Rows of faces stare at me from the screen. Most are smiling, except for the odd thoughtful or just plain odd look. Here I am now, online dating, entertain me.
There is the interminable profile to fill with select distillations of an almost half-century of experiences. There are the myriad decisions of what to include, what to bury, and what bait to put on the hook when I’m not even sure what I’m fishing for. Friends? Lovers? Both? Am I showing enough skin? Not enough? Do I seem frumpy, weird, desperate, or worse, boring?
Being trans also means I’m faced with deciding if or how to disclose. I take a middle ground and self identify as a trans woman in my profile listing and scrupulously avoid mentioning it in my profile text. I’ve looked at other trans women’s profiles to get a sense for how they handle it, and I see a bushel of trans archetypes.
There are the ‘let your freak flag fly’ BSDM bottom subs with pictures of themselves harnessed into swings. There are the ‘tech professionals’ of the never married or divorced variety with pictures of them in various innocuous locations and poses. I’m in that group. There are the ‘I’m trans and proud of it’ people with pictures in various states of dress and undress. Many of all are poly.
And then there are a raft of people who tick the box for trans woman and talk about what a ‘sissy CD slut’ they are. Almost exclusively, they dress in pantyhose or lingerie and push the boundaries of x-rated photos. I dread coming across these profiles, as they are uncomfortable reminders of when I thought I was a cross dresser and make me fear their self-identification conflates in a subset of potential dates’ minds women who’ve made hard choices to transition into authentic lives with a semi-closeted fetish.
Then the voices in my head remind me the path to trans self-awareness also passes through the valley of the CD dolls, there is no trans enough, cis-normative passing can matter or not, and everyone has their own transition. While I am competing for attention, it will be won or lost on my abilities and anyone who confuses me for something I’m not isn’t likely to be someone I want to be with.
I return to my Zen pose and turn my attention to potential matches. Questions arise.
Why do so many of my matches mention they’re poly? Does the selection algorithm tilt towards poly results for self-identified trans women? How can a lesbian women be in a poly relationship with a guy? Is she a TERF? Is she trans? Where are all the femmes for femmes? What am I doing here? That question gives me pause.
I consider my last online dating adventure in the early 2000’s when I was in the bloom of my early 30’s as a white, apparently cishet man with no kids. There were many women to court and I went on lots of dates. There was nothing to explain and the vast majority of my baggage was deeply repressed and out of sight.
The net results were: one relationship that lasted three months and blew out because I freaked out; one two-week relationship with someone who drifted away because I kept messing up thesis for dissertation when I asked how it was going; and one five-week relationship where I was unceremoniously dumped over the phone purportedly because, ‘you remind me of my ex-husband in the emotional sense,’ but I think was because my then ski bum lifestyle didn’t mesh with her final year of medical residency and power couple visions.
Then I met my future ex-wife next door. Online dating was fun, but didn’t lead to lasting love.
Now I’m an almost fifty trans woman with two kids who’s more picky than she used to be, is trying to figure out how to queer date, and is lonely. This ups the ante, and self-doubtful thoughts creep in like mold to colonize my self-esteem.
My pictures make me look mannish. Femmes won’t want me. Does my writing make me sound like a guy? Can I really look past where another trans woman says she’s a cat? Is internalized transphobia making me skip over most other trans women’s profiles? When did I start looking as old as all these other women my age? I haven’t done shit in three years except slog through personal shit and who will want that? She’s not liking me back because I’m trans. She’s not writing me back because I’m trans. No one will want to be with me because I’m broken.
I take a deep breath to center and calm myself while brushing those thoughts away. I dial my expectations back. I shift my intention to friends first and ready myself to repel catfish. I remind myself I’m lovable and desirable, I like adventure and surprise, and it’s okay to not know the answer to if I’m showing too much or not enough boob.
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