My Cis Guy Problem

I’ve got posts I should be working on about actual topics that matter to people, but I have to get this one purged from my brain so I can get some *real* work done. Before I continue I want to get an important point out of the way: it’s relevant to the entire context of this post to know that I’m male identified and was male assigned at birth. Also called “cis gender,” or “cis” for short, it’s the opposite of being transgender or transexual (trans*), and is how most people identify, even if they aren’t familiar with the word(s).

Now on to the post:

I’m in my 32nd year, and I have never been in a relationship with a cisgender guy who was both emotionally invested in me as a person, and attracted to or sexually interested in me.

That’s a really hard thing for me to write about for two reasons:

  • Because I don’t know how to write about it without seemingly to dismiss the incredible emotional intimacy and hot sex that I’ve had with the many awesome trans* men in my life.
  • It really is something I find terribly painful to say, in part because of what it says about my failed marriage, and in part because of what it says about me as a person. 

Let me take on the second point first:

Yes, I was with a cis guy for eight years. And yes, we had a lot of sex (of one form or another) during that time. However, our ex never really hid the fact that he wasn’t attracted to me sexually. Periodically he would go through a phase where he would announce that he’d never actually been sexually attracted to me in the first place, and had been “lying” to save my feelings. Then we’d stop being physically intimate for a period of weeks or months, until he decided he was ready to re-engage with me sexually. It was regular as clockwork (18months) but never stopped being horrible.

He even accused me of sexually assaulting him. Saying that since I knew that he didn’t want to be sexually intimate with me, when he initiated sex I had an obligation to say “no” regardless of how insistent he was that it was what he wanted. That I ignored his “preemptive revoking of consent,” in his mind made me an assailant.

With the physical and emotional distance three years apart has bought me (along with a LOT of therapy), I can see that this behavior could be seen as a kind of emotionally abuse, but it doesn’t actually detract from the driving issue in this post.

Since leaving us, Asrik in fact has for the most part not pursued other men. And while he describes himself as bi/pan-sexual, he isn’t open to relationships with guys (if you’re reading this Asrik, I stumbled onto your OKC profile when researching moving to the PNW, and you were the one who asked me to review your “what I’m looking for” list on Fetlife). He may have used his conflicted sexuality as a weapon, but it’s the conflicted nature of his sexuality that’s actually the relevant point here.

I don’t want to make this sound like it’s all about one guy though, because it isn’t. I’ll get to that in a bit, but first back up to point number one:

I’ve had some amazing experiences, both sexual and emotional, with the trans* men in my life. Some have been lovers or friends with benefits, while others have been partners or boyfriends.

The last thing I want to do is come across as saying that I don’t value the FAAB men in my life, or that I don’t see them as men. Neither are true. My life would be far less rich without the men who are important to me, and some of the most “masculine” and male men I’ve ever known have been trans*. That I have a stupid issue around wanting to be accepted by cis guys is my issue, not theirs, and I hate myself for having it.

That’s not hyperbole either, it’s fair to say that I deeply loath that I care in the slightest whether another cis guy can both emotionally and physically engage with me, particularly when so many men who happen not to be cis, have done both.

I said that this wasn’t an issue about one guy (Asrik), and it’s true.

For some reason, maybe spooky, maybe not, I have a life-long history with cis guys who are not able or willing to engage simultaneously on both a physical and emotional level with me. It’s a pattern that dates back to my early adolescence playing with other boys at sleepover parties. The role of the one who wants, but isn’t wanted, is a very familiar one, and maybe that’s why I’ve been so willing to play it so often in my relationships.

Before Asrik, Fire and I briefly dated a different guy who wasn’t all that into men. Since Asrik, I’ve been in one actual *relationship* with a cis guy, but he felt pretty much the same way Asrik did, drawn to me emotionally and able to engage sexually, but not really attracted to me.

I’ve also encountered the exact opposite: men who were open to fooling around, but didn’t want anything beyond the physical. It’s worth noting that I was thirty-one the first time I had a sexual encounter with a cis guy who actually wanted me sexually, and it just a one-time hook-up from Manhunt. It was still enough to teach me the profound difference between grudging and enthusiastic sex. And it cast a whole new light on the “good” sex I’d had with cis guys before.

There’s a third, and related classification of guy that I’ve been involved with, and that’s the “conflicted straight/bi boy.” You could argue that the cis guys I’ve been in relationships with fit this category, but it’s one that can apply as easily to hookups as to relationships.

For some reason they are the one kind of cis guy who seeks me out (other than 60yr old married men on hookup sites). For years, I was happy to “help” these guys explore their feelings, because I found it affirming to have a cis guy need/want me in some way. But doing so has always left me feeling worse about myself in the end. Sex or relationships with someone who feels conflicted about their feelings for you can be devastating for one’s sense of self worth, a lesson you’d think I’d have learned during eight years of marriage to Asrik. It took a guy giving me oral sex while crying in despair over the realization that he liked it, to make me realize that I needed a break from taking conflicted bi guys to bed.

I wish I could tell you why I cared about any of this. For a long time I thought it was just a penis thing. I’m an enormous fan of cis guys’ genitals, and I thought I was just missing having access to a dick or two. But I’ve had hookups at conferences and with guys I met online, and while it’s sort of fun, it doesn’t do anything to help me feel better about this bigger issue.

Intellectually I can understand that I’m not really what gay cis guys are looking for. I’m poly, and cis guys in their 30s are generally looking for “the one.” I’m kinky, but in a way that doesn’t fit within the narrow confines of most gay male BDSM. My faith is another huge issue in the gay dating world, where overwhelmingly it is understood that atheism is the LGBT default. And of course, there’s the Tourette (the “barking” in Notes from a Barking Shaman), which is a dating obstacle to start with, and seems particularly problematic with gay men.

Understanding some of why I’ve been out of the closet for 19 years but have never had a healthy relationship with a cis guy doesn’t really change anything though. In my mind this has become a double edged personal failing, both that I’m undesirable/unable to be with cis guys in that way, and that I give a shit what cis guys think.

I know this is one of the more rambling and pointless posts I’ve made in a while, and I apologize for that. Del and I have a joint NFaBS/SGaR post on the word “shaman” that will be awesome coming up soon, and I’ve got some religion and politics posts that I think you will appreciate. But in keeping with my new commitment to greater openness about who I am and where my internal processes have been, I felt it was important that I share the experience here.

POTD 2/29/12 On a New (trans)Gender Narritive

Over on the Huffington Post, you’ll find a fabulous and thought provoking essay about trans* experience outside of the “always knew I was trapped in the wrong body” narrative, written by trans* & queer writer/activist Ira Gray

Mr. Gray isn’t saying that that  narrative and experience is not  perfectly valid. There are in fact a number of trans* people in my own life who identify strongly with it.

However, there are also a good many trans* people whose experience is different, again including several other trans* people in my life. Because of the binary way we tend to construct gender in our society, it can be challenging for people with more varied and complex experiences of gender and trans*-ness to have their journeys and self-identities recognized, by both the world at large and by the trans*/LGBT community. Ira delves into this challenge with eloquence, and given the (immense) potential for backlash from multiple directions, quite bravely. For many I imagine it will prove an illuminating read, for others a validating one.