Note: This is the second of a three-part series where I sort through what triggers my dysphoria, and how understanding that is essential to accepting that I am trans.
Across the room I watched her, trying not to watch her, and trying not to admit that I wanted to watch her, and making sure she did not know that I wanted to watch her, or had even glanced twice.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t take my eyes off of Meli (Hawaiian for “honey”), but I didn’t want to. So I allowed myself only glances, occasional, fleeting, harmless, unnoticed.
She has volcanic black hair that frames a face filled with mystery and youthful cheer. She smiles a great deal, and it is beautiful. Her Asian eyes are expressive and alert. She wears a sweater, a scarf, and jeans which perfectly frame her perfect frame. In her mid-20s, she is just now becoming who she will be, and she is not quite half my age.
I am not interested in romance. I am not interested in sex. I am not interested in friendship. I am not interested in conversation.
I am not interested in her youth, or her social life, or her ideas — at least not specifically. I am interested only in her transparent, integrated, and overflowing femininity.
And I am interested in the fact that I am interested in her. As I look at her, I think she is magically attractive. I think that she is a magnet to every man in the room, and perhaps some of the women. I think that her beauty, rooted as it is in her femininity, would meet anyone’s definition of attractiveness.
But I am wrong.
As I collect quick looks at Meli, I realize that her attractiveness is not something emanating from her, but rather something that is — and I can barely believe this at first — entirely within me. Her attractiveness is not a quality that she possesses or exudes or broadcasts, but rather an interpretation that I make within my own mind from what I am seeing. I am experiencing it because I am creating it.
I might assume that others would have the same reaction toward her, but even if that is true, it’s irrelevant. All that matters to me, indeed all that I could ever have access to, is within my own mind. And in that space, she may as well be a Chinese-Hawaiian goddess of femininity.
Now, before I get too carried away, I should be clear that I’ve known Meli for some time, and had a variety of reactions toward her, ranging from complete indifference to pure lust. This is, in fact, another clue that my reaction to her is entirely my own creation, and entirely internal. It can be triggered or affected by what she wears on a given day, or how she has pulled her hair to one side (or not), or how she holds her hands, but it is not a quality of those things. It is a reaction, my reaction — distinctly separate, detached, independent, and outside of Meli, and within me.
Because we don’t have (and never could have) any sort of romantic connection, I can be reasonably certain that she does not make choices about her appearance in consideration of how they will affect my reaction toward her. It’s possible that she makes such decisions in consideration of someone else’s reaction, but I do not know this one way or the other. (I’ve never known her to have either a boyfriend or a girlfriend.) It’s more likely that she just makes decisions about her appearance the way everyone does, in the routine course of leaving privacy to enter the public sphere, where appearances reverberate in unexpected but occasionally measurable ways, and are therefore meaningful.
As I glance at her again, I realize that she is likely completely unaware that her decisions have any affect on me specifically. She certainly has no idea of the depth of my reaction on this particular day. I suspect that she has a general sense that she’s “looking good” (or not) at any point, but is probably never fully aware of whose buttons she’s pushing (which is probably true for all of us). She likely has no idea that she might ever push my buttons. She would probably be repulsed by the thought.
Oddly, if she knew that I was so keenly noticing her, she might erroneously assume that I want something carnal from her. Were she to start noticing my glances, she might begin to feel uncomfortable (or excited, I might fantasize), not realizing that I am keying on her femininity in a way that is essentially detached from any carnal desires.
The truth for me is that I find her femininity attractive. And there is a clue to the mechanism at work right in that word: attractive. She attracts my eye. She attracts my attention. She attracts my curiosity. She attracts me.
And it is that attraction — that invisible and unconsummated and non-reciprocal link between how she looks and how I react — which triggers my dysphoria.
The flower does not create pollen with the intent of attracting a honeybee. It creates pollen for a specific purpose which the honeybee unknowingly participates in, its own motivations completely unrelated. This is an important relationship to understand because it is central to the transgender mechanism, at least inside of me.
I think she is beautiful, but there is no objective standard for beauty. And even if you could put something like that together, there is no guarantee that anyone else would agree with me that she meets it. I can decide that she is beautiful to me, but I cannot decide that for anyone else.
Everything that I think about Meli is exactly that: a thought within my mind. It is not something that is essential or true about her. It is something I impose on her.
And then I hit on the greater realization: Exactly the same thing is true of Meli’s femininity. Her femininity is also entirely within me. I read her as transparently feminine because I decide what that means, and I decide that she possesses it, and I decide that I like it.
And on this particular day, it triggers my dysphoria.
Now, unlike the concept of beauty, femininity is somewhat easier to define. But there are so many types, and so many different expressions, that I doubt you could actually put your finger on it. I have no doubt that others — perhaps even everyone in the room — would describe Meli as feminine, though it might not be their first adjective. And I doubt that everyone (anyone?) else would be as admiring of her femininity as I am. It’s unlikely even that others would have keyed in on that aspect of her the way I have.
Indeed, I am interested in Meli primarily for the femininity she displays — at least as I perceive it. It is instructive to me because it tells me something about myself. I like what I see in her, and I call it femininity, and I wish that I could express that same thing as easily and totally as she does.
This is the definition of my trigger: That which resonates within me, making me ache to express what I contain but cannot reveal, let alone live fully.
Meli’s femininity appears to come completely naturally to her, but I don’t know this. Her femininity, including the way her hips swing as she walks, and the way she flips her hair, and the delicate way she holds her hands, could be an act. Or maybe not an act, exactly, but merely a product of her biology.
Her hips are, in my estimation, perfectly proportioned to her height. She is ideally curvy, and I doubt that she could walk any other way. Is this walk then a sign of some sort of inner femininity, or just the manifestation of her body’s shape? I cannot know.
But I read it as femininity. I read it as an open expression by her of who she understands herself to be inside. And this is where I begin my real exploration of why I might give these things any thought at all.
I watch Meli, and I find myself face-to-face with my inner woman, clamoring to be expressed in the casual way that Meli expresses hers. And I slowly begin to realize that not only is Meli expressing her inner woman, but that expression is not complete until someone else has picked up on it and completed the feminine equation by seeing her in that way — as I am doing when I look at her.
Meli’s femininity requires my observation to exist. Likewise, my femininity requires the observation of another to actually exist. It absolutely requires the eyes of another, and that is what I crave. As long as my femininity remains contained within me, unseen by anyone else, it does not exist. It is but potential — frustrating and utterly wasted potential.
I do not require consummation, or reciprocity. I just need to be seen. Call it Quantum Femininity: It exists as an equation, a range of potentials, which cannot collapse into reality until it is observed.
This is quite a rabbit hole to climb down into.