*The names in the piece, including the author’s, have been changed in order to protect privacy. The author, a woman, is a recent college graduate.
These days, us 20-somethings are living in an age of fluid undefinement— no single label can identify us, nor do we want it to. When I was taught about sex in middle school, it was all about hetero intercourse and a brief acknowledgment that homosexual attraction existed. Nowhere under any educational institution did I learn about trans culture or even the possibility of identity confusion, so I never considered the possibility. And maybe my brain was too immature to understand identity and orientation at the time, but the point is that I never learned about it. As I got a little older and the the topic of gender identity was discussed, it was always with a degree of separation. My friends and I would see TV shows or petitions on Facebook and would discuss, as bystanders, the discomfort one must feel — unhappy in their own skin and unable to express themselves accordingly. But it was once removed, a separation wedged between what we spoke about and what we actually encountered. Thankfully, whether North Carolina likes it or not, this separation is disappearing. Trans people are asserting their rights, their freedom in our society and it is rightfully deserved. We need to catch up. I’m here to share my story so you can catch up with the times, like I had to.
I’ll start with some background about myself. I didn’t lose my virginity till I was at the ripe age of 20. I’m young, inexperienced, and had absolutely zero boyfriend prospects. So once I entered the world of sex, no turning back, I wanted to keep my sex casual. I had so much to learn! I was stoked when I met Leo at a party and we got along on a lot of levels — we joked about dumb television shows, snickered at other partygoers, and eventually shared a joint and records we both loved. So let’s fast-forward into summer a little bit where I’d hung out/had sex with them a half-dozen times. Our occasional hang outs were constricted to one of our houses and consisted of smoking, snacking, and boning. Despite my lack of experience, I do know that this sex was casual. A bona fide friend with benefits situation.
Leo had slept over one night and I found myself awake way too early. I looked to my left, saw Leo, and began pushing for morning sex. See how casual I am? They seemed a little tired or preoccupied or something, but I continued my attempt for more sex. I thought I had been getting the hang of casual sex. I was proud of myself for finding an easygoing and genuinely cool guy — I was finally getting on board. Leo finally turned to me with an unsmiling expression and said there was something to tell me because we’d been hanging out for a little … then trailed off. I told Leo to continue when they turned to me and said they struggled with body dysphoria for years, that they felt like a female on the inside. Leo spoke with conviction and a bit of relief, while my heart sank and my brain exploded. I mean whoa … where does that fall on the “casual” meter? Is there even a meter for this? I blinked back at them blankly until I realized I had to respond. I stuttered a bunch, I barely remember what I told them. It was definitely not eloquent or enlightening, but along the lines of “I support you, good for you, you’re brave, my Facebook friend is doing the same thing.”
Leo hadn’t taken any measures to begin their transition; at the time they first told me they used gendered male pronouns (which since has changed as part of their transition). They felt heavy not disclosing such an important part of their identity to me. I tried to be supportive even though I had literally never even imagined being in such a situation before. We said our goodbyes and I tried to maintain my cool and casual vibes. That being said, I could not suppress the insanity stirring in my head. With all this personal information I hated what a selfish crazy person I was being. It made me feel like this epic casual sex I stumbled upon so easily after swiping my v-card was becoming much more serious. And I was not down. Cue me feeling like the biggest ass in the world.
Leo was cute, funny, I had a good time hanging with them, and the sex was good — or at least it seemed we both enjoyed it. What I hated most about my reaction, and even admitting to it now is painful, is that I immediately questioned if I was still attracted to them. Simply by disclosing this personal struggle, despite all other details I knew about Leo to be the same, I dissected every aspect of the casual sex we were having. I tried to imagine how they felt having sex as a man. When you have sex, you’re pretty tuned into your body — what feels good and how to make it feel better. And maybe I am assuming far too much, but I can imagine that the disconnection associated with body dysphoria while having sex must be challenging, feel foreign or confusing.
My mind was reeling for weeks after they told me. Thinking about Leo as a friend, I was honored they felt comfortable to share something so personal, and I was happy to support them. But as someone I was having sex with, I had no fucking clue what to make of it. After we met at the party, we only hung out just us two — barely even sharing stories about our own friends. It didn’t annoy me because we had our own fun little bubble of weed, dumb jokes, music, and sex. I was in this weird limbo where I knew I wasn’t supposed to think about “the future” of a hook-up, but how could I not think about “the future” when the person I was hooking up with came out as trans? My next wheel of thoughts were even more selfish. I couldn’t help but question my place and performance in everything. Were they even attracted to me? Was I being used for sex? Wait, was I using them? Why did I care all of the sudden? Was it still casual sex after I learned something so personal? Did I want to keep boning someone that’s trans? Was I the worst person in existence if I didn’t want to keep sleeping with them? My selfish reaction was made even more convoluted when I thought of it in the context of millennial sex in 2016, at least the sex my friends and I talked about. Perhaps it’s this 21st century hotline bling super casual mentality that turned out to be so detrimental in my case. Had I not categorized Leo’s and my hook ups as such casual sex, maybe I wouldn’t have needed to reflect on the situation so gravely. We were having sex, getting closer, creating a relationship together — even though it wasn’t a serious one. Despite the fluidity us millennials have come to accept in our lives, my brain made me question every moment spent together, every word exchanged, and I couldn’t help it. I was in total support hypothetically, but suddenly when I faced it personally I couldn’t practice the same acceptance.
It took some time, and a brief ghosting period on my behalf, before I entertained the idea of having sex with Leo again. And after such indecent exposure on my behalf, narrating some of my crudest thoughts, I have absolutely no resolution for you. When Leo and I see it’s other, it’s cordial and fine, that’s it. Once we started school, I would run into them between classes and always try (but fail) to decipher how I felt. I realized this uncertainty mimicked how I felt about Leo prior to what they told me. They were just a cool person I enjoyed spending time with. Over the past year, we hooked up a few more times. The casualty of the situation persisted. And this was kind of a relief, but I still felt suspended in my feelings. I never resolved any of the questions I asked myself, but rather pushed them aside to never be addressed again. By me categorizing Leo as a casual hookup, I failed to acknowledge the actual person they were. I gave Leo the identity of my stoner booty call and that was it. They had a life outside of my house that I failed to consider, or maybe I just didn’t want to. I’m not turned off or scared by casual sex now, it’s still the kind I want to be having as an almost-22 year old. Just because it is casual doesn’t mean I have to categorize the person as “other.” After all, there’s a person behind that booty call.