The terrifying market

By , January 24, 2010 4:45 am

As of this weekend, I’m on the dating market for the first time in almost four years.*

That’s terrifying.

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.

6 Responses to “The terrifying market”

  1. r. says:

    You cannot win if you do not play.

    You’re right about it being difficult to establish a relationship when pre-op. Personally I found it impossible. That didn’t stop me from dating, but it did stop me from sleeping with the people I dated, which was frustrating as all hell. Basically, I was a coward in most of those abortive relationships, and found it easier to end them than to push the envelope and disclose what lay under my clothes. And also, there was the thing that I didn’t want anyone to pay attention to that bit of me, anyway.

    As for “I don’t really consider myself someone worthy of love”, get with the program, please. Have you murdered anyone lately? Are you sociopathic? I know where your fear comes from, but you’re a grown adult and you’ve got to learn to at least like yourself before you can expect others to learn to love you. At the risk of preaching at you (we don’t know one another) self-respect does not come from the approval of others, and expecting someone else to validate you is a fools game. God, we all live it, and there are about a zillion romance novels on the theme, but it’s not the basis of a good relationship.

    Anyway, without taking up mountains of space on your blog, I think what I was getting at was that, if you can get past the self respect issue then – even if you don’t end up sleeping with the people you date – the process of dating, and in particular of learning about the kind of person you’re attracted to as a woman – is really important for you at the stage you’re at. I know that when I was at the stage you’re at I really wasn’t sure about any of the personal dynamics around relationships either, and it took a lot of bad two and three week romances to work out the kind of person I was compatible with.

    In that respect, you’re no different than most women I know. It takes a long time to find someone you can stand. Get out there and figure out what kind of person that is, from the perspective of the you you are now.

    (Apologies for the tortured grammar).

    • r. says:

      Wow, that sounded really preachy. Sorry. What I should have said, politely, was that I understand your fears – they’re perfectly reasonable – and I hope you can overcome your terror.

      • Rebecca says:

        No need to apologize! I read your comment as a good, solid, kick in the butt. And a needed one, at that. Thanks for reminding me my fears (particularly those expressed at 5AM…) really aren’t that abnormal or as bad as they seem.

  2. I disagree that “chicks with dicks” are reviled. According to statistics, shemale porn is the fastest growing segment of the porn industry. That says, something.

    Often, things that everyone wants to do, but are ashamed to admit to, are covered up by our society by feigning disgust with it.

    No, that’s not much, but it’s something!

    Personally, I know how you feel. I had my last relationship with a “woman” about a year ago. Since then I only date men, and particularly men who know what I am. It’s been both interesting, and rewarding.

    • Rebecca says:

      Welcome, Jamie, and thanks for the comment.

      I would say that status within the porn industry does not really translate to mainstream acceptance… For me, any possible good coming from a rise in transgender porn is vastly outweighed by the number of of people on the Trans Day of Remembrance list every year, politicians like Paul Scott, and the like.

      That said, I don’t think that “shemale” porn is really good for trans people and, more broadly, those who don’t conform to gender binaries in general: to me, it seems to reinforce the idea that gender is based primarily on genitals, and it’s not possible to be a woman without a vagina.

      • Well, I don’t know if any of us are ever going to achieve “mainstream” acceptance, that’s a tall order. Many bonafide minorities are still trying to achieve it.

        But take my word on it, it’s much easier to achieve a sense of humor :-)

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