What Was I Made For?
Searching for Connection, and an End to Loneliness
Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment of “The Transchick Chronicles,” an on-going series of essays written by trans journalist Stephanie Haskins as she documents her transition, and modern transgender life. Scroll to the bottom for links to her previous entries.
BY STEPHANIE HASKINS
I used to float, now I just fall down
I used to know, but I’m not sure now
What was I made for
What was I made for?
‘Cause I, I
I don’t know how to feel
But I wanna try
I don’t know how to feel
But someday, I might
Someday, I might
-“What Was I Made For?”
Song by Billie Eilish
From Barbie: The Album
Such haunting lyrics from the movie Barbie, sung by the eerily beautiful and dazzlingly talented young singer Billie Eilish.
It’s the core musical lament of that stunning pop culture phenomenon of the summer, the Greta Gerwig film that has quickly become a Generation Z up-your-patriarchal-White-male-ass anthem of kick-butt feminism.
When I first heard this song on my car radio, I instinctively sensed its congruence to the transgender sensibility that I—and so many other trans people like me—have to deal with every single day of our lives: Loneliness and isolation.
Author Carson McCullers knew what she was talking about when she gave title to her unforgettable 1940 literary masterpiece, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. One reviewer said the novel “described the struggle of all these lonely people to come to terms with their world, to become members of their society, to find human love…”
I can tell you absolutely that many trans people indeed experience a sense overwhelming isolation both before and during their transitions. That aloneness and isolation is a singular testament to the fear and guilt we experience as we undergo our emotional transitions and physical transformations.
We are lonely hunters indeed.
Because, let’s face it, whom else can we trust with our secrets?
Except other transgender people. But even that is not an absolute.
And so, the human heart; I’m not talking about the blob of organ meat that pumps blood through our carcasses, but rather that bit of emotional ectoplasm that defines our capacity to pair with others. It also empowers us to express affection and crave intimacy—the kind of connection that most of us desperately need to sustain our lives.
OK, campers: I’m talking about LOVE.
Ah, the “L” word.
How much we are compelled to dance around it and noisily celebrate it as the supposedly driving force in our bizarre, fucked-up culture. After all, we’re told that “Love is what makes the world go ’round.”
“Love” is almost always entwined with sexual and physical attraction. Oh sure, there are all sorts of love that entail neither (like my deep, undying love of Keebler chocolate chip pecan cookies, for example), but I’m talking about the kind involving sweaty, horny people fucking the brains out of each other—people who want to devour each other spiritually and physically.
That kind of love.
Lust? Sure. But also the kind of I-want-to-own-your-soul-forever kind of love.
I’m going to tell you some deep secrets here about your favorite trans babe, whom you’ve observed over the past two years (through my writings in this space) transform from a very frightened shadow-female inhabiting a disgusting male body into a rather joyful, albeit much-jackhammered vision of femaleness.
Not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination as I stare at my image in my bathroom mirror—but hey, I actually do see an attractive, late-middle aged woman staring back at me.
True this: I’m not in the first half of life and I have wrinkles where I’d prefer I didn’t. My skin isn’t dewy and flawless, and while I do have a pair of the perkiest man-made tits in North America, my legs tend toward the scrawny side. And try as I might, my ass isn’t exactly a booty—more like a comfy moccasin, actually.
So, people, Auntie Steff is now and rather recently afflicted with a rather messy case of body dysmorphia. I’m angry that all of my surgeries and procedures and injections haven’t made me into the luscious example of womanhood I’ve pretty much always wanted to be.
Close, really close…but, well, um, uh…
And as a result, I don’t put myself “out there.” I do not date. I do not have a partner. I haven’t been intimate with anyone for years. I choose not to take a chance and be rejected by someone, again, as I have been so often in the past.
In short, I am desperately lonely.
Stephanie “The Transchick” Haskins
What Was I Made For?
And, I suspect, many other transgender people feel the same way.
