Date with a trans person

In Russian:

About our first date from another point of view:

It was March. At Stanford the sun began to shine all day, people got out of the stuffy rooms on the lawns and occupied all the green space outside. I wandered from home to school, looked at all these people, and suddenly I felt especially lonely. What do alone people do in March? They downloaded dating apps, of course.

In America, the so-called hookup culture flourishes among young people, the essence of which lies in sex without emotional binding or intimacy between partners. Here sex has ceased to be sacred, sacred, or simply personal, but has turned into a pleasant pastime between unfamiliar people to quench the senses.

The sexual revolution in the sixties was started by students on college campuses. Similarly, hookup culture is most developed among students, but slowly penetrates into other social strata. San Francisco, for example, is heavily influenced by these ideas.

The dating app Tinder is one of the standard-bearers of hookup culture. This app simplifies the search, selection, and communication between partners for casual sex. In a sense, Tinder embodies the hookup culture and has penetrated deep into the culture of contemporary American. Now, any person with whom you maintain contact for periodic sex is referred to as a Tinder date.

Tinder was followed by other applications that compensated for its drawbacks with a more complex selection process, which improved the “quality” of the partners (yes, people really say “quality of partners”). For example, Bumble does not allow the guys to write the first message, and the girls stop receiving a stream of unwanted erotic photos from each match. Another application — Hinge — does not allow users to swipe for potential matches. Instead, it requires one to leave a comment on a photo. This greatly slows down the process, but increases the level of involvement and quality of partners.

Since I’m not interested in casual sex, I decided to try Hinge. I created a profile for myself, choosing six photos, answering three questions, noting my preferences, and opening the search tab. I liked the looks of the first … girl. She wrote that she did not like to follow traditional gender roles, but I did not pay attention to it. I chose her photo next to some exhibit and asked which museum she took this photo in.

For some reason, it turned out to be very difficult for me to continue doing this, so I decided that I had played enough for the day, and closed the application after a single comment.

Of course we matched, or why the hell would I be writing this?

In the very first message she called me to the museum. I was pleasantly surprised, and we agreed to meet the next day at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It turned out that she had a museum membership card that allows her to bring a plus one for free. This was fortunate, as an entrance ticket was $25.

We continued to chat, and I found out a bit more about her. She was an Instagram Influencer (her instagram). She also maintained a blog, interviewed for technical writing positions, and previously worked as a model. And she was a transgender person.

In Russia, people don’t understand trans people too well. Usually, they think that transgender people must have changed their sex, but this is not true. In order to be a transgender person, you just need to acknowledge that there is a discrepancy between your gender identity and the sex you were assigned to at birth. So if I identify as a girl, I am a transgender person.

Let’s say that my new friend prefers she/her pronouns (UPDATE: now he prefers he/him), was assigned female at birth, and presents in a feminine manner … but she does not consider herself as a girl. She identifies as a masculine of center femme, which basically means “I feel like a dude on the inside but I also really like looking girly.” She would gladly change her sex if it could be done without a grueling and long-term procedure. However, sex change operations are currently very time-consuming and painful, both physically and emotionally, and she prefers not to do it. You can read more about this on her blog.

You can say that this whole theory is not important for applications, but as it turned out, gender greatly affected her behavior. The first sign was the fact that she was the one to ask me out. It only got more interesting from there.

Of course, I went on a date with her. For the first time, I felt what it was to be a girl in Russia. She took care of me all day. At first we went to the museum, she gave me a photo session, then she took me to the beach, and in the evening she took me to a bar with a beautiful view of San Francisco, where she gave me cocktails for $20 each.

In each gesture I could read the readiness to start and lead relationships, initiate and simply make decisions. She planned the entire day. She chose restaurants and what to order. She took me to the museum, talked about her favorite works. And that she called me to her place after a day spent together.

Everything was new to me, but I liked everything. I felt all the diversity of the gender spectrum in practice and learned a lot about how things are good in the world. Of course, we talked a lot about gender issues and American culture. I learned fundamental things about gender and orientation, about working in America and blogging, and just about good places in San Francisco. On top of all this, I got a gorgeous photo shoot and a pleasant acquaintance.

I deleted the Hinge application after that. And it was the end of March.

