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Here in the Southern realm, dating men as a man–after over three decades as a woman dating other women–is a contortion and an anthropologic goldmine simultaneously.
Gay male dating culture can be shockingly, even revoltingly Dionysian for a person who was steeped in lesbionic serial monogamy, courtship, seduction. Not that those things don't exist in masculine dating—they do. They can just look very different.
And then there is the question of the cock. How does one navigate a cock-centric culture when one is both a man and cock-less? A vaginal man having cybersex on cellphone apps. Positively post-millennial.
It was over a year ago, in ordinarily-tranquil Carrboro, NC, that my non-transgender, female partner asked me for a divorce. After several months of grieving, I allowed myself to experience the Thing That I Could Not while in my previous monogamous relationship: a lusty love of men.
This lusty love of men (LLM) is relatively new for me. While I have had male and male-identified sexual encounters, I never found myself romantically interested. Nor did the sexual charge have any longevity. Then came testosterone, that giddy, revved-up V8 engine of hormonal intervention.
Great relationships can be forged, even via cell phone apps, when men choose to not take themselves so seriously, and be playful and creative.
Testosterone does amazing things for those of us who crave it. Well-documented are the enhanced musculature, the hair-sprout, the invigorated clitoris, and the ability to consume massive amounts of porn. Less reported, but certainly legendary among transgender men, is the phenomenon of sexuality switch. Many of us who identified as lesbian as women, find ourselves newly, deeply, excited by men. Sexy-excited. Boy crazy. LLM. Southern Boy Crazy.
Now that I am swingle, apps I'd formerly avoided hold the promise of sensual satisfaction. When I first signed on to Scruff—a trans-friendly gay "dating" app—I was both thrilled and terrified to see its Brady Bunch wall of sessy local boys.
But the promise of kid-in-a-candy-store pickins was crushed by the reality: most of the local men on these apps were unprepared to date a transguy. My giddiness at Scruff's sheer abundance of treats was quickly damped by the lack of actual partners. Scruff (and its online, and more sober, but sassy cousin OKCupid, and the just plain delirious Tinder) is often a place for men to create textual porn together, with the de rigeur dick pic tossed in. In this way I have had "encounters" with men from Spain, from Germany, from Brazil, and even from Egypt.
Gay male dating culture can be shockingly, even revoltingly Dionysian for a person who was steeped in lesbionic serial monogamy, courtship, seduction.
This textual sluttiness fell short of what I wanted however, which was and is an actual man with whom I can have a relationship with that includes joyful sex, or at least, an actual man with whom I just can have joyful sex.
I had to quickly adjust my sexual lexicon (sexicon?) to accommodate the hierarchical nature of gay masculinity. Tops and bottoms are really a thing, and as another gay transguy said to me recently, "lesbians take turns, but gay men really don't." (This, thankfully, is a grumpy man's generalization.)
My first lengthy local exchange was sexting with a Cary hairstylist. He'd never been with a transguy but he thought my photo hot, and my expressed propensity for corporal punishment turned him on. It was thrilling to get his naughty pics, dropped-trou in the office bathroom, prone on his bed ass-up, his various peacocking underpants and sartorial flair.
But the Cary Hair Guy was a tease; despite our randy textual compatibility, he could never show up for actual dates. It was immensely disappointing, and so I moved on.
My online cherry was popped with a fellow that I'd once met in "real life"; we agreed to hook up. I was terribly nervous; I hadn't had sex with a gent for over 15 years. This man had been with transguys, he was sexy and plump in a way I find tremendously appealing, but alas, he was plumpest in another department. After ten hard minutes, I felt like a Dixie Cup after a rough night of partying.
A non-trans gay friend of mine said, in regards to app dating, "men are all dogs." It was an antique phrase I hadn't heard since high-school, but frankly, there is a lot about man-on-man dating (for this transguy) that feels and sounds like some nightmare vision of patriarchy and fear of intimacy I thought we were past. My own experience with the one man I met whom I truly liked, and who seemed to like me very much back, was that after an intensely intimate evening–the kind of night that when I was a lesbian we would've bought a house together over–he panicked and dumped me. With a text.
In other lesbionic moments, I have had two men tell me they loved me, in mid-O. "I love you" seems to be an eruption of a pleasure node, an oxytocin moment of what I believe can be genuine intimacy. For these men, perhaps sex is attached to love, or sex is distorted to extend to a faux-relationship, one that is too painful and difficult to achieve elsewhere. Or not.
A non-trans gay friend of mine said, in regards to app dating, "men are all dogs." It was an antique phrase I hadn't heard since high-school, but frankly, there is a lot about man-on-man dating (for this transguy) that feels and sounds like some nightmare vision of patriarchy and fear of intimacy I thought we were past
Gay intimacy is complicated by internalized homophobia, which itself is a big gross trauma of misogyny. The men I've met are (largely) doing their best to challenge this, one, by embracing their sexuality with exuberance and admirable persistence. The man from the South often has more to overcome in that gayness is still more secretive, perceived with more hostility, here than some parts of the North.
But a Southern man also has access to this historical tension, from which has erupted some of the greatest resistance movements and art anywhere. Accordingly, great relationships can be forged, even via cell phone apps, when men choose to not take themselves so seriously, and be playful and creative.
I now have friends in the tiniest of southern towns, cities of 800 people, where men live on goat farms, or have retired with their military husbands. I have friends in Atlanta, Memphis, Asheville–men I've never met but hope to, who, like me, are artists and writers of varying success, and who at least online treat me like one of them, a gay man looking for love (and plenty of sex) in the South.