The first piece of clothing that I ever tried on for myself was a corset. It is my earliest memory, and must have happened when I was about four or five years old. It’s also the first instance of a confusion which would take decades to reconcile, and the first sign that my nature isn’t necessarily sexual. I remember sneaking into my mother’s closet and trying on her clothes, and the first item that I was drawn to was this beautiful corset. I remember silently trying it on, and how pulling the strings brought a snug tightness around my small frame. It fascinated me, and while I hardly remember anything else from that escapade, I clearly remember that. I said that I snuck into her closet because even then, even at that young age, I knew what I was doing was wrong.
I remember being completely cognizant that I wasn’t supposed to wear women’s clothes, and this became half of my confusion. My early years were filled with fantasies, ones of masochism and other kink, and of being a woman, and unfortunately the two often conflated (more on that later). But I had my first taste that day, and throughout the rest of my childhood I kept wanting another.
When I was twenty, I admitted to my mother that I was a masochist. Her response was: “I know.” She had known since I was six. As a child I loved to play rough with my friends, but she noted how I always managed to ‘lose’. My mother told me she watched as I got jumped on, playfully punched and kicked, and often walked away with many a bruise and/ or rug burn. She told me that I never seemed to care, and in fact quite enjoyed it. I remember delighting in being sore, it felt- good. I remember it felt so- right. My father noticed too and raised concerns with her, but she told him to let me play, after all I was just a kid having fun. Even if that fun involved running through a raspberry patch with shorts on, and finding bizarre delight in the little knicks and cuts its thorns left me with.
When I was ten or so, I remember being up at the family cottage when my uncle decided to hogtie me. I don’t know why, neither did my mother, but he was bored and had access to rope, so he figured he would. I remember how he started chasing me, and how I had to slow down so he could catch me. Then he tied me up, and that was fun, but unfortunately he lost interest soon after. I think he felt like that was enough of tormenting the poor kid, and I was very frustrated by that. To make matters worse I got out of my restraints far too easily, and he never did hogtied me again. When I was in my early twenties I remember having a heart to heart with my aunt, his wife, about sex and sexuality, and I mentioned how I have very fond memories of that hogtying. She laughed, but despite finding great amusement in it, told me it was probably best never to tell him- he might get a bit creeped out by it. I never did tell him, unless the poor son of a bitch just read this paragraph.
It wasn’t just that I had a predilection for bondage and pain, I had a tolerance for it as well. I once compound fractured my wrist in a pillow fight, yet waited half a day before deciding to get it looked at. I was a kid, and was playing rough with a friend (as usual) with heavy couch-pillows. Anyways, he rammed me with one and it hit me in a way to snap my left wrist back. While we stopped after that, he was convinced I just ‘jimmied up the bone’, and I figured he was right. I remember how I slept on the damn thing, before finally deciding to ask to be taken to a doctor at breakfast. But at that point, it wasn’t the pain, it was the creeping suspicion that maybe my wrist had been more than ‘jimmied up’ (I’ll never forget that turn of phrase).
I have all of these fond memories, and I just realized in writing that, they really were fond. I don’t have many like them, I was a very depressed and isolated child. I grew up in the 90’s, when no one talked about gender dysphoria. I remember crying myself to sleep for so many nights, hoping and praying to wake up a girl. That wasn’t the only aspect of my self that was never discussed, any sort of BDSM practice or masochistic tendency was taboo, especially for a child. How would one even begin to broach the subject now in 02016? We still conflate masochism with sex, and while children are definitely not able to give consent and should never be involved in any sexual interaction, we shouldn’t deny that they might still have desires.
Long before puberty, I was infatuated with mind control, and often fantasized about it. Years before it became an outright fetish, I remember seeing it in cartoons, and spent hours wondering what it would be like to be put under someone’s spell or command. Never mind how I often wondered what was so bad about spanking, which sadly my parents were too enlightened to partake in. I secretly wished to be sent to a Catholic school.
I realize that this topic is difficult, we want to think that children have no thoughts like these, but I think this illustrates an enduring truth of my life; in my mind, BDSM doesn’t necessarily equate to sex, and masochism is a character trait as much as any other. This is simply the story of one child having experiences and desires that she couldn’t articulate.
In Kushiel’s Dart, Phédre’s nature is discovered when she’s observed to prick herself while playing as a child, and then laughing as she shows a woman her bleeding finger. I’ll never forget reading that scene, as the woman in charge immediately calls for the man who would become Phédre’s mentor to visit (and buy her marque/ contract/ life). I always wish that I had someone like that in my life who made such a call. I always wonder what my life might have become if our society was willing to acknowledge people like me, even at that early age. Again,I’m not arguing this in terms of sex, and Phédre was not taken advantage of as a child. Instead, she went to live with a man who understood her nature, and in the years before she was mature enough to give consent, he taught her to embrace being an Anguissette. And of course, over her entire childhood Phédre often managed to get flogged or caned as punishment, something that again, I really wish my parents weren’t too enlightened to have avoided. Hell, it might have motivated me to sneak out more often or take risks knowing there was a potential flogging in it for me.
