My boyfriend spent much of this spring rebuilding an '80s Suzuki 450L motorcycle for me by hand in the front yard of his house.
The process of its construction was part of the prize: I was treated to many days of conversation while sitting on a chair nearby in the shade, playing Pearl Jam and Neil Young for us on my iPhone as I watched him work.
Admittedly, I was also watching his muscles glistening with perspiration, bulging under a grease stained tank top, his sexy thick brows flexing, the essential perfection of his goofy grin when he thought of a joke to tell me. I am very much a woman of physical passions as well as those of the mind. He smelled like clean sweat, salty desert dust and 10W-40 motor oil, with a hint of wheat bread and white soap. My most evocative aphrodisiacs have always been scents.
He unstuck tightened bolts and nuts to remove nearly every piece from the frame and cleaned each one in the particular way it needed to be cleaned. He replaced the worn hoses and taped up bundles of wires. He carried the big tank to be powder-coated into a glossy midnight black and brought it back handling it carefully as a huge, flawless, shiny egg. Esoteric quantifications were measured by dedicated instruments and so everything came back together perfectly in place, better than it had been before he'd laid his hands on it.
He's been sad to see my stress surrounding the recent heated discussions of language in my community. He's never dated a trans woman before, so the philosophy of labels and the politics of our portrayals have been far outside his experience. He's never dated someone in the public eye before, so the idea that strangers would say "cruel" things to me at all is perplexing and frustrating for him.
I understand it all too well, of course, as we all do who have spent our lives carving out a place as LGBT people in a world that isn't "us." Sometimes people don't like each other. Sometimes words and names are flung around. From outsiders and insiders; we've all got our personal demons and pet peeves. And nobody can hurt your feelings quite like family can.
It's a funny thing about dating men as a trans woman: they won't ever fully understand the "long way round" we've had to take to get into their world of heteronormativity. Nor would I expect them to. Once we get there, often it's nicer just to try and forget the journey altogether.
He certainly does try to understand, though. To him, I'm a girl he met in a restaurant one night, and fell in love with at first sight, according to his telling of the story -- with a giant smile reaching all the way up to crinkle the corners of his eyes. I am a bit too guarded to let myself believe in such things as love at first sight, but whatever my walls were, he has somehow breached them and I am in love.
I've mostly moved past the stress surrounding the heated responses to my small handful of essays for The Advocate and The Huffington Post.
I've been talking about the surrounding issues for years, and will always have something to say on them, but over the last few weeks I have been making music with my pal Patrick Wolf, guzzling champagne with old friends, binging on television with my bestie Andrea James, gorging on the Easter spread prepared by boyfriend's Cuban grandma and -- dear goddess -- even bouncing the babies that appear at every heterosexual holiday event on my knee and getting "that look" from everyone in the room wondering when I'm going to "have mine". Which is actually a welcome reminder that they don't see me as "a transsexual" or a "drag queen" or anything other than another woman in the room.
The answer to their question is "never", because I know I'd be more Judy Garland than June Cleaver when it comes to mothering.
But it's still sweet to be asked.
Today I spent hours riding the motorcycle around Hollywood that my boyfriend lovingly restored for me.
I've had two bad wrecks in the past, so I know all to well that you must be focused every second of the ride. Mirrors must be positioned to see danger from behind as well as the obvious in front of you. Eyes and ears must be tuned to alert me to danger, even protected by my heavy (but fashionable!) jacket, helmet and gloves. But that hyper alertness becomes almost automatic after a few moments, and then riding a motorcycle becomes what it must be like to fly. The air rushing over my body, the world near and clear even as it rushes by at superhuman speeds.
My boyfriend's gift to me today was a few hours where I thought about nothing but the smell of the plants as they released the stored up warmth of the day in Griffith Park. The taste of a churro and some strong Cuban coffee consumed alone in thoughtful silence. An hour of reading Vito Russo and learning about the history of similar struggles.
The whistle of wind in my ears. The absence of negativity. The reminder of love.
Today was a wonderful day, and I am thankful for it.