Dear Sugar Radio is a weekly podcast from member station WBUR. Hosts Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed offer "radical empathy" and advice on everything from relationships and parenthood to dealing with drug problems or anxiety.
Today, the Sugars are joined by the visual artist and writer Cooper Lee Bombardier, who is a transgender man. In the second of two posts about living as a transgender person, the Sugars respond to a transgender man who sometimes feels that love is out of reach.
How do I get over the fear that I'll never find love? When I type that out, it seems absurd, even to me. I know many people feel the same way at times and that people who open themselves up to love are generally likely to find it. But I don't feel that to be true in my heart, and here's why: I'm a transgender man.
I can't help but feel that being trans makes me an exception to the general rules about love. I know that I'm lovable and deserving of love, but I can't imagine that someone will get through the initial phases of attraction to learn what I have to offer.
I have a lot of female friends who talk about wanting men who are well-endowed in height, in their wallet size, and in their pants. Obviously I'm out of luck on the last one, but I'm also out of luck on the others. I'm 5 feet 2 inches tall because I went through female puberty, and I make social worker pay. I've internalized the message that no woman is going to be attracted to me as I am, so what good is my great personality?
I imagine women say these things partly to flip the typical narrative of men placing impossible standards on women. And I get it, but it kills my self-esteem. I've been in therapy before and throughout my transition and I have attempted to work on my self-esteem issues. But regardless of the progress I'm making, every failed attempt at courtship sets me back to hopelessness.
If giving up on love were an option for me, I probably would have done it by now, but my big heart won't quit. I want to be a warrior for love, as Cheryl suggests, but right now I feel like I ran into battle without my armor. Can you help me figure out how to defeat the monster that is hopelessness?
Aspiring Warrior for Love
Cheryl Strayed: As the person who wrote that phrase, "Be a warrior for love," AWFL, I want to say you are a warrior for love. The whole message is about running into battle without your armor. That's what being a warrior for love is. It's about being vulnerable, it's about taking risks, it's about being brave and emotionally intelligent and not trying to find adversaries. It's trying to really open your heart, and you've done that beautifully.
Cooper Lee Bombardier: I think that it's just part of the process that you go out there without your armor and you get squished, and sometimes I feel a little bit bummed about my failed relationships. But then I also think: Well, where did it bring me in terms of my evolution as a human being and my ability to relate to others? It might not have worked out, but it did push me along on my path of being able to do better.
The willingness to just keep trying is the right thing. So many of us, we have our lists of perceived inadequacies, and we think: Oh, this isn't going to work because I don't have any money, because I'm too short, etc. Spend less time listening to those messages. Spend time in places where people are exhibiting other values.
Cheryl: We answer this question over and over: Am I too fat to be loved? No. Am I too poor to be loved? No. Am I too fill-in-the-blank to be loved? No. I also think it's true that some people are going to not want to date you, AWFL, because of your height. And what's kind of cool and beautiful about that is, think of it like a winnowing process. You don't want to date those people anyway, right?
Steve Almond: Stop treating yourself as damaged goods and figure out that some beauty is out there waiting for you and wants what you have. And that is knowing who you are, humility and the strength to go through this transition.
You can get more advice from the Sugars each week on Dear Sugar Radio from WBUR. Listen to the whole episode to hear from another transgender man who feels weighed down by an unsupportive mother.
Have a question for the Sugars? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered on a future episode.