I didn't realize I was doing anything differently from my friends until the first time it happened. I was on a date with a beautiful butch woman, and I put my hand on the small of her back. She said no one had ever done that before, and that she kind of liked it although it was still a weird feeling. It happened again when I was on the way to a party with a trans guy I had been dating. He had primarily only dated femme women and alerted me to the fact that when he was dating guys they usually just act like his homeboys in public and that I needed to be aware of that (and conform). It happened again when I was dating a queer woman who always had to refer to me as her girlfriend with her family because she didn't know how to explain me as her "boyfriend". It seems as though throughout my entire dating life, I've experienced the type of gender expectations that leave many trans* and gender non-conforming folks, like myself, feeling not only romantically unloved, but like we don't have a right to it.
I am what many would perceive as a visibly queer person. Sometimes I pass as a gay man, sometimes I'm seen as a butch woman, some perceive me as a 15 year old version of one of those two options, but regardless of what I am passing as, it's always been pretty queer. I identify myself as being on the transmasculine spectrum and being attracted to other masculine bodies: whether that is butch/stud women, trans/cis men, genderqueery/fluid folks, etc. What tends to come up in my dating scenarios is a whole lot of crap relating to the internalized homo and transphobia sitting just under the surface of my potential relationships. Whether it has been folks that got used to the idea of not holding hands or being touched in public to individuals that just didn't want to be perceived as "too queer" trying to relegate our affections as a way of damage control in a heteronormative world that isn't ready. Many of us recoil from the very idea that we are lovable. Or we think the way we love has to fit the norms of a society that doesn't affirm us in any way to begin with. It is being set up by friends on dates with high femme people, when my attraction is to masculinity because as a masculine presenting trans* person my attraction to masculinity is me being "difficult". So, let me say it here, I'm queer, I'm trans* and I deserve a whole lot of love. And you do too.
I didn't really want this to be a list blog, but hey, I go where the mood takes me. So, here it is, all you beautiful trans* and GNC folks all over the globe. A list of what we have a right to in the romance department. Because yes, we're kind of awesome, we deal with a lot of crap and we deserve a whole lot of good loving in whatever way we want it! (Because we also have a right to WANT.)
1. I deserve to interact with dating partners that are excited to be with me, whether I am a monogamous person, a poly person or on-a-whole-'nother-level-relationship type person.
2. I deserve to have someone(s) in my life that is EXCITED to hold my hand and maybe even, gasp, KISS me in public. ('cause I'm kind of awesome.)
3. I deserve someone(s) that understands my gender and doesn't leave it to me to always be the one to correct another person.
4. I deserve someone(s) who genuinely cares about what I call my body parts and how I want to be touched.
5. I deserve to date people I am attracted to, and that are attracted to me, and I shouldn't be labeled picky if my attractions aren't heteronormative.
6. I deserve to define love in my life, for my life, the way I need it in my life to be.
7. I deserve above all these things, LOVE, and lots of it. I deserve romantic love, I deserve familial love, I deserve platonic love, I deserve a community of love. I deserve and have a right to claim all of it.
These are things we shouldn't have to reiterate to each other, but here we are because I know like me, some of you all needed to hear it! Again, to all my transfolks my gender non-conforming folks and those toeing all sorts of lines, you are an amazing person, and if no one else tells you that today, know, that I see you, I respect you and I have nothing but the warmest of love for you!
Go forth and spread love!
(Below is a poem retelling of one of my aforementioned dating experiences.)