How I fell in love with math

In Russian:

In high school, my interest in school education disappeared completely. So I wrote down all my grades in all subjects and calculated which classes I can never go to anymore and still get a decent grade in my high school diploma. Opposite of these subjects I wrote FUCK IT and did not attend these classes anymore.

I did not like everything about school. In particular, math.

Why substitute some numbers in the discriminant formula, and then substitute the discriminant in another formula to get some other pair of numbers that the teacher required of me? I did not understand what I was doing. I did not even realize that I had found the roots of a quadratic equation. For me, it was a substitution of numbers for obtaining grades. Such an exercise on attention. And of course, I did not understand Vieta’s theorem, too.

But it was even worse with geometry: I did not understand anything at all. Some constructions, some incomprehensible words, and all this for some meaningless purpose. I remembered the Pythagorean theorem and could substitute numbers into it, but I had no idea how to solve all other problems in which there were no numbers. I could calculate the angle using the scalar product, but I could not understand that some angles in a circle are twice as large as others, and derive information from this fact about another angle.

While studying at school, I have never seen a mathematical proof. I did not know the proof of the Pythagorean theorem. I never proved anything at school. The culture of mathematical proof has passed me by. When I finished school, I knew that in mathematics there are formulas into which numbers can be substituted. I did not understand other things in mathematics at all.

And I have never participated in math olympiads. I did not go to math circles, did not solve interesting problems and did not go to the math summer schools. I didn’t write Q.E.D at the end of my solutions and didn’t know at all that some schoolchildren could do olympiads seriously, go to All-Russian olympiads, and then enter in the best universities of Russia (and the world).

By the way, I did not want to go to any university. To calm my mother, I went with her to the nearest university (Polytechnic University) closest to my house, they told me that they would take me with my grades, so I applied for this university. I did not apply to any other university. I learned about my admission while hitchhiking across Russia in Samara from the computer of the hosts on the Couchsurfing. This was not an important event for me.

I thought I would get a job as a programmer. I will save money, move from my parents, buy illegally a military ID (so I don’t have to go to the army which is mandatory in Russia), and will live without a damned university and the next years of useless education. I remember sitting in a shopping center and looking for vacancies on my phone in order to get a job as soon as possible and not go to university. But it wasn’t so easy to find a job, so I started going to classes to keep getting the scholarship.

And there it was — Mathematics.

It was hidden under a ridiculous line in the schedule: «History of algebra and geometry» (lecture) by Rybkov M.V. The course with this stupid name was led by a young mathematician Mikhail Rybkov, who decided not to read the material in a monotonous boring voice, but to really explain the statements and their proofs.

This was the first lecture in mathematics. We started with complex numbers. We defined complex numbers, then we learned how to add and multiply them. Then we represented them in a trigonometric form. And then we wrote down De Moivre’s formula for raising complex numbers to a power. After that, the teacher said: and now we will prove this formula.

I heard the sound of my heart.

Prove it? We will not believe the written result, but prove it? I myself will be able to check every step of the proof and understand that what is written is true? I myself am the measure of my confidence in the truth of the statement? I was blown away by a wave of new sensations, new experiences, philosophical feelings. I seemed to have touched the truth. It was something!

I returned home and downloaded books on philosophy and the history of mathematics: Klein, Russell, Stillwell — I read one by one. All this time there was a whole dimension around me that I didn’t even suspect. Accessible and inaccessible, comprehensible and incomprehensible, sacred and trivial.

Everything has changed.

After that everything was simple: I talked more and more with Mikhail Rybkov about mathematics, then transferred to the Institute of Mathematics at the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk, began to study the theory of entire functions, then transferred to the Department of Mathematics at Higher School of Economics in Moscow, began to work on random matrices, graduated from HSE with honors, enrolled in graduate school at Stanford and began to study number theory. And that’s what I’m doing now.

One initiative and ambitious teacher who decided to bring life to the subject he taught was able to completely change my life. In personal conversations with him, I learned about the life of mathematicians, about their work and career, and that this mathematical world is not far off, it is accessible and real. And it is waiting for me. Thank you, Mikhail!

