The last time I blogged about this subject, it was rather hypothetical. About eight months out of my marriage to a woman, I discussed my queer identity and my fears about beginning to date again.
For the first 25 years of my life, I had publicly identified as straight. There was a whole lot going on under the surface there, and I had begun to realize my queerness a couple years before. I had been an outspoken ally for the LGBTQ+ community in college when I began to realize that perhaps it wasn’t actually a sin to be gay and people couldn’t choose to be homosexual, but the process of coming out to myself was a longer one.
But, at the time, I was dating The Guy I Thought I Was Going To Marry, so I figured I dodged that dreaded “Coming Out” bullet and life would be just peachy.
That obviously didn’t work out, and I met my next boyfriend on OKCupid, who also happened to be trans. The one-two punch of coming out to my parents as not-straight (I claimed the identity “pansexual” as I found “bisexual” too limiting, though I know it means different things to different people) and dating a trans guy was pretty mind-boggling to them, though my boyfriend was “stealth” and not openly trans so we were still a visibly straight couple to the public. That relationship was quite short-lived, but it was my first foray into queerness. I had begun to embrace my queer identity and it was a huge part of my life.
And then I met the woman I would marry. The plight of a bisexual, pansexual, or queer woman embarking upon a same-sex relationship is a tricky one. Well, technically, it’s tricky any way you look at it.
A lot of lesbians are skeptical of people like me. And I was terrified of how I would be viewed. Was I just a “straight girl experimenting?” There was a common sentiment that, once I got bored of what a woman had to offer, I would wander back over to men. That old, tired “promiscuous bisexual” trope. Or there was the assumption that I was just too scared to “commit” to being a lesbian.
My ex had primarily dated bi and pansexual women in the past, so, thankfully, she was a little more nuanced in her understanding, but she was well aware of the baggage that was carried within the community, and heard it all from her friends and family. But it was not without some self doubt that I, too, would eventually leave her for a man. Most of her exes had married cis-men, after all.
Ironically, in the end, it was she who wanted to end our brief marriage, but she told me “Nothing would hurt me more than if your next serious relationship would be with a man.”
That’s a way to set someone like me up with even more baggage, I’m tellin’ ya.
But ultimately, I didn’t give that too much consideration. I didn’t owe her anything, and she knew that I was attracted to people, no matter what they had between their legs. “Hearts, not parts.”
I took some time after our divorce to figure myself out and heal. And then, I decided it was time to consider dating again, even if only to meet people in the area after I had moved halfway across the country.
I had met my last two partners through OKCupid, and had found it to be the ideal way for me to vet potential dates while being an introvert. So I re-activated my OKCupid account and also signed up for the dumpster-fire that is Tinder (which had been introduced since I was last single.)
I checked the “Looking for men and women” boxes, and was pretty dismayed with my options for the area. I had recently moved to a small university town that’s about an hour+ away from various larger cities. Being in my early thirties, that put me in that awkward window of being too old for most students, too young for most professors, and squarely in the age group for the “townies” who had never had the motivation to leave the area. I know that’s a bit harsh, but really, that’s not my target demographic. As a shaved-headed liberal vaguely-gendequeer individual who works in the arts, I wasn’t interested in seeing the fish and deer that these people had caught.
Yeahhhh…not really my type.
And, it turned out, that the majority of the women-looking-for-women on the sites were 40 year olds, recently divorced, with kids, and disillusioned by men, wanting to take a dip into the lady-pond for the first time. Also really not what I was looking for. Even less so, if we’re being honest. (Is that hypocritical? Perhaps.) And, while I was also interested in gender nonconforming individuals, that’s not really much of a thing around these parts.
I kind of gave up on the whole women thing (though not before I actually matched with my current boyfriend’s ex wife on Tinder, which is a long story…)
I was quickly reminded that most men are trash, and remembered why I liked the idea of dating women. Ugh.
My ex wife and I would often look at each other after hearing dating tales of woe from our friends and tell each other, “I’m so glad I never have to deal with that shit ever again.”
And now, here I was. I was reminded why so many people stay together for longer than they should because it’s easier than being alone or dating.
I also wondered how my shaved head would go over with straight guys. It’s a very particular look and I learned (through much unsolicited feedback) that it was definitely not many dudes’ jam. But I didn’t worry about that, because I wasn’t interested in the guys who weren’t into my lack of hair. I quickly learned that there were also plenty that were totally into it.
And then there’s the perils of being snagged as a “unicorn” for a threesome, which is all many people think queer women are good for.
Even if I were down for a threesome, it wouldn’t be with Nascar fans.
I ended up finding a couple cool guys and went on a whirlwind few months of dates. My coworkers were confounded with how I could be dating three guys named Dan at the same time. (Yes. I’m serious. That happened. As well as declining advances from at least two more Dans and a female Dani. What a wild experience.)
But, dammit, one of those Dans threw a monkey wrench into my plans of casual dating and non-monogamy, and I ended up falling for him even though it was truly terrible timing. He was even fresher out of a marriage than I was. But there was no denying that what we had was good, and I didn’t want to be with anyone else. Turns out I was way more monogamous at heart than I thought.
