If I hadn’t gotten so into Twitter in the aftermath of my breakup, I might not have branded my last few months as a Hot Girl Summer like everyone else. But the meme happened to take over the internet just as my sudden sublimation into a single, cock-sucking transsexual slut was taking place. It felt good to channel an obscure libido of much darker origin into a familiar pact with others who were also seizing sexualities that had been stolen away from them.
Everything happened so fast. One day I was sleeping next to the man that I’d slept beside for the better part of a decade, and the next I was afloat at the foot of the bed in my post-breakup apartment, riding another man mid-air, somewhere between 6’5” and the hardwoods.
Lucas held me in one arm like I was weightless. I was folded in half, my breasts crushed against my thighs, pinned upright to his thick chest as my legs draped over his forearm. My mind emptied like the shot-sized bottle of vodka that fell out of his pocket as I watched him fuck me in the floor-length mirrors. Lucas didn’t want to die, but anything can happen after deployment. We watched Jarhead. He figured he ought to do what he wanted this summer, since everything would be on the line soon. So we fucked as much as possible, like we were fucking for our lives. I guess we were.
A new season had begun. With everything lost and nothing to give, I thought I might meet another Diana thrusting in the hot nights to come. Maybe she would be stronger than the one who died the day her love left. I would find her, and men would help by penetrating the barrier that has kept this imaginary, liberated version of myself unreachable for so long. So, fueled by pop culture rhetoric and desperation, I returned to my roots, and began to transform myself to save myself. My stylist cropped my long hair to graze my shoulder blades, and my colorist lifted me to an ash blond. Is this how the hot girl I was searching for might look?
I never loved anyone but one man, and until this year, I kept Diana just for him. I only had my name for six months when we met in the Summer of 2013, when I wasn’t anybody yet, and neither was he. Two years later, I sold my first piece of writing. Sometimes I’d think about how I never got to have sex with other people as a woman, and I’d wonder if I’d regret that one day. But we were growing up together, and he showed me what it's like to be loved for real. And then he said goodbye and I saw just how little of me I had kept for myself.
I wondered if Kevin, a guy who loves Rick Owens almost as much as I do, would make me feel like a real person again. We walked through the park, then along winding side streets in Greenpoint before he called a car to take us to my apartment so we could have sex. He may be the most beautiful man I’ve ever met. I told him that his dick is the most beautiful cock I’d ever seen. I told him the truth.
I’ve never been more real and more imaginary than when a fist is made with my throat at its center as a man says I'm perfect.
Kevin warned me that he might come immediately if I was tight. Being with him felt like being with God. Fuck, he said, you’re so fucking hot. Everything slows down during sex, and I stop being myself in my body, becoming just a body, and just what he needs. Sometimes I feel like I might disintegrate without the validation that only men can give me. I’ve never been more real and more imaginary than when a fist is made with my throat at its center as a man says I'm perfect.
My slow thighs slid low for what passed as centuries but must have been minutes. When we finally became one, I swear I could have lived forever, but then Kevin blew his load, then was slipping back into his heavy-soled shoes, saying goodbye.
Had the ritual been successful, or did I miss some essential step? I felt like a hot girl, and it was summer. But I couldn’t tell if the heat was restoring me, or slowly setting me on fire.
As I had been carefully preparing my body for Kevin, I felt connected to the woman I spent seven years becoming. When we met, I was an unknown person, someone new on a date, unblemished by grief, or distorted by the pain of my past. I wanted Kevin badly, and he wanted me, which felt at least familiar to the mutual desire that I once found in love. It looked like evidence that I could be liberated by sex, and find that other Diana simply by becoming her the way I became the one I was before.
But when Kevin left, the holes he’d filled were empty again. I wondered why I wasn’t the one urging him to leave the moment sex ended; why he was the one destined to decide when our meeting would conclude? The encounter had been hot beyond belief, but I couldn’t tell if the person we created was powerful, or just temporarily filled by a power that ultimately belonged to him.
This summer, I realized something: During the day, I become invisible. I know this because even though I slept with my neighbor three times, whenever I see him at the corner store, he cannot see me. Sometimes, waiting for eggs and cheese on a roll, he glances in my direction with alarm, before darting his eyes away as if he thought he saw somebody where I was standing but then realized no one was there.
At night, though, men can see me again.
Leaving a bodega one day, Michael eyed me and asked for a smoke. As I handed him a cigarette, I had to let him know how much I appreciated his basketball commentary—I’d overhead him dissing one of my least-favorite players as I was paying for my Camels.
