Intimacy

May 18, 2008

Recently, there was a question on the bisexual email list I subscribe to here in Ottawa concerning intimacy. Mostly, it was about the difference in what some, I guess, would refer to the as intimacy styles of men and women.

For me one of the most striking comment was that sex is intimacy–apparently the only intimacy.

Yeah, I guess–and I would certainly like more of that intimacy myself–yet it gave me a great cause to pause and reflect.

Long before I transitioned, it was very clear there was little intimacy in my life other than the sex I could occasionally participate in. And up until about a decade before I transitioned–diminishing exponentially through the years ultimately to nothing–the only time I could ever approach anything that might be thought of as intimacy was through sex.

And pretty straight sex it was, too. It became a bore.

When I transitioned this all changed.

It was spectacularly evident at the first job I worked at after–at one of the Chapters mega-bookstores here in Ottawa.

I discovered intimacy is truly a ‘many-splendoured thing.’ I suddenly found that, like a comet coruscating through the sky, it would rise up without any reason I could see and burn through my life and anothers in so many unexpected ways.

I was no longer hiding, no longer afraid of who I am nor of the spirit within me.

I suspect the author of the ‘sex is intimacy’ post on the bi list would not understand, possibly not even accept as possible there could be such a thing as intimacy without sex. But the sense of closeness with people never met before, never spoken to before–being brought together, if only for moments, quite overpowered those nine months at Chapters South Keys.

Were really quite joyful, actually.

I am greatly reminded of Martin Buber and his dialogical philosophy, especially as presented in his poetico-philosophical work I and Thou.

Suddenly, in a world of distracting, dead things, a person stands out, something like a figure from a ground, in which there is nothing else.

I especially love–it still happens, of course–the way this happens with babies and young children. And in my then-new gender role not only was this not a threat to parents, it seemed somehow expected.

As my gender status has become somewhat normalized–and I rather hate that word/concept–it has receded a bit, but at the end of a week where I have met so many people while looking for work, I’m only now, on the weekend, coming down from a euphoric high.

I expect that for many caught up in the world of things–as Buber foresaw–there is simply no time, energy or the practice needed for the kind of intimacy I describe. That the only time for any sort of feeling/being with others is in the throes of sexual ecstasy. Or maybe in common drug experiences.

And I know this all too well. Coming down from this week’s high on Saturday I was anxious about whether I would find work before my money runs out, which lead rapidly into an overwhelming anger that has only ebbed today, Sunday.

Intimacy seems so much like the way I used to write poems–and learned about the process of writing from a number of great Canadian poets you have never heard of (but that is for another post)–the exercise of will that is sometimes met with grace.

You simply cannot expect this to happen if you are not–and I don’t know the precise wording for this–looking for it/prepared for it/turning yourself away from distracting, dead things. But it is not mechanical and will not rise up on demand–that is the property of things, the It as Buber calls it.

With luck, with grace, with openness, kinda even with practice–but not in any causal sense, of course–it happens.

And I truly do not wish this to become normalized.

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