Try A Little Tenderness
November 14, 2015 9:50 AM   Subscribe

How can I feel more comfortable around men, and find men who are gentle and solid and who I might like to date (as a queer/bi trans woman)?

A little backstory: I've identified as bi and queer for the last decade, but all of my significant relationships have been with women. I feel a lot of comfort and affinity and attraction for other women, and even before I came out as trans last year, I found myself dating mostly queer-identified women (my high school girlfriend entering what's now a long-term relationship with another woman was a helpful nudge for my transition, ha) So the drawn-to-women part of me is well explored territory, and generally I've just periodically asked this question of "hmm, what are men to me romantically?" pursued a few dates, and experienced no clear answers.

I have some really solid and incredible guy friends in my life, men who have allowed me to drop the "dudes hanging out together" pretense and really did their part to foster intimate and supportive friendships this past year. These men are the best, and I fell in love with one of these men in a kind of hopeless way over the last year, and others I look at with this fondness and think "I'd love a fella as communicative/humble/solid in my life as a partner." FWIW these are straight guys who are generally partnered off, but have totally healthy relationships to male privilege and intersectional feminism and the like.

This year, I was in a short-term relationship with a trans woman and enjoying being with another femme and trans partner (despite basic incompatibility that led to the relationship's end). I could totally just date women from here on out, cis and trans. But the open question about men is again loud in my head, and it's getting urged on by lots of new feelings (like falling for my friend) that have a new special intensity having my body match up with my gender identity. This is something I need to explore, I feel.

But, I'm scared. That's probably the heart of it -- I'm still really intimidated by men, especially men that show any sense of aggression or dominance or whatever. Men have always scared me -- it's been like this since I was a little kid. I want to find a guy who is gentle and thoughtful and emotionally communicative, and I know they exist but I'm not sure how to look for one. Online dating has been super unsuccessful, as I find myself kind of communicating with men who are either uncomfortably forward or show an emotionality that I gradually realize is more stormy and unstable than I'd like (this has happened twice before I've even gone on a date, and caused me to lose my nerve with dating.) I feel like I'm almost looking for the wrong thing, the wrong cues of that kind of gentleness and thoughtfulness. When I explained this to a friend recently, she said "so.. you want to date a woman." I think that's such garbage. I've known men my whole life who are wonderful beings who just have a certain solidness to them that is masculine and special in this way I really like.

My question is essentially how do I find a guy like this, or look to meet one? And until that happens, how do I deal with this anxiety about men being threatening or violent or even just uncommunicative? I wish I could just throw myself into a "try whatever! you're 26! meet people!" mindset, but I would really like to be more deliberate and thoughtful than that. I'd like a partner, eventually. And this is consistent about my life in general right now -- I like focusing on my handful of friends and putting my heart into those relationships, and enjoying my solitude and writing and stuff outside of that. But I know you have to date to meet people. I don't know, any guidance would be wonderful. Thank you thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish to Human Relations (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
A quick PS: I think the nature of this question implies a sharper divide between the genders than I think is really there. I think lots of women are solid and gentle. But at the same time, I think I have specific roadblocks of comfort that come from being habituated to men as violent and angry (my dad) and now specific concerns of men being violent towards me as a trans woman in the world. Just didn't want to come across too either/or in my perceptions of gender! (And maybe this is part of what's hard for me right now? Dunno.)
posted by elephantsvanish at 9:57 AM on November 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Beyond the fear issues, is there anything in you that is really attracted to these guys? Not one guy, once, as a one-off (especially coming out of a friendship, which can mess with your head where attraction is concerned)?

I mean, is it possible that you're attracted to women, and that's the deal? Or maybe you're somewhere on the Kinsey scale, but somewhere that means your practical everyday general level of attraction is going to be far more to women than to men? It's OK to theoretically be attracted to one sex but find that you don't tend to actually date them in the real world for whatever reason. It's OK to have crushes or check people out or whatever but not be that interested in dating people of that gender.

Also, as a bi woman, I have to speak to something that I've found to be true, but not... hmmmmm, is "politically correct" the word I want here? While I'm equally attracted to all genders (a true Kinsey 3), it has often been easier for me to date within a hetero context. Even just in a numbers sense, I find myself surrounded by available straight men who are into me and it's just simple. Even though in an ideal world I would probably be happier with a woman. Could this be what's up with you? The community and social circle you're in happens to prioritize awesome women, so you date the awesome women who fall into your lap naturally?
posted by Sara C. at 10:10 AM on November 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm romantically drawn to masculinity but, like you, am made EXTREMELY uncomfortable by shows of aggression and dominance. There is a form of non-toxic masculinity out there which doesn't conflate aggression/dominance with masculinity. It's pretty rare, though, because it takes a lot of unlearning of internalized BS and critical self-examination on the part of the individual. The people who have successfully reached that point are generally pretty stable. That person is out there -- I know this because I'm describing my partner. He's kind and compassionate but still masculine as all get out. We process our feelings together, especially during times of high stress. There's nothing volatile about it.
posted by batbat at 10:25 AM on November 14, 2015


