“I CONCUR WITH your penis,” a friend said when I told her I’d asked my penis about a guy I was seeing and my penis responded: Move along.
The conventional wisdom, of course, is to not think with your dick—never think with your dick. But, like I am not, my dick is not conventional. I moved mountains of trauma and paperwork and bureaucracy and red tape and oppression and hate and transphobia and logistics to be united with mine, and sometime after the stitches had healed—but before I’d stopped contracting all the muscles between my ribs and knees around its protection, half my body unconsciously tensed and taut with fear that something might happen to it and ready to do anything, anything, to save it—I realized that my dick had all the answers.
“Ooh, a lawyer—I love it,” my friend Katie said when she asked my penis’ name and I told her: Thomas Penis Esquire the Third. I can’t write that sentence without laughing. My boyfriend at the time had burst out laughing, too, when I told him after I’d woken up one day just knowing it—as suddenly as the day, years before, that I knew my own name.
I hadn’t laughed at first, that moment in my bed alone before dawn when the words floated confidently into my consciousness: Thomas. Penis. Esquire. the Third. Mostly, I was bewildered, lying there half-asleep. Immediately, I had questions. Why “Thomas”? Why “esquire”? Why “THIRD”?! My penis is for sure the first of its kind in my genetic ancestry. Even in the whole world of surgery-made penises, as far as the particulars of mine—cut from my thigh, no balls, no urethral lengthening, no vaginectomy—one of my surgeons, who was on the team that made the most penises on Earth, told me it was “one of maybe two” he’d made like it. So the answer to all of the above questions is: I don’t know why. But I do know that when I lean against a thousand-year-old tree and it tells me something, I don’t argue with it, and I also don’t argue with my own dick.
I did laugh about the name shortly after, on that morning it came to me. (And I did learn, many months later, that the “Thomas” was in honor of someone, a previously unknown ancestor of mine.) After the moment of surprise and confusion, still in bed on my back, I shook my head with a deep chuckle. Thomas Penis Esquire the Third. It both calls out and claims pretension. It mocks honorifics at the same time that it takes them. It takes up space, and it takes titles. It demands respect.
I can’t speak for other people’s penises, or know whether they deserve the scapegoating heaped upon them for human behavior, but mine has—because I have—no interest in overpowering, or conquering, or extracting. What I didn’t know, what I couldn’t know, before I was finally united with it on a December morning two and a half years ago is that it is pure self-loving life force, and that as far as most anything else is concerned, it doesn’t give a fuck.
I am anxious. It is putting it extremely mildly to say that I have always been anxious. I have a protracted-war-survivor’s nervous system, which I do my best to live in every day, but which all the plant medicine in the world has not undone, however it helps me process and cope. So while I have the tools to regulate and caretake my anxiety, it still arises even when I’m trying to make simple decisions, even sometimes about whether I want some potato chips. I stop and second-guess and panic over whether these chips will somehow lead to punishment or more suffering; over whether I have done, am doing, will always do one tiny thing that could make or break something terrible happening to me next.
It’s not logical. It’s lizard survival. It’s desperation to control how much I hurt, and it’s the way I grew up, telling myself that every man—okay, yeah, every penis—doing harm to me was doing it as a result of my own actions.
It’s getting better. I’m getting less confused. I’m less frequently reaching for a chip bag and stopping myself and questioning the inclination and trying to figure out what I really want and if I’m just scared and why (my father/chief rapist reminded me constantly that fat girls were sexually disgusting, and therefore unlovable), then spiraling because I feel insane. But even when I’m at my most activated, Thomas Penis Esquire is simply, quietly assured.
One weekend, my then-boyfriend suggested we spend our Saturday night grocery shopping and making food for the next week, which I recognized as a smart idea, and theoretically, I liked cooking together, but still I hemmed and hawed and couldn’t figure out why I didn’t want to commit. And then I put my hand on my bulge and easily knew: It was time to party instead. Or in the grocery store, worrying that I had forgotten something else I needed, I’d try to feel into the answer but ultimately turn my body away from any nearby humans and put my hand against my abdomen in a way that let the tips of two fingers rest for a second against my penis’ base and instantly know: I’m good.