Oh, maybe not the very young, just-barely postpubescent young adults who easily morph into the often spectacular physical specimens they choose to become, the Hari Nefs and the Dylan Mulvaneys of our community pretty much have it made– but not so much the later bloomers like me, who have lived a large chunk of our lives in the bodies we have come to despise.
For us, mostly, it’s probably a bit too late to find the Freddy Kruger chop-your-head-off kind of love. Or the ferocious animal take-me-from-behind-while-around-the-campfire kind of rutting. Or the brain-spattered physical relationships that we (read: I) still crave.
Oh, yes! Please!
But sadly, no.
So sorry, Steph. You’re likely done. The fork has been inserted. (I’d insert a crying emoji with tear drops here but my editor says no!)
In an act of supreme masochism, I look at social media posts every day from young trans people who are just stunningly beautiful. At first, when I saw these creatures electronically preening day after day after day (often in almost identically-positioned poses), usually celebrating some sort of innocuous, important-only-to-them event in their lives, I was kind of enthralled, to be honest.
Most of these posts are usually captioned something like “Felt Cute Today.”
Or: “First day at the beach in my teeny-weeny bikini.”
Or: “Anyone feel like special kisses?”
Some even sell pictures and videos of themselves on voyeuristic on-line pay-for-play platforms like Only Fans—simple and cheap access for horny old men who get their rocks off looking at images of lovely transgender women. It’s a way for these young people to make money—sometimes very GOOD money—for almost no effort. Or danger.
Sometimes, however, they do so out of desperation. The dark side. Always a dark side.
It’s been a real education for me to learn about a lifestyle I had no idea existed, and I became totally fascinated. But it does make me sad. Really sad. It just goes to show that for some, other than their physical beauty and their nascent sexuality, they might not have any other marketable skills. Or ways to survive. And so they fetishize themselves to make a living.
Yet slowly, over time, the notion of these posts and these sites has become less enchanting. Far less enchanting, because I’ve started to feel that I personally, as a transgender woman trying SOOO hard to be beautiful—if only to myself—was really just…LESS. Physically, that is.
I was just me.
What a bummer.
Look. I get it, Almost all of these usually very young trans women have lived much of their relatively short lives in a husk they hate as much as I hated mine. So when they start their transition process, and the hormones (usually estrogen, progesterone, and spironolactone) start to transform their bodies, they’re incredibly delighted and proud of their transformations—their beautiful new female faces and bodies—and so they decide to share.
Egos that were smashed down for years, often with enormous cruelty, want to fly free and proclaim, online, how they beat the odds, overcame the often abusive circumstances of their earlier, repressed lives, and that they have…ARRIVED.
They’re now beautiful women other people lust after.
But of course, the visuals are in no way even a small glimpse into what might lie inside. Real life stories are always more complicated than Instagram posts or pay-to-peek platforms.
I try to remind myself of that, but as a transwoman, like most OTHER transwomen, I, too, am FIXATED by my image.
I admit that.
I soooo desperately want to be a beautiful, desirable woman. Ohmygod. So goddamn much. And yes, I want to he held, and touched, and hugged, and adored—and loved.
As I’ve explained in this space before, I now mostly identify as a transbian (transgender lesbian); I’m mainly attracted to other females, be they cisgender (lesbian, straight) or transwomen like me. Yet that also includes, surprisingly, very feminine gay males. (I know, it’s still confusing to me as well, especially because I used to primarily identify as a gay male pre-transition.)
Who the fuck knows. I’ve never pretended to be anything than complicated and conflicted. If I can’t explain myself, well, good luck to anyone ELSE who tries to understand or figure me out. Jeezuz.
Except heterosexual. I absolutely cringe at the thought of most men on top of me, or in me. That will NEVER HAPPEN.
But the fact remains that all of this talk of sexuality is purely speculative, because I remain a virgin a year after my vulvoplasty. Currently with ZERO prospects for anything more.
“Oh, please,” I can hear you snicker. “You just said you don’t put yourself out there because of your body issues—so whose fault is that?”
Yeah. You ARE right.
I’m a coward, in actuality. I made my own bed, and I lie in it. Alone. Actually on top of my bed. I don’t like top sleep under covers. Too hot. Too restrictive. But still.