It was interesting to be with a man again. It had been years, and I had forgotten how things could be different. Based on the one I was with, there were degrees to which it was different. I had briefly dated a very tall, burly guy. (He was also, incidentally, the first person I dated after my ex wife.) It was such a change being in public with him versus my ex. I felt so…traditional. So average. It was comfortable in some ways, but so expected. He was a great guy but there was something about that pairing that felt so damn straight I didn’t know how to wrap my mind around it. I know that sounds like such a strange thing to say because, well, it was, but there’s this sensation of being out in the world in a couple that’s…political…if it’s based in queerness. That’s something I had gotten so used to.
When I was with my ex wife, we lived in Chicago so it wasn’t usually given much thought and we were never harassed too much, but I was still always aware when we held hands or kissed in public that we were still being subversive.
With this guy, I we could be just any old couple. Well, my shaved head was the one thing that gave me away a little bit. My last bastion of being subversive in this partnership.
I still don’t know if I’m able to accurately communicate it, but something didn’t feel quite right.
Which I guess was for the best, because I only lived in his area for two months out of the year so it wasn’t an ideal situation anyway.
I dated a few more guys. One was shorter than me, a furry little cuddly bear, which was an interesting dynamic. One got way too needy way too fast and needed to go ASAP.
And then there was Beautiful Dan (that’s what I called him when I talked about him to my coworkers, because we needed ways to differentiate my suitors.)
He was the only guy on OKCupid I ever messaged first. His profile said, “Straight, man, androgynous, gender nonconforming.” Which, for this area, made me extremely excited. Had I really found another weirdo like myself? He mentioned how abominable he found displays of machismo and didn’t see the point in gender norms and roles, so he ignored them. He may have used the phrase “emotionally crippled mini-hulks” in regards to typical masculinity.
He was singing me the song of my people.
And, as evidenced by his nickname, he was gorgeous to boot. He felt as comfortable rocking some eyeliner and tight jeans as he did working in his well-appointed wood shop. And he was the devoted cat dad to two Adorable Kitty Lumps.
What was this beautiful freak of a human doing in this town? I had no idea, but I had to meet him, even if it meant we just ended up as friends. Maybe he knew where more weirdos were. Maybe there was an underground network of androgynous mutants in the area and I just had no idea.
So we met up for coffee one evening and, a year and a half later, we’re still together. I think he’s pretty swell, and he appears to be fine with keeping me around. We’re going to Europe together this July so he’s committed to staying with me at least until then, right?
Turns out that I’m super into guys who don’t give a fuck about gender roles. Turns out, gender roles aren’t always helpful and toxic masculinity is detrimental to people of all gender identities.
When I was with my ex-wife, she was threatened by my more “masculine” traits. She resented the fact that I could assemble IKEA furniture better than she could, or if I was able to open a pickle jar that she couldn’t.
It’s funny to realize that my same-sex relationship was actually still more traditionally gendered than my current partnership is. I think about my gender less in my current relationship, because I’m able to just…be. I feel like I was more performatively androgynous with my ex in a way I can’t quite pinpoint. I don’t know if there was some weird underlying rivalry of trying to “out-butch” one another or what, but it was weird and not cool.
My boyfriend has shoulder-length plum colored hair and delicate features and eyelashes many women would kill for, and wears clothes from the womens’ section because he’s so freaking tiny and likes them better. But he’s wiry and strong and builds amazing furniture and is a brilliant computer programmer. He’s been expressing himself this way for over a decade now and is used to the strange looks he gets from time to time, and I admire how sure he is of himself and his presentation. He doesn’t consider himself to be trans, which throws people off sometimes.
At least 50% of the time when we’re out to dinner or at the theatre, we’re greeted as “ladies.” In my straight relationship, we’re read as a lesbian couple, which amuses me and doesn’t bother him except for the secondhand embarrassment he feels when the server realizes their mistake.
Sometimes we wonder if people are trying to be progressive in assuming his pronouns are female, which is cool, if misguided.
All that being said, my super straight relationship validates my super queerness in a way I never thought possible.
He has told me that some people have fetishized the way he looks, that some people are into him solely because he’s an attractive androgynous person. They want their very own Bowie. And I completely understand how that could be the case. Some people are really into the concept of androgynous people in a way that negates the rest of their personality, kind of similar to how some people fetishize trans people or people of different ethnicities.
When he first told me that, I was concerned because I didn’t want him to feel like that’s what I was doing. I appreciate how comfortable he is in his fluidity and think he’s an extremely attractive individual, but I am into all aspects of him. And it’s not like I’ve only dated people like him before…I’ve never dated anyone like him before, actually. He assured me that’s not what he thinks my motives are, thank goodness. But it gave me pause to fully examine what I find so wonderful about him.
We complement each other. That’s what I realized. There is no weird gender rivalry going on the way there was with my ex, and, like I said earlier, and we are both comfortable being ourselves to the full extent. I think that’s the sign of a successful partnership.
It’s also really amusing that my boyfriend and I have the exact same taste in girls. Like, to a creepy extent. Which means I’m my taste in girls. That’s not narcissistic at all, right?
And, after being in this relationship for a while, I haven’t received any disparaging comments negating my queerness. No comments about “turning straight again” or talking about how I “used to be a lesbian.” Not to my face, at least.
Then again, I also don’t really shut up about my queer identity, so it’s not like people could forget either. Maybe that’s the whole secret to maintaining it. I’m loud, proud, queer and here. It’s not going anywhere.