Posted on February 25th 2018, 10:30 pm
It's been a while since a real blog post. So sit down and hold on to your hats, because there's some things swimming around in my head that need to be put down in words.
It's been close to a year and a half since my last girlfriend and I broke up. For those of you that aren't friends with me on social media, I dated someone for a couple of months right after moving to Boston. It was a fast and bright burning relationship with a lady that I really liked. Her name was Dani, and I still think about her. It ended when I realized, thanks to good friends, that she was manipulating me. It wasn't maliciously intended, from what I could see. I think it was mostly her self consciousness and immaturity that caused her to do it, but it wasn't ok. So I ended it, but left it open to friends. We continued to hang out, and slowly things were returning to where we were before I broke it off. I realized that I was letting her back in and allowing her to manipulate me again. So I officially cut ties and walked away. It sucked for both of us, but it was what needed to happen.
There are things that relationship taught me. The first thing is that I wanted to be in a relationship again. I enjoyed having someone that I could be close to again. I had missed that more than I realized. The second thing was that I knew what I wanted in that relationship. Much like Dani, I needed someone that I was attracted to on a lot of levels. I also needed that person to be mature enough to be in a relationship... to know who they were and what they wanted. Dani was 25, and while there are many 25 year olds that are mature and what not, she wasn't quite there. Lastly, I truly needed someone I could trust. Given what I've been through, that's hard for me now.
I gave it a few months, after that relationship, since it was such an intense time. I needed to adjust to the city and settle in to the new job. Then I threw myself on OkCupid and started meeting people. I went on a few dates here and there, and nothing really landed. I finally met a lady that I seemed to get along with a lot, and we had fun. We went on a series of dates, but there was a problem. I wasn't feeling anything at all. Nothing. So I was honest with her and told her I wasn't feeling anything. I felt bad, because she really liked me.
I thought to myself...maybe it was just her? Maybe there was something I was subconsciously not interested in or something? So I tried again. I met another lady. We went out on a few dates. Same thing...had fun, enjoyed her company... but again, I felt nothing at all. I was honest with her too and at this point I knew it was me that was the problem. So I deleted my dating profile and decided to just not date.
The thing that was bothering me though... Almost all my dates and girlfriends since my former long term relationship ended have had my heart feeling very overprotective. It switches into self preservation mode at the first sign of any issues and while that's great for me to stay emotionally safe, it essentially destroys any relationship I'm in. Was this basically how things were going to be going forward? Sure seemed that way.
Enter about a year later...essentially the end of December / early January of this year, and I had been feeling pretty lonely. As I inch closer to middle age (yes I realize that's technically a ways off yet), I realize that I'm not getting any younger. Dating will only get harder as more lines show up on my forehead and what not. There's really no time like the present, and no one's going to just fall into my lap. So I made a goal of re-entering the dating scene, and I've done that. I no longer like dating apps, but it seems like how it's done these days. So I put myself up on Her, the dating app for women seeking women, and it's certainly been interesting. I've gone on about 2.5 first dates a week for the last three weeks. It's cool that I'm getting a decent amount of positive attention on the app, but it's overwhelming and exhausting. I've dialed back my usage of the app overall to slow things down.
So, all of that leads up to the topic at hand. It appears that the rest of the world sees me differently than I see myself. While this is probably true for everyone, it seems the difference for me is pretty drastic to the point that I wonder if I have some sort of body dysmorphia going on.
I've never really thought of myself as attractive. In college, prior to transition, one of my best friends at the time sat me down and told me that women weren't looking at me because I was an ugly, weird, freakish person. They were looking at me because I was attractive. I had been picked on so much growing up for being a nerd and what not that I had always assumed that was the case. Hell, even all the TV shows and movies said that nerds were ugly and unattractive. No one liked nerds. This was my worldview. I just assumed that's how I was perceived. Looking back, there were a number of women that were probably really in to me, but I literally couldn't see it because I had this view of myself.
Hearing my friend tell me this was surprising and eye opening, but you don't change your view of yourself with one friend overnight. I don't think it ever really sank in, and honestly, I still didn't really have any confidence. I've always been shy and quiet when it comes to dating and what not. So nothing really changed.
Then the fire nation attacked...
Actually no. I left college for a year to deal with depression related to gender identity, came out as trans, and started transition a year or so later. Society largely treats us trans folk as if we're unnattractive, unwanted, and freakish. So I just settled back in to my prior mindset. I had a hard time dating in college and afterwards. So that self image basically was well reinforced during that time.
So enter the present day dating situation and I've heard the following statements. Also, for clarity here, I'm not bragging here. Stick with me:
"You were the most beautiful woman in the room, and I just can't get over it."
"I'd wager most eyes in the room are on you. You command attention."
At a queer ladies event: "...I noticed you holding court (it may not have felt like it, but that's what it looked like)"
"I'm going to kick myself in the ass if I don't talk to this woman."
"She's stunning!" - multiple people
"By all conventional standards, you're a knockout."
I literally don't know what to do with these statements. My jaw drops and I am seriously like "No... that can't be right" because to me it's not. There are rare times I see myself in the mirror and think I look reasonably attractive. Most times, I see a tall, gangly, kinda ugly person that likes to wear makeup. When people say compliments like this, it's so disparate from what I see myself as that I honestly have no idea what to say in response. People are like "Accept the compliment and say thank you", but to me it's literally like someone saying that the sky is red and I should just accept that. So I am typically dismissive of these compliments as according to my self image, they couldn't possibly be true. Though I also realize this is rude. So I've attempted to start saying thank you regardless.
