I'd been locked out for hours. I was almost certain of it, even though time was starting to blur together. The sun was high up in the sky, but thankfully there was a cool breeze from time to time and some shade. Whenever I got tired of banging on the one window looking into the 5th floor hallway or sitting on the dilapidated plastic chair I'd strategically placed in front of the window, I'd pace around contemplating shit like my life and how I happened to be trapped on the rooftop of my building, the one roof in this entire city without a fire escape or any other way of getting out save for the door I was now pounding on…desperately.
I'd been seeing this beautiful femme woman of color for a couple weeks. We met on one of those dating sites us queers like the use. Y’know, the really crappy one that stubbornly refuses to broaden their gender or sexuality categories (despite the oodles of queers who populate that virtual space.) We met in person one evening. She took me to a film screening, some director I'd never heard of. While we waited for the film to start we chatted. The conversation was free flowing and somewhat relaxing. I mean as relaxing as a first date can be given all the unsaid things that weigh on your mind while you're in the midst of a 1st date. But for us the convo was great - films (we're both serious movie buffs), gender theory (what self respecting queer doesn't infuse this into ANY conversation), family history and trauma, exes, etc. By the time the movie started I was optimistic about this girl. She seemed smart, funny, artistic and hella cute. I felt ready for whatever "dating story" awaited us.
Little did I know.
But before I delve further into this story let me take a minute or two to (softly) rant on the woes of dating cis femme women when you’re a passable, albeit quite faggy, trans boy. Once upon a time, all I wanted was cock. It's true. Yes, I had sexual desires for other genders; that was always in the background. But my foreground became my lust and fascination for cis male fucking. I've written at length about my experiences and my co-blogger still writes at length about this. However, as my sexuality is wont to do, the pendulum swung and gradually space opened up in my life for other types of sex and expressions particularly with femme cis women. And the journey, folks, has been rich, hot, and affirming in a lot of ways.
What I'm about to write will incense some and probably make you feel "some kind of way", but I'll risk it for the sake of more open dialogue on this. In almost every dating situation I've found myself in with cis femme women, I've been made to feel that only one role is available to me and that is the resident 'butch'. Don't get me wrong, I know how I look. I know that in every public space I move through, "the public" sees me as a dude. They may think I'm a particularly homo-rific dude, but a dude nonetheless. However, does being a dude automatically make me butch? Hell do I ever feel butch? With the femme women I've dated, 'butch' becomes my de factor identity. I tried hard to resist at first, but often times it’s hard to buck the trend and not fall easily into a hetereosexual-esque relationship. Also, in the same vein, in these relationships I'm also the Top. Again, I like topping, just as much as I like bottoming or fucking in any kind of "power-ed" context. However, it's the automatic and permanent relegation to this category that I find rather off-putting. And in every dating situation I find myself with cis femme women, even the ones who claim to not subscribe to such notions of relationship and sexual roles may say shit like:
"I like a guy who's chivalrous and will open doors for me and make me feel safe and protected."
"I forgot to go to the ATM, can you pay for this one?" (Meanwhile she's been 'forgetting' to go to the ATM every single time we've been out to eat, drink, etc.)
"Wait...you don't love me back?! You're such a guy!" (Meanwhile we've only been going out for a couple weeks.)
"What do you mean you need space?!" (I meant I can't spend 5 days a week with you.)
"I know we agreed to have a non-monogamous situation, but I don't want to share my man with other women...so change."
"I'm ready to be serious with you." (Even though we've been hanging out for a couple weeks and we agreed to keep things casual and light.)
