The Unknown Soldier

Seth’s gone, I discovered one day. The house was eerily quiet, and I felt alone again for the first time in a while. He’d left me.

But not really. Because at some point, we wound up becoming the same person.

Hi. I’m a transman and my name is Seth.

It started with a roleplay. What I thought was going to be a throwaway M/M series of sex scenes held together with a few strands of plot and a whole lot of suspended disbelief. I thought my RP partner, who’s playing, for all intents and purposes, a Mary Sue gay twink, would just be another whimpering, cardboard doormat of a character that I’d get bored with before I even got to my first interaction with him.

None of that wound up being true, and this has to be one of the best stories I’ve ever had a hand in writing, period.

But I have to admit to an ulterior motive: I’m sort of selfishly making the story about my character.

Because in doing this roleplay, I’ve managed to come out to myself and quickly work through a lot of anxieties I might have otherwise had. (I still have plenty, mind.) And in many ways, Hawker’s arc mirrors my own, in real-time.

For years now, I’ve been captivated by the image of the soldier. Not the warrior, someone who fights for glory and honor and the thrill of battle, but rather someone compelled by outside forces to fight when they otherwise would not have. Someone bound by duty, by loyalty, and perhaps bound by fear or anger or threat of punishment. Someone who has a sense of pride and would die for their compatriots, but someone who still can’t shake the feeling that they’d rather be somewhere else.

At the beginning of the story, Hawker is 15 feet of emotionally inaccessible black-ops-grade military hardware, a body which he is more than happy to have at his disposal in spite of his love/hate relationship with it. He accomplishes a lot of things with that body. Some things that he’s proud of… some things that he’s not. Later on in the story, he’s forced into a series of smaller, human-sized frames. Sometimes as a logistical necessity, other times as punishment from his superiors. These smaller bodies are incomplete by his standards: rudimentary sensor systems, very low resolution haptic nets (if any at all), and the kicker: no genitals.

Chris and Hawker don’t realize that they’re a couple for a while, and it takes Hakwer months to even remember the word ‘boyfriend’ exists. But even while cooped up in the small, substandard frames, the pair manage to maintain a sex life.

As much as I love writing normal sex scenes featuring those two, I really got a special kind of thrill from writing the ones where Hawker has no equipment: just a smooth, featureless plate of metal. And Hawker is the dominant, to boot. So imagining Chris getting down on his knees to service his sexless master without skipping a beat, with Hawker psychologically piggybacking on his submissive’s having a dick AND making a lot of dirty talk about it? That was something that hit me pretty hard, as both an emotional experience I didn’t think would feel so close to home, and as a scene I didn’t think could ever turn out so sexy.

Of course, Hawker eventually gets the human-scaled chassis that he wants (his original body being severely damaged and put out of commission for months), and eventually gets a dick too. We had an entire scene where the two of them were shopping for prosthetics to install on the dickless ‘Ares mark 3’ robot body, and aside from it being both funny and sexy, also hit home pretty good.

There have been a lot of scenes like that over the course of the roleplay, each of them strangely affirming and strangely familiar. The overarching arc for my character is turning out to be one concerning the pursuit of personhood, something else I can empathize with as a trans person. I’m thinking more and more of Hawker as a trans man: a masculine personality that occasionally gets stuck in very unisex, or masculine-but-sexless bodies; his struggle to become emotionally available for the first time due to the humanizing changes he makes to the bodies he does wind up in; his being confronted with suddenly being visible and accessible to the people around him, instead of so naturally aloof and distant thanks having spent his whole life in a larger, less human body; his desire to be treated as masculine as he feels even without the hyper-masculinity of frame he was so used to.

Obviously it’s not a perfect analogy. Hawker’s changes are not linear, and he will go back and forth between different bodies because that’s what I’ve decided comes most naturally to him as a machine intelligence. The dominance/submission aspect is also not so cut and dry – something that made me realize I very much had it in me to be a switch – being that a lot of Chris and Hawker’s time is spent in augmented and virtual reality environments that, by their nature, require merging of minds and spatial co-creation.

Hawker spends a lot of time in the roleplay being referred to as “it” by many characters in many different contexts; Chris starts off by calling him “it” as well, but waffles between that and male pronouns, before the latter becomes the most sensible and natural. But the sting I felt when someone did call Hawker “it” was real – that was my reaction.

All in all this has been a really good thing for me, and quite literally a life-changing thing. My obsession with soldiers and soldiering finally makes some kind of Jungian sense – as an unaware trans person, how could I not feel some kind of kinship with the conscripted, with the bitterly duty-bound, with the self-sacrificing? More and more, I’ve been interested in reading about experiences of soldiers transitioning. That is, transitioning back to normalcy.

Right now, I still feel like a soldier. Dresses instead of fatigues, cosmetics and shaving razors instead of guns, breasts and a soft face instead of battle scars.

My civilian life is still a ways away, but at least I now know that this tour of duty will be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

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