I am afraid to come out to my mother, even though I have done it twice. In ninth grade, I told her with confidence, “I’m gay.” Two years ago, I told her with a heavy kind of joy, “I’m trans.” Now I have to tell my sweet mother, who raised me as a strict vegetarian, “I eat meat. Please forgive me.” And this time I’m scared.
My roommate left multiple cabinet doors in the kitchen open this morning and it made my eye twitch. On my way to the gym, a man almost ran into me because he was texting while walking, which brought me very close to smacking his phone clean onto the sidewalk then stomping it with my boot. On my way home, some middle schoolers were having a “You’re gay!” screaming contest and I almost found myself fighting some 12-year-olds.
I don’t know if it’s just winter or a cold front inside of me, but lately, when I read the world, it seems like someone highlighted the worst sentences. In better times, all the annoying and petty and performative pieces of life just blended in with the rest of the page, but now they’re popping neon pink. And everything is… annoying.
While the obnoxiousness details of life (like a man playing video games on the train with his phone on full volume) can send me into a sour spiral, I also can be quickly reset by the soothing details (like the shell of a hard-boiled egg coming off smoothly in one piece). I was reminded of this a few days ago at a coffee shop, when there was nowhere to hang my coat. As I balled it up to use it as a lumpy cushion, a memory from last winter flashed through my mind: I was at a bar with my mother when my sister arrived, took off her coat and her blanket-sized scarf, looked under the bar for a hook, and then hung her things with a satisfied smile.
“I love that so much,” she said, as she settled on her stool.” A well-placed hook? Come on, that’s the best.”
“What is that?” I asked. “That kind of thing that we love because it’s just satisfying or on point? It’s like the opposite of a pet peeve.”
And thus, the “pet fave” was born: The small things that bring us unlikely joy and remind us how gratifying it can feel when life is on beat. If pet peeves draw on a shared humanity by recognizing how annoying people are or how frustrating the details can be, pet faves are what connect us through appreciation and acknowledgement of simple sweetness. They are the inside jokes we have with people we’ve never met; the songs we all know the words to. They are meaningless and meaningful at the same time, which is impressive.
When elderly women call me “baby.” When the doors of the train I’m on open as the next train I need pulls up across the platform. When old couples walk down the street holding hands. Paying with exact change. When I am the only person on the Chinatown bus with no one sitting next to me. When I see a shirt I love, there is only one left on the rack, and it is my size. Falling asleep on a road trip right as I leave and waking up right before I arrive. Putting dry socks on dried feet after swimming. When someone I love hugs me and later that night I put on my coat and can smell them for one second. When I forget to turn my early alarm off, wake up, and realize I have two more hours to sleep.
These are not life-changing moments, but that itself could be their true magic. They are consistent and common, a relief as we make our way through an existence ruled by uncertainty and change. None of us completely control how our days unfold. There are things that happen by chance and there are mistakes. We don’t get to decide how others will act or how those actions will make us feel. I don’t choose to wake up some days lost in my blue, feeling doubtful or stuck. But I have found that I do get to choose what I lean into, what I give space in my mind, which voices I amplify, and which thoughts I kindly escort out.
What would it mean to pay more attention to these small reminders, to put the sadness and cynicism in the back row, and to let my faves outnumber my peeves? I imagine it would feel like the spiritual equivalent of a cold glass of water after eating something sweet. You know that feeling? Of course you do. What if life could be like that? It’s so simple, so easy to forget, but I choose what to highlight in neon pink.
As the youngest of three queer siblings, I'm my parents' last chance for grandkids. But I worry that by not having children, I'm robbing them of potential happiness.
I’ve always been polyamorous when it comes to my weed consumption because, as in any relationship, it’s hard for one person to provide all of the things we need. But I recently had to clean up my roster because things had gotten somewhat out of control.
Bud man #1 was, and still is, my main man. He has great product, great prices, is excellent at communicating with me, and I just dig his vibe. Bud man #3 would come to me wherever, whenever, but I was paying him Platinum Kush prices for aluminum foil kush. Bud man #5 was only there as an emergency backup since he made me wait two hours and then got an attitude with me and blamed it on his issues with the mother of his baby.
