The dating scene for transgender women offers a unique set of challenges that cisgender — someone whose gender identity matches their biological sex — women don’t have to deal with. Fetishization, discrimination, harassment, and even homicide aren’t unheard of for us, but it doesn’t have to be this way. In order to spare my fellow trans women from the often harsh reality of our attempts at finding love, I wish the people who dated us would keep these things in mind:
Save the Bedroom Talk For the Bedroom. Christine Jorgenson was a World War II veteran, but ask anyone familiar with Jorgenson and they’ll be surprised. No one knows anything about her other than the fact that she was the first trans woman to receive genital reconstruction surgery. The preoccupation with trans women’s genitals has been lengthy and disturbing. We’re tired of being objectified over what’s in our pants, and genital reconstruction surgery is often a deeply personal topic. Besides, should the topic of discussion on your first date really be a woman’s vag? Awkward. There’s a time and place for everything. Know when it’s appropriate or necessary.
The Best way to find an answer for your questions is a Google Search. If you treat the date like a dictionary, we’re probably already shuffling in our purse for our car keys and telling you we have to run to the bathroom. Know what trans means and don’t expect trans women to be your professor on gender studies, because who wants heavy discussions on a date when you could be drinking wine? I Googled everything I wanted to know as I came to terms with my gender identity, so spare the textbook talk with a Google search, a book, or an actual classroom. There are vast amounts of tools for knowledge — don’t be afraid to use them. In fact, consider being educated your responsibility.
Don’t Let Watching Sex Online Be Your Study Guide. The job market is a huge barrier for trans women and poverty is high among our demographic. In fact, a whopping 57 percent of trans people have faced some form of discrimination in the workplace. As a result, researchers say that trans women are the highest demographic to turn to the sex trade to find meaningful work. If nothing else, trans women in the adult sex movies and the sex trade remain a top-seller among straight men. According to the sex site P*rnhub, the “shemale” category ranks 22nd in most searched — that’s a lot of sex on the interent. Let’s not forget, however, that the adult sex movie industry is often unrealistic. Know what labels are respectful to us and which ones aren’t.
Backhanded Compliments Are Not Cute. “Wow, I would have never known you were a man — you look just like a woman!” or something similar isn’t a compliment — it’s just rude. The message that is being conveyed to trans women with this type of exchange is that we’re engaging in a form of trickery, a disguise to pass as something we’re not. As Janet Mock, author of Redefining Realness put it: “I am a woman. I live my life as a woman and that’s how I should be perceived. I’m not passing as anything — I’m being. Being myself.”
We Didn’t Transition Just to Date Straight Men. This is a terrible yet too often perpetuated myth. Trans women don’t transition to fool straight men into sleeping with us. This disgusting form of ignorance has been sensationalized in both television and film. It’s one of the many reasons why I personally choose to openly state that I’m a trans woman on my tinder profile. And what about Trans lesbians? Trans women aren’t likely to change our sexual orientation after transitioning. Those of us who were attracted to women before transitioning are still likely to remain attracted to women. The numbers show that between 40 and 60 percent of trans women identify as bisexual or lesbian, so whether it’s men, women, both or none, we can date whoever we want.
Gender and Sexuality Are Two Different Things. Dating us doesn’t mean you’re gay. Dating us doesn’t even mean you have to be bisexual. If you’re attracted to trans women then you’re attracted to women. Trans women are women — end of story. Many people confuse gender and sex or don’t understand the difference between the two. Gender is fluid while sex is biological and rigid. Sexual orientation is shaped by your attraction to a person’s gender identity. If you’re a cis man or woman attracted to someone who’s trans, it doesn’t change your sexual identity.
We’re Not a Secret Society. When Tyga allegedly cheated on Kylie Jenner with trans model Mia Isabella, the media went crazy. Tyga’s sexual orientation was called into question and he was shamed by virtually the entirety of the hip hop community. Society shames men who are attracted to trans women by attacking their masculinity, labeling them as gay, or accusing them of having a fetish. Trans women are taught that we only deserve companionship through secrecy. Being open about your relationship with us conveys the message to society that we deserve to be seen. That trans visibility deserves a safe space to exist which can then foster easier acceptance from others.
You should treat Us with the Respect You Would Give Any Other Woman. One of my favorite interviews to date is when Janet Mock turned the tables on Fusion reporter Alicia Menendez, asking her the kind of inappropriate questions that Mock is constantly subjected to by interviewers. Menendez was overwhelmed with questions such as, “Do you have a vagina? Do you use tampons? When did you begin to feel your breasts budding?” If you find these questions alarming, take note that trans women are the subject of this type of questioning all the time. A rule of thumb to ask yourself is, “Would I ask or expect this of a cisgender woman?” If the answer is no, you probably shouldn’t ask trans women either.
Dating a Trans Woman is a Catch. Did you know that trans women face some of the highest risks of becoming victims of domestic violence? An underlying issue is the idea that trans women have nowhere else to go, as if abusive men are the only ones who will ever truly love us. I’ve been a witness of too many trans women in abusive relationships at the hands of men. A common response when these women choose to leave them is, “Where will you go? Who’s going to be attracted to you like I am?” Don’t ever assume we’re below the bar. Know that you’re not the only fish in the sea. We have standards too.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and We’re No Exception. So take us to a movie, a concert — hell, even a rodeo. Being trans doesn’t mean we are miserable — we just want to have a good time like anybody else.
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