Dear Other Dad —
Okay, I’m trans and have a crush on a guy friend I had before I transitioned. Help?
I know your situation feels complicated by something modern— your ability to publicly transition — but, at root, it’s really a problem as old as time: all crushes are inherently risky.
Having a crush is a heady experience. At its best, it offers rushes of electricity and optimism; at its worst, it can plague you with self-doubt. When you have a crush on someone, it’s hard to slow down your racing heart and think logically about what the crush actually means. But you need to do that in order to know whether or not to pursue your feelings.
A crush, by nature, changes the rules of a relationship. When you reveal a crush, someone who has premised their interactions with you on a shared understanding (that you are friends, acquaintances, or even just strangers who pass each other routinely) must now reconsider how they act around you and feel about you going forward. The longer you have known the other person, the more fraught this can be, especially if they are content with the relationship as it is already.
Part of the issue is that raising the possibility of romance introduces the element of sexuality, and that can take some adjustment. While some people would be excited to discover that another person feels romantic desire for them, others would be disconcerted that these feelings come from someone they haven’t seen in this light.
Where being trans comes in is that your friend formed your initial relationship based on the gender with which you were once identified. Your friend may have firm associations between sex and gender that could impact their receptiveness to you, depending on how they view their orientation. They may also have limited exposure to trans people and be uncertain as to how the transition plays into your orientation, especially if they have questions about how you are bodied (an incredibly private matter which nonetheless may factor into this). While the answer might seem obvious to you, your crush is not you.
There’s no predicting where this crush might land. He might be harboring similar feelings of his own, or he might not be, but would be delighted to consider the shift. Your difficulty is that there is likely no way for you to know unless he tells you.
What you need to do is to consider what the various outcomes might mean to you. If he is receptive and interested, then your relationship will change and hopefully deepen in a way that you wish. If he is not interested romantically but also is not upset at this revelation, your relationship might either roll on smoothly or change as a result, with things feeling a little strained or awkward (perhaps just for a while, perhaps for always). But if he is unhappy to learn that you are not content with your current relationship, you could lose the friendship.
Do an inventory of which outcomes you can and can’t live with. Could you be ok just remaining friends? Would you even be able to, if your feelings never abate? Would you be comfortable if your friend knows the truth but doesn’t reciprocate, or would that feel too imbalanced? Are you willing to lose the friendship entirely? Relative to your happiness, how important is the friendship itself?
It might also be worth examining your past patterns with crushes. Are you someone who has crushes a lot? If you wait a while, will this likely pass? Or are they rare? Is this crush something that you have long nurtured, which makes it feel very important?
Trying to decide whether to reveal any crush, regardless of gender identity, always comes down to the classic dilemma of risk versus reward. Only you know the degree of each that this crush holds.
This post was previously published on The Shadow.
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