A couple have gone from dating members of the same sex to falling madly in love with one another in their “unusual heterosexual relationship.”
The formerly gay-only sweethearts – whose avant-garde amour has gone viral, fetching upwards of 30.5 million views on TikTok – say they “couldn’t be happier” together, the New York Post reported.
“It’s an unusual pairing, but we’re so happy,” Maren Butler, a self-proclaimed “masculine-presenting” 21-year-old woman said.
She exclusively dated women before encountering proudly ultra-feminine boyfriend James Carrington on social media.
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Videos of James, 23, sporting stiletto heels, eyelash extensions and colourful acrylic nails spiked Maren’s interest when she stumbled upon his TikTok in February 2021.
“I remember seeing James’ video and thinking he was so cool,” said Maren, from California.
“Before James, I’d only dated girls, but I’ve always been attracted to fem-men because I love the combination of confidence and femininity,” she continued, adding that she found his androgyny appealing.
“He has a pretty face and pretty smile. What’s not to love?”
Like Maren, a premed student of philosophy and public health, James only dated members of his sex before they met.
“Even though I identified as gay before I met Maren, I wasn’t seeking a romantic relationship with men,” explained James, an event planner from North Carolina.
“A long time before I met Maren, I had one boyfriend, but we only lasted a couple of months as it didn’t feel right,” he added.
“When I got to know Maren, there was the click, and that’s how I knew this was special.”
After connecting online, the unlikely long-distance lovers exchanged phone numbers and spent hours chatting on FaceTime every night for a month.
They bonded over their shared sense of humour and love of R&B music.
Then, in March 2021, Maren opted to make the 10-hour trip to visit James in his home state.
“We’d talked about meeting up, and I had a couple of days off school, so I decided that it was the perfect time to meet,” Maren recalled, noting that the lengthy journey was well worth it.
“When I arrived, it was fairly late at night, but it was amazing to see each other in person for the first time,” she said.
“James was just how he was over the phone; funny, intelligent and confident.”
During their 48-hour visit, the pair grabbed a bite to eat and James introduced Maren to his friends and family.
They became an official couple in April of last year.
While their relationship has since received an influx of praise from virtual supporters on TikTok, James and Maren have found that people in the real world aren’t as accepting of their unique love.
“When in public, we mainly get stares from small children and older people,” said Maren, claiming that her own mother was shocked by James’ womanly appearance.
“We don’t take anything personally, as some people just don’t know how to react, and that’s OK,” she added.
“While it’s annoying having to explain our relationship, some people just don’t know how to react, because they’re confused and or curious, which we don’t mind.”
James also remembered his father’s stunned reaction after meeting Maren.
“My dad was taken aback when I introduced Maren as my girlfriend, because he’s of a different generation and a pairing like ours isn’t something he’s seen,” he explained.
Although he insists that his father loves Maren as his girlfriend, James understands why many folks struggle to embrace their romantic partnership.
“Society is so used to putting people into a box,” said James.
“So when you meet people as unique as us, for some it’s hard to comprehend because of how we present ourselves in our appearance and mannerisms.”
The pair, who currently live in separate states but sporadically visit one another when their schedules permit, plan to soon live together in California.
“We cannot wait to enjoy the everyday couple things like waking up next to each other, enjoying new experiences and not having to cram it into one weekend,” said James.
“Most of all, we’re excited to do life together and get married and have babies.” Maren added.
“It’s important to live your life in a way that you’re happy with and that is true to you.”