Aerie’s Guide to Giving Bad-Ass Blowjobs

Aerie's Guide on How To Give Blowjobs

I hate to sound like a cocky bastard when it comes to my sexual skills, but I must admit I’ve received a staggering wave of compliments on my blowjobs from those who have received one. I’ve observed my partners post-orgasm, staring at me incredulously like I’m some kind of Penis Wizard. I’ve witnessed partners brag to others about how I can suck their dick like nobody’s business. I’ve had partners tell me to my face that I rank supreme in oral sex compared to anyone else they’ve ever been with.

So I have to imagine this means that I must be doing something right.

I wasn’t ready to have penis-in-vagina sex until I was 19 and in college, and so I spent an insane of time during my high school years conducting lots of internet research: how to be the best at kissing, how to give the best blowjob, how to give the best handjob… how to be sexy and sensual and erotic and hot as hell. And I did a lot of research. Because I love pleasuring my partners, watching them writhe and moan in ecstasy… and I wanted to be really good in bed. And honestly, I really do love giving head. After years of practice and experimentation, I have developed my own personal blowjob style.

Am I getting rave reviews because I’m really good at going down, or is it because penises are often fairly easy to please? I’m not really sure, but since more than one person has told me they “had no idea oral sex could feel this good”, I will attempt to divulge all my so-called secrets so that you can try them for yourself.

Because it’s pretty damn satisfying to be informed that you just gave your partner the most amazing blowjob they’ve ever had in their life.


Why are they called “blowjobs” when you don’t actually blow? Perhaps it’s because “suckjobs” sounds pretty terrible. Whatever the reason, use your mouth to suck on your partner’s penis. Avoid intense sucking like you’re trying to get that last drop of Triple Chocolate Malt milkshake out of a straw – instead suck sensually, slowly, and rhythmically, like you’re savoring a round piece of hard candy in your mouth, trying to make it last as long as possible.

Use your tongue

As you begin, tease and arouse your partner by using a flat tongue to lick slowly from the very base of the penis, up the shaft all the way to the tip. Sometimes I’ll also do this mid-blowjob when my jaw is tired and I need a quick break. You can also lick in long strokes anywhere and everywhere along the shaft, whenever you need a break, or if you want to add some variety in sensation.

When your partner’s penis is in your mouth, lick while you suck – move your tongue up and down over the frenulum while you suck on the head of the penis. Use the rhythm of sucking to guide the movements of your lips and tongue over the penis. The majority of the time, keep your tongue flat against the shaft for maximum area of contact, but you can occasionally use a pointed tongue just to tease here and there. From what I’ve found, the longer strokes you can lick, and the more firmly you can press your tongue against the penis, the better.

Also, use your tongue to create suction while licking! To see what I mean: open your mouth, stick your tongue out slightly and make it flat, then place the pad of your thumb in the middle. Curl your tongue a bit around your thumbpad, and attempt create suction against your thumb using only your tongue – can you do it? When your partner’s penis is in your mouth, try this suction technique while using your tongue to stroke the underside of the shaft.

Learning to use your tongue well while you are sucking is probably the #1 most important thing to master to achieve Bad-Ass status and blow your partner’s fucking MIND.

No need to bounce your head up and down the entire time

a.k.a. Tips & Techniques for Lazy People Like Me
a.k.a. So far, my laziness seems to be working out pretty well?

I hate bouncing my head up and down while giving a blowjob. I’m just too lazy for that, plus the head bouncing thing hurts my neck and makes me tired and cranky. Besides, I can’t do my signature sucking and tongue things very well if I’m simply pretending my mouth is a masturbation sleeve – and I’m pretty sure my signature sucking and tongue things are the reason people tend to just lose their minds when I’ve got their dick in my mouth.

For most of the blowjob, I have the head of the penis plus a little more in my mouth, and I only very occasionally slide my lips up over the head. The head of the penis tends to be very sensitive, which can feel overwhelming pretty quick to some people. Instead I focus on using my lips to stroke the area just below the corona, and using my tongue to stroke on and below the frenulum.

