I never imagined that it would be easy dating as a transgender woman, but sometimes the turns of events surprises even me. For a start, once upon a time I was a heterosexual man and dated women. Now I am a heterosexual woman and date men. That’s probably the biggest surprise of all to me throughout my whole transition. Honestly, I never really expected that. However the reactions of men who I date – or at least try to date – now are far more complex.
I know, I get it. There are a whole bunch of emotions and feelings that any straight guy has to confront and deal with if they are to embrace (figuratively and literally) a trans woman.
“Oh my goodness! I like someone with a Y gene, so that must mean I’m gay!” (So therefore I must stop dating them immediately.) Yes, that really is a sentiment that trans women have to deal with; the perceived suddenly-I’m-gay aspect of someone who likes them. And usually, if the guy thinks that way, then it will be pretty hard for them to get beyond that. However recently I had a different experience that at least showed another aspect of the male mind that I’d not considered. First, let me set the scene…
I had been out on two dates with a guy I had met on Match.com. And I should add that although I don’t specifically say that I am trans on my Match.com profile, there is a great big paragraph that alludes to it. So my thinking is that if a guy has read through the profile and absorbed even most of it, then they should have a clue about my gender background. But of course men focus on the pictures, and not on the “specific gender history that may scare many away” that I mention in my profile. So perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised when guys skip over that paragraph and just look at the chick-pics.
Anyway, these first two dates had gone pretty well. The first was dinner at a nice restaurant in Chelsea, the other a trip out on the Staten Island Ferry followed by noodles in Chinatown. I felt easy and relaxed about this fellow though I wasn’t sure how I felt about him physically and personality-wise too. Some guys I can really fall for, this one I wasn’t so sure about. But I know I have to be more open to guys that I might not normally think of as “my type” (and I’m still honing what that is) so I really wanted to not be too shortsighted too soon. But how did I feel about date #3?
In some dating circles, date #3 is the sex date. Come on, don’t deny it! Sure, not for every new couple (especially the ones who got hot and heavy before #3) but it certainly is the time when that conversation has to happen, even if not the act. On the first couple of dates he (and let’s call him “Bob” for the sake of argument) had wanted to hold hands with me (as I did with him) and although there had been a little kissy-kissy, nothing that involved tongues (which I kind of feel is a declaration of intent) we’d not even touched on the metaphorical physical. So when he offered to come over to my neighborhood in Queens for date #3 I thought nothing of it.
I chose a Greek diner in my ‘hood which ended up being far worse than I remembered it. Still, ever the gentlemen, he paid the bill but I offered to take him somewhere else for dessert. (And I’m meaning actual dessert, not the metaphorical kind again.) Conversation up to this point had been flowing but somewhat uninspiring too. But there are only so many ways to skirt around my history, especially when I also need to talk about what I am doing now – getting my book published. I think I often feel some sort of need to unburden too, like the freedom of not having to keep a secret anymore.
As has happened with others before him, he could also sense that something was on my mind. However the decision to let him – or anyone – into my circle of understanding is really only something I can do, nobody else. This is not something that can be discussed in committee. It is I who has to decide on the right time, and figure out if that announcement might come with an adverse reaction. And if so, might I even be in danger from that unburdening. I’d already figured that “Bob” was unlikely to throw a left hook at me if I told him the news, but I still wasn’t sure what his likely reaction would be. And once spoken, there really is no way to take it back. And the choice for when and how to break the news can only come from me.
After some probing as to what was on my mind, I figured I’d try the easy slide in.
“I wasn’t always this way.”
He seemed confused and didn’t get the gist. With a more graphic flowing of my arms to signify a change from top to bottom, I repeated it again with a slightly different intonation.
“I wasn’t always THIS way.”
Maybe it as the combination of the intonation, repetition, and visual aids, but I sensed that the penny was dropping, if not completely on the floor. Strangely though, I didn’t feel much emotion in delivering this message. My record to date when I have done this is of total rejection. 100% with no exceptions. With this guy I imagined it would be the same, but I didn’t mind so much as I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to see him again anyway.
“It seems like you were putting yourself up to fail” he said.
“Well, my record at these moments is not good. Rejection is a given.”
“But it needn’t be.”
He was right, perhaps I had downplayed my prospects and assumed that rejection was obvious. But then he added that I really should have preempted my disclosure by saying that regardless of what I was about to say, I still wanted him. He was afraid of having his feelings hurt.
“So I should have told you differently so not to hurt YOUR feelings?!” I found this logic totally bizarre. “I’ve just told you the single most important thing in my life, and you are afraid that I’ve hurt your feelings?”
The conversation was two nudges off becoming acrimonious and my defenses were up. It seems that he had also come over to my ‘hood hoping for the next stage – even if that didn’t necessarily mean a roll in the hay. We tossed around other options and I felt strange reassurance that the conversation was at least continuing. He hadn’t known anything about my past, and still he was somewhat interested in me – physically – even after that revelation. But that didn’t mask my own feelings of indifference towards him. I just didn’t think he was my type, regardless of me knowing what that type is. I was open to having another date with him if only to disprove that, but it seemed he wanted to hear that I felt passionately close to him, rather than that I was interested in seeing where this series of dates went and so we should try one or two more.
“Lots of couples around the world sleep together, even though they may not be sure whether they are The One” he added.
True, but I still didn’t want to invite him back to sample my bedlinen.
We left the restaurant (after two over-sweet Greek pastries and custard that was downright disappointing) and cowered under one umbrella as the rain fell all around us. We kissed. More passionately than we ever had before. That tested my resolve. It surprised me too, but maybe emotions were heightened after emotional upset. Perhaps I should give him a chance on the horizontal? No, my apartment was a mess and I had work the following morning. So we parted on rather uncertain terms and I walked home.
I didn’t hear anything for the next week, and so to avoid the loose ends I dislike in relationships (even ones where I’m not even sure if they are relationships yet) I texted him. “So I’m guessing we’re done, right?” I didn’t feel anger, though I was frustrated that a guy who seemed to think that my past wouldn’t be an issue, then realized that it was.
Th following day he called me. That was a surprise. He had been trying to come to terms with my situation. That part was understandable. When you think you know someone, only to realize you don’t, well that does take some re-acclimatization. But I valued that he wanted to talk with me.
“Maybe you should date bisexual guys” he suggested.
“What has that got to do with it?” I countered. “Sexuality and gender are two different things.”
“But if you were once a man and are now a woman, then wouldn’t that work better?”
I tried to explain that I was attracted to men and I was a woman so that the bisexual angle was totally irrelevant, and it was rather skewing his understanding of the situation. I also tried to explain a far more tricky thing: that I really wasn’t that attracted to him. There are only so many ways you can do that politely, and so I tried to explain that the balance of our affections was not quite in sync. We said our goodbyes, and he mentioned that he’d like to continue the conversation sometime. As yet (a week or so on) that hasn’t happened, and it’s probably best that it doesn’t.
I have never liked being rejected, but I found the prospect of openly rejecting someone else even more daunting.