What shall I do with my proud little mushroom cap?

Lou Spence


I’d been on testosterone about six months when suddenly I looked in the mirror and saw this guy. Not unlike my brother as a teenager but smaller, blonder, a bit prettier. When I wasn’t looking at myself I didn’t feel any different, really, but when my appearance changed, I started to get ideas. Where is my cock? I wondered. Doesn’t a teenage boy need a cock for pissing on things, tugging on, fucking? I should say, I was twenty-seven years old—in the eyes of the law, a grown woman.

I started watching online reviews of all the various cocks I might have, big and small, cut and uncut, ones for pissing, fucking, wearing, all three. While I watched these prosthesis reviews, I masturbated feverishly. I laid on my stomach and ground my crotch against my clasped fists with my chin poised on the pillow so I could see the laptop screen. The trans guy in the video tried on the cocks in underwear and jeans; pissed through one, held it up close to the camera so I could see the fake blue veins, the stretchy foreskin that didn’t retract, the clumsy bulk of the balls. When it became too much, I pressed my cheek on the pillow to finish. After jerking off this way, my chin always felt abraded and sensitive, and I worried that it made the skin look weird in a way that people might notice.

I did this every night for a week until, at three o’clock one morning, flush with cash from selling my ADD meds, I bought a cock on a whim: one I could supposedly do everything with, humbly-sized and pretty. It was a three-hundred dollar chunk of silicone.

It showed up in the mail in a discreet box and then in a less discreet bag and then in a clear plastic pouch I clumsily tore apart. It was cold, but soft and heavy like a body, like my body. I put it in my favorite underwear and looked at my little bulge in the mirror. The dick warmed up quickly against my skin. I zipped pants over it and trekked through the garden from my bungalow into the main house to get a beer from the fridge. I hoped my housemates wouldn’t see me, or if they did, I hoped they wouldn’t notice my dick. If they did notice, I hoped they would think, Yeah, hot dick, he’s always had that hot dick, what a cool guy.

I wanted to piss. I’d watched the videos, and it was supposed to be easy. You were meant to be able to pull out your cock at a urinal and let it rip and nobody would know the difference. I guzzled my beer breathlessly and paced around my room. I kneaded my crotch and looked at myself in the mirror until finally I felt the urge to go.

In the bathroom I stood over the toilet bowl, unzipped my jeans, pulled my cock through the slit in my undies and pointed it at the bowl. I tried to let go, but my brain couldn’t stand it, it was screaming you are going to piss your pants. My knees started shaking with excitement. I could feel myself getting turned on, I could feel the piss desperate to burst out of me. My ears were hot. I pictured it streaming casually out of my dick into the bowl, or straight down into my clothes, and I didn’t know which one thrilled me more. My legs shook so hard I laughed, and the laughing made the pee come. At first it funnelled like magic into the recess inside the balls and dribbled out the tip, but then it started coming too fast and bubbling warm up over the front lip, fizzing through my pubes, and out over the back, tickling my asshole and running in streaks down my jeans. I was gasping, still shaking, kind of laughing, and incredibly hot all over with shame and disbelief. There was nothing I could do but keep pissing. Finally, I was done. I tucked my dripping silicone dick back into my jocks, carefully redid my fly, and squelched as quietly as possible—hoping not to rouse my housemates—back through the house to my bungalow.

I laid down all wet on the only clear part of my floor, a narrow strip of bald, blue carpet between my desk and my bed. Above me was a ceiling of warped, white plyboard with a bare light bulb gleaming in the middle. The walls were encrusted with drawings and wood carvings and things torn out of magazines. Everything I owned surrounded me in that seven-foot by twelve-foot space and seemed to hem me in, keep me to scale. I couldn’t stop breathing out little exclamations to myself—Jesus, ooookay, so this is happening—still kind of laughing, incredulous, aroused. I closed my eyes, unzipped my pants, and let my hands roam over the cooling denim, amazed to find it actually soaked through, like some familiar but forgotten emotion from childhood. I imagined myself as a ruined twink in a gutter, getting pissed on by three laughing, fat guys in leather. I pictured myself standing on a stage, singing in a high, tremulous voice, piss noticeably and uncontrollably spurting out of me while the audience snickered and blushed. I imagined chuting down a birth canal, like a water slide, pursued by a wave of mucus and blood, a stream of piss pouring straight onto my newborn head.

I clasped my dick and rubbed the stinky, wet silicone against my clit, and within seconds I came, like someone dropping shutters over a window—that kind of cumming that’s all about disgust and shame and really winds you. Afterwards, I thought, if I’d done that shit on webcam, I would have made money, and gotten some compliments too.