Bud man #1, who I am almost monogamous with these days, has been my guy for going on five years. Let’s call him “Red.” I like Red. He is confident, chill and kind. We often chat at the end of our quick transactions about work (we both tutor kids), about gentrification (we both know his home, Brooklyn, is being stolen before his very eyes), about travel (we both appreciate the balance between the push and the plush ― work hard, then live it up). I see him at least once a week, and sometimes more when I am not doing my best at taking care of my lungs and brain.
But here’s the rub: I’m a trans guy who began transitioning a year and a half ago, and Red knew me when I still presented as female. He doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo about my gender identity.
When I first made the decision to begin hormones and have top surgery, I wrote a long coming-out email to my family and friends and sent it to almost everyone I know. Obviously, Red was not on that list. I thought maybe I should mention it to him, but there never seemed to be quite the right moment to impart that kind of information during our quick sidewalk swaps.
No one gives you a manual on how to handle this stuff. Coming out to your long-term weed guy is entirely uncharted territory.
No one gives you a manual on how to handle this stuff. Concrete things, like changing your gender marker on government-issued IDs, are tough to figure out, but there’s still a protocol to follow. Coming out to your long-term weed guy is entirely uncharted territory.
Transitioning is usually a slow and subtle process, and the small changes could easily go unchecked from week to week. I didn’t think a lot about it the first few months since the visual differences were so slight. When I renovated my chest, suddenly breastless and pec-tastic, I felt it might be noticeable. But if Red did notice, he didn’t say anything to me.
Over time, the humble hairs across my chin and other parts of my body continued their valiant march upward and outward and soon became visible. I now have a respectable little beard, and I figured growing said beard also served as a yearlong way of coming out to Red as trans.
Again, I wouldn’t know if he noticed because we never spoke about it. He never asked, I never offered.
A few months ago I was going to meet Red, who didn’t see me at first because I had forgotten the address we were meeting at and was on the wrong stoop (can you tell I smoke too much weed?). When I walked up, he laughed and said, “I was like, ‘She told me she was here, but where is she?’”
I looked around like, “Where is she?” Or more importantly, who is she?
At that moment, I could have been relaxed and just said, “Oh you confused me by saying she. [Nonchalant laugh] I’m trans and I use ‘he’ now.”
No big deal, right?
As it turns out, coming out as trans to your weed man in the middle of the day on a stoop in Bed-Stuy is not the most relaxing activity. So I laughed, made jokes about my Swiss cheese brain forgetting the address, got my bud, swallowed the lump in my throat, then smoked a few joints to help me digest that sad-lump when it reached my stomach.
I wonder if there are butterflies out there still being called caterpillars by the bugs who don’t get how sometimes we wear our wings on the inside until we are ready to reveal them to the world.
On my bike ride home, I contemplated if it is in some way radical that Red’s concept of womanhood is wide enough to fit a burly, bearded fellow such as myself?
Or is the concept of me being a trans man so unfathomable to him that the more realistic option is me being a woman who now looks like Jon Snow?
I wonder if there are butterflies out there still being called caterpillars by the bugs who don’t get how sometimes we wear our wings on the inside until we are ready to reveal them to the world.
Maybe I should have just put him on my coming out letter listserv after all, since I actually see him much more than most of the cousins and childhood friends who received that email. But that just felt too intimate for the kind of relationship we have.
Still, when you think about it, what are the elements of intimacy? Trust, understanding, love, safety, exchange, support. Red and I actually share a fair amount of these: trust, understanding, exchange, support. He trusts I am not the police. I trust he is providing me with quality product. I support his pockets. He supports my habit. We like each other, but we definitely don’t love each other. Maybe love combined with trust trumps the others and is the make or break for a truly intimate relationship?
