It’s 2015 and i’m on a first date. It’s 2021 and i’m remembering it. I’m already in trouble, i’m already letting the ideas-of-things mutate the things themselves.
If we are trans, as in the prefix, meaning across, beyond, or trans as in the prefix, meaning on or to the other side of, it’s worth asking if we are the people we were before. It’s worth asking that of anyone, however. Are you the person you were before, when you look at your grade school pictures? Theseus’s ship, used as a thought experiment to explore whether things remain what they are, as they change, is described by Plutarch like this:
The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians … they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their places, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
I’m looking at the past through the detritus of the present. And i’m using the memory-instrument of my body, which has also been altered since then. It’s 2015, and the first place i touched Jordan was the left side of her face, by the eye socket and cheekbone. I asked, first, if i could touch her. We were in a tea shop with a nasty, plastic, gentrified atmosphere. She’d chosen it on the internet without ever having been there. I wanted to touch that side of her face because there was a strangeness to it, though i could not have said what it was. She told me, later, that the strangeness was the outcome of a major violence that had happened a couple years before—she had been beaten, severely, in the bathroom of a library in Chicago. The man who beat her was, in this instance, a stranger. He broke several bones in her face. She had been in a men’s bathroom, when the man broke the bones in her face, because that was where she was supposed to be. She was trying not to transition because she knew it wasn’t safe. She was trying to be a man, to avert the violence, but the violence kept finding her anyway. Jordan sees other physical results of the injuries, which i do not think are visible. Shadows under her eyes, for example. But if she believes in them, they are probably there, probably the fault lies with my perception. When bones mend themselves, the healing shape of the bone forms a kind of bubble around the break, the bone that regrows is thicker, a bone scab. A bone will not break in exactly the same way twice, that is, the replacement bone is stronger. What is restored is not the same.
When i submitted a draft of this piece, for publication, there were questions about whether Jordan consented to being written about, knew she was being written about. I thought, Of course,
oh my god of course. She knows, she’s seen this piece, i would never publish work she asked me not to publish, or ignore a request for revision from her. I mean, i’m not a monster. And then i remembered, haha, that i am a monster, just not that kind. It’s a reasonable question, anyway; there are all kinds of monsters everywhere. Jordan read this and said it was flattering, i could do what i wanted with it. I’ve had poetry about her published other places, she would sometimes come to my readings when we were together. She sometimes read me her prose, microfictions, when we were together. I went to one of her readings, a few years after we had broken up; she doesn’t read out often. I am not in her work, but her work isn’t like mine; it’s hyperintelligent and sort of opaque, the material that originates from her life is often unrecognizable.
The editors’ question, Jordan’s consent to be a subject, is as clearly resolved as it can be, which is not that clearly resolved, really. She consented to being a subject, but that doesn’t actually make it ok to turn her into one. It doesn’t mean she isn’t being complicit in her own mistreatment. It removes the ethical hesitation for the editors, but i know there is still something horrible about making a person into a story, even if i kind of can’t help it, even if i’m also doing it to myself. It has to do with the ship, in a way, with the idea of fidelity, some originary state. Writing about it, reifying it, destroys what it describes. It destroys how we felt about each other outside of language. How we felt before reflecting on it backward through the scrim of pain, bound onto the present, caused by the end of our relationship, and then living in the world without each other, and the world being horrible much of the time.
There is a moralized-over, hearsay-supplied Margaret Mead quote about the earliest evidence of human civilization being a broken and healed human femur. The idea being that for someone to survive and be restored to health, when they could not run, required a social fabric. Evidence of care is taken to be evidence of “civilized culture,” a culture that would not let the injured die.