I’ll generally do a bit of the headbanging here and there, but most of the time my movements are more subtle. My head nods more than thrusts, and I use my tongue, lips, and hand to stroke the rest of the shaft instead.

Which brings me to…

Use your hand

With your partner’s penis in your mouth, wrap your hand around the rest of the shaft to stroke up and down, from the base of the penis up to where your mouth is. Keep the shaft lubed up so you can stroke freely. You can pump the shaft quickly with your hand if your partner prefers faster movements, to get the faster speed without having to thrust your whole head.

Putting all the above together completes my full blowjob technique: Stroke the shaft with one hand, while rhythmically sucking the head plus a little more with your mouth, and using your flat tongue to glide up and down, over and right below the frenulum in time with the rhythm of your sucking.

If you can multitask all that and want to take it to the next level, try using your other hand as well. Experiment to see what your partner likes; I’ve had some partners who go wild when I gently run my fingers up and down both sides of their scrotum, and I’ve had partners who can’t get enough when I stroke their perineum. Alternatively, try running your free hand along their legs or torso, or if your partner’s penis is long, use both hands on the shaft while you suck!

Whenever your mouth is tired and you need a break, use your hand to stroke the whole shaft while you give your jaw a rest. Use this handjob interlude to ask your partner how they are feeling, talk dirty to them, kiss their stomach and legs, lick around the base of their penis, or just breathe and moan with your lips close to their body. Or just enjoy the moment; don’t feel pressured to be doing something mind-blowing every single second.

Salivate, a lot

This makes for easy gliding. You can use bottled lube if you prefer1 (simple and quick, especially if this trick sounds gross and you would rather not drool everywhere) but I’m a freak and I like to just keep drooling uncontrollably and making a giant mess (use a Liberator Throe if you want to avoid the dreaded wet spot on your sheets). However you do it, keeping things constantly wet makes everything a whole lot easier.

Something sexy to try: Work up a good bit of spit, then slide your partner’s penis out of your mouth, leaving your lips parted and your very wet tongue slightly out. Then pull back slowly, letting a string of saliva drip over their cock for a pretty hot visual.

Don’t worry about making weird slurpy noises

Giving good head is a noisy operation and all the sucking is bound to make loud weird slurp sounds on occasion. It’s natural and nothing to be mortified about, and chances are the slurpy sounds will only turn on your partner more.

You can even use slurping sounds to your advantage if you are giving head to a dildo in a strap-on harness – since my girlfriend doesn’t feel the same physical sensations from a dildo, a lot of her pleasure comes from the visuals and the sounds I make when giving her a blowjob.

If your partner gives you a bad time about the noises you make while you’re blowing them, then I’m #sorrynotsorry but that person really does not deserve to have your mouth on their penis.


Not the whole time, but every now and then, if you feel like it. Sometimes I just can’t help myself. I also like to use moaning as a way to show my partner that I am enjoying it as much as they are. It’s just sexy all around.

You don’t have to deep-throat to be good

I gag pretty damn easily. I have exactly zero desire to deep-throat, so I don’t even try. Kudos to those who do it and love to, but if I can give stellar blowjobs without deep-throating, so can you.

You don’t have swallow to be good

You don’t ever have to swallow if you don’t want to. I’ll swallow my partner’s come on the rare occasion if I feel like it, but generally I hate swallowing (it tends to make me gag). Instead, I personally enjoy feeling my partner ejaculate in my mouth, and then I let their come dribble out and down their shaft and allow it to make a mess everywhere2.

Do whatever you’re comfortable with, and feel confident about it. If your partner tries to make you feel bad about not wanting to swallow, or gets upset if you don’t want them to come in your mouth, they are not a worthy sex partner. Know your limits and stick to them; no matter what they are, you still can be sexy as hell and amazing in bed.