Some of the people I actually am intimate with, who I love the most, have deeply hurt me with the things they have felt and expressed about my transition. The thing that allows me to continue building a relationship with them is my trust that they care about me in a way that is beyond body and boundary: I trust that they know who I am at the core of my own little earth. Loving someone and trusting someone is not the same. When you do have both, then you can really let it all hang out.
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The thing is, being trans sometimes means it is all hanging out, even if you didn’t let it or choose it ― even if there is no intimacy involved. I bet, in many ways, Red gets this. And as a black man, he probably gets it in ways I never will: to have someone see you and assume. To have someone see you and ignore.
I don’t think he is purposely ignoring these things that are true about me. I think he just does not know how to adjust to what he sees happening.
If I was a new customer and he met me, he wouldn’t think twice about if I was a man ― it wouldn’t even be a conversation. Not all the time, but most of the time, that’s what I want: to not have to have a conversation about my identity. For people to just get it.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, I “pass” ― meaning people see me as a man and might not even know I am trans. If I was a new customer and Red met me for the first time, he wouldn’t think twice about whether I was a man. It wouldn’t even be a conversation.
Not all the time, but most of the time, that’s what I want: to not have to have a conversation about my identity. For people to just get it. For people to understand someone being trans is a possibility ― an option. Eighty-nine percent of the time, I choose to come out. I am comfy, I am proud, and I think it is important. I’ve also found coming out gets through to people, probably more than reading an article or hearing an intellectual argument.
When I was running low on weed again, I considered texting Red, “Hey can I get an 8th of RAINBOW Sherbert or Juicy FRUIT, and, oh, by the way, I’m a man. See you soon!”
I did not deliver that message.
Then I planned to say to him in person, “Oh, hey. I know we’ve known each other for a while and you might be wondering why I suddenly have a beard and a late-night radio voice ... it’s because I’m trans! I am a dude like you but not like you, you know? If you want to talk about it we can, or we can just continue this excellent relationship as is.”
I did not deliver that message.
It seems so easy on paper.
It is not easy.
I didn’t want to make him feel weird or anxious or on edge. Whenever people get like that, I always end up absorbing it so it has somewhere else to go instead of just sitting there in the air between us, or to relieve the other person of having to deal with it so they don’t feel like I’m putting something on them. (Might be a side effect of being socialized as a woman, huh?)
Even though I was showing Red I was trans by just standing in front of him, I worried that me telling him directly would affect our relationship, that he wouldn’t be “OK with it,” that he would be less friendly with me or stop responding to me completely.
Even though I was showing him I was trans by just standing in front of him, I worried that me telling him directly would affect our relationship, that he wouldn’t be ‘OK with it,’ that he would be less friendly with me or stop responding to me completely.
There are plenty of reasons for me to be nervous about these things ― too many bad things have happened to me personally, and to trans people globally, that verify my anxiety.
I don’t think that he is someone who would do those hurtful things, though. It just doesn’t seem to be his way or his spirit. And maybe part of this is on me ― I need to trust people more and underestimate them less. Maybe I need to let go of my fears, or at least the pieces of them that are in my control.
But I still haven’t come out to him. As open as I am in most of my life about being trans, I kind of want to let this one play out.
Yesterday, I met Red in the park. We were sitting on a bench that was too small for two large men and we were both wearing shorts. Our leg hairs were softly brushing together. I wasn’t even looking in his face, but our body hair was making intimate contact.
My brain is forever finding ways to stay busy, so I found myself wondering when the last time Red cried was. I wondered if he has someone who touches him sweetly, if he ever hit someone and made them bleed, what memories make him cringe, which smells bring his grandmother back to life.
I don’t want or need to know his answers. It is enough to know that he could have the same questions about me. And both of us could have them about the woman walking her dog past us or about that police officer in his squad car driving by or about Lil Wayne ― even about our disgusting president.
This does not make us all the same, and such a claim would be naive and avoid the truth of how this world has been structured. However, there does seem to be some general human package delivered to each person as we are delivered into this world. Its contents include longing and loneliness, some kind of awe and ache, a certain celebration and a specific sadness.