One of the things I think about, when I think about Jordan being beater in a men’s bathroom, is that she screamed and screamed and no one came to stop it. Someone called 911, but no one came to see what was happening until the cops and EMTs showed up. The man who did it left, she still doesn’t know who he is, presumably nothing happened to him. Afterward Jordan, with her face broken, went back to the childhood home where she’d been beaten from around age ten to age fifteen. The man in her childhood home was not a stranger. The injuries has been less visible, more pernicious. It was the only place that she could stay for free. She showed me pictures—her in the hospital bed right afterward, heavy swelling, tears and abrasions in the skin. Sometimes she would send a picture but my phone wouldn’t receive it for days, the satellite network storing and dosing out the history, the terror. Pictures of her in her childhood home afterwards, rigid and healing and still alive, the determined line of her mouth. The body repairing itself in those circumstances seems like it should have been impossible, but she made it. An evolutionary wonder, honestly.
The human body regenerates. The popular literature says every seven years your cells have almost completely turned over, although some kinds of cell seem more tenacious and static, or more poorly understood. The brain, for example, although there are new indications of neuroplasticity, seems more inclined to be static, compared to the way that your fingernails or pancreas sluff themselves away, quietly regenerating with soft declines in efficacy. Theseus’s ship with the prow replaced. By now, my body is not the body that laid in bed with Jordan, the skin cells and protein strands rebirthing themselves.
Theseus is also a hero, which is to say he’s famous for having killed someone. Theseus killed the minotaur, a very trans mythic figure; born of the copulation of a witch-queen who was forced, as punishment for her pride and beauty, to fall in carnal love with a bull. The minotaur is the monstrous product of her bestiality: he is the monster, even though he is blameless. Cursed to have your fathers head, cursed to mark your mother’s shame. Cursed to live in a puzzle-cage outside of society, to protect decent people from having to look at you. I had been out for maybe 4 or 5 years when Jordan and i started seeing each other, but had identified as queer and a pervert for much longer. I had been on low dose testosterone for two years, then gone back off of it. I never know whether i pass, how well i pass; whether the monster is visible; whether the revision is visible; if it looks like the same ship or another ship. Some people say “oh i thought you were a cis boy” and that’s supposed to be a compliment or triumph. Other people default to female pronouns with me; it’ll happen in the same day, the same outfit. Honestly, i don’t know what people see.
Karen Barad (2015) writes about lightening, the interplay of electricity forming in the sky finally reaching down to earth, which is not neutral, but rather a charged, desiring field. She echoes this electricity against the visible trace of bioelectric impulse, in the development of frog embryos, tracing the features and destiny of cells before the body is formed. These two electrical phenomena, for Barad, form desire-maps, charges that dictate the future, that delimit or expand future possibility according to energetic blueprints in the present. If you can change desire, you can change the future. Did i write the ending for Jordan and i? Did she? Did we desire it?
Writing this i’ve been going through old photographs. A before-and-after transition photo meme is supposed to show transformation but also the throughline, the sameness of the person, the realness of the person, how transition has allowed them to come alive. It ends up, also, displaying the plasticity of gender, the technologies of altering the body, formally, aesthetically. It demonstrates what is possible. Generally i think they are supposed to be messages of hope. The ship can be rebuilt into whatever you want, is what these pictures seem to say: build instead a home, a fire, a ghost, a mental illness, a sexual caricature, a habitable body.
I mostly hate t4t personal ads. They mostly say “I want to be with someone I don’t have to explain everything to” or “I feel safe with other trans people” which are both, for me, anti-erotic sentiments that are also generally untrue. I don’t feel like i need to explain myself less with trans people. The disconnection or divergence often feels larger, harder to bridge, among us rather than beyond us.
There are a few ways i could try to say it, shuffle things around, apologize, offer context, but i was looking for trans women on OkCupid in 2015 because i sometimes really love how they look. That’s a worse reason than safety, i know. I wrote to Jordan, who seemed smart and skittish and not like she was particularly marketing herself. I wrote to her first. I said “i like that you’re a language person,” in my first message, and her replies were little puzzleboxes, closed circuits, jokes. I was surprised when she kept writing me back. She blew off our first couple of dates. I was surprised when she showed up, when she walked into the tea shop, looking exactly like herself, and sat down with me. Hi, Jordan, hi.
