Trigger warning: this post references an article which discusses gay sex in the context of bars/clubs and makes mentions of sexual assault and child abuse.
Today I discovered a beautiful article by Brandon Taylor titled On Being Queer and Happily Single – Except When I’m Not. It mirrors and contrasts the post I wrote yesterday about loneliness, and it resonated with me a great deal. At the same time, thanks to the machinations of YouTube’s suggestion algorithm, I chanced upon Ryuichi Sakamoto, a musician and composer of thoughtful, stirring classical pieces. Here is one such piece:
The article and music wove nicely together, producing a warming and melancholic effect. I’ve decided to dub this feeling merrycholy – the wistful longing of melancholy with the pleasant tingles of an afternoon spent by the fire. I’m going to highlight some parts of the article that particularly spoke to me, and I encourage you to listen to Ryuichi as you read this, perhaps achieving a similar feeling to what I had.
My friends and I were catching up, exchanging news, settling in, warming up to one another’s company, because despite whatever friendliness exists between people, we are always fundamentally strangers, and no matter how much you care for someone, you are always triangulating, adjusting, trying to find the place where you enact what passes for intimacy — the sort of spontaneous flailing of friendship.
I always long for more intimacy with friends. To have friends I cuddle, bat, flirt with and kiss. And then I imagine doing any of these things with my current friends and cringe in fear.
I don’t know when I came to be the sort of person who startles easily at the prospect of my own body, or of someone touching or seeing my body. I don’t know when that happened or why it happened.
I don’t feel so much a disgust towards my body as a disconnection. I rarely look at myself naked in the mirror, and when I do, I have to remind myself that this flesh is mine. It’s getting better with HRT, but I still wonder at how loving your body is supposed to be possible. It seems the most I can hope for is mild detachment.
Sometimes when I’m talking about my work with friends, they ask me: “Yes, that’s great, but how are you?” What they mean is, “But why aren’t you dating? Why are you alone?” As if there’s only one way to be lonely, as if sex and romantic love were the only thing a person could long for. There’s something that happens in our conversations that makes it easy to quip or reduce the scope of a person’s life and all their desires to the presence or absence of a sexual or romantic partner. I say, “Oh, who knows, I’m happy. I’m fine.”
And then, I guess, I feel like a hypocrite, because while I do bristle when people ask me questions like that, I do long for something.
I am my thoughts, my theories, my work and my discourse. But I feel pegged down by relationships, and then in spaces where writing is the centre, I’m often the black sheep of productivity. The person who takes it too seriously. I should be spending more time looking for love, except when I do, I get bored and would rather be at home reading.
Sometimes, I say that I want to be with someone who I only have to see three or four times a week, and only to cook meals and go book shopping. I say that I want some flannel-wearing bearded man to descend from a rainy mountain in Washington State or Vermont, who smells like crushed ice and the sharp scent of pine sap, who will read Proust to me in French and drink from enamel mugs beside a firepit with me. That’s what I want. And what my friends say to me is that I want a best friend who dresses like Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and I say, yes, probably. But the look in their eyes is rueful pity, that this is not enough.
What I want is mostly to be alone. And to not have to contextualize my loneliness in a way that makes other people comfortable with it. So what if I’m alone. So what if I sit in my apartment and read one book after another or watch period pieces. It’s not a wasted life. It’s not a dead end. It’s not one of those sounds that you hear in the middle of the night and go in search of only to find nothing but air. It’s not that.
When I was a teenager I fantasised about losing my virginity to an older man, because I thought that was what would make me a real, gay adult. Someone who was normal, who fit in, who was loved. When I had sex it felt surreal, awkward, and disappointing. And eventually, after years of casual sex, that all I wanted was someone to cuddle up with and talk about our dreams and fears and fantasies, and that I might never find that.
It’s not that I find sex disgusting, though perhaps I do. Maybe I do. I probably do. I just can’t imagine myself having sex. I haven’t had sex in so long that the part of me that wants it has withered away, and I don’t feel like that’s a loss, really. I don’t feel that having sex has improved my life in any particular way, and why should I mourn something that I find anxiety-inducing? The idea of sex — thirst — is at some level physiological for me. A reflex from some vestigial organ. But the actual, pulsating need for sex is long gone. And maybe I never had it. I don’t know.
I don’t feel shame in telling people how long it’s been since I last had sex. Apart from a hookup at a furry convention two years ago, it’s been perhaps four years. But I feel the judging attitude, the surprise, and even slight distrust, that comes from announcing it. As a trans woman, there are many templates you’re imposed onto: kinky, lingerie-sporting, polyamourous, tech nerd, edgy – but never a quiet bookworm.
I’ve experimented with IDing as asexual. The label never fit, though. I’m not repulsed by sex, and it’s not like I have no compulsion towards it. I just feel a vague disinterest towards it which can be reconciled in the old-school LGBT scene nor in the aro/ace online community. I’m adrift, cleaving to my books and tongues, not particularly focussed on having the latter shoved in my mouth. I can convince myself that I long for romance, when I think hard enough about it, but this always feels reflexive – an implanted desire.
What I want is a hermitude for two. But we can’t always have what we want, and I know I can be happy when I’m old and single. Except for when I’m not.