I Could Never Be Your Woman: On Gender And Dating


“Yes, sir,” the cabbie said, as I slid into the back seat. I gave him the address. “Sir, how are you today?” I looked at my reflection in the window glass. “Fine,” I said.

When I am misgendered, I find it funny at best and inconsequential at worst. I don’t care. When it comes to most things, I don’t care what strangers think. Well, strangers I don’t want to date anyway.

“Hey buddy, how can I help you today?” The salesman called out to me. It’s fine, really. I far prefer to just go with it. It’s much worse when they figure it out and try to apologize.

Honestly, strangers are usually much more polite to the boy version of me than the girl version of me.  Probably because, for them, the boy version is just a boy and the girl version is a girl that, for some reason, makes herself look like a boy. Grey matters pain their grey matter. But, like I said, it doesn’t matter.

It gets more difficult and complicated romantically. I’ve dated a few men, even though I’ve known I was gay since I’ve known anything. I didn’t completely detest being with guys, but being with girls is right for me.  Being with men was like eating paper. Technically I could do it, but it wasn’t going to sustain me and it’d probably end up making me sick.

I guess you could say that I experimented with men. However, when I did date these perfectly nice dudes, I felt like an imposter. Each date was a terrible, too long and mostly unfunny improv sketch–so basically any improv sketch. My natural approximation of a “woman” is probably closest to a very effeminate gay man.

I was in drag–and not the good kind with lots of theatrical singing. Not only because of the skirts or makeup or long hair that I wore, thinking it would render me attractive to these guys. It was also a mental and spiritual drag. It wasn’t about being queer.  It was about being a woman.

I understand that femininity is largely subjective. I know there are women who, for their entire lives, reject and eschew any notion of stereotype—including skirts, makeup, and long hair. I know there are women who are betrayed by the universe and born into male bodies.  I know there is no “right way” to be a woman. Unless you count the ladies whose period turns into blue liquid during feminine hygiene commercials; they are definitely doing something right.

It just feels like there is some mystical feminine gnosis—some kind of timeless force that allows many women to instinctually act like the societal standard of a woman—that is missing from my DNA.  I imagine it to look like a waterfall in a deep cave lit from above.  Honestly, that might have been easier for me to access. Also, I don’t want to.

You would think dating women would have eased this tension. I am happy to say the queer world I have experienced is vastly more accepting than the straight world I’ve experienced. However, I still find myself more or less unmoored. Like men, a lot of gay women out there are interested in women who look like (stereotypical, societal ideals of) women.

Those ladies who are looking for masculine women often find me not quite butch enough.  When I pass, I don’t pass as a man. I pass as a boy—a slightly “girlie” boy. Also, I’m not up for the dynamic that goes with the femme-butch relationships I’ve experienced.

It might not be clear to you—though maybe it should be—I’m not trans, either. Interestingly enough, that is one of the first things I get asked when propositioned in bars. Some people dance around it, some don’t.  I have disappointed and reassured many. That includes a few of my good friends, who have let it slip that they suspect I will change my pronouns any day now.

I think that rather than finding a box to fit in, I’m just checking off a long list of the ones in which I don’t. I don’t want to be a man. I don’t feel like a man born in a woman’s body. I don’t feel butch. However, I am not always comfortable identifying as a woman—for a multitude of reasons.

This paints a depressing picture, but this is more of rumination than a lamentation. I haven’t been unlucky in love. Although at times I’ve been unlucky in belonging. I know what I’m not. Now, if I could just figure out what I am—and who wants that—well, then I’d feel like a new woman.