Pay attention to your partner

It seems like a given, but take this one to heart (besides, this applies to any sexual activity). You can read all the tips & tricks in the world, but your partner is not a robot – the best blowjob of their life can’t be attained by administering a pre-programmed routine. Something that works for one person might not work for another person, so make sure to watch and listen to your partner to figure out what they do and don’t like.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask if they like what you’re doing – if I feel like I need to check in with my partner verbally, I’ll pause just to gaze up and ask, “Good?” or “You like that?” If they nod or moan back their approval, I’ll dive right back in.

Bonus tip: Watch your partner whenever they masturbate in front of you – it can give you clues on how best they like their penis handled. Do they stroke their whole shaft, or just toward the head? How fast do they move their hand? How tightly do they grip their penis? Log this info away in your brain and use it to tune your oral techniques to their liking.

Enjoy doing it

You are never obligated to do something sexual that you do not want to do. Not ever.

When you really do enjoy giving blowjobs, however, it shows; your partner can tell, and it is seriously hot. I really do love going down on a penis – it turns me on to give my partner so much pleasure, especially when I know I am good at it. When you love to do it, your enthusiasm will turn on your partner, and you will find it easy to improve your skills and tailor your techniques to those your partner likes best.

Try my suggestions because you want to, and go down on your partner because you like it. If you absolutely despise giving head, don’t sweat it – find other things to do together that you enjoy.

But if you love it? Then I hope my suggestions help you give your partners the most amazing blowjob they’ve ever had in their life.

Pictured in the Penis Anatomy photo is my beloved VixSkin Mustang, a wonderfully squishy, detailed dual-density silicone dildo by Vixen Creations. Get this glorious toy from SheVibe to practice your blowjob skills, or to use on yourself or someone else!

  1. Plain lube works fine if it doesn’t have a weird or bitter taste (Sliquid H2O is perfect) or try flavored lube if you like… I am a fan of Sliquid Swirl Cherry Vanilla – it tastes like marzipan to me []
  2. I’ll admit I have a fetish for seeing and feeling my partner come absolutely everywhere in a giant mess []

My Ten High School Boyfriends

Aerie Pilgrim vs the World

Ahh, those awkward memories of high school… my days of rapid-fire serial monogamy, uncontrollable hormones, confusing friends-with-benefits-type-situations, and obsession with Japanese boys. I had a severe addiction to new relationship energy; as soon as the emotional high of an existing relationship started to fade, I’d discover a shiny new male creature to fall in love with. I thrived on developing new crushes and “trying out” different kinds of people.

I racked up a score of ten boyfriends during that time – thank god high school only lasted four years.

1. The Tiger

His crush on my best friend went unrequited, so he dated me instead. He smelled strongly of cologne and I secretly named one of my Neopets after him.1 We were each other’s first kiss, one quiet afternoon in his room after school. He was excited to have me cheer for him at all his upcoming soccer games… I bailed from the relationship before I had to go to any.

2. The Werewolf

I didn’t know it was possible for someone to be so bad at kissing. His mouth came at me with teeth bared and he nearly chewed off my entire face. How do you inform someone they need to work on snog-improvement, without hurting their feelings? It got slightly better over time, and I endured it because his spiky hair was the coolest. He broke up with me because I cut my long tresses really short.

3. The Alley Cat

He went to high school in a neighboring city, so I only saw him at my after-school kung fu class. We traded handwritten notes to each other every time we met. In one note, he created a riddle to tell me who he was crushing on. Part of the riddle asked me to think of a “four letter green-colored fruit”, and all I could think of was “lime”… which led me to a weird final answer and I begrudgingly decided I was not the person he liked. I found out later that I was an idiot and the green fruit was supposed to be “kiwi”.

Once we started dating, I fell hard for him, but he seemed a little disingenuous at times and I was never 100% sure if he had other girls on the side. After we broke up, we maintained a friends-with-benefits relationship throughout the rest of high school, and I still loved him, yet hated him at the same time. He then dated two of my close friends; one of these relationships was specifically kept a secret from me, and I didn’t find out about it until years later.

