research, questioning and lived experience, and I express myself better in writing than verbally. So missing the gist is to be expected when I’m confused, even when they’re “aware” or trained. But by crikey where do I even go for therapy if I don’t want to educate them or have taken all year to psych myself up to talk about something and need them to get it, like now? I don’t know any trans psychologists in my town.

My ex would say it is what it is, and it is probably ok now that I have read me some Ivan. Thank you, Ivan.

* * *

If you’re not trans and want to read more trans content, there are numerous great bloggers. Just pop trans in the search bar. If you want books, maybe start with Ivan. Distilled observation, heart and wisdom.

That’s how I do it

Surprise! Today I’m back to my adventures in gender. Who knew?


It’s hard to know what will trigger a person and therefore derail a perfectly good opportunity to come out to someone. Well, sometimes I have a clue and yet decide to use the correct terminology anyway, as a shorthand.

Buzz! Incorrect! Don’t try that again!

It was time to tell someone close to me that I was male and not the female they knew me as. Seemingly out of the blue, they threw in a phrase that told me they had been thinking about it already, or had been primed by a mutual friend. Gathering my courage, I said I hadn’t known the right time to tell them I was transgender. I started to add that they’ve possibly noticed changes in me…

Immediately they were off on an ill-tempered rant about letters of the alphabet and how everyone is human and about the person who had introduced themself at a bus stop as bipolar, and the scourge of political correctness and that it’s ok to make mistakes… and they only stopped when they knocked something to the floor with an expansive gesture. Then we were talking about the item they’d knocked over, and I felt relieved.

It’s true, I’m a person who can claim an alphabet letter. A person who has never participated in a Pride march and whose idea of hell is to be the focus of a roomful of people. I like to blend, because of past assaults. Ideally I’d like to be invisible. So coming out to people I like is done after careful consideration and a fair splash of courage. Not the liquid sort, as it messes with my meds.

I made my excuses and left, shaken, not knowing what to say next.

This person just returned to my door to give me something they found during a decluttering session, as they knew I’d appreciate it. They’re a generous, kind, funny and all round lovely person, which is why I’d decided to let them further into my psyche/life. I guess I just didn’t approach it the way they needed it to go. Now we know that the word, ‘transgender’ sets them off.

I’ve found that a lot of people react to jargon. I do too. Acronyms, business-speak, bureaucratic double talk and spin doctor poppycock, it’s all bunkum to me. Even seemingly innocuous words are catalysts. The other night I recalled a craft workshop where I refused to make hexagonal boxes because I had a bee in my beret about metaphorical boxes and labels for people. I was so painfully aware of not fitting into the boxes others had made for me, and so wary of claiming labels that might box me further in, I kind of went off on a rant on the poor teacher. No doubt she backed away warily, just as I did earlier today with the person I tried to come out to and broach the topic of pronouns with.

(Speaking of pronouns, this person doesn’t use ‘they/them’ pronouns in everyday life. I’m using ‘they/them’ pronouns in this story to preserve their identity, in case they or anyone close to them stumbles across this post. Stranger things have happened.)

It was no skin off that craft teacher’s nose if I didn’t make a box. But I am very careful about going places with anyone who might make my agoraphobic experiences even more uncomfortable. That includes those who might refer to me as “she” as I approach a male-gendered public inconvenience.

No doubt I’ll try broaching the pronoun thing again. No doubt next time I’ll avoid all mention of labels and instead keep the subject light and jokey, so that they can hear me. I feel a bit like a Park Ranger doing landscape interpretation for visitors. This is how we don’t destroy the rock art. This is how we preserve biodiversity. This is how we help trans people feel welcome and included (and keep us alive and well). There’s a lot of invisible work behind our survival. And when we speak, it’s not about showing off or being a pain in the buttocks. If I got nothing else accomplished today, I hope I’ve made that point clear here.

