A list of personal gender delights: faded plaid flannel shirts; rain pooling on daffodils; leather jackets gleaming with midnight streetlight; driving screws into soft pine with a power-drill that leaves you—shoulders, arms, upper back, neck—deliciously sore. Rain; always rain; running headlong into windows and windshields and the napes of necks and eartips; rain, spilled with neon on streetcorners; the smell of it on someone you love. Old books with notes written in the margins—the oil from some long-forgotten snack pressed into the pages. Earrings! Of course, earrings, big silver hoops, intricate chandeliers swiped from my mother’s nightstand, $3 spiders that dangle from a thin chain of black metal. Boxing gloves, leather—again—& the smell of sweat and blood as it runs ever closer to the thin barrier of your skin. A damn good binder. A freshly filled fountain pen, a freshly opened roll of felt-tip fineliners, a freshly purchased notebook with pages so smooth & dear they could be the face of a lover. Delight, delight, an abundance of joy to be held to the heart.

Much has been said—& rightly so—of dysphoria: how it hangs, leaden, from the bone; how it threatens to swell us beyond the confines of our skin. When you are trans, the body is an argument that never ends. I spend much of my days arguing. It is tiring. It is ceaseless. I want something else instead. Let’s think of pleasure, then. One that cares not for rhetoric or logic or the hammers and wrenches of debate, that cares, instead, to grasp in the very real hand a very real hammer and find something euphoric in its weight. To drive a nail into a wall! A small gesture, one many might call futile. But, oh, how my blood cheers, a giddy chorus all belting Boy! when the scraps of metal and wood assemble into something that did not exist before.

It must be noted that to build things with hammer and nail and wrench is not a pursuit exclusive to the purview of boy. To drive a car at illegal and thrilling speeds with those you love most—or perhaps only yourself—late at night is not exclusive to the purview of boy. To heft something heavy, to tackle another, to allow yourself your anger, your blade’s edge of vicious delight—all not exclusive to the purview of boy. And yet, it is true that these things incite in me a distinctly boyish delight. It is a truth I do not care to deprive myself of. How to hold both these truths? I suppose with open hands. I do not know how else the truth—contradictory as it often is—should be held.

What do felt-tipped pens have to do with gender? Rain? Notebook pages? I truly could not tell you. What I can tell you is that there are cousins to boyish delight sparked in me—heart, chest, mind, fists, shaved head—with gleeful disregard for any kind of coherency. I ink a fresh line on new paper and some voice in me, previously lip-bitten and silent, begins to speak, says, yes, yes, these are the clothes I want to wear, even when those clothes are not clothes, but other objects instead, the strangest of tasks. Even when they are, for the pleasure I take in black leather jackets and big earrings and cargo pants and soft sweaters is no metaphor. When I look at a tiger lily, when I look at the rain, when I rugby-heave someone else to the ground: it is all gender, it is all another kind of dialogue with my body that sits on the tongue far sweeter than argument. Gender euphoria, it is called. That unacknowledged sibling of dysphoria.

I am a quiet man, content with a small-shelled life. Euphoria, to me, is not the frenzy of ecstasy. It is what Andrew Sean Greer termed “the good dear thing,” though he was, at the time, speaking of love.[1] I think gender need not be so different from love. Its sweet song against the teeth, how can we forget that this was about pleasure after all, that transness need not just be a fleeing? There is something to cross over to. There is something that we love, something we are reaching for—finding love for yourself, for the body despite its betrayals. We come by peace slowly and imperfectly, a shifting warmth like bathwater against sore limbs, even as we scrape elbows against the tub. My body and I at noon, my body and I at night, my body and I in the morning, drinking our coffee and reading our books, passing the sugar in silence.

[1] Andrew Sean Grier, Less: A Novel (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2017), p. 189.

© Uma Dwivedi
[This piece was selected by Barbara Barrow. Read Uma’s interview]