My heart finally felt freed from the drama late one night when I dug up all his old notes I had saved, ritualistically cut them into tiny pieces, and thrust them dramatically into the recycling bin.2

4. The Phoenix

He was from Japan, in town for a local high school gymnastics competition. He won 7 gold medals and gave me one them as a gift. During that one week he was visiting, we chatted as best as we could despite the language barrier. For a couple months afterward, we emailed each other love notes and photos, until finally falling out of touch.

5. The Shiba

He was an exchange student at our high school from Japan. I honestly can’t remember all that much about him, except that his hair was bleached an awful shade of muddy orange. He gave me his watch, which I wore all the time even though it was ten sizes too big for my tiny wrist. Despite his adorable misuse of American slang, he spoke in broken English with confidence.

6. The Wood Mouse

He was much older and in my kung fu class. It was probably illegal for him to make out with me, but we would kiss on the back stairway of the martial arts building during break. According to him, I was both his first kiss and first girlfriend since he was very shy. I broke up with him when I left for a six-month exchange program to Japan. He shipped a teddy bear to me overseas for my birthday.

7. The Cockroach

(Trigger Warning: Nonconsent)

I sat behind him on the back of his bicycle, and he took me all around the tiny Japanese fishing town where I lived during my exchange program. He was a classmate at my host high school. One evening in his room, he kept pressuring me to let him touch my boobs. Finally I caved because he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He kept excitedly telling me how huge they were (they weren’t…). He tried to pressure me into letting him do more; I pushed him away and broke up with him soon after.

8. The Red Panda

The exchange student from Canada became my closest friend during my homestay in Japan, and she was dating a boy from the neighboring town’s high school. I met and started dating a boy from that high school as well. Apparently our two boyfriends were “rivals” and hated each other, but we convinced them to go on double dates with us anyway. He played bass in a band with his friends, his favorite band was called BUMP OF CHICKEN, and his #1 most favorite movie of all time was Armageddon.

One of the best memories of my life was when he took me out on an ocean dock one night, a fair distance into the water from our tiny fishing town on the coast of rural Japan. We were surrounded by a few local fisherman, busy at work; we lied down on the wood planks and stared up into the sky. I was absolutely blown away – never had I seen so many stars all at once, or even imagined it was possible to observe that many with the naked eye. The sky was illuminated and lush with crystal clear stars, the Milky Way strewn across the scene like a perfect painting. The view was so stunning that it didn’t even look real. I never wanted to leave that moment.

9. The Raven

I was back in the U.S. and it was the last half of my senior year. He was emo… very emo, and looked like Jeff Goldblum. He shared strange indie music tracks with me, and burned me a data CD of funny videos (which sounds a little like printing out a website, but this was pre-YouTube). We made out in a bathroom stall at the zoo, and rallied together for Kucinich at our high school’s mock Democratic convention. He wore a ruffled mint-colored tux to prom. We dated for one week.

10. The Chimera

He was the unconquerable king of Dance Dance Revolution, but I could beat him in Soul Calibur just by button-mashing the Playstation controller. He studied classical music and poked fun at my favorite pop songs. We talked about gender, and stayed up late together posting on nerdy online forums. I was older than him, though, so when I went to college and he didn’t… it never could have lasted.

  1. Yes, I played Neopets in high school. There was nothing else to do in my suburb. []
  2. I’m a true and native Portlander, after all. []



Jaipur is a two-player card game where my boyfriend is overly protective of his camel herd and cheats by hiding his camels up his sleeve, on the floor, and down his pants. But let’s rewind a bit first…

I spent many years completely ignoring two-player-only games. Back then, I frequently hosted large board game parties and would generally scoff at anything that couldn’t accommodate at least 6 players, if not more. Over time, however, I’ve grown to appreciate the value of games specifically designed for quieter evenings, when it’s just me and one (or both) of my partners.

My newfound quest is to hunt down the games that play really well with just two or three people. Jaipur is a perfect example – this fantastic card game is designed for exactly two, and I’ve hacked the rules to play with three!