One thing about memory is that the more it is recalled, (rebuilt) the less faithful it is. This is grim and perverse, in a way. Each time something is brought into conscious awareness, it picks up traces, new interpretations, associations with the present that it is being recalled into. So my memory of Jordan, in that moment— her blue eyes, her low ponytail, her tan sweater, how nervous she was, looking at me then down into her teacup, talking about archaeology, astronomy— although i perceive the memory as extremely well-inscribed, it is in fact eroded by the very frequency with which i turn to it.
When we got together i asked her, a few times, if she was ever with men. I was her first partner, after her transition, and all the people she talked about dating previously were girls. Are you ever with men?
No, she said. No, but don’t let them know that. I’m not sure what she meant, exactly, or if she knew what i meant. A lot of our conversations had this quality, that we got a little too close and then we’re talking in glyphs, like things remembered from a dream. I wondered if i was men, for her. I wondered if she were with me.
Theseus’s ship. Is love the same love, each time it happens? Of course not. Love mutates, deforms, hypertrophies in the area that it extends into. Every time love is formed, it leaves the husk of its former self behind.
In my creative work, i have always been talking about violence. From when i was fourteen or so and started going to poetry slams, part of what i said in my many mostly execrable performance poems was about violence, sexual violence, sex and violence, my body as a marker of those twinned phenomena. It did not occur to me that being voiced, being unpoliced enough to name what had happened to me, was itself a kind of privilege. I believed i had a righteousness, because of my subjection under patriarchy. Because i was interpreted as a woman by the people around me, yes, perhaps there was more sexualized aggression directed at me, but it was also much easier for me to speak on it. My parents had white radical feminists on the bookshelf, i looked more or less like them. I think one reason for Jordan’s opacity as a writer is that she never got to see herself in that relation, that tradition. Instead of a performance, or a demand for rights, she is building herself and keeping herself secret at the same time—the ship that was an oubliette, the ship that was a sanitarium, the ghost of the ship’s prior architecture haunting the air.
Much of the aggression i faced as a woman was performative. Men yelling from a construction site, from the windows of their cars. Easy to refuse, easy to yell fuck you back at them, to flip them off. I talked about this type of aggression, wrote about it, read poems about it in rooms that applauded. It had been part of my life since grade school. It’s what i thought sexual harassment was, how the phrase was defined for me, this dumb public thing that constantly happened. Easy to have a feeling of offense, paired (i speak only for myself) with a feeling that i was being given some small irritating tribute, like they were cats bringing me dead trophies, or dogs trying to play fetch with a turd.
And then i went on hormone replacement, on testosterone, at a low dose for a couple of years. In the first five or six months, i encountered a kind of violence i had never known before. It was invisible to those outside of it: a man following me home from the train station, power walking out in front of me, pissing onto the sidewalk, continuing to follow me home, only averted by the family who lived on the first floor of my building leaving at the same time, laundry cart and small children in tow, as i entered. The boy who masturbated, through his pants, into my face, standing above me, for the ride from Union Square to 125th street on the 5 train, his skinny hips canted to the side so that i was the only one who could see it. I mean, it was utterly silent, the small friction sounds of fabric or urine swallowed up in the field of city noise. No yelling, no public display. And the subtext, rather than the men declaring that they would be great at having sex with me, was that the men were going to kill me. There would be a rape, but the rape would be incidental to my death.