Oh, and I think that it sounds like you're in a good place in terms of figuring out what your wants and needs are in terms of love and romance. I think that that's the most important step in finding the right person. I met my partner by accident and originally thought that I had made a great new friend. It transformed into something different after a little while.
posted by batbat at 10:28 AM on November 14, 2015


Online dating has been super unsuccessful, as I find myself kind of communicating with men who are either uncomfortably forward or show an emotionality that I gradually realize is more stormy and unstable than I'd like (this has happened twice before I've even gone on a date, and caused me to lose my nerve with dating.) I feel like I'm almost looking for the wrong thing, the wrong cues of that kind of gentleness and thoughtfulness

Are you drawn to strong, magnetic personalities?

The words I'd use to characterize the ones I've met (by happenstance IRL, I'm sorry I can't offer a more helpful finding strategy than that) are easygoing, down-to-earth, grounded.

Behaviours: really listens to what you say - doesn't interrupt; patiently waits for you to finish talking, and absorbs and responds to what you said. Thoughtful, asks good questions, interested. Physically - calm, at ease with himself; very relaxed and comforting energy. Appropriate with physical space (doesn't impose himself physically, but also doesn't hang back, not aloof). Doesn't show off/perform (no apparent need to; not a charmer/dazzler) - funny and smart, but in an understated way.

Has solid friendships with women and men. Likes kids and animals. Actions and words are consistent.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:31 AM on November 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is great so far. Quick followup:

*Sara C: You raise good questions, and I don't have easy answers. I would say that my male attraction is not purely theoretical or based on just a few passing moments. When friend I had crush on lived here, we spent a lot of time going out one on one (really my first experiences spending time with a guy while openly presenting as female) and it felt really really nice and comforting and I just had this sense that, were this romantic, it would fulfill needs I hadn't really thought anyone else could fill. (Not having to "be the guy" but also repping my own hard femme energy is so wonderful.) And then physical attraction is real. That's the best way I can describe it. (Also, what you write about the social ease and reinforcement of opposite-gender dating: totally a thing! That might be some of the glow I'm referencing above. Though I would be totally happy in a queer femme partnership too, of course, and that has its own positive feeling.)

* Cotton dress sock: I would say it's not so much magneticism as a willingness to "go there" emotionally and kind of develop an intense connection. The problem is that I really like when this arises naturally from silliness and balance, but sometimes I seek out early outwards displays of this kind of emotionalism, which often leads to this person being like, overly stormy in a way that doesn't mix super well with me. If that makes sense.

Okay I'll sit back now, thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish at 11:50 AM on November 14, 2015


I think you can find this kind of man through online dating, because I am married to a man like this (lucky for me, met him in college) and I am friends with men like this who met their spouses on OK Cupid.

Another idea - can you network through the guys you like and their partners? I feel like in a lot of cases, like attracts like. Maybe you will be more comfortable blind dating in the more traditional sense of getting matched up through friends you know IRL vs. getting matched up online.
posted by muddgirl at 12:18 PM on November 14, 2015


I would say it's not so much magneticism as a willingness to "go there" emotionally and kind of develop an intense connection. The problem is that I really like when this arises naturally from silliness and balance, but sometimes I seek out early outwards displays of this kind of emotionalism, which often leads to this person being like, overly stormy in a way that doesn't mix super well with me. If that makes sense.

Hmm, not sure, but I think I know what you mean… If I wanted to avoid possibly aggressive or emotionally unbalanced or threatening relationships (which I do), the feeling I would be looking for, anyway, both in the other person and in myself in his presence, would maybe not be "charged up & intensely emotionally connected" as much as "centred, comfortable, relaxed, at ease". Like the feeling of being at home (like in your jammies), vs. going on an exciting vacation.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:13 PM on November 14, 2015


Online dating has been super unsuccessful, as I find myself kind of communicating with men who are either uncomfortably forward or show an emotionality that I gradually realize is more stormy and unstable than I'd like (this has happened twice before I've even gone on a date, and caused me to lose my nerve with dating.)

That's funny, because all of the beautiful unicorn men I've met that fit the description of what you're looking for, I met online--but in every case, I was the initiator, and I also went heavy with the kind of profile language and pics that would ward off the (obvious or stealth) Basic Brosephs of Performed Masculinity. Start being the chooser and not the one being chosen--waiting for men to go after you aggressively means you'll only meet aggressive men. (Note: I am a straight cis female so working with a larger pool, but some of the men I've corresponded with have indicated elsewhere in their profiles that they'd be open to a trans partner.)
posted by blue suede stockings at 1:17 PM on November 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I totally found this kind of guy online. I paid for OKCupid's incognito feature and messaged him first, which I think helped me be the person picking and also limited the risk of getting burned out on serious creeper messages before meeting someone I liked.
posted by Naamah at 2:33 PM on November 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


« Older "Good" Reasons for Not Doing/Getting a Desirable...   |   Cheap and easy frames and prints of wedding photos... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.