One of the things that’s been on my mind quite a lot lately is the question of who I will date, or rather, who will date me?
I no longer identify as a lesbian, as I once did. I would describe my sexuality as pansexual, or simply queer. I have found recently that my attraction has shifted, away from female-identified people and more towards non-binary/male-identified people. I can’t really tell you why this is for certain, but if I were to hazard a guess, I would say that my sexuality has fluctuated with changes in my understanding of my own gender.
I know that this sounds rather complex, so bear with me. When I was about 9 years old, I was aware of my attraction towards both men and women. However, once I realised that I was ALSO a woman (seriously, it took me until puberty to realise that I would actually develop breasts and get my period – until that point I had just assumed that it would pass me by, that I would be the exception to the rule who didn’t have to become female), my attraction to women felt somewhat perverted, and I was disgusted with myself for how I felt. Let me be clear – I wasn’t disgusted by the idea of two women together, I was simply disgusted by the concept of me being a woman.
When I got to age 14, I started dating boys. From the get go, I would ALWAYS pretend (in my own head) to be a boy with other boys. I’m sure that the boys saw me as a girl, but in my head I was one of the guys. Even when I had sex with boys, I pretended that I was a guy too. I have a pretty powerful imagination, thankfully. Sometime in my early twenties, this changed. Instead of pretending that I was a guy, I would pretend that the guy that I was with was a girl. This ‘pretending’ persisted until I came out as a lesbian at the age of 23. It was a bit of a revelation to me because up until that point I had assumed that all women pretended that the guy they were sleeping with was also a woman (I blame it on the Catholic education and the complete lack of any sort of sex education, LGBTQ positive or otherwise!) Up until this point, I had presented as very conventionally ‘female’: long hair, make-up, dresses etc.
After coming out as gay, everything changed again. I immediately cut my hair short, started to dress in men’s clothes, and switched to wearing sports bras rather than ‘normal’ bras. In fact, when I was living with my first girlfriend, I remember looking up ‘binders’ on my computer, but I was SO terrified at what this might mean that I couldn’t go through with buying one. I tried to tell myself that I was a butch lesbian, and I tried SO hard to fit into this. However, I’m far too camp to ever be called butch by anyone, and my constant failure to be masculine enough led to something of a breakdown in my mental health. I hid it really well at the time, but I started to become more aware of transgender issues. I searched for people’s stories on YouTube and various other websites, desperate to find someone with whom I could identify, but all the stories were of binary transitions. Everyone spoke of how they “always knew they were a [insert boy/girl]”. I hadn’t always known anything and at the time of searching I was completely unsure of EVERYTHING about my gender. This was in 2011-2012.
Soon after my girlfriend and I broke up, I started dating a guy (I seriously failed as a lesbian!) However, I found that being with a man made me feel more female that being with a woman did. I think the stark contrast between our bodies made me feel dysphoric, although at the time I didn’t understand that this was what I was experiencing. Instead, I found myself crying in private, coming home from work and bursting into tears, letting it all out before he came home. It was a very confusing, miserable time for me, and the poor guy that I was dating got quite badly caught up in it all, a fact for which he has never forgiven me. At the time, I assumed that the relationship wasn’t working because I was a lesbian.
Once our relationship ended, I moved to Ireland where, in just under 6 months, I finally came face to face with full-blown mental health breakdown. I had briefly been dating a woman, who wanted me to be more feminine, and I had been working a job where no-one knew that I was gay, so I grew my hair out in order to conceal my queerness. These two things, combined with a complete lack of any support network at all (I had no friends in Belfast at that time) led to a suicidal breakdown and finally asking for help from my GP. It took me hitting rock bottom to admit that I had depression. At this time I still identified quite strongly as lesbian, but I was starting to realise too that other stuff was going on that I didn’t have a grasp on.
Not long after starting anti-depressants, in October 2013, I met and started to date a trans guy. He gave me my first binder and once I put that on in January 2014, the snowball started rolling. I went to a general ‘gender’ counsellor before asking for a referral to the gender identity clinic in Belfast, which I started attending in August 2014. The rest, as they say, is history. Dating this guy led to more confusion around my sexuality. He loved the idea of us being in a ‘heterosexual, conventional’ relationship, a fact which I fought against furiously, telling him that I was queer, always and forever. Once I started to consider transitioning, however, our relationship made a lot more sense in my head. In my mind, we were becoming two gay men. This idea never sat well with my partner, however, and our relationship ended (for various reasons which I’m not going into here).
So here’s the crux of it: The relationships where I had felt most comfortable over the years were those that could comfortably be defined as ‘queer’. For even when I was ‘female’ with men, in my head we were something different, a queer mishmash that made me better able to accept the wrongness of my body and how it was interacting with theirs. I have always felt attracted to ‘female masculinity’ and ‘male femininity’ for lack of a better description. Yet now, I find myself no longer attracted to women of any presentation. So where does that leave me?
I suppose the question that I’m skirting around is “will gay men want to date me?” I have zero desire to date a straight man again – there is absolutely no way in hell that I’m putting myself back into a situation where someone sees me as a woman. Equally, that rules out lesbians of every kind (although I have already ruled out women anyway). But will queer/gay men want to date a non-binary, female-assigned-at-birth, trans person who will only take low-dose testosterone thus never fully becoming ‘male’ or ‘a man’?
I’ve been avoiding confronting this question, as I have no intention of doing anything about it until I actually get on some testosterone and have top surgery. I guess time will tell, and I know there’s no point in worrying about ‘what if’s’, but seriously, the categories of gay and bisexual seriously screw up my dating pool as a non-binary transgender person!!