A Story of Depression, Dating, and Boundaries

A friend of mine shared a meme on Facebook that said never give up on someone with depression. I like that sentiment. If you have a long relationship with someone it’s definitely a reminder we need from time to time. Though lately, I have been struggling with this ethic and have come to a few nuanced opinions that run contrary. Chiefly, that when dating there may be times to walk away from someone who has depression (or other mental health conditions) and that it’s okay to do so. 

That sounds harsh and my gut tells me that it makes me sound like a horrible person. Historically, I have almost always extended myself to others even if I have little left to give. My gut informs me here as well; this is a bad strategy. Somewhere in between there must be a balance.

I have had people say that I’m an empath. I don’t believe in new-agey empathic ability, but I am highly sympathetic and value deep connections with others. People often say they feel safe around me and tell me things that they have previously told no one. This means, as a friend once told me, that those who are hurting seek me out for comfort. This is a blessing that without boundaries becomes a detriment.

Perhaps that explains my relationship history. I had an eighteen year relationship where the other person dealt with depression and mania. I was mostly on the outside looking in and was shut out concerning my partners thoughts and emotions. 

My next relationship was with someone coping with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. They chose to talk about the problems they were having with our relationship only as they were packing their things to leave. Two years later, they said we couldn’t be friends. I didn’t really get a good reason for any of it, not that I have to. It was their choice to make. 

Last, I spent another two years in a truly abusive relationship with someone who was on the heavy end of the narcissist spectrum.

I had given myself over to these relationships and extended myself in ways that were both reasonable and not. Most of the time, the emotional flow and attention felt like a one-way street and to a large extent I understand. Having a mental health condition can make it especially difficult for someone to show up for a partner in the way it is needed. As the brain turns to bleak thoughts it can be hard to ask for help, discuss feelings, and to know what is real. People who have a mental health condition sometimes use all of their willpower to take care of themselves. They don’t always have the ability to look out for someone else as well (1).

Flash forward to my more recent dating life and I’m still running into people with some of these difficulties, but something in me has changed. Namely, that I don’t have the space for folks like this that I once did. I need a mutually supportive relationship; a connection with someone where we lift one another up. Otherwise, it’s a rush of goodwill and emotion flowing out without much in return. It leaves me depleted.

My relationships have taught me that it’s not my job to heal everyone. In fact, strictly speaking, it may not be my job to heal and center anyone but myself.

I came around in my thinking about a year ago when I started seeing someone that was dealing with depression. When we were together I could tell they liked me and I liked them. Still, they were understandably distant. Plans were canceled and messages were returned 10 or more hours later if not the next day. It wasn’t exactly the kind of behavior that fosters a solid connection or indicates interest. I had to end that relationship and I was honest with them and myself as to why.

People will come with their own baggage because, my gods, who doesn’t have that? Run from anyone who says they don’t. Should someone come along who has a mental health condition who can also care for me as I care for them then I will gladly accept them into my life.

For instance, I have a friend whom I dearly love. They push back against chronic depression and addiction every day. I’m not going anywhere in that relationship. They have let me in enough to understand what they deal with and they still manage to be there for me even though it must be difficult at times. 

That’s the kind of love that I want, and need, and it’s okay and even healthy to say so. 

So I’ve started a new chapter in my life. I don’t have the mental space anymore to pour myself out for others without anything in return and I’ve been bowing out from those situations when I feel the need. 

Those twenty two years weren’t a loss. I don’t view experiences that way. It has given me a hyper-awareness of when people aren’t able to fully step into a relationship. I still give folks the benefit of the doubt because I think people are deserving of that. If they cannot meet me where I am then I just step aside. 

Staking out boundaries for myself is incredibly hard to do. Still, this feels healthy and I want to stick with it. I want to put myself in a position to find someone who can show up for me as I can for them. This is part of how it will happen (2).

1. Though I don’t think this gives those who have a mental health condition an excuse for carte blanche, because who we are is defined in part by how we deal with others. I see people using things like introversion (not a mental illness) and depression as excuses for how others must make concessions for them and their behavior. That works to a degree. Just as others may have to make concessions to occasionally accommodate them, so too must they accommodate others. I think the key for those with a mental health condition is to know when to push their boundaries to be there for others and when to politely bow out in order to take care of themselves.

2. I wrote this when I was dating. As of this writing my tactics have been successful in helping me to establish a relationship that is reciprocal.

Cis Is Not a Four Letter Word

I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of ire directed toward cis men. Primarily this is from some feminists and transgender folks.

For those who don’t know a cis person is someone who is comfortable with the gender in which they have been raised. So if you were called a male at birth, raised as a male, and have no problem with being male then you are a cis man. If you are not comfortable with the gender you were given at birth and you feel as if you should be another gender then you would be considered transgender. These are over simplified explanations, but for now simple works because my point here isn’t strictly about labels or identity issues.

Somehow cis has come to be slang for everything that is wrong with men. There is nothing wrong with being a cis man, or cis woman for that matter, just as there is nothing wrong with being a transman or transwoman. It’s just another form of being.

I understand that problems arise when cis men don’t check their priviledge and act in ways that marginalizes and harms others. I also realize that among all offenders, cis men are the largest group both as a population and as a percentage. 

A cursory reading of my writings here should dispel any notions that I go easy on men, quite the contrary. This is not one of those “not all men” writings. I’m not using this as a cop-out for me or anyone else. I give guys a lot of shit because I grew up around them, date them, and hear the dumb things they regularly say which indicates a lot of them haven’t done any personal searching.

What we should be fighting against is toxic behavior no matter who exhibits it. Having dated cis men, cis women, and trans women (sorry no trans men yet, but I love ya just the same) I can tell you that toxic behavior can be found in all of these groups. Also amongst these groups are some genuinely lovely people. Everyone has responsibility and thus should be held accountable.

There are a lot of cis men out there who can be or who are feminist and trans allies. We don’t need to push them away.

As you can imagine this is a little personal for me. I consider myself to be very much pro feminist, pro choice, pro trans rights, pro identity rights, and most likely a cis man. 

That last part depends on who you talk to; for instance Kate Bornstein in her book Gender Outlaws would posit that I am trans by bucking certain guy norms and by the fact that I’m also a queer crossdresser. Truthfully, how people describe me doesn’t much matter to me. However, since I am somewhat to mostly content with being a man let’s just say I’m cis for our purposes here.

If you’re trans, queer, and feminist, I’m doing my damnest to be there with you. I regularly check my privilege and allow others to check it for me. If I am called out, it does not diminish who I am. In fact, I make myself become a better person because of it so that I may help others, which is all I really want to do anyway. I live my life by a feminist/humanist ideology and owe much to the theorists from all walks of life who have helped me to see the world in all it’s complexity and with kindness.

And yet, I’m a cis man.

There are some real assholes out there, trust me I know, and I get it that men who have never had to question their privilege are most likely to be the ones to offend, but that is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. Maligning all cis men is the same as when TERF’s malign trans women as murderers and pedophiles, it’s the same as when fundamentalists call feminists nazis. Surely we have more compassion and nuance than those groups. 

I think (and hope) that when folks generically write about cis men that they really mean the ones who exhibit toxic behavior. Without that clarification though they are throwing their allies under the bus.

We need to do better. 

To be clear, this is not a call for moderation. I’m not asking you to be less militant. I’m not asking you to curb your anger. You have every right to be angry and you too deserve a hold on the reigns that guide society. Instead, what I’m asking is that in your anger, your militancy, your passion, your fire, and your drive that you bring some level of honesty and nuance to the world along with it.

I thank you, I support you, and I love you!

Signed,

A cis-man (mostly)

Dating Someone Much Younger (or Older)

One of my valued experiences in life was when I dated someone who was 18 years younger than me but it’s not for the reasons you might expect. There are no bro-motivations lurking here. I didn’t care one iota about their age. Rather, I didn’t want to pass on an opportunity for a meaningful relationship and always wonder about what might have been. It was more about me saying yes to life and taking a chance on love when it seemingly had little odds of success. In the end, the relationship didn’t work out, but I have zero regrets.

So, in case you have ever thought about a relationship offset by age, here are a few tips for how to make the most of it. 

I have written this with the older person in mind but there are tips here for the younger person as well. I also have age differences of 15 years or more as a focus but again, those in relationships with lesser gaps might find some pointers in what follows. 

This is also a heteronormative article because I think that amongst queer communities, which have non traditional relationships already, that age differences are accepted more than in the rest of society. I also don’t have any personal experience into long term, queer, age stratified, relationships. However, there may be some things that resonate herein for those folks as well. 

The first thing I want you to know is this;

The stigma is real

There’s a good amount of social disdain that will come your way from a relationship with a significant age gap. If this relationship is not something you truly want, then others will easily tear down your resolve. It is true that things are gradually getting better as more people are accepting that love can happen in non-traditional places. Still, the stereotypes are plenty and I can assure you that none of them are about you having a meaningful connection. 

