Brynn Craffey

Me: Queer-identified, proudly out, emotionally articulate, feminist man. (Oh, and I'm FtM.) ...You?

Filed By Brynn Craffey | July 14, 2008 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: bisexual, California, dating, FtM, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco

Transitioning as I did in San Francisco did not prepare me for dating in the real world.

In 1990's San Francisco--and probably more so today--being FtM was considered cool. Way cool. A definitely desirable dating category to be in. And not just to tranny-chasing, objectifying fetishists.

There was a time after I transitioned and when I was flirting with "non-monogamy" that I had so many people after my ass I became overwhelmed with it all and had to take a break from dating. One of the guys who stuck with me through the break was Mike. He and I became monogamous and a year later moved together to San Diego--a city not well-disposed toward large, pierced, tattooed, hip Latino bears, like him. I don't blame Mike for quitting San Diego a number of months later for the more welcoming community of Los Angeles. Our parting of the ways was amicable and we remain close to this day.

But his departure set the stage for a three-year dating dry-spell, punctuated by a couple of casual encounters and one seriously frightening experience with a sociopath.

A four-year monogamous relationship followed, which also ended amicably with my ex-girlfriend in NYC and me dateless in Dublin for three years, but for one disappointing "Crying Game" type encounter.

I'm back in Southern California now. Four-years dateless and counting. What's going on?

Well for one thing, I fall hard when I fall in love and take a long time to get over a relationship before I'm ready to date again. I seem to be hardwired that way.

Then, I'm picky. I have high standards, don't need a relationship to define myself, and would rather be alone than in an unsatisfying one.

Beyond these things, dating when you're past your late-30's is much more challenging than in college. We "older folks" spend the vast majority of our time in the workplace, where dating is--justifiably--discouraged. Not only that, at my age, most of the "catches" are already "caught." Those who aren't, especially if they identify as straight women, are often happily single. From their perspective, the last thing they want or need is a man to take care of. Not that I'm looking to be taken care of, but many straight men--the demographic I find myself superficially stuck in in San Diego when I'm looking to date women--are looking for a wife. Someone to cook, clean, and emotionally baby them. If I were an older woman who'd already done that for a good portion of my life, being single and hanging out with like-minded women friends would be a much more desirable option.

And let's not forget the pink elephant in the room, the "what you see isn't exactly what you get" issue. Here's an easy way to illustrate it: say I walk into a gay bar frequented by lesbians and gay men in a city like Dublin or San Diego. Dykes who might be interested--most of my FtM buddies in long-term relationships with women are with partners who identify as lesbians--look up, see "a guy," and understandably look away. Gay men, on the other hand, check me out and may think, "Hmmmm, haven't seen him in here before!" In other words, "fresh meat." Only, I'm not, lacking as I do that critical anatomical feature so dear to most gay men. It might be different were I looking for casual sex, but I'm not. What is more, even if I were, it's rare, especially on the bar scene, to find a gay man interested in trying to satisfy someone with, well, my sort of plumbing.

Re-stage the bar scenario in any sort of social setting where people mingle. The dynamics shift, sometimes subtly, sometimes hugely, but the underlying facts remain the same: I'm a man without a dick--an anomaly, and clearly not everyone's cup of tea. Short of wearing a t-shirt screaming that bit of news--hardly a good idea from a personal safety perspective outside the immediate environs of San Francisco's Castro District--the dilemma of when, how and to whom to come out adds a psychological obstacle course to the already daunting task of dating, that it frequently becomes easier to stay home.

Internet dating is just as bad. Most of the major dating sites don't even list a transgender category unless it's a section designed for tranny-chasers looking to hook up casually with "she-males" and "he-shes?" Not to put that activity down, but it's not me.

At the recommendation of a dyke friend, I checked out "TangoWire," only to find that, even in the "Alternative, Lesbian Gay" section, they do not offer "trans" as a gender identity, nor do they allow bisexual men to search the women's profiles. Their help-desk answered my email query on how to do that with, "I am afraid Brynn our site will not meet your needs."

No kidding.