Maybe there is some kind of cosmic intimacy that comes from just being alive at the same time, because being alive is in itself an intensely vulnerable and connective experience that we are all involuntarily involved in.
Red and I are connected. And at the same time, we don’t understand each other all the way. For now, I’ve decided to meet on common ground and let the questions be the answer.
The chemistry between me and dudes who work at the corner store is fascinating. They seem drawn to connect with me, even if they don’t know why. It’s like I am just a guy, but with a twist, a tortilla chip with a hint of lime. They call me ‘papi’ and ‘brother’ and ‘boss’. They joke with me. And I joke back; smiling to myself knowing things they do not.
The other day I went into a random corner store where I did not know the guy at the counter. I asked for a pack of Bambu and a lighter.
“Are you eighteen, sir?” he asked, showing me his skepticism by inching his (impressively) bushy eyebrows up towards his not so bushy hairline.
“I am actually thirty, believe it or not.” He chose not.
“No, no. Thirty? This cannot be true,” he said, shaking his head, looking kind of sad for me like no one had taught me to give an age that could be believed, to at least give my lie a chance to pass for a truth. I smiled and handed him my ID. Along with a teenage boy, I too would be uncomfortable with him closely examining my ID, but for fear that the "F" will stand out, not the year of my birth. The F never stands out, it sits quietly nestled amongst the other information about my personhood that the government has neatly organized on this plastic card.
As he reached for it I said to him, “Can’t you see all my gray hair?”
He responded, “Well your hair looks old, but your beard looks like a teenager.”
SHADE. It was funny to me that he was reading me, but he didn’t quite get the moral of the story. I laughed and told him not to come for my beard because I was working on it. As the bells chimed signaling my exit from the store, this small bell in my head chimed signaling that I felt a bit off about that exchange.
Even though I pass almost all the time, on occasion cis-people I interact with seem to have a feeling similar to deja vu or reading a really good poem - there is something there that feels familiar and brand new at the same time, something that cannot quite be named. Part of what tickles their senses might come from the energy I exude, the way I talk and move my hands, the faces I make or the words I use, the warmth that I do have, the walls that I don’t. And a part of what intrigues them might be that I am a big dude with a courageous but quaint beard, which I sport with pride.
I have been on T for 1.5 years and I have a fair amount of facial hair for that amount of time. Comparison is a futile and usually counter-productive activity, but I think most of us tend towards it. Some trans guys have expressed playful jealousy of my facial hair. I have expressed not playful jealousy of Rick Ross’s beard. It’s all about perspective.
My whole life I had a little ‘stache, which pleased me. Well actually, let me tell the truth. Before I stopped trying to force femininity, I used to Nair it off. Just writing those words makes me smell that sweet toxicity again, which in turn makes me sick to my stomach. (What the actual fuck is that made out of and why is it FDA approved and why did I put it on my face?! A moment of silence for all the time, money, and healthy skin lost in feminine people’s war on their own body hair.)
After I started living as a masculine person I was thankful for my little mustache. When I began hormones and it slowly thickened, I felt excited and impatient, which sums up my experience of the first year of my transition. I asked my doctor, my trans friends, God, anyone that would listen- WHEN WILL I HAVE A FULL BEARD? They all responded the same- sit tight, not for a while, maybe never.
Maybe never? This was shocking to me. My relationships with cis men were so few and far between that I had gone my whole life believing that every cis man was automatically able to landscape his face in whatever way he desired. When I was informed that some cis men can’t grow much facial hair at all, let alone a full beard, this first made me swell with pride for the cis guys I had already surpassed, then (ego check) deflate with fear that this might be as far as I will get.
Right now I have a thin but present beard. My mustache and beard are trying very hard to connect, like a little kid jogging and reaching for their parent's hand while the parent doesn’t pay attention and keeps it just beyond their little hand. Or like someone falling off a cliff, forever doomed by the inch of possibility between their fingers and their savior’s anxious palm. Or like Michelangelo’s Adam and God. Maybe most like that one, because both mustache and beard seem pretty laid back about the whole thing, lazily reaching towards each other while I am pressed for them to become one.