And I think a lot of other transwomen are in the same boat, and we’re all rowing down “Moon River”, with no one on the docks to greet us when we put ashore.
Honestly, I’ve ALWAYS been a coward to some degree or other. Even when I was a young male on the prowl—such as that was—I was terrified to ask people out on a date. I guess I put out the “untouchable” vibe, that I was above it all. And in some respects, I was.
I had my fabulous career as a television news executive at one of the most successful stations in the country, and kept the trains running on time, and—all modesty aside—I was very, VERY good at it. I helped dictate the news diet in Sacramento for a lot of years (at several news stations, actually), and so I didn’t think I needed to be wasting my time chasing people who apparently didn’t want to be chased by ME.
Nope, instead of wooing and winning potential love interests, I was busy screaming at television sets as I watched and critiqued half a dozen daily newscasts.
Sublimation? I was the goddamn KING of sublimation. I chose my career over a life that could actually fulfill me.
How solid. How fun! How fucking sad.
Even worse, I was married to my first wife part of the time. (Breaking News: I’ve been married twice, both times to women.) What does THAT say about my ability to figure out my own shit?
No wonder I’ve spent so much of my life in therapy. Along with SOOO much money.
I was angry, cynical, aloof, and terrified of my own sexuality. And I especially didn’t want to be dumped or hurt or rejected or told “no, I find you repulsive.”
I was fucking terrified of that.
I was practically kidnapped by my aforementioned first wife on our first date, because I was so reluctant to make the first move. And listen, a lot of boys and girls actually thought I was pretty cute when I was in my 20s and 30s. But I didn’t think so. I truly figured that no actual human person would possibly want to be with me.
Because, as I have come to determine, even I didn’t want to be with me.
Steve Haskins, in the 1970s
And yes, I played the straight male role as best I could because gender incongruity and identity issues were pretty much unidentifiable for me back in the day.
Didn’t work out very well, did it?
I was very sexually frustrated (and gender incongruent), and I carried a knot in my gut every day for decades through my two marriages because I sensed my innermost emotional life was a total shit storm. I wanted so many things, and people, that I simply couldn’t ever have.
What to do?
Why, not a fucking thing, of course.
Ultimately, I didn’t cheat, didn’t cat around, didn’t act on any instincts to be with other women or men—nothing. I suppose I actually believed in my marriage vows, when it came down to it. I just worked at my super-cool job. Making a difference. To everyone except ME.
I know. How quaint.
It took the dissolution of my first marriage for me to finally consider pursuing other young men, and then, again, I got my heart broken. The guy I wanted and loved moved on and later died of AIDS. Another personal tragedy.
But don’t despair, dear readers. Even though my life can feel pretty fucking empty sometimes, I do know transgender people who are happily partnered, or married, or at the very least, aren’t so afraid of personal emotional disasters that they keep themselves as zipped up as me.
The fact is, though, that transgender relationships are hard. REALLY hard. We ARE often afraid to commit; we ARE absolutely terrified of our own bodies, because we have NO idea what a prospective lover will think of our sometimes ambiguous genital presentation.
In my case, pre-vulvoplasty, how could I have trusted that someone would be at all interested in me as a woman? I had developed breasts, yes. But I still had a penis.
Yes, I know that some trans women have decided they’re OK with being somewhere “in-between.” That having any kind of “bottom surgery” is unnecessary for them to feel or identify as a woman. I think that’s great. But not me.
And I also know that images of young transgender women are BIG business in the porn business. BIG. These people are often pre-operative with breast augmentations who proudly perform on camera with their intact penises. Erect penises. Penises that can and do ejaculate.
Oh, fragile readers: I’m well aware that if Uncles Greggy Abbott and Teddy Cruz, Sissies Sarah Sanders and Margie Greene, and Big Daddy Ronny “Go-Go Boots” DeSantis were reading this, they might likely soil their britches right about now.
And Great Grandpappy Mitch McConnell would no doubt be giving me one of his super scary thousand-yard stares of silence.
