I’ve been told that I’m sort of a lesbian and I tend not to be offended by that comment. Not because I identify as a woman (yeah, not so much) but because I came from the queer women’s community and I still feel very much at home in it when it comes to certain contexts. One such context is dating. Every woman that I’ve ever dated or been physically involved with in any way has identified somewhere along the queer spectrum. It isn’t that I’m not attracted to straight women, or that I deliberately don’t pursue them. Despite that, I never seem to become involved with them beyond friendship. So, for the last many years of my dating life, I’ve been involved with queer women and been quite happy with that situation.
When I moved down to The South, though, everything changed. For a long time, I had trouble finding a queer community and, though I’ve found one at this point, this story takes place long before that. In any case, without a queer community, I was romantically bored to tears during the first few months of this year. I found myself entirely uninterested in the crowds of objectively attractive, wonderful women I was meeting. I just couldn’t imagine dating them. Until I met this one girl. We’ll call her M.
My first impression of M was that she was totally endearing. I found her adorably nerdy and socially awkward in a way that belied how pretty she was because she was always looking down and seeming kinda confused. All things that, in my world, make for a really great casual crush. I’m not talking deep emotions and smoldering glances, but rather the kind of feeling we all have sometimes for people we don’t know well and just think about in the odd moments. This crush threw me for a loop, though, since by all visible measures, M was totally straight. She had a boyfriend, she seemed normatively gendered, and we had never even talked about gender or sexuality. Even if I had had some inkling that she might be interested in me (which, as it turns out, she was), I had no reason to believe that she wouldn’t run off screaming the second she heard I was trans.
In any case, this crush confused me just a smidge. How could I be attracted to a straight woman after, my entire life, never experiencing that? I wondered whether something about me had changed since moving down South—maybe I had become more traditionally male, and therefore was feeling more comfortable with the idea of a traditionally gendered relationship. I began to question whether I could imagine having a relationship that involved power dynamics and sexual dynamics more traditionally characteristic of straight couples. This possibility distressed me, as it represented to me a loss—I felt pretty good about having had past relationships that involved active questioning and bending of gender, and the prospect of one that didn’t was upsetting. Even so, M was awfully cute, so the crush continued.
Anyhow, turns out M isn’t straight—It took us months to open up to each other, but now we have awesome conversations about gender and sexuality and power dynamics and sex toys (and this column. She’s serving as an amazing sounding board for my ideas). But all of this makes me wonder what it was about her exactly that I was attracted to, even before I knew she was queer identified. After all, it wasn’t wild and crazy bending of gender presentation, since she wasn’t doing that enough for my conscious gaydar to be triggered. So I have to believe that there was something about her, something that I didn’t even consciously observe, that tipped me off.
This makes me wonder whether maybe it’s not something about her, but about our interactions. Maybe I pick up on girls who lean in subtly when queer issues come up. Girls who roll their eyes when men are being particularly macho and ridiculous. Or maybe I’m attracted to girls with whom I don’t feel like I particularly have to be anything but what comes naturally—girls who don’t make me feel the need to be hyper masculine, who seem to be happy with whatever feels right for me. Of course, none of those attributes are unique to queer women, even if they are found in greater proportions in that population. So I’m still not sure how to explain this phenomenon. Even so, it seems that there’s something special about queer women that I love. And even if I can’t explain it, I can’t help but think the guys who don’t date them are really missing out.