Insects and other garden pals

I’ve just spent a contented half hour watching insects in my tiny garden. It’s a very warm autumn day. The sun still has bite and I’ve not checked today’s UV level, so I carefully balanced my need for Vitamin D with my need to keep the insect-watching brief.

First there was a pair of larger orange-brown butterflies feeding on buddleia flowers – Australian Painted Ladies, perhaps. I watched them sip, then fly a lap of the yard before returning to the same flowers. One would move, then the other move to join it. Do butterflies always travel in pairs? I realised I don’t know much about these things. A small blue-grey butterfly danced around the geraniums and paper daisies without stopping.

Honeybees were everywhere, man. In the lemon verbena, the marjoram, the catnip, lavender, and almost anything else with flowers (not the geraniums). I stood and listened to their hum for a while, then checked that none had been taken by resident spiders or praying mantis. Not yet. The mantis that hunts on the letterbox was absent, and I watched a tiny fly with a metallic blue abdomen there instead. Couldn’t work out what it was doing – perhaps tasting something on the paintwork?

Now I’m getting lost in my need to identify species. I’m not getting much satisfaction either, having mislaid my favourite ID book and useful websites. I want to know the names of all the flies, the native bees, the damselflies, butterflies, and spiders. I am astonished by both the abundance and diversity of small creatures in my garden today. Are they there every day, or only when it’s clear and sunny? And if the “as above, so below” adage is correct, I wonder about the soil life.

Standing out there in the sun, I recalled the graphite drawings I did for my organic horticulture course, back in 1997. Hooly dooly, that seems so long ago now. I still have the records somewhere. I refused to kill and stick pins in anything, so spent a lot of time looking for dead things and perusing illustrated reference books. The act of drawing made me pay more attention, anyway. In my landscape design studies I focussed on wildlife-attracting species, which often emphasised indigenous plants for obvious reasons. That info is also here, somewhere. I used to be more organised than this, dagnabbit. I need to keep better records and plant more of what works.

Last year I planted native and exotic daisy species, with all my gardening pals in mind. Daisies are so diverse! The bold colours satisfied my human neighbours, and daisies attract all kinds of beneficial insects. I just watched a hoverfly move clockwise around the centre of one flower, feeding, for instance. I count on hoverflies to keep aphids under control. I sow mustard seed to attract clouds of them each spring. I planted tansy near the apple trees, and regret placing one beside the path, because their scent is anything but attractive. Not as off-putting as carob flowers, but bad enough. The yarrow is doing well, further out in the sunlight. Both yarrow and tansy are also great compost additives.

And now I’m just rambling, needing lunch. I have photos. Will I get myself organised enough to share them? Perhaps another day. I hope so. Sharing such things makes me happy. Paying attention to gardening coworkers and making them happy has delightful ripple effects.

No idea what to call this

Tonight, ABC TV broadcasted an episode of Four Corners that focussed on four Australian non-binary young people – Dakota, Riley, Audrey and Olivia. I ended up crying because I was so happy for them. They had supportive families and so early in their lives had figured out who they were and what they needed, in terms of gender. Suddenly I felt like writing again.

I get sick to death of talking about gender. The more I say, the more I notice, and the more fed up I grow. Occasionally someone will intimate that trans people are obsessed about gender. I’d say that it’s society in general that’s obsessed and we’re the messengers being shot at (or the coal-mine-dwelling canaries, if you’d like a less violent metaphor). My own discomfort with the status quo just sucked up all the air in the room, man. Once I received the medical care I needed, life improved so drastically that I considered everything else to be gravy. I’d much rather talk about the critters I saw at the river, or the latest book I devoured in one sitting. Or, quite frankly, not talk at all.

I started this blog as a way to confront my own anxiety around being seen. For most of my life I’ve known who I was but lacked the ability to get my needs met. At different points in my life I didn’t have the words, the confidence in others’ listening capacities, or the confidence in the existing social systems to support me. (Or, let’s face it, the cash.) Now I finally have those words and have received support. The wider community’s willingness to listen has increased somewhat, along with the predictable pushback. Social change takes time, we know, and I’m so happy to see and hear these kids talk about their lives.