But you can’t deny the facts, try as the far-right might.
According to Pornhub’s 2022 Year in Review, the platform’s transgender category experienced a huge boost in ’22, growing by an astonishing 75 percent to become its seventh most popular search worldwide. It’s the most popular Pornhub viewing category in Brazil, and it’s third most popular in both Italy and—hang on to your dicks, Greg and Ted and Ron and Marge—the good ol’ U.S. of A!
Think about that, Mitch—next time you’re literally frozen in thought.
Pornhub broke down its stats to show that Gen Y (ages 25-34) and Gen X (ages 35-44) customers watch trans porn more than any other age groups, at 34 and 25 percent respectively.
And, ohmygod, the site’s research determined that users searched FTM (female to male) porn EIGHT TIMES MORE than MTF (male to female) videos! In fact, FTM searches were actually up a whopping 202 percent compared to previous years.
“Transgender threesomes” and “Transgender Surprise” were also among the top searches.
And here’s a tidbit that is NO surprise, at least to me: 22 percent more male viewers searched for trans porn than did females.
This information seems to suggest that the sexual beings who inhabit this planet are WAAAAAAAY more curious about transgender bodies and sexual activities than they’re willing to admit.
And that those same supposedly straight, cisgender humans are perfectly willing to condemn our lifestyle decisions and struggles in public and then joyfully inspect our highly sexualized naked bodies in private.
It is hard to stifle my self-righteousness.
It would seem that while masturbation continues to be the most intimate and private of our sporting activities, how many of you actually knew that Pornhub is watching and keeping track?
Caught ya, Uncle Ed!
And Aunt Bitsy, Shame on YOU, girl!
Can it also be that many of these porn viewers are, dare I suggest, Republicans? Is that impertinent to even suppose that? Hard to say, but it’s interesting to note that the word “Trans” was the term searched more often by Pornhub viewers in West Virginia, one of the farthest right-wing states in the union.
Also interesting: the top 10 states with the longest times spent viewing Pornhub porn per visit were also among the reddest: Alabama (first), Louisiana, South Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Indiana.
I’m guessing a lot of White male Evangelicals in Tuscaloosa likely have a LOT to ask forgiveness for. LOTS.
“Now doncha be gittin’ mad, Meemaw! Ah just cain’t hep muhsef!”
And all of this while repressed, angry, transphobic GOP politicians introduced hundreds of anti-trans bills in three dozen state legislatures this year.
The hypocrisy just chokes me; my gag reflex is working overtime, people.
And apparently, so are theirs.
But for different reasons.
Ohmygod, fellow Americans: So much self-righteous transphobia, and so much time spent getting off on our sometimes androgynous nasty bits.
Be ashamed, you hypocritical assholes. Be VERY ashamed.
But again, even with that said, I had a tough time seeing myself as a fetish.
But goddammit, I WANT to be a fetish. I was, and am, a stong and healthy trans chick.
Yet even after a tummy tuck, breast augmentation (43 C, hehehehe), facial feminization, vocal feminization, and countless Botox and Juvéderm injections, I made almost no effort to find romance.
Still afraid of rejection, doncha know.
I don’t know what I would have done if someone would have asked me out, but of course, no one did.
Fair disclosure: I wasn’t totally alone during these lonely pre-op (bottom surgery) days; I had a wonderful and very close relationship, though not at all sexual, for more than a year with a trans masculine person that truly sustained me during those very scary times. I loved him with every centimeter of my heart, and having him in my life was just magical. He taught me so much about who I am as a transgender human that the absence of intimacy wasn’t even an issue. Just wasn’t. Unfortunately, that relationship is no more, and that’s all I’ll write about it here, or now. Let’s just say “it’s complicated.”
Yet my time with him was so incredibly important that even months later I so miss his presence in my life that I’m now shaking and sobbing as I write these words about him.
I just loved him so goddamn much. Still do.
And even though we didn’t have an intimate body to body relationship, the fact that he touched me, and hugged me, and held me as I sobbed in his arms when my family was treating me like shit, just meant everything then.
It kept me alive.
