Ok, perhaps not buy. I’m not that skint yet. ‘Who will have’ may be closer to the mark, in all its senses. I have been on the dating ‘market’ for around a year now, and I’ve got to admit that twelve months on, it isn’t getting any easier. I’ll be straight with you here – I am not looking for love again (too painful) or a long-term relationship (too expensive…and painful). Just, you know, a date. And whatever that might lead to. I’m not proud.
My problem is this. Whilst I find my own sexuality, body geography and gender identity perfectly easy to grasp, that certainly isn’t the way other people see things. In short, in my experience**: lesbians have found me attractive until they find out I identify as male (too much of a man). Straight women have treated me like a pet eunuch: a non-threatening man who they can giggle about periods with. But definitely not sleep with (not enough of a man). Gay men have found me attractive until they find I have my original plumbing (not enough of a man). Straight (or, in my experience, bi) men have found me attractive if they are allowed to pretend I’m not really a man. If I emphasise my gender identity, they bail (too much of a man). I have been turned down for numerous explicitly and implicitly gender-based reasons, and it’s starting to jar me off.
**Oh, and before anyone gets their underwear in a twist about my broad, sweeping and stereotypical generalisation of people into four categories, I am talking about my own experience, and yes, I am aware that they are broad, sweeping and stereotypical generalisations. This is a blog, not a gender seminar. And in truth, I’m not quite such a big old sl*g that I’ve been hit on by every facet of the beautiful gender kaleidoscope.
Perhaps I have shot myself in the foot, cut off my nose to spite my face, or chucked out the baby with the bathwater, by undergoing a physical transformation. I have a masculine build, no breasts, but I retain the genitalia I was born with, by choice. Arguably, I have created a physical self that is so different from the norm that people need to think hard about what they are seeing. And when people think hard, that tends to be where the trouble starts. I have been told that I have led to people questioning their own sexuality (hurrah for enlightenment, boo for me going home without a shag). I try to be candid with people about who and what I am, and this has led to some slightly awkward email dissections of “what’s what and where”, which probably aren’t the best prelude to a fabulous date. Maybe I should just ‘wing it’ and hope that the surprise factor doesn’t get me thrown out of the bedroom, or worse. As an aside, did you know that in some countries, the shock caused by finding out that someone is trans* is actually admissable as evidence in court in defending battery and murder. Nuts.
So what on earth to do? Honesty has always been my policy, and I can’t imagine doing things differently. Perhaps I should just worry less what potential partners think – after all, if I’m not their bag, baby, there’s not a lot I can do to convince them. I know that some folk deliberately seek out trans* men, but as a very ordinary chap, I’m loathe to become someone’s fetish. I’ve been advised to seek out partners amongst the ‘Queer Community’, which is all very well, but I live in rural Norfolk. Plus, I’m not entirely convinced that that’s the niche for me.
Labels are dangerous things, and I prefer to avoid them. If asked to describe my sexuality, I say ‘mostly gay’, which tends to elicit a smile, but is as close to the truth as I can find in a couple of words. I find women beautiful (well, most, anyway!) but I’m not really looking to get cosy with them, if you know what I mean. But who knows? Gender comes in many hues, as does personality and, well, everything, so I’d be silly to say I’d never date someone based on something so fluid.
Of course, I never really anticipated that I would be in this position. I had always rather pooh-poohed the problems of dating as a trans* person, because I was sat blithely in my long-term relationship. Well, karma came back to bite me there, and whilst my ex is now happily engaged to the person for whom she left me, I am, at the age of 42, clumsily single and singularly clueless.