The fact that it was tacit means that i never knew for certain why it was happening. If they thought i was offering a failed performance as a woman, or as a man; if they thought i was too aggressive, or too swishy. The fact that i can’t offer a definite statement of why it happened, this spike in para- violent social interaction (and the couple of landed blows, shoves, one man sent me down a short flight of subway stairs that fractured my arm,) over the first six months that i was on hormones, provokes some people, of course, to say that it never occurred; That my perception of those violences is a kind of paranoia, on my part. One can never be sure. I can only infer that the violence happened because i had changed my location, on the continuous circuit that connects erotic attraction and disgust. Hair follicle activation and fat distribution patterns changed, rendering me an inappropriate object choice for heterosexual men. I was still behaving in the way i had learned to behave, as a fairly conventionally attractive white girl, but i noticed the dissolution of the privileges of that position much more acutely than i noticed the loss of oppressions, aggressions, associated with womanhood. Along with the shift in harassment styles, there were other modulations. The grunts when i sat too close to men on the subway were new, the dropping of deference (along with, perhaps, some decrease in condescension) in customer service interactions was new. I didn’t want it to bother me, that i wasn’t attractive to straight men anymore, but it did. I had resented the people around me for not knowing that i was trans, when i was not giving visible signals, and then i was somehow taken by surprise by the social cost of becoming visible. I thought the transition had happened already, the planks replaced without anyone knowing, the masts erected along a virtually identical design. It was years into my transition before i did anything to change how i looked. Once i started to change my appearance, the mobility across the field, from desire to revulsion, happened faster than i anticipated, and i was more disoriented by it than i expected to be.
Eventually, through loving Jordan, it occurred to me, a slow slow blooming, that the things that had allowed me to like men were not things that men generally shared with each other. Their secrets, their wounds, the sorrow that was under the rage. Even being in the position of being asked to undertake the emotional labor of being with men was a perverse kind of privilege, relative to being shut out on the superficial level of the violence that men face each other with. Especially, the violence with which men face other, weaker men. That was what Jordan thought male desire was, a kind of invisible terrorist framework, more invested in disavowing sex, erasing sex through violence, than with its inescapable nature as a form of sexual expression. I think about the way that she was hurt as a kid, with her bright face and boy name. The desire that silences, that promises your murder, that i had encountered for the first time in my late 20s, on hormone replacement— that was what masculine desire had been, for Jordan, all her life. When i wanted to be with her, that’s what being wanted reminded her of. Jordan never knew men the way i did, as creatures who were, or could have been, capable of sweetness.
Certainly, when i transitioned, i did not expect to learn anything about sex. i thought my knowledge was comprehensive, and would transfer. I was in my late 20s. I thought i was very worldly and self- aware. I mean, i was. The last man i tried to date, before transitioning, when i came out to him, yelled at me a bunch, saying i stole his heterosexuality, and no one was going to want me anymore, after i did it. Ass hair was central to his argument. I thought he was saying it just to be hurtful. I mean, he was saying it just to be hurtful. He also coincidentally was right.
Of course i did learn some things eventually. I learned that i had been reliant on a certain kind of white femininity to relate to men sexually, which was also how I navigated the social world. I learned that the things that had been “easy” through a combination of dissociation and resilience, were no longer available to me. It was pretty much a catalogue of losses, and then i met Jordan. I am sick of men talking about how much they love women’s bodies, their animal bodies, but here i go like all of them. Jordan’s bird-shoulders, her dinosaurmouse ears, her little teeth, the constellation of freckles on her back. Jordan wearing her nice black dress, giggling when i unzipped the back with my teeth. Watching her eyes get bluer, full of salt, stars, cretaceous pools, spiral galaxies. Jordan on our third date coming to my apartment and suddenly taking off all her clothes, standing there like a wish, like she was about to disappear. Up until i knew Jordan, i had been a self-righteous bisexual. Obnoxious, honestly, trying to have conversations with people about how self-limiting they were being, exceptions within gender categories, accusing people of insecurity. How can you even know what you like if you’ve haven’t blahblahblahblah? that kind of thing. Jordan looking up at me, time began to sing and melt around us. Oh, i thought. This is how you know that you are sexually oriented towards a specific kind of person, because it’s like this. Jordan in my mouth, small noises of exclamation, wonderment. There is a breadth of data about whether or not she liked me, is what I’m saying. The initial dopamine rush of a new entanglement carried her on the crest of the wave for a while. How much of it changed, replaced plank by plank, how much of it was repurposed against itself, how much of it was my imagination from the start?