I feel like older folks carry more stigma in these types of relationships, but I could be totally wrong as I’ve never been more than 6 years younger than a partner.

Older man/younger partner

If you’re an older guy, then other men generally want to high five you because they assume that dating someone younger is just about sex. Apparently, dating younger is supposed to be an accomplishment; a bucket list item of some sort. The downside is that these high-fivers are incredulous when you suggest that someone younger fulfills any purpose beyond the physical. Such dismissal is demeaning to a heart that has found so much more in another person.

Older men also face the stereotype of having a midlife crisis and the assumption is they are trying to recapture their youth. This mid-life crisis trope is easier for folks to believe. The truth is, sometimes two people’s personalities synch up and there is an attraction regardless of age. 

Also, when an older man dates a young woman, I’ve noticed that both parties face the ire of some older women. This is true even if the older women have no romantic or physical interest in the man. I believe that for these women, it’s the fear that one day they too might be replaced by someone younger. 

This makes sense given that most of what we are taught that is sexy in a woman comes with being youthful. It’s complete drivel but the notion is present nonetheless and it can shape people’s insecurities about your relationship.

It means that some older women have a fear about their relationship ending at the hands of someone younger. These older women can be a lot of things, but young again is not one of them. For these women there is going to be some resistance to your new relationship. That’s not your problem but it won’t stop some from trying to make it so.

Older woman/younger partner

Older women have to worry about the cougar trope and that they are preying on young men. 

Older women face a huge stigma for dating younger men. Even a small age difference skewed in this way is hard for some women to accept. I suspect this is based on the stereotype that men are more immature than their female counterparts. The thinking being that a younger man is even more immature and that no older woman would want to date such a person. Again, this notion is ridiculous but it doesn’t change the way some people think.

Unfortunately, because men seem more prone to fetish, older women also have to worry about young men fetishizing them as cougars. If you are an older woman dating a younger man then your worry can come from all sides.

Younger person

Aside from being seen as too immature for an older partner, younger folks are also viewed as having parental/daddy issues, being a homewrecker, naive, or a gold digger. There’s not much to find from others that says young people can seek legitimate love and companionship in someone older. However, I’m here to tell you that it can happen. Not only does it occur I have seen some wonderful lives and families formed as a result of two people putting aside age and focusing on one another.

This was a long way of saying that stereotypes abound and there is no safe haven if your relationship threatens someone else’s security. People will come at you from all angles to tear you down so they may feel better about themselves or their relationship.

I don’t say any of this to scare you, I just want you to know that if this connection is just about sex then be honest about it to each other. If you want a relationship that goes deeper, then be honest about that too. You will need to lean on each other often. Some folks will easily support you so you won’t be alone, but you will also hear negativity in regards to your relationship and it will come from within your social circle (family, friends) and without.

Don’t let the stigma bother you. Acknowledge that where you are now is a result of living your life to the fullest. Be honest, be fair, and love each other regardless of what the goal of being together means to both of you. 

Beware the power imbalance

In any romantic relationship both partners should have a balance of power so that decisions are made equitably. In age distanced relationships this becomes even more critical. 

Whether you realize it or not, the person who is older often exerts authority just by existing alongside someone who is much younger. It is important to make sure that what the older person says isn’t taken as law just because it has been spoken. This requires mindfulness and checking in with your partner. If they confirm this dynamic then you have to be willing to make the necessary changes to keep their autonomy intact. 

How you ask is important. You could say, “do I assert my authority too much when I speak about something?” This is an honest attempt to get at information for the good of the relationship, but it also triggers a desire in your partner to not upset you. In this situation, the other person has to establish your wrong doing by saying “yes you do this.” That can be hard for people to do because it adds pressure to an already tense situation.

A better way to ask is to assume culpability up front. Instead say something like, “how much do I assert my authority when I’m talking about something?” This helps the other person know that you acknowledge the behavior so they don’t have to be the one to call you out. They will either let you know the extent that this happens which can then be discussed, or they will let you know that they don’t feel that you act in this way. When wording this way it also opens a line of communication for this topic down the road if it’s needed.

It’s important to make sure the balance is equitable in any relationship because both people need to feel as if they are valued and are guiding the relationship.

Accept the age difference 

You’re going to think about how old you were when they were born. For me I was graduating high school when my past partner was born. If you think about it that way it’s freaky as hell. That’s the wrong way to view it though. It’s not like you were waiting outside the nursery at the hospital trying to pick out your next partner (unless you’re a fundamentalist Mormon and then all bets are off).

In reality, you found each other when you were both adults and assuming you have both said yes to this experience in a fully consensual way then you’re good to go. Stop thinking about the age difference before you were together and focus on the here and now. 

Also, don’t mention age as a factor in their behavior or their lack of knowledge. This is belittling. 

Sure folks who are significantly younger than you likely haven’t had the same amount of life experience as you. Don’t lord that over them or say stupid things like “you’re only 20 what do you know?” That is toxic behavior. You’re just seeing them for their age and not their worth in your life. 

Those from other generations have uniquely different ways of seeing the world. Try and learn a little something while you’re at it. Plus, just being older doesn’t make you intelligent. I can show you some pretty dumb adults parading around as know-it-all’s on any given day. 

You will die first 

That’s a harsh statement isn’t it? The truth is though that if everything goes to plan then you will end up on the other side of the dirt far sooner than your partner. Are you both okay with this?

This can feel like your time is fleeting and that you’re being deprived of a long life together. Dating someone younger brings your mortality into focus in a way most other relationships don’t. If you proceed, it’s important to focus on what you have, not what you haven’t, in order to make the most of your time together.

Your friend groups are different

I’m not saying it can’t happen but it’s unlikely that you’re going to bridge the age gap between your friends and theirs to create a unified group that hangs out together. That may be unrealistic in any relationship regardless of age. So if you’re 40 and hanging out with a group of 20 year olds, or vice versa, it might sometimes become a bit much. The dynamic between you and your partner is far different than the dynamic present in the elevated energy of a group. 

These situations will make both people feel their age. Each of you may have to develop a good deal of patience to handle these situations. Try to enjoy them as best you can though because that dynamic isn’t going away while you’re together. Luckily, things can get a little better as both friend groups age. For some reason the distance between 40 and 60 year olds is less than that of 20 and 40 year olds. 

I suppose that as we deal with the ups and downs of walking around on planet Earth we develop some similar life experiences as we age.

Make sure you aren’t overcompensating 

This is a general relationship warning that cuts across age lines. As a human, you will often crave stability, attention, or whatever energy from a new relationship that was lacking in a previous one. So as often happens, your next coupling may have too much of that quality. 

Here is one example of what this can look like if you are the younger of the couple. Let’s say you are dating someone your age but they are too immature for you. So you break up. Then you meet someone older who is calm, low key, and emotionally intelligent and you find it wonderful to be with someone so mature. You begin dating and life is great. One day though, this mature person doesn’t seem to hit your sweet spots in the same way and they seem too mature and without the excitability that you have.

This can also happen with the older person who may feel the exuberance of youth in their partner which becomes too much to handle down the road. No one is immune.

The takeaway here is that while seeking opposite personality traits from that of a previous partner can be exciting it is always possible that this same trait can become too much as the relationship progresses. If you let your emotional pendulum swing too far after a breakup then you can overcompensate in your next relationship. As you reach your emotional center again the sheen of your new partner can begin to wear off. 

This can happen with any personality trait and you can probably point to a time in your life when this dynamic was at play. 

Sometimes there’s no way to know this until it’s all said and done. Seeking an opposite can be just what you need or it may be too much. The key is to know what you need independent of others. 

For instance, maybe the person in your last relationship didn’t correspond throughout the day as much as you wanted. Your new potential partner texts you throughout the day. Are you going to want this same attention a month, a year, or a decade from now; or will it become too much? Can the behavior be altered to fit each other’s needs or is intrinsic to who each of you are. This is a small example, but it can result in some big issues centering around trust and primacy if neglected. Make sure to ask yourself probing questions about what traits are best suited to you in a partner, what traits your new partner has, and then proceed accordingly. 

Don’t make this a unilateral decision. Use this as an opportunity to open up and discuss the issue with your partner. You may find that they have similar fears and that the two of you can work together to solve them and grow stronger.

It may not last

I’m betting fewer age skewed relationships last than age approximate ones. It can be hard to bridge that gap and when it doesn’t work, it’s okay. People change as they go through life and the two of you won’t always change in complementary ways. We find out what we want in life by living it. 

If the relationship ends, don’t let the negatives rule your present. Instead, focus on the joys from the experience and let them shape your path forward.

