February 1, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 16°F


Commentary: Why I choose Manolos over men

One of my biggest joys in life is buying a new pair of shoes. The feeling of grasping a pair of boots made of Italian leather, sheepskin, etc., is such a euphoric moment for me — almost orgasmic. I’ve always wondered why buying new shoes brought me so much joy. As I grew older, I began to realize a pattern: I tend to have an urge to buy a new pair of shoes every time a romantic endeavor fails.

Why is it easier for me to find a pair of Manolo Blahniks on sale at Saks than to find a man who will wave hello to me when he sees me in public? I can blame men as a whole, but that always makes me feel cruel. I can blame myself, but that’s not healthy. The one plausible reason I can think of is something that is always teetering in the back of my mind, and forever will, whether I like it or not: Men are embarrassed by me because I’m a transgender woman.

Finding love as a woman is already hard. Add being a woman of color on top of that, and it’s even harder. Now add being a trans woman of color, and the concept of finding love seems like a fairytale. As a transgender woman, you are constantly being tested: Constantly having to worry about being feminine enough, wondering if someone actually likes you for you or if they fetishize you for something out of your control. You have to prove to cisgender society that you are a real woman. Most men, in my experience, don’t see me as a normal girl until I prove to them that I am. I’ve heard it all. From men telling me they want to be with me but we can’t let anyone find out about us, to men telling me that they would date me if it wasn’t for that one little detail. The first time a man told me he loved me, he told me we had to break up. I bought the most romantic shoes I could think of to cope: maroon Prada ballet flats made of heavenly soft velvet. Something about the soft touch of velvet comforts me. I ended up ruining the shoes when I stepped into a huge puddle of mud and rain, go figure. 

I think what hurts the most is that men don’t even try to make an effort. They immediately throw me out like I’m damaged goods. On the bright side, I possess the most important factor to cis people: Beauty. What cisgender people really mean when they call me beautiful is that I don’t disturb society. I can blend. This is a comfort to them.

A couple of summers ago, I got a vagina. I thought that would change everything. It didn’t. I’m tired of having to constantly have to upkeep my appearance 10 times more than any cisgender girl I have ever met. I’m tired of having to be conscious all the time about the way I speak or move. I’m tired of making myself palatable to these men and still not being enough. Having men being terrified of openly loving me has been severely ingrained into my psyche, and I see the effects it has on me every single day of my life.

I love love, but to say I haven’t partly given up on it would be a lie. Nowadays, I take what I can get. I’ve taught myself not to complain about the mistreatment I endure. What I’ve learned through my troubles with love is that I don’t have many options. I don’t have the privilege to be picky in choosing my “prince charming.” I can either settle for what I’m being offered, or be alone. At the moment, I’m fine with filling that void by ordering a new pair of strappy sandals or leather sneakers every week. A pair of Sam Edelman booties may not cuddle with me at night and kiss my forehead, but at least they’re forever.