I reject, as one must, the notion that trans people are broken. The status of trans identity as a major mental health pathology is recent, and the conflation of trans identity with poverty, diseases of poverty, and participation in stigmatized alternative economies, extends into the present; i refute the false causal logic that blames trans people for the obstacles that we face. i reject that marginalization, pariah status, poverty, addictions, sexual commodification, are of necessity parts of trans identity. I reject that we are defined by, reduced to, our bodies. I reject that we are sexual freaks. My rejection, however, is made a little suspicious by the fact that i personally, individually, am most of those things. Post-traumatic stress, and disorders of complex and recurrent post-traumatic stress; Trauma so routinized, so familiar, that the pathology of denying it would be as extreme as the pathology of letting it control your life. The amount of emotional processing, metabolism of negative emotion and repressed desire of cisheterosexuals— it is a miracle that we ever hold it together, it is a miracle when we find each other at all.
When she writes about lightening, about the desiring field, i think that Barad is conceiving of desire as an elemental force, a scientific inclination, but desire inside of the human distorts under the weight of our psychology, the refracting difficulty of knowing and admitting what we want. I am thinking of Freud’s repetition compulsion, inscribed even more indelibly when the repeated act is unknown, unconscious. Isn’t that also an act of desire, the constant replication of something which can’t be escaped? I am sure that i loved Jordan because of, not despite, the qualities that eventually kept us from being together. Jordan, i think, in the course of loving me, needed to make me familiar; that is to say, needed to make me a man in her life; that is to say, needed to make me a monster. All the explorations of desire’s quantum force, the manifesting potential of desire, pulling on the future, run into a version of this problem; are violences, cancers, accidents, called to us because they are on some level desired? Do desire and trauma glom together to form a curse, a set of invisible rules, that become the architecture of the remainder of a life, once set in motion?
The question then is violence. If it is inevitable, if it is necessary, if it is possible to avoid, on some level, desiring it after its initiation. The thing i knew and wasn’t supposed to know, when i was a teenager reading my dumb slam poems, the thing that filled me with a need to share what i knew, was that violence is survivable. The alterations violence made to my character and my person did not eradicate me. In fact it was kind of sensitizing, like a radioactive spider bite, it became the site of irritating, involuntary superpowers—my need to project competence, my occasional ability to know what people need to hear. The violences done to me as a woman were mostly careless and not undertaken for my benefit. The violences Jordan dealt with, brutal and comprehensive, left her with an ability to make herself adorable, dazzlingly intelligent, charming, unknowable, aware of what other people need. This is part of the psychic burden of clockable trans people, (shared by many people with trauma histories, including those with resultant so-called cluster B personality disorders): the ability to plot yourself inside the psychic life of the person you are speaking to, to know whether or not they want to eradicate you, to know how you can love or placate or hurt them to bring them into a relation with you that is familiar.
People were so mean to Jordan with me right there. Even when i tried to intervene, staring back, bringing my body between her and the aggressor, i could still feel it. Deep gaping blinks from women in expensive blazers. Skinny hipster bartenders yelling that she was knocking on the door of the wrong restroom (honestly hipster bartender, i hope you rot in hell.) When she went out alone, men shoved her to the ground while she walked down the sidewalk. Trauma sets up a frequency, gathers, asks for more, repeats itself, lightening towards the desiring field, the bulwark of the vessel reinventing itself even if you say you are building something else. It was one of the ways i was unkind to Jordan, telling her that her nervousness, the tentative way she carried herself, was one of the reasons people gawked at her, picked on her. I’m ashamed of saying that to her. As though there were any excuse for the cruelty she endured. As though expecting violence were a choice that she was making.
Creation and desire share a quality of violence, a conjuring of something singular from the field of possibility. Desire and creation will still happen; indeed i expect I’ll keep generating them myself. But i know that they’re not benign. i know, in a way that i did not really know before transition, that it is possible for my desire, for the creation of a connection between myself and a desired other, to constitute a violence, in itself. I think, with regret, with a guilt that arrived after transition, that it’s possible that my desire-violence corrodes, deforms, degrades, the thing that it is directed at.