In my case, as I said before, it was a wonderful experience for me and it taught me something very special about how to be present when life happens. I held onto that beautiful idea first and foremost and that has always stuck with me. Looking back, I wouldn’t have made the relationship last one more day than it did, and I wouldn’t wish it back either. There’s beauty in that.


The sooner you realize that the good experiences can shape your life more than the bad experiences, then you will be in a position to benefit most from what life throws your way. Let it make you better, not bitter.

So there you have it. These are all of the things that I remember thinking about and the dynamics I noticed while in my relationship. Don’t let the dissolution of my relationship or anyone else’s discourage you. If you think you’re doing this for all the right reasons then “grab life by the horns and hump it into submission” (thanks to the movie Dodgeball for that little gem). What I actually mean is, go for it and enjoy one another’s company. I know couples with huge age differences that are still going strong after years and years. It can work. There are success stories out there. 

Ultimately, you have to make your own decisions and guide yourself. May your path be true and happiness abound.

When Love Breaks Through

“There was a time culminating here recently with the Potato Head toy incident when I made everything about me. I didn’t care about other people because I couldn’t get over my own issues. I was literally trying to order the world around my insecurities” said Matthew Drake from Yuma, Arizona recently at a one on one where we spoke about the political climate in America today. 

“I was really scared at one point about trans people, which is really what the toy incident was about for me. I had to have strict gender lines because what if I went on a date with a woman and found out she used to be a man? I was concerned that it meant I was gay. Plus what did it mean for me to be a guy if we could just change? I had so little self-esteem I needed the world to look like me exactly or it shook me to my core.”

Matthew is not alone. Conservatives are finally coming to terms with their own unassuredness that has long been fueling their self-destructive world views. 

Matthew continues, “Anything that used to help people I would say was socialism. I didn’t even know what that word meant and I didn’t care. I realize now I was using it because it helped me to shut down my rational thoughts about social issues. I was upset that some people wanted to help others without realizing that I too had help. I thought I was self-made, but that’s a delusion I had so I could feel better about myself. I went to college and received grants when a single class was $100, now that same class will cost over $1000 at a lower tier state college, heck you can’t even buy books for $100 anymore. Meanwhile, the grants amount to nothing nowadays. No one said life is fair, but no said it should be unfair either. No wonder people are drowning in debt, they just want what I have but are paying 10 times more for the same thing.”

Most folks have realized for a while that the social causes which are humanitarian in nature are not social boogeymen; that trans rights is an attempt to let people live their life in a way in which they most identify, that women’s rights is about extending the autonomy that men have enjoyed since society’s were founded, and that generally extending rights to others only further entrenches those rights for all to enjoy. 

As more people learn these things the objections they found as rational before suddenly lack muster under this new realization. 

Tricia McKay from Killeen, Texas said, “I mean at first I was like, what’s all this women’s lib bullshit? I mean if guys don’t force their opinions and their desires on me once and awhile then how do I know they are interested?” 

Then an interesting thing happened to her; she met a guy who did respect her enough to ask for her permission and he gave her a chance to guide their interactions as much as he did. In the atmosphere of consent she found a level of respect she didn’t know possible. 

“Yeah, at first I was unsure. I mean I told him no and he accepted my answer. I thought he was gay or something; as it happens, he is just confident enough to accept no as a legitimate answer. Turns out I have been passing up opportunities for love my entire life because of my views about dating” (1).

Angie from Charlottesville, Virginia says, “I used to be what’s called a TERF (trans-exclusionist radical feminist) and what I came to realize was despite all the rhetoric about caring for women that this was just a hate group. I just couldn’t do it anymore. As a lesbian myself, I was too concerned about other lesbians becoming males and limiting my dating pool. I couldn’t accept that for some people lesbian is a stepping stone to being a transman just like being bisexual was a step in my journey to accepting that I was a lesbian” (1).

In a statement that is as good a closing note as any Angie says, “I just learned that hate over the long haul is so hard to maintain. It took such a toll on me and I didn’t like who I had become. Love can be harder to show to people that are different but it’s worth it. After all, isn’t that what we all want” (1).

Works Cited

1 – http://www.if.real.life.only.worked.this.way.com. “April Fools Day.” Jokester. 2021. 

I would love to write this article as more than a fantasy for April Fools Day. It’s sad that people don’t come to love one another and have these epiphanies on their own. We hate so easily and come to love others so slowly. We are truly broken.

You’re Woke And It’s A Huge Problem

Woke was a term that when I first heard it, I thought it was a novel way to describe oneself. By the second time I came across it, the word had already soured. I realized quickly that it would be a self congratulatory term and as liberals we do too much of that as it is. 

Perhaps the biggest challenge to any group but most certainly the liberal/left is to check your ego at the door. We like to think that our views (or perhaps our belonging to a disenfranchised group) put us above others, that we are somehow better than whatever out group we have established. The truth is, most of us are still jerks that live a very unexamined life. If that sentence pisses you off then you need to keep reading more than anyone else. 

We hide behind labels. If we are woke, feminist, liberal, and egalitarian then we can’t be sexist, racist or transphobic. We make those who are outwardly racist/sexist/queer phobic evil and so we must be by opposition, automatically good. 

If being critical of racism, sexism and heteronormativity makes you feel good about yourself then I assure you that you are doing it wrong. Why do you feel good about affording people a basic level of decency? It is because you have positioned yourself against your so-called villains that you seem so accomplished and enlightened. 

Casting ourselves as heroes shuts down our critical thought. This is why women and people of color (though by no means exempt from my criticism) lament the emotional labor they have to expend on their supposed allies and sometimes ask for spaces which exclude us. 

We are still sexist. We expect certain physical or personality traits from out partners (you must be this tall/short and masculine/feminine to ride). The idea of what male and female is has been deeply embedded in the ways we think and act. We think we choose our partners freely but that is no closer to being true than it was 50 years ago. Sure we can marry a wider breadth of people than we could then, but our stereotypes still remain as to how people must look and who they can be in relation to us.  

We have more diverse friends now but how many of those friends serve to make you feel good. I have a friend who talks about being the token black guy among his liberal friends and as much as I’d like to assure him that this isn’t true I know there is an element of truth to it. Likewise, as a queer man, who cross dresses occasionally, I watch liberal women’s faces light up when they tell me they would gladly go out on the town with me in drag. What a story that would be for them and it’s a great way to get your “woke card” stamped. 

Our privilege (ie: ignorance) surfaces when we ask someone to speak for all people of their identification or sexual persuasion. It happens when we occupy the spaces of feminists or people of color and feel resentful that our opinions aren’t weighted to the degree we are used to. It happens when we use others to atone for our “social justice sins” by hogging the spotlight for ourselves and our woes. We want to be good but not at the expense of others noticing how good we are. We languish in our selfish habits. 

Essentially, we rely on others to do the work that we should damn well be doing ourselves. No one is asking you to break down and ask forgiveness from the group (i.e. representation of the other). They are asking you to listen, then take responsibility and put your words where your mouth is. You have to do your own work. The information is out there if you look for it. I hate this term but I’m going to use it, “google it!” Alternatively, ask people what might benefit you to read or watch and then actually do it. 

For instance, I’ve been reading work by trans folks/people in an attempt to understand them as much as I can. It’s shocking how much I thought I was being an ally and yet I was still making so many assumptions that could hurt them and their cause. It’s hard to learn we are wrong but it’s absolutely necessary. Moreover, learning there may not be a correct way to view certain things, like gender, can be exciting and humbling all at once. It’s not always fun work but it’s work that needs done. 

While you’re taking in new information be so honest with yourself that you’d rather not. Then be honest even more because I guarantee you that no matter how much work you do there is still more to be done. Your job of self growth ends when you do. And for god (that I don’t believe in) sake, drop the fucking self-congratulatory labels.

Why You Should Always Share Your Herpes Status

The other day I received a message on Grindr that I found disturbing. I know what you’re thinking, “of course you did, it’s Grindr.” However it wasn’t one of those typical messages and in what I presume was a first for the app there wasn’t a penis anywhere to be seen. 

Since most seem to use the app for hookups I have listed my positive herpes status front and center. In reply to my warm greeting they wrote back, “sharing your herpes status seems extreme when there are so many treatments that make it untransmittable.” 

Abrupt? A little. My initial message said nothing about herpes. It was about relationships and the emotional aspect of waking up with someone in the morning (a response to her profile). To begin a conversation by ignoring my message and delivering a critique is a dick move for sure but that is beyond the scope of what I want to talk about. 

The key issue at hand is about revealing your positive status. You can choose to do this whenever you would like so long as it is prior to any activity that might risk transmitting herpes to someone else. Unfortunately, that means activities using your mouth for folks whose infections could surface orally and your deliciously naughty bits for those where it could surface genitally. 

So let’s get to their claim. 

To be sure, there are antiviral drugs out there but there isn’t a single company advertising anywhere that their product will render herpes noncommunicable. The only way to say that definitively is if a drug actually eliminated the virus. This would be a groundbreaking claim as nothing has been able to do anything other than manage herpes to this point in time.

