State of the Relationship Address: Call me Jena!

As my partner slid her hands beneath my dress, pushing it up around my waist, I asked “Will you call me Jena?” This is something I had wanted for a long time but for whatever reason the femme side of my gender was rarely on display during my sexual encounters with her. She complied, but I could sense a little unease in her voice as she said my name. So I took over referring to myself in femme ways and relaxing into a roll I so desperately wanted to fill. Doing this for the first time and accepting that part of me was exciting and liberating. Everything inside me had been leading in this direction.

After this experience, I asked my partner how she felt using my femme name (admittedly, something I should have done beforehand). For a little background, my partner is a cis-woman and as straight as they come. By my telling of it, she has never found any part of a woman attractive in any significant way. She is attracted to male-bodied me and yet has been supportive of me wearing whatever female clothing I desire in private or in public.

Still, she said using a femme name for me was not something with which she was comfortable. It did not create any attraction for her. Quite the contrary, I got the impression that it created a kind of repellant visceral response (the opposite of attraction basically).

I want to be clear that I do not fault her for it in any way. While I think there are aspects of attraction that we can control and help shape, there is also a part of desire that cannot be forced. Accepting this duality has been central to my own journey of exploring sexual attraction and even gender identity. I accept and support her boundaries.

Additionally, for about two years we have had an agreement that I could be with other queer folks sexually. For this arrangement I would be non monogamous and she would be monogamous. This was actually her idea initially and one which she mentioned a couple of times before I actually accepted it as a viable possibility. We did this because I wanted to continue exploring my queerdom and retain my visibility as a queer person.  

During that time of being able to “date” (or whatever you want to call it) other folks I had talked to many folks but none who could muster up any interest that went much past the tip of their genitalia. I also found it hard to believe that my partner was one hundred percent okay with this arrangement. Accordingly, I didn’t want to proceed full steam ahead and do irreparable damage to our relationship. As a result, I had only been with one other person who was a dear friend of mine on one occasion.

So when I initially heard that she couldn’t accept calling me Jena I was worried but knew that perhaps I could still explore this aspect of me with others. I felt like I still had a lifeline and an outlet in which to revel in who I was becoming. A week or two later this too came to an end.

My partner told me that while our relationship arrangement made logical sense to her that she couldn’t accept it on an emotional level. Now that she had discovered and spoke her truth, I was happy to focus instead on monogamy. The clarity of monogamy has always felt reassuring and I find simplicity and beauty in the practice.

All of this creates a number of quandaries for me. Is my femme side in any form a problem for her that will eventually surface? For now, I am aware of the possibility, but am accepting that I have heard the truth as best as she currently knows it and am proceeding accordingly. 

The larger issue for me is that now that I am monogamous can I express my femininity in such a way that is still fulfilling for me while not being off putting to my partner? Is it possible to walk this line and leave everyone happy or will tending to her boundaries squelch my identity? Furthermore, is it even reasonable to walk a line at all where gender identity is concerned? Isn’t it more preferable to be who I want and need to be and let the chips fall where they may?

I don’t pretend to have the definitive answers, or any answers, but I do want to talk about what I have discovered while wrestling with these questions.

Realizing My Femme Side

In my past, I had kept my femininity shutoff from the outside world. I was closeted on purpose. Growing up I was surrounded by people who didn’t understand virtually any queer issues nor did they make an attempt. They mainly ridiculed and disparaged those who were different. Twenty some odd years ago, I shared a few pics with the person who was my first spouse. They were of me wearing her undergarments. Later when she was upset about something, she said, “I leave for a week and the first thing you do is dress up in my underwear.” I didn’t know exactly what this meant as it didn’t pertain to the argument at the time but I got the picture. I was expected to knock it the fuck off. 

I had reached out to someone I thought I could trust and I received a scolding that was the death knell to me living openly with her. I didn’t want to experience that again and in small minded (I mean small town) America it was sure to happen each time I tried to publicly become who I needed to be.

So I kept it all under wraps. I dressed in femme ways only when I was alone and my partner was gone. I never mentioned it to her again. Later with other partners I was able to bring this side of me to life but mainly did so only in the bedroom; the most private of spaces.

