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When I was a little boy, I dreamt of meeting my Ken often. Tall, dark, and muscular. We would be on opposite sides of an aisle in a bookstore and our eyes would meet the moment I slid a book from its comfortable spot. Sparks would fly and I’d experience a love so profound it would make me feel as though my soul purpose was to be born only to love and be loved by him. But as I grew older I felt as though this fantasy would remain just that—a fantasy.

I always knew I was different from most boys. I wasn’t as rowdy as most boys were. I didn’t care for fire trucks, I had no attraction to the color blue, and I cringed at the sound of being referred to as a “little man.” And I definitely didn’t understand the obsession with bosoms. I didn’t get it and I had no desire to get it.

I was fifteen when I discovered a term that explained the complexity of my otherness: trans. I was thrilled to finally feel seen and understood, and for a while it gave me confidence. But my excitement and confidence quickly plummeted when it dawned on my just how difficult finding my Ken would be.

I had zero luck with love in elementary and high school. I had never been the object of anyone’s affection, never been kissed (at least by a guy), and never been anyone’s Valentine. The one relationship I had with a guy in high school depended highly on my capacity to suppress my transness, and eventually it became too much for me. By the time I socially transitioned after high school, I had very little confidence in my ability to find love. But all of that changed quickly.

One of the best parts of socially transitioning was being able to share what I felt inside with the outside world and social media was my favorite place to do this. I didn’t expect to be a hit.

Not only had people from high school inundated me with a wave of support and affirmation, but guys began to pay real attention to me—or what I thought was real. I was no longer the queer friend that had to sit in the corner awkwardly watching my friends soak up the male attention. All of the attention I was receiving was for me and only me.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that all the attention I was getting was only online, and that reality could be completely different seeing as I hadn’t medically transitioned. Behind all the hair, makeup, and clothes was not only someone who was still biologically male, but someone who looked biologically male.

I was at a concert when I was on the receiving end of offline male attention for the first time. Completely lost in a trance of house music and hard liquor, I found myself making out with a string of guys. I ended up going home with one, and even though we didn’t hook up—although he tried to—I discovered a newfound confidence. Even though it wasn’t a real soulmate, it was enough to inspire hope in me.

After the concert, I had several more encounters with men—both online and offline—who were more than eager to get lost in my world. Most of them only for a good time and not a long time, but still more than eager. The excessive attention made me believe I was getting pranked—which was something I had experienced before I realized I was trans.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely experienced rejection. There were men who pretended to be okay with my transness only to make a slow, “classy” exit, men who shattered my heart. Since then I’ve dated great, respectful men who accepted me but unfortunately didn’t turn out to be my great, respectful person. And although I wish I could have been a match with some, and grateful for the experience.

Grateful to have been seen how I see myself. Grateful to have been treated so kindly and gently. Grateful to have been awakened to the fact that one didn’t have to choose between being trans and being loved; that one can be trans and loveable.



Kelley Nele
Kelley Nele
Kelley Nele is a 26-year-old love coach and freelance writer based in Pretoria, South Africa. In her free time she can be found dancing, sketching, and reading.