Viral shedding is a possibility and so far it doesn’t seem like anyone knows definitively when this is or isn’t occurring, just that it can occur. So while the risk certainly drops when on antivirals, there is no way to say with certainty that herpes is noncommunicable in any state of activity or dormancy. 

If we look critically at someone who feels it isn’t necessary to reveal that they carry a communicable disease to an intimate or sexual partner we have to ask why. Why would someone choose not to reveal this?

After all, disclosing this status doesn’t mean you won’t find someone and it doesn’t even mean you will never have sex again. Trust me on that point. However, it does probably mean that some people will decide to skip the opportunity to date or have sex with you because of it.

It’s herein that lies the crux of hiding a positive status. People don’t want to disclose their positive status because they know that it will thin out the number of people willing to have sex with them. They want to have sex and since they already have herpes there is no further risk to them (except for other sexually transmitables). All that’s left now for them is to not care about their sexual partners. 

I can hear them now. “It’ll be okay. They won’t get it.” Allow me to say that we most certainly can get it and there are no altruistic reasons for hiding your positive status, only selfish ones. 

There’s a lot of reasons the United States is experiencing a resurgence in the reported incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. One of them is surely that someone decides it isn’t worth telling the people with whom they have sex. We are living in increasingly selfish times. 

The one thing I think about when my mind drifts through the how and why of herpes is “I wonder if the person who gifted me this wonderful little critter knew ahead of time?” I don’t regret my choices. I may have made each of them exactly the same all over again, even if I knew one or more of my partners had herpes. Herpes for me is not a life changer, it’s just something that can happen. 

However, even though I’ve made peace with it, there was a time when I would have been extremely upset to find that the person who gave me herpes knew their positive status and hid it from me. If someone suspects or knows they have herpes and conceals it from sexual partners then that is a reprehensible act. I would feel horrible if an informed partner contracted herpes while with me. The grief I would feel from giving it to an uninformed partner would be worse yet; a moral atrocity that would haunt me for the rest of my days. 

Hiding a positive status from someone where sex is eminent is violating the very notion of free and informed consent.

If you have herpes then you owe your partners the right to choose. Those of us with a positive status don’t have the right to make decisions for another person’s body and health. This is a matter of autonomy that no one should intrude upon. 

Personally, I want my partners to know that I respect them enough to help them experience the freedom, even the power, not just to choose but to walk away from the relationship if they want. If they do leave then we obviously weren’t a match. If they stay then I know I mean enough to them to be worth the chance. There is value in both outcomes. 

There’s something to be clear about at the close of this article which is that informing a partner doesn’t make you saintly. This is just what people should be doing for one another. Choosing to sidestep the act of doing another person harm is the bare minimum of what being a decent person entails. It’s just that there are so many self-absorbed folks out there that those of us with a modicum of empathy and respect shine by comparison. 

Be decent and share your status.

When Online Dating Goes Poorly

If you date long enough you are bound to have a succession of encounters that don’t go as planned. Romantic interests disappear, don’t show up, blow up over something small or just generally seem like train wrecks. Occasionally, when these occurrences stack up it can start to weigh on you. The question then becomes, what to think about these situations and how do you process what happened?

Trust me when I say that this happens to everyone. In fact, that’s what inspired this piece. I was watching my friends go through the same types of occurrences I was and it made me realize what a universal experience we were having. This was despite the fact that we were searching for vastly different types of people. Allow me to share a less than ideal week from my dating past so you can have a few examples. 

I met someone for a date that didn’t go well. Sadly, it was some of the most shallow conversations I have had on a date (I guess someone had to win that title). The one important thing we touched on was that the other people she had been out with didn’t feel as if she liked them so they quit asking her out. I also came to the conclusion that her repeated claims of independence served as a cover for her apathy and distance from others. However, since I generally give people the benefit of the doubt on first dates I decided to see her one more time. After all, maybe she was just nervous and we would have a better time the second go round.

Despite saying she would like to go out again, she would take 24 hours to return each of my messages. This meant that every day our conversation would progress one additional text. This is far from ideal and doesn’t exactly scream “I’m interested,” so I decided to make an inquiry. 

I asked if she had any interest in continuing our connection. I mentioned that the infrequent communication made me feel as if she wasn’t interested and I wanted to check in to see what she was thinking. I let her know that if she wasn’t interested in meeting up again that I would understand and there would be no hard feelings on my end. She replied quickly this time; I must be needy she said and she is no longer interested. I didn’t spend any effort trying to convince her otherwise. I thanked her for her time and wished her well. 

The second scenario involved a person who didn’t want to text except to set up a time and place of my choosing in which to meet. When I suggested we get together for a drink so we can get to know one another they ripped into me saying, “Would you approach someone you liked in public and ask to meet for a conversation?”

Since walking up to total strangers and asking for their hand in marriage has historically been fraught with problems for me, I tend to take a more cautious approach over a drink or dinner. Finding out who someone is and what they believe is important. It beats waking up one day after 20 years and saying wait, “you’re actually 30 years older than me, don’t speak any English and are running a fanzine for white supremacists?” Humph! Fool me once . . .

I tried to ascertain what this person meant as their text while full of emotion wasn’t exactly clear as to the meaning. They never messaged back. 

The final incident was with someone I enjoyed messaging. We were trading jokes and they had a sharp wit about them. Everything was going well and on day two when I went to ask them out they had removed our match and were gone. It felt unfortunate for me because I was looking forward to meeting. 

Situations such as these can be frustrating. It can be challenging to match with others and if those matches end up being the types of experiences I mentioned then it can be especially demoralizing.

So what was going on with these people and in similar situations how should you handle it? In truth, I don’t know what made them act as they did, and I don’t intend this to be dismissive, but I don’t need to know either. I also don’t think you should pay it any mind because if done properly you’re probably better off without their company. Here’s the first thing you should know. 

Be the best version of you. 

This is so vitally important. You should always be as kind, compassionate and understanding as you can. I’m operating under the premise that you want to be these things. If you’re one of those folks who wants to be a jerk all the time then be that, people will appreciate knowing to avoid you from the very start; just know the rest of this article is more about you than for you. So, if you aren’t rude, shallow, sexist, off putting, or exhibiting any other horrible traits then there’s a huge upside. 

You see, it’s worse to try and tailor yourself, however slight, to another person’s interests and then have things not work out. You will wonder “what if I was actually being true to who I am, would this still have happened?” If you’re honest and forthcoming and things go south there’s nothing to second guess. You were the good you and if they didn’t like that then it’s okay. After all, you want someone who will appreciate you for you. In situations like this, it was probably a simple mismatch in personality and not only is this common, but it’s nothing to worry about either. 

So once you’ve done some introspection and checked yourself then you’re good to implement these next ways of viewing your situation. 

It’s most likely not about you. 

I alluded to this above. Our personalities come out through any type of contact so you shouldn’t worry about a simple personality mismatch because statistically that’s going to happen most of the time. 

The other thing that happens is a lot of folks seem to get triggered nowadays and I think it’s partially because we have put dating at our fingertips. There’s nothing wrong with dating apps (in fact I think they’re great) but it does mean that more people are dating before they are ready. 

Think about the difference between dating now and 20 years ago. Back then, you had to tend to your appearance, go outside of your home, and work up the nerve to approach someone in person. This took a lot more resolve than it does now. Today you can put yourself online while laying in bed wearing your favorite crossdressing outfit (Ah come on, I know it isn’t just me). So it makes perfect sense that once folks begin messaging on dating sites/apps that they might decide they aren’t quite ready to be out there just yet. That’s perfectly understandable. 

The other thing is that it’s hard to know what’s going on in someone’s life. Everyone has their own demons and triggers and it’s not your responsibility to be accountable for them. I know that sounds harsh so allow me to expand upon that idea. Just like before, I’m not saying you can be a jerk but if you unknowingly hit on something that is upsetting someone then you aren’t to blame. 

You may text someone about a dog laying at your feet and make them realize they are too heartbroken over recently losing their pet and they aren’t in a position to be open to someone else yet. They may never respond to you again after this realization and that is their choice but it’s not your responsibility that a regular conversation triggered them. 

That was a fairy innocuous example (one which actually happened to me) but the point is, maybe they have had a horrible day, have commitment issues, an abusive relationship in their past, or any number of things. There is certainly a reason but you’ll likely never know what it is. It would be great if everyone who was triggered could have a discussion when it happens. That’s not how being triggered usually works; people tend to retreat, not open up. 

Just operate in good faith and don’t let it get under your skin. 

Try to assume the best and keep on rolling. 