This year though I have started wearing women’s clothes (pants and shorts) out in public. It is still less than I would like to wear, but it is a process and I am in the middle of it. Still, dressing with femme clothes in public is removing the secrecy around my gender. It is helping to give me some visibility as a queer person.

Likewise, when I was chatting with folks on dating apps I was leaving it up to people to call me by my masculine name or my femme name. Those who chose my femme name lightened my step. It felt foreign to be called Jena but it also resonated with me and made me happy. Having this quality in my life makes me feel more rounded and gives me visibility as a queer person. It’s as if my figurative masculine edges are being sanded down a bit. I like that.

What I’ve Learned . . . Kinda

This revelation is another step in understanding where I have been and in some ways where I am at now. My desire to be femme during intimacy was because I had kept this side of me in relative secrecy. I’m curious to see if having the femme me on display in public will erase the need to be referred to this way occasionally by my partner. If this is the case then I’m not walking any figurative line at all. Problem solved.

Conversely, if I still have the urge to be more femme than my partner can handle then it will be unfair to myself to continue walking someone else’s path. It seems as if this is the more likely outcome. While dressing femme in private led me to also dress in public, the occurrence of the latter has not diminished the occurrence of the former. So it seemingly follows that using my femme name in public is still going to be something I desire during intimate moments as well, though that experiment has yet to be conducted.

It must be admitted though that in a monogamous relationship that one half of the experiment is missing. I can’t use my femme name during intimacy to see how much I need to express that part of me. I just have to wait and see if I think I want it used. If I do, the relationship will end and I’ll have to hope that I was correct and that I didn’t make the wrong choice. It has become a much larger burden under monogamy than it was previously.

I used to feel as if I had a clean slate to explore and write down who I wanted to be. Now the surface of my slate is hemmed in with words to direct my path. I can write down who I am so long as I do not obscure parts of the slate which already contain the writing of others.

Keep in mind, I’m not asking to go back to nonmonogamy. That didn’t work and anyway, I don’t need it. It’s just that now I don’t know how to proceed. However, proceed I must because there is no other option before me.

I have had a difficult time writing this because I do not truly know where I stand. Each line I put down on the page feels shaky and dangerous. How much of what I write here is being constrained by the boundaries of my partner and by my fears? Truthfully, I do not know. Only time will reveal that answer. I have tried to be as kind and yet truthful as possible. I know that being gender fluid is firmly a part of me. I’m unpacking it piece by piece and while it feels good to do so, I’m scared of the consequences that my thoughts on this page could have in my current relationship. Seeing it all typed out here is less than reassuring.

If the romantic aspect of our relationship does not survive then it is no one’s fault. In fact, it will be for the best of all possible reasons. That my gender identity does not line up with her sexual attraction is certainly no one’s fault. It is just one of those unfortunate things which can occur as people grow.

For now, my partner says she is comfortable with me dressing in femme clothes and is good with incorporating these clothes into our intimacy. This gives me hope and currently I could use a little more of that.

My First Time

For decades now I have been crossdressing in private. In the last couple of years my desire to take a little bit of this feminine flair out into the world has been increasing. I was going through my clothes the other night and I noticed how much I liked wearing women’s jeans. Moreover, I realized that certain designs were not that far off from the men’s pants I was already wearing. Suddenly, wearing the perfect pair of women’s jeans seemed like a nice blend of masculine and feminine.

There was a slight catch. Because I acquired most of my women’s clothes surreptitiously from strangers (craigslist, ebay, etc), I didn’t get to try any of it on ahead of time. So while I have a huge collection of clothes (more womens than mens, truth be told), not all the pants fit as well as I would like. Accordingly, I knew that to be comfortable for everyday use I couldn’t shop blindly and hope for a good fit. I would have to go the conventional shopping route.

I had a pair of men’s jeans from American Eagle that fit me well. Based on that and the selection I saw online, I decided to give them a shot. Once there, I quickly settled on a pair of their Artist bootcut low rise jeans in an x-long, cuz “I gots legs for dayz yo!” I was curious to try the Boyfriend jeans in a more straight leg, but that style may be discontinued as I could not find it in the store.

