“HAVE YOU EVER done mushrooms and molly and acid at the same time?” West asked.
I hadn’t. I haven’t. I’m told that people call this Jedi Flipping these days. During my freshman year of college, I once ate some mushrooms along with the late-’90s ecstasy we took to go clubbing, and all that happened was I felt more wasted and lingered in a bar-bathroom mirror thinking I looked like my mom.
We were in bed, West and I, when he asked. We were blessed lips and tongue on blessed skin, kissing, blissed out. We hadn’t even taken off our shirts—hadn’t yet pressed together our triumphs of modified chest. We were miracle, compounded. We were wrapping each other in arms and kindness, sharing breath and care, and the warm encompassing delight reminded them of the feeling of three good psychedelics at once. “This kind of feels like that,” he said.
A decade ago, an acquaintance of mine got engaged to a transmasculine person, and though I was already married, I remember feeling sick with longing. I thought: How could I possibly get one of those? I thought I’d never get a trans person in my life like that, not because all trans people are magical—PSA: plenty of them are assholes—but because I’d never be good enough for a good trans person. The night before the blissful kissing with West, who is trans, I’d cried alone in my bed that I wasn’t good enough for this good trans person. I’d had to travel back to talk with myself at multiple younger ages, finding myself at five, at twelve, showing myself that people do like me and want to be around me, however much I didn’t feel it the way I needed to then.
“You are so good,” West said, every time he curled into my chest. “You are so good,” they kept saying, like he couldn’t believe it, and me too, I can hardly believe it, that all the persistent and often brutal personal work I did in therapy and on myself means that I transcended a cycle of extreme, unrelenting violence. There was never a question—not really—that I was going to end up like my forefathers, that I was going to oppress and violate children, for fuck’s sake, but there was definitely a chance—and multiple boyfriends taught taught me this—that I would take my pain out on the people closest to me, because lots, and lots, and lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of people do.
“It takes a lot of work,” a non-trans gay man said to me recently about not acting like a jerk. He is a trio of astrological signs that can be prone to jerk tendencies, but is the sweetest being. When I said so, he responded that it took constant effort.
I efforted. I, if anything, over-efforted, plus listened to every single criticism, gaslight, and projection thrown my way, partly because I was sadistically trained to but also to onboard them in case I was doing anything fucked up. Sometimes I was. But often, especially in the last couple years, as I continued to effort my ass off after a decade of therapy, I wasn’t.
“You are so good,” I told West. They were born with the last name of the Irish-American immigrants who enslaved their ancestors; they have lived pain most people couldn’t fathom. They show up sweet and soft nevertheless. They said it was because I’m safe, and I onboarded that.
LATE SEPTEMBER, I drove my house away from my home base in Washington and back to a queer sanctuary in Southern Oregon. It is not without its problems. It is, in my opinion, not efforting enough, or not in some crucial ways. It is also packed with more queer spirits than any other place I’ve been. You are enough, the spirits guarding the East Gate to the central fire pit urged me when I walked through it, nude one day in the late-afternoon sun. You sacrificed enough. You did enough. Two days before, West and I, who’ve been friends, acknowledged that we wanted to press our mouths together. And we did, to starbursts in both our chests.