Walking toward the checkout in Home Depot one day recently, I was agonizing over whether I needed to go back and pick up some mop I’d already decided I didn’t want, asking myself over and over and over if I was sure. But then I asked Thomas Penis, and felt unequivocally that the anxiety was not only unimportant, but also not inherent. It was a habit, and, like the mop, in that moment I could let it go.
THIS FEBRUARY, I drove my house onto a boat.
That, above, is a boat that can transport a house. That is what a sunrise looks like on Puget Sound, no filter.
After parking on the boat, I stood on deck watching the waves for thirty minutes before I got back in my house and drove back off it, then across an island (Whidbey, to be precise) and onto another boat, where I lay comfortably in my own bed taking a nap while we crossed the Salish Sea. I was making this journey to Orcas Island—four delightful hours to traverse 90 miles in all—to see a bodyworker specializing in scar-tissue remediation. I’d had many hours of work already on the epic scars created across my hip and thigh and pelvis in the birth of my penis. Each time, new emotions emerged as the bodyworker massaged care and love into the network of bound, tangled tissues, which grew and gripped each other to keep my body literally together.
🖤 Thank you, tissues.🖤
This time, what emerged during the scar massage was how the part of me that has wanted to die since early childhood didn’t want a penis, because getting my penis meant I was planning to live.
There had been a moment in the weeks before my surgery, just one moment, where I was walking out my front door to run an errand and suddenly heard the voice of it. It said: Please don’t do this.
It had stopped me in my tracks. I had spent—I have spent—years trying to listen to myself, to my own wisdom, which is how I’d gotten to the moment of having a surgery scheduled to begin with, so it was a huge surprise. I paused and put my keys down. I did not, like I do these days, ask whatever part was speaking for more information (Can you tell me more about that?). I wasn’t ready to hear whatever the objection might be. Instead I said to it, I’m sorry. This is happening.
And it did.
However wanted and needed and miraculous my penis is, I could (and probably will) spend the rest of my life trying to articulate how challenging it is to integrate not having had an integral part of myself for forty years, plus wanting to die partly over the suffering of not having it, and then suddenly having it. Plus global antagonism to my having it. Plus the medical trauma of getting it, plus a galaxy of emotions previously locked in traumatic dysphoria (“Your energy is completely blocked,” a chiropractor said to me shortly before my surgery, pointing to my pelvic bone, “right here”). As well as the totally new and nearly overwhelming terror of the possibility of losing it. My penis—note that the following link contains dick pics, straight up—it was born of my own blood and sheer will and love. And the warmth and the weight of it are the principal source of physical comfort and elation in my life. And. The connection between the rest of me and my dick has been, and is no doubt still in ways I can’t even know, hampered by scars both physical and emotional.
These past couple years, I’ve had to put my hand directly on it to fully connect to it. So how am I feeling about this guy? I’d asked myself about the guy mentioned at the top of this essay, and even with all the yogic and psychedelic and therapeutic self-connecting work I’ve pursued relentlessly over decades, I spun around in my logical mind no matter how hard I tried to get into my feelings. Into my own wisdom. Into my knowing. And then I set my hand on my own dick, and all that noise fell away.
ON ORCAS ISLAND, I did two four-hour scar sessions in three days. There was crying. There were moments filled with pain so excruciating that time stretched out to a slow, nearly unbearable slog. Several times, I sort of passed out. But there was also a level of deep reception, of allowing another person to caretake and of allowing myself to relax, that I’ve never been able to access before. There were breakout moments of breakthrough joy about being alive, along with brutal but overdue acceptance that there’s no justice in it.
And after all that: Someone asked me a question the next week—not a crucial one—it was a phone call about setting an appointment, picking a time—and I started to think about it, and tried to figure out whether the next day or the day after was better, and did I already have too many things scheduled on Wednesday, would a late-Thursday slot be better or was that too late in the day and did I want to get this appointment done before this other errand, and then I remembered that since I’d returned from the island, I’d been able to breathe into my knowing. Which is to say: I drew breath into my body all the way down into my root. Into Thomas Penis Esquire III. And from the inside, without even putting my hand on myself, I connected my parts in a way that had been delayed by biology and patriarchy and bruise, and spoke up.