Hey, internet. I’m Jo.
I’ve always been an “ally”. People are people and I believe they should be allowed to do what makes them happy (unless that’s killing babies, but you get the point). I helped organize the GSA’s Day of Silence at my high school. I’ve run Minneapolis’ Big Gay Race three years in a row.
My exposure to transfolk and trans-related issues before meeting Cam was absolutely zero. The image in my head of “trans” was incredibly vague, if not non-existent. I’d never met an openly trans person and I’d never even seen pictures of anyone, other than Chaz Bono, who was to my knowledge a transgender individual.
Cam is my boyfriend, but when he told me he was a trans guy our relationship was still quite new.
A few months ago I sent a cute guy a message through an online dating site. We messaged back and forth for a few days before setting up our first date.
Based on my interest in wine and the appeal of an intoxicated first impression we had dinner and drinks. We talked for hours over two flights of wine, two entrees, and bacon covered dessert. Having never smiled so much in my life, I talked him into walking across one of Minneapolis’ many beautiful bridges with me. At one point he snuck his hand in mine. I beamed.
I’d parked right near the restaurant and not wanting to end our date just yet I offered to drive him over to his car (two blocks, ladies and gentlemen… I was so into him). In my car, my beloved Saab, he asked me if he could kiss me. Cam was, and had been all night, unlike any of the other suitors I’d met online. I can’t remember if my response was of course or simply nodding my head, but I drove home that night with butterflies.
The next day or text message conversation was limited compared to those prior. We were both working and in hindsight I’m sure he was frightened to inform me of his “situation”. One glass of wine into the evening, I said (quite crassly, because I’d waited all day for him to ask me first) that we should go on a second date. The next few text messages are hard to recap, so here they are verbatim:
Re-reading that my response seems so calm. Honestly? I was in an absolute panic.
Let’s rewind for a minute…
Throughout my college career I only seriously dated one guy. Let’s call him Brandon. Brandon and I got engaged toward the end of our Junior year. That summer I took a trip to the West Coast to visit a close friend and his newlywed wife. My relationship with Brandon had already been rocky, but seeing the joy my friend and his wife shared created even more doubt. Over and over in my head I assured myself that I deserved to feel the spark that my Oregonian friends had. I gave Brandon back his ring the day I landed in Minnesota. Our breakup was rocky, but I learned a lot about myself and what I was looking for in a partner.
Around the beginning of the new year I opened an account on OkCupid account. I went on dates with 4 or 5 guys and exclusively saw (and broke up with) one other guy before Cam and I started talking. My online experience was similar to that of a lot of women… Meaningful conversations with a few fellas, but an overwhelming number of sexual advances from creeps.
Anyway, the story at hand…
I’m thankful that I had google at my fingertips as Cam came out to me. I immediately googled “trans guy” came across a list of 10 Things Not to Say to a Trans Person:
- “Have you had ‘the operation’?”
- “Which bathroom do you use?”
- “If you combed your hair a certain way, walked a certain way, did ____ a certain way, you would be more masculine/feminine.”
- “When did you decide to become transgender/transsexual?”
- “You pass really well.”
- “I thought you’d be a monster – but you’re just a normal person!”
- “How do you have sex?”
- “I can still see the woman (or the man) in you.”
- “Are you afraid that people will hate you or want to hurt you?”
- “What does being a man (or a woman) mean to you?”
Given the fact that we’d intended to have sex with each other eventually these rules didn’t all apply. I asked him about hormone therapy, top surgery, his transition timeline, his junk–for lack of a better word–and even sex. I asked questions that I would never feel the need to ask a cis-gender male, but I did my best to be (and having asked Cam after-the-fact I believe I succeeded in being) respectful.
A lot of questions came up, but not necessarily all at once and definitely not all that night. Transitioning is a process and so is understanding what it means to date a trans person.
So, I began that process with Cam.
More on that process in part 2…