It’s no surprise that I regularly receive some intense questions from my followers. While I do my best to answer, I think we could all benefit from a professional! I reached out to Nick Fager over at @gaytherapy for some help. Nick is an LGBTQ psychotherapist based in NYC. Some of you may already follow Nick on Instagram! Along with his great content there, he founded a startup last year that matches LGBTQ people with nearby LGBTQ-specialized therapists and doctors. Launched in NYC but expanding soon, check it out at lighthouse.lgbt.
In this two part series, I asked Nick to answer some popular questions I have received from followers over the past several months. Please check it out and share with anyone who may need this advice!
Question 1: What’s your advice on dating for transgender people? I have not had a gender reassignment surgery so straight men constantly view me as a experiment and gay men seem to put me down for not having had a surgery.
It is a tragic reality that trans folks face so much rejection and objectification in the queer dating world. People always want to box others in to make themselves feel comfortable, and when there is some sense of ambiguity in their minds as they try to define someone, the response is often shut down and rejection.
Based on my experience with trans clients, I’d give the following tips.
First of all, make sure you have a person to process microaggressions and rejections with. This could be a therapist, friend, family member, anyone really, as long as they hear you out and don’t invalidate you.
Second, if you’re interacting on apps, it can help to be forward with your identity. If someone has a strong preference against trans people, its best to know that right away instead of after you’ve emotionally invested.
Third, use filters to your advantage when you can. OKCupid in particular has good filters for the trans community which allow you to avoid a lot of the haters.
Fourth, connect with the trans community. Even if you don’t want to date another trans person, its great for your health and confidence to be connected with people who share/understand your experience. If you’re in NYC, the LGBT Center has amazing events and groups for trans folks.
Finally, don’t give up hope, there are a lot of people out there who will appreciate you for exactly who you are.
Question 2: I feel like I don’t fit in to any of the gay “tribes.” I feel left out or like I don’t belong when I go out to certain clubs or even online. I’m not a jock, I’m not a bear…but I just want to find guys with common interests and without being judged. What can I do?
This is certainly a hard position to be in and the apps have made this problem worse – we categorize people excessively and are quick to reject others if they don’t check every box. It’s easy to start buying into that system and place our entire value into our body type.
The best advice I can give here is to put yourself out there and join some organization that is based on a common interest, not just around drinking or sex. There are tons of these for gay men in the major cities – sports leagues, outdoors clubs, art groups, book clubs, etc. Sure, you might find that some cliques still exist in these clubs, but at least there is a common interest tying everyone together and it’s not just about body and looks. There’s this quote I once posted on @gaytherapy that has stuck with me more probably than any other: “If you want to find the love of your life, he will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.” People often come into therapy and they are looking for a boyfriend who will solve all their problems by loving them, but when I ask them what they love to do, they draw a blank. When you develop that sense of passion in yourself, you build up your sense of self and become more attractive to others.
At the end of the day, you are way more than a jock or a bear or a twink, you are a unique person with specific passions and interests. Engage with those parts of yourselves and you’ll make connections.
Question 3: I feel like some guys treat bottoming like it is something to be ashamed of. I like to bottom but I hate the way some guys talk to me about it and make me feel inferior. What can I do or say to feel better about this?
This is something I wish we could move past as a community, and in a very gradual way it seems like we are, but bottom shaming is still very present. Bottom shaming is based in misogyny, the belief that bottoming or being submissive makes you feminine, which makes you less than.
In reality, you can’t control other people, you likely will get bottom shamed at some point, the important thing is that you do the work on yourself so that it doesn’t’ affect you. The cruel words of others only really sink in and hurt if you believe them somewhere inside of yourself. So explore your own feelings around bottoming. Do you feel like its okay for a man to bottom? Are there any narratives inside that tell you that a man should only top? Growing up in our culture, the answer is probably yes, you did grow up with these narratives. It is now our job in our adult lives to challenge them so that we don’t pass them on to the next generation, and so that we can enjoy bottoming freely!!
Once you get to the point where you feel great about bottoming internally, bottom shaming becomes kind of absurd and will bounce off of you when someone tries to hurt you with it. You recognize that the person its coming from is uneducated and unaware of their own biases, or just a hateful person and not worth your time, or has never bottomed and realized how awesome it is!