Lesbians are fucking hot.
And that used to intimidate the shit out of me. Dating for anyone can be terrifying, but as a queer woman born missing my left hand, dating has, at times, seemed especially daunting. For whatever reason (cough, internalized self-hatred, cough) I never considered myself to be in the same league as the women I felt attracted to. After I started wearing a bionic arm, something magical happened: I realized how cool I am. This confidence has enabled me to talk to the attractive lesbians that used to intimidate me.
Being queer and disabled intersects in all kinds of ways. Most people think that being a disabled lesbian is easier because they assume that queer women are more accepting. This is true, but they are also sexy and effortlessly cool. As with any group of people, there is a lesbian totem pole of coolness and I feared I’d never be close to the top.
My disability didn’t thwart my confidence in my teens because I knew that, despite my missing limb, I was still cooler than the queer dating pool I grew up around. Most of the lesbians I knew were what I considered “Pokémon weird” (I’m mean, I know). I recognized that though I was disabled, I was situated closer to the top of the social hierarchy. Face it: it exists. Then I entered college and found a hot girlfriend. I thought that this would affirm me: I finally found one of the cool lesbians. But, perhaps because of the way women are conditioned to compare themselves to each other, my self-esteem went down instead of up. I felt like it was a miracle that my hot girlfriend liked me.
After we broke up, I started venturing into Manhattan and Brooklyn frequently and the girls only got hotter and more elite. I felt even more self-conscious about my arm. The social circles I found myself in as I entered my 20s were full of lesbians that I automatically considered cooler than me. Leather jackets, cigarettes, small blackwork tattoos lining their arms, a general apathy about everything—you know the deal.
The very type I was hopelessly attracted to but considered myself less than.
If a lesbian hit on me, I would completely panic and call her “girl” enough times until she thought I was straight. I assumed that girls wouldn’t like me, so I purposely pushed them away. I used my breakup with my college girlfriend as an excuse to not be interested in dating. I wasn’t even that upset, but after years of making up and breaking up, I had forgotten how to date and flirt with other women. Worse than that, I felt unattractive subconsciously because of my arm.
After a year of not dating anyone, thanks to some coaxing from my best friend and a bottle of rosé, I reactivated my Facebook for the sole purpose of making a Tinder. I curated the most attractive pictures of myself and wracked my brain trying to think of a witty bio. I pushed thoughts about whether to mention I was disabled or not out of my head. It was around this time that I began the process of getting my bionic arm. I garnered a lot of matches, but I was too anxious to go on any of the dates I arranged. Like many women, I’ve had imposter syndrome my whole life. When I was a professor, I kept waiting for the day they’d ask “how are you a real teacher?” When I started freelancing, I’d worry that a publication would change their minds after saying yes to me. When I met my most recent ex for the first time, I worried that she was out of my league.
After flaking on the majority of my Tinder dates, there was one girl I was so intrigued by that I put my anxiety and hang-ups aside to go meet her. I agreed to a date, but once there, I was anxious all over again. I walked into the bakery/bar (v. Brooklyn) to meet her, then I almost turned around and walked out when I saw how smoking hot she was in person. My conversation was all over the place, fast and frantic. It took three gin and tonics for me to start acting like myself.
Right after our first date, I finally got my bionic arm. Its design was exactly how I’d planned with my prosthetist—customized jet black forearm, carbon fiber fingers, silver details. It was downright sexy. After that, I fully blossomed into myself. I took more style risks and felt better than ever walking down the street and into a bar. Always one to experiment with my appearance and try new looks, this one finally felt like me.
When I got ready for the next time I was seeing her, I put on a skin-tight dress, thigh-high boots and a strappy bra. My bionic arm felt like the icing on the cake. This time, I began to feel like my imposter syndrome was shedding. Maybe I am a cool lesbian that gets to have a cool girlfriend and go on cool dates. I wasn’t preoccupied with self-doubt; I was genuinely focused on our conversation. I unzipped my dress to show her my tattoo (my cool tattoo!) and I felt sexy doing it. Did we feverishly make out at the bar because of my prosthetic? Maybe not. But I don’t think she would have seen enough of me to be interested if I didn’t have it on.
When her friends eventually met me, they oohed and ah-ed at my prosthesis instead of the way people used to react: staring then catching themselves and making a big spectacle out of not staring, bringing up anything and everything to alleviate the awkwardness. When one of her friends asked what I did, then recognized my writing, I realized: I am cool. After we broke up, I was sad, but I didn’t automatically assume I’d never find someone to like me again. I kept to myself for a few months, then put myself back out there.
When I first made a tinder, I worried about whether or not to mention my disability. Now I have “cyborg” in my bio. My badass bionic arm is clearly visible in my pictures. I put out positive energy and have made connections in return. When a hot girl messages me, I don’t immediately ask myself why she’d ever be interested in me. I answer.
My bionic arm feels like it belongs on my body, under my leather jacket, clutching my bag, or holding a vodka seltzer. It is like I get to wear the sexiest outfit in my wardrobe to every date. This confidence is from more than just my arm; it’s maturity, how I see myself and how others see me.
The pressure of wanting women to like me used to scare me out of being myself. Now I know that I can attract women with my looks and personality, but to get that far, I needed the confidence my bionic arm granted me. My prosthetic has made me grow into myself in a lot of ways: in my personal style, as a writer and as a lesbian. It feels like when I learned the word queer and it just fit on my skin. I’m thankful for who I am, both queer and disabled, because who I am is pretty cool.
So, if you see a bionic babe dressed in black on tinder, swipe right.
Dayna Troisi is a freelance essayist, poet and teacher. Her essays have been published in Buzzfeed, Vice, SELF, Racked and more. Her poems have been published in Stirring, Wordgathering, all the sins and more. Dayna is passionate about writing essays that focus on queer dating, beauty + fashion and her badass bionic arm. Learn more at daynatroisi.com