My Saturday night out listening to music at an Irish pub ended with my arm held so tightly by a stranger, I couldn’t move.
“Let me go!” I said to a man named John who said he was a plumber from Ireland visiting the States for the first time. His grip was so firm I felt his fingers pressing hard against the marrow within the bones beneath my skin. John wrapped his other hand firmly around my neck, preventing me from leaving when I refused his offer to go back to his hotel room.
“Let go,” I told him again.
“C’mon,” he whispered in my ear. “Let’s shag. Nobody will know.”
“I told you: Not interested,” I said a little louder. He was seated at the bar, I was standing and had already grabbed my coat and my purse. “Let. Me. Go!”
“Let’s go to your car then,” he offered, pulling me closer. “A quickie?”
That’s when I put my free hand inside my purse, and grabbed the little something I keep there. “No, either you let me go or I’ll squeeze the trigger I’ve got my finger on, right in this bag. You want that?”
I’m guessing he didn’t, since he finally let me go, not knowing that what I had in my purse was pepper spray.
The incident was scary, but I think I handled myself well, given the fact I have a steep learning curve dealing with men like John, who won’t take no for an answer. And I know the one thing I could not say to John was that I’m a transgender woman.
Just a week later, I met “Sweet Lou” on a dating app, and again, I didn’t see a reason to disclose that I’m transgender. That seemed especially wise when he disclosed on our first date that he was a homophobe.
We met at a Hartford coffee shop that morphs into an LGBT-friendly lounge at night.
“Well, now I know where Yuppie Town is,” he joked. I had convinced this used car salesman the venue would be more conducive to conversation than a sports bar.
Yes, he’s a used car salesman. If I’m not willing to be judged for being trans, I figured it didn’t seem right for me to dismiss him for his career, or his looks, or okay, yeah, I lowered the bar.
But we shared a love for music, movies, and The Walking Dead. He said he was an avid reader of mystery novels, as am I. And looks aren’t everything.
As a 53-year-old single mom, a widow with a complicated past who hasn’t had sex in close to five years, I was willing to overlook a lot. And I hoped, ultimately, he would, too.
Disclosure for a trans person is a double-edged sword; I decided long ago it’s no different than expecting a cisgender (non-transgender) woman to discuss the results of her latest pap smear, or for a cis man to detail his latest prostate exam. It’s just nobody’s business at the early stages of dating, and if there’s an attraction, I will reveal my history before getting intimate. It’s in my dating profile for guys who dig deep enough.
All I had hoped for on this Friday night was to meet a guy who might at the very least become a friend, and at most, be someone I’d feel comfortable spending time with.
“I screwed up,” he confessed as we talked about our day. It was refreshing to hear a man talk openly about a mistake he had made, and not gloss over it like it was someone else’s fault. I count that as rare in men.
Lou talked about the pitfalls of selling cars, and I told him about my writing, and that I’d landed a job as a receptionist after six hard months of unemployment. We shared stories of our children, and I didn’t delve into the fact that both his kids and mine both called us “Dad.”
Was that wrong? I didn’t think so. I don’t pretend to be my kids’ mom, although since losing their mother I have adapted to “doing the job of mom.”
He bought me a café latte, and I bought him a ginger ale. We had agreed after first speaking on the phone that either one of us could, at any time, get up and say, “Goodnight.”
Two hours flew by, and to my surprise we learned each of us had a daughter who came out as lesbian.
“I accept her,” said Lou, without a trace of disapproval. “It is an adjustment,” he admitted. I was blown away by his candor.
“I really am okay with it, as far as my daughter goes,” he continued. “But if my son came out as gay, I’d have to kill him.”
I just stared at him, and quickly realized my date was a homophobe.
“I’m gonna use the ladies room,” I said, signaling for the waitress to bring us the check as I left the table.
What do I do now? I asked myself, wondering if I should have thrown my drink in his face. No. Don’t make a scene. Just settle the tab, excuse yourself, and go.
When I returned, he was somewhat surprised we were ending so early. But since he had never taken off his jacketI took off 10 points for that right at the beginninghe walked me to my car, we shook hands, said goodnight, and I went home.
There, I blocked him on every site I could find, from the dating app to Facebook.
Talking it over with my girlfriends, I felt reassured ditching Lou. I probably should have just blocked his number and forgotten all about him. But instead, the next day he checked in. I asked him to call me on the phone once he left work. No reason to do this while he’s trying to earn a living, I reasoned.
He called a few minutes past six o’clock. “I wanted to talk about our date,” I began.
“Yeah?” he said, his voice flat and unemotional. Given his reaction, I might have just as easily told him I changed the toilet paper in the bathroom–which is what I was doing when he called.
“Look,” I said, sitting down on the closed lid and shutting the door for privacy. “You said something last night that really, really bothered me: ‘If my son came out as gay I’d have to kill him.’”
“Oh, that? I was joking! Just joking!” Lou pleaded.
“It didn’t sound like a joke,” I told him. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think we should go out again.”
For the second time in a month, a cis man refused to take my “no” for an answer.
Given Lou was on the phone, he wasn’t so bold, but he wasn’t taking “no.”
And so, I decided, I’ll tell him something… else.
“There’s something else, Lou,” I said. “I didn’t tell you before now because it was none of your business, but I’m transgender.”
A long pause.
“Oh, yeah?” he said. Vulcans display more emotion than Lou.
“Yes,” I began. “I’m not pretending to be anything. I’m a woman, just with a different childhood than other women you know. So that’s it.”
“Well, thanks for telling me,” said Lou.
“You’re welcome,” I replied. “Goodnight.”
To my surprise, Lou has texted me every day since, just to chat. We haven’t spoken again by phone nor do I plan to. I hope maybe, just maybe, Lou won’t be so careless about his homophobic commentary next time he meets a stranger. Maybe he’ll even reconsider his attitude in general.
Honestly, I don’t want him as a friend, but in the end, I feel as though I’ve at least given another potential enemy a reason not to be.