As a strategy game somewhere between light to medium in weight, Jaipur’s solid gameplay has enough variables to keep things enjoyable, without escalating to intense or aggressive levels – if your opponent is your significant other, this is probably not one of those games capable of ruining your relationship.


In Jaipur, you are competing against your opponent to become the Maharaja’s personal trader. There are six types of goods, reflected in the cards and the round tokens: Leather, Spices, and Cloth, plus the more valuable Silver, Gold, and Diamonds. Players work on collecting matching sets of goods cards in their hand, and then sell sets to obtain the corresponding tokens. Tokens award varying amounts of rupees, and at the end of each round, the player with the most rupees receives one Seal of Excellence. Each new round, the whole game is reset – and the first player to obtain two Seals of Excellence wins the game.

Goods cards go into your hand, and camel cards go on the table into your herd. In the middle of the table, there is a market of five cards (some combination of goods and/or camels) available to both players. On your turn, you can take from (or trade cards with) the market, using your hand of goods and/or your herd of camels, or you can sell goods from your hand to collect tokens from the top of the matching stack.

In Jaipur, the strategy comes from determining the optimal time to sell your goods. You are rewarded for selling goods earlier than your opponent, as the token stacks are arranged with higher-valued tokens toward the top of the stack. However, you are also rewarded for waiting to collect larger sets of goods in your hand, since selling larger sets of goods allows you to obtain special bonus tokens (which give you bonus rupees). Balancing your camel herd is also important, as camels are used to trade with the market.


Now, back to my boyfriend, who is a Jaipur cheater and likes to creepily hide all his camel cards in a stack out of my sight, usually on the floor. According to the rulebook, you are not required to let your opponent know how many camel cards you possess during the game, but it also says to place your camel herd face up in a stack in front of you. So someone please call the board game police, because despite my complaints, he would still rather eat his entire camel herd than allow me to observe its existence.

Also, can we talk about how one of the camel cards is unique from all the others, and features a cute little panda peeking out from within the camel’s carpet bundle? Although the panda-camel card doesn’t affect gameplay, this adorable card was the house favorite – until we found out the distressing and very-not-adorable fact that the panda depicted is actually a panda pelt. As in dead panda corpse.1

We cried.

After holding a funeral for the murdered panda, my two partners and I developed a Jaipur rules variant for three people, modified from some suggestions on the BoardGameGeek forums. With just a couple tweaks, we’ve found the game plays really well with three!

Aerie’s 3-Player Jaipur Variant

•  Deal 4 cards to each player during setup.
•  Maximum hand size is 6 cards.
•  The game ends either when 4 piles of goods are depleted, or when the draw pile runs out.
•  Seals of Excellence aren’t used; just play each round as a separate game.

Jaipur is a great game for two players (or three with my rules variant), and comes with high-quality cards, sturdy cardboard tokens, beautiful artwork, and a brilliant box insert. If you spend a lot of time gaming with one partner (or friend/family member/robot clone), this game is a must-have for that perfect combo of clever strategy and lighter-weight gameplay.

Game Overview:

  • Number of players: 2
  • Best with: 2 players (or 3 with my rules variant!)
  • Playing time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Hand Management, Set Collection, Trading
  • Expansions: N/A
  • Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
  • Publisher: GameWorks

  1. Apparently the special card is a game designer inside joke, referring to a close race between two other games for the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award. []

Blush Novelties: Revive Ener G & Ohm Karma

Revive Ener-G & Ohm Karma

Revive Ener G by Blush Novelties is a rechargeable curved G-spotting vibrator in smooth, glorious, yellow-lime silicone. When you turn the toy on, the buttons light up in an ominous red glow, as if warning your genitals to brace for what’s to come. There are a whopping two speeds1, and the vibrations are weird and loud – an unsettling mixture of rumbly-slash-buzziness, which is due to the dual motors: one motor in the handle, and another in the head of the toy.