I am so grateful to have known him and, as I just noted, I miss him more than I can possibly describe.
But see, that’s the point.
For once, I allowed myself to be incredibly vulnerable and trust this transgender man, and my life was changed forever. Even if it didn’t work out on a very platonic level.
I gotta get that mojo back. But I’m really fucking terrified—again—that if I DO reach out, no one will reach back.
I’m in trans support groups where some newbies have never even MET another transgender person. Some haven’t even come out, and for some, the idea of starting a relationship or dating someone else who is queer is almost impossible.
Because look: whom CAN we trust? We’ve held our secrets so closely for so long that when we do come out, it’s likely the people we THOUGHT we could count on for support have deserted us. Erased us.
Who wants to face that if we don’t have to?
Even if we’re so lonely we cry ourselves to sleep many nights?
I can’t answer that right now.
While my transition has been incredibly difficult at times, I’m the first to admit that, overall, it’s truly the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done—in part because I’ve been fortunate enough to have resources many other transgender people simply don’t have. Or will NEVER have.
Let me digress for a moment to tell you a real life story about a young transwoman who has had to fight for everything she has. And she doesn’t have much.
Her name is Skye. She is 37-years-old and she lives in Ontario province in Canada. She was born intersex, and has spent most of her life in a hell that most of us can’t even imagine. (She’s asked me not to use her last name.)
She was raised in hardscrabble, violent, drug-infused homes. As a young AMAB (assigned male at birth), she says she was physically and sexually abused. When she was 18-months-old, her mother failed to pay sufficient attention to her whereabouts and she fell into a swimming pool. As a result, she was unresponsive for six minutes, and she actually died. She was somehow revived, possibly with some brain damage.
In her teens, she fell into the gangster-thug life. As a presenting male, she had relationships with women, almost got married—perhaps even fathered a daughter (she’s not sure)—and worked various jobs in construction. After a fall off of a roof, she developed epilepsy. She tends to have seizures when she is overstimulated by bright lights, loud noises, and flashing images.
“My options now are extremely limited,” she tells me. “I’m not allowed to work around anything that has to do with machinery. I would love to get up to go to work every day and earn a paycheck. But every time I get work, the amount of stress it often puts on my body could (and has) triggered a seizure.”
She continues: “The most I’m able to do is to possibly stack shelves for minimum wage. My doctor told me no fast food restaurants, no more construction; he said something better fit for me is stock work or maybe cleaning (janitorial) work of some kind, and it has to be part time.” She now relies on government assistance to get by.
The Transchick’s Facebook friend, Skye
When she and I first connected 15 months ago, she was living (again) with her emotionally unstable addict mother (also a hoarder) who tormented her about her intersex and transgender status, constantly deadnamed and misgendered her, and verbally abused her with a frightening suddenness and fury.
Skye finally took refuge in a battered women’s shelter, where she was able to find some peace and companionship with other battered women. Two months later, she moved in with a friend.
During all that time, Skye, amazingly, remained optimistic and upbeat. She has tried to carve out little chunks of a decent life no matter where she’s at, at any particular time. She’s one of the most amazingly cheerful persons I’ve ever encountered.
Though we’ve never met in person, we’ve become friends on Facebook, and she’s taught me about leading a life that’s not constantly bogged down by anger and recriminations, not overwhelmed by hatred and regret and sadness.
Skye has been on hormone replacement therapy for more than a year now, and is soon to be scheduled for bottom surgery in Montreal, something she says that will finally enable her to “live a fulfilling life. I’ll be able to walk around as my true self. I won’t have to be fake anymore.”
Her surgery, by the way, is scheduled sometime in the next few months, and will be paid for by the Canadian national health insurance.
She is VERY EXCITED, and is already buying and laying aside bandages, lotions, and other items she’ll need while she recovers.
Even though she’s been alone for much of her life, despite a handful of unsuccessful romances, Skye tells me that when she is “further down the road and more comfortable in my new body, then I do see myself in a permanent relationship.”
