I’m 30 years old and I’ve started to notice a pattern: All the women I’ve been with are now dating men, including the woman I was with for 12 years. I’m dating a new lady and so far things are great, but this is her first gay relationship and, considering my past experiences, I’m worried she might go straight again too. Should I be? Also, what gives!? — Straight Magnet
Anna says: Wait, ALL the women? Considering you met your 12-year partner when you were practically a toddler, and assuming you didn’t have some wild preteen years, “all the women” probably means two or three, right? I’m not trying to split hairs, I’m just giving you some perspective. This doesn’t diminish the heartache you felt, of course. But let’s have a Processy Feelings Talk (in bullet form) to hash this out.
– Most women are straight. I know. I wish they weren’t, and I tend to operate under a “gay until proven straight” assumption, but queer women will always be a minority. one in 10 is the usual number bandied about. I’d guess it’s a little higher than that, based on Craigslist ads alone, but until we have some kind of gay census or official count, a guess is the best we can do. And since most women are straight or end up straight, the odds are stacked against you that you’ll have at least one ex who returns to the other team, or the team they started out on. (Sports metaphors are confusing! Can’t we say “shops at the same Home Depot” or something?)
– All breakups suck. Would it be better or easier to be left for another woman? Would it be better to be dumped so she could “find herself”? What about, “I’m just in a different place right now?” My point is, it always sucks to get dumped. There’s not a hierarchy of grief that makes one dumping inherently better than the others (unless it was completely amicable, which is rarer than a gay, left-handed unicorn). And if you want to look at the situation with a mimosa-half-full outlook, losing a lover because she turned straight absolves you of any of the blame. You didn’t do anything wrong! How could you have? You simply lacked back hair and testosterone and a disposition for Axe Body Spray. And thus, all the sympathy will be garnered to you. Congrats!
– Worrying about things that haven’t happened is detrimental to your happiness. It’s all too easy to look at a pattern (which, remember is only two to three women!) and consider yourself doomed for eternity. But life is always complex. You can’t know what will happen in the future or why, and stressing out about the unknowns will only make you crazy — or worse, become negative self-fulfilling prophecies. This isn’t to say you should blindly fall into situations that your gut tells you are full of red flags, but don’t let your fears stop you from enjoying the present. You’ve got a swell lady who digs you. Don’t lose sight of that. The only reality is right now. Live in it.
Dear Anna, I have been an out lesbian for seven years in rural WV and am engaged to be married to lovely partner of four years this September. I have been struggling recently with the self-realization of being transgender. I have only talked about this with my best friend and my partner as I am not ready to come out to family or a hateful community. I have found myself when I am alone cruising dating sites listed as a man in search of a woman. I haven’t talked to anyone yet and I really don’t know where it is going. I have always enjoyed the beginning of a relationship the best, when everything is new and exciting. So am I doing this to have that feeling again? Pre-wedding jitters? Having the external validation of being seen as a man?
I wouldn’t physically cheat on my partner. It would never be more than Internet flirting but I feel like I am being incredibly dishonest to my partner (not to mention the people I may engage with online). Should I tell her that I am thinking of doing this? Should I bury these feelings with this Internet profile? I am just confused and lost and who the hell can afford a therapist these days? — Not a Cat Fisher
Anna says: It seems to me like there are two issues, Not a Cat Fisher: One is connected to your gender identity, and the other is about your relationship. But let’s nip one thing in the bud right away and put a halt to the Internet flirtations. Going on a dating site behind your girlfriend’s back when you are soon to be married is shady, even if you have “innocent” intentions. (Psst: They’re not innocent!)
There are many other, non-dubious ways to explore your “new” self — a friend recommends you check out online trans communities like The Art of Transliness, Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide, and to join men’s forums if you want to be perceived as male anonymously without it impinging on the boundaries of your relationship.
I’m also curious to what extent you’ve talked about your gender identity with your partner. Could your online trolling have something to do with a fear that your partner might be uncomfortable with your transition? It’s time to stop burying feelings and to be as balls-to-the-wall honest as you can here. Since marriage is a pretty big deal, I’d hope you and your partner have that level of trust already and that it’s safe for you to talk about potentially scary issues.
You seem to be dismissive of therapy, but I would encourage you to seek outside support to work through the Big New Feelings you have about yourself and your relationship. Maybe that’s in the form of a counselor, maybe it’s an online support group for FTMs, maybe it’s something else entirely, but as it is now, attempting to explore your identity in a way that would be upsetting not just to your partner but to your potential “dates” online isn’t going to help anything — in fact, it’s destructive.
We all need support and role models, and when we’re isolated from them, it makes our lives harder, and sometimes causes us to behave less wisely than we know we should and could. The dating sites you’re perusing are a ruse for the deeper issues at stake. It’s taking the easy way out, it’s escapist, and probably even a little thrilling, but ultimately not that helpful.
“Transitioning is scary and changes many aspects of our lives, including our relationships,” as a friend put it. “But it’s also an amazing opportunity to grow and change toward a self you can believe in. Why start it off in a way that feels disingenuous to you?”
Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at email@example.com.