We Watch the Galaxy from Our Porch: Dating While Trans
I’ve dated too many men to count.
As fast as my romantic wheels start turning, they lose steam. I’m on to the next one, and I’m usually over him before it’s even started.
I take pride in my avoidant strategies. I’m untamed and, according to one ex, “unaccountable.” I’ve loved more than one person at a time, and been shamed for it, but what other way is there to love that gives me space to love me too? (P.S. I was the other person.)
I’ve survived by being ephemeral. Untouchable. Dissociated. Or so I thought. The truth is that I want to be so seen and so held that when my lover smacks my thick thighs, they jiggle. I don’t want to be aire…
I know that no matter how much I’ve been made to feel like I’m disposable, I don’t gotta do that to myself. I’m ready to build something beautiful and romantic with someone(s) somewhere now. The problem left to resolve is addressing what’s made dating while trans so unbearable, what’s made it so that I keep catapulting myself to that planet made of water, methane, and ammonia.
I still think about him and keep warding off new lovers, hoping for him to catch up. Maybe we were both too young to see the woman I was in my skinny jeans, colorful Vans, band t-shirts, lip piercings, side swooped hair, and full beard. Maybe I’m making excuses for him. I imagine him, a girlfriend on his arm, bumping into my published work at a bookstore. I imagine him tenderly untangling himself from her fragile arm, whipping out his phone and pretending to take a call. Outside, he’ll find a quiet corner and text me. (Of course, he still has my number.) He’ll ask me to meet him at our usual spot. He’ll tell me, “I have to marry you.”
Lord save us all.
He introduces me as his girl to his parents. Their eyes become pits of fire and swallow us. We’re tied to a stake, burned alive. We are witches in the eyes of the church. How dare we disrespect toxic Mexicanidad, a supremacist system founded on colonial, transphobic, racist, and classist ideals? A non-passing trans femme person can’t steal their handsome and perfectly Mexican son.
I know that this is making me look desperate, tragic, and sad, but trust me, I’m over it too. I keep two red flags in a drawer for moments like these and I’m waving them right now. Why am I exposing myself like this? Haven’t I suffered enough in private? My level of masochism really surprises me. This level of public humiliation is new, even for me.
When we were in his father’s truck, I leaned in to kiss him.
He pulled away.
Maybe he never loved me…like that.
I relive the memory of his head resting on my lap while we watched a movie together. The gentle Playa del Rey breeze hitting us both, my legs wrapped around him as we caught a sunset. If we were still together, we’d have perfect Romcom dialogue—he was so smart, and such a cabezón; no one outwitted me as much as he did. Maybe that’s why I liked him. I had finally found my match. When we drove along the coast, we held hands. If we were still together, we’d be on one of our Shin Sen Gumi dates, trying each other’s food.
Did I mistake the safety and tenderness I felt from a Mexican cis straight man with love? Did I cocoon into his memory because even though it was the bare minimum, I felt seen even in all his unseeing of me? Or was I on some Freudian shit where my strong desire for him was an acceptance of what my father never gave: kindness, attention, and presence? When I was months old, my father abandoned my mom and me in a foreign country. We had no papers.
I know there’s a young version of me sitting crossed legged on Neptune writing love letters. She kicks her legs up once she’s done and hugs a composition journal filled with his name to her chest. After rehearsing a poem that she wrote to celebrate our third anniversary, she chants our first name and adds his last name. There’s a grown woman part of me that’s already married to him. We have a traditional family in a Spanish style Mexican Villa on Neptune, our five kids all named after the five major moons on Neptune: Despina, Galatea, Halimede, Proteus, and Laomedeia. Our children go to soccer practice with other kids who also have delusional trans moms. Families like us are buying up a lot of property on this planet. On quiet evenings, when we finally get time for ourselves, he puts his strong arms around me. We watch the galaxy from our porch.
I can conjure an unending list of bodily insecurities, distortions regarding how (I think) I’m perceived, or unrealistic expectations that make it impossible for anyone to date me. I’m never going to be satisfied or at ease with anyone else until I let him go. Speaking about the necessity of compromise, my eldest cousin, hood, recently said “There’s just a point where you gotta accept people for who they are.”
I cackled and thought, No. I packed my bag and stomped out of his house with the specialty grilled chicken sandwich he made for me. My cousin’s right though. I have burrowed myself into the past. I’ve fought to be able to love him, or someone like him, but he won’t be dropping his Mexican traditional life for me, and I can’t go on ignoring what I want and need. I can’t continue to use him as leverage or else I’ll cheat myself out of a new beginning with someone else. Maybe he’s read my book of poetry and seen himself in it, understood the love I had for him. If he has, I hope the realization makes him smile. I really hope it doesn’t make him propose to me.
Since him, dating while trans has been a blur. I did try to receive new, pure, and honest love and am somber knowing I wasn’t able to hold onto it longer. I’ve been on a long journey to make less space for him so that I can understand myself better and be more of what makes me me fearlessly, boldly, happily, and without him.
This essay began as a love letter addressed to him. Slowly, it became a confession to liberate myself from him, someone I’d given permission to occupy so much space within me. Then, it became an invitation for other trans femmes to let go of sweet, basic loves that thankfully, yet tragically, weren’t meant to be. This essay took its final form as a belted song to lure back the parts of me still living in delusion on the coldest and farthest planet: Neptune. I call all parts of me back to planet Earth so we may live our one and truest romance…together. Neptune is the only planet not visible to the naked eye from planet Earth. I thank that cosmic design for making it impossible to escape from myself again.
féi hernandez is a trans, Inglewood-raised, formerly undocumented immigrant author of the full-length poetry collection Hood Criatura (Sundress Publications 2020). They are a 2022 Tin House Scholar and a 2021 Define American fellow. féi has been published in POETRY, Autostraddle, PANK Magazine, Immigrant Report, The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext, Somewhere We are Human, TransLash Media & Narrative, and more. féi, birthworker and spiritualist, is the founder of The House of Etéreo and within it, Spirit School for the Divinely Gifted, a spiritual learning space for TGNC BIPOC spiritual practitioners developing their healing abilities.