The Tingles

It only lasts a second, but it’s a pretty intense second. I get that feeling, that strange sensation like the moment of weightlessness at the crest of a roller coaster, but different somehow. It starts in my chest and spreads through my torso, a shiver without the goosebumps, then rapidly dissipates. There’s a vaguely metallic quality to it. I’ve named it “the tingles”, but it doesn’t really tingle very much. It feels great.

I open my eyes. I’m alone at work, staring at the cubicle wall, surrounded by the quiet hum of office life. A laptop is open in front of me on the otherwise barren desk. There is nothing at all stimulating about this soul-deadening environment. The physical sensation I experienced was not caused by anything outside myself. I created it with my mind. I’ve learned how to control it.

On the laptop screen in front of me, buried within one paragraph of one message, are the words their daughter. Someone told me I was my parents’ daughter. That was all it took. The first time I read that, it caused the tingles. Now I can trigger that same sensation by rereading those words and imagining they are true. It works with any reference to me in a female role. Daughter, wife, and sister seem to be the most effective.

I can’t do it too often, though. It has to recharge. The thoughts I use have to seem new and exciting.

When I first discovered this new experience, I thought it was a new kind of arousal. That’s a common effect of hormone therapy often reported by trans women — their arousal pattern changes to something closer to what other women experience — so naturally I, having been on estrogen for 4 months at the time, could expect the same. And indeed, the tingles first appeared while I was fantasizing about being the receptive partner during intimacy. That sort of fantasy was nothing new, of course, but it had been a while, and it never felt like that before.

As I’m sitting at my desk during a lull in the workday, having just coerced the tingles into existence, I decide to recreate that first experience. With my eyes closed, I imagine kissing someone — it doesn’t matter who, as I can’t picture them anyways. My head is tilted slightly upward. Tingles. I sit on the bed behind me, still kissing this faceless person while I fall backwards, pulling them down on top of me. More tingles. More intense this time.

The fantasy ends there. I open my eyes again, remembering that I have work to do. That’s enough for today.

It took a few months before I realized the sensation I first associated with arousal was actually triggered any time I imagined myself in a female role. The tingles caused by thoughts of intimacy are a little different — they’re a bit more intense and tend to travel from the abdomen upward instead of the chest downward — but fundamentally the same. Neither is really more pleasurable than the other.

I’ve started thinking of the tingles as psychosomatic, a physical reaction to a state of mind. Literally, my body is trying to tell me something. It likes when I think this way.

It’s been suggested to me that this feeling, the pleasurable sensation I get from imagining myself as a woman, is the elusive definition of gender identity that I’ve been seeking for so long. It’s an appealing idea, that if only I would stop thinking of myself as male and listen to my body, I would realize I have a female mind. A female identity. It would naturally follow that my body and my place in the world should match that identity. That I am and always have been a woman, and I should accept myself as such.

… And there’s the tingles again.

Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash