I am fucking a stranger in a room full of strangers. A room full of naked strangers, who all seem to be fucking each other. The room is red and the lighting is dim. There is writhing and pumping and squelching and kissing and squealing and moaning all around me. I blink and it’s horrible, I blink and it’s really quite lovely. I look up at the man inside me. He is looking at me very intently; I can hear my moan joining the other voices. We finish and lie on the twenty foot mattress surrounded by tens of others. We lie and we look at each other. We smile. We mention the things we like about each other’s faces. The couples beside us pound on. Minutes later I’m in the arms of a woman. The woman he’d been fucking as I’d first kissed him. I’d looked up at her breasts as she’d bounced on top of him, moved from his lips to hers and back and forth, relishing the difference in their textures. The softness of her; the stubble of him – back and then forth and then back again. Now it was only us. It felt kind of dream-like. Her skin was so smooth and her lips were so full and it was all very strange and gorgeous under those dim red lights. As we touched each other, everything seemed to go silent – like we were making love underwater. Then the sex party ended and I was faced with the tedious chore of finding my clothes. I’d lost my underwear. They had been a gift – I had no time to mourn. I’d also lost my friends and now I needed to negotiate my way home. As we bustled out of the pub, I looked back at my erstwhile lovers and they greeted me with shy smiles.
For a while, I felt extremely uncomfortable in my own skin. Body dysphoria can affect anyone, regardless of whether they are trans or cis. At that time, I was writing a lot about how I didn’t feel comfortable inhabiting the space of either woman or man, how I felt like I belonged in a ‘grey area’. I hid my breasts, cut my hair, and lived on the edge of trans masculine. I wrote that I was “frustrated with carrying around femininity like it’s branded on my skin.” During this time, I experienced sex in an entirely different light – not culturally accepted cis, heterosexual sex, not lesbian sex, but queer sex. When someone shouted “gay” at me and my ex-partner on the street, I wanted to tell them that they had no idea just how gay we could be.
When you are having sex outside of the binary, it’s as if your body takes upon a new form – nothing is what it seemed before, there are new words, new ways to be touched, new definitions. Everything becomes fluid, in a way that biology once taught you wasn't possible.
This experience gave me the ability to see sex as a fluid thing, rather than a static meeting of two parts fashioned to fit together. Sex, like gender, is not a presentation, but an expression.
I once slept with a woman who reminded me of the rot at the core of people’s kindnesses. When we fucked I felt the sphere of selfish interest masquerading as true desire. I felt like a curiosity, as if I was a way for her to foray into the wilds of the world without leaving the comfort of her bed. She wouldn’t kiss me properly or look me in the eye. She expected me to go on and on and became frustrated and confused when I wouldn’t. I think she thought of women like me – mixed race, Black women – as a synecdoche for sex. I felt as though I just existed for her benefit, for shallow aesthetic pleasure. I was a box to be ticked, a trophy of liberal acceptance to be wielded. She told me I wasn’t ‘girlfriend material’. I took this to mean I was an exotic distraction from the real work of relationships and deep bonds and intimacy with sweet, safe white women. I realised queer women are not immune to the prejudices of wider society. We too were raised in them, formed from them.
I was 19 and I was waiting for a night bus home from central London. While waiting at the bus stop, I saw a slim red-headed guy, who looked around 24. I thought he was cute, so I cruised him a bit with my eyes, and noticed that he was looking back. We ended up getting on the same bus, and went and sat on the top deck, which was empty except for a couple right at the front. I sat near the back of the bus; he sat a bit closer to the front. He was still looking. I put my headphones on and looked out of the window. I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye, and saw he had come and sat down next to me. Next thing I knew he had his cock out of his trousers and was saying, “Jack me off and I'll jack you off.” I told him that I don't do that on buses, so he put his cock away, but still sat next to me. We chatted, he told me he was normally straight and only got with guys when drunk or high on pills. We both got off at the same stop, so we went into an alley next to Virgin Active and made out, and I sucked him off. Just after we had finished, he made some small talk about the mosque behind the gym, mentioning that there had been an arson attack on it recently. I said I'd heard about it, and then he said, “Shame they hadn't burnt the whole bloody thing down.”
Photography Barnaby Kent