I'm profoundly uncomfortable with aspects of myself and it's so hard to sit with them in their hiding places. So I say to everyone outside my house: come find me pristine and composed on the living room table; gaze with tears in your eyes, your hand reached into mine and hold me forever, crown jewel of your sun, and pay no mind to the narrow crevasses and dark, silent closets peeking through the sheen.

I know in my logical brain that I was a real person before I transitioned. I do. But whenever I see pre-transition me, all I can think about is how I looked like this weird energy sphere that was dragging around an awkward little puppet meat suit thing. There's just this disconnect between the body I see and the knowledge that there's a human in there, thinking and feeling things and making the body move in response to those things. It's uncanny, like watching a hyper-realistic robot try to act like a human but not quite nail it—it's not that you dislike the robot in the way you might dislike a shitty person and more that you just feel uncomfortable observing this odd phenomenon. When I look back at my post-transition self, I feel a whole variety of things—happiness, pride, embarrassment, empathy, disgust, excitement—but regardless, I feel something for the human that inhabits that body. That makes me happy.

I get really stuck on certain people and things. It's like I get this sudden vision of everything finally being eternally still and blissful, and even though I always know on some level that's not how things work, the overwhelming power of the image takes over my rational & mindful thoughts like some super fucked curse (please I beg you just give me like 3 days of bad luck or something). It makes me wonder if I haven't healed from lots of things yet. Like, why does getting basic attention from certain friends or crushes feel like literal heaven-on-earth, and why am I so fucking desperate for it? Are my needs that unmet? What have I been doing? It makes me feel fucking gross and I want my brain to cut it out.

My family had an annual tradition for the 4th of July—we would gather at my grandparents' lake house and build these themed (usually politically) firework displays, present them to a raucous crowd of family-friends, then one-by-one douse them in lighter fluid, click the lighter, and run, hoping that this year the rockets wouldn't fire directly into the crowd again. For many years, when I was a good little family lackey, I would participate, building my own display and presenting it despite hating both the loud noise and public speaking. When it was time to set the danger boxes ablaze, I would go hide in the house, observing the fireworks safely from the window and with the company of my grandmother. But I always had to come out for my display. Otherwise I'd get the dreaded “Where's (deadname)?!” calls from various crowd members until someone thought to come search the cabin and give me some variation of a Get On Out Here demand that I had no idea how to refuse. So I Got On Out There for however long it took for the adults to lose interest in me and no longer notice if I slipped back into the quiet sanctuary of the cabin.

I awoke from a nap this 4th of July with the shades drawn and the windows dark. It was 9pm, and my two cats were growling at the distant firework pops. I looked around my quiet little studio, my comfort fan humming and my flag waving lazily in the artificial breeze. I found myself feeling sad.