Dear Bex. I’m newly single, and realized that the feeling I’ve had about my gender for many years now places me in the queer/questioning column. This is in part due to the fact that I’ve never really identified with mainstream masculine traits, and in part because of my experience with testosterone HRT due to a birth defect that caused my body to stop producing sex hormones in an amount consistent with any biological norms. That being said, I haven’t really dated in the last 5 years (hence newly single) and I don’t really know where to start. My instincts tell me to try and “pass” and then open up as I get comfortable with someone, especially since I live in a “red” county of a “red” state, but that feels dishonest to myself, and doesn’t feel right emotionally. Also I don’t really know who I’m attracted to anymore, as I’ve only ever dated cis women, but have been attracted to cis, trans, queer, and nb folks in the past. How do I take all of this and process it without some sort of guide, or without taking the “easy” way that is ultimately self-repressive?
Woof, okay, this one hits close to home. Trying to figure out how to date while simultaneously processing my gender has been my life for the past year or so now and it’s complicated as fuck. I’m not sure I have an answer for you, and to be honest, I’m not sure anyone does, but I can give you a glimpse into what dating looks like for me.
I’m an AFAB1 person who is queer, but primarily attracted to masculinity, which means dating is super easy for me if I stay closeted about my transness. It’s not hard to find straight men, and I have all the media in the world telling me what a relationship between a straight man and a woman should look like. The problem is, I’m not a woman.
There’s a certain kind of emotional safety in being closeted. It’s almost as if you can’t be hurt by people’s shittyness, because you know you never gave them the opportunity to be better. I took on the blame. They’d misgender me and I’d be able to think to myself “Oh good! I still have them fooled!” or simply “well, how should they know any better?”. It was easy, until it became unbearable.
Now, my gender is the first thing you’ll read on my dating profile. My OKC about me calls me a “boy”, my Grindr headline reads “FtM 🐶”, and my Tinder bio says simply “Not a Girl”. My gender is listed as non-binary on all of them. I hate coming out so I front-load all of it, in the hopes that no one can wind up on a date with me without knowing. So I don’t have to worry.
I always worry. I spend conversations looking for opportunities to gender myself correctly, picking apart their behavior to divine how they “really” see me. Is this a person who will affirm my gender? Or are they someone who is only indulging my gender theater, but ultimately, still sees a girl when they look at me. I spend more time fighting on dating apps than I do flirting on them.
That said, there is nothing quite like having someone not only see me as a boy, but also be attracted to that boy. Since getting on Grindr I’ve experienced flirting and dating as a gay boy for the first time, it’s distinctly different and overwhelmingly affirming. A muscly bear complementing my jawline, a fit twink greeting me simply with “hey dude”, a veritable sea of six-packs, hairy chests, and dick pics sliding into my inbox- every one of them on the app looking for other men, and every one of them interested in me.
I don’t know if things got better when I came out on dating apps, but I know I couldn’t stay in the closet any more. All of that said, I live in New York, so while harassment will always be a part of my online reality, I cannot speak to living in a place where I can’t feel safe.
There is no guide for this my friend, and I can’t write one for you. It’s hard to draw a map of the forest from the middle of the trees, all we can do is start hiking, and journey with the knowledge that our path is flexible. You can set up camp in a comfortable meadow until you’re ready to move on, or backtrack down a trail you’ve been on if you realized you weren’t quite ready to leave that babbling brook. You can set of on a new path entirely or even march bravely into the underbrush, clearing a way for all the travelers behind you.
Queerness isn’t easy, our forests have always been there, but the voices coming from them are silenced. We don’t have the carefully paved trails, tour guides, and gift shops that the cis, hetero, monogamous forests have, but I’m just gonna go ahead and say that our adventures are a whole lot more fun.
Good luck my friend. <3
There are some people with whom I’d want to do kink stuff but not sex stuff. The thought of them beating me up or bossing me around is hot to me, but not the thought of sucking their cock or fucking them, for example. Is this a thing? And what’s the smoothest and least offensive way to set this type of boundary with someone?
Kink-Confused in Canada
Yes. That’s totally a thing.
In fact, it’s super common for kinksters to divide up their sex and kink play. For many people kink isn’t a sexy thing at all and will never combine the two, as they happen in completely different headspaces. Many kink events even explicitly forbid sex in the public spaces, designating them specifically and exclusively for kink play.
How do you communicate this to your partner? Honestly, for a start, and enthusiastically. Don’t sit them down for a somber conversation over tea to explain to them all of the reasons their dick just doesn’t do it for you, or why their sex noises make you want to climb up a wall. Any kink should start with negotiation, and while you’re negotiating your scene, or relationship, simply say “Hey, so I don’t think I’m down to get into a sexy space with you, but I’m excited to have you spank me and I hear you’re real good with rope. Does that sound good for you?”
You may have to explain what exactly constitutes a “sexy space” for you, is that genital touching? Dirty talk? Discuss your sexual boundaries just like you would any other boundaries. “I’m not up for taking off our underwear, I have a sore shoulder, and I really don’t like being called a whore.” Don’t treat it like a rejection of them, but rather a celebration of all of the things you DO want to do with them.
At the end of the day, they may not be down for that kind of relationship, but that simply means your priorities weren’t in alignment. Don’t feel ashamed or guilty about wanting this kind of relationship, be proud of yourself for understanding and communicating your priorities. No one is entitled to your attraction or sexuality, and anyone who makes you feel wrong about that doesn’t deserve your kink either.
Have a question for a future Ask Bex? Email me at BexTalksSex (at) Gmail (.) com!
- Assigned female at birth [↩]