In The Total Silence of Deep Space, I've Become a Workout Butch
3 min read

In The Total Silence of Deep Space, I've Become a Workout Butch

I don’t expect anything else to work out in life, so why should I? This is how I’ve always judged the matter of my body. Prone to inertia and accidents, with a fast metabolism and a tiny frame, I was brought to gymnastics gyms and figure-skating classes as a child and came away with nothing more than a taste for going fast. I didn’t like sweating, stretching, repetition, smells, teams, or boredom. And I didn’t see the point in doing extra labor for the sake of a body that already pleased others and could never please me.

When I transitioned, this changed a little. Testosterone will give you energy, and with the automated deployment of muscles comes a pleasure in stretching them. But I kept the metabolism and (mostly) the frame, and I didn’t see the point in exercising this new body either. I didn’t want to be even smaller than I was, and as an American girl-prototype raised in the eighties, I was slow to recognize that people would work out for reasons other than losing weight. I also feared the looming archetype of the gym rat FTM; I assumed that he worked so hard because he disliked his body and wanted to change it, and as a person who was still trying really hard to Woman as late as 2017, I didn’t want to admit that I disliked my body either.

What I didn’t see is that the gym rat FTM is a creature of delight to himself. He doesn’t exercise because he dislikes his body and wants to change it, but because he loves it and wants to drown in it. (He might also dislike his body and want to change it, but — again — since one writhing millimeter beneath the surface of my body positivity was a passionate distaste for my flesh and a steadfast hopelessness about the possibility of changing it, there are some things I’ve had to learn to imagine.)

Well! Now I’m spending all my time at home, and the word on the street is a vast echoing emptiness because nobody is outside, but if they were, the word on the street would be that I’ve become an Exercise Man! Every day I get out the measuring cup and pour out a half hour to forty minutes of yoga, followed by as much jump rope as I can stand, and if that doesn’t sound like much to you, remember that the first thirty-seven years of my life were passed in the stillness of a monk at prayer. Last night I checked my temperature because I had so many body aches. I try to wait until my roommate is out for her run because I’m self-conscious about the sounds I make wumping up and down on my bedroom ruglet! Plus, there’s Adriene!

Yoga with Adriene is the only Internet yoga I will do. She’s smiley and very slightly hazy (a good haze, the kind that makes videogame landscapes easier to render). She tells me to thank my body for things, and endears me with her studied failures and goofs. It’s not that Adriene’s goofs are fictitious — she’s deeply sincere — but I know full well that she leaves them in in order to be approachable; if she wanted, I’m sure she could record a take where the soulful dog Benji is kept in the backyard, the creaky floor does not creak, and she never fumbles a word, because I have never seen her fuck up the actual yoga.

Adriene seems to assume that we’re mostly women out here, but there’s something about this that makes me feel more butch instead of less. I don’t know how this kind of thing works. Sometimes the company of femmes makes you feel like another femme. Sometimes it gives you extra room to be yourself, and that’s how it is with Adriene, who always tells me I’m doing great, simply wonderful, and she knows I can hold this stretch, but if I’m not feeling it today I can meet her in downward dog instead. I am terrified of the vulnerability inherent in letting others hear her encouraging voice beaming at me out of my laptop speaker! For this reason, I sometimes exercise with the space heater on!

A lot of trans people have been finding quarantine weirdly dysphoric (my friend Calvin, often heard of in these pages, is working on a piece about it for Mel; hit him up if you have an anecdote). I know it’s gotten to me. You’d think that with nobody misgendering me, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, but it turns out that being alone with your body, fretting about it as a potential traitor to yourself and others — while following an intense imposed regime of physical self-policing and hygiene — is remarkably like I used to feel before I came out. That’s the reason I started exercising. And the report from in here is that exercise is fucking great! It renews the feeling of body ownership! It passes the time and helps me sleep! It’s a sovereign remedy for littleness! I get to spend time with my new best friend Adriene!

So that’s how I’m dealing with my quarantine dysphoria. Also, I buzzed off all my hair.