I’m writing this on the Friday before Memorial Day in the United States. It’s considered the kickoff to summer and I’m spending it deep in a mountainous forest with some friends camping in tents and hiking around and being all woodsy. I’ve been here many times with these same guys and, in the past, I would have either asked Belle to let me out of the Steelheart before I went or asked to take the key “just in case” and then would have let myself out shortly after pitching my tent.
There was something about being here with these men (all men, rarely are any women around) that made me oddly hyper-aware of being locked. Hyper-aware and ultimately somewhat uncomfortable. There are some practical reasons not to be locked in a device here. One is hygiene, but I have that all figured out. My own tent plus a container of mildly soapy water, a container of clean water, a squeeze bottle, and something to catch the rinse with is, along with about five minutes a day, all that’s needed to keep me relatively fresh. Also, there was one time I was here right after having shaved under the base ring where the sweat from hiking combined with the early stubble and the rubbing of the ring made for some distinct discomfort. Of course, the simple solution to that is don’t shave under the ring before going into the woods. Easy peasy.
So, practical issues removed, the only other reason I’d not be locked here is because of how it makes me feel to be so secretly different and complicated than the men I’m with. These guys are total muggles. Except for one other bisexual (who probably isn’t a muggle, but we’ve not had specific conversations), all are apparently straight and a few painfully stereotypically masculine. And then there’s me. The boy without a penis. The guy with the metal in his pants. As everyone goes to the outskirts of camp to pee, I’m the guy with the gravity-fed dribble rather than the he-man steady stream that reaches the ground in a defined arc that lands with authority. They bathe in the cool, clear running creek and then ask why I’m not doing it, too. I’m different. And sometimes that’s harder than others.
And while I’m biologically male, being essentially permanently kept in chastity makes me feel like something other than a man. It’s rewritten a lot of my motivations and behaviors that define “man” in my mind. I’m not claiming to be non-binary or anything, but I sometimes feel as though I’m passing as a man rather than actually being one. That I’m actually some other thing we don’t have a word for. And my differences are never more apparent and acute to me than when I’m here.
But as the years have gone along and I’ve come to more of these trips, being out of chastity for them has felt more and more inauthentic to what I am: a kept male. As I’ve said, I don’t just wear the Steelheart. It’s part of me. So to take it off is to try and pass as something other than my true self.
And, if somehow one of them saw the glint of shiny metal and had the balls to ask what the hell it is, what’s the worst that could happen? I’d have to out myself. Accept the consequences (which would, most likely, be a lot of ribbing after a 1,001 questions). In truth, I wish they all knew already. I hate that it’s a secret. It’s like being in the closet for me. But they don’t need to know, so I say nothing. But this super important part of who I am remains shrouded (metaphorically, of course it’s literally shrouded).
So, as on my last trip here with these guys and the one before that and probably even the one before that, though they tend to blend together, I didn’t ask to be let out. I didn’t ask for the spare key. I didn’t even think about either of those things. Because of course I’m here locked up. There just isn’t any real reason not to be. In fact, to come here without the Steelheart would be far stranger and more unsettling than being here in it. I’ve come full circle. Just another way being kept by Belle is fundamentally integrated into my being.