So this brings me to my original thought of body dysmorphia. I've heard these compliments enough now that logically I have worked out that they couldn't all just be people being nice / taking pity on me. There has to be something to them, and therefore the issue has to be me... yet again. So I must be seeing a distorted image of myself when I look in the mirror, and it must be my lifelong conditioning that I'm unnattractive that's ingrained in me. I have brought this up with my therapist, and we're working on it. I think it's going to take a while though.
I think there's also a concern that I have related to accepting this "I'm apparently attractive" thing: ego. If you read far enough back in to my blog, you'll get to a point about 10 years ago when one of my ex's rightfully dumped me and cited my ego at the time. She was right, but my ego was never about my looks. It was related to my collegiate experience and so many people telling me that I was important and doing such amazing and important work. It really fluffed up my opinion of my importance, which led to my asshole nature then. I do not want to get any sort of inflated ego about myself ever again. So if I accept that I'm attractive in any way, how do I integrate that in a healthy way? I've also brought this up to my therapist. She's less concerned about it than I am citing, ironically, my own experience and concern as a reason it wouldn't be an issue. I'll probably always be concerned about that. I never want to be that person again.
So back to the dating thing. It's never been easy for me. I'm happy that I'm getting a lot of positive attention. However, despite it being two thousand and fucking eighteen, there is still a ton of intolerance around being transgender. It's a damned wall in the way most of the time, and it suuuuuucks.
The Her dating app is very inclusive with identities and what not. I can put trans female as my gender identity if I so choose. However, I don't out of principle. Why? Because trans women are women and it shouldn't fucking matter. Side note, sorry about the language, but a good f bomb really drives that point home, you know? So, reality...it does matter to some people. In a lot of cases it's a total deal breaker. Fuck them, but it's true.
So, there are two schools of thought. 1. Don't put trans on your profile out of principle. Meet more people. Get rejected more often because of the label. But potentially meet some people who would never have considered dating trans and now will because they've met you first before judging you for a label. OR 2. Put trans on your profile and let those bigotted women self filter themselves out. Anyone who responds should be ok with dating a trans woman.
I've always gone with 1 because I've lived in places where the dating pool is just super small and let's face it...the midwest is a bit more narrow minded. So I chose to meet more people because I feared that no one would show interest at all if I said I was trans on my profile. Now that I live on a coast, I've been seriously considering switching to 2 because there's a lot more people open and accepting of trans women here. However it still makes me angry because I'm a woman and as I mentioned before...it. shouldn't. fucking. matter.
Case in point: over the last week, I had a lovely Irish woman start chatting with me on the app. We hit it off, and we eventually started texting. I hadn't come out to her yet as trans, and I didn't know when that would occur as it hadn't really come up organically. She did some sleuthing and found my facebook profile. One of her next messages to me was "Is there something weird or strange about yourself that you need to tell me?" Seriously. She thinks it's weird or strange that I'm trans. I said "Oh...you mean like, I'm building a robot? That's pretty strange, right?" because fuck her. When she finally asked me straight away if I was trans, I was like "Oh! Well yeah. But that's not weird or strange." Needless to say I stopped talking to her. My point here is that this is still how some people react to being trans, and it's not ok.
I was having conversation with another trans lady recently, and we both noticed that there seems to be an age gap in trans acceptance. People in their 30s right now are much less tolerant than people who are younger than 30. My ex girlfriend, for example, thought it was amazing and awesome that I'm trans. The younger people seem to celebrate trans identities. That certainly gives me hope for the future trans folks, and it also makes me a bit jealous for those who are that age. It's also why I've considered dating younger, even though there are challenges, as mentioned earlier, associated with that.
It's just so frustrating that even if and when I finally accept any sort of physical view of myself that includes me being attractive, the fact that I'm trans will always be a wall I have to scale to meet people. I could be as beautiful as Helen of Troy, and I'd be rejected because I'm trans. Sorry for dwelling on this, it just makes me so angry.
So one other thing I've noticed: a lot of the women I've met through this app are what some of my friends call "normies". By that, they mean they are not interested in much of the eccentric things we are all interested in. I'm a giant nerd. I love video games, sci fi, technology, nerd culture, cosplay, HEMA and sword play, etc. I'm not just interested in wine, bars, and going to the beach. It's weird because I feel like I have to explain myself on dates. "No...you see Star Trek is cool because it's an allegory on society...and spaceships are cool."
I think, despite the fact that I have lots of lady friends that are interested in these same things, I feel like in a dating situation, so many women are not interested in these things that I have to defend my femininity somehow. That liking video games is somehow inherently masculine, and that it reinforces the trans identity somehow. I'm also using somehow a lot in this paragraph... somehow.
I hate this as well. There's nothing wrong with being interested in any of the things I'm interested in while also being a woman. So why am I constantly feeling like I have to defend these interests?
All of this makes me seem like I'm not enjoying dating and am just really angry. That's not true. I'm having fun. I'm getting out and meeting people. I'm feeling like my life is full and vibrant right now, and that's fantastic. Hell, I didn't even write about how I went to New York City this weekend and hung out with a bunch of my best gay lady friends in the lesbian bars there. It was awesome, and I had a ton of fun. It had been delayed a week due to weather. Originally it was supposed to be birthday fun in NYC. Ultimately it still was.
Seriously...sometimes I look around at my life and how I've gotten here. I live in Boston. I take trips to New York City. I work for a kick ass tech start up. I love my job. I get to go to events at big companies like Google and feel all cool. I have friends all over the world. I think about all this and I feel humbled and amazed. I never expected any of this. I think to myself "Wow! This is my life now." I'm thankful for what I have and for all of you. I have said it on Facebook, but it's worth saying here too. Thank you, all of you, for being my friends. I really do love all of you.