That I would never fear anything again

Today I woke up as a robot. Part of a mad science-type project to transplant human minds into bodies that, in my case, feel so much more right than what nature provided.

I’ll admit: I panicked, and stared uncomprehending at my hands for several minutes before I uncurled my fingers and started to feel. I was used to the driving thud of blood surging through my belly—when I lay on my stomach my body shuddered to the beat of a marching earthquake. But when I awoke this morning I could feel my engine purring, diodes switching on-off, gears clicking unobtrusively into perfect place.

I sat up and blinked hard with a whir—these cameras are still cameras made by human hands, and they aren’t the best with high contrast—and looked around for the first time. On the ceiling white lights were cutoff peaks, #FFFFFF, and the dark corners all but drowned black. Below people were looking up at me (how queer their color balance looks from these eyes!). Excited, flushed with happiness. I will never again feel that rush of heat.

I stood, not even shaking: my legs were as steady as solid metal, and my head brushed the ceiling. They did it, after all, you see! I asked to be so big that I would never fear anything again, and they made this body for me. In a human body, I might have cried a little. In this one, I crouched and lifted the head neuroscientist and roboticist in my hands. I straightened up, and how tiny they were, oh how little and delicate. It was like holding two baby birds, afraid that at any moment I would twitch and crush them.

The beauty of this body (but there are so many—) is that I no longer make involuntary movements. So I lowered my head and used my voice for the first time. Let me tell you, it’s a joy. My resonant cavity is huge now! My murmur made my chest thrum like a tuning fork. I smiled.

“Thank you,” I said, feet above their soft heads. “It’s everything I dreamed.” I had the urge to plant a kiss on the tops of those soft heads, but look at my face. It’s plate armor. I just put them so gently back on the ground, since they looked a little dazed.

Later—I’ll spare you the details of all the tests they ran to make sure I was in working order—they let me out. I ran alongside the highway, thirty feet of solid metal making the ground shake. And, of course, I came to find you. First thing, after I figured out how to get home from the labs.

You know the rest, don’t you? How I scooped you up and cradled you to my chest—how you insisted on being lifted to my face to kiss the hot metal again and again. I still have tactile sensors, I felt it just fine.

It was like the delicate claws of a spider brushing over your skin. How perfect is that? I’ve got to use my human sensory metaphors now, before I forget what it was like.

No, I won’t buff off your nasty lip-marks later. I’ll keep them there forever, even after you die.

…Hm? What then? Then I’ll find someone else to protect. Maybe I’ll become a teacher. You’re replaceable, like all things I love, but I’ll never forget you.

More ruminations on gender

A while ago, I said that I had come to the conclusion that I was a woman. How foolish it seems to me now, but I will not delete the post; gender is a journey (especially my gender) and it seems wise to document its steps. A month or so ago I realized several things: first, that it was possible and acceptable to be agendered but to present as feminine. Second, that since I was perhaps ten years old I have been very uncomfortable being referred to with feminine pronouns.

Why present as feminine, Best Beloved? Well, feminine clothing looks better on me because of the shape of my body, which I rather like. If given the option, I would probably dress like an early 1900s train engineer, but, alas, nobody makes clothes like that for people shaped like me. In any case, most of the time I value looking good over looking gender-neutral. Of course, this probably makes it more difficult for other people to accept that I’m agendered–my family is having some problems with this, ranging from inability to use “they” as a singular pronoun to complete apathy. I hope that once I move to Massachusetts later this year I will be able to make a suitable first impression.

About my pronoun dysphoria: it makes me squirm even to imagine that someone is thinking of me as a woman. It makes me want to put on nitrile gloves and slap them gently about the face. Eugh. Horrid. I think I may also be afraid to be a woman–and can you blame me, Best Beloved? If one pays any attention at all in the right places, one hears horrors inflicted by the patriarchy on the majority gender. You know to what I’m referring. In the same way that men–individually and as a concept–terrify me, the idea of being a woman terrifies me. In the same way, most likely, as it terrifies men; in one tumblr-cited study teenaged boys said that if they woke up one morning as a girl they would kill themselves (and though I have no proper citation, it is too easy to imagine that this is true).

I wish I felt safe as a woman, but for now I shall stay firmly off to one side of the sliding scale. Perhaps in another world–ah, who knows? I’ll conclude, instead of on this rather sour note, by expressing my delight with and approval for the idea of gender as an evolving thing. I like to think of people trying out all the genders they can think of and, perhaps, settling on their favorite. Settling would of course not be remotely necessary. A nice dream, hm?

Very nearly a sandstone golem

After reading Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives.”

I was practically raised by the wilderness in southern Utah. My father figured he was making the best of a bad situation (ugh! Mormons!) and while his back was still good we drove down there at every opportunity. I used to be a hater of hikes and all exertion, but after a couple of years the desert became more home than our house was.

I’ll try to paint you a picture:

There, all life is secret. It hides in cool cracks in the blinding sandstone, it burrows beneath the hot ground, pants under wiry sagebrush in the dust. There, dawn is cold and splendid, pouring lemon across the sky until it’s converted into that aching blue, the one that pools at the top of the atmosphere and is so dark at noon that it could almost be night. Just before dawn is the best time to be in a desert: sit under a twisted juniper and listen to the huge silence as the bright sky fills your eyes.

Come with me to my human-empty home; we’ll make a house in a dried-out floodhollow in the sandstone at the bottom of a wash. We’ll chimney up slot canyons to look out over the land, dance on all the Devils’ Dancefloors. Their backbones, too, if we can find them. We’ll let the sun bake us until we’re just done, until we have short ash-blond hair and skin like old leather. We’ll walk on the hot stone until our feet are the only shoes we need. We’ll listen to the echoes of jay calls, or that peculiar falling birdsong I’ve never been able to place, coming from somewhere on the walls of huge deep canyons. We’ll hunt down the old houses of the last people who truly lived here and bury their withered corn cobs under feet of mud when the next storm comes through.

We’ll build cairns in the middle of the desert for the loud ones to puzzle over, wondering who could have made them, and for what purpose, and why the only tracks nearby are those of light-footed lizards.