Boxed In

When I ended my last relationship, I decided that from then on, I was only going to date people who identified as women. Although I’d been emotionally attached to plenty of my female peers over the years, the closest I had ever come to actually dating a girl was when I was thirteen. Knowing that preteen relationships are hardly a paragon of stability and understanding, I was determined to try again.

Unfortunately, this decision also coincided with a return to the dating apps which had led me to the not-so-great relationship I had recently left. Some of you may find this shocking (none of you will find this shocking), but people tend to make really big assumptions about who you are as a person when they look at your online dating profile, and they tend not to change those opinions once they’re formed.

Of course, it’s important for me to note that hetero online dating is an entirely different ballgame than queer online dating. There’s an amazing Tumblr, aptly titled Straight White Boys Texting, which will tell you more about what I encountered dating straight guys than anything I could ever write would. With this in mind, I’d like to focus on the same-gender online dating experiences that I’ve had.

When I first re-opened my profiles, I looked more traditionally feminine than I do now. I experienced better luck than I had when I was going on heterosexual dates, and managed to go out with a handful of lovely women. There was a good balance between women that I would pursue, and women that would pursue me. All things considered, I was having a lot of fun.

Then I changed my look, and all hell broke loose. I had ended an intensely objectifying position as a receptionist around this time, and consequently cut my hair short, started to wear more masculine clothes, and applied less makeup. These changes seemed to make a huge difference to my prospective dates.

There was a particular picture of mine that got the most attention. Initially meant to be a bit of a joke, people viewing my pictures seemed to take it very seriously. I was taking a selfie in the mirror and making a very serious face. In case you don’t interact with many teenage boys on social media, they do this a lot. This silly pose, coupled with my masculine clothes and shorter hair, seemed to attract a whole new crowd of women.

I started to be contacted by completely different kinds of women than I had before. Whereas the kind of women who had previously contacted me were generally quirky, adorable nerds, these new women were more of a Hollywood kind of sexy. I started getting message after message from thin, long-haired beauties asking me when I was going to take them on a date. There was a new level of gravity and expectation to these interactions, and I started to have less fun. I felt so much pressure to become this dominant, masculine figure that the women were expecting. I kept seeing descriptions on their profiles that said things about how much these women liked butch partners, and I began to feel like a fraud.

While it’s true that I tend to be more dominant when I’m dating women, I’m still not going to roll up on a Harley, dressed head-to-toe in leather, and scowl as I wait for some chick to jump onto my bike. The fact is that most of my “default” settings are generally more feminine than masculine, at least by current gender expectations. However, the way that I was styling myself seemed to be misleading people.

At the time, I felt intensely embarrassed by my inability to properly fit in to either the “butch” or the “femme” box. By just being me, I thought I was forcing myself into isolation. I didn’t know how to navigate the situation, and eventually just gave up, deleting all of my dating profiles and giving up on love in a fit of dramatic woe. Back then, I was sure that the only option I had left was to admit defeat. Now, after a year of studying the social sciences and exploring my own gender identity, I would probably handle this entire same-gender dating situation differently.

In an apparent effort to turn my life into a cheesy romcom, I fell in love (with a man, funnily enough) the minute that I stopped looking for any love at all. However, even though I’m in a happy relationship now, I’m still bothered by how some queer women might perceive me. I still feel the pressure of those perceptions, and I still feel uncomfortable in queer spaces, where I’m worried that people will assign an identity to me that I’ll be unable to conform to.

Dating is complicated and messy no matter what, and in a queer community full of a million different spectrums, it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. For me, online dating magnified all of those concerns, and made the entire experience that much more frustrating. However, it also forced me to explore my identity more deeply, and I remain grateful for that.


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