Is carnal desire, of the kind that i certainly felt for Jordan, and which she eventually did not feel for me, necessarily violent? I would have said no, for most of my life. I would have said, before transition, that it was possible to enter into desire with a complete tenderness, unformulated, uninformed by the social structures of power and subjugation that are brought to bear on us. I would have said that it is rare, but that there was no reason to think it was impossible. Now i am less sure.
I used a feminine presentation as a foil and a blind for violence, with the result that i believed my “power” and personality resided in my ability to elicit certain sexual-affective responses from straight men. Whatever change i could inflect on the course of events around me, i assumed, was small, and was something i was entitled to, as a generally disempowered person. I didn’t think about violence because i didn’t think about power, because i didn’t think that i could hold power in a way that was aligned with the violence i saw in the world around me. I was wrong, about that. White women are able to think that, and they are wrong. Meaning that if i unmoor myself from womanhood, from a victim status, the status of a violated “woman” in a male supremacist system, nothing works anymore. My ploys for sex in the form of sympathy or comfort, if leveled by now-me (a masculine presenting person) against a trans woman, have the full weight of patriarchy behind them and as such are abusive. Was it abusive before, the same seduction-manipulation-perversion of tactics of mercy, deployed by me, against men? Maybe, but i still can’t bring myself to care that much. In the absence of a system bounded by cisheterosexist distributions of power, nothing works. I don’t know how to operate, i don’t know what to do.
There is a version of this story where Jordan made me a real man, where the transcendent desire and humiliating grief of being with her and losing her are initiation into a masculine fold. Since we broke up, in scenarios when i am in courtship with a trans person, there tends to be a moment of uncertainty. While i think i am sometimes “supposed” to lean into some sort of insistent masculinity performance, i in fact do not. I try to do what i think is responsible, and kind, and treat uncertainty as a soft no, as being declined. I do not want to artificially inflate anyone’s enthusiasm. What i notice about this is that it is distinctly unlike the behavior of cis men who i encountered as a poorly
socialized, poorly guardianed adolescent girl. So i get to do some small thing to interrupt that cycle of violent masculine entitlement. It’s a gift, to be able to step outside of a harm that was done to me, a harm i was taught to re-inflict. And it also means that i am not with anyone, anymore. Not really. Not since Jordan and i broke up, about 6 years ago now.
How did it end? First, she stopped wanting me sexually, which i tried to absorb and adjust to, because i wanted to be with her so much. She said, You were right, you know, i am just not really attracted to men. And i look at you and see a man. And i thought, well, that makes one person on the face of the earth, who looks at me and sees a man. I supposed, along with the fact that my lover didn’t want to be with me (and the more horrible, subterranean reality that she had probably felt an aversion long before she mustered the ability to tell me, that she may have tried to give me a sign that i missed, this thought is like a fire in my brain,) that fact, that she sees something that’s true about me is the silver lining. I thought we would have a love-relationship without sex. There were moments when i was sad about it, or when i was attracted to her acutely and it became a kind of pain, but ultimately i still knew she was the one. And of course i didn’t want her to have sex with me without wanting to.
Never never never that.
Then, for weeks, Jordan sprinkled in coded language about my selfishness —a Virgo, an only child, my habits of sleeping and eating, all marks of self-centeredness. I was crying every day. Finally she told me i was being inconsiderate by doing vocal warm ups (when i was considering it as much as possible, being considerate in my way, yes i know i am being defensive even now. I am humiliated by my voice, and was mortified by the fact that people could overhear me working on it.) I asked her if she really meant it. She said yes. And i lost my mind. I knew it was nothing, and i couldn’t stop. Which is what she wanted, i think. The familiar circumstance of being with a man, a monster, red faced, screaming at her through the bathroom door. Reaction formation. Aversion to intimacy. I never hit her, but i hit myself, i threw things, i felt the strangling worms of blood turn in my neck. I had never done that before. This is how i know i am capable of violence, this is how i know i am not better than the people who hurt me. That is one of her gifts, to me, that now i know that.