In fact, that friend that she moved in with has since become her partner,
Skye has kinda become my trans hero, actually. Despite a lifetime of disadvantage, and having been beaten down on so many levels, her joy for her new life as a transitioning woman seems to be unquenchable.
Skye has taught me this: Loneliness is what we make of it. Sadness and desperation can only conquer us if we allow it to be so.
And as I’ve discovered with my other new friends in the wonderful trans community, Skye is far from unique. Mostly, we are a very resilient bunch of humans. Often sad, often beaten down a bit, often frightened, but still: resilient.
How do I put this, gentle readers: We’ve all spent time in our own personal versions of hell. Sometime lifetimes. And yet, ours is a journey we are compelled to make.
Permit me now, if you will, an allegory:
Visualize a late winter day, windy and cold. The sun is bright, however, and in recent days it’s been warmer; spring is near.
It’s the day we, as trans people, have chosen to start our transitions. But to do so, we have to cross a very wide, frozen river.
This treacherous waterway separates us from finding a happier, more peaceful life on the other side, and we’ve come to understand that we simply MUST try to get across.
While the river’s ice seems to still be pretty hard, it also appears to be slushy in parts; we sense the very real danger that too much weight in the wrong place could result in it breaking under our feet and plunging us into the freezing water underneath that could certainly—and quickly—kill us.
But we have to try.
As we start to walk across the ice, we feel it cracking under our feet, and holes appear all around us. Yet we choose to keep moving.
We HAVE to get to the other side; we simply have no choice except to keep going forward. It’s now too late to return to where we started. We’re absolutely terrified, almost overwhelmed with fear…
We HAVE to continue; the wind seems chillier, and yet the sun seems warmer…
The other side is now in sight, and despite the sense of an imminent catastrophe, we don’t stop. It’s simply too important that we somehow get there. So we can start a new life.
Will we make it? Most of us do.
But that trek across the frozen river is the most consequential, risky trip we will ever attempt.
And the most lonely.
Will anyone be on the other side to greet us and hug us and warm us?
I want you to consider that.
The next time you see a nervous young person you perceive to be transgender, someone with a scared-rabbit sensibility about them, who might look to be neither quite male nor quite female, often dressed somewhat outrageously, please be kind. They are mid-journey across that melting ice-river.
I beg you: Consider their loneliness. Consider that they may be minutes away from falling into freezing water.
Can you find it in your hearts to feel a little bit of love for them?
And maybe allow yourself a smile and a nod to comfort them?
It doesn’t take much, friends. It might even be a gesture that saves a life.
I made that journey. And, my god: How close I came to falling through into that horrifically cold, dark oblivion.
‘Cause I, I
I don’t know how to feel
But I wanna try
I don’t know how to feel
But someday, I might
Someday, I might
This is our very perilous, personal journey to find ourselves. You will never fully understand it. But I tell you about it here so that you can know us better.
And maybe not hate us for making it.
Can I count on you for that?
And now, an update, gentle readers.
As some of you might recall, I’ve been pushing my health care provider to get a surgical revision for my shallow depth vaginoplasty (vulvoplasty) for almost a year.
I recently—finally—had a consultation in San Francisco with my new surgeon to discuss deepening my vaginal canal from a couple of inches to the standard five or six inches. That surgery could happen by the end of the year.
I truly hope this procedure will help me more fully embody my femaleness and womanhood, and lead me to overcome my fears about pursuing and feeling worthy of meaningful romantic and sexual relationships.
As I’ve explained, my sexual orientation is now decidedly penis-exclusive, but there are possibly other penetrative encounters to be had, and this will potentially enable me to fully enjoy them.
My journey to become complete—emotionally, mentally, and physically—continues.
And I’m excited. Very, VERY excited.
Think I forgot how to be happy
Something I’m not, but something I can be
Something I wait for
Something I’m made for
Something I’m made for
Maybe Barbie and I can go shopping together sometime.
I’d like that a lot.
Stephanie Haskins is hard at work on the next chapters of “The Transchick Chronicles.” Sign up for our e-newsletter here to be alerted when they’re published.
To read her previous installments:
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