*This is Jenny’s second post about us from her perspective. Her first post can be found here. Oh, and happy International Women’s Day!
I have never spent so long discussing the possibility of entering a romantic engagement, as I did with Mina, without anything physical having taken place. First we were friends, then we were “something that could maybe happen organically in the future,” then we were in the future (which was not nearly as far away as either of us had been imagining). The future was Mina inviting me for dinner, and somewhere between the Sicilian food, bottles of red wine and more gin-based cocktails admitting that she “didn’t not not have feelings for me”.
In typically repressed British fashion, my previous relationships generally began with kissing and then an attempt to ignore acknowledging what the kissing meant for as long as humanly possible. Not so with Mina. Her about-turn proclamation meant a whole evening of pontification over invisible small print. According to several gay friends of mine, this is normal for a “queer” relationship. Having never had one before, I wouldn’t know, but having never been overly reliant on social form, I found the rule negotiation involved in “queer processing,” both more complex and more liberating. It might seem unromantic, but for me at least, being physically intimate was a much more comfortable experience when I knew exactly where I stood prior to it taking place.
Nevertheless, I will admit that after several hours of alcoholic beverages, and still no end to the dissection of a future it seemed we were rapidly running out of, even I began to grow a little antsy. So when Mina turned to me and said “do you know what we should do?”, I couldn’t help but respond with the uncharacteristically forward answer “kiss at some point in the near future?”.
On reflection I still can’t believe we happened, so much was stacked against us. We both had to end and get over other relationships with people we loved, we were risking close friendships with each other’s ex’s for something less certain, and we had to negotiate our relationship around the potential pitfalls of her transition process. But despite all of that, when it happened, it felt entirely natural; like we should have been doing it the whole time.
That doesn’t mean it was straightforward. Mina was still unsure about entering a relationship on both an emotional and physical level. That evening, she was very clear that she wasn’t ready to commit, that she was still getting over her ex, and that she wasn’t in a position to really be able to judge exactly how she felt about me. She also knew that her gender identity needed to be her main priority, and she was worried that a relationship might put that on the back burner. She didn’t know for sure if she was going to transition yet, or how far she would take it if she did, and I didn’t know to what degree I would be ok with her being female. We agreed that we needed to “take it slow” and “just see what happened.”
As if that wasn’t enough, I didn’t yet quite understand how difficult the physical side of our relationship was going to be for her. She had mentioned somethings about how she found it hard to be physically intimate with someone unless she was comfortable with them, and how having to reveal her “feminine side” made dating challenging. She also told me that sex was something she had always found problematic because of her OCD. I knew that she had been dealing with OCD since childhood, but I didn’t really know many details. Now she told me that it often fixated on “things about the body” and that this often made sex more complicated. I listened to all of this, but apart from relating to the need to be emotionally comfortable with someone prior to being physically intimate, I didn’t realise just how little I hadn’t heard at all.
So, there I was, high on kissing and alcohol, and as we biked through the hipster streets of Hongdae to “There There” (an underwhelming Radiohead themed bar), doing some more kissing on the way, I was only vaguely aware that I was being the slightly more forward one. Sure, I remember Mina stopping to kiss me in a car park, and complaining that the bike ride was getting in the way of making out, but she was always the one to stop first. There was also a funnily awkward incident in the aforesaid mentioned car park, when I misread her cues as an invitation for more than kissing and ended up feeling incredibly sheepish.
We did have sex that night, but it was a short-lived, comedic affair, due to a discrepancy in the size of the average Asian condom versus Western genitalia. It didn’t matter to me in the slightest. Mina and I were going to “take things slowly” and “see what happened”. That was the important thing. I don’t think Mina had an awful time. At least I hope not. But I know now it wasn’t as easy for her as I assumed. Then, largely I think because I hadn’t yet adjusted to viewing her as female, it just never occurred to me that she might not have wanted to have sex, or that the evening wouldn’t naturally end that way. Whilst demanding to be kissed felt romantic, and I hope it was, I never did let her answer her own question and find out what is was she thought we should do.