Now, as a one-time cis femme woman and a now faggy trans guy, I understand through and through that we live in an extremely femme-phobic and misogynistic world. In fact I’ve written firsthand accounts on femme-phobia in the hook up scene. I know there's a particular way in which patriarchy plays out for women, queer folk, trans folk, etc. And even within that it looks different if you're femme, butch, gender nonconforming, androgynous, pre-op, post-op, no-ho, etc. I also remember what it was like when I dated masculine people or masculine cis men as a femme woman. I remember how easily I got attached if the masculine person satisfied the 'protector' role I'd set up for them. Sometimes I got attached if said masculine person fucked me the way I wanted to, i.e. mistaking intense sexual chemistry for a solid relationship/emotional connection. These were all behaviors or patterns I was socialized and encouraged to have or exhibit by virtue of being a 'girl'. Back then I resented being expected to act this way, and yet in relationships with masculine folks the same patterns would emerge. As I got older and my gendered experiences grew vaster and gained more depth, this 'easy attachment' or 'quest for a protector' eventually gave way to something a lot more nuanced. I realized that sexually I wanted to 'act out' the power inherent in a protector/protectee relationship, whereas emotionally, I wanted to tease out 'attachment' from 'ownership' and this is what I've found in my romantic dealings with cis femme women - there always seems to be a battle (subtle at first) for ownership, i.e. liking/caring for someone is often confused with owning someone and (indirectly) limiting that person's interaction with their communities. I know this plays out in many types of relationships, not just those involving trans guys and cis femme women. However, given how often trans male and cis women date each other, our overlapping communities and the depth of shared experiences around gender/forced gendering, there's a way in which gender/sexual roles, attachment and ownership plays out in these types of dating relationships that feels particularly problematic to me. I've had numerous conversations with other trans guys of color who are nervous dating cis femme women for fear of being forced to ALWAYS be: the butch, the top, the protector and all of that jazz. One trans guy I talked to, who dated femme women in the past, said "It looked differently in each relationship, but, yeah, I always had to be chivalrous or 'act like a guy' in some way."
I thought about all these things on that roof as time trickled by. I thought about the cis femme woman I was currently dating - the very same one that I'd had that fun 1st date with, who was now comfortably chilling in my one bedroom apartment 3 floors below. How long will it take before she notices that I've been gone for hours and starts looking for me? I was not optimistic. After our fateful fun 1st date a month ago and an equally fun 2 weeks together, things were quickly going downhill. During week 3, as the honeymoon phase gave way to reality, I realized I was in the midst of a full on heterosexual relationship where I was expected to essentially be "the man" - paying for everything, making her feel safe and protected in public, only talking about her life/problems/experiences (she liked to talk, but listening, not so much) among other things. By week 4, she wanted to spend almost day together, became obsessed with changing our poly status (even though we spent an extremely long time talking about this during our 1st week together) and altering my close relationships with friends. Early one morning at the end of week 4, I went up to the rooftop of my building to have a quick smoke and enjoy a few minutes of peace and solitude; It was just going to be me and the sunrise. She knew what time I'd left and where I was and approximately when I'd be back, so when the wind slammed the rooftop door shut, effectively trapping me there, I wasn't super worried because I figured surely after an hour, she'd wonder what was keeping me and come looking for me. I waited and waited, pounded on the door and window, yelled at the top of my lungs for someone to come unlock the door and let me back in. No one came. Not other residents. Not the girl I'd been seeing for a month, who was right now just hanging out in my apartment. Doesn’t she miss me, I wondered? Hasn't enough time gone by for her to worry that something is amiss?
After pacing the rooftop for a looonnnnggg time, I sat down on that plastic chair, my head in my hands, frustration and hopelessness crowding it. I stayed seated for a long time, until out of the corner of my eyes I saw her. She opened the door and I jumped out of that chair like it was on fire! I was so happy to see someone. She looked mildly puzzled, not concerned, just slightly puzzled. When I asked her what time it was, I was surprised to hear 4 hours had gone by. 4 fucking hours! She'd been chilling in my apartment, taking a nice leisurely shower, watching tv, playing on my laptop and doing all sorts of fun Sunday morning activities, while I'd been stuck and slowly losing my mind on the roof...for 4 miserable hours.
"After 2 hours, weren't you worried? Didn't you think that perhaps something was wrong?"
"I guess I should have come check on you earlier," was her only response.
No "I'm sorry I didn't come up sooner" or "Are you okay? Do you need some water?" Nothing. I was shocked...especially because I'd been her Mr. Protector for weeks. The one chance she had to watch out for me, she sits back and lets me languish on the roof for 4 hours.
Needless to say, I'm no longer seeing this girl.
Can faggy trans boys date femme women and not be expected to play “the guy”? Are there any trans folk out there who’ve had similar or completely different experiences?