I can hear you saying, “why do I assume the best?” It’s a good question and the answer is simple. You have two ways of thinking about this. You can internalize it and make it about you. This is a mindset that will eventually bring you down wondering if you’re good enough. This way of thinking can eventually become a form of self harm. Or you can say, “they must have had something going on in their life for them to act like that, I hope they find what they want.” This approach is a forgiving way to view someone who may be having a difficult time and it leaves you relatively unencumbered to venture on to someone else. 

Also keep in mind that if you date long enough then you will eventually become someone else’s mystery. Think of a time when you messed up by being triggered, didn’t text or call someone, or otherwise just dropped the ball. It’s alright. It happens, but you probably wanted the benefit of doubt in those situations so extend a few good vibes their way as well.

Ultimately, it is on them. 

Whether you know it or not, folks who respond poorly, negatively, or not at all, on a consistent basis are creating problems for themselves more than they are for you in that moment. 

For instance, remember the infrequent communicator I mentioned earlier? She said her past dates didn’t think she liked them. Given my experience, I’m pretty sure I know why. I could tell by her tone that this was causing her pain. It was much more painful for her than her seeming lack of interest was to me. 

It always sucks to have these types of things happen, but don’t let it keep you down for too long. Remember, you’re rolling on to other experiences and to find someone else. Some of these folks are likely to repeat their patterns again and again. You don’t need to be a part of that. 

Really. Count your blessings 

First off, the people I mentioned above don’t really seem like those you would want to date do they? A person who ghosts someone without a word, someone who thinks so little of another they can’t be bothered to respond for 24 hours at a time, and another person who feels it necessary to chide someone during their first interaction for following their instructions. 

If you were dating folks who react like this then things probably don’t look up from there. They are giving you their best foot forward and it badly needs some fungicide and a pedicure (because everyone looks better in nail polish). I know in my life letting these folks go has felt like stepping off the tracks in front of a screaming locomotive that is bound to derail. It’s one of those situations where I scratch my head as it passes and ask out loud, “what the heck was that all about?”

So take solace in what is probably a fact, and is certainly the main takeaway from this writing, they weren’t in the same mental space as you anyway. That’s okay. Thank your lucky talisman that you found out in the very beginning. Now you can free up that time and space for someone who can thrive with you. 

It’s okay to be upset. 

I don’t want you to think for a minute that you can’t grieve or be upset about some of the lost opportunities you’ll have while dating. Some folks you are going to become attached to quickly and your thoughts will drift to the what-if’s. When those connections sour it can make you feel as if you missed out and that can be even harder. Very few people would fault you for feeling that way. 

So by all means take some time to recover if you need. Cry if you feel it necessary as it is wonderfully restorative. Taking time to heal is what will keep you centered in the long run. 

All of this fades in time

There will be a moment when you won’t even remember most of these folks anymore. I know I wouldn’t have remembered the people I spoke of if I hadn’t started this article soon after meeting them. Don’t let the experience stick with you when the faces aren’t likely to. This is one blip in your life that you aren’t likely to remember any more than who sat behind you in second grade. So keep in mind that what bothers you today isn’t likely to do so tomorrow. 

Dating isn’t always easy and there are folks out there who seem to make it their duty to be difficult. Remember though, that things don’t always go according to plan and that’s to be expected. Know that it isn’t about you and that sooner or later you will be back to meet someone else. You’ll keep doing that until one day you’ve found someone special with whom to spend your time. Be kind, be self-aware, and keep your head up; the trains here run around the clock. 

Male Crossdressers Are Still Here

There are times where I wonder what people think about men crossdressing. I was watching the television series After Life and an exchange between two of the characters piqued my interest. One said something to the effect of “you never see blokes dressing like women for fun anymore” to which the other replied “good because you shouldn’t.”

I agree and disagree. In the past, I’ve seen guys do it as a spectacle. I remember in high school we would have assemblies where the guys would dress like women and then try to complete a ridiculous obstacle course. I never found it entertaining in the least and it’s probably part of the reason why I ditched school during those events. That stuff should go away. There’s nothing funny about a man dressing in women’s clothes. 

However, there are men out there for which crossdressing is derived from an emotional standpoint other than humor. This form of dress should stay around and it’s that which I will speak to. 

Can I get more options?

As you can imagine, I crossdress. I don’t crossdress in public (well, once but that’s a story for another time) but I don’t hide the fact that it is part of who I am. I dress around home for me and my partner. I’m sure there are a number of motivations for a guy to crossdress and I’m also sure there are a wide variety of people who do it, so I should caution you that this is my story alone.

For me, and I’m going to bet most other men (whether they realize it or not), traditional American masculinity, rigidly adhered to, is confining in the least and soul crushing at most. Men are supposed to act and look a certain way and I find both of those things incredibly limiting, toxic, and just generally non representative of what it means to be a fully actualized human being. 

If you look at men who are insecure about their level of masculinity they often overcompensate. It’s no coincidence that men become the majority of our mass shooters, militia nut jobs, gay bashers, racists, misogynists, and incels. While these are the most pernicious forms of our individuality denied, it should be noted that gender policing among guys is still shockingly common. Calling someone gay (as if gay is non-masculine) when they do something that isnt viewed as manly is stlll appallingly common. These things signal that manly is still a category that is heavily scrutinized and controlled. 

Given this climate, I figured I could go one of two ways. I could own a gun, drive a four-wheel drive and double down on my insecurity by hating anything feminine and portraying myself as over the top masculine or I could create my own version of who I wanted to be. So now, I own a gun, drive a four-wheel drive (because some things just don’t change), and flit around in so-called girly things.

So why do I crossdress? 

I have almost always wanted to feel desirable in the clothes I wear but what I find attractive are the clothing styles made for women. There isn’t much for guys to wear in order to feel sexy.

As men our physical sex appeal is mainly derived from our bodies which are supposed to be somewhat bulky. I am tall, I am also thin. In fact, I am probably thinner than most women. Because of that, I’m never going to carry a good deal of rippled muscle and any other bulk would have to be in the form of a beer belly which while obtainable, is not really my style. I have gone 40 years without having a body that others regard as truly manly. 

This bothered me as a kid but now I love being this thin. I’ve never found muscles or a strictly “manly” physique attractive. I’ve always been drawn to the slighter, softer side of anatomy in all types of folks and so in myself as well.

So donning women’s clothes allows me to feel sexy by virtue of what I’m wearing and there is something I find alluring, even empowering, in that. As an added bonus, my thin build pairs well with women’s fashion. At least as well as it can for a guy. Donning a cute skirt to accentuate hips I don’t have, and a crop top and belly button ring to show off the small waist I do have, is an exciting and fulfilling experience. I finally get compliments about my body that I have never received while dressed as a man; and that’s not hyperbole either. So that’s one reason but, it’s also more than that. 

Just one body?

The next reason may throw you for a loop, or you may understand. I’m perfectly happy in a male body and I readily identify as a male. Still, if I could also morph my body and have a female form, male form, or some other form depending on my mood then I would love that. This isn’t a fetish, it’s an actual desire to be able to live this way. 

When I see a woman walking down the street in a cute outfit I will do a double take but it’s not for the reasons most guys do. Rather, I’m jealous that I can’t look that cute in the same outfit and that I wouldn’t be accepted if I did. Both concerns stem directly from the fact that my balls tend to hang out of skimpy shorts. Physiology problems, am I right? 

Joking aside, I’m also aware that dressing as a man in women’s clothes could also put me in danger from closed minded bigots (those guys I mentioned earlier). Having a female form to change into would eliminate those worries. Since I can’t do that, cross dressing is a way for me to overlay a feminine shade on a masculine base color. 

It’s here I feel I should take a step back and clarify a few things. I worry that saying these things sounds privileged in some way because I’m a guy. The claim being that I want to experience different forms of being but not permanently and so without responsibility.

I, for now, claim the exact opposite. Different bodies come with different socio-political realities. If my body morphing powers came to fruition I would simultaneously be bearing the brunt and benefit of each body type I filled. I couldn’t take any form without it’s reality bearing down on me. I have no misgivings that if I were some version of female I would be the subject of men’s toxic behavior. If I had a combination physiology then I would have to fear people who can’t wrap their mind around anything but a gender binary (still mostly men by the way). My claim isn’t that there is no danger, but that wearing some of the things I want as a woman puts me under the radar bigots. Changing forms then would simply be changing realities and not escaping altogether. However, I want to explore this idea more fully in the future.

What do I call myself?

I know I am not transgendered. That’s how I initially started this paragraph then I read some material from trans folk that includes what I do under the trans umbrella. I have no problem with being called trans should people choose. I love my big, beautiful, queer family and that absolutely includes my trans brothers and sisters. I support them wholeheartedly. We have some similarities I’m sure and some differences. We can celebrate them all as facets of our uniqueness. 

