Navigating the dating world as a trans person

the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Laura Ockel

Navigating the dating world as a trans person

February 18, 2018

How can trans people best navigate the modern dating world? Finding love as a queer person is hard enough, throw gender identity on top of that and dating might seem impossible. The internet can be a refuge for finding community, but finding a dating community isn’t always the easiest or safest for trans people.

Most of my friends and I use dating apps to meet people, hook up, and date. There are many dating websites and apps that state that they are “LGBTQ friendly” but for the most part dating sites are more LGBQ friendly than trans friendly. I have read countless articles, internet comments, and profile messages from people who say, “I would never date a trans person.” In fact, only 16 to 18% of Americans say they would be willing to date someone who is transgender. Hearing about people being afraid of or not open to dating a trans person is just one reason why it is so hard to date as a trans person. And even though I have heard it many times before, it is still hard to confront.

I looked at eight popular dating sites to see which are the most gender inclusive. Most stick to the gender binary, forcing people to state that they are either male or female, with no other options. Some sites are more inclusive for cisgender gay or lesbian folks than bi+ folks, as they only list interested in only male or only female, without the option for selecting both. Some have a variety of sexualities to choose from, and some have a combination of options for gender and sexuality. I've found that OkCupid and Tinder are the most inclusive, having many options for sexualities and gender, especially transgender woman, man, non-binary and gender fluid.

Even once we have been able to select the appropriate identities for yourself and the people you are interested, many trans people still might feel obligated to disclose that they are transgender explicitly in their profiles or early in the conversation. But it often seems like the second you tell someone in the dating world that you are trans, their entire view of you changes. Sometimes, if you don’t come out to someone, they can make you feel like you lied by not disclosing. But if we tell the person on the other end that we are trans, the person may end the conversation in a huff. Either that, or they will fetichize our trans identity, saying something like ‘that’s hot,’ or ‘I’m usually not into trans people but I might like you.’ To be honest, all of those options make me want to run away.

Some trans folks might disclose that they are trans early in the conversation with someone they are interested in dating. Those that are comfortable enough to disclose this information might do so because they don’t want to get their hopes up only for rejection or possible violence if they meet up in person. There have been many instances in which I’ve neglected to disclose my gender identity until I was deep in conversation in someone, which made the person end the conversation and/ or say rude things. Sometimes I disclose my gender identity pretty early in the conversation and they stop messaging me immediately. Although disclosing trans identity in the beginning of a conversation early in the messaging process can be hard because people cut off contact, it’s safer in the long run.

Personally, I know that I am not ready to date yet. I am still in the middle of my coming out process and am focused on myself more than dating someone else. When I see a trans person that is dating and happy I get excited for them and for myself because I know how hard it is to find someone and feel comfortable. I also remember how lonely the single life can be when you are figuring out who you are and living through another heart-filled Valentine’s Day. Sometimes I wish I could have a relationship like the ones I see.

All trans people are worthy of love and affection. Hopefully we as a society will begin to see that trans people deserve love, just like anyone else. An important thing to remember though, is that patience is a virtue. Finding someone takes time and effort. And when I found someone who loves me for exactly who I am, as a trans person, I’ll know all the waiting has been worth it.

Riley McGrath is a Campus Ambassador and a sophomore at Bridgewater State University studying psychology. He runs a trans ally project on Facebook and Instagram that strives to put out trans and LGBT inclusive content. Riley hopes to be an LGBT counselor as well as a mental health counselor in the future.

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