In the first edition of her new column, Transfeminine, Jacklyn Henry gets some love from the neighborhood mums.
Writing by Jacklyn Henry
Art by Sean Kirkpatrick
Decades ago, I worked from home, my very first home, long before pandemics and whiny millennials made homebased work a more ubiquitous thing. I converted a pointlessly small bedroom into a very stylish, bright, and comfy office, complete with wet bar and antique mini-fridge. My house sat in the middle of an up and coming, starter home neighborhood, one filled with young couples living very old fashioned lifestyles where the menfolk marched off to work and womenfolk stayed at home. And I rolled out of bed, made my coffee and stumbled into my work world.
Several months after moving in I received an invite to the lady’s neighborhood coffee club. One gal in particular, Elizabeth St Martin, noted my constant presence during standard working hours, befriended me, and invited me to their little gaggle of friends. When I stepped up to Elizabeth’s front door, promptly at 11am on a rainy Tuesday, I hesitated. I didn’t know what to expect. How could I? What would an effeminate early thirties gay man have in common with several mid-to-late 20s, newly married, some with babies, some not wanting babies, mostly cis-gendered women. As it turned out? A lot. I walked through that door, took my place, and instantly fit in. As we spent more time together, I felt more comfortable and trusted and I opened up. And, my lord, the stories these girls could tell. Life, love, and sex. Sex, sex, sex. The fellas do love to discuss sex, and the manner in which these conversations are conducted is much blunter, but the ladies can keep up, in a more refined, delicate way.
As with any klatch of individuals, some of the ladies were more open than others. While you could discuss just about anything without shame or trepidation, I noticed that not every woman gave as much as others. The quiet ones intrigued me the most, and I developed a close relationship with Amanda, aka Mandy, Elizabeth’s shadow and confidante. Mandy would clue me in on the small details and gossipy things about the woman and their families.
I learned to listen and absorb the feminine grandeur, watching their movements, the way they talked with their hands, the way they held their hands, how they could sit incredibly still and say so much. I learned about feelings, anger, clothes, make-up, and straight sex. A lot about straight sex.
Often, they would ask my opinion about sex with men, “man on man,” they would say, titillated, but without judgement. They got fucked by men; I got fucked by men. Same same, in their minds. We had long conversations about the pros and cons of oral sex, though I hadn’t realized there were any cons. When a few gals got into a fairly heated argument about blowjobs, and who did it best, I laughed and laughed. Everyone knows a gay man gives the best head.
We just do.
One particular day, after several glasses of wine, Elizabeth, threw up her hands as I had engaged in the “best at: portion of the oral sex discourse and she suggested I go down on her husband, to prove my skill.
“Tonight, when he gets home from work.“
Everyone waited for the laugh, but no one laughed, it had to be a joke. but in her inebriated state, it felt real to her and I readily agreed.
“Why not?,” I said, salaciously.
I quickly discovered that I would open up more to my feminine side when I talked to the women of my neighborhood, either at the gatherings or separately. While I had never felt the need to hide my homosexuality, I did downplay my growing femininity. Collectively, they kicked opened my closet door..
And BOOM look who popped out!
It did not happen overnight, certainly, but bit by bit, inch by miserable fucking inch, I emerged. I started with small things that I could easier hide, but the urge and desire for more began to grow. On one particular Saturday afternoon, I went shopping with Elizabeth and Mandy. With them I could go anywhere, into any store, look at any garment. In a Victoria’s Secret, I watched them browse through selections of panties, holding up a few to get opinions, until Elizabeth held a pair up for me.So how big are you? Elizabeth asked cooly, as if asking me about a dress size or the weather. I blushed but didn’t move. With all the topics we had covered, my size shouldn’t be a big deal.
What’s average? Elizabeth asked.
I held my hands several inches apart.
Damn, Elizabeth exclaimed, maybe I should fuck you straight.
They wore me out. We bought earrings and make-up and stockings and a million things I would never buy alone. Throughout the day, they pushed me to express more, to be more honest, and swore that no one would care, but I knew from experience that was far from the truth.
Eventually, the neighborhood changed. Families were started, people moved away, the ladies lost sight of gay curiosity and began to focus on kids and after-school sports. We remain social media friends, but it’s not the same. Eventually I moved as well, but Elizabeth and Mandy and the other girls provided a foundation of strength for which I am eternally grateful. I learned so much about a woman’s perspective on a rich array of things. It continuously proves to be a wisdom that I still lean upon. Through them, and maybe because of them, I started down my truer path, not entirely gay, and definitely not 100% male, something different. It would be years before I (sort of) figured it out.
I recently spent a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon traipsing around old town Redlands, California, searching antique stores for old suitcases and curios, taking in the sun, and feeling freer than I had in a long while. I sat at a trendy restaurant, eating off a cheese plate, loading up on Jack Daniel’s and Diet Coke. Not wanting to go home just yet, I wandered up to a chic and trendy women’s clothing boutique. I’d never dared to cross the threshold of the shop, but liquid courage pushed me inside. Normally I would hesitate, fearful of ridicule and derision, of being a freak, oh look at the old tranny, and not bother to enter. Self-doubt has always tortured me, but as I yearned to express my feminine side the pain of self-doubt intensified. Yet, on that day, I didn’t hesitate.