From time to time I wonder why the heck I’m still blogging at all, given that I’m now less anxious and would prefer to stop banging on about gender. When I revisit earlier posts, I see that I intended to help both myself and others. I intended to be the person I needed to read about when I had felt alone and interminably weird. So although I deviate into book reviews and nature observations, I keep trying to share my life in a way that may be useful to others. 

Lately I’ve been quiet because my head’s full of static. There’s nothing useful there, for now. I’m doing some things that are constructively challenging, shall we say. It’s good, it’s growth and there’s nothing I wish to share about that now, so moving on…

My first love recently told me that I’m still very much the person they knew, all those years ago. “Thank God!” I said, laughing. The point of all this gender transition palaver was to make my outside match my inside, not to become someone new. 

Today’s dust bunnies

My newly discovered comfort zone has become a springboard. It reminds me of attachment theory – a stable centre from which to venture.

Each day a new, moderately scary event with moderately predictable rewards. Each day a flurry of words and insight. Delight. Followed, predictably, by a slurry of self doubt and residual pleasure.

Today, more pleasure than self-doubt. Even the confusion is colourful, sun-kissed. Hopeful.

This sounds more like haiku than prose, more puzzle than even poetry presents to me. Perhaps I have exceeded my daily word allocation and these are the reclaimed. I should eat. I write differently when fed.

Cricket chorus outside the window. Cat curled beside my knee. Life is warm and loud and good.

Happy Vegemites Outside

I stripped one apple tree of its squat green produce after a rat munched one fruit. It’s the best crop I’ve had from this tree in ten years. Thinned the Pink Lady’s crop next, as I’d neglected to earlier. Another couple of months and they’ll be sweet.

The peaches are all for the fruit bats this year – my payment for the pleasure I derive in their very existence. The cat and I watch from the front door or the other side of the living room glass. I sit in silence, in the dark, waiting for the flap, flap, flap, crash. The squabbling. Their silhouettes.

The other day I told a friend that Summer had remained Praying Mantis free, a sad state of affairs. Then barely 30 minutes later I encountered one inside, striding in slow motion across an art portfolio. I approached slowly, not wanting to frighten, and gently relocated it to a shrub of the same green hue beside the letterbox. There it immediately, meticulously cleaned each leg and its face, as if to say that removing my beastly human smell was top priority. Still cleaning when I returned with the camera.

And today my companion and I walked to the river. I was drawn by the rich scent of hemlock, fennel and eucalyptus, heavy in the humid air. As we navigated the winding path, my pal made a startled noise and pointed to a blue tongue lizard, motionless in the grass. We squatted to take a closer look. I’d only ever seen dead ones in this area, and live snakes, so I was thrilled. And then a few steps further was a pregnant lizard. Her colouring was more brown than the steely grey of her friend. We couldn’t recall whether they laid eggs or gave birth to live young, so made a mental note to look it up later. (Live young.)

Icing on the proverbial was finding a tiny mushroom of a species that’s on the Fungimap list. Day. Complete.

Hidden memories of disgust

CW: non-detailed mention of genitalia.


In earlier posts I’ve mentioned a lack of memories of transmasculine people. Thanks to a few posts by fellow bloggers, I’m suddenly remembering. And I’m embarrassed by my own disgust and I have to be honest about it. There’s no other way forward. 

Forgive the messiness of this. Emotion and memory are messy enough, but I’m thinking aloud and aware simultaneously of my inner process and all the poppycock gifted to me by others. The straights, the queers, the fearful, the traumatised. 

