I’d only been on hormones for two years when I first discovered the liberating power of kink. That early into my gender transition, I felt painfully androgynous. My hair was still growing, my fat still shifting. Even in the oppressive heat of July, I forewent a cooling swim. What if onlookers stared, trying to solve the riddle of my body? Its slowly softening facial features, its budding breasts which could just as easily be moobs?
I wanted to curl into a chrysalis and only emerge when my exterior fully reflected my womanly interior. But my hunger for connection ultimately kept me un-cocooned. And thank God it did, ’cause I met Jake*.
I was visiting a friend in Montana when I found myself browsing Grindr. Jake’s mischievous eyes sparkled through a mess of brown hair. He was big, with thick arms that I’d soon learn could lift me up and make me seem delightfully small even on days when I felt like a clunky, un-sexy paperweight. I barely held it together when we met at a park and he flashed his mile-wide grin. But after hours of great conversation, I let myself melt between his car and his strong body. Our tongues clashed as his stubble sanded my cheeks.
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He knew I was only in town for a couple of weeks and yet never tried to pivot our trajectory toward just casual sex. He was invested in me, and that was fucking hot.
…Although not quite as hot as when—midway through fooling around—he kissed his way from my ass (which he’d been eating very well) all the way to that part of me I’d felt so ashamed of for so long. That part of me that surgeons would one day refashion into a vagina but until then I’d refer to as my clitty. “Dick” so woefully missed the mark.
I only realized after coming out why receiving oral had always felt strange and disconcerting: it drew focus to a dysphoric part of my body. But as Jake slowly began working his mouth, my muscles relaxed. His steady, lustful gaze from between my thighs reflected what he saw: a woman. My clitty was merely a rarer variation on the female body, and it deserved pleasure just as much as any other, more traditionally feminine part of mine. His fingers pressed into my pale, doughy thighs—his lips wet, his tongue swirling. I could only whimper.
I was so moved—so breathtakingly floored by this sense of being fully seen and appreciated—that I chose that moment to break the Guinness World Record for saying “I love you” too early in a relationship. And as if I needed more reason to actually mean it, he responded with preternatural compassion. “I’m not ready to say that yet,” he replied warmly. “But you saying it doesn’t scare me away.”
Our goodbye at the end of my visit felt like velcro ripping apart. We stayed in contact after I returned home to Maine, where I’d worried that long-distance would reveal our chemistry was purely physical. I was wonderfully wrong. We agreed that the gushing texts we exchanged throughout the day were a constant comfort, and when we video chatted at night, he made me snort with laughter.
Yet even as our affection and admiration for each other grew, an elephant entered the room. We had similar temperaments and things we enjoyed doing together, but we wanted fundamentally different things out of life. We buried the knowledge of our diverging paths deep into our subconscious. But when he visited me in Maine a few months later, we couldn’t ignore it any longer.
His visiting my turf—reflecting my own visit to his—seemed a fitting conclusion for our romance. But we bemoaned this circumstantial breakup all the same, holding each other as we cried. “You’re gonna find someone amazing,” he told me through tears. “You deserve so much.”
It was the definition of an amicable split. So why should we cancel our plans to try shrooms on the final day of his visit?
It was a drizzly Saturday in August when we choked down the rubbery fungi with spoonfuls of chocolate pudding. Half an hour later, we watched the lamplight on my bedroom ceiling slowly congeal and fracture into its composite colors. We marveled.
Everything contained everything.
My love for Jake suddenly took on a whole new light—both awesome and terrible, a fire that excited yet also burned me. My insecurities flared up in all their ugly glory as I childishly accused him of never loving me as earnestly as I loved him. He, in turn, expressed hurt over my therapizing him, dredging up trauma he didn’t want to process.