Maybe there is a term for how I feel. I think of what I do as gender blending for the most part. I’ve seen the term transfeminine (male at birth, but identifying closely with femininity, yet not desirous of being a woman) and I think that fits closely but not exactly. I am desirous of being a woman, but also a man, and also configurations in between. To be perfectly honest, the name for what I do and how I feel doesn’t matter much to me. I’m just trying to embody what feels like the truest expression of who I am within the bounds of reality. 

I have always thought it would be an easy thing to explain; this way I feel. Now that I try to put it in writing for the first time the words seem too definite. Each sentence that I try to use as a tack to hold down what I am seems to have my feelings squeezing out and around every word. Nothing seems as accurate at the conclusion of my sentences as it did when I began them. Feelings are easy to experience but more difficult to write down. Still, this is a beginning and that’s an important step. 

My future

I don’t know what my future holds on this front. My everyday look is slowly evolving. I’ve picked up bracelet making and I’m trying to blend masculine and feminine styles, I paint my nails when I have the time, and I’ve been tossing around the idea of a choker necklace and eye liner. None of this is overly important other than to say, my goal is to blur gender expressions just enough to soften my masculine edge. I think that’s where my happy medium will be but the whole endeavor is an experiment and I’m enjoying the process. Life is more colorful, fun, and lacy now. 

As far as my advocacy goes, I plan to discuss this issue more often from a variety of standpoints. I also want to talk about useful things for folks that crossdress such as finding the right clothes (once I learn how), shopping tips etc. I want to make this issue more visible because there are more people like me out there and I want us to be seen and heard. 

Ultimately, I want the kind of society in which folks with all types of bodies and styles of dress can be accepted and don’t have to face the repercussions of closed minds. Perhaps then I would be satisfied with just my body, perhaps not. 

I imagine I will expire from old age before I will see the type of society in which I would be comfortable. The best I can do right now is to help expand what being male can be so that someday, someone else can live my dream. I want to help enlarge our circle of compassion so we may be the better for it. Crossdressing helps me wrap my mind around that from a practical and abstract standpoint. It helps me to feel things that I am not traditionally allowed to feel and to be closer to who I want to be. It puts me in touch with something rather intangible that I want to help others find. 

We Need To Talk About People’s Reaction To Elliot Page

I’ve always found it odd that we place so much attention on what famous folks do. It’s as if we think that because we watch someone on television that we also have a say in their lives. We may root for them in our favorite shows or as part of our favorite sports teams but that is where it ends. Their lives are separate from ours and they don’t follow a script to please us when they aren’t working. 

Recently, Ellen Page (last time I will use that name) has come out as transgendered, would like to be known as Elliot, and prefers male or gender neutral pronouns. Sounds simple enough. 

As you can imagine some people are not happy about this. There really shouldn’t be a problem with any of these things but it often sends people over the edge. It’s like these folks think that their identity has been challenged by Elliot coming out as trans.

One of the people who is upset is the editor at Spiked-Online who published an article with a number of opinions positioned as objections. Because these things are apparently hard for people to deal with, I thought it might be useful to go over his assertions. I have quoted his main complaints and responded to each. 

“Yesterday, Ellen issued a statement saying she is now Elliot and her pronouns are he and they. That’s just bad grammar.”

So . . . yeah, If we’re starting with grammar as an argument against identity then we know the person making the argument is going to take umbrage with everything. 

Sure, if someone is a writer then grammar ranks high on their naughty list but even here gender neutral pronouns actually are beneficial to writers? I’ve been using gender neutral pronouns on nearly all of my articles for over a year now and it’s remarkably easy. The only time it gets complicated is when I use the plural they/them to refer to an individual while also talking about them in relation to a group. Most of the time this can be avoided by using names for specificity. I spend more time trying to figure out how to avoid ending sentences with prepositions than I do pronoun usage.

Writing with gender neutral pronouns allows what’s being said to apply to a wider variety of people. If I write about dating a woman and a reader doesn’t date women then they may not care about what is being said. However, if I use gender neutral pronouns then that same reader may be more likely to think about the situation as it applies to them. I haven’t excluded their experience and as a writer that’s important because I want my material to resonate with as large an audience as is possible. Gender neutral pronouns accomplish that quite handily. 

Plus, c’mon! Are we really going to harp on a celebrity changing the way we refer to them? Really?! When Sean Combs decided we should call him Sean Puffy Combs we did it, when he later said to call him P. Diddy we did. No one actually thinks there are birth certificates laying around somewhere that say Snoop Dog and Lady Gaga on them. Let us also not forget Prince who changed his name to a symbol. We called him “the artist formerly known as Prince” or “the artist.”

We change names for people all the time and very few of us care when it’s for artistic/advertising purposes. We can easily extend the same courtesy for someone who would like a change in order to reflect their identity. It’s such a small part of taking care of each other and being a compassionate, empathetic person and yet seems to be a step too far for some. 

“Who won gold in the decathlon at Montreal in 1976?’, it says: ‘Caitlyn Jenner.’ Which is a lie. They’re lying about the past now.” And then “Well done! You completely erased a woman who did some very important cinematic work over the past 15 years!”

If the past were erased you couldn’t find out who did those things at all. What has happened is that the names have been changed to reflect who the person is now. It’s still the same person. It’s no different than when someone gets married. We refer to them by a current name for past actions all the time. 

The names we use may change over time. People get married, they get divorced, they get nicknames, or they change their name for a variety of other reasons and we all accept it because it’s not that big of a deal. They are still the same person. 

I can watch Elliot’s work in Juno as a pregnant teen and I can watch a clip of Caitlyn winning gold in a men’s event and understand that these are the same people; that one is a transman and the other a transwoman. There is no incongruity around this issue. Sure, at first it can be easy to get crossed up. Old habits are hard to break but as you sit with it longer and think of them the way they wish to be seen it becomes quite easy. 

“Could it not further confuse young lesbians and make some wonder if their sexual preferences and possibly tomboyish attitude also means they are a ‘he’?”

First an aside, this argument fails in a number of ways. Unbeknownst to many, some lesbians prefer he/him pronouns as well. Where is the outrage about that? People who make this argument don’t really give two shits about lesbians. They just hate transgendered people and they’re willing to position any group against them they can. They are grasping at straws because their argument is lacking.

Another problem with this line of thought is it assumes that lesbians are simply pawns without an independent identity. It denies lesbians agency in their life. Proponents of this argument seem to think someone somewhere first decided to be trans out of a malicious desire for control and then fooled others into joining. This isn’t Scientology.

Keep in mind that sexual attraction and gender are two different things. Trans folk claim a different gender because they are that gender. Some will first wonder if they might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or any other number of sexual orientations. It can be difficult to figure one of these things out, much less both simultaneously. We shouldn’t be surprised to see these things happen in progression.

This argument is also belittling to people who are experimenting with their gender and sexuality. If any lesbian decides that their attraction to females is a result of their desire to be a male then naysayers automatically claim they are confused. Former lesbians now trans, by their logic, don’t know what they are talking about and are victims of the trans agenda (whatever that is). It’s a page straight outta the book of misogyny to say that these people’s claims about themselves don’t matter, that they are not to be believed, and are misinformed or just plain stupid. They are feigning concern for lesbians while simultaneously calling them stupid. We are not the saviors for lesbians or trans folk, we are their allies and we need to listen to what they say about their identity and sexual orientation.

Plus, the lesbian argument seeks to impose limits not expand choices. When people are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be, they should have all the options possible. Those who would deny them these choices really just want control. These arguments are levied by people that think being a lesbian is less objectionable than being a transperson so they try to corral people into their belief system. They are not interested in helping anyone learn about themselves or determine their own destiny.

Think about your own life, chances are if you lived it how other people thought you should you would likely be miserable. Our autonomy is important to us and we should extend that wonderful gift/right to others as much as we can as an act of compassion. 

One last note, let us not forget that it’s not just “young lesbians” who are testing the waters but women of all ages come to question their sexuality and/or gender at different times throughout their lives. The choice about how to live authentically is not exclusive to the young.

“But what about us, the people who also inhabit this world? What about our recognition, springing from millennia of observation, that if you give birth you are a mother, not a father? What about our understanding that if you produce sperm and impregnate someone – as Bruce Jenner did – then you are a man, not a woman?”

Obviously, these folks have given up on disputing gender so they are looking to chip away at biology. So let’s look at a millennia of observation from which our recognition should spring. 

For instance, before white folks came to this continent many indigenous cultures had members who weren’t recognized as women or men (India still does). Each tribe had its own name for its special gender. There’s ample evidence here that producing sperm and menstruating were not the only means to determine gender. Instead of anglosaxons adopting and finding merit in these cultures we, for all intents and purposes, eradicated them. It’s the same thing some folks want to do to transgendered people today by denying them recognition. They would rather trans folk not exist so their erroneous world view remains unchallenged. 