I went for the dark color version of the jeans to help hide the masculine shape of my legs just a little bit more. The jeans were a good fit. The stretchy Artist jean fit snugly through my hips and upper legs and then relaxed around my knee and gently flared at the cuff. I was initially concerned that the flare was too much but once I put on my shoes that concern diminished. The bootcut flare on this style pants may still be a bit on the large side for my liking but I decided to go with it. 

Admittedly, one of my chief concerns was how my butt would look in them. I have a rather flat posterior and so my butt really gets lost in most of the sloppy fitting guys’ jeans – happily, it looks better than it ever has. I’m not creating anything I don’t have, I’m not about to pad anything, but it definitely helps me show off a bit. 

As curves are concerned, the front of the pants does showcase more than what folks with penises are probably used to. It’s not extreme, it’s just that we aren’t accustomed to seeing our form showing through (a trend that I would love to see reversed). The pants have enough compression to keep anything from being a spectacle. This aspect of jean fit does mean that the type of underwear I wear matters much more. I’ll touch on this in my next article but suffice it to say that the tighter you can bundle everything together the better the fit looks.

Now that I had found my pair of pants the only thing left to do was put them on and go outside. During my first wearing I was a little self-conscious but not because of anything I noticed from other people. It was just a reticence based on the fear of what could happen. Truthfully, if people were looking at me, I didn’t notice. I honestly didn’t even feel like I was making a scene. I was just being me. 

That last part is important because I have noticed that I am happier that I now wear these types of pants. They say (i.e. studies have shown) that people who have traits which cross the (artificial) gender divide have higher self-esteem than those who rigidly conform to it. My experience reinforces this finding. Living more authentically for me brings me joy, staying hidden does not.

After multiple outings in these new jeans I love them more each time I go out. There are differences based on what I’m used to with guys pants, that is inevitable. I am noticing more and more how they give me a feminine look, more than I had anticipated. However, I have come to love this as well. 

I have always been shamed for my thin body by other men. It used to bother me that I wouldn’t be perceived as masculine. Now, I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t end up with the compacted muscular frame I wanted as a kid. My tall lanky build lends itself well to my desired style of dress. I enjoy seeing clothes hug my body and accentuate the thin form that I have come to love. It’s all very wonderful to experience.

At this moment, I am wondering how to maintain my blend of clothes come summer (jeans are too hot in warm weather). I’m currently exploring women’s shirts to wear with my guy shorts as well as looking for a few styles of womens shorts to pair with some of my more form fitting shirts. This is an exciting new frontier for me and as few people seem to talk about this type of thing I plan on detailing my experiences here as I go along my cute, little, merry, crossdressing way.

Until next time, join me in obliterating those gender boundaries my beauties.

Footnote:

I have resorted to generic terms of men and women, masculine and feminine, for the sake of clarity. However, make no mistake that if these labels don’t fit you, then trust me when I say that I see you, you sexy gender trail blazing thang you (I really don’t talk like this, lol). I am also aware of the argument that there are not women’s clothes or men’s clothes, but just clothes that anyone can wear. I find validity in this viewpoint. However, for me there is a distinct appeal to wearing something that I know is designed for women. I also enjoy referring to it in that way. I feel sexy wearing “women’s” clothes. Doing so allows me a rejection of masculinity that feels more complete than wearing gender neutral clothes would.

This likely stems from the fact that I am exploring the identity of being genderfluid and with that the recognition that I sometimes feel a little more masculine and sometimes a little more feminine and never fully one or the other. For this reason, I’m starting to hedge on calling what I do crossdressing. Until I come up with a better term then this description will awkwardly suffice.

Article soundtrack: Every Time I Die – Post-boredom. Every Time I Die – Ebolarama. PUP – Totally Fine. Bayside – Strangest Faces.

State of the Relationship Address: Down Periscope!

Every now and then in life I bump up against people that truly help me see who I am. Sometimes it is because they compliment me in a way that surprises me. Other times it is because of the juxtaposition between who they are and who I am. This latter scenario is my focus here.

