The reality of navigating dating world is that everyone has baggage that they're weary about revealing to potential suitors. At the end of the day, we're all human beings who want to be accepted and appreciated in our entirety. And the idea of having someone reject you because of a fundamental component of your identity is daunting enough to make a person avoid dating all together.
So as a young transwoman living in New York City, I've always been pretty freaking nervous about how guys could react when I reveal to them that I was born biologically male, even though I identify and live my life as female. After all, transwomen are all too often beaten and murdered for no reason other than their gender identities.
That's exactly why the idea of online dating appealed to me despite it's inherent shittiness and utter lack of romance. It opened up a space where I could disclose my transgender status to men from the safety of my phone without having to worry about putting myself in a potentially violent or dangerous situation (which is the reality for all of us transwomen). I decided to reveal my truth to men who I had matched with on Tinder and their responses were not always what I expected...
Of course there was the expected invasiveness, as you can see in the exchanges below. (PROTIP: Instead of asking a transwoman about her genitals right off the bat, try asking about her hobbies.)
And then of course there was some good old-fashioned stupidity...
Some guys simply couldn't believe it...
This guy thought I was trying to trick him... #BackhandedCompliment
Some guys respectfully expressed a lack of interest in dating a transwoman...
And some guys were totally chill about the entire thing...
Even though transgender issues are finally coming to light in the mainstream media, many people don't know how to properly approach a transgender woman or how to redirect the conversation once they discover that the person they are flirting with is transgender. Don't worry, though! Here are some general rules that may just help you out if you end up in this type of situation:
1. Do not reduce us to our bodies. So often, trans bodies are dissected and scrutinized. People think it's acceptable to ask us about our medical and surgical decisions in colloquial discussions. If a trans individual wishes to open about these matters, let them do it on their own time and on their own terms.
2. Do not ask us what our "real" names are. Trans individuals do not want to be remembered by the names and identifications that were imposed upon us at birth without our own autonomy and consent. We wish to be seen as how we recognize ourselves in the present.
3. Do not become insulting or violent. Society tells men that if they are attracted to a transgender woman, that they are less masculine and perhaps even gay. This couldn't be further from the truth. If your senses of masculinity or heterosexuality become threatened, do not take it out on us. We did not ask you to be attracted to us.
4. Do not ask us invasive questions that you would not ask a genetic woman. Yes, we transwomen have undergone some remarkably unique life experiences that genetic women never will. But at the end of the day, we're also just normal girls. For example, I like horror flicks, classical music, and binge-watching reality TV. Ask me about my interests and aspirations, not just my gender history.
5. Do treat us with respect. Being transgender doesn't mean that someone is mentally ill or less worthy of human decency. Be kind to people even if you don't quite understand their circumstances. Instead of approaching situations from a judgmental point of view, attempt to educate and inform yourself.
6. Do acknowledge our womanhood. Transwomen are women. We like to be wooed and pursued just like genetically born women. Don't let our pasts inform the way you interact with us in romantic situations and settings.
7. Do make us feel safe and protected. It can be very daunting and scary for a transwoman to open up about her gender identity and her past. It requires an immense amount of vulnerability and courage. By truly listening and attempting to understand, you can make her disclosure feel less threatening and more collaborative.
8. Do realize and understand your privilege. The reality is that transgender people experience hardships that non-transgender individuals simply do not. Dating a transgender person can be difficult because of the monumental challenges we face. We may even break down at times but instead of judging us for our moments of weakness, applaud us for our perseverance and strength.
Through my Tinder experiment, I learned that there was plenty of ignorance for me to deal with in the online dating sphere. But to my surprise, this ignorance was almost completely overshadowed by the amount of men who were open-minded, respectful, and willing to learn about what it means to be transgender. All I can say is that times are certainly changing and I'm happy to discover this every day.
As a transwoman, I've been programmed throughout my entire life to feel like an inauthentic, undesirable, and unnatural "version" of a woman. But this experience has revealed to me that there are people in the world who are willing to accept you even for the aspects of your identity that make you the most insecure about yourself.
And as for how these dates ended up, I might just have to save that for a future article!