“Are you a man?” he asked a few minutes later. I laughed. (When did I learn to laugh?) “I'm a transsexual,” I told him, clarifying the question he and his friends had apparently been unable to collectively answer. After I told him that I’m trans, Michael asked if he could come over. When I declined, he let me know he was happy to settle with getting sucked off on a stoop somewhere. I asked him if he would tell his friends the truth about me. He'd lie of course, but we agreed that if any of them were alone, none would object to my body.
One unwanted load of cum was the only thing he’d ever give me.
At times, it seemed that I had great power over men. In any individual encounter, I didn’t care if they were only driven by a selfish desire to take something from me, because wasn’t that all I was after myself? Why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy sex the way they do? After all, I’m not looking for love anymore. But maybe that doesn’t mean anything when I’m the one asked to kneel on cement to suck off a stranger. My sexual empowerment seemed irrelevant when, after a condom broke with another guy and I sought reassurance, my text went unanswered. If my power were equal to his, then why was I unable to tell my doctor his HIV status with certainty? One unwanted load of cum was the only thing he’d ever give me.
In the end, Lucas was no different. We spent weekends hidden in my apartment, pounding our bodies together, learning what we want, and what's in our way. We were both being stalked by the albatross, mortality. He was about to begin military service, and I had just lost the only thing I ever really loved. Lucas turned to me when he felt that he had nothing to lose, because I represent his final fantasy.
Like most of the men I met this summer, Lucas lives a life of discretion. No one knows that he sleeps with trans women. When we first met, I took his icy stoicism as a challenge to tap into the charming persona I’d already chatted with online. By our second date—plans to fuck at my place—he relaxed, and we talked about everything, from history, to politics, the military, and even his discreet sexuality.
One day Lucas told me he’d been thinking about whether he might be able to be more open about who he is, and who he loves. I was so moved, and wanted to hear more. Then, suddenly, he changed the subject. And soon, the sun rose on our relationship. I know I’ll never see him again.
My nights of visibility dragged on as I smoked for hours on my quiet street corner. Chris found me there one night on his walk home. Two older men passed us and muttered something about my gender, and I wondered how the young man who’d stopped to flirt with the pretty girl would handle this. But Chris didn't understand what the men were talking about. He clearly didn't know I’m trans, so I told him. "Do you have a dick?" he marveled, apparently anxious not to take this rare encounter with the taboo for granted. I tried to treat myself with whatever cis people think of as dignity, telling Chris that his question was awfully personal and inappropriate. But all he said was that he has a dick, what's the big deal, and he wanted to know. So I gave up. When I answered his question, he asked if my place was close by.
The more men I met, the closer I felt to the lost part of my community: The men who fuck trans women. We talked openly about our lives and their inability to stand beside the women they love. These were some of the most meaningful conversations of my life, and so many of those men were kind, and hot, and seemed to really believe that I was special. I understand their fear, and I empathize with it, though I’ll never forgive them for collectively abandoning me and my sisters—still and always. I wanted to believe that it’s possible to be self-possessed as a trans woman having sex—that their shame would not become mine. I had so much sex this summer that was good and hot and worked at making me feel wanted. But as much as I like being choked, I never asked to be strangled by a culture shame and discretion, too.
Most trans women understand that even when you’re living a dream, reality is always ready to hit.
I wanted to be free so badly, able to enjoy sex and myself, finally, as a person unashamed of who they are or how they live. But no matter how hard I tried to allow myself to experience my sexuality freely, I couldn't undo their bad behavior or change the circumstances that brought us together. The man who pretended I wasn’t in the deli because it was daytime is not my equal. The man who asked if he could put his cock inside me and when I said “No,” did it anyway, never acknowledged what happened. Men can make me feel alive when I think I'm dying, but only in the moment of their own release—release from fear and expectations, or release when their balls are swollen and need to be drained.
I thought I might at least subvert the inherent power imbalance between us. Sometimes I did. But most of my partners treated their time with me like a fantasy—a secret encounter in a private apartment with the kind of girl they’ve known most closely in their imagination. Most trans women understand that even when you’re living a dream, reality is always ready to hit.
At the end of my so-called Hot Girl Summer, more of me was missing than when it began. All of those men took something from me in the end, and usually I gave it to them. Sex, emotional support, an empathetic ear, a warm breast, a hard cock, a perfect body without any reminder that I wasn't created in a laboratory just for them to fuck. Even at their most compassionate, most men vanished without a trace; asked for my bed, for my body, for my time, and never put me before themselves, even just for a summer. I could make them see my beauty, but I couldn’t make them see that chicks with dicks also have hearts, and they also beat.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.