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Savage Love

by Dan Savage on April 6, 2011

I came out as trans-something/genderqueer three years ago. I was born male but live my life predominately as female. I’m 25 now. Coming out involved accepting that it would complicate my ever finding someone. I haven’t dated since.

My problem: Today, a guy my age asked me out while making me a sandwich in a cafe. He told me I was very pretty and asked if he could take me out. I gave him my number. Before I left, he said, “I’d really like a relationship with you.” That sounded like a weirdo red flag. I told him, “We’ll see,” but agreed to the date.

I don’t know the rules and I’m a panicked mess. I know to meet in a public place, in the afternoon, tell people about it—all the safety stuff—but I am afraid that he’s a creep. But no one has ever told me before that I’m pretty. While I’m not ugly, I’m not passable. My questions:

1. Was he way too creepy to go on that date?

2. Was agreeing to a date smart or dumb?

3. Am I acting out of desperation?

4. The great unanswerable: How do I get the giddy 13-year-old inside to grow up so the 25-year-old can navigate safely in the dating world?

—Does Understand Men Basically

1. My inbox sags under the weight of e-mails from straight/straight-identified guys who are desperate to meet transwomen/trans-somethings, and not all of them prefer passables. So it’s possible that this guy saw trans-something, unpassable you and decided to go for it because you’re everything he’s ever wanted. If he’s one of those guys who are into transwomen and/or born-male-trans-genderqueers-who-live-as-female-but-aren’t-quite-passable, DUMB, it’s also possible that he’s never had a chance to meet someone like you before (you’re not thick on the ground), and nerves and/or inexperience caused him to fumble the pass. The only way to determine if nerves made him come across as creepy or if he’s genuinely creepy is to go on that date.

2. Smart. Even if it turns out that he’s a creep, even if you never see him again, being open to people and taking risks—while at the same time taking all reasonable safety precautions (particularly important for transwomen, who face a much higher risk of violence at the hands of the sometimes deeply conflicted, self-loathing straight guys who are attracted to/resent transwomen)—is the only way that anyone ever manages to find love.

3. Yes, DUMB, you are acting out of desperation—you and everybody else. Just don’t let your desperation—the worry that you won’t ever meet anyone else who’s interested in a girl like you—convince you to settle for a shitty and/or abusive relationship. If he comes across as nice at first but it turns out that he’s an asshole or a creep, and if he begins to treat you like you’re stuck with him because no one else will ever want you (not true—remember my inbox!), dump the motherfucker. It’s better to be alone than to be with an asshole who preys on your insecurities to keep you coming back for more abuse.

4. I have no idea. I’m almost 10 years older than you and I’m still battling my inner/giddy 13-year-old.

I’m a hetero male in my late 30s, and this incident took place over a decade ago, but I’ve felt guilty about it ever since. I was at a convention and ended up having a one-night stand with a lovely woman. When I moved to go down on her, something I enjoy doing, she had a really, really, really smelly area. This woman did not have bad body odor in general; she had good hygiene. I managed to shift gears and brought her off with touch, but she pleaded with me to go down on her and I didn’t. That made things awkward. I didn’t say anything about the smell to her, because I know that many women are self-conscious about vaginal odor.

My sex etiquette question for you: If you’re with someone, and suddenly you discover that her private parts—or his—smell like something with a passed expiration date, what is the best way to handle it? Excuse yourself from bed and grab a washcloth for them? Grit your teeth and go down anyway, in an effort to be GGG, no matter how ill it might make you?

—Vagina Odors Inform Cautious Etiquette

I realize that women can be sensitive about any suggestion of unpleasant vaginal odor—we can blame those “feminine hygiene” commercials as well as all those inexperienced boyfriends who react negatively to a vagina’s natural, healthy odor because they didn’t get the “spice” part of the “sugar and spice” memo. But as a general rule: The people you invite to stick their nose in your crotch, twat, sack, crack, etc. are allowed to form opinions about how you smell down there and share them with you. While it’s unpleasant to be told your crotch stanks, it’s much more unpleasant to find your nose tucked in someone’s stanky crotch.

As this woman had good personal hygiene overall, VOICE, it’s unlikely that a washcloth would’ve solved the problem. She may have had bacterial vaginosis, the most common cause of rank vaginal odor, or an untreated case of chlamydia or gonorrhea. As hard as “Something’s not right down here” is to hear, particularly for some women, you didn’t do her any favors by not speaking up—sensitively and compassionately—because if she did have a medical issue, she needed to seek treatment.

I am an attractive, “normal” 24-year-old female who enjoys taking pictures of myself nude for my own personal use. I delete most pictures, but I keep some on my laptop for my viewing only. My snoop boyfriend found some pictures that were taken before we got together and blew up. He got in my face and called me a slut. He threatened my safety when I told him to leave. He demanded to know who took the pictures (cameras have timers!) and to whom I was sending them (myself!). I broke up with him, but then took him back. We have since talked about my “fetish”; he still does not like it and wants all the pictures erased. To be honest, these pictures are not all that important to me, but the way he reacted is. To me, he showed he does not trust me and never will.

—Still Love Ur Thoughts

The pictures may not be important to you, SLUT, but your autonomy, your safety, and your right to take enjoyment in and from your own damn body should be. So you’re going to have to DTMFAST—dump the motherfucker a second time.

A boyfriend who’s uncomfortable with your fetish is one thing. A boyfriend who’s a threatening, insecure, controlling, irrational ASSHOLE about your fetish is another thing entirely. Someone invested in your sexual fulfillment, someone who loves and supports you, would not tell you to stop, or make accusations, or react like such a fucking baby. And someone who didn’t have sexist hang-ups wouldn’t make a distinction between the pictures you took after you met and the ones you had taken before you met. Beware of boys who freak out after stumbling onto what they believe to be evidence—even if they’re wrong—that their girlfriends have been with other guys before them. They have issues.

DTMFAST.

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