(The original version of “What’s This Shit Called Love?” by The Pagans. Cleveland punk, 1978. Later redone by The Meatmen.)
My gender transition — which started nearly 4 1/2 years ago with a simple question to myself while sitting on the bed one evening — is, for most intents, over at this point.
Wardrobe? Check. Shoe closet? Checkcheckcheckcheckcheck and then some! (Actually, it’s more like a couple of huge piles on the bedroom floor at this point, with little room in the
closet …) Out to friends and family? Check. Hormones? Check. License changed over? Check. Living full time? Check. Job interviews as Frannie 2.0? Check. (No job yet, unless you count going back to my former place of employment as a part-timer, which I guess does count for something …)
But there are some things that still need checking off; they’ll have to wait until I can get myself a real job and get situated again financially.
Electrolysis, so I don’t have to shave my face and neck and chest every day and risk ripping up my skin … hair restoration (because, even though my usual blonde bob from Kim’s Wigs in Fresno rules, I really need to know what it’s like to rock my own hair, which is now a mix of silver and gold) … liposuction (lots of it) and a tummy tuck, and maybe some off the thighs, so I can rock a little dress …
And love …
Wait. What the hell is that?
Yes — even more than getting a full-time job in the work world, even more than the minor-yet-expensive cosmetic mop-ups, the one thing that will truly make me feel like the woman that’s been brewing in me since childhood: Love. A lover, a companion, a partner in spiritual and even physical intimacy, whatever form that may take nowadays in this changed Franscape.
At this point, I’m afraid I don’t understand the concept. And last I knew, a date was a dried fruit.
I was never good at love. Or even attracting someone of either sex. Too ugly to be pretty, too good-looking to be ugly. Too geeky to be cool, too up on things to be a total nerd. Too girlish to be a boy, too boyish to be girly. (I still can picture sixth-grade music class toward the end of the year, when the music teacher essentially turned the class into a record hop, and I was the only boy in class who didn’t get in a slow dance with one of my classmates.)
I mean, I’ve had good girlfriends — my dearest friend and five other exes from the past three decades can be found on my Facebook profile, all still friends, which means that the most important things have lasted — but my relationships have been few and far between. Maybe something about my genetic makeup set off an alarm somewhere, as I was hit on by so few straight girls and absolutely no gay men. (I never did register on anyone’s gaydar, far as I know.)
And since my last girlfriend — who stayed home on Long Island when I moved cross-country for a job in 2004 but came out to visit for two summers — called to tell me this wasn’t gonna work in October ’05, I’ve not only been single, but dateless. Haven’t had one date since I moved to Fresno.
Granted, I wasn’t much to look at by the time I had my gender epiphany — fat, ugly, balding and ponytailed, entering middle age, with self-esteem that had been in the toilet since childhood. The talent pool out here was as dried-up as a San Joaquin Valley riverbed before
I came out; now it’s the Salton Sea-meets-Death Valley. In some ways, I did myself a huge favor by coming out — I mean, for starters, I look a hell of a lot better (pretty damn pretty when I’m all together, and not ashamed of saying so), and I have more confidence, and I’m living an honest life — but in some ways, living in such a red state of an area, I didn’t do myself any favors.
If I had little chance of finding someone here, it’s now gone out the window. Not that I would’ve changed a thing — not that I would’ve stayed deep-closet. No way was I gonna re-live the anxiety that came with every new girlfriend — the worry that, when it came time for me to tell her I occasionally enjoyed being a girl, she would go running. Or having to slowly build up a huge level of trust leading to that moment. (Luckily, my last girlfriend asked me in a silly moment on our first date, “So, have you ever dressed in women’s clothes?” “Well, I’ve had my moments,” I replied with a silly but huge grin. The Red Sea parted like that, and that was that. It was no problem at all when we did play dress-up.)
The Bay Area definitely has a deeper talent pool, with a lot more transgirls, as well as genetic girls who would be fine with a relationship with a girl with a little something extra. I definitely considered San Fran and surroundings as a place to live when I came out — who wouldn’t? — but there are no jobs to be found there, and I’ve not been treated very well by many of the transpeople and/or organizations I’ve come in contact with up there.
So I’ve been looking at home. Been looking to find a great job and go back to Connecticut, or at least someplace between New York and New Haven — somewhere near enough to my aging parents while I still have them. A place where I can plug into my old haunts and old friends as my newish self, now that everyone who means anything to me knows and accepts me, yet go exploring this recent awakening in my life.
So, who do I want? And what do I want?
One thing I’m discovering is that there’s a disconnect between whom I’m looking at and what I’m thinking of.
For starters, I always did like girls. I always gravitated toward beauty and gentility and femininity and grace and all those good things about the female world. I mean, I felt like one of the girls a good chunk of the time, but was attracted to them at the same time. I never was into boys. My fantasies growing up involved my girl self and another girl, frozen in a lasting kiss. I guess I was always spiritually a lipstick lesbian, long before I heard the term, with a hopeful touch of Southern steel magnolia thrown in — sweet and gentle and graceful, with bend-but-don’t-break strength.
Well, I can still swear like a sportswriter (which I was for six years, back in my 20s), but I’m a lot more graceful (not to mention stylish) as my femmy, Frannie self. While I’m much more outspoken now, I’ve always had a gentle, extremely sensitive side, and I guess, for all my occasional outbursts of desperation and frustration, if I’ve been anything these past 4 1/2 years, between the transition and my hellish job situation, it’s been strong. Even if there have been times (many) where I’ve felt myself on the verge of falling apart. I’m still here.
