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While we were shooting, Braden commented on being able to see me working through the checklist of each instruction he’d given as I got set up each time. This mirrors how I have viewed sexiness for most of my life: a series of instructions and observations that, once applied, produced a result. I was going to say the desired result but as someone who took a long time to learn to say no, I sometimes regretted looking desirable. I remember learning about swishing hips as a kid, and that it had to do with placing your feet one in front of the other. I internalized it so thoroughly that now I have to make a conscious effort to not walk in a straight line.

I observed the women I was attracted to, and the girls who were flirting with the boys I liked, and lined up those observations with things from books, movies, and eventually the internet. I remember a scene in which Michelle Pfeiffer (could have been someone else but it’s her face in the memory) reaches into her bra to tuck up each breast for maximum perk and began doing that when I had the chance. Before my mom took me to buy makeup at 13 (her idea), I was already strategically pinching my cheeks a la Jane Austen characters. While I didn’t overly identify with being female (and certainly not a straight one), I knew who I was “supposed” to emulate.

It’s impossible to know how much of this came off as studied and how much of it was shrugged off during my tendencies to flail and shriek in genuine excitement with very little provocation. My body felt like a trap, and I felt pressure to attract someone to take care of me and hopefully not hit me. It’s hard to think about sexiness or sensuality when you’re consumed by fear. And while I’ve had many good and healing experiences, I still have a lot of fear and triggers around touch.

Receiving massage has been healing, and from a partner it can be sexy. I feel sexy when I’m wearing comfortable and well-fitting clothes. Certainly in a suit, though I’ve yet to get a real tailored suit. Coming out as non-binary trans has made me much more comfortable in my body. I love being in the water, and grass, and sand. I find physical sensations I like and return to them again and again. I believe in always having a backup vibrator. My favorite part of my body has been the same for a couple decades: my eyes. They’re ocean-colored, and I love the sea. And while they’re changeable, they always more or less look the same, no matter what shape my body takes.