I must admit I really love the overall shape of the Revive Ener G. The round contoured end is very pleasing internally, nudging perfectly up against my G-spot, and the more narrow neck of the toy fits snugly within the opening of my vagina. Clamping down on this toy with my vaginal muscles pulls the pronounced head more into my G-spot – or even better, my A-spot – in a satisfying way.

Once you turn on the vibe, however… prepare your clit for torture (and not the sexy kind), if you plan to use this toy externally. When used internally, the strange rumbly-slash-buzzy vibrations aren’t much more than just tolerable. I can’t find any way in which the dual motors do more than simply generate awkwardness; the sensations are confusing and numbing, and continue straight into your palm – where the second motor is located. The shape may feel great for my G-spot, but there’s no way I can recommend a vibrator that I prefer using turned off.

Revive Ener-G & Ohm Karma

Ohm Karma is a petite battery-operated vibe with a swirling texture and beautiful mint color. Like the Revive Ener G, this toy’s silicone is also very smooth and silky to the touch. The swirly texture by itself feels nice against my vulva, but the first time I pushed the button, I wondered whether I had successfully turned the vibe on… or whether my vulva was just stifling a laugh. Ohm Karma features five speeds: mega-low, ultra-low, super-low, very low, and mind-numbingly low.

Unsurprisingly, Ohm Karma’s vibrations are very buzzy and unsatisfying, and weaker than a watered-down cocktail at an overpriced hipster bar – this toy is basically an insult to my clitoris. I managed to force myself to come using this vibe, and felt physically robbed while I rode the microscopic ripples of the most pathetic and ruined orgasm of my life.

Revive Ener G and Ohm Karma are on the right path to being good toys. For both vibrators, the silicone feels high-quality, the shape is great, and the unique colors are brilliant. But like beautiful chocolate Easter bunnies that turn out to be hollow, these great-on-the-outside vibes are stuffed with sad little motors on par with those of wind-up trinkets.

The sad part is that this is exactly what I expected from Blush Novelties – a company that manufactures boatloads of cheap toys made from porous, questionable materials, as well as blatant knockoffs of designs by other companies. Ohm Karma may be inexpensive when compared to high-end vibes, but it is definitely not worth the price. And with an $84 MSRP according to Blush’s website, Revive Ener G deserves to spend the weekend in the Box of Shame.

I had really hoped Blush could surprise me with something new and worth recommending out of their vast catalog of poor-quality sex toys. I’m not angry or upset; I’m just… disappointed. These “luxury” lines of silicone toys are akin to the salad menu at McDonald’s – who are you trying to fool?

You could do better, Blush Novelties, but I’m sure you never will.

This toy was sent to me courtesy of Blush Novelties in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.

  1. and five pulse patterns… but who cares? No one. No one cares. []

Growing up genderqueer: My lifelong struggle with gender dysphoria


As a kid, I always knew I was that weird one.

The signs were early on: I hated any clothes that were frilly or form-fitting; I had to be bribed with giant stuffed animals for my mom to get me to wear lipstick in the family Santa photo. I quit ballet class because I couldn’t deal with wearing pink tights and a tutu. In kindergarden, the girls wouldn’t let me play with them because I was apparently using the toy makeup wrong – so I played blocks and dinosaurs with the boys.

My first best friend was a boy who lived down the street when I was five. While my younger sister played dolls with his older sister, he and I would use an illustrated encyclopedia to pick out dog breeds for each other to be, and then romp around in the basement barking and play-fighting.

In second grade, I tried to change my name in school and get my classmates to call me “Shawn”, since I thought it sounded cool and I wanted to have a boy’s name. I wrote my newly chosen name on the tag on my desk and instructed everyone to call me Shawn from now on. My classmates thought I was nuts, and for some reason were really concerned about why I didn’t spell it “Sean”. I thought my spelling looked better and was totally legit, but I just couldn’t get people to call me that.