Unfortunately as the years progressed confusion about my self only grew. It did not help that as I grew and hit puberty BDSM became conflated with transsexualism. The fact that ‘forced feminization’ fantasies and BDSM go hand in hand meant that I was exposed to two disconnected elements posing as one. I knew that I wanted to be a woman, but I was also into BDSM. With no one to put forced feminization fantasies into context, I began to see a vital part of myself as purely a fetish. Deep down I knew that wasn’t right, yet there weren’t enough resources to confirm it, so that suspicion turned to shame. Combine that with buckets of teenage hormones and you have a recipe for endless confusion. The early 2000’s internet simply didn’t have the wealth of information it does now, you would never stumble on information about transsexualism unless you specifically knew what you were searching for.
Today I don’t consider myself submissive, and in fact know that I am not. At least, I’m not on the same level as I am a masochist. When I was a horny teenager, my fantasies often involved submission because mind control is a fetish, and so many forced feminization scenes involved it. It’s a common fantasy to be dominated by a woman, who turns you into one, and it just happened that my mind control fetish was a big part of many of those fantasies. The idea of being taken and made into a perfect doll was a fantasy I indulged in again and again.
But there was still that nagging thought at the back of my mind. It was that I didn’t want to be a girl for play, or as part of the fantasies I was consuming, I just wished every day that I was one. Towards the end of my teens, I began to become very ashamed of those fantasies, even as I kept masturbating because again- I had the hormones of a teenage boy. Also it was the early 2000’s, so not only did I have access to high-speed DSL 1mbps internet, but my parents didn’t fully grasp the vast ocean of fetish material at their teen’s fingertips and thus made no move to restrict it. This is also why we need to modernize sex ed, because the vast majority of what I learned about sex I learned from the internet, and no teen should ever have to go through that.
One thing I did become excellent at was roleplay, and delighted in taking on other identities. Even as a young teen I’d go into adult-only chatrooms (usually BDSM oriented) and pose as a woman in her early 20’s. I’m not proud, but I mean- what else was I to do? This was before webcams too, or even smartphones, so all you had to do to be taken seriously was weave a proper narrative. I went through about fifty name changes, often within the same chatrooms. At one point I had three clients open, all connected to the same channel, and successfully pretended to be three very different people (including one dominant) simultaneously. I was so good that I even accounted for delays in sending messages, often writing out one person’s and not sending it, so that it could be sent immediately with another- therefore making it look like two people accidentally talked over each other, as one does in online messaging. I even learned how to change my diction to suit the age of my characters, which ranged from 18 to 50.
It helps that hormones were involved in all sides, you’re generally not asking many questions when you’re horny, and in a weird way I learned to manipulate that fact to suit my ends. I was good at it, and it got me off, and in a small way- as I was actually conversing with people as a woman- I began to experiment with my identity within the only outlet I had.
Regardless, the shame of participating in those fantasies persisted. When I learned what a transsexual was in 2004 (when I was seventeen), I finally managed to separate that identity from BDSM, which prompted me to try and break from my masochistic nature altogether. As I asserted myself as a woman, I felt that it wasn’t right/ weird to keep indulging in BDSM. I felt dirty, and simply ashamed by it. Unfortunately I still had the hormones of a teenage boy, so I still masturbated like crazy, but I remember hating myself whenever I indulged in any kinky fantasy. I thought I had figured it out, and began about three years when I tried to shut all aspects of BDSM from my mind.
There was only one instance during those years which should have taught me otherwise. The first was that I made contact online with a woman I knew only as ‘Anna’. She was forty-three years-old, dominant, and… kind. I met her in my last year of high school (when I was eighteen). What I loved was that I was upfront about being a transsexual, and she accepted me. More than that, it was the first time I could ask questions about BDSM, while safe in the knowledge that my female self wasn’t a fetish. I realize now that it was also the first time I ever talked about BDSM, rather than being immediately involved in the fantasy elements of it.
I got to play too, and learned where I liked to be in a hierarchy. Anna enjoyed playing online and had a small stable of subs, of which I became a middle-manager of sorts. I was in charge of keeping them together, and at times delivering messages for Anna. In another first, I found immense enjoyment being at her right hand. Still under her command, but not outright submissive, especially when it came to others. She referred to me as her lioness. I still sometimes wonder where she is now. Would she even remember me?
But as is the reality of the internet, one day she vanished. I’ve lost many friends like that over the years, enough that I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve vowed never to be in another long distance relationship, even if it would take me many more years after Anna to commit to that. Her disappearance stung, but I moved on.
The last story from this stage of my life is that when I was fifteen I was browsing online, and happened on the website of a Toronto dominatrix. I remember clicking around ands finding a photo of her. She was gorgeous, and that masochistic part of my brain perked right up, as it does when it senses a sadist is around. I remember feeling a little hopeless though, thinking a woman like that (who ran her own dungeon) would never be interested in someone like me. Shortly after I closed the site and moved on with my life.
Thus ended my childhood and teenage years, the most depressed and confusing decades of my life. I wish they weren’t so, but what can you do? In October of 2007 I was twenty years-old, and had just moved back to Toronto from Victoria. I was even more depressed, had dropped out of university, was going through hormone therapy/ a second puberty, and had just lost many good friends (through actions which were my fault, even if I wasn’t of sound mind). But the next chapter of my life was about to begin. On January 22nd, 2008, I sat at my computer chatting with a friend, when she told me of this great novel she’d just read.
“It’ll probably be right up your alley too. You should get a copy! It’s called Kushiel’s Dart.”
Part Two – February 8th.