Dating in a Transphobic World

I became suddenly single again over two years ago. I left my life partner when her self-loathing behavior began to turn on me. It was a sad and confusing time. She had been my hero and strongest advocate. She weathered all the negativity and inappropriate questions that went along with dating a Trans woman so effortlessly I think I took it for granted.

I remember meeting each member of her family as if I were some exotic creature or captured “primitive” from the New World returned to European court. “Can she be taught to act like one of us?” Each family member, one by one was charmed and surprised as my gift for winning people over was a well honed survival skill. I was “accepted” and even enjoyed. Compliments like, “you would never know,” were offered to my captor in praise. My partner’s sweet umbrella sheltered me a bit from the harsh realities of the transphobic world I was now entering as we parted.

After our break up, I moved to a new town where no one knew me. I was just a new 6’ athletic blonde in town. I quickly learned that in a town of 3500 people, there’s no such thing as an eligible single woman of almost any stature flying under the radar. I’m reluctant to use the term “fresh meat,” but it seems the dinner bell rang in the extremely small dating pool when I arrived. Both men and one Gay woman as well as my new potential rivals all took note. I learned very quickly lessons most Cis-girls learn in junior-high about other female rivals. All smiles up front, but the claws are out when your back is turned. Ugh, another unexpected and difficult lesson on this journey to understanding what it means to be female.

After a few months I accepted a “date.” This one with a man. He was nice looking, successful and funny. We went to a local concert. We had a really enjoyable evening, but of course there were the questions. My past. Who was I? What was my last relationship like? I hate lying, but I found myself being vague and evasive. I didn’t feel safe. I felt suddenly trapped by my past. Everyone has a past. But my past involved being a completely different gender! He made a pass at me as he dropped me at my car. I dodged him and gave him a hug. “Phew!” I thought. That was stressful!

Unfortunately I had only whet his appetite, and men being the pursuing creatures that they are my date continued to call. He was really a great guy and I actually liked him, but my past handcuffed me. I didn’t want to fall from grace again by revealing my “other” status. So I declined his invitations and he eventually stopped calling. I wish I could say I learned my lesson there, but he wasn’t the last man I treated to a wasted evening.

I tried just having male friends, but of course that didn’t work either. Any woman knows the pitfalls of that dynamic. Men don’t usually want friendship with a woman. They always want more. I spent a year walking almost every morning with a sweet man thinking we were just hiking buddies only to have him finally profess his love. I was so saddened. I really enjoyed our walks, but that had to end because it made him frustrated and hurt to be with me.

Of course, you may be wondering, why didn’t I just tell him?? I certainly struggled with it, but this town had 3500 people in it and everyone knew everyone else’s business. I did not want to be “the Trans woman” in town. Especially as we were suffering through the Trump era, the pandemic and Transphobes were coming out of the woodwork! I even had one date complain to ME about a Trans woman he met on Match who he realized was Trans only after they met in person. I listened and nodded, but thought, “jeezus, you can’t write this stuff! He has no idea he’s complaining to another Trans woman!”Needless to say I asked to go home after he shared that story. He was bewildered and hurt, and I was confused and afraid.

I tried dating through Tansgender dating sites, but that proved to be like a dog whistle for the sexual deviants. I’ve found that if I was up front about being Trans it was like I was a flame and any moth that had something kinky they wanted to act out thought I was going to be their Nirvana. I will say, I could have made a lot of money and had plenty of expensive gifts as a dominatrix. I actually considered it and tried a first date with a couple of potential “slaves,” but I had to admit it wasn’t my thing. I just couldn’t go there. Strange though it may seem coming from someone so exotic as myself (said with tongue firmly in cheek), but I was actually hoping for a relationship based on love.

And so, I began a new method. Go on a date and then tell them after they met me. Not in person of course. That was potentially dangerous. If they wanted a second date, I would have “the talk,” first. I hoped if men just saw me as a woman first perhaps they could overlook my minor blemish of presenting as a man for 50 years. I did meet some really wonderful guys and feel comfortable saying that each one was kind about being told. Each one was surprised and sweet about it, but the first six or so decided that I was a bit too unusual for their taste.

Then there was my last one. Let’s call him, “Lucky number seven.” He was the smart one. He looked me up online before our second date and invited me over for “a talk.” I had a feeling it would be about my past so I arrived at his place prepared to be “let go.” He was sitting in his garden on a bench and patted the seat next to him. “Please sit.” He asked. I complied, and we had a moment as he looked at me as if for the first time. “I looked you up online.” He started. “Your past is not what I anticipated.” He continued. “I know.” I replied with warmth. I didn’t want to make it difficult for him. “It’s not what I have ever considered looking for.” He went on. “You’re like a Unicorn, and I have never thought of dating a Unicorn.” I had to chuckle at his label, because it’s one I often use for myself. I thought, “what a sweet man he is.” He continued, “but I’m extremely attracted to you Genivieve.” “Hmmm I thought, where is this going?” “I’ve given it a lot of thought,” he said. “I’d like to see where this goes if you’re okay with me just taking it one day at a time.” “Wow!” I was floored. “That sounds great,” I answered. “That’s all we can do anyway regardless of my Unicorn status.”

We wound up in bed and things went more than well. I was super impressed with his passion and apparently he with mine. We did have a hiccup however after he shared about me with some local friends. They told him he would be committing social suicide by dating me. My transition wasn’t completely unknown in the surrounding area. I had been in the paper years before in a nearby town. We had been planning our first long weekend together when he showed up at my door the night before we planned to go. He came in and put his face in his hands and began crying! “I don’t think I can see you anymore,” he said as he looked up with red eyes. “I have children and a business and I can’t risk everything by dating you. I’m so sorry!” I held back my own tears and found myself consoling him. “I know,” I said. “I’m a different equation and I’m not for everyone.” As soon as I said that I started crying uncontrollably. It actually shocked me. I was heaving and sobbing tears with snot running down my face. Somehow admitting this out loud had opened the flood gates. It was terrible and cathartic all at the same time. Now he started consoling me. We cried and talked for about a good hour before he finally hugged me and left. We parted as friends but didn’t plan on seeing each other again. I was heartbroken.

Thirty minutes later there was a knock on my door. It was him! My Lucky Seven! “I don’t care what people think Genivieve. I want to be with you.” “Oh my God,” I thought. “What?” I asked. “Are you sure?” Apparently he was. He explained he had called one or two of his most trusted friends and their advice had been, “If you feel that strongly about her, who cares what anyone else thinks.” Needless to say, I was ecstatically dumbfounded. I hugged him like I would never let go. His courageous choice was profound I thought. But even as I felt so grateful for his courage in the face of his friends’ judgment I couldn’t help feel the injustice of it. Why should it be so courageous? Why was it such a brave thing to date a Trans woman??

It’s been five months and now I’ve met his children and friends. Even those who advised him against dating me have seen that I’m actually a good thing in his life. They see that I’m remarkably human and nearly identical in every way to them. Perhaps they could see that the label “Transgender” carries more baggage than is fair to lay on anyone. I’m sure it brings up Ru Paul and Jerry Springer Caitlin Jenner and endless other associations. Turns out I’m none of those stereotypes or pop figures. I don’t represent the entire spectrum of Trans women anymore than Michelle Obama represents all Black women.

So my guy is now a champion and advocate for Trans or LGBTQ+ people. He sees us much like a mixed race couple in the 1960’s or really any time until very recently. We’re walking a new path. Especially new for a Boomer guy. I feel very lucky to have met my Lucky Seven and hope we aren’t really as rare as unicorns.

Genivieve is a Transgender Artist living in Santa Barbara California.