Some of these juxtaposed folks suffer from what I have dubbed Woe-is-me Syndrome (WIMS). These people manifest some type of negative attitude which pushes others away, whether it be desperation, despair, or anger. They often have also developed a type of “me against the world” mentality. Unfortunately, when the terms of their existence are that stark, the world generally wins. As a result, they begin to feel as if everyone is out to get them and their mental well-being suffers.

They can become so dedicated to their gloom and doom outlook that attempts to give them another way to view a situation are often met with their blatant refusal of said alternative, a doubling down on their original position, and in rare cases, outright hostility towards a new view.

I have a friend that is in the grips of WIMS. Seemingly, everything that happens in the world brings them down and everyone who looks at them is trying to do them harm. They are so lonely. They lament all their failed relationships, while doing nothing to make new ones or correct the destructive patterns which have led to this isolation. Their inability to control their emotions has negatively affected their career in the past and present. It has become so bad that, once, a guy gave my friend a business card for a job. Instead of thinking about the potential good fortune, my friend began to wonder if the guy was trying to somehow find out where my friend lived to do them harm.

When I broach the possibility to my friend that their view of the world, and their place in it, is causing them harm it is first met with an acknowledgement of “yeah, maybe you’re right” and then a litany of their experiences justifying why they should be like this. Most of these experiences, dare I say excuses, are borne out of no greater logic than the business card incident I just described.

The thing is, I understand this mentality well. At one point, I was clinging to an ideology that was clearly doing me no favors.

This part of our tale takes us back about 20 years. I was an emerging feminist and a trained sociologist. As such, I am very familiar with socio-economic stratification and the mechanisms which perpetuate class, gender, and racial inequality. In fact, if I were to pinpoint the moment that my WIMS kicked in it was during my time studying inequality in America during the completion of my Sociology degree.

I was also educated in the ways that numerous marginalizations can create a greater disenfranchisement of the individual, which is dubbed intersectionality. This means, for example, that a woman can, and likely will, experience different treatment than a man. This treatment disadvantages her by depriving her of the same opportunities that a man could expect to experience. Further, a woman of color can experience even more institutionalized forms of disenfranchisement than could a white woman. A woman of color who doesn’t speak English will likely experience even more. Each subsequent status of other (we could add to the list, physically impaired, homeless, queer, trans, etc) creates more obstacles for this person’s equality to those who do not embody these traits. It is basically a compounding of disadvantages based on the ideology of this person as being “other.”

While I was learning this I was also living in rural Illinois. It was clear that I had a personal growth ambition that outstripped my racist, sexist, and homophobic counterparts. That sentence is a little harsh, but I’m going to keep it.

Because of these things I felt both the ways in which I was privileged and disadvantaged. Feeling thankful and guilty for the former and rather constrained by the latter. I continually struggled with who I was compared to what everyone else expected me to be. I only fit in because I did not know how to be myself when that meant pushing against those expectations.

I couldn’t explore who I wanted to be without the disapproving comments of others. I was being policed due to their insecure need for conformity. This made it difficult to sus out if I was queer and later once I accepted it to find out what being queer meant for me. 

Once I had included myself under the umbrella of being queer, I felt marginalized due to bi-erasure (being viewed as straight if with a woman and gay when with a man) and never quite seen as the multi-dimensional person I was. Moreover, there were folks even in the queer community, my suppossed family, who would rather me not exist. My sexual orientation was a threat to them. I was hemmed in on all sides.

I pondered my gender (hell, I still do). I feel a little non-binary-ish. I like to crossdress and enjoy the pretty side of things. If I could switch between a variety of male and female forms based on my moods that would be amazing. 

There’s a good deal of folks who don’t have the space for someone like me. They don’t want me to figure out who I am if it means deviating from the behavior of which they approve. I know what these types of people say about transfolk because they think I’m a safe audience. I know that the same disapproval and scorn is also waiting for me if and when I deviate from the norm. The simple act of painting my nails elicited disgust from midwestern bigots (and others). Imagine if I showed up in women’s jeans, a cute top, and eyeliner.