I won’t lie, it is not my favorite that I am a grown ass man who has spent most of the last year with pubescent whiskers. Still, I have not shaved since I began transitioning. My beard might confuse people. It might have looked silly at the beginning. But it was mine! (Could this be how the parents of ugly babies feel? Not that my beard was ugly, it just was skinny and a little awkward).
I got into a small debate about my Beard Baby with a friend of mine. He is a transman who transitioned over ten years ago and has a sexy, full, slightly salt and pepper beard, and I had turned to him for many of my early transition questions. He expressed to me that he thinks transguys at the beginning of their transition who choose to keep a slight ‘stache or a nebulous neck beard, look goofy and should just shave it off. I laughed but also protectively side-eyed him as I stroked my hairs, comforting my ‘ugly baby’.
I explained the reasons for my decision (and probably a lot of other guys’ too) to keep whatever facial hair I was gifted during my first year of easing into my true, but new, self.
First off, it was exciting to me! I had imagined what this would look like for years. As a kid, I drew a goatee on with a brown marker. As a twenty-something, I used an iPhone app that showed me my fully bearded self-avatar. For a few drag king performances, I used mascara or the shavings from my buzz cut and special glue. Now my body was meeting me where I was at and even if it was taking its time, I would be patient, as it had been patient with me for my whole life.
Early on in my transition, I was afraid my facial hair was one of the only things making me pass to the (often simple) cis-world. I was so relieved that I was no longer being called ‘lady’ and ‘girl’ and ‘ma’am’. Even if I had never transitioned and lived my whole life as a masculine woman person, no one should have been calling me those things. But since I did transition, and since the world is what it is right now, there was no way I was going back to ladyland. So if a slightly silly beard was the key to keep that door locked, I was going to hang on tight to it.
And ultimately, I don’t really give a damn. Most of my life I have lived outside the bounds of what is conventionally attractive or cool or normal or fashionable. So I don’t have a lot of investment in those things, or at least I try not to. While being trans has sometimes felt like a challenge and a burden, most of the time I am grateful for how free it has made me.
Not for all trans people, but at least for me, I feel liberated by existing outside the suffocating standards of the mainstream. This doesn’t mean I do not want us to be recognized as fully legitimate and equal humans, for us to be a full part of the world. It means I think we have been given special eyes to see through the bullshit, special hands to hold so many true things at once, and special facial hair to keep things interesting.
My Beard Baby has turned into a Beard Teenager. They always say your kids grow up too fast, so I will not wish time away. And by the time I am an old man looking like Merlin, with my silver beard tickling my toes, maybe things will be different and everyone will feel comfy in their face and their fate.
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The subject of the email is: Avocados.
The body of the email is short, bare-bones: “We will be bringing four (4) ripe avocados. Love you.”
The origin of this critical communique is my father. The concern is guacamole, to be made for a lunch at my house when he and my mother come to town, an event set to occur three weeks from the day of sending. It’s so simple, and yet, I have so many questions.
Hair is weird, man. Fluffy, curly, frizzy, wavy, wispy, thin or thick. It’s just strings of cells, these DNA appendages hanging off our body.
Hair is deep, man. We use it to step up our head's game, to show what we’re about, what we are committed to, our religion, our culture, our aesthetic. Hair is used as an art. Hair has also been used as a tool to control and disempower people.
People get real dumb about hair when it comes to gender. Well, people just get real dumb about gender and hair separately, so put them together and damn. And where do gender, hair, and (often) stupidity converge? The barbershop.
I’m 29 years old and going through puberty. My goatee is humble but hopeful. A few days ago, I got carded trying to buy a lighter (which means they thought I was younger than 18). But I’m also an heir to genetics that had my parents completely silver-haired by age 40. So, while I have a pubescent mustache, I also have half-gray, long wavy locks that make me look like a late-20s Poseidon. If this feels like a riddle, apologies. A lot of my life has felt that way, so you can deal for a little bit.