I realized over the next few days that walking around with the cock in my pants was a hazard. It turned me on and made me think about sex constantly. I downloaded Grindr. All the messages I received were totally hopeless—pics of dry-looking dicks, like corky, tropical trees; opening salvos, like hi I have experience with ftm and stoners, come over and suck it?; and guys who were looking for the hung top that I would never be. I went on one date with an old uni friend. She shoved her dick down my throat and said good boy. It was hot for a second, but then I think the image of it triggered both of us: her dominance, my submission—it brought us each too close in some way to our confused pre-transition selves. We couldn’t tell if it was subversive anymore, or just a reenactment. Afterwards, we couldn’t look at each other, and we didn’t talk again.

I hated dating, anyway, because all there was to do was talk about yourself, construct some hologram and then try to date the other person with it. But I kept thinking about the shiny, purply head of a cock, really swollen and hard like a plum—that most urgent and mucusy part, with all its nerve endings. I wanted it to touch the most urgent and mucusy part of me, with all its nerve endings, like a lightning strike. No barrier—a condom would have ruined everything. A silicone dick wasn’t going to cut it either. I wanted it to be slick and obscene, like sticking two snails together by their wet bases and then making them grind. I was tormented by the image. I knew I could get it somehow.

Getting sex is never impossible. I learned this at twenty-one when I first put on a wig and lipstick in a brothel, walked into a room with a stranger, and walked out richer. I learned it in dyke bars, in hypercharged queer theory tutorials at uni, on Chaturbate. I learned it in public men’s rooms, kneeling on the floor for strangers. I learned it when I was thirteen and guys pretended to believe I was older. If you’re not at all picky and you cast your net wide enough, the universe will always deliver.

I was in the midst of hunting for porn that contained moments like that—junk stickily touching junk, usually just one or two seconds out of a twenty-eight-minute-long video—when my phone vibrated. I was bored with jerking off and stopped to check it. The message was from a client who bought my meds, and he was bugging me to deliver to Chelsea. I fucked my knee and I can’t drive, he said. My girl left me. I’ll pay you for petrol. I’ll throw in some lorazepam. Please, bro, he said, I need you. I looked up the drive on maps—seventy-four minutes. What about weed, I asked, do you have any weed? Only a nug, he said, but it’s yours.

I stuffed my cock in my pants and went.

It was a cold night and hardly anyone was on the road. The world had a secret, exclusive feeling, like it does at five a.m. The sky above me was like spilled ink on a slide projector; deeply pigmented blues and purples, a strange green, pink and orange harmonizing in a real high pitch at the horizon. The blue band was perforated by the thinnest possible line of moon, like a tear pressed through paper by a fingernail.

As I broke out of the city southside onto a long, curving, beachside highway, everything felt for a moment like poetry in motion, like my destiny was being made right here and now, the way it only ever feels when you’re alone and nobody knows where you are. Dick in my pants, dexies in my pocket, a car, the world blurring by.

It reminded me of my gym. It was one of those 24-hour joints, and I always went at, like, two in the afternoon when nobody was there, just TVs strobing, horrible music blaring, and overhead fans circling. When I walked in, the slumbering room would kind of sense me and the lights would falter dutifully on, illuminating the still equipment, the dusty mirrors, and me—the only disturbance. Soon though, they’d vacillate back into dim fluorescent stillness, like a fridge with the door closed. While I ran in place on the treadmill, the lights would keep circling this question; suddenly they’d notice me, and I’d feel reborn in some more substantial form, real suddenly, filled with energy and life. Seconds or minutes later, doubt would return and they’d cast me back in shadow. I reveled in that feeling of being utterly anonymous and unreal—catching the world when it didn’t think it was being looked at. I felt it now, too, the lonely freedom of a ghost.

The customer lived in one of those townhouses for people who want all garage, all driveway, all security blinds, all the ugliest features as the most prominent, and not one crack for a blade of grass to penetrate. It all took on a blank and dreamy texture under the orange streetlights.

I texted him as I pulled up. I thought he’d come to my car to do the trade, but he just came and stood in the driveway, made eye contact through my side mirror, turned, and hobbled on his crutches back to the house. I followed. The outside felt cold and still.

