“Tranny, 24, slim attractive brunette, seeks fun loving friend for laughter and love.”
Hey, every story has to begin somewhere, and this one’s starting with that. It’s the text of a personals ad, submitted to a local free weekly paper. The sort of thing that’s three quarters real estate listings.
I can’t claim sole authorship for the ad. My ex wife and I penned it. We started with the vague notion that it was about time I started seeing people. She, after all, had hooked up with a new guy and was rapidly approaching domestic bliss. I’d been moping around for a while, but was now finally starting to re-emerge into the world; to get my shit together, as it were.
We were fairly limited in the number of words we could use, so step one was to write down a list of words that really had to be in there. Tranny was probably the big one. I didn’t want to enter a romantic relationship under false pretences. Images of that scene in “the Crying Game” aside, it’s just not fair on all involved. Were I doing it now, I would use a slightly less loaded term. Maybe trans.
Love had to be there too. Indeed it was so important, we put it in twice. If the paper had let us, we’d have put it in bold, underlined. Love was, after all, the motivation behind this. I wanted to find someone who I could bond with. I wanted, like most of us, to fall in love, to live happily ever after.
Laughter, friend, and fun were words that we decided on to give the piece an upbeat tone. No point scaring people away with excessive mushiness, is there? And besides, I didn’t want someone who wasn’t fun to be around. There were other synonyms, but these were the ones that made the final cut.
The rest of the ad was a simple reassuring descriptor of yours truly. Yes, I look okay. I’m not going to frighten the neighbours.
Also noteworthy is one word that didn’t make the list. We discussed the partner that I was hoping to hook up with. Caring, intelligent, compassionate, gorgeous, active, not too old, fun loving, sense of humour. All adjectives that I used to describe that partner. Male, female, were not. I didn’t have a particularly strong opinion either way. So we left that descriptor off the list, quite deliberately.
So having our list of words, we just put them together into a sentence that made some form of grammatical sense. I took a deep breath, and sent it to the paper. The final destination for our small literary masterpiece was the “make a date” section, on the inside of the back page. Specifically, I’d requested that this ad go in the “seeking a friend” column, given of course that I wasn’t “seeking a man” nor “seeking a woman”.
A few days later, the next edition of the paper came out. I opened it eagerly, looking forward to seeing our work in print, as it were. A quick scan of the “seeking a friend” column revealed nothing. It was there though, just misfiled, under “travel companions”. Oh well, can’t win them all.
The wait for responses was agonising. The first came two days after the paper was published. I don’t recall the details of the letter, but it seemed positive enough. I called him, and arranged to meet at a local coffee shop. I was careful to ensure that we met during the day in a reasonably busy place, so that I could escape easily should he turn out to be scary. In addition, I arranged for my mum to call me on my mobile about fifteen minutes after we’d arranged to meet. Mobiles back then were new and novel, and receiving a call on one was still a good way to exit a situation.
The day of the meeting came. I went to the coffee shop a few minutes early, and he was already there. He was considerably older than me – probably in his forties. He came across as a little creepy and overly familiar. In between the “oh my god, you’re so beautiful” platitudes, he felt the need to tell me about his previous transsexual partner, who he’d apparently stuck by right through the op. It all sounded a little too practiced. I think he thought he was onto a sure thing, and I resented that. He was too smooth by half. When the call came from mum I pretended there was an emergency and ran away.
With that experience under my belt, I was hesitant to reply to subsequent letters. Over the next few days I received three more, two from men who were stupid enough to come across as sleazes in the letter, and one from a couple. Needless to say, I was getting a little disheartened.
Then, when I’d pretty much dismissed the whole thing, I got another letter. This one started with “I almost didn’t write, because…”. My interest was piqued immediately. The letter was a good page long, it was a little self deprecating, yet still hopeful. There was only one oblique mention of me being trans, and the rest was a description of the writer, a 33 year old guy – doesn’t smoke, drinks occasionally, isn’t much of a party person, that sort of thing. There was some humour based around the whole travel companions thing, and it was well written. I sat down and thought about it for a moment. Here’s a guy who’s a little shy, clearly not very experienced, but who has plucked up the courage to write, and write quite well. Maybe he won’t be a complete creep.
He’d included a photo. Nice enough looking. Not exactly Arnold Schwartznegger, but a handsome guy.
After cogitating over his letter while preparing dinner, I took a deep breath and called him.
I think he was quite surprised at my call. We talked a bit about his letter, about the ad. We got one another to describe ourselves. He was easy to talk to. He had a really good sense of humour, and he wasn’t creepy in the least. Indeed, I got the feeling that he was just as afraid of me as I was of him. After chatting for a while, we agreed to another call the next night.
The next conversation was just as good as the first. We covered all the forbidden topics; religion, politics, what we were hoping to get out of the relationship (just fun, but open-minded about the future). Chatting with him was easy. He was clearly a pretty nice guy. He had only had one experience with a trans girl before, that only lasted one night. I got the feeling he felt a bit sheepish about that. He had, however, had several reasonably long relationships with GGs. One thing that became clear from talking was that he was concerned about how I looked before we met. I had a picture of him, but he had nothing of me. Luckily he was on the internet at his work. I gave him the URL of a picture of me, so he’d have some idea of what I looked like.
I was going through some impressive emotional turmoil. I’d only ever had one sexual experience with a man, and that was at the delicate age of 16, when I was pounced on at a party. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d always been attracted to men, but also to women. I was confused and naive about the whole lovemaking thing. What would a man expect from me? I certainly knew there were a whole bunch of things I just wouldn’t (couldn’t?) do.
Our phone conversations went on for the rest of the week, before we made a date to meet on Saturday 2nd March, 1996. It was a fateful day, because it marked the day of the federal election that toppled the Keating Labor government, and installed the Howard Liberal government. Makes it easy to remember the date, anyway
We met at a small cafe in the city, one of those cosy bohemian places next door to an independent cinema. He was waiting when I arrived. I’d deliberately dressed down for the occasion, wearing denim dungarees, with only a modicum of makeup. My objective was twofold; to ensure that he took me seriously as a person, rather than thinking I was a tart, and maybe more importantly to reassure him about the whole passability thing, as he’d expressed some reservations about that on the phone.
So there he was, sitting at a table, looking pretty gorgeous. He looked fairly casual, in a classy sort of way. Denim jacket, t-shirt, jeans. I was a little frightened of him, to be honest. He greeted me, was courteous. We ordered coffee and made small talk. He was something of a movie-buff, hence the choice of venue. He had a really wicked sense of humour, and I think he was deliberately trying to get a smile out of me. I felt like I was in heaven. There was no over-familiarity, no sleaze. A really nice, genuine, lovely guy, who clearly liked me just as much as I liked him.
Then it happened. Half way through my coffee, I was making some obscure point about something, with my hands in front of me on the table. He reached across the table slowly, subtly, and took my hands in his. A shiver ran down my spine. Goosebumps erupted all over my body. I melted, and completely lost my train of thought. At that very moment, I knew it could work.
Like any good fairy tale, I’ll end this one by mentioning our marriage, in July 2007, having already been living happily ever after for ten years.