The site you are reading this from was at one time a nutrition blog. It’s been discontinued for some time now, and I was looking for a place to post this, so I decided here would do fine.
My reason for posting this is to gather information and feedback, and learn what I can so I can improve the situations I’ve been facing, in regards to dating. While support and understanding are nice, and it’s undeniable that explaining my experience will most likely also be therapeutic in a way, what I’m hoping for here is guidance. Ultimately, right now, I am totally and completely at a loss, and it seems the more research I put into this issue, the more lost I get. I’m not able to reconcile the vast differences between my experience and everyone else’s, and my effort to find answers seems to be worsening this discrepancy, rather than improving it.
As said in the title, I’m a male-to-female (MtF) transgender woman, and I’m also lesbian. I’ve been living full time as a woman almost exactly 3 years to this day. In that time, my life has been almost completely devoid of any intimacy, and it certainly isn’t for lack of trying. Over the years, I’ve repeatedly tried, and failed, to get anything beyond a second date, much less a girlfriend or a steady partner. I’ve certainly never gone as far as kissing.
Shots at Online Dating
At one time I had around 5 dating profiles, including OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, Craigslist ads, and a few others. For OKCupid and Plenty of Fish in particular, in all, I probably sent out over a thousand messages, and only ever received a handful of replies. I would need to send out 50 or 60 before I got even one response. I tried dozens of profile rewrites, and watched instructional guides on how to write a profile, but nothing changed. I did mange to get around 15 or so dates. Of these, 6 of them – consecutively – failed to show up.
The few that actually did show up were generally ones who dressed up their online profiles with terms like “sex positive”, “touch positive”, “kink positive”, and always said they were looking for casual sex. So to be honest, I had expected at least *something* to happen in the direction of intimacy! Like, hand touching, flirting, getting winked at, or something (I mean if you’re *SEX* positive, you’d expect at least that, right?) But when we went out, they’d sit across from me, usually not making eye contact, speak in a flat tone with very little emotional affect, shy and withdrawn, talk about extremely mundane things, maybe order a sandwich, and then leave, usually with only a handshake, if that, and then never contacted me again. In total I only had a few dates, since out of the thousand or so I messaged, extremely few ever replied, almost no one ever messaged me first, and nearly half of the ones who agreed to go out wouldn’t show up. So I don’t have a lot of experience to draw from, but I became confused as to what “sex positive” means, if this is what it looks like on a date.
I’ve recently joined a sex positive group, because their meetup page seemed to have a rather detailed explanation of what that word means. I’ve been attending this meetup for a while, but more on that in a bit.
I’ll speak more about myself in a moment, but usually around this time, I understandably get questions about what I must be doing on these dates. Am I doing something, and am not aware of it? I’m actually a mental health specialist, and am a well respected member of my team at the facility where I work. I designed and teach classes on social skills and social interaction for people with persistent mental disabilities, and I’ve also given talks on how to engage people publicly, and assert one’s needs without invalidating the other person. The courses and materials I’ve written come from evidence-based psychology. Added to that, I’m also a former marketing executive, so even before going into mental health, I was familiar with how the mind and emotions work from the perspective of advertising.
Moreover, I have lots of straight friends, guy friends, friends at work, and I’m the woman people often come to when they need advice. That makes this puzzle all the more frustrating to solve, as I honestly can’t figure it out.
To deal with most dates not showing up, and the dates that do show up being so extremely withdrawn, I decided to stop trying that method, and went on meetups.com instead. This allows you to find social meetups all around the city where you live. That way, I know for certain that people are definitely going to show up, and there’s a better chance of meeting someone. It just seems like a more efficient method. But this hasn’t worked either.
At any given lesbian meetup, I’ll speak to someone for 2 minutes (often times less than a minute), and they seem to get scared off. Admittedly I’ve only gotten feedback a few times, but from what I’ve been told, I’m somehow “overwhelming” and “intimidating”. I put those in quotation marks because I can’t for the life of me see how I’m either of those things. Here’s a little about myself and my background.
I specialized in biomechanics for 10 years, nutrition science for 6 years, and spent several years in Malaysia teaching those subjects. I wrote a few books on those fields which were also used in teaching classes. I switched careers for a short time and became a marketing executive, as I mentioned, for a few different companies. I decided to come back to America about 5 years ago, and I landed in Portland. I now work as a mental health specialist for people with mental disabilities, and teach classes dealing with basic psychology.