We were living together, and we kept living together while she found a new place. I never stopped feeling that her body was precious. I never stopped wanting to protect her, even if protecting her is an impulse of ownership and therefore another cruelty, even when it became clear that part of what she needed protection from was me.
Once, more than a year after it was over, again forgetting my power-position as a man, or ignoring the fucked-upness of my premise, i said something to her about missing our sex life. She texted back Well i don’t, and you should find someone else to do that with instead of making me feel guilty. I literally never think about it at all. Which is another gift, from her, in my masculine initiation. Even at the time, when i got that text message and cried convulsively into the pillow she used to sleep on, i knew i was the one who had been unfair. As though i were being victimized, because she’d refused some lovelorn self- important entitlement that i was calling a romance. Something that i should not have burdened her with, from the start.
I looked at her OkCupid profile once, after we were over. (Even in New York, if you are looking to date trans women the options are finite. I am looking to date trans women; i told her that she had made me gay for trans women, several months after we were broken up, and she said That’s great, it makes me happy to know that, her smile making the air shimmer in the room. Anyway, i didn’t seek her profile out but i found it. And i should not have looked at the profile but i did.) Before, her profile didn’t say “I don’t date or hook up with men!” and now it says that. So we taught each other some things, we learned some things.
I’m always trying to crawl out of myself, to be the anthropologist and the subject, to see the labyrinth from above. It seems like, if my transition has rendered the acts of courtship i used to engage in into acts of predation, removing myself from the field is probably the best i can do. I don’t get to be an incel because my power analysis is too developed at this point, but i don’t have a solution either.
By now, i have thought of Jordan more often as a kind of fatalist script, a symbol that means that i don’t get to have a real lover, more than i have thought of Jordan, the whole person with her own life, who spent some time loving me and is now out there inhabiting the real world. That is to say that my narrative construction of her, of our relationship, is another way that i am reinscribing violence. For me to cling to my sad boy story, to an impossibility of ethical partnership, is a deadening reification of the relationship, and it is also a strong selective reading of the data. I’m not trying to posit a universal. If you can change desire, you can change the future. i know a lot of trans people, and some of them are out there having scintillating sexual-romantic lives.
The thought experiment of the ship is not about how much transformation can be achieved, but about how much transformation is outside of perception, the essence of things, the part that hovers under or beyond the threshold of awareness. I know i’ve transitioned and i also know i am who i was before. I know i’ve transitioned and i know i’d be trans if the medicalization and glossary that comes with trans identity in 2021 were not available to me. I look at pictures of Jordan as a child, (dazzling, the same smile, a little ball of feathery dinosaur lightening) and i see her, the way she looked the last time i saw her a couple years ago, the way she looks on Instagram now, the way she looked in the photograph in a hospital bed with her face swollen. She doesn’t look the same, except that she does. Jordan, myself, those ships are still ships, still themselves. What about what was between us, the thing that seems like it must have ruptured, ended, like it could not have withstood its own violence? Is the love still there, can it still be called love? It seems to me it is. It’s hard for me in general to even like people i’ve dated after it’s over. But with Jordan, the whole feeling is still there, galactic, fractal, chimerical, mutating, monstrous. I refer to it as love; i am more sure that it’s love than i am sure of any other time i’ve used the word. It’s still there. It rebuilds itself when i sleep. I expect it to outlive me.
Barad, Karen. 2015. “Transmaterialities: Trans*/Matter/Realities and Queer Political Imaginings” GLQ, a journal of lesbian and gay studies. 21 (2-3): 387-422.
C. Bain is a writer, performer, and artist who teaches poetry on the internet. He is an Art MFA candidate at CalArts, and the author of Debridement (2015).