Upon entering, a young, pretty salesclerk, with long blonde hair, wearing colorful print pants, a cropped blouse, and the ugliest shoes ever, walked up to me and asked if i was looking for something in particular.
I almost cried.
Yes, how did you know? I finally whispered.
Her broad smile exposed the most perfect teeth.
She looked me up and down and said: it’s a well-informed guess.
My outfit that afternoon consisted of brown strappy sandals with little pink flowers, tight low rise black jeans, a gaff hiding my man parts, and a short sleeved light pink blouse. I rounded out my look with soft pink painted nails, lipstick that matched my actual lip color, and small, dangly earrings. Oh, and a black clutch purse. I felt I had dressed just enough to raise an eyebrow, but not enough to give it away completely. Most of my life I had been invisible. Even in a crowd, even with friends or family, or work colleagues, invisible. I’d quelled any expectations of being acknowledged for being just me. Even with all the little hints, the occasional jewelry, the suspect color choice, earrings that were a little too girly, no one really noticed. Invisible. Eventually, I stopped looking in a mirror for answers. I developed my own sense of nothingness.
If you see me, I might be real, and I’m still too terrified…to be real.
I’m too tall, too fat, too masculine, too guarded, too afraid to be myself, too look like this and act like that. be a man, son. grow the fuck up. and there I stood. ugly. Unattractive. Why can’t i wear a dress? or a skirt? Why can’t i wear something feminine, girly, unexpected. You’re a fag, boy, a goddamned fag.
Survival instinct kicks in and buries the parts of the soul that feel like too much.
Some can get past that and be their own person, walk their honest path. I am on my path, but creeping along. A deep part of me wants to express my femininity, but my rational mind, the part of my brain that keeps me safe, holds me back.
So I remain invisible.
The sales clerk quietly showed me several items and rang up three blouses.
Never once did she treat me different. But that is almost never the case.
As I walked to my car, I realized how lucky my life had been, so far. Sure, I hear the scoffs and whispers, the snide remarks, sideways glances, but I am older, no one cares. I can usually get out of any situation that could prove dangerous, and for trans folkx something as simple as going shopping or to the bathroom can be dangerous, even life threatening. Last night, after finished up work, eating dinner, and doing a load of delicates, I sat down to watch a bit of television before crawling into bed. The show I randomly landed on a show that revolved around the murder of a transgender child, a person with true dysmorphia.
My heart just broke. Every day I watch the world get more violent, more hateful, especially against the trans community. Legislation from right leaning states continue to impose restrictions on trans youth and athletes. Recent attempts by corporate entities have made things worse, despite so-called good intent. Besides the fact that corporations continue to exploit the trans community though advertising, their efforts seemingly backfire. The well intended efforts of Anheuser Busch to be inclusive has only heightened angry against the trans folx, specifically from the conservative right. I’m not suggesting the trans community hide in fear, but it seems like the target continues to get bigger.
And I am beginning to wonder if I should express, if it even matters.
I am a AMAB Transfeminine and an older person with little to lose. My dysmorphia remains emotional and, to a degree, sexual, but it is not vastly overwhelming as it can be to a great many people around the world. I could close of that part of my life and live in a world of relative safety, but for some people, there is no choice, there is no option, and I fear for them. I am impressed by their daily courage, yet equally sickened by our failure to accept others for who they are. I cry for the ones that can no longer take it, the ones that give into self-harm, and, in far too many cases, suicide.
I don’t know if I could survive if I were young and fresh and trying my best to express my individuality in 2023. I don’t know if I could go all in on my expression. While I wear certain articles of clothing, make-up and jewelry, it’s not explicit. There are days when I want to be explicit – to wear a dress, grow my hair out, wear bright red lipstick, and tell the world to fuck off.
Let me be me.
But I cannot fully accept who I am, or who I should be. My physicality will never allow me to appear the way I want to appear, and somewhere deep in my heart, I fear that I am a fake, a liar, a charlatan.
Maybe there will be a day for me when I wobble down Main Street in high heels and on the arm of a handsome man. But then, I would just as likely end up in a hidden part of the desert, buried in a shallow grave.
This morning I woke up early, another work day, another decision to be made. Still working out of my home, what I wear isn’t a big deal. But today, I pulled on a silk blouse and a short skirt. As I sat in a chair in front of a mirror, staring at my old masculine face, sighing in acceptance of who I am, I applied lipstick.
Whore Red, my mother would call it.
The brightest red.
About jacklyn henry
jacklyn henry is a transfeminine genderqueer old bitch based on the fringe of insanity, Los Angeles. finally accepted their feminine self, jacklyn has been published here and there, and has a penchant for writing colorful tales of sex and sexuality. she also edits 1870 magazine, a sex positive online hideout.
About the Artist
Sean Kirkpatrick is an Australian artist and creator of comics such as “Baddies,” as well as the short graphic novel “The Days.” This piece was a collaboration between the artist and a spilled cup of joe.
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