I *love* studying philosophy on my free time! I’ve recently spent a lot of time with existentialism, and wrote a few simple introductory guides on the subject. Epistemology is another favorite of mine, including pessimistic induction. I also do a lot of other research on social issues. In 2015, I wrote a book on feminist theory. I decided to upload it online for free, as I have no intention of selling it. I just found the subject enlightening, and others can have a look if they want.
I like writing articles on modern day issues through the lens of questioning existence, facts, and knowledge. I simply love challenging ideas, having my ideas challenged, and learning new things. I also like learning new things in general, whether it’s academia from Cornell University’s website, or channels like Vsauce or Sci-Show. I sometimes write responses to such things, and I love having deep discussions.
However, I can’t say any of that, because every part of it, from what I’ve gathered, comes off as “intimidating”. Nearly everything listed there seems to be an insta-kill for any conversation I’m having with a woman. There are times when I can even see their facial expression and body language change as I talk – they start leaning back, arm are crossed, expression changes, and then they find someone else they want to go talk to just moments later. I’ve even had women get up and leave the table mid-sentence.
But… what else can I say? I don’t watch TV. I stopped watching a long time ago because trash-TV became so popular. I’ve never drank alcohol, never smoked, and never used… and I’ve found mentioning any of these things *also* nearly always elicits a negative response (like clean and sober is a bad thing). I’ve learned one thing I absolutely should not ever mention are my fitness accomplishments. I don’t include sugar in my diet, and eat mostly whole foods (spinach, kale, carrots, peas, etc). Because of this, and because I train consistently, I can lift around 400 pounds, and can finish 100 one-armed pushups in under 4 minutes. Sometimes my arms look too muscular and that’s a put-off as well, so I try to wear long sleeves to cover them up.
Sometimes I feel so frustrated; as if I have to now apologize for making good choices with my life. The stereotypical trope here is that men put women down for being educated or accomplished, but I kid you not – I can leave my apartment right now, at this moment, and come back in 20 minutes with a guy on my arm. Men love it when I talk smart to them. Moreover, I can take off the makeup, comb my hair back, use male voice – and women will eat it up too. It’s specifically lesbians that this always happens with.
Examples of Where It’s Gone Wrong
And there are so many times when I got comfortable and ended up talking casually about a given topic, or about myself, and it ends with a woman being totally turned off before I’m even aware. Once I was on a hike with a bunch of other girls as part of a meetup. I started feeling comfortable being with the crowd about a half hour in, so one of the women approaches me and we start talking. She talks a little about trying to start a business. I added that I new a little about business too, then talked a little about what I knew. After a few moments, I notice that she’s gone quiet… I look over at her while we’re hiking, and yea… I see I’ve turned her off. Alright. She was trying to start a business, so I thought I’d share some experiences, but okay. Wrong move.
Another time I was at a party, and the women sitting next to me said she was a “sapiosexual” (someone attracted to intelligence). I smiled and said I was too, so I started talking a little about what I’ve been reading lately from Soren Kierkegaard. She went quiet, her facial expression went neutral. A few moments later, she stands up and goes somewhere else. Maybe we have a different understanding of what “sapiosexual” means.
One of the most frustrating examples happened at the gym where I train. One of the women behind the desk had shown an interest in me for some time – I could tell by the looks she gave me, and the way she’d try to sneak in some short conversations when she had a chance. Now, she works in a gym. Remember that. So one day I saw a chance to stop and talk with her for a bit because there weren’t any customers around. We started talking about our training routines. I mentioned mine, and how I usually train, and the weights that I normally lift. Right after I said that, I saw her expressions totally change, and her attention went back towards doing menial tasks, excusing herself from the conversation. I was nearly exasperated when it hit me what had just happened. Because. You work. IN A GYM!!! What the hell are you actually expecting??? I train there all the time. Everyone sees me there like 4 or 5 times a week. Why would you not expect that I…. just…. you know what. Forget it. If I took off the makeup and used male voice, would that still have been a bad thing?
