I’ve been single for a year. Before that, almost a decade passed me by, during which I tended to another. In this last twelve months I’ve changed my job, my name, my gender identity and my entire circle of friends. Change, they say, is good. Change, they say, can redefine. Change, they say, can break one version of a self, down until it is unrecognisable. Until all that is left are the words, the process that is a testament, a document acknowledging the old self. In many respects, the new me is only a year old, not even a toddler. The new me is still figuring things out, falling over and learning the hard way every single time.
During a pivotal couple of months in this regenerative phase I took myself off to Berlin, mostly to immerse myself in destruction, but also to lay down better foundations for the new self, to rewire my brain without the distraction created by my busy London life. Whilst in Berlin I set myself several writing challenges; the following documents ten (or maybe more) days of that trip.
Es Tut Mir Leid
I’m sort of lying to myself at the moment. Even right now, I’m sitting here lying to myself. I say to myself every day that: ‘I am not a smoker’. And then at around midday I start thinking of all the scenarios in which I would quite like a cigarette. The funny thing is I’ve never really considered myself an addict to anything. And yet, I really am. I’m an addict to anything that distracts me from an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. I like to give myself lists of things to do in my mind so that when I get to end of every day I can say to myself: ‘well you’re shit, you haven’t achieved anything today’. Then in some sort of groundhog existential madness I wonder about achievement and who it’s for. I think about sending an email to my ex saying that I know she didn’t mean it when she said she didn’t love me. I mean, let’s be honest, I constructed the message, I just haven’t pressed send. So instead, I’m here writing a minute’s worth of words every day. It’s the latest in a set of small tasks I’ve given myself to do. Maybe tomorrow I’ll quit smoking. Again.
Day two is actually three, but it doesn’t matter to me if it doesn’t matter to you. I had a day off, the only one I think I will have. I didn’t smoke. I woke up with a pain in my chest, so that every time I took a breath in the pain reminded me that I will probably get sick, maybe not now but I will get sick from smoking every day for almost a year. In four months it will be a year since we broke up. Why does it feel like yesterday? I went to the Big Dyke March and stood on a bridge waiting for her, and that’s mad right? To be waiting for your ex while you’re out and basically at a meat market. Because that’s what the march has become: cruising ground. I was waiting for her because I knew she would be the only person who wouldn’t look at me as if I were a dyke. Because she knows I hate that word. She knows that the thought of another person being in my space or even in my bed, looking at or reading my work, makes me want to vomit. I’m pretty sure she knows that she is the only person I will ever truly love. I wonder if she knows every thought ends with her.
My underwear has become an issue. It’s on my mind a lot and I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I can’t get it right. I wear boxer shorts, the tight ones from Muji and they have this sort of puffy front section to accommodate a penis, an appendage I don’t yet have. I’m hanging out with two straight guys at the moment, even though one of them is gay he is more straight than gay and that’s ok because he is everything I wish I was and more. He’s tall and strong and fast and organised. He has muscles that are really big and protrude from his back and his chest and his legs. They pop and roll, they ripple and fill up a lot of space. When I’m around them, these two guys, I feel like one of the lads. We cycle really fast and chuck ourselves in lakes and eat whatever we want, we try and do handstands in parks and pull ups on bars, we never talk about our bodies or other people. When my underwear rides sweatily up my legs and rucks around my genitals, I sort of want to ask them if their underwear does that too, but I don’t. I’m still learning the rules. It’s Pride weekend in Berlin and I spend my time with straight people, because I know how to be gay, I don’t know how to be straight. I keep trying to tell myself my time was well spent, but I just don’t know anymore. I don’t know where home is. I’ve been thinking a lot about trans-corporeality.
‘What are you waiting / looking for?’ Sometimes the pathways generated by the brain —those common paths, you know the ones, the ones that lead to despair — are the ones we tread most comfortably. If she had asked me that at 2pm in the afternoon, my response would have been quite simple, maybe even emotionless, perhaps even straightforward. Instead she asked me at midnight and so I spent all night tossing and turning. Meaning I’ve had one of those sleepless nights which is making today just really hard. I developed quite an effective anxiety reducing technique at around 2am, which was visualising a precise cutting out of her. With a surgeon’s sort of precision, a scalpel piercing my lungs and heart. Because obviously the answer is her. I’m waiting / looking for someone to share my life with. (I was genuinely surprised to not wake up in a bloody pool), as I cut up / out memories that just really fucking hurt. Excavating the pain like a starving forager.
I’m wrestling with my ego at the moment. I keep wanting to get in touch with my therapist but I know it’s just so that I can be seen by her. To return to some sort of therapised version of myself. Not because I think that whatever she will say to me will help. I’ve lost faith in therapy as a solution. I haven’t lost faith in her; just my ability to change. I’m considering antidepressants as a way to suffocate the continually intoxicating tide of darkness that stops me from living my best life. I had a drink with a friend last night and we spoke in absolutes. We spoke of the differences between London and Berlin. Why I can’t make up my mind about home. My body won’t give me the answer I require, only maybe I’m not listening. Here, caught in the great balancing act of living, I lessen my sense of self. Here, in Berlin, I disappear; the friends I normally bounce off to generate an understanding of who I am, are no longer around. In this space that can only be defined as liminal, I feel homesick and yet, when I’m at home I feel travelsick. We resolved in our half hour conversation that it would be better to reside in between.