I hated the stereotypes of what it meant to be a man (still do). They felt so ignorant and violent to me. It repulsed me to my core and I lamented the strictures around manhood that I felt kept me locked in place. As a thin, slight young “man” I never had the physique that I thought was masculine and I grew up thinking myself less because of it (luckily, what was a burden then looks good in a dress now).

I also struggled with my working class status and the ways middle and upper class America protected and elevated their own. I had no such footholds in life.

Religion was another way in which I felt like an outcast. I was fresh from relinquishing my priesthood position and I was a fiery, newly branded atheist. It was a view that wasn’t accepted in middle America, but I don’t think I was actually marginalized because of it. However, my determination to teach everyone about the flaws in religious thinking definitely put me at odds with folks.

So as a queer, non-binary, working class, crossdressing, atheist I was somewhere in the venn diagram of intersectionality. I felt pretty alone and isolated and didn’t see anyone living the life I wanted. I had crafted my image around these various forms of disenfranchisement. I was angry and felt as if my anger was appropriate and shouldn’t be mitigated. I felt as if viewing the situation any differently meant I was giving in to the powers that be.

During that time, if anyone tried to give me a different view of things I would tell them that they were wrong and that these things which held me back were real. I was not being a pessimist, I was being a realist.

I still hold that most of this is true. All of the marginalizations I mentioned above are in fact real and the effects of them can be pernicious, make no mistake about it. Folks have been killed just because they were living authentically and some insecure, fearful, mostly male, person couldn’t handle it. 

There will always be systemic forces at work in society and I am not likely to move the needle on those things greatly. However, one of the things holding me back was something I could completely change and that was my response to those injustices.

The “me against the world” type of thinking was not making me happy and was pushing people away. So I figured out that I could keep going down the bleak path I was traveling or stake out new ground and a new outlook.

I needed to be the best version of me in spite of those socio-economic forces. I wanted people to be attracted to my calm and positive energy. I wanted to be a source of knowledge and wisdom. Additionally, I wanted folks to be challenged by the fact that all these comforting things come from a non-binary-ish, feminist, socialist, anarchist leaning, crossdressing, big ‘ol beautiful queer. I wanted them to see that people like me are not to be feared. We are just folks trying to live our lives.

This would be my contribution to myself and to moving the inequality needle. It would help me to bring people closer and to counter their expectations of how someone like me is supposed to look or act. I would be a teaching moment by simply being myself.

Detailing how I changed my outlook would take me far from the scope of my message here. For now, I will just say that I learned how to relax a little more each day and gave myself the mental, and sometimes social, space to become who I really wanted to be. 

My endeavor has yielded results. I’m still a work in progress, I think that’s always true when self-improvement is the goal, but there are moments when I get a glimpse of how far I have come.

Recently, I began having a conversation with a person that existed within the nexus of intersectionality. Things were a little off from the very beginning. For starters, we picked out a week in which we would meet in person. They quickly put that idea on hold. Their comments indicated that they had given themselves over to the prospect of meeting too readily for comfort. It was clear that they were used to patterning their behavior from fear and were now in emotional retreat.

No matter, I had the time and mental space to see if things could progress before they torpedoed our connection in one glorious explosion.

Unfortunately, when we spoke I would ask about them and they didn’t ask about me. After a month of conversation, I can say that they literally knew nothing about who I was aside from a few identity labels and a list of hobbies I provided on our first day of chatting. Instead, we talked about what was going wrong in their life. I began to wonder if there was anything else to them. 

Then things quickly came to a head. They made yet another disparaging statement, this time about despising something. I had grown tired of the gloom and doom. I needed an extreme last ditch effort to turn this around. I was done with the dynamics that were occurring so, as imperfect as the decision may have been, I decided to call them on it. I sent two sentences saying they could continue to be angry over what they can’t control or they could take the reins and create something new and wonderful in their life. Then I retired to get a shower. 

That was pretty much all it took to flood tubes one through four. They made a number of assumptions about me and then became angry at me over those assumptions. They became angrier still that I hadn’t immediately responded back. Because of all of this, they said they didn’t want to talk for a week.

After I completed my evening ablutions I discovered the drama that had played out on my phone. I replied with the reason for my absence and that I would be around in a week if they were still up for talking. 