Over 3 years, dozens of meetups, and dating sites, the takeaway lesson for me was to just shut the hell up about literally anything I’ve ever done, studied, accomplished, the places I’ve traveled… pretty much everything about me needs to be kept quiet. So I’ve got alternative answers to the most basic questions I might get asked.
Where do I work? – In an office.
What do I do? – I type letters and stuff. Sometimes. For a big company.
Where am I from? – Originally born in Louisiana, then flew to Oregon, and that’s it. (I actually went to college in Georgia, and then lived in California, Alaska, and plenty of other states, including a few years in Malaysia – but yea this needs to be left out of the conversation completely)
What do I do for fun? – I like watching cat videos. And seeing selfies on facebook. (I’m not sure what else I can say actually. Maybe I also spend a lot of time going to meetups?)
Plans for the future? – Hoping to make more money one day. (Again, if I gave actual plans for the future, you’d stand up and leave.)
What’s my background? – Graduated high school, now work in an office.
What do I like? – Kittens and rainbows. And fluffy things? (What else am I allowed to like?)
Tell me about yourself? – um…. I mean… I like the colour pink? And sometimes I eat ice cream and watch movies and cry? I actually don’t eat ice cream *or* watch movies, but the “tell me about yourself” question is the toughest of all, because it’s so open ended, so I’m not sure what else to say, and I sure can’t say what I actually want. So when I get this question, I have to think fast. I usually mention something briefly about spending my time in the office, then turn it back over to them, and praise whatever they say next.
Using this method has actually worked…. conversations have gone from ending after 2 minutes to actually lasting a good long while. It’s also resulted in not one, but TWO followup dates from the meetups! Neither went very well, and neither resulted in a second date. One ended with a friendly hug (the one where you’re bent over and lightly patting the other person’s back), and the other ended with a handshake. But hey, this was still a pretty extreme improvement!
There’s been a few times when I’m having a conversation, and I *accidentally* say something – like the other day at a meetup where there was a clothing exchange, and someone mentioned a sarong (which is something like a Malaysian kilt). I of course know plenty about that, and started talking – then suddenly realized what I was doing and shut myself up. “Never mind!! Forget what I said!” Then quickly shifted the focus by mentioning how pretty one of the shirts looked. There’s been other times where I’m talking, and I hear myself talking, and it sounds like I know what I’m talking about, and I feel irritated because I realize I need to somehow turn that down several notches.
Sex Positive Portland
Now about the sex positive group I’ve mentioned earlier.
I’ve learned a good deal from this group. Whenever I asked anyone who claimed to be “sex positive” what that term actually means, the only answer I ever got went something like “I like sex”… which doesn’t tell me anything. Most people like sex. But this group has a pretty articulated definition that they teach new members. They also have membership divided into these steps you go through, and each level can last for several weeks. There’s 4 levels, and at level 1 (where I’m at now), it’s mostly just discussions about consent, how consent works, and really basic social interactions. Level 2 is where activities involving touch and physical intimacy (hugging) are introduced. Level 3 is anything short of full on sex, and level 4 is activities involving sex.
Now, when I’m with this group, I don’t even *try* to invalidate or minimize myself! Because what’s going to happen when I’m at level 3 or 4, and people are propositioning each other for “play”? In my entire time as a transwoman, no one has ever flirted with me, and I can count on one hand the number of times anyone has shown any degree of interest in me. Women are put off instantly if I sound smart. But here, I’m not going to hide it.
Is someone going to approach me and actually want anything to do with me physically? If that were the case, I’d be absolutely fascinated, and would really want them to explain to me why. What’s the reason? No one has ever wanted that. How’d you get passed me, well… talking normally? I would need a moment to really take that in and let it process.
But if no one approaches me, then am I going to end up being the only one in the room, sitting on the couch by herself, with everyone around me having sex? Either result is going to be a complete mind bender, and I can’t wait until I pass through level 2 and find out what actually happens.
So on lesbian meetups, I’ll continue the strategy that seems to have worked recently; remove anything that might present as intelligent, downplay myself by as much as possible, speak as though I’ve never done anything with my life, and give as much focus to the other person as possible. (If this is wrong, or if it can be improved, go ahead and let me know how please, that’s why I’m posting this.)