After I began to study mathematics, I fell in love with understanding. It became interesting to me to understand and be aware of different things in mathematics and outside it. I became interested in all school subjects only after graduation. And now I very much regret that my parents did not transfer me to a good school, in which I could learn physics, chemistry, biology, literature, history, and everything, everything, everything else that interests me now, but I have so little time now for.

“The mistakes of teachers are not so noticeable, but ultimately they are no less expensive [than doctors’].” — The Irony of Fate.

Please, if you teach (any subject!), bring a soul into your class. Your example, your passion, your not indifferent attitude can touch one of your students, and you can transform someone’s life for the better. Even a course with the idiotic name “History of Algebra and Geometry” in the group of engineers of the Krasnoyarsk Polytechnic University can radically change someone’s life. My example shows that this is possible. Thank you!

Sex with friends

Original in Russian:

Throughout all my life, I thought that a good relationship is when you met, you liked each other, you have common interests, you communicate a lot, respect each other’s goals, come together, fall in love, and then, depending on your preferences, you might have children, but in general, you live together, love each other, nobody cheats on anyone, in simple words, a traditional idyll.

However, reality sobered me up a bit.

First, people often move

People change schools, universities, stages of education, work, and just the cities in which they want to live. I keep in mind a typical path: school — bachelor — master / postgraduate / work. Even in this simple case, we can be thrown through life from place to place until we are thirty years old.

I lived in Krasnoyarsk until the age of 20, then I lived in Moscow for two years, and now I have moved to California. Now I am 22, my graduate school will end in 4 years. Then, probably, I will be a postdoc for a couple of years, and then another postdoc (as often happens now), and then I can get lucky, and I will find a “permanent” job at some university. It is possible that up to 30+ years I will not stop in any place for a long time if I continue to pursue career (and academic) goals.

If at any moment before the “permanent” position I decide to start a relationship, then I will have to either compromise with my ambitions or have a distance relationship. In the first case, it is impossible to pursue my goals, while in the second, the opportunity to live together is lost. The idyll is falling apart.

Secondly, sex

Usually, people hold one of two conflicting points of view. Either sex is a sacred connection, or sex is a pleasant exercise — from spiritual unity to an intimate handshake. No spectrum. But everyone agrees that sex is great. If a person is open to pleasure, and partners are willing to help each other, sex is great.

Notice that it is written “sex” above, and not “sex with someone with whom you are planning to be together, but not before the third date.” This is a snag that is infinitely far from wholesome people. They just cannot consider sex as just one of the things that people do. For them, it’s too intimate and important.

Sex, if you think about it, is not very different from any other human activity. We talk, play games, hug, clap each other on the shoulder, kiss, do massage, work on the project, look each other in the eye, have sex, hold hands, tell secrets, meditate and sleep in one bed. For some, sleeping in the same bed with someone is a more intimate thing than a passionate kiss. And for someone to talk heart to heart is more difficult than having sex.

And, of course, different people are better or worse at sex (just like at anything else.) Wholesome people immediately argue that they enjoy only their beloved partner whom they trust, and they can’t get pleasure from casual sex. In practice, however, good sex is good sex, nothing more.

Thus, if we have sex only with our partner, we lose the opportunity to experience a lot of positive emotions. With the same success, you can limit yourself in any other activity and not get a new experience, feelings, and pleasure from interacting with different people who are not similar to each other. People are good at different things. With someone, it is better to talk about philosophy, with someone to play music, and with someone, it’s better to have sex. This is normal.

Solution? Questions…

But what do you mean? Until thirty years, do not start any strong relationship? Do not come and plan a life together? Do not think of partners as potential spouses?

Well, what if… yes?

Let’s assume for a moment that we don’t want to have children. Why do we have this tendency in us to search for a single and unique partner who “serves” us, and we — to them? Where did the idea that a partner should be only one come from? What makes us split our graph of human relations into pairs?

There are 12988816=3604*3604 ways to decompose 8×8 graph into such pairs, by the way.

Why don’t we treat partners the way we treat friends? I know that if I come to Moscow or Krasnoyarsk, I will meet with my old friends as if nothing had happened, and we will spend time together. Why do we deal with partners otherwise?

We get partners where we live. And if we move, we will treat them the same way we treat old friends. If we go back or travel, we can meet them and have a good time again.

