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 Justis Mills
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 Justis Mills
A Work in Progress
by Justis Mills  FollowFollow
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Justis Mills often goes 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, and so on up until 16,777,216, which he knows is right because it's memorized,...read more and anyway he does this all in his head because it makes him feel smart and good and alive and different enough from other people that he's safe, not held to the same standard per se, able to get away with being who he is, and anyway sometimes he does it with sevens, too, powers of seven, but he never gets very far with those jagged things. He runs First Stop Fiction. On top of that, he's got a personal website. You can use Google, if you want to chat him up. He'll listen. You can be the sleuth you've always dreamed about.
A Work in Progress
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A Work in Progress

I BEGAN PUBERTY in the normal way. I grew pubic hair earlier than I expected, a secret reserved for only my mother. My voice deepened. Before puberty, I wondered if I could avoid the deepening of my voice. I speculated that maybe I could push my voice as high as it could go each night before sleep, and in so doing never lose my range. But when the time came, I was preoccupied.

Facial hair came later but decisively. So did chest hair. I was lucky to sidestep wet dreams entirely, though my concern for romantic matters rivaled any of my peers.

In short, I became a young man.

As a young man, I enjoy wearing dresses. I also liked dressing up in feminine clothing as a child, though my parents discouraged this because I was already weird and liable to be picked on. Once I was a young adult, they were more supportive. I felt no compulsion to wear female clothing all the time. Using female pronouns never really occurred to me. I don't feel trapped in my body, especially.

I did go under my house once, to a tiny room where my dogs hung out. It was a basement full of red dust and rocks. I was in 10th grade. I'd had a joke with my girlfriend that she'd gotten me pregnant, though we'd certainly never had sex. I simulated giving birth down there, as best as I could understand it. In my imagination. I don't think I imagined it very accurately. One of my dogs had his head on my knee. Then I came back upstairs, unsteady.

My video game characters tended to be female. When those games were multiplayer and online, I didn't let people know that I was actually a man. I got some ambiguous male attention online, which I enjoyed. Middle school was a confusing time, as it was for everybody.

Sexually, I found myself attracted to virtually no men, and plenty of women. But when I imagined being a woman, I was attracted to men. Imagining sex as a woman generally felt a little better than as a man. Operating with the available data, I consider myself more or less heterosexual. Were I to become a woman, I'm not sure if I would become homosexual. Maybe. It's hard for me to say.

What I'm getting at, I guess, is that I'm not sure if I'm transgender. I'm not sure, and I'm not sure if I'll ever be sure. Until I am 30, then 40, then 50, I suspect I will harbor the secret thought that maybe at some benchmark age I will decide to become a woman, and live the rest of my life as one. And that also, maybe not.

If I could bear children, that would sweeten the deal, but I don't expect that to ever be a possibility for me.


I will say this: I'm happy with my body. I think I make a good looking man. I like the proportions of my genitals. They would be hard to give up, if I ever decided on surgery. And I don't have any extreme affinity for breasts. I like them just fine. But I don't have a hankering for them on my own chest. I think I could probably have better orgasms as a woman, and I think I would enjoy walking more with a different center of gravity.

I like walking as a man just fine, don't get me wrong.

Anyway, the point isn't my logical thought processes about my sex. Those are solid. They're worked out very neatly, folded, and put in drawers. Some would call this a masculine approach. Others would say those some are essentialist pieces of shit.

The point isn't a point at all. It's more of a curve. The thing I want to describe, with respect to my sex and who I've sexually become, with all these hormones and girlfriends and body hairs, is how my imagination copes with my limits. My limits, I mean, in being only one bodily sex.

I have a version of myself in my imagination, who is a woman. She doesn't look just like me. Her personality isn't exactly like mine. She's her own person. If I became a woman, I don't think she'd predominate and become the main me. Not necessarily. But sometimes I see her taking care of other characters I imagine. Other times I see her doing hardcore missions, like maybe with swords.

Other times we talk, and sometimes we hold hands, shadows in each other's subdivisions of my imagination: me sailing a boat across the sea of my unconscious, her in a forest in the center of a narrative sun. I'm pretty sure there's something like love between us, but I don't think we'll ever, even in my imagination, have sex.

One or the other of us is too insubstantial, is one reason for that.

I don't wear dresses as often as I used to. In relationships with women, I tend to take masculine roles more often than feminine ones. And mostly, when I imagine sex, it's as a man.

But not always. And not all of the best times.

And my female version, the me within me who operates however she sees fit in the landscape of my most private and valuable and vulnerable world, she braids parts of me together. She slays monsters. She collaborates with the forces behind the shadows of who I am.

I grow. I work. I smile at myself in the mirror. And from time to time, I receive updates from within me. What she's up to. What I'm up to, inside myself.

I don't know if there's any end to this process. I normally love endings to stories, live for endings to stories, but I don't think I want an ending here. Perhaps it's just endless tension and release, in my inner life: womanhood waxing and waning amidst my roots.

I hope when I'm dying, I still feel a circle of womanhood inside me. That the climax of my life isn't, tragically, the solely male variety.

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