I have to admit that I laughed a lot as I finally came to terms with being a trans guy. I’d had a lot of fun stirring others with my “all white men look the same to me – who are you again?” and my “oh I don’t read books by men any more, they’re so passé.” I’d delighted in getting sports betting fanatics off my back during the dreaded men’s football season by saying, “all footballers are rapists.” It was so effective as a conversation stopper. And then when I came out I added yet another tired old white guy to the tally – just what the world craved! 

Sometimes feminists do enjoy badmouthing men. Not all men, haha, but boy, a lot of us deserve it. There’s just no getting around the stats for murder, rape and general mayhem. It can be a source of pride to say women are biologically superior, that if women ruled the world we’d all be happier, and that testosterone is the source of all evil. 

A lot is tongue in cheek. A lot is a way to discharge ongoing tensions involved in dealing with outdated and unacceptable attitudes on a daily basis. And sometimes trauma crystallises into self-protective and toxic rhetoric of its own. 

When I came out to my family in the 90s as a lesbian, my mother asked me why I hated men. “I don’t,” I said, “Some of my best friends are men. I just don’t want to have sex with them.” “Any more,” I would have added, if she wasn’t so focussed on me becoming a virgin bride one day. Other people automatically assumed I’d been hurt by men. Some assumed that I’d been molested as a child. For goodness sake, said one therapist, if that were the cause, there’d be darn few heterosexual women at all. 

At the time I found the p*nis disgusting, and a lot of male attitudes and behaviour disgusting, and had discovered that I had a lot more fun with women. It was a relief to stop trying to be a good heterosexual woman and embrace my true nature instead. 

While questioning my own discomfort, my dysphoria, I discovered genderqueer erotica. For a while I inadvertently came out to librarians, as I requested everything available on the LGBTIQ list. What struck me most, among these erotic stories, was the total absence of v*lvas. I’m still astounded. When I read Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano, even this absence made a curious (unhealthy) sense. If you read Julia’s book, you’ll see what I mean.

As I’ve said before, each group has social dynamics and I kept bumping into people who had vested interests in conformity. Part of me craved the intellectual rest and security of submitting to others’ rules. I explored all kinds of factions and theories within queer culture. Then retreated to my own corner to sort through it all and decide what fit me best. 

I remember hushed discussions of trans people and of particularly butch women who seemed to be taking masculinity ‘too far.’ At the time I remember agreeing, silently, that men were bad and looking too much like a man was bad. I was frequently read as male myself, but that was ok. I found that I enjoyed the ambiguity and fluidity of sexuality and gender. 

Later, I feared taking my own masculine presentation ‘too far,’ and wondered where the line was.

I’m drawn to social psychology and sociology, being bewildered and bothered by much of society. It’s a comfort to think that someone might have useful insights. They’ve studied the nature of groups, for instance, and ways in which groups foster cohesion. Identifying a shared foe is one method, as amply illustrated by politicians who frequently scapegoat the vulnerable. Ignoring the fact that all (most?) of us contain our own unique mix of both oestrogen and testosterone, some groups choose to scapegoat one of those hormones, equating it with the worst of human nature – a scourge, or a weakness.

So it was with me at one point. I’d only needed to analyse one edition of one newspaper to form the view that men were the source of all evil. Testosterone was toxic and the p*nis a weapon of mass destruction. Most further news broadcasts reinforced this. Personal anecdotes from friends and acquaintances reinforced this. The idea of someone within the lesbian community ‘becoming a man’ or even looking ‘too much’ like a man was appalling. Disgusting. I was ok with trans women because hello! Women! But to go to the dark side? Oy.

So I empathise now with my older lesbian friends who find my transition shocking. I see their aversion and yes, their disgust, and their struggle to understand. I see some of them embrace trans women and mouth platitudes of inclusion while curling their lips at trans men and non-binary people. And while I’m hurt, I do save space in my heart for them. After all, it took me a long time to accept myself, and these friends can’t see inside my soul. 