If all this were not enough, there's age. I find I can't relate to most people my own age. FtMs I transitioned with used to speak of a sort of "time-warp," in which we regress to the age we were when we definitively repressed our masculine identities. From there, we proceed through a second puberty and sort of "fast-forward" to eventually approach or reach our biological age. This "out of age" experience is not to be confused with a "mid-life crisis," which some of us also find ourselves facing--sometimes in combination with the "time-warp/age-regression" thing.

Talk about a lot on your plate. There we are, re-learning everything from bathroom etiquette, to humor, to public presentation, to fashion, to hailing a cab, to walking at night--you name it!--feeling like a teenager, while we're forced to hold down a job, trying to cope with our families, and then date?! To confuse matters further, we are frequently mistaken for men decades younger than we actually are. I was carded once and refused a beer because I didn't have my ID on me--and I was 43 years old at the time, with a teen-aged daughter!

Even though I transitioned nearly 15 years ago, I still don't feel like I've caught up to my biological age, though I'm definitely starting to look older. My dad, who's 88, living on his own, golfing every other day and with a "lady friend" who regularly plays tennis and golf, makes me wonder if I'll ever actually "act my age." So I guess it's not surprising that my last two relationships were both with partners much younger than myself. I didn't go looking for that, it just happened because I look, feel, dress, and behave much younger than I am and had more in common with them than with most people my age.

Which brings up another big issue: money. Because most of my employment history and work experience has occurred as a woman and single-parent, I'm under-employed for my level of education, underpaid, and carrying more debt than I like. I wasn't socialized as male, so competition in the workplace bewilders me, ensuring that the financial situation won't change anytime soon. One thing many partners seem to look for in a man, especially as they grow older, is financial security. My ex's family objected to our relationship citing the age-difference and calling us lesbians, but they didn't object to her sister's marriage to a man as many years her senior but who happened to be a multi-millionaire.

No two ways about it, this dating as an FtM thing can certainly be a conundrum. One I suspect I'm not alone in facing. FtM friends who live outside major urban centers with large queer populations--and even some who live in them--complain of difficulties meeting interested people. Likewise, I've known FtM friends who stayed in abusive relationships because the prospect of breaking up terrified them so thoroughly. I know. When we break up, we're all convinced--transgendered and cisgendered alike--that we'll never find another partner. But for FtMs, the fear seems a bit more realistic.

I recently met a woman my age while riding the train to LA. We started talking, and really clicked. After a non-stop conversation both there and back, we got together a few times, hung out, I came out to her and she didn't freak out. I'm not sure if I'm interested like that--I prefer to go slow, become friends first, and see what develops--but the last time we hung out she was talking about her recent rather abysmal dating experiences with older men, and out of the blue while commenting on what a great time she and I always had together and how well we communicated, she offhandedly dismissed the possibility of us ever being romantically involved.

I was caught off guard. I should have just asked what she meant. Why was that never to be a possibility? But self-consciousness kicked in--combined with uncertainty of whether I was sexually attracted to her, or merely attracted to the idea of attraction--so I clammed up. I concluded--perhaps unfairly--that her dismissal was due to the fact that I'm FtM. After all, what else could cause her to so definitively dismiss a romantic possibility after only a handful of meetings, especially right after listing the reasons we were so compatible?

At the time, though, I couldn't bear to hear her utter the words, so I didn't risk it. Maybe I'll bring the topic up with her in the future, just to clarify things...I don't know. I need to sort out my own feelings first, and be prepared to hear that it's because I'm FtM.

In the meantime, what lingers is a longing that the issue was never there to wonder about in the first place. Not that I wish I wasn't trans--I love the insights and life experiences I've had because I've experienced life as both a woman and a man. I like being me. But I also miss those heady early San Francisco days, when being FtM was widely considered to be a cool, sexy, attractive thing to be.


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You wrote, "I'm a man without a dick--an anomaly, and clearly not everyone's cup of tea." And your pre-op trans sisters have the reverse problem. Being a "chick with a dick" is the quickest way to scare off potential lesbian lovers, and even lesbian friends. This of course is if they can get past the horrid "T"-word in the first place. In my case, I'm finding that lesbians have more of a problem with my age (57,) so broaching the trans issue doesn't even come up. And, don't get me started with all the problems I have encountered with dating trans women. Maybe I should start dating trans men, but I'm sure there maybe problems there, too. Maybe not at first.