As a kid, I never felt like “tomboy” was an appropriate label for myself, as it was generally used to describe girls who were into sports. Besides, rather than a boyish girl, I felt more like a boy who was forced to wear Easter dresses with puffy sleeves. I wanted to look cool, not pretty. I didn’t want to look or act feminine. I would kung-fu kick toward automatic sliding glass doors to create the illusion that I had bashed the doors open. “She should have been born a boy,” my mom would sigh, shaking her head.

Faced with a constant barrage of information about how I was supposed to act, think, and feel based on my body, I grew up being taught that something about me was fundamentally wrong. The fact I wanted to wear light-up sneakers instead of glittery flats was wrong. Mussing up my hair and wearing oversized t-shirts to look unruly and boyish was wrong. What do you mean you don’t have a brother and that Nintendo 64 is actually yours? WRONG.

*  *  *

In seventh grade, I had a crush on a boy in gym class. One day, some girls in the class informed me he had told them I was cute, but he also thought my hairy legs were gross. That was the moment I became aware that, as a girl, appearance meant everything and body hair was viewed as unacceptable. That evening I cried while shaving my legs for the first time. I felt so embarrassed and humiliated. Even now that I have decided to stop shaving any part of my body, I still feel somewhat self-conscious about it.

In high school, I was that weird, short, dysthymic multiracial kid who spent all their time making bizarre art or writing short stories with strange humor. I shopped in the guys’ section of clothing stores, and would joke to my friends that I should dress up as a girl for Halloween. I set up fake internet profiles and would pretend to be a hot guy to flirt with random girls in chat rooms for fun.

Although I often wished I had been born male, the idea of transitioning never really crossed my mind. My small bubble of a suburb had a reputation for white upper-middle-class snobs, and was completely lacking in any kind of diversity – I had barely even heard of the possibility of being gay, queer, or trans – which made me feel even more alienated as some kind of freakish, broken anomaly of a human being. I tried to “be myself” and pretend not to care, hiding my internal scars caused by other people’s hurtful words and judgmental stares.

I went to an art college in San Francisco, which marked the beginning of discovering the diverse world of gender identity and sexual orientation. Still, it would be quite some time before I realized what this all meant for myself. I took to wearing grungy jeans and unisex t-shirts with skateboarding logos or nerdy jokes on them, and I cut my own hair with scissors. I didn’t bond well with the other residents in my all-female dorm, and instead spent most of my time hanging out with my group of nerdy art school male friends. We played video games, wandered the streets of San Francisco, worked on homework together, and I felt like I could mostly be myself around them as just “one of the guys”.

*  *  *

After graduating from college, I finally succumbed to the pressure to present more female. It sounded easier than continuing to fight an endless gender battle, and almost seemed mandatory for “becoming an adult”1. Despite my best efforts, however, I was the worst at being a woman – I tried to learn how to put on makeup, and was always horrified with the results. I bought cleavage-enhancing, body-hugging feminine clothing – which I pulled off about as well as a pony wearing a cardigan. I cooed over what I assumed were trendy purses based on my observations of other women, and burnt my hair trying to use a curling iron. I gave an earnest attempt to locate my “motherly instinct” and find the warped facial features of human infants to be cute.

Even though I liked some of the things classified as girly, I still felt like I was lying to myself. I felt bad for pretending to be someone I was not, and I felt bad that I couldn’t be what everyone said I was supposed to be.

I didn’t want to entirely “become a boy” either, though, if I really thought about it. Even though I would rather have someone mistake me for a guy than a girl, or at least be guessing at first glance, being just a dude and looking completely like a cis man all the time didn’t sound appealing or right to me. And I definitely did not have the slightest desire to do anything to my body that would result in me growing a beard.

Exasperated and distressed and heading into my late 20s (and beaten down after more than a decade of also fighting dysthymia, major depression, and anxiety – another story in itself) I remember pouring my heart out to someone about my lifelong gender dysphoria. His only response to me was, “Well, I don’t feel that you are a man.” After opening myself up to such a vulnerable place, I felt gutted that this “friend” had completely missed the point, and somehow thought his personal perception of my gender was somehow relevant or “helpful” or more important than my own. I felt like there was no one who I could talk to about my struggle with gender identity.