I even make space in my heart for that vocal minority who seek to keep themselves safe  in changing rooms and public toilets by traumatising transgender people and placing them in unsafe situations. As all I’ve heard from them are expressions of fear and hatred, rather than a wish to resolve the situation to the benefit of all concerned, I can only guess at their motivations, their triggers. I’m guessing that p*nises are synonymous with weapons and trauma for them, regardless of the owner. If this is the case, then I empathise with the panic. Given that I experience my own panic attacks and phobias, I won’t question their sanity. 

But I do question their morality. We here in Australia have a (recent) history of indiscriminately killing anything that has offended us, plus any of their families and their friends. We kill sharks swimming and feeding in their own darn habitats, trees that stood innocently by a road used by drunken/suicidal/speeding drivers, and eagles that have a perfect right to kill their own meals. We don’t stop at one, but forcefully assert our assumed dominance. It’s stupid and wrong. Shaming, blaming and attacking trans and gender diverse people is wrong. Making innocent people pay for someone else’s transgressions is wrong.

Like the ridiculously polarised arguments between cyclists and motorised transport users, the solution lies in design. There are multiple design solutions already available, so enough hate already. Let’s move on. 

After reading a blogger’s personal list of things that disgust them, I recalled my own discomfort and disgust. And after reading Trans Narrative’s book review of We Both Laughed in Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan, I recalled earlier mindsets, lingo, and social contexts of the 1980s and 90s. And I remembered a photographic exhibition, Assume Nothing: Celebrating Gender Diversity, that I attended with my ex-partner in the early 2000s. I had been drawn to it so strongly, without knowing why. It was a lot longer before I figured it out and even later that I borrowed the (gorgeous) book by Rebecca Swan, from the library.

I’d like to end by saying that it’s an interesting time to be a man. To be a trans man. To have lived experience in feminist and women-only environments, and to participate in conversations about toxic masculinity, gender equality, sustainability, and what it means to be a whole, happy and healthy human being. I’m learning so much and am grateful to have this outlet for my thoughts. Thank you for reading. 

Now, who on earth is that old white guy in the mirror?


I had a lot of fun writing this. Along with the blog posts mentioned, I was inspired by Luke Turner’s beautifully honest memoir, Out of the Woods (2019) – wholeheartedly recommend that book, too.

(I truly found the list of things that evoke disgust to be interesting and thought provoking. Cannot locate it now, sadly.)

Sanding off each others’ edges

I’ve just finished reading a wonderful book about the therapeutic qualities of intentional community, and want to accomplish two things – to recommend this book to you and to reflect upon my own experiences in such communities.

Tobias Jones writes with such genuine affection and insight that I kept finding myself smiling. This book made me happy. Even the most challenging behaviours of his family’s guests are approached with curiosity and compassion. Even when he admits that he is run down, resentful and irritable, the writing is leavened with humour.

I should have started with a brief explantation of characters and plot, but my brain’s still sifting. Sorry! Francesca and Tobias Jones and their two small daughters opened up their home to become A Place of Refuge (the book’s title) for those who might need one. In effect, their house and woodland property in Somerset, England, became a commune called Windsor Hill Wood.

Over the years it evolved as they learned what worked and more importantly perhaps, what didn’t. The aim was to provide a place where people could step outside situations that weren’t working for them, and figure out their next steps. Among them were unwanted offspring, the divorced, addicted, lost, and, naturally, the grifters. All were welcomed (with conditions) and included in the daily routines and projects around the place. And everyone involved was challenged in one way or another. As my own father used to say, in large families you get your edges rubbed off. As Tobias says, everyone in community is forced to confront their own demons and flaws. There’s nowhere to hide.

I borrowed this book from the library on the recommendation of an old organic gardening friend who has long worked in community groups. She’s a founding member of a community garden and speaks often of managing conflicts, successfully or otherwise. She’s a wise elder to me and many others, and her recommendations always yield fruit of some sort. So I knew I’d benefit in some way. I just wasn’t prepared to enjoy the book quite so much.