When I masturbate I stand really close to the window for about four seconds, my window opens onto a courtyard, there are windows everywhere, meaning I’m pretty sure at least two people have seen me naked. In a way this exhibitionism is out of body, like I have this mad, brave moment where I imagine they are seeing a body; that its actually not my body but a body I imagine it is: flat chested, with a solid cock in hand. Sometimes when I cycle I allow my head to follow a pair of legs or a pair of arms; I’m a muscle perv. I don’t think many people know this about me, which is good, I could masturbate just thinking about a muscle, it’s my weak spot. At my gym the muscles roll out all over the place, people stripping, whipping off their t-shirts as soon as the sweat hits. Which is essentially just after the warm up: five minutes into class and a frown sets in, I scowl around the room, hoping (pretending) to appear unimpressed; if only they knew I was memorising these moments of them half-dressed. Obviously, I have a crush on two instructors, I’m showing off for them. I’m physically repelled by porn, and yet I’m a slave to it. I wish my memory was better.
I’m in a country house by a lake, darling. No, but really, I am. I travelled in a car and made waves out of the window with my hand, like a snake. I arrived last night. When I got here, took two puffs on a spliff and two on a cigarette. I hadn’t smoked for a week and I felt a weakness descend. Called, in that moment, by another life, another lover. I cheated on myself last night, on my hopes and dreams for a new me. The house is basic, masculine, Derek Jarman-esque, I fell asleep crying. I’m in love with the house. What it offers. I’m in love with the way it makes me feel to be here, away from the intolerable indecision of how to carry on. For life is just very simply about living here. I have no internet connection, no need to be present for the world over there. Here; no requirement to perform, here I am alone and yet not, immersed in the novelty of making friends. Here I can be unapologetic. And yet there remains a crushing sensation; I know this bliss is momentary. I will remember real life out there, one sullen rainy night. I will remember London life filled with mates, dates and crashing dinner plates.
What equals an end? Who determines it? How is it written? How do I wave goodbye to my best friend? I’ve never been good with ends, conclusions, tying things neatly up, I would rather use a ‘see you later.’ Because really, how can I know what the future holds? How can I possibly predict a story not yet written? And why, when I guilelessly strive: running, sweating, lunging after it, must there be an end? What if the end feels as unsatisfactory as the in between? Why is my end different to her end? And what about beginnings? Or even stop gaps? Momentary moments of madness buried by sadness? What if I want an end to this body but not an end to parts of a new body containing the old body? What if I would quite like to end feeling shit in this body, punishing it daily? What if I would quite like to end feeling nothing but hatred toward this dutiful body? Or what if without the hatred and the shitty feeling I wouldn’t be able to activate something, to identify my ‘endurance threshold,’ my ‘VO2 max’? Doubting my ability to push, placing mind over matter and distinguish pain. When really my heart would rather stop, or my head rather fall off. And in that moment; when I listen to my voice I can hear myself butting uncomfortably up against an old me and a new me. That right now, I am on the precipice of discovery — version 2.3 — maybe? With every decision not made generating the next until I reach version 3.0. Maybe then I might feel a bit more like some gender fucking hero.
I’ve been thinking for quite some time that I have an idea, an idea that’s worth exploring. I set aside a month to do so and actually realise it’s maybe just really fucking boring. And the reason I haven’t explored it is because I can’t be bothered and the reason I can’t be bothered is because it’s too hard. The idea now sits like a mirage on the surface of my brain, there is nothing that allows me to access it. And so I wait, I wait for the rain to distance myself yet again from an idea of me, from an inkling I once had of a future. I don’t know why I keep returning to it, this idea. Yet it seems to define, seems to determine everything and nothing at all and what I want to scream out into the world is…I’m special right? I want to stomp my feet and shout on repeat, I am here and you should listen to me right, but why? What does my voice contribute to this great sphere of knowledge, of education, of information? What does my voice add? And so I think I might leave the idea, might leave the decision, might leave this predilection to knowing or even understanding anything. Might even sidestep the plan, because really was there ever one in the first place?
I went to a talk about intersectionality. About the multiplication of discrimination. About them and us. About gatekeepers. About capitalism. About transphobia. About racism. About sexism. About tokenism. In no particular order. Berliners are obsessed with capitalism. With finding alternative ways to operate in a white-cis-het dominant society, with overthrowing the system, with utopia. It’s infectious, the way they talk about newness, oblivious to sameness, to cynicism. I felt nervous that my apathy for all those words including patriarchy and feminism was part of the problem. I’ve been thinking about the presents I will bring home, not for other people but for me. The things I’ve learnt. I think some sort of renewed hope is one of them. I cycled home alone through a dark city and emailed Gender Care. I thought about how long it takes for me to make decisions, the big ones, and how our love felt like one of those summer storms. Clammily drenched and in a matter of minutes dropped back into alone. She always was faster than me at everything. I dreamt of how I could be a part of the solution. In a less transient way, in a real way, rather than a flash in the pan sort of way, a ‘this is what I believe in for instagram today’ sort of way. I dreamt of her and finally said goodbye.
My focus is on the queer body. After finishing my masters in critical writing at the RCA last year, I completed a course in personal training. I now work closely with clients to understand our mutual dialogue around the trans body in order to embark on what I hope will be a larger project around identity. Currently I train trans identifying clients at a gym in Hackney Downs, London. I write about my observations of this space that we create together. The form of my writing often changes, however, I consistently write to perform. You can find my work here.