“Why are you swiping left on all those girls? They were cute!”
“Wait, why are you seeing gay guys?”
“You’re making this so much harder than it needs to be. Just get over it and message someone!”
Yeah, it’s not that easy.
Dating was hard enough back in high school, before I began my transition. I already dressed butch, with short hair and no makeup. Straight guys were hardly interested in a masculine girl, and there were never more than three or four lesbians in high school, so my options were limited.
It has been a while since I was out in the dating pool. After the end of a long-term relationship at the beginning of college, I found myself in an unfamiliar world of dating apps and one night stands. Not only that, but it was the first time since I began my transition that I found myself single and “ready to mingle.” Other people’s views of me had changed drastically.
I’m on Tinder as male: that’s my gender. But I’m stuck in a strange limbo. Socially I present as male, and I want to date people who like men (obviously). But on Tinder, a lot of people are looking for hookups more than relationships. Since I haven’t medically transitioned, my body doesn’t match my gender, and so people who are looking for men often aren’t interested in sex with someone with – for lack of a better term – a “female” body. I don’t want to have my gender invalidated in a relationship, but at the same time how do I explain this duality to people who may never have met a trans person before?
Over the last year I’ve come up with some strategies. I put my gender status right there in the description, warning off anyone who could be put out upon discovering I’m not cisgender. Even when I do match with people, it takes an enormous effort to strike up a conversation when I don’t know how they’ll react.
I’ve gotten some awkward questions, like: “How does sex work for you?” (Answer: pretty much the same as anyone else.) Or: “Wait, does ‘trans guy’ mean that you used to be a guy and now you’re a girl?” (Answer: The other way around. I’m a trans GUY.) There have even been some incredibly invasive questions about my genitals: can’t I get a “hello” first?
My experiences have been generally positive, but there’s always the threat looming in my mind that someone might become angry or even violent at the thought I might be “tricking” them about my gender or my body. That thought sticks in every trans person’s head when they go out with someone new. The history of trans women murdered for their transgender status creates a whole new level of danger to dating. I’m extra cautious because I have to be, but I wish I had the courage to be authentically myself without having to worry about anyone else’s opinion.
I ask cis people everywhere, especially on dating apps, to be patient with us. We’re people just like you, often with trust issues in the dating scene. If you’re not interested, that’s fine. Just swipe left or unmatch; we won’t take it personally. My hope is that one day trans people won’t have to constantly judge other people’s reactions to us. We’ll just be normal people, looking for companionship and compassion like anyone else.