As I read I kept being reminded of communities I’d been part of, long term and short, and of the dynamics and behaviours. I winced at memories of some of my own behaviours and laughed aloud in recognition of others. Even the place where I currently reside could be described as a small community, although not entirely intentional, nor commune-like. But some social dynamics and social benefits remain recognisable. It’s probably why I’ve not moved on, along with reasons of location and affordability.

In the past I enjoyed the Camphill-inspired ‘curative homes’ for people with disabilities. I appreciated the stabilising daily and seasonal rhythms, the wholesome food, and the odd mix of conservative and bohemian staff. Then there were the hippy communes that were utterly unlike those I’d been led to expect. Clothes optional yes, slacking and drugging, no. They were disciplined, creative and ahead of the curve in terms of tiny homes and eco living; super smart people who felt confined elsewhere. Some of my highest natural highs and most cringeworthy behaviours happened there. And then there were the share houses, the urban cult, the community gardens, mental health support groups and even the youth hostel in northern NSW where everyone was welcomed, had chores, and felt appreciated for their own special brand of humanity.

All of these experiences were watered by observations made in the book. Values and ideals that I rarely hear these days were outlined and examined and held up against his own experiences. I didn’t even know that I’d needed that. And blimey, he can write!

If it had been written by Francesca or a female participant, well, it would have that added perspective. In some ways it was a very white male book. He skipped over some crucial aspects that someone else might have elaborated on. That said, there was nothing that made me think, “oh dude, no.” And yes, I do say that often, lol.

So I now recommend A Place of Refuge by Tobias Jones, (2015) to you. I would love to hear what you think.

The changing texture of feelings

The Lego blocks of my feelings have increased in size. They’re easier to deal with in these big hands of mine, however I’ve lost the ability to easily notice and articulate the finer details.

That’s the summary of my much longer ramble, now deleted. (Whew!)

Today I was reading things from my Transition File. It’s a jumbled mess, like the shoe box a disorganised person might hand to their accountant. All the shame and confusion and excitement were in mediation and this mess was the compromise. Shame wanted me to throw things out, confusion wanted me to sort things out, and excitement just wanted to start living my new life now, man! No looking back!

In the protracted, pre-transition therapy period, we discussed testosterone’s magic powers. I was given a list of the usual permanent and semi-permanent bodily changes, such as body fat redistribution and facial hair growth. We talked about emotional changes that usually happen during puberty, which would be my second puberty – moodiness, for instance. I was told that some people experience an inability to cry, or a blunting of emotion.

It’s hard to know which side effects you’ll get in some cases – receding hairlines depend on your maternal gene pool, for instance, and it’s hard to tell just how you’ll cope if/when it happens. I’m doing ok with that side of things, as it happens, thanks for asking. I never cared much for haircuts.

Emotional changes are more tricky. My culture doesn’t promote emotional literacy anyway, but my family of origin tended to ridicule any emotion that didn’t fit narrow parameters, so I have a fair amount of shame around feeling any sort of feelings. Add that to the newly minted male conditioning I’m encountering around emotions and the expression of such, and I’m finding it tricky. I want to talk, I don’t want to talk. I grunt instead. I understand what’s happening and I’m confused.

On the plus side my feelings are now impressionist versions of their prior selves, all misty watercolour blur, as though my mind took off its specs and squinted through steam in a busy kitchen. So although this explains my difficulty with identification and interpretation, it means their impact is less. If I can’t see you mate, you can’t be that scary.

If, to labour another metaphor/analogy/whatever, my mind is now wearing thick gloves when it comes to identifying and interpreting feelings, fortunately the Lego blocks of emotion are now larger and easier to handle. I get stuff done more quickly, unencumbered by the fine print of nuance.

Sometimes feelings sneak up on me. My early warning system is broken.

This is a mixed bag I can live with.

I enjoyed noting all this today, while perusing the mess. With luck it made sense to you too.