As of this weekend, I’m on the dating market for the first time in almost four years.*
Ignoring the reasons dating is scary for everyone, I’d like to talk about two specific areas I’ve been giving a lot of thought.
First, I’ve been in the same relationship since before I started transitioning. And before that, I really didn’t date. I had a girlfriend, H, near the beginning of high school (who recently got married to her now-wife in Vermont, natch) and hooked up with one girl between H and my most just-ended relationship. Since hitting puberty, I’ve seriously kissed maybe three people. (I’m not counting spin-the-bottle bullshit kisses.)
This certainly wasn’t because of a lack of interest. I wanted to be with someone, yes. But I had have self-esteem issues, and wasn’t am not good at picking up on others’ interest in me. Looking back at when I was presenting as male, I’m guessing this was at least partially because I had no idea how to romantically interact with women as a man, and absolutely no idea how to romantically interact with women as a woman. (Which I wasn’t presenting as, anyway.)
And now I’m single, but with this weird time-jump where I feel just as awkward as I did at 15, but now presenting as a woman. A woman with what feels like no flirting/courting/dating history or experience.
I’d imagine this general idea – of not feeling like you know how to flirt or date – has to do more with my having been in a long-term relationship and less to do with my being trans. I think being trans heightens it, but I think being trans heightens a lot of issues that everyone feels to one extent or another. But I can’t help echoing my constant refrain of “I wish I’d transitioned earlier,” because my fantasy-world version of adolescence involves me having some dating and romantic experience…
(My fantasy-world version of college and post-college also involves me not having to transition while in a relationship and not royally fucking everything up to begin with. So yeah.)
My second big issue is that, well, society isn’t know for its huge acceptance of trans people. In particular, ‘chicks with dicks’ are one of the most reviled groups under the sun. It’s true that, being out and being interested in women, there’s less of an opportunity to be a victim of trans-bashing. But that’s not horribly reassuring.
To be totally blunt, I’m just getting out of a relationship that was sexually comfortable in no small part because the relationship developed as I was beginning to transition. So my discoveries about my body – about changing sexual experiences and preferences – were also being made with an aware and supportive partner. But now I have this body, and am incredibly conscious of how possible it is I’ll be rejected for it.
I wonder what the hell I’m thinking getting out of a relationship with someone who does love me. I wonder who out there could possibly be interested in dating someone like me. I have 25 years of training telling me that not only am I not sexually desirable, I’m sexually abhorrent.
The first issue, a lack of dating experience, I’m hoping to solve by trial and error. One of my big attempts at self-growth over the past year has involved being more honest and direct, and I don’t see why that can’t apply to dating. That is, say what I want out of a relationship rather than play stupid games, and ask when I don’t know what signals I’m getting. Obviously much easier said than done, but I don’t think it’s an impossible goal.
The second seems less simple, and is much more a confidence issue. I don’t really consider myself someone worthy of love, so expect others to view me that way. (That was a fun sentence to write…) I’m hoping that actually trying to get out there and date will help, but the realist cynic pessimist in me worries that it’ll justify my fears instead.
As I said: terrifying.
*By “on the dating market” I mean that I’m neither in a relationship nor thinking of myself as ‘off the market’ due to relationship complications that I won’t get into.