“You think dating is hard? I’m a gay asexual trans* man.”
As we sat sipping five-dollar house wine, huddled beneath the heaters of our local pub, James and I took the opportunity to set aside the stress of university to commune over a juicier topic: our love lives.
“Man, I am so over dating. Every guy I meet seems like a gentleman at first, but before I know it they’ve morphed into a fuckboy”.
Looking me squarely in the eye — me: a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual female — he sighed.
“You think dating is hard? I’m a gay, asexual trans man”.
He had a point. I might have been unlucky in love this year, but for me, finding someone new to date was a simple matter of downloading Tinder again. James was playing a whole different ball game.
“Say you’re in a pub like this,” he said. “You are female; people can tell. You’re at the bar and a guy walks up to you — that’s how easy it is to meet people. Whereas I’m sitting in the corner going: ‘okay, who here is gay? Who here will go for someone who is non-binary or transgender?’ That narrows it down already. Add to that: ‘who here will not look at what I’m packing in my pants and be able to look past my physical quirks?’ By this point, there’s probably no one left in the bar”.
James has been transitioning for about a year now. I first met him as Monique, who had a fairly active dating life; but since coming out as trans-masculine, finding someone who will accept James for who he is, at this early stage of transitioning, has proven difficult.
“I’ve tried different dating apps, but I found them really challenging. The amount of abuse I got within 24-hours of opening a Tinder account because I was labelling myself as a male looking for other males was unbelievable. People were matching with me just so they could say hateful things. Within a couple of days I deleted the app and never went back”.
While Tinder launched an update in November allowing users to select from an extensive list of gender options, or ascribe their own, this feature is only available in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Despite the growing availability of dating apps catered towards LGBTQIA+ individuals, James has not been able to escape online revilement.
“When I’ve told gay guys that I’m transgender, the typical response is: ‘you’re not man enough for me’. Because I don’t have a dick I have no use to them. How can you be a gay guy without the correct equipment?”
But according to James, identifying as transgender in the online dating world is far easier than being asexual.
While there has been an increase in transgender representation through popular television shows such as Orange is the New Black and Ru Paul’s Drag Race, the same cannot be said for asexuality.
“I don’t really come out to many people as asexual because their usual reaction is: ‘oh, so you’re basically a lampshade,’” James confided with a laugh. “It’s kind of an invisible sexuality and there are a lot of misconceptions about it”.
Asexual individuals do not experience sexual attraction; however, many do feel romantic affinity, often towards a particular gender and may therefore identify as straight, bisexual, homosexual or other (for further information, visit the Asexual Visibility and Education Network at www.asexuality.org).
One of the biggest misconceptions James has faced while seeking a romantic, non-sexual relationship with a masculine person is that he is “not gay enough”.
“It’s like I have to be running through the streets waving a gay pride flag to validate that I’m gay,” he said.
“And because I’m trans, I frequently have to clarify that being gay does mean I’m into men — or in my case, people who are more masculine than feminine”.
James reports that while his attraction to masculinity “typically manifests as the traditional gay male,” he has been attracted to several people, romantically, who are female with an “incredibly masculine” appearance. Looking back on it, James says that most of his previous partners have not been cis-gendered and that dating someone who is non-binary can sometimes be preferable.
While dating apps are not the be-all and end-all of modern dating, they can certainly assist people like James who face difficulties meeting a partner through traditional means. When I raised the concept of a dating app designed specifically for people of non-binary genders, James agreed that it would be a “massive help”.
“The whole idea of online dating is to find someone who is like-minded and going through similar experiences as you. That’s a huge thing that people look for in partners,” James stated. “Also, imagine explaining all of this to someone who’s never encountered queer people before. They’d be sitting there like ‘oh shit… we’re only thirty minutes into our first date!’”
However, James did note that a non-binary dating app would by no means be a blanket solution. With a conservative family who still expect him to present as Monique on certain occasions, James fears that bringing another gender-queer person into his life could put them at risk of increased dysphoria.
“I may be further along than some people, but I still face issues within myself and my family that I wouldn’t burden anyone else with,” he said. “But if I found someone who was at a similar stage of accepting themselves as I am and who could accept me as I am right now, then yeah, I would give it a go”.
When asked whether he felt as though he needed to settle further into his transition before dating seriously, James affirmed that “the process of becoming self-aware and loving yourself is a life-long goal”.
“I will never stop trying to settle into who I am, because who I am is kind of revolutionary. Just by existing, I challenge people’s perceptions of reality. I will never stop having to come out to people, or justifying myself to those who won’t accept me. But short of draping myself in glitter, there is little more I can do to more overtly state that it’s okay to be who you are. It’s okay to not be normal”.
This article has been written in honour of LGBT Pride Month to celebrate and commemorate those lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (+) individuals who have helped shape history and the world. For more information, please visit the Library of Congress website, at https://www.loc.gov/lgbt-pride-month/about/