Every time I called friends who were also attracted to men, they said, “Girl, we’re in the same boat. These dudes ain’t sh*t!” One of them even suggested I just start dating a girl. But I had grown accustomed to the misgivings of men. There was a chilling comfort in knowing that the likelihood of a favorable outcome was low. Because I am often assumed to be a cis woman, I have had countless men pursue me, then freak out as soon as I disclose that I’m trans. Men have gone from proclaiming their desire to tie the knot to saying we can only fool around fast enough to give me whiplash. Despite the repeated trauma, I struggled to break the pattern of compulsory heterosexuality. Sometimes our minds can trick us into believing that there’s safety in sitting with what’s uncomfortable instead of going after what we know will bring us closer to joy and liberation.
“Do not expect to receive the love from someone else you do not give yourself,” bell hooks reminds us in All About Love: New Visions. And it’s true: To allow myself to give and receive love of any kind, I had to love myself more than ever before. For years, I internalized other people’s projections as my own truths, from the people who have tried to negate my womanhood on social media to the bullies who hunted me down back in Missouri and even the self-hating men I had laid with. It is all too common for Black women–cis or trans–and trans women of all races to accept the status quo and stop challenging our romantic partners and ourselves into a better practice of loving.
The day after meeting my now-girlfriend, I got an Instagram notification that I had a new follower. It was her. I had no clue how she found my page, nor did I care. I just knew I had to meet her while not heavily intoxicated and cracking wise. I wanted a real conversation and a real relationship, so I followed back. My friend typed out a flirty message, and soon after, we were in Provincetown feeding each other strawberries by the seashore like something out of Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
At first, I felt unworthy of her love. (A constant questioning of trans women’s validity that happens even in queer spaces.) But I did some soul searching, called a few friends, and had a session with my therapist. They all did their best to assuage me of any negative feelings and affirm my bisexuality as valid, but their attempts were ultimately not very successful. This was work I had to do on my own.
Now, with much of that work behind me and my girlfriend in my life, I can see the truth; my Prince Charming was always there. She was just waiting for me to show up for myself.