In this rush to claim biology as the ultimate trump card we often forget that there are many other biological ways of being that we crush out of existence or to which we are oblivious. Virtually any child that is born as outwardly intersexed (variations in sex characteristics that aren’t what we think of as male or female) is generally surgically altered soon after birth. This is if it’s noticed, some genitalia variances don’t show up until years later. Some folks die without ever knowing. In those situations, a medical examiner finds out upon performing an autopsy. 

For our purposes though, let’s say a surgeon somewhere has deleted one aspect of genitalia from a intersex individual and then let’s look at the argument from biology. 

Imagine a person was born with intersex genitalia and had their female genitalia removed at birth and were left with what was present of a penis and raised as a boy. Are they male? If not then we are saying that genitals alone do not determine biological gender. If we say they are a male then we have to acknowledge that they are male because they were surgically altered just as a transman could be if they choose.

Perhaps we could stake out a middle ground to sidestep this conundrum and say they are neither male nor female. If that is the case then our rigid reliance on a gender dichotomy is superfluous.

Any option we take of the three listed above renders our idea of a gender binary moot. Some men never produce sperm, some women are incapable of having children. Men and women have varying physiologies and the difference between penis and vagina is a gradient not an either or proposition. There are all types of interesex folks who have a wonderful blend of physical traits rendering the definition of biological man or woman neither here nor there.

Additionally, only a few among us know what our chromosomes are. There are people who have lived their whole lives thinking they are male XY or female XX when the truth is something more complex and wonderful than they could have imagined. Some folks who were born as women have XY chromosomes, some males have two “female” chromosomes are XXY, folks who are intersex can have mosaic genetics which means some of their cells have XX chromosomes and some have XY chromosomes (How cool is that?).

Unless, we end up with a disease that requires our chromosomes to be checked, most of us go our whole lives thinking we are just XX or XY. There is such a thing as biology but it does not speak in the stark terms that we do. 

So, as was asked initially, what about us? What do we say from a millennia of cultural and biological observations? Do we heed their lesson and honor the fact that people come in a wonderful tapestry of shapes, forms, and genders or do we keep yelling with our eyes closed and our fingers in our ears because doing otherwise makes us uncomfortable? I know what compassion would have us do. 

If people like Elliot can finally live the life they feel they have been destined to live and it upsets other folks then I think that says more about those other folks than it does Elliot or his allies. 

The editors article, unfortunately, reads like one big temper tantrum. Our refusal to call someone how they want to be called won’t stop them from identifying that way. It will however make us look like the assholes we are when we continually violate someone’s boundaries because of our own selfish viewpoint. 

7 Tips to Find Out if Your Crush Likes You: and how to handle it if they don’t.

I wrote this specifically for guys dating gals because I’ve noticed a pattern among some men and I think this can help. However, my advice is in no way strictly related to men and all types of folks may find it useful so switch the pronouns around as it fits you and run with it till your hearts content. 

Here is the scenario I often see. There is a girl you like and she likes you back. The two of you talk regularly, flirt with one another and then one day you realize that she doesn’t feel the same way. She either started dating someone else, didn’t make time for you like you wanted, or any other number of reasons that made you realize she wasn’t interested. This was incredibly frustrating to you and as you rummaged through your thoughts you start to wonder why she led you on for so long. Maybe you even messaged her to say as much and vent your frustrations. The whole situation stung of rebuke. 

If this has happened to you then I have some bad news, you’re probably exhibiting what is referred to as toxic behavior. It was toxic because there’s a good chance that only you were romantically interested. You made the assumption that she was smitten by romance, but you either didn’t ask specifically or, if you did, failed to heed her response. Then when she acted contrary to your wishes you made her deal with your emotions.

Chances are you’ll deny these assertions which is perfectly natural. It’s the default response when we are confronted with uncomfortable information. I want you to know that I’m here to help you, not berate you. Unless you want to repeat this cycle for the rest of your life and push friends and lovers away, then you should read on as I take you through a better way to guide your thoughts and actions. 

This kind of change is never easy because it requires brutal honesty about your thoughts and habits. Some of these things are probably even rooted in what you think a relationship is supposed to look like and how it behaves. You’re going to have to dig down deep and do some serious personal work. I promise your life will be easier and happier if you do. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve made mistakes in my life and I’ll share those so you can learn from them. This article is for me as much as it is you. The insights I have gained can help you and add depth to your relationships. Along the way, we’ll flush out behaviors and attitudes that are making your life and others miserable. Let’s jump right in with our first tip. 

Tip 1: Don’t assume someone likes you because you like them. 

Sounds simple doesn’t it but I bet you don’t come out as clean on this one as you think. Thanks to our upbringing, guys in America generally grow up to think that if they like someone then that person must also like them. Women don’t generally do this. 

One way in which this plays out is when you see a woman younger than you and say “man if I were 10 years younger. . .” An important joke I keep on the ready is “If you were ten years younger you’d what? Get rejected as a younger man as opposed to a forty year old?” It’s not a way to berate but to help me manage my thoughts and be aware of my assumptions.

There is this idea that the only thing standing in your way is something situational, otherwise you’d be all over women and them all over you. It doesn’t occur to a good number of men that the person you are ogling has their own agency and in fact, is probably not interested in you. 

I don’t say this to be mean but think about it; how many women do you see every day with whom you would seriously want to be in a relationship? Unless you’re terribly lonely, the answer is a significantly smaller percentage than 100%. Sure there are those that you find attractive but we’re talking about next level stuff here and not merely the hormonal driven whims of an aimless libido. 

Well, guess what? Statistically, most women don’t want to be with you either. That’s just how the numbers break. Think about dating for a moment. Every date isn’t going to be with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with (and if it is then please seek help or stop dating and focus on being happy while single). So the fact that you think you have a chance with more women than you do is a delusion. 

My opinion is that most guys, myself included, grow up with this delusion. We can blame whatever we wish, music, movies, pornography, adults that we learn our cues from, but it doesn’t really matter. The key is we have to stop assuming as much and start to see things differently. We are actively disregarding women’s desires and personal agency because we think our desire determines theirs. That’s not how reality works. 

Here’s a story of mine to illustrate why this is important. I had a friend I was very keen on dating and I thought she was interested in dating me. I would say things I thought were flirtatious and that were skirting the edge of outright saying I like you. I was afraid of asking straight out so I slinked around the issue. I see now that my friend could have easily, and did, respond to me without knowing my intentions. In my mind, because I was flirting (poorly) she had to be flirting back. After all, I got goosebumps when she spoke to me. So one day I kissed her on the neck after a hug. 

I know now that it was a total bullshit move. She didn’t respond as I thought she would so I asked her what she did when uncomfortable and she told me she froze up. I said “it seems like you’re frozen now, would it be fair to say that my advances make you uncomfortable?” Surprise! Of course I was making her uncomfortable. 

Then I did what I should have done all along.

Tip 2: Find out if someone likes you. 

So let’s say you’ve been “flirting” with someone for awhile now and you think they are returning your interest, but how do you find out if they like you? Ask them, silly. 

Sorry but there is no other way. Don’t assume it. Stop taking the smile as a gesture, don’t take someone touching you as a gesture of romance, or frequent conversations or anything other than them saying they want to date you. It’s true that those signs could mean they are interested in you romantically but it could also mean you are close friends. To know for sure you’ll have to ask. 

That’s what I did, albeit after the fact, with my friend. It turns out she wasn’t interested in me in that way and me not asking first was a mistake that made the relationship a little awkward for a bit after that. We came out of it after a few days but I could have ruined a friendship and nothing is worth that. 

The benefit of asking if someone likes you is that then you know the truth. You won’t have to worry if that long hug is about friendship or romance anymore. Now you know and that is extremely useful information. 

Here’s how that info works in real life. A couple years later, I had another friend (honestly I don’t just date my friends) whom I liked and thought she perhaps liked me. So having learned from my last experience and before I made any move I simply asked her if she had any interest in a relationship beyond friendship. As it turns out she didn’t, I was projecting my interest and desire onto someone else (again).

While it wasn’t exactly the news I wanted to hear, in a lot of ways it was still good news. It meant that her affection towards me was a product of her meaningful interest and friendship. The closeness we shared I no longer had to fret over. It was about a wonderful friendship. More than that, it let us open up to one another and express our mutual love without worrying about it being misconstrued as romantic. To this day we still tell each other I love you and that is a wonderful thing to share with a friend. 

Keep this next point in mind, asking doesn’t have to be stressful. Did you notice how I asked her? I didn’t straight up ask her out because that would have put her on the spot even more. I simply inquired about her interest in such a thing. If she replied that she was interested then I could have asked her out.

My conversation starter actually went something like this, “you and I are really close and that’s something I cherish. I was curious if any of that closeness came from an interest to be something other than friends. If it doesn’t, that is perfectly okay because while I could be interested in dating what is far more important to me is our friendship. I never want to do anything to mess that up.”