I walked through the open garage and up three stairs to the lounge room. His house looked like his girl really had left him. Dirty tiled floor, bong, bottles, barbells. He had one of those low, black leather couches men get to sit and play Xbox on, and an Xbox. He offered me a seat. I sat, handed him a little baggie of pills. He handed me a bottle with everything he’d promised me inside: two hundred and fifty dollars, a nug, and ten lorazepam. I stood up to go, and he said, Hang on—stay and get on one with me. He had this low, croaky voice. He was hot, muscly, and tough in a weirdly reassuring way. Always wore workout gear. Shaved legs and a pupil in one eye that leaked black into the iris. He handed me a plate with lines on it and a rolled up a fifty-dollar note. What is it, I said, and he said, Ativan. I only snorted half a line, thinking I still had to drive home, but within a minute, sound had started coming to me twice, once slow and deep and then a millisecond later as high and too fast to make out. My body felt heavy and gummy. My eyes widened, like duh. I realized that I had made a serious drug mistake and now had to surrender to it. I turned in slow motion and watched him do a line. He smiled.

Hey, bro? he asked. I just kept looking at him. Can I suck your dick, he said. I laughed, and the sound kept bisecting and bisecting in my ears until it dissolved into a whine and disappeared. He reached over and put his hand on my crotch and I couldn’t even begin to explain, so I pulled out my rubber dick and laid it between us on the sofa, watching its jellyish bounce. His throat made a sound, and I tugged down my track pants. My clit was big and hard with a prominent vein running down what was essentially a foreskin, a shiny mauve head poking out like a fingertip. It sat there nestled between what were unmistakably pussy lips. I thought it was cute and self-explanatory, but when I looked up at his face, he looked stricken. A long moment passed, and I was about to pull my pants up and snatch back my dick when he said, That’s fucken hot, bro, without looking away.

I felt two things: a wave of relief registering behind my stupor, and a wave of blood rushing to my clit, twitching it. He got on his knees in front of the couch, wincing as he bent one of them, and started sucking me off, sticking his big blunt fingers in me, groaning. The best thing, I’m sorry to say, is fucking people who aren’t trans-conscious, because they don’t simper about how big your cock is or how much of a man you are or whatever, they just get in there. They’re easy to trust, like dogs. At some point, I got what I was craving too, got the hard, shiny plum of him to kiss my wet slug pussy, got it to nudge into my asshole like it was trying on a beanie. I even got him to roll over, so I could trap my clit between his ass cheeks and buck, feeling it nosing curiously at his hole, wanting to be tugged in, falling short. Those images didn’t take long to play out in real time, though I tried to suspend them as long as possible. They were just threshold moments, and once they were crossed, there was the rest of sex, the stuff I always skipped over in porn. Long minutes of him pumping towards release once I had already gotten what I wanted. But I didn’t mind this. As a sex worker, I’d learned that sex was always a trade of what you didn’t want for what you did. I’d gotten cash, drugs, validation, the satisfaction of an urge, and he’d gotten to fuck me without feeling too gay. This seemed fair. When I was stuffing my dick back in and leaving, he said, You’ve been really good to me, bro.

I drove off with that feeling you get when you’ve just had unprotected sex with a sketchy stranger—all shame and exhilaration, like you’ve stepped through banality and into some rarer, uglier realm. I didn’t know if I should reel myself in or keep going. I thought about taking my cash and hitting a brothel, getting intros from the girls, maybe even booking someone. There were brothels everywhere southside, I was passing through the thick of them, their glowing, red lights and neon signs promising a familiar netherworld. I’d never entered one as a client, but I knew those spaces intimately. It hadn’t been that long since I’d been a sex worker myself, wobbling down those halls in my high heels, stepping into alcoves to flirt with men who rarely glanced away from the flat screens on the walls that flickered with silent porn. I knew the way the regulars and the girls cycled endlessly from one brothel to the next—for novelty, for variety, to escape from petty dramas—and I couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t be recognized anywhere. Anyway, I didn’t think I could act sexually selfish enough, even with someone I’d paid, to really enjoy that. I was still only a counterfeit man. I wanted my body to be either so desirable to another, or so abject and disturbing, that I could separate from it, step out of it through that person’s gaze and stand on the other shore with them. It didn’t work if they didn’t really, personally, want to fuck me. So I kept moving. Soon the neighborhood changed and the brothels thinned out, replaced by apartments and convenience stores and kebab vans, closed businesses and empty taxi ranks, nothing glimmering with opportunity.