Occasionally over the years, I would fantasize about being with a pretty and passable girl like me as well, or with a very feminine/androgynous boy. (And I do mean “boy” in the adult sense.) And once in a blue moon, I’ve wondered what it would be like to give myself over to a man. But those thoughts have been very infrequent, and they come and go very quickly. (And navigating that previously unexplored aspect of my sexuality? Well, I’m thinking oral sex could be fun, giving as well as receiving, but even the thought of anal sex repulses me.)
Since I’ve come out, I’ve kept myself open to the possibility of a relationship with a girl of either sex. I feel that either way, a relationship would complete me — finish making me the woman I always was inside.
And here’s where the disconnect comes in: In the day-to-day world, I keep my eyes open and my antennae up for a genetic, popped-out-of-the-womb-as-a-girl girl. In the online world, though, I look at ads and profiles for transgirls. I’ve thought about this some; it appears to be some reality-vs.-fantasy thing. Or a fear factor.
In the everyday world, I can’t pursue genetic girls, as that might screw up things in a big way and complicate things and ruin friendships, which are things I cherish dearly. Most of my girlfriends have boyfriends or husbands, for starters, so that’s a non-starter. (And that, in an interesting way, has been something that has made my transition easier than some transgirls — my girlfriends know I’m not gonna hit on their men; the guys are often at ease because they know I’m not attracted to them.)
As for whatever single girls are out there — and there aren’t many among my huge circle in Fresno — I have no way of knowing their preferences unless they make them known. And I’m not out to make anyone feel uneasy or uncomfortable. After all, they’ve so readily accepted me as one of the girls, allowed me into their secret society; the last thing I want to do is act like some guy and start hitting on them. So for those many reasons, I have to be the traditional “girl” in this situation — let the girl come courting me and see what happens.
And none of the big personals sites have categories for transgirls. Not match.com (where my last girlfriend found me nearly 10 years ago), and, surprisingly, not even Plenty of Fish, the massive freebie singles site. Craigslist is far behind the times and has a primitive view of transgirls — under the “miscellaneous romance” category, the only links are “t4m” and “m4t” — no “t4f,” “f4t” or “t4t.” And eHarmony.com, the site founded by a “Christian” preacher that only included gays after a great deal of pressure? Uhhhhhhh — no.
I have had a profile up on urnotalone.com, the cyberworld’s largest trans personals site, since a month after I came out. But very few genetic girls have profiles there, and, save for one girl I had several intriguing Skype chats with over the past year (she lives way too far away and we drive each other nuts), I’ve only had smatterings of conversations with transgirls. And I do live in the
most populous of states, but lotsa luck if you don’t live near the Bay Area (three hours from here) or L.A. (four hours) or New York or Massachusetts or one of the other big places for transgirls. Like the non-trans world, very few people have the money or willingness to travel great distances.
But I find it easier to look through the virtual world of transgirls on URNA than the real world of genetic and, infrequently, transgirls. If you look long enough, you’ll find plenty of eye candy — quite a few girls, both full time and part time, who are simply stunning. And yeah, I have fantasized about a few of them. It’s a lot less complicated fantasizing about someone you don’t know and most probably will never meet.
And it doesn’t have to be about sex. After all, I’m 51 now (it didn’t sound weird saying “50″ at all, but “51″ hits with an odd clang), and at this point in my life, it’s about the companionship, the sharing, the compatibility, the intimacy. Cuddling, holding hands. Long, passionate kisses and deep, lingering caresses. Dancing intimately on the porch some sun-baked summer Sunday evening to John Mellencamp’s “Cherry Bomb.” Supposedly, we’re a lot more mature now, where sex isn’t the overruling thing in our lives. Obviously, it isn’t for me, as someone taking female hormones. But even as a young man, I wasn’t thinking with the wrong head all that much.
The bottom line, though, is this: Genetic or trans, except for the obvious differences in plumbing, I want the same things in a girl:
I want her to be compatible — someone whom I match up with well on the Western and/or Chinese zodiacs, for example. (I’ve actually had two girlfriends who were born on the same day in the same hospital — probably spent the first couple of days of their lives in the very same room. And yes, they’ve met each other …) Most probably, with rare exceptions, Aquarians, Leos, Aries, Librans, Sagittarians and fellow Geminis …
I don’t have a particular body type. I’ve dated women of all sorts: white, black, blonde, brunette, brown-haired, thin, overweight, blue-eyed, brown-eyed, green-eyed, small-chested, ample-chested.
She has to be pretty, sweet, sharp as hell, bright, styling, creative, supportive, gentle on some level and nurturing. She has to be pretty fast to keep up with my overdrive mind. And I hope she would like my mix of highbrow and lowbrow. She certainly doesn’t have to like football, or the Hot Wheels collection, but I hope she would enjoy much of the music I like (Brian Wilson to garage to punk to Northern soul to rockabilly to ’70s/’80s “alternative”), and good movies and theater as well. And the right girl might even get me saddled back into watching TV if it’s a great show.
And she would have to enjoy shopping — shoes, makeup, clothes, the whole deal. Even if we don’t buy anything, it would be wonderful to have girls’ days out with the one I love. And I could stand to spruce up the wardrobe some, and it would be great to have a fashion consultant — and have someone help me in the fine points of lingerie. After all, one thing I’ve learned is how true that line in Van Morrison’s “Wild Night” truly is: “All the girls walk by dressed up for each other …”
I don’t ask for much, do I?