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The Dating Game... As A 50-Year-Old Trans Woman

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Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
It's been eight years since I've been kissed, it's been ten years since I've had sex and maybe fifteen since I've had any kind of orgasm. I read something recently that said people can become ill by the absence of skin to skin contact. That skin to skin contact – intimacy – is essential for happiness; true, deep and meaningful happiness.

I consider myself happy but I know and admit that I desperately miss being touched by another.

I miss feeling someone against me, beside me, curled around me, inside me, caressing me and I really miss being kissed. I sometimes close my eyes and try to remember what being kissed is like, it's such a fading memory now that I see it in silent movie terms rather than feel it.

I'm a fifty-year-old trans woman who happens to be a long term 'thriver' with HIV. I'm saying that now to get it out the way, I'm imagining that we are going on our first date 'dear reader'. When you have the double whammy (I imagine any double whammy) you have to first decide if and when you should tell. For me, being trans isn't something I 'have to tell' because it's not something I'm not ashamed of, rather I feel like I 'want to tell'.

As a trans woman who has had surgery I don't want to buy into the 'please let my vagina pass the pussy test.' My vagina is different, it has limitations and its own wonderful sculptural qualities. I want to celebrate those rather than hoping that 'wham bam thank you mam' takes place without acknowledging its inherent beauty and narrative.

So at some point I want to share my being trans with a potential partner.

Responses to that thus far have been pretty negative, not always, but often 'pre-sculptural vagina people' seemed a little more comfortable with the 'trans woman and penis concept'.

I want my vagina to see the light of day


I've said it before and I'll say it again: my vagina isn't perfect, far from it, but to me it's a work of art and I want it included in any dalliances I may have.

I want my vagina to see the light of day, I want it to bud, open and flower. My vagina is still on the wrong side of virginal, I am not claiming that as a title for myself, far from it, but I did imagine that my vagina would be more than an ornament within a glass case on the shelf over the fireplace.

I don't know why my beautifully constructed vagina, created especially for me, bespoke you could say – I don't know why there isn't a queue of people waiting to become lost in all of its lusciousness.

But, and it's a big but, if someone has shown interest in getting physical with me then I feel like I have to let them know I'm HIV positive. It's a personal thing and I'm not applying any moral framework here. But I was diagnosed way back when stones were crashing and Diana was cupping chins and holding hands. We were told then, absolutely told, that we must tell any future partners that we had this toxic virus, that to not do so would be tantamount to an act of violence. I can rationally see the harm and spite that those demands did but I lived with it, through it, and it has become as much a part of me as the drugs I take to keep me well.

So I'm burdened with honesty by truisms of history. But beyond that confession as a trans woman and as a woman you have to be aware of your safety and not telling someone and them finding out after in anger isn't something I want to risk.

I once joined a dating site and met a person who it seemed, in a casual way, I clicked with. It was definitely about sex and fun, nothing serious, so after a few days of flirting and semi online fun I felt like I had to tell them about my HIV status.

They went ballistic, I could tell from the incredibly harsh use of capitals:

"YOU'RE A WHORE, A FUCKING SLUT, YOU SHOULDN'T BE ON A DATING SITE TRYING TO INFECT OTHER PEOPLE."

and then,

"LEAVE THE SITE OR I'LL POST PICTURES OF YOU AND YOUR INFECTED BODY ALL OVER THE INTERNET."

I'm not sure if he did post photographs of 'my infected body' all over the internet or what photos of 'my infected body' would look like? Is there an Instagram filter that sits alongside 'Lark' or 'Slumber' and gives a body just a hint or a tint of infection?

It was nonetheless an act of violence only lessened by his inability to lash out in person. Trans women face an awful lot of violence from men, I'd rather see honesty as a safe policy here. Also I'm proud of still being here, alive and feeling like I want to flirt and be touched. HIV has done all it can to make me feel unattractive, unlovable and sexless so feeling vital and vibrant is a cause to celebrate my long term status rather than see it as another secret to put into the unopened drawer alongside my being transgender and my spending out of control.

So I have the double whammy to contend with if and when I meet someone I fancy, like, desire or just want to get to know. People often tell me to let the person get to know me, but what if I just want fun and sex? What if I don't need them to know me? It's strange how ironically being HIV and trans has meant that I have to seek meaningful connections of intimacy based on them really knowing me. In some way I feel like I have to prove (using the 'let them get to know you model') that I am worthy of love and sex despite my being a trans HIV positive woman, when, in my mind, I am worthy of love, lust and desire precisely because of my journey.
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