When I got home, I was greeted by two barking dogs and six half-drunk women sprawled on the floor in the lounge room. I’d only come through the house because I assumed no one would be up, and I wanted to brush my teeth. Usually I just slipped undetected through the backyard to my bungalow. Hey, I said to the only person I recognized, my housemate Kim. The room went from a din of voices and barking to near-silence. This is my book club, said Kim, a bit apologetic, this is my housemate, Ren. Her hand gestured limply in both directions. I waved, smiling tightly, and when I ducked out of the room to go brush my teeth I heard one of the women stage-whisper, Ask him to join us!

And there it was, the night’s next invitation.

Her name was Phoebe. When I walked back in, summoned by Kim calling my name, Phoebe caught my gaze and patted the floor next to her. Obediently, I sat. Our bodies were so close that every time she moved, some part of her body or clothing touched me, and she made this seem very casual. I could barely follow the group conversation, which centered around a book I’d never heard of, but occasionally Phoebe would turn and make a statement right to me, looking into my eyes with a pushy, daring meaningfulness. It’s not enough to write about how empty and horrible the world is, she told me. Any bozo can see that. The job of literature is to elevate the discourse. I hadn’t talked like that since university, when people seemed to be distinguished by the quality and forcefulness of their opinions, and it took me a while to decide whether I still had those kinds of thoughts. My mind felt hermetic, like there was no one around to push against or oppose, so it had gone soft and permissive. But I realized I agreed with her. I want to read about a kind of subjectivity I aspire to, not some bombed-out, technology-addicted drone reality, she said. I want the narrator’s thoughts to be so deep that they put me to shame, make me question whether I am even remotely a person of substance. You know? I plucked her wine glass out of her hand and drank from it so she knew that she and I were the only people here that mattered, like a curtain had been pulled around us. It’s because of the internet, I said, guessing. There’s a flattening of everything, a self-conscious staginess. Nobody has any patience for sincerity or ugliness. Everything needs aesthetic framing and a punchline or it doesn’t feel real. It creeps into everything, every moment. I mean, even within. There’s like this imaginary viewer, or maybe we see ourselves as the viewer, not as the person things are really happening to. I don’t even know who I am unless I’m watching myself at at least one remove. Phoebe nodded deeply, took her wine back, drank.

The others weren’t content to let us talk behind a psychic curtain. They kept drawing Phoebe back in. Phoebe still turned to me to make all of her pronouncements, which were strenuous, elaborate and funny, also angry, and needy in a way I suspected she kept secret from herself. I liked watching her hands move when she talked about things she hated, fingers tall and rigid and prohibitive, like stop signs. It was when she turned to me and said, apropos of not much, I’m not into ‘enthusiastic consent’ as a compulsory factor in sex that everyone started to have somewhere else to be all of a sudden.

I led Phoebe out to my bungalow and closed the door behind us, and she kissed me. I became suddenly embarrassed about my rubber penis, and unsure how I was going to field the situation. Um, I’m packing with like a fake silicone dick right now, and I want to get rid of it, but I also feel really awkward, I blurted. Whatever, Phoebe said with a careless handwave, so I pulled it out and threw it into my laundry basket. We both kind of laughed, watching a dick and balls flying through the air like a critique of phallocentric cisheteropatriarchy, and also at the sticky, wobbly sound it made. We kissed again, our faces touching, skin and jawbones involved, so personal somehow. When Phoebe pulled my shirt off and saw my tits were taped flat with blue kinesiology tape, she said nothing, like my body was just what she’d expected. We had sex without talking, and so much time passed that it seemed like the moment would just keep expanding forever. Her touch was loving and exacting and alien, and I felt defenceless against her total lack of aggression. I slept in her arms all night. Whenever I woke up, she’d wake up too, kiss my shoulders, and I’d turn my head backwards to kiss her lazily, and it would all start up again.

Are you lonely? I asked her, hours or days later, and she smiled.

Yes, and no, she said, tilting her head left for yes and right for no. Loneliness is the forever knife in my gut, always there, yes. I used to think I would die of it. But in a way, that loneliness is what makes me feel like part of everything—because, like, what could be more human than feeling desperately alone? So I have this feeling of being a node, like a mushroom in a mycelium network—crucial, in its little way, but here today, feeding on rotting plant matter and moisture and sun, and gone tomorrow. Overbaked, bruised, and pulverized back into compost. So when I’m lonely I ask myself, well, what shall I do with my proud little mushroom cap today?

Are you lonely? she said.

I wanted to offer her a metaphor in return, something neat and finite, and I laid there for a long moment, cycling through abstractions and images, building up little stories in my mind—about my gym, that customer, Chaturbate, the brothel—but none of them really captured it, so finally I just said, Yeah.