I woke alone, in the wild. After five years of building a small self-sufficient paradise my partner needed to leave and I was left with foxes and owls for neighbours and it was here alone, beneath the stars, that I gave up trying to be a man.
I’m often asked if being here helped. Did the silence of the hills midwife my waking? Wouldn’t that be a romantic thought — that leaving society behind for the howls of the night creatures crumbles our social artifices, leaving us naked and real. That the wild strips away social shit like fierce wind blasts away stone leaving the core, twistingly beautiful, ferocious and true.
But the truth is the wild doesn’t really exist, not in that way. I draw these hills each and every morning in my mind. When I wake, they wake, curving up so gently and falling back down again, perfect hills. They come from within me. If I wasn’t here there would be no one to cast them; they would not exist. There would just be rocks and dirt and roots and worms and plants and even those things too would have no one to summon them as players. They have all been mustered by me as ideas, as things. When I sleep all these ideas sleep too and in their place is a cacophony of realness that we can never talk about without falling into half-empty tool chests of physics, chemistry, ecology, poetry — our ways of trying to describe the endless infinite transformations of the true.
So it goes listening to the noises inside my body. We use words like man, woman, non-binary to try and patch together coherence from the wildness inside. If everyone let the wild winds blow apart the softer, crumbly bits of their identities we’d probably see the growing non-binary idea (that some of us can be explained as neither man nor woman) multiply and mushroom in the night, swallowing a great portion of society.
When I was young and I admitted to myself for the first time that I was attracted to boys something burst out from my depths. I put on women’s clothes and burned to rid myself of facial hair forever but somehow the gendered meaning of this liberational blast eluded me. I suppressed liberation. It faded as I put on the ill tailored suit of gay maleness and slept a fitful sleep for too many years.
I take no credit for waking up. My subconscious did that slow grinding work, fired by the waking of the trans idea in society at large. With no disrespect to our ancestors who have struggled to forge their spaces in absurdly conservative social conditions and who have carried us here, the trans idea finally seems to be on the move. If we can weather the backlash, we might be able to finally transform society instead of just trying to survive. Because really, it is society that needs to transition. Cis society needs to acquiesce to the wild transformative power that trans people bring it: revolutionising how we talk and think about all gender, about gender in childhood, gender at work, gender at play, gender in politics or against politics or transforming politics.
Did the wildness wake me? No. The wilds is an idea within us. I wake this theatre each morning.
And did facing down the wild give me nothing? Not at all. It gave me everything. Here there was space to feel and experiment; to be sad, lonely and confused without having to face the daily expectations of society. I found a silence — a vicious peace — a stern solitude — a space to use my wild as a mirror to see myself for the first time.
I see a hall of mirrors, all curved and twisted and distorted and this is the experience of surviving in society — each of the thousands of people we face is a different distorted mirror, throwing us glimpses of ourselves full of noise, full of the angled tangled mess of everyone else’s expectations and our projections of their expectations. Being alone, in the wild, did not give me the truth but it gave me a flatter mirror. No single truth stares back from a mirror. The image arises from my expectations, my ideas, my desires, my fears, my dysphorias and euphorias.
This is what living in the wild gave me; a mirror with fewer distortions. In future posts I’ll develop exactly what it was I saw in the mirror: thoughts on gender identity, dysphoria and euphoria and how all of this appeared in the wild.
Every day that I woke here I woke up with myself again and all my unfinished business had the space to pester me. So came to me my gender, a persistent, haunting nag.
And now I grow into my new role as a woman but in the world of words and ideas, in the space of abstract possibility, I’m not ready to let go of that non-binary thing. That thing which says there is just a little too much wildness inside to ever put a final name to anything.
Though my experience of the wild came from within me that is not the end of it. I am no maestro forging concepts from the air. As a celestial chariot driver, attempting to pilot the course of my life, I am more Phaëthon than sun god, burning half the cosmos as the fiery horses careen wildly towards the far flung stars. We can run into the most remote regions and what we flee will still be so thickly daubed all around that we madly turn and run ever further never suspecting that the social, that which we run from, is stuck within us; it’s our ligaments and tendons and joints and blood. It was not leaving society behind that gave me clarity. Society came with me, stuck to me. There is no escape from everything which has made us; there is only its slow, arduous processing. We are never farther from liberation than when we think we are liberated. You can scrub off a layer perhaps, in good faith or bad, but you will never find an authentic wild beneath, translucent, invisible, unpainted. Everything is already there, evolving, transforming, in social symphony.
The philosophical concept of the transindividual is useful here (not to be confused with a trans individual!) — each one of us is a combination of our unique, subjective place in the cacophony and one other ingredient: the social quilt without which our individuality would be gibberish. Each one of us carries a face of the wild which relies on the social form for coherence but is strongly inflected by our own sensations, emotions, and memories.
No, that flat mirror, the silent wilds, was forged in the turbid fires of society itself, from the unique social blend I grew up with. And you too carry your own mirrors with you, ready to be discovered out here.
I decided to turn my wild home into a free trans and queer nature retreat and it took only a few visitors to passionately convince me that this project was right. Seeing the joy of opening their eyes in this place planted conviction in my heart to make this nascent dream a lasting one.
Perhaps you’ve always been more comfortable in the city. Perhaps you’re mildly curious about this kind of life. Perhaps it’s scary. It is undoubtedly a strange world when the safest models for trans and queer people follow set urban options. But I will be here to insist that this too is queer culture; to lead you to waterfalls that will thunder you into silence; to hold your hand, if necessary, or to let you go, discover your own wild in your own way.
When the silence of a sun soaked day bids your fears to nap or the landscape of an abandoned countryside haunts you into thoughtful reveries; when the night noises shriek at you from outside the stone walls of the bedroom and in the early dawn you creep out to confront the parts of you that are out there, the parts that stayed out all night; then in this great wild mirror, you may just be tempted to stay one day longer, to see just a little more of yourself.
This is the first blog post on my wild transition — I have launched a Patreon campaign to help create this Trans and Queer Wild Hideout. If you‘re quick your name can be carved on this place’ founding pillar and you’ll be entered into a raffle for a travel expenses paid trip. More rewards include more access to my writing and you can let me know what you want to read about next. Check out what’s happening on the Patreon page and help us make this paradise happen.