Do you respect my sex?

If I date a regular guy, will he understand my bisexuality and my history with transsexuals?

Published September 26, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I have a question that I really need help with. I feel I've been stuck in the same place emotionally for about a year. I'm a bisexual woman in my early 30s, and since about age 25 I've been dating exclusively women and some trans men (ftm) [female-to-male transsexuals]. I didn't do this on purpose, it just kind of happened. But for the last year or more I've had the strong desire to date a biological man.

I don't know why, I don't know where this desire came from, but I can't really ignore it. Like I said, it's been hanging around for a year. The problem is, I haven't acted on it because not only am I rusty in relating to men in a romantic way, I'm very afraid that I won't find a man who will truly respect my history with women. I'm afraid that most men would dismiss my history with women, and judge my past relationships as less than straight relationships. I think this may be true even of men who are generally not homophobic in any of the obvious ways. So what do I do with this fear? Please help me, because I can't seem to unstick myself.

Much love,

Lost In Wonderland

Dear Lost in Wonderland,

There are a lot of subgroups in this world and not everybody knows everybody else's subgroup.

So my suggestion would be that if you find a man who attracts you, talk with him in plain English. Find out what he knows and what he thinks by asking him questions. Has he ever known a transsexual or a lesbian? Does he have lesbians and/or transgender people in his family? Does he know what "ftm" stands for?

The only way you can find out what a man is going to do is to encounter him. If you're a little rusty dealing with biological men, if he likes you he will be happy to help you along.

I like to treat everyone with respect. Sometimes I feel, however, that we ask too much of others, because we are too used to our own subgroup. Misunderstandings are easy to have. You cannot know a person until you talk with him and question him and listen to him, using a language you both understand.

When dating a man whose sexual and cultural history differs from yours, explain yourself in terms broadly understood. Use plain emotional terms. Involve him in your thought process. Say that you are afraid he might have misconceptions. Ask him what he feels. Try out hypothetical scenarios with him: If you were to meet one of your transsexual lovers on the street or in a bar, how would he feel?

Nobody can read your mind. If there are episodes in your past that you feel uneasy about, that's fine. If you have touchy points or sore points, that's fine. Just communicate. Ask for what you want. Ask him what he wants. Make it work.

By Cary Tennis

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