Was I a woman? No. Was I a man? No.

Were those my only two options?

*  *  *

I finally came across the term “genderqueer” while browsing the internet late one night. I felt a sudden rush of excitement – there was actually a word in the universe to describe me! A gender identity I could resonate with, and was as vague and amorphous as I needed; a possibility beyond the binary options of male or female. Was this real life? Why did I have to suffer decades of internal turmoil before I was able to discover that I was not really “broken” or “wrong” after all?

Genderqueer is broad enough of a term to encompass all the possibilities of a non-binary gender identity. Depending on my mood of the moment, I can be male, or female, or (most typical for me) both at the same time to one degree or another, or even neither at all (maybe something else entirely). Identifying as genderqueer allows me to leisurely float around under the trans umbrella between any of these options, without obligation to eventually settle for one. Basically, it’s like the gender equivalent of agnosticism.

I know that being female doesn’t mean you must love pink and adhere to all the latest fashion trends, and being male doesn’t mean you must love cars and possess the ability to quote the entirety of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Gender is more than appearance, or interests, or body parts… and it might also fluctuate and change over time.

I’ve finally realized that if you’re going to be “wrong” according to the world no matter what you do… you might as well be the person you want to be, and surround yourself with people who support, care about, celebrate and encourage you to be your true self.

*  *  *

The past few years have been full of cautious exploration and growing more confident with my identity as genderqueer. Adopting gender-neutral pronouns is a newer thing for me; I’ve now migrated to preferring the non-binary pronouns they/them. I feel more free to experiment with gender expression in ways I would have never tried before. I love my short, cropped hairstyle, and I think my legs look Jiz Lee-style sexy even though I don’t shave them. I’m curious about trying binding and packing, and I no longer have to hide the fact I prefer smelling like Old Spice than Herbal Essences. When I dress more feminine, it’s because I want to, rather than because I feel like I have to.

My preference for certain gender-based words has slowly changed over time to reflect my transition into identifying outside the gender binary. Although I now use they/them pronouns, I still really like it when my girlfriend calls me her girlfriend. It sounds very sweet to me, and gives me happy feels to think Yay, I am gay! So at least for right now, in certain instances and from certain people, I don’t mind being referred to as a “girl”. As for other words, however: “lady” is out, I’m not “female”, I am not a “ma’am” or a “miss”. And I am definitely not a “woman”2, since in my mind, the word conjures up an image of a middle-aged soccer mom who shops at Chico, orders Venti Quad Nonfat 3-Pump No-Foam Mocha Explosions, and complains to her friends about her husband’s inability to do any of the housework correctly.

I must admit I currently struggle with a new fear of not appearing “trans enough” for others to accept my non-binary gender. As a person with a vulva who was assigned female at birth, will I lose the right to label myself as genderqueer if I get really excited about miniature plastic unicorns, or if my bed is overflowing with cute stuffed plushies? Am I allowed to remind people to use they/them pronouns for me if I choose to wear neon-pink nail polish and a pushup bra? I’m scared of people accusing me of not being/looking/acting genderqueer enough to adopt the term for myself, or that my experience is wrong and “real” genderqueer people are [insert characteristic] or have gone through [insert experience]. Is there some kind of test I can take that will give me an Official Trans Certification, so I can defensively point to such a document if someone tries to contest my gender identity?

Even though I know that gender expression doesn’t define your gender identity, and that other people do not get to dictate your gender, it’s terrifying to imagine being rejected by the queer community when you’ve been rejected from everyone else your entire life.

I shouldn’t have to feel stressed about my gender identity anymore, but I still do. When you’ve been told for decades that you are “wrong” and have begun to believe those words, it’s not easy to rise from there and learn to embrace yourself for who you really are.

  1. Whatever that really means []
  2. I have ALWAYS hated being called this []
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