That was all I sent. I didn’t justify my actions or defend myself against their allegations. There was no point in trying to have a rational conversation where none had existed prior. It certainly wasn’t going to happen now that they were triggered. Perhaps a week without talking would create a little levity and we could discuss what happened and why.

Not a chance. The next morning, I awoke to a message saying that the universe had given them a sign and our connection wasn’t going to work out. They told me to stay positive because it is a beautiful thing and that this was goodbye. Compared to the last message I received they at least seemed calm.

I was perfectly fine with this outcome and I wished them a peaceful life filled with happiness. 

Their response was that they don’t get to live a happy life because society won’t let them (insert angry screed about social forces here) and that my positivity was toxic and a result of my privilege. Therefore, they are going to block my phone number. Fire all torpedoes!

Yikes. What a rollercoaster.

I can only assume that all of this was a type of posturing. After all, there is little point in blocking me after I made no attempt, nor did I show any interest, in messaging further. I suspect that calling me toxic and blocking me was meant to do me emotional harm (a one-upmanship of sorts). However, quite the opposite happened.

I’m not at all bothered by any of this. As I have written about before, I consider these occurrences to be a blessing of sorts. We are just in two very different emotional places and that is perfectly fine. If my outlook is too shiny and triggers someone with WIMS then I totally get it. 

However, I do not acquiesce to casting the outcome of my struggle to become a positive person under the generic woke nomenclature of toxic. Quite the opposite, I left that encounter feeling better about myself than I have in years.

You see, after emotionally conquering society’s downward gaze and crafting my new outlook, I ended up in an abusive relationship. Over the course of a couple of years this person systematically tried to eradicate my positivity and happiness. During my down moments (near the end that may have been all I had) they would chastise me for being unhappy. It has been a long journey to work through the PTSD that was created during that time in my life.

Since then, I have wondered if my positivity was even visible. I have been fearful that it wasn’t. I thought that I had failed to become who I wanted to be.

To have this new person try to use my positivity against me in such an erroneous way meant that I was seen. I, twice, built myself up. Once after battling systemic inequality and then after enduring the mental beatings of an abusive ex. This let me see that the good in me is still here and thriving. I felt beautiful, because I knew my past and what I had accomplished to blossom into what I am now.

I am exactly who I need to be at this moment and that is an amazing feeling.

I hope you too blossom. Be responsible, be empathetic, be lovely, and always work to build a better you. I wish you peace and happiness in your life.

Horny Hometown

They say you can never go back. Sometimes though that isn’t true. 

I’m from a small town in the middle of nowhere Illinois. When I was a child I had a crush on a fellow classmate. He didn’t know it at the time. What I didn’t know is that he also had a crush on me.

Once we were out of school, I would occasionally bump into him at the store. I would say hello, hoping he would say anything back. It never really happened. Crushes can be weird that way. 

Twenty five years later we discovered our mutual interest and discussed possibly meeting up to fulfill some part of our desire. 

The thing I didn’t mention about this small town is that it is somewhat incestous. Through social media I watch people bounce from person to person, classmate to classmate; married to one and then another. It’s like a game of romantic musical chairs and when the music stops for the final time you die with the one you’re next to. 

I often wonder if anyone imagines potential romantic partners existing outside of that two mile square radius. 

My crush messaged me to say that another classmate was in a bar and had just made a couple of moves on him. He seemed very excited about it all. Nothing against either of them but I suddenly became aware of the dynamic I was considering entering into.

I don’t think I am above anyone that lives there, it will always be a home, but I don’t want to become another townie fuck toy. Someone who is just a tidbit of conversational fodder consisting of “hey did you hear who so and so had sex with!” A coupling with my crush would initiate me into the familial order of the small town orgy. It’s not that the talk alone bothers me, I’m sure I’ve been a part of the gossip round table before. It’s that I don’t want to become part of the culture and what it represents. I do not want to shrink back down to fit in there. 

I realized that during my return trips, I visit the same place I was at during high school, the same place I was at when I married at 20, the same place I was at when I divorced years later, and the same place I left 900 miles behind me 8 years ago. 

Nothing there has changed, except for me.

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.