Trying to See Beyond Myself
On dating, being a Christian and a single transman
By: Lincoln Rose
I've never dated another Christian. God, it's embarrassing to type that. Even though Scripture says that we should be with other believers, I have never trusted that the same God who died on the Cross for me could possibly bring a Christian woman into my life. It seemed a tall enough order when I was "only" a lesbian looking for another woman. I mean, there's CLOUT (Christian Lesbians Out Together), so obviously there's enough folks to create some sort of dating pool, even if it's less than Olympic sized. But coming into myself again as a transgender man into women seems to shrink the dating pool down a lot. So much so that even thinking about it makes me feel like I'm trying to do the backstroke in a water puddle.
This is an important topic for me right now, because I've spent the past year and a half single after leaving an eight year relationship. For those of you who are like me and hate doing math, that makes this the first time I've been on the market in almost 10 years. And it's the first time EVER I've been on the market as a man. I'm feeling a little unsure of myself right now. So, I've been reading Christian dating books.
They've been informative, amusing, occasionally annoying, and also rather helpful. Some things just didn't work. I tried to "Kiss Dating Goodbye," and thought about sex more than I ever had in my whole life. Attempting to date in a way that honors God could work, if I was dating Christian women (or I suppose religious women in general). They might have a basic understanding of why I might make some dating decisions. But your boy here isn't quite that smart, and it's hard to explain to a non-Christian girl where God belongs in my dating life without making it sound like a creepy three way. As for immersing myself in service so I could get the full benefit of the "blessing of being single"? Well, for one, I already serve my community. I don't do it to "help the urges." I never did try taking that suggestion any further, because the book I read it in made it sound so simpering and perfect that I couldn't stop laughing.
There are things in these books that have turned out to be blessings for me. Partly it's been reading the words of other men who struggle with finding someone who will love them as they are, and help them become more. The other main thing has been getting me pointed in a basic direction. These books tell me over and over again: Son, here's what women are looking for, here's what you're responsible for as a man, live up to it, and try not to mess it up!
I do struggle at times with what my role as a man will be with a Christian woman. There is so much I've questioned about manhood in general as I've transitioned, that I find myself picking apart the Christian male "rules" almost automatically. Be a leader, real men either do (or don't) cry depending on whose book you're reading, you need to be a prayer warrior, all family decisions are your responsibility, get a good job so you can provide, and remember: women want you to pursue them! That's how God ordained relationships to be.
If that's so, do I stand a chance of living up to this? I think my situation brings an extra wrinkle with it. Will a Christian woman who is Queer identified or has been in/around the community for any portion of her life expect the same things from a Christian man that my evangelical dating books are telling me she wants? If I train myself up and can show a woman that I can do most of the things these books are telling me to do, is a Christian woman from my community going to be impressed? Or will she back slowly away from me, muttering something under her breath about the patriarchy and outdated ideas?
And what about my own life? How do I know when I'm a "good enough" Christian man that I can pursue a woman's heart with honor and integrity? Yes, now I have a good job, housing, and have made a start paying down my debts. And that's great, but it's not everything. And God definitely let me know that. You see, last month, just when I thought I had a few things right (and was getting a little puffed in the chest about it).
God used a situation with a young lady to reveal some areas of concern in my heart. She invited me over, and without saying too much, her place looked like four frat guys lived there instead of a young woman of quality. So I left there thinking to myself, "What a mess! I sure don't want to be involved with her long-term! I would end up doing most of the work."
Almost immediately, I got a knock on my heart. God showed me that indeed, while her external life might leave something to be desired, my internal life is none too pleasing either. I had to ask myself a hard question. If Ms. Just-Right-for-Me showed up at my front doorstep tomorrow, would I be ready to start a relationship? Would I be the kind of man she could be proud to be with? My wincing answer had to be no. There was no other choice when confronted with the evidence.
See, God looks at the inner heart. And like the proverbial bored stay at home spouse, I had "let my inner heart go." Prayer Life? Nonexistent. Bible Study? Listen to the sound of the dust sliding off my Bible cover as I crack it open. And my church attendance? Well, I've been meaning to get up and get to that one, really. I just needed to deal with a few things first. So do I want to date another Christian so we can grow in faith together? Or if she showed up tomorrow, would she be forced to drag me along and nurse me until my faith had legs again? That would be too much for any woman, no matter what kind of prayer warrior she is.
Sometimes it all seems like too much. Cultural cues are giving me input from everywhere, and I can't make heads or tails of the conflicts over all the noise. Like Peter on the water, I aspire to be something I see as much greater than who I am right now. And maybe that's the root of the problem. I'm spending all my energy trying to guess what the women around me want when I should be figuring out what I can give based on both the kind of man I am and what I have available to me. Right now that's not much. But hopefully just like with the material blessings I've been enjoying, some hard work and reliance on the Lord will bear good fruit in the spiritual realm as well.
Oh, and Ms. Just-Right-for-Me, if you're reading this, I miss you. I hope we'll recognize each other when we finally meet. There's a part of me that wants you here tomorrow, and another part begs to wait until I'm a little stronger and maybe more worthy of your attention. I'm not much right now, but when you do show up, I promise to do the best I can by you. And I'm finding out that my best is all I can do.
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