''im not into that''
Dating when transgender
CONTENT WARNING: This article contains Trans slurs in context.
As a sucker for a good love story, Friday night with my boyfriend means watching First Dates. Usually we’re invested in the complimentary gay couple on the show or proclaiming our desires for Fred. However, this week the usually very liberal programme turned sour when one of the participants exclaimed he was “catfished by a tranny”.
Shocked, I listened to the story detailing how a trans women had not disclosed the fact she was transgender, he then made a joke out of this, his date laughing along. Turning to my boyfriend, we discuss how we hadn’t always been so lucky in our love life. Dating for anyone can be a daunting experience. For trans people, it brings its own complications, and they can be terrifying.
For me, going out in Manchester’s Gay Village was my best shot of finding Mr Right. My usual night would be spent talking to as many people as possible, weaving my way through the crowds, complimenting outfits, dancing with my friends. A gorgeous guy comes up to me and offers to buy me a drink, we get chatting. By this point the panic has already mildly set in.
“You know, I’m so gay, I’ve never even touched a vagina!”
I’ve heard it countless times before, you’ve probably heard it too at some point. I usually walk away or laugh along knowing I’m not going to get anywhere.
“You know, not all men have dicks right?”
His face is confused, he can’t seem to understand what I’ve just said. We sit in the smoking area, and I start explaining to him a brief understanding that genitals don’t always equate to someone’s gender. For once, it feels like I am getting somewhere with someone and not having to keep myself hidden from someone.
I’m defeated. It seems commonplace amongst our LGBTQ community that people “just aren’t into that”. Transgender rights and visibility have always been somewhat separate to the rest of the community. However, within recent years with more people coming out as transgender, the community has been forced to accept our existence. Usually when discussing my identity to people on a night out I’m met with “Good for you!” or “Yaaas Queen, live your life!” on the surface people are visibly keen to support transgender rights. Accepting and supporting our existence is far from accepting our validity though.
The LGB community has a long way to come in terms of acceptance. You only have to open Grindr to know that the minefield that is gay dating has its own prejudices.
It’s something all of us who have Grindr have seen, even ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race’ has parodied the well-known phrase. On Grindr, I am openly trans, as I always am with someone I intend to sleep with. Usually, the messages I receive are curious, a surprising amount of gay men don’t know what a trans man is, usually they assume that I was born male at birth and I’m transitioning to a female body. However, when explaining what it means to be trans man the messages grind to a halt after finding out I haven’t had bottom surgery and I don’t have a penis.
Although I am yet to see “No Trans” on someone’s Grindr profile, I can’t help but wonder if this is because it seems too exclusionary to put or because the gay community don’t even consider trans men as an option when it comes to dating. Education on transgender issues within the LGB community is poor, we are the generation to witness more transgender people coming out and yet some of us couldn’t be more in the dark.
Just last week, Drag Race’s outspoken queen Willam, who has worked alongside numerous trans individuals stated that “Just because someone says they’re a boy, doesn’t make them a boy!”
Fans from all backgrounds were shocked by his comments towards the transgender community as on the surface Willam has always been a strong ally to the transgender community. In a video posted later on his YouTube channel, Willam is seen in discussion with his drag sister Courtney Act, who does an excellent job of explaining what it is to be trans, that gender and sex are not always the same thing. Although Willam has apologised for his comments, they have very much highlighted the attitudes that some gay men have in the dating world, if the man doesn’t have a penis then they’re not for me.
As a fan of Drag Race and of Willam, I was disappointed that even in the drag world which focusses on reinventing gender, the education about trans people was so minimal. Willam’s comments also opened a discussion about the more dangerous and risky reality of dating when trans.
Willam here references Brandon Teena, a trans man who was murdered when his transgender identity was discovered. As seen with the First Dates episode and Willam’s comments about Brandon Teena there is a growing pressure on trans people to reveal their identity and be open about it. I am not open about my identity on a daily basis, this is out of convenience, for me having to explain to every person I meet what genitals I have or what hormones I’m taking is exhausting. I work on a basis of, if it’s relevant, if I’m safe, I’ll tell the person.
Keeping your identity hidden can sometimes be the difference between life and death as a trans person. In 48 states in the US “trans panic” is a legal defence for murdering a trans person. The defendant claims a momentary lapse of sanity when discovering the person is transgender, this being their reasoning for murder. For trans women, particularly trans women of colour, this is a fear known all too well, with 27 trans women being murdered in the US in 2016. It isn’t just in the USA that transphobic hate crimes are on the rise, in 2016, reported hate crimes towards transgender people rose by 170%. For trans people, withholding information about identity isn’t about tricking a potential partner, it is a survival instinct.
I’m on a date, he’s mad because I didn’t tell him before meeting that I was trans. I try explaining to him that my intention was never to trick him, that I just wanted to get to know him before revealing something so personal. This doesn’t matter to him.
“If I wanted to date a woman I would have said so!”
Trying to defuse the situation I explain to him I’m not a woman, I identified as a woman for a long time.
Someone I’d be so excited to meet had decided within the space of 10 minutes that I wasn’t his type just because I wasn’t born with a penis.
This is the reality of dating as a trans person, my boyfriend shares similar stories of people not being interested as soon as they find out. We turn back to first dates, after discussing the reality of what it is like to be a trans person dating we’re downtrodden. Although we were shocked at first that a slur as bad as “tranny” aired on first dates, in retrospect, I’m not surprised.
In my experience, attitudes towards dating trans people are generally very negative. The issue isn’t always what someone is or isn’t into, it’s the ideology that because someone is trans you’re not into them. I am a gay man, meaning that I am a man who is interested in other men, regardless of what genitalia they have. I have loved cisgender men and I am currently in love with a trans masculine man. To me, disregarding someone instantly because they’re trans is ridiculous.
So how do we improve the situation?
The LGB community need to be engaging in discussions about trans people. Nightclubs need to hold more trans inclusive nights in order to spark the conversation, schools need to be educating future generations about trans people. On an individual basis, research more into what it means to be transgender, don’t be afraid to google or ask questions. We need to engage in the idea that dating trans people isn’t so different from dating anyone else.
At the end of the day, it’s not up to me what someone is or isn’t into in the bedroom.
I’ve accepted the fact that as a transgender man I’m not going to be what some people want. The issue for me and other trans people is the instant rejection when mentioning that we’re trans. Just like disregarding someone for their ethnicity is racist, disregarding someone because they’re trans is transphobic. At the end of the day, I am a man, I identify as a man, I would like to think that that should be enough.