Threading Roses through Needles: On Pursuing and Being Pursued by Straight Men While Transitioning

It’s like threading needles. Just the kind of emotional poise it requires.

Like threading roses through needles,




I had always kept that little box checked on OkCupid—the one that asks if I would like to remain hidden from straight boys. And for good reason. Heterosexual men prey on trans women. This isn’t a talking point. There is nothing political about it. We have all seen far more than our fair share of hostility and violence.

But it never seemed to change the way I feel about them.

I am wildly and irrevocably attracted to men. Physically. Emotionally. In any and every way that anything can be attracted to anything else.

I fell for one around about a month ago. Much too quickly. But I was thirsty. I felt so limitless, laying there naked in his arms. Running my hand in slow circles through the hair on his chest. Winding it gently around my pinkie. He absentmindedly stroked my cheek and sent electricity rippling down my spine. My leg almost instinctively curled to grip his thighs. Every inch of my body whisper-screamed that I smear up against him until we were closer than it is possible for two bodies to be.

He was stoic. Perfectly. Drinking in the paintings on my wall, the patterns in my sheets. I pressed my ear against his chest and heard steady thunder. And I thought to myself in wide eyed awe that nothing could ever have been so alive. He was the second before a horse rears back and thunders the world into neutral matte dust. I kept looking up at his face—desperate to know what was happening inside his head but finding only that same roaring calm…

There is no dysphoria for me in moments like those. None. No fear. No pain or sadness. I just am. I just exist. A field of flowers on the floor of an ocean.

This is a rare thing to experience when you are a trans woman. To exist uninhibited.




The sensation is intoxicating.

I begged the goddesses not to take him from me. To let me know him. To let him know me. To rewind the night and unspread my legs. To send us to dinner and the botanical gardens instead of takeout, Netflix, and my sheets.

He ghosted.


I was thirsty. Very. Much too. Absurdly. Before him, even. Thirsty enough to uncheck that stupid box on OKC. Thirsty enough to create an account on Tindr. On Grindr, even. Thirsty enough to seek out a way to work myself into more heteronormative spaces.

I think it is easy for straight trans women to become thirsty in this way. We haunt scenes full of gay men that we have no interest in dating and who have no interest in dating us. In the end, we amount to pretty little wallflowers. I adore my gay bois, but there is nothing for us in these spaces so far as romance goes. And yet the heteronormative alternatives are still worse. There we risk our mortality.

It all amounts to a kind of tightrope walk between two worlds, neither of which is capable of understanding or assimilating us.

I felt melancholy for weeks after the experience with the man I just described. I blamed myself. I blamed my mind. My body. But more than anything else, I blamed the space between my thighs. And I felt sick.

For whatever reason, I refused to allow myself to see the truth in that experience: he had never intended for us to move beyond that night. He was just like the literal thousands of men who have put messages in my various inboxes on the various dating sites I have made accounts on in the last few months. I could print out that sea of poorly photographed cocks and build a ladder that might reach the fucking moon.

And why not? It’s probably quiet up there. I bet the world would seem so small and trivial.

I detailed that experience because it is emblematic of virtually every experience I have had with a man since coming out and beginning my physical transition. This is the way that it is for us. As straight trans women, we are seen by the ones we are attracted to as little more than mindless fuck toys. It is a hard rule to which there are very few exceptions. We are vibrant and exotic, but in the end, we are little more than a means to getting off. Never are we ever something to take home to parents. Never are we something that can be safely introduced friends. I have never been in a healthy relationship with a man. Not even one.

I gradually mellowed out. I resigned myself to the thought that I needed to log more time on my hormones. That eight months was not enough. I needed to look more feminine. I needed to practice softening voice. I needed to be more beautiful on the surface before my mind and soul would be allowed to be seen as beautiful.

I can see all of those thoughts for what they are now—bullshit.

I am beautiful today. I was beautiful yesterday. I have miles to go, but I have come so very far. My physical aesthetic can drown in flames. Let it be damned. My soul is rare. My heart is wildfire. I am the daughter of Xibalba and there is a kind of life in my kiss that does not exist anywhere else in the whole of this great spinning motion machine.

No man will take this from me. No man is capable of that.

I will set the oceans on fire and let them burn alive before I let that happen. I will drag the stars to hell.

*    *          *

Life is very strange. Timing is still stranger. I met someone just a few hours after having finished the above portion of this article. Someone with a beautiful mind. I am embarrassed to mention him here because he will probably be reading this article. But I can’t pass it up. He is passionate and driven. He is kind and seems to be more burdened by the sufferings of others than his own. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than this kind of empathy.

He kissed me with a full face of makeup. And told me I was beautiful after I stripped it off. It didn’t seem forced. And I believe him. I don’t know if he will stick around or if this is just a momentary crossing of paths. As much as I adore the prior thought, it doesn’t really matter. The experience we shared is beautiful and dear to me regardless. And he has already given me something that every man who has ever stepped into my life has worked tirelessly to erode:


Somewhere out there, an endless kind of bliss is waiting to claim me.

And if you are trans and you are reading this, I want you to know that it waits for you too. You are better than the ones who have hurt and will hurt you. You are beautiful.  


The slightest whim …just…this…

from parting lips, …bliss…

parts an empire of endless irises,

in spirals, skimming sent swaying through open air


[stained glass fingers cascade the sky]

[sleeping swans gently stirring]

[beneath the frozen breath of a Goddess]



[by mist, eclipsed]

[his lips]

your lips…


Juliet Awry Irises is a faraway gendered trans grrl whose fingers flick almost continuously through her hair. When she is not writing poetry or painting, she busies herself with splitting the veins of the holy western masculine wide the fuck open, amen.