Since my dive into non-monogamy, I’ve found myself dating what we tend to think of as normal guys. The normal cis gay guys who like Lady Gaga, gyms, Fire Island, and “adventures.” I’ve noticed that every guy on Tinder says they are into travel and adventures, as if they are looking for someone to fix their lives with new scenery or secret speakeasies.
Most of them have normal jobs such as data engineer; perhaps they moonlight with theater companies. There’s a belief in a stable career, that life is linear, and that the one is out there. Some of this is nice, especially to the romantic. It’s nice to believe in the world as a place where good things can happen to good people. It evaporates cynicism — at least for a moment. Maybe there is a way to climb the ladder to a man, a job, and a house. But something about these boys kept nagging me; and as I discovered, something about me kept nagging these boys.
Going into this round of dates, I was much more comfortable negotiating with men. I was upfront, even abrupt, about wanting to date in a formal way. I went to the Met twice. It was hard to put to words what I wanted at first. It wasn’t that I wanted a husband, but the idea of eventually shacking up with someone sounded nice: someone to come home to after a stressful day or a panic attack and say, “Hi” without needing to explain everything. It sounds exhausting, but I have been hurdling towards this ideal for a while now.
This is all well and good for normal boys. They want the normal trajectory of love and romance: dates, staying the night, labels, moving in, and so on. But I am not a normal boy. Nor am I a boy. So when I begin dates, I am often asked, “What does it mean to be trans to you?” “What would you do if I said ‘he’ instead of ‘they’ in front of you?”
Some simply say they’ve never dated anyone nonbinary before, as if the word “nonbinary” is a curse. It automatically pushes me into the weird category of people on Tinder, which means I often date art boys who — as I’ve said before and I’ll say it again — are emotionally unavailable and picky. Unsurprisingly, normal boys are picky, too.
The first boy seemed nice and fun, a rich Midtown boy who paid for our cab home from the Met. He made dinner and talked about gay cruises and traveling. I should have known that the travel talk was a red flag. Every boy who loves travel is really a middle-class software engineer who is upwardly mobile. And they only want their straight best friends, as was the case in his story. He was seeing other people, wasn’t over his ex, and I could not keep his interest. After an awkward Thai food date, he called it quits before going on one of his gay cruises.
The next boy seemed promising: he came to a reading I spoke at in Manhattan and admired my “vulnerability.” He’d just gotten back from a vacation to Hawaii with, yes, his straight best friend. We met up next at the Met, on a pay-what-you-want Friday. I marveled at Tiffany while he asked me a thousand questions about marriage, binge-watching Shonda Rhimes, and being trans. It seemed like a good time on the surface but something bugged me: he seemed to want to fill every space with something. He expressed awe at my long list of exes so many times that I felt like a slut. He also seemed mainly interested in straight guys. We faded out after he asked me over to watch Harry Potter and I didn’t text back immediately.
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, a boy with almost the same name as the last one (just an extra syllable), invited me to dinner and drinks in Park Slope. We had an agreeable time. He kept saying he was a messy eater, and instead it was I who flung my chopsticks into the couple next to us. I felt giddy at the way he seemed to take charge. He apologized for me and called over the waiter. I didn’t have to do anything.
Our conversation flowed from our love of pop music to an interest in dark, gritty television shows. He even asked me out on a second date in the middle of our first. We then saw a live soap opera in St. Mark’s. The play was fine — funny even — and later he introduced me his friends. He did say he’d never dated anyone nonbinary; but I thought little of it. I thought I was finally living my Carrie Bradshaw dream as we made out against a skyscraper on the Lower East Side. Like a gentleman, he even kissed me goodnight at the L train.
The next day he was busy at a Super Bowl party. I texted him anyway, saying that I’d set up a Twitter poll for next date ideas. He seemed to find it funny until I drifted off to give him space. Then he said he just wanted to be friends.
Even when I tried to be elusive, the man still had the upper hand.