During a break in the rain, we walked, fuming, to a nearby baseball field and sat in the dugout to watch the diamonds of the chain-link fence undulate like a curtain in the wind—its movement as mysterious as our shifting emotions. A psychedelic trip can feel like a whole lifetime. So we swam through an ocean of heartache before ultimately rediscovering each other in my bedroom, once more as hungry and humble as the young lovers we were. Apologies gave way to kisses as rain pattered the sill of the open window. Some singer crooned through the bluetooth speaker in the corner.
Then, gingerly, Jake slid my panties down.
I’d recently become intrigued by the notion of being restrained or flogged. Jake, more experienced in kink, could guide me. Maybe it was the shrooms that made me more amenable. Maybe I was just feeling adventurous since this was probably the last time we’d have sex. Regardless, when he told me to turn around and put my hands on the dresser, I listened…like a good girl.
He cupped my ass cheek. “Don’t move your hands,” he said.
I nodded. “Yes, Sir.” It felt instinctual.
My flesh chilled as his warm palm vanished. But no sooner had this thought crossed my mind than I jolted with the force of a stinging spank.
My heart pounded. I was panting. But I steeled my resolve and gripped the edge of the dresser harder.
“Count it,” he commanded.
“One.” My voice quivered.
Once more, the warmth of his hand vanished as he pulled back for another impact. Every muscle in my body tensed. But this time, he halted his powerful swing a millimeter shy so that the wind from his would-be slap washed over my pinkening flesh. A nervous, exhilarated, and insane-sounding giggle bubbled out of my mouth.
I’d never felt anything like it—the cocktail of fear and excitement.
When he faked another spanking, the same, chaotic hyena laughter escaped me again. I craned my head to show him the surprise and earnestness in my eyes: this laughter was a physiological reaction that I couldn’t stop. He grinned. “Interesting…,” he said, like I was a toy showing off a new trick. I loved that even though I sounded like the fucking Joker, he still wanted me.
He waited for my giggles to subside before ordering me to lie belly-down on the bed, with my hands behind my back for more spanking. From this position, I was even more powerless. Yes, I could move my hands to cover my butt. And indeed, they instinctively jerked an inch to do so every time that powerful hand landed another blow upon my flesh. But I was drunk on that cocktail of fear and excitement. I loathed each spanking—and yet, that loathing somehow excited me all the more.
For Jake’s part, I wondered if the shrooms heightened his own experience—if perhaps he found transcendence in the variations of pink and red and white on my butt as he continued to mix spankings with fake-outs, making me nervously cackle.
Each blow stung, and yet, a delighted whimper escaped my lips every time the pain shot through me like a lightning bolt. I couldn’t be spanked forever, of course. But I felt strangely content in this power dynamic. In fact, it occurred to me that it was the dynamic itself I found so pleasurable—spankings be damned. Kinksters call this headspace I found myself in “subspace.”
Later, I’d think about my Christian upbringing, how I was told to give all my worries to our almighty God. There was something vaguely similar—and even more wonderful—about entering subspace: forfeiting all control to someone who sees you as you really are and appreciates it, who has your best interest at heart. There will be pain, but he’ll never give you more than you can take.
Perhaps what I enjoyed so much about Jake spanking me and ordering me around wasn’t his domination, but the novelty of feeling so safe that I could, indeed, lie down, hands behind my back, fully vulnerable. In this way, my submission was merely a byproduct of a healthy relationship—one in which, for the first time, a man saw me as the strong and beautiful woman that I am.
And what a gift that is: to be loved so totally that you can lower your walls and explore other parts of yourself that you dared not look at, lest they make you more unloveable. To not have to say “I love you” just so you can hear it back—because their actions assure you that they do.
I mean…doesn’t that just make you wanna say, “Yes, Sir?”
*Name has been changed.
Abby Jo Morris is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on LGBTQ Nation, Nerdist, Columbia Journal, and Hey Alma. She’s based in Brooklyn where she writes about the intersections of her various identities: trans woman, poly slut, Jewish convert, ex-evangelical, and chronically ill spoonie. She’s working on a memoir.