There’s a difference between dating and dating while trans. I’m learning that as I enter into this phase of dating after my three-year relationship ended. And I feel like a 14-year old boy – completely virginal, all giggly and innocent, curled up on my bed chatting to the person who gives me butterflies in my tummy. This all feels very, very new, exciting and scary. And I learn more about myself, my gender and my identity as trans the more I relate to myself in relation to other people. And the more that happens, the more I realise that trans is not just an identity; it is a gender – it is an inescapably huge part of who I am in relation to others.*
*Please note: in all of this I am speaking about my own experience. This does not speak to the experience of all trans people, all trans men or all non-binary trans people. This is my experience alone.
And what I’m learning is this: while someone else seeing me as trans is HUGE, while them calling me ‘boyfriend’ is heart-fillingly-soaringly affirming and seeing of who I am, it is important to me that I am seen as trans, and not a man.
I am not and will never be a man. I am, and always will be, trans. And this is an important distinction. Because it means that in a relationship with a woman (cis or trans), I am not lesbian, because I am not a woman. But I am also not straight, because I am not a man. In a relationship with a man (cis or trans), I am not gay, because I am not a man. But I am also not straight, because I am not a woman. I am, and always will be, queer (neither straight nor gay, or bi).
This being seen-ness as trans and queer is essential. Because anything less would be not seeing me for who I am. It would be an erasure of me. My identity in relation to others is just as important as my identity in relation only to myself.
I will always be trans, I will never be a man, because I have a vagina. And that means I was socialised as a woman, objectified as a woman, sexually related to as a woman, raped as a woman. Socialised to be scared of relating to others with my body because of the constant threat of being a woman in the world; scared of relating to my anger because of the constant narrative that women don’t do anger, and if they do, it’s internalised; socialised to always consider others’ feelings, before my own; indoctrinated to be empathic, selfless, nurturing – maternal, without that maternal-ness ever being in relation to children, because we as women are taught to be maternal in all of our dealings.
And I cannot erase or deny any of this. And I don’t want to. It has made me who I am. It makes me a better guy. Because I will never see women as ‘other’, I will never see women as a category outside of me, I will never see women as the ‘opposite’ sex. I will never see women as some being from Venus.
And that means that I need my partner to recognise and respect that. To respect that I am not a man; to respect that I am not a woman. This is complicated. I get that. And it is complicated on all levels – emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially.
Socially, it means that our relationship will always be queer, even if we are read as straight or gay. This means that we’ll have to deal with the erasure of being read as straight or gay. This means that we’ll always have to ‘out’ our identities. This means that there are very few other couples whom we can identify with. And this has so many emotional implications.
Emotionally it also means that you’ll have to see all of me, in all of my contradictions. “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes” – Walt Whitman (my latest chest tattoo). You will never be able to box me, contain me, stereotype me, put my feelings, behaviours, thoughts and being into a ‘oh, you’re such a guy’ holdall.
Physically, this means that you need to be attracted to me as trans – knowing that while I have muscles, body hair and (soon) a chest instead of breasts, I have a vagina. And I always will. I do not have bottom dysphoria. Many trans people do. But this is not true of all, and certainly not my, trans narratives. You’ll need to be physically aware of my maleness and my femaleness in the bedroom and all that that encompasses. You’ll need to make space for my thrill in because of testosterone being able to have an erection and yet not wanting to perform all that that means and excludes from male sexuality.
And this has a lot of complicated spiritual and emotional implications.
But also a lot of space for adventure, possibility, exploration. And I do not want to, and will not compromise that. I am a trans guy, not a guy. I need to respect that, and I need you to respect that while #datingwhiletrans