But in this formulation, it is not clear: what is the difference between friends and partners? Perhaps our orientation and sympathies shorten the list of possible intimate connections, but we can have intimacy with everyone we like! Why don’t we do this? Why not make intimacy, intimate relationships and sex a part of friendship? Why do we need these artificial restrictions at all?

I like talking with some friends and having parties with others. Some support me, while others inspire by their example. With one, I can sit in the kitchen all night, and with others, I would prefer to have sex and cuddle. And all these sets intersect differently!

We make new friends in new places, but we remember and value old friends. We can add to the definition of «friendship» a new feature, and nothing will change. But everyone will get more pleasure. Right?

Our trouble is that we have ignored and thus feel insecure in the enormous spectrum of love which lies between rather formal friendship and genital sexuality, and thus are always afraid that once we overstep the bounds of formal friendship we must slide inevitably to the extreme of sexual promiscuity. — Alan Watts

Let’s have sex with friends! — Yaroslav Naprienko.

And if we want children?

Why in psychology is it considered that a “complete” family with a mother and father is the correct ideal, and everything else is not very much? Nowadays, children are born by people in same-sex marriage who do not adhere to standard gender roles. They do not have a «mother» and «father», but simply two people raising a child.

And what’s wrong if a person brings up a child alone? Suppose a girl decided to have a baby. She made savings (just as she would for a car, apartment, education, or trip), found a partner, agreed with him, they conceived a child, she gave birth and began to raise her child.

There are enough services in the world that allow raising a child alone. Many families hire nannies even in «full» families. You can raise a child yourself. In the end, many single mothers raise their children themselves. Why is this generally considered bad?

I have never studied this part of psychology, but I easily assume that the role of mother and father in the family is conditional and social. It is important for the development of the child exactly as long as it is considered normal in society. But if a parent has a strong opinion and acts in his own way, they can raise their children themself.

We do not need a partner to raise children. Yes, it is convenient. And generally accepted. But there is no need for this. Children can be raised independently. Right?

A bit of criticism

One of the most powerful arguments against the above, which I can come up with, is a comparison of quantity and quality. It can be said that in “real” relationships, in which people do not cheat on each other, live together and all this, one can achieve unprecedented closeness, which cannot be achieved if sharing intimacy with different people. For example, simply due to lack of time. And this quality is not overlaid by quantity. Ten semi-close people will not bring such pleasure, as one really close person.

But doesn’t friendship work the same way? Why do we make many friends instead of one very, most beloved and important friend? Why not stick to quality instead of quantity in friendship? Perhaps that is why people separate relationships and friendship. We cannot claim full-time friends, but … we also cannot claim full-time partners! Where did this egoism come from, which makes people limit their partners and control their lives?

I admit that an incredible quality can be more pleasant than an incredible quantity. But I can easily assume the opposite. In the film “Her”, artificial intelligence loved hundreds of people at the same time, arguing this as follows:

  • Samantha : The heart is not like a box that gets filled up; it expands in size the more you love. I’m different from you. This doesn’t make me love you any less. It actually makes me love you more.

And I find these words logical. The more we love, the better we can love. We see features and weaknesses in different people, we begin to appreciate more than everything that each person does for us, because we know how it happens in other love relationships. The more we love, the better we get it. We learn to experience emotions and feelings just as we learn to be friends or to talk.

People say it’s good to be in a bad relationship. I argue that it is helpful to be in any relationships. We can learn in them things that we will use in communication with future friends / partners in our life.

So what?

That’s it.

It may not be necessary to choose one single partner. You can get intimate relationships and sex with different people. You can live with friends, partners or alone. You can have sex with friends, and you can play football with them. You can be less jealous, and angry, and love, trust, and share more. And, perhaps, by filling out our relationship graph in a more dense way, we all get more love, intimacy, and feelings, and everyone will benefit. Yeah, that sounds a bit hippie. And what’s wrong with that?

I wrote this post in one sitting and did not say anything about my life and did not advise anything. Actually, I ask! If you have a strong opinion on the topic of relationships, write me, please, I will be happy to discuss.

Telegram: @naprienko
Facebook: Yaroslav Naprienko