Brynn, this piece spoke to me in so many ways. You are a dear man to have the guts to say all of this. Thank you.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 14, 2008 12:56 PM

Monica, thank you.

There's an old (originally Yiddish) saying I often keep close: "For every pot, there's a lid."

Have faith.

(giggle) Yeah, and I really know how to "cook." (duel meanings.

Simon Aronoff Simon Aronoff | July 14, 2008 2:53 PM

I met my honey on www.butch-femme.com. The site has good representation of lesbian/queer/FTM ID'd folks.

Simon,
I'm on that and haven't heard a peep out of anyone so far. I'm also on Match, Chemistry and Alt as well. Nadda. All I'm finding out is that it can rather expensive being lonely. Oh, f'ing well.

Not that I know all that much about butch-femme.com, but it's useful to put out a warning that they might not be all that supportive to trans female spectrum folks. I recall a friend of mine trying to sign up there (I'm pretty sure it was there) and being turned down because supposedly trans women can't be butch.

Hi Brynn, thanks for a really personal post.

Then, I'm picky. I have high standards, don't need a relationship to define myself, and would rather be alone than in an unsatisfying one.

You're so right about that. I think that we deserve to be picky and have high standards. Because hell, we're fabulous people.

Best of luck as you continue to navigate the dating scene. It's frustrating enough as it is. I'm not sure how ya'll do it with the trans component added to the mix.

Wait - so you're saying you are a finicky, not financially well-off man who doesn't act your age and has a secret. That makes you almost every other gay man on the planet that's asked me out for a date! There's hope yet! *grins*

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 14, 2008 6:58 PM

That makes you almost every other gay man on the planet that's asked me out for a date! Ha!

Bil, wish I could find a catch like you!

Thanks for the suggestions, folks. I've never felt particularly "butch," so wasn't sure how I'd fit in at butch-femme.com

There's a site I just came across: Tribe.net Might give them a try....

I've been single for seven years now. My perspective on it is a little different than yours - the short form is everyone's life history is unique - but I am so with you on the main thrust of your post.

Two days ago, I was chatted up by a cute guy at a coffee shop (we talked for 1.5 hours - I'm thinking that might qualify as a first date!). I want to call him up, but it is hard when in the back of my mind is the little voice saying "it ain't going to go anywhere..."

People who come out as lesbian (or gay) in mid-life also have a certain amount of dating issues. Not only is there the "haven't dated for eons" problem, but there is the problem of not really fitting in, of being less mature in this area than others of the same age. As you might guess, I resemble that comment, and try to see the humor in it.

I found Alt to be not too bad from the MTF side of things. There's a bit of decent community in the message boards there, so you can educate some of the chasers (M or F) that show up there. They guys that I know of who've tried Alt haven't had as much luck though, unless they're approaching from the BDSM side of things.

Having dated an FtoM guy, I can say something most women don't realise - but should if they thought about it.

These guys have more knowledge of the female anatomy than should be legal. Size does matter, but other things matter a lot more.

Your only problem is that having been with one, it sets your expectations of other guys to an unreasonably high level.

Wow, Zoe. You've made me feel all tingly! What a recommendation! Unfortunately I can't take advantage of it. But it was sure good for the ego.

Brynn, hang in there. I'm a believer in the "things happen for a reason" school of thought. I know it sounds trite, so I apologize for that. But other than rattling off the different themes and variations of possible FTM couplings which you probably know just as well as I do, I don't know what else to say.

My partner and I will celebrate our tenth anniversary August 9th. We didn't get together until after I transitioned.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 15, 2008 12:04 PM

Zoe, I have to second Rory here: quite a recommendation!

And I immodestly concur. I think FtMs are hot in a variety of ways, sex being only one of them. ;-) Before the dry spell set in, I dated a couple of different transmen, but we never gelled.

To sum up what I was trying to say in this post: because I'm queer and bi and transitioned in the queer capitol of the world, I seriously underestimated how conservative most folks are when it comes to gender and dating. Because it's so unlike the way I am, I guess I'm still trying to wrap my head around that.

Wow, Zoe! Talk about a recommendation there...

I don't want to imagine dating as I get older, but as Bil implied, I won't be alone in wanting to be/acting like I'm younger than I am.