Here’s why I think this works. You establish that you feel close to her and that closeness is important to you. It lets her know that she doesn’t have to pull away or distance herself from being close to you. You are establishing that no one is to blame for that closeness because there is nothing wrong with it. Last, it lays the groundwork for any possible interest outside of friendship as being a mutual decision. Basically, it lets her know you are responsible for your emotions so she doesn’t have to be and that you value and respect her feelings on the matter (i.e. you’re not going to be a dick about it). It’s a low stress option for both people. 

If you think there is another way around this, there isn’t. This is it, you have to ask. Perhaps you’ll find it stressful and maybe you won’t. I find that this alleviates most of the trepidation I have about asking. It’s far less stressful than directly asking someone out (for both people) and it honors the connection you have established so far. 

If the other person says yes then I hope everything works out for the two of you. From here on though, I’m going to discuss what to do if the answer is no. 

Tip 3: Believe the answer and proceed accordingly. 

This step is about boundaries clear and simple. If someone tells you they are not interested, or gives you any type of instruction and you keep acting (i.e. pushing) in a contrary way then you don’t really deserve to be their friend. 

This is toxic behavior and it stems from your inability to be responsible for your emotions. Our emotions are always going to want to run roughshod over logic, we evolved that way so we could procreate, eat, and survive despite the odds. It’s our job now to slow that process down and introduce responsibility into our actions; something for which our ancestors Homo habilis probably had less of a need. Congratulations, you’re evolved. 

When it came to my friend I never let myself doubt what she told me. I would keep returning to our conversation in my mind to guide my thoughts and actions. You should do the same. 

If the person you’re interested in has said there is nothing romantic in the cards then believe them. It doesn’t matter that you want romance. The situation has been resolved. Put it out of your mind and focus on the friendship. 

Don’t tell them that you will always want to date them because that creates tension in the friendship and you really don’t know how you will feel down the road. Just let them know that if anything changes to tell you and it can be discussed further at that time. This will let them know they can be open and honest with you. In the meantime, assume that nothing has changed. After all, you’ve done your part, you have your answer, now focus on being an amazing friend and keep your romantic thoughts unmoored so you can float freely to the next person who sparks your interest. 

That is what the conversation is about after all. You want to ascertain who shares your romantic interest so you can date them if applicable and find someone else if not. 

Tip 4: Other connections are valuable, sometimes more so. 

Realize that friendships are vitally important in your life and don’t think of a friendship versus a relationship. It’s true you may not be dating the person you asked and that can feel like a loss at first but don’t minimize what you still have with this person. 

Try to never use the words, “just friends” because a friendship should never be “just” anything. If someone asks if you are dating say “no, we are friends.” Your friendship can last much longer than your relationship would have because she wants to be your friend. Value this connection because it will make your life richer not poorer.

This should hopefully minimize any anger you feel but if it doesn’t here’s the next useful tip. 

Tip 5: Don’t blame the other person. 

Let’s be honest, life doesn’t always go the way we want it, but you need to own your shit and keep your cool. 

This is the point where guys usually blame the other person for leading them on, which is generally just the result of a guy not adhering to any of the actions above. 

It’s not the other person’s fault that they don’t want to date so don’t keep returning to them with conversations about how upset you are. Remember, everyone is an individual and while you harbored romantic feelings, they did not. It’s not always pleasant but it is unavoidable; we all have our own desires. 

Trust me, I’ve been there. There was a girl in high school I liked and dated very briefly. After this experience I wanted to date again and I asked her several times more. Each time she said no, but I just knew we were meant to be together, though in retrospect I have no idea why. I used all the signs of friendship as indicators of her romantic interest in me. Even her discussing interest in other guys didn’t detour me. I was smitten and delusional. As such, I ignored very clear signs right before my eyes. 

So when I finally felt the reality I was drowning in I talked about it stupidly by saying, “I’ve had enough, I’m not playing games anymore,” and “she just wants to string as many guys along as she can.” If I was being honest, what I should have been saying was “she made it clear she isn’t interested in me and I need to accept that and focus on the friendship” but I was young and dumb and that didn’t happen. I was mad at her when everything was actually my fault. I didn’t believe her answers and I didn’t want to be responsible for my emotions. 

So your first task is to quit blaming the other person and see where you went wrong. You may be young or you may not be, but you don’t have to be dumb. I assure you that if you were pursuing someone and it isn’t working out that you have responsibility to bear. Finding out what that is can be vitally important. 

This isn’t a time for a pity party, none of this, “girls just don’t like me” or “she friend-zoned me” bullshit. You put yourself in the romantic zone not her, the conversation just set you straight and that’s a good thing. Also, if she didn’t like you on a friend level then you wouldn’t be spending time together. So stop the woe-is-me trash talking and realize that the reason you want to disparage her is because you aren’t taking responsibility for your actions and unrealistic expectations. 

Also, don’t go thinking that if you try harder you can make her fall in love with you. This isn’t a fairytale movie where the supposed hero crosses every personal boundary of his love interest and then she falls in love with him anyway. That dude is not a hero. He is emotionally unhinged. You’re not going to be like him. 

You are going to be the person who looks for signs where you may have gone wrong. You’re going to look for times where you let your thoughts go off the rails so you can be more responsible next time. You are going to be a better version of you. 

Tip 6: Don’t make your emotions their problem. 

Nope, seriously dude, don’t do it. 

Everything I’ve talked about so far should help you to see the role you play but if you just can’t see your way clear of your emotions and you are still upset then there’s one last vital piece of advice. Keep your bullshit to yourself. 

Don’t make your problem someone else’s. It’s a dick move for you to stalk, berate, swear at, threaten, or employ your friends in any way because you can’t handle your shit. I know you’re thinking that if she can’t make you happy then you’re going to make her miserable. You think you have to get even. It’s a typical control freak move because you can’t handle the outcome. 

The thing is, you’re not getting even because you are likely the one who was leading yourself on. What is really happening is that you were keeping your feelings for this person hidden because you were too afraid to ask and now that you have your answer you’re making her responsible for your emotions a second time. 

Chances are that as a guy you have never felt as if you are in danger from someone who wanted to date you. It’s a horrible thing to make someone fear for their safety and it’s something that we are generally lucky to avoid. Don’t be someone else’s horror story. Not only will they be glad they aren’t dating you, but it will wreck any chance at friendship. 

You need to be careful about what you tell yourself during these times because an uncentered mind clings to anything that fits a narrative and those lies become a reality. That’s why conspiracy theories have such a grip. They make people feel like they have an understanding of things when the truth challenges their personal beliefs. You’ll believe nearly anything about someone else if it means you don’t have to face who you are or what you believe. 

So be forgiving as much as you can and talk about your former romantic interest kindly and without blame. This will help you realize their autonomy and their importance. It will also help you connect with other people down the line because everyone listens to the words someone uses to talk about an ex or a former interest. If you speak kindly of them people will think kindly of you. 

None of these things are necessarily easy and they will take some serious effort on your part but trust me when I say it is worth the effort. You will be better for it. 

Tip 7: What if you did blow up, what now?

This is a hard one and I think it depends on a number of factors. If there is still an open dialogue happening then that makes it easier. Take responsibility for your actions and apologize. By responsibility I mean you don’t blame them. You just own what you did, say there was no excuse for it and that you are sorry. If you bring up mitigating circumstances then you are still blaming anyone but you. So own it. Maybe the friendship can heal in time and maybe it can’t. 

If there isn’t a dialogue then it falls into one of two camps. If the two of you just stopped talking then it seems reasonable to reach out and try to apologize. Only reach out once. If they don’t want to hear it, or ignore you, then you burnt your bridge. It sucks but move on and let them live their life. Don’t keep trying to apologize over and over. You have no right to their time or mental space and you will just be harassing them. If you insist on having your apology heard then you are just as unstable now as when you did the damage. It shows you haven’t learned a thing. You have to control your emotions here as well. 

The second non-dialogue situation is if the person has made efforts to prevent you from contacting them such as if they have blocked you in email, messaging, social media, gaming accounts, and so on and so forth. Sometimes this will come as a direct request and someone will ask or tell you never to contact them again.

When these things happen then you’re done. Leave them alone. Any contact, even to apologize, is harassment. Period. Congratulations, you were so toxic that they don’t want anything to do with you. You are someone’s monster. If you’re not okay with this (and you shouldn’t be) then you need to take the time to do some serious emotional work and perhaps even seek professional help in the form of a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. 

Remember, the strongest people ask for help because they know it will involve saying they are wrong and that they will have to make changes in their thoughts and actions. Weak people refuse help because it is easier to destroy relationships than take responsibility. Be strong and build a better, more compassionate you. 

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with asking a friend if they want to date, but there can be plenty to go wrong if you don’t ask and if you can’t handle yourself after asking. Be honest, be kind, be compassionate and be a friend. May your life be good and your connections to others run deep.