Dating While Trans: The Great Balancing Act


  Dating is hard.

  There's this uncomfortable feeling of being left behind that tends to eat me whole when I look at my peers. My perception of self became stunted when I was in middle school, something that I suspect has to do with COVID-19 and isolating in my room for a year, and so I often find myself feeling as if I am the only child in a room full of adults. The rift goes further when dating pops up. I am, without a shadow of a doubt, a helpless romantic until the very end. I yearn with my entire being, I grow devoted like a believer even when I am faithless. And I am stunted in inaction.

  Because dating becomes even harder when you’re trans.

  I am in the circus and there is a balancing act I need to perform- but it's more of a guessing game than a balancing act. Every person I meet will have a different standard for how I need to act, but they will all really be the same. As a trans guy, I have two options when dating cis people. Become a woman or a man. I can make myself more palatable, more demure, play into the role that they need me to be- I’m the overly affectionate and geeky-in-the-cute-way girl, pretty enough to be wanted but never enough to be someones first choice- something that just makes me easier to be with to them. I'll be quiet when you ask me, and I try not to ask for very much.

  I can kill my masculinity, I know how to hide a body. I can hide my body.

  Or, I can allow myself to be compared. My hips are too wide for a guy, my chest is too big. My heart is too big for a man, too. The spectrum of emotions must be compressed, folded and hidden under my bed or in my closet. A tender I love you, a desperate sob, too emotional for the man. Hide your body, anything form fitting must be thrown out- how many layers can someone wear until they get heatstroke?

  There is, of course, a secret third option, trying to be myself. They may swear they accept me, but it doesn’t often feel the part. One day, I’m the experiment to see if she is into butch women, the next I’m a test on if he is into ‘femboys’. I am never looked at because I am Ollie. They ask when I plan to get the surgery in a hushed whisper. There are many surgeries. I have a feeling that I will deal with back pain when I get older, and I won't be the first to have googled the costs of gastric bypass on an incognito tab. We both know that's not the surgery that they are talking about. They will bristle when I say that I’m not sure, that testosterone will probably be enough, that my genitals aren’t their business. To them they are. I become entertainment, the final frontier.

  So, I don’t date.

  Instead, I yearn. I experience heartbreak after heartbreak in my head and I refuse to confront or talk to anyone to try and bridge that gap. Say those magic words, I like you. I think some of them know what words are unspoken and try to ignore it, and I think some of them are oblivious. I hope they’re all oblivious, though.

  When experiencing such self-inflicted loneliness for so long, temptations can arise. I look in the mirror and think to myself that I could have been a pretty woman if I tried harder. Learned makeup, grew out my hair, lost some weight. I could go from a 4/10 to a solid 7, I think. Instead, I’ve catapulted myself on the wrong scale, and am climbing a sisyphean battle from a 0 to a 2. When you’re so alone, somethings got to give, and it's easy to want it to be your own identity.

  I’ve hidden my body before, I’ve buried myself.

  I wonder if it would be more painful to do now that I’ve seen the beauty of the stars.