At the sex positive meetups, I’ll just be myself, and break the ice by briefly mentioning some thoughts I’ve had on an extrapolation quantum field theory in regards to the argument of free will, or ask if anyone’s familiar with the Trolly Problem (famous thought experiment in philosophy that examines ethics and moral dilemmas). Will probably be a hundred times more comfortable at the sex positive meetup. Am still really interested what’s going to happen when I’m at level 3, and who on earth is going to approach me for any kind of intimate encounter.
Maybe All Lesbians are Asexual?
It’s starting to get where I see someone like this, and I instantly feel it’s useless. What could I possibly say? I can ask about her just fine, but I can’t talk about myself, where I’ve been, what I do, what my thoughts are, what I do on my free time, my ideas, my opinions… minimizing myself and only talking about her will at least keep the conversation alive for a while, but there’s no way to go forward after that.
In fact, before I joined the sex positive group, I had actually come to the conclusion that most lesbians were asexual, and that being lesbian simply meant a general dislike of men, and perhaps only involved a preference for the company of other women. I’ve been to dozens of lesbian meetups. Looking at the way everyone generally conducts themselves at these things, if you did not know beforehand that this was a lesbian meetup, then there’s no way you could tell otherwise. I’ve been to straight women’s meetups, and there’s honestly no difference between the two. There’s absolutely no obvious signs of romantic affection or sexual attraction between other members, and certainly never anything like that towards me. I can put on all my best makeup, dress in my best clothes, and rarely does anyone notice. You do hear about how lesbian porn is made mostly for men, right? So it began to seem rather plausible that maybe lesbians really are just non-sexual, and any other ideas about them were just thought up by men. This started to change my views on gay marriage… why on earth are lesbians so anxious to get married, other than for some symbolic gesture, if there’s literally never anything intimate or affectionate that ever happens? I even got into some debates on social media about this. It’s extremely rare that I’ve ever seen two women holding hands, or kissing, or anything – certainly not at these meetups. And if they’re constantly scared away by almost anything I say, then it seems difficult to imagine how intimacy would ever happen in the first place.
Honestly, how would that even happen? And also… *when* does it happen? It’s been years now, and I’ve only recently managed to get a conversation to last longer than a few minutes. And that brings us to the incident that lead to this post.
I Finally Give Up. Please Just Explain This To Me.
See, I really have been doing research, and drawing from dialectical behavioral therapy, I’ve been putting together potential models and conversational structures that might elicit a positive emotional response from the person I’m speaking to.
Then I attended this meetup called “Conscious Lesbian/Queer Dating & Love Portland”. It was hosted by two PhD researchers on the subject of lesbian dating. Figured I might learn something. Around 50 or so people attended.
The discussion that followed was hopelessly alien.
Speakers: So, how many of us here have seen a woman from across the room, our eyes met, and we went right over to them because we felt that attraction??
Athena: Wait…. what?
Speakers: And as soon as you meet you feel so attracted to each other that you’re just attached at the hip!
Crowd: (someone in the back) Happens all the time! (Everyone laughs)
Athena: No….. no, that… that never happens. Like, ever. At any of the places I’ve ever been. Not once.
Speakers: And you want to move in with each other on the second date, right?
Crowd: Mmmm Hmmm!
Athena: That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. None of you are making any sense. Second date? How do you even get a first date?? How do you even get them to look at you??
Speakers: The real problem with lesbian dating, is that you fall in love so fast, you have sex, and then you’re not ready to build a long term relationship.
Athena: WHAT PLANET ARE YOU PEOPLE FROM????
People from the crowd shared their stories of meeting women and instantly moving in together. After that…… I give up. I’ve put in hundreds of hours of research and trying out different methods. I am so utterly and completely lost. This just doesn’t make sense anymore.
If you are a lesbian, and you are reading this, please, help. Tell me how I can talk to you and not have you want to get up and leave. I’ve been to so many lesbian meetups and I’ve never even seen other people hooking up, so I really a just utterly mystified. I have to abandon the asexual lesbian hypothesis, especially after the meetup describe above, because I received so much direct contradictory evidence. I can’t bridge the gap between that many women having so many stories that everyone in the room finds oh so familiar, and what my own experiences these last few years have been like.
Anyway please do feel free to leave comments below. I’ve been single for 3 years now. I really want to know how I can change that.