Dating a transguy?

20 12 2009

Another common way that people find this blog is through running searches such as “dating a transman” and variations thereof. Most of them wind up linking to my post “How to date a transman” which, in turn, linked to an article by Raven Kaldera. (The original link was no longer working so I just replaced it.)

Anyway, I thought I would say a few words on the topic. I appreciate that there are so many people out there who are willing to read up on things that they might need to consider when they are dating a trans person. I think that reading various perspectives of trans people on dating can help you consider things that the person in question might be hesitant to bring up, especially if they are in early transition and still discovering for themselves what it means to A) be in their chosen sex/gender and B) to experience love, lust and sexuality in this sex/gender.

However, I urge people who are dating trans folk of any stripe to first and foremost remember that this person is human first and, as with all humans, they have their own set of ideals, values, insecurities, holdovers from childhood, etc. that affect the way they will relate to you and others, sexually, emotionally or otherwise. Not all of these factors are directly linked to their gender/sex identity and transition and some of them may change over time. So, while it *is* commendable and worthwhile to read up on these issues and to take into consideration what you read about the myriad experiences and perspectives of trans folk, please remember that time, openness, trustworthiness and patience are your best tools for getting to know your partner(s). I think it is a truism to say that this applies whether or not your partner(s) is/are trans and all those “how to understand *insert gender of your choice*” along with their essentialist generalisations need to be countered by this.

That said, there are some widespread issues that trans people have when it comes to dating. For all trans people, the correct pronoun is a big one. I don’t think I need to go into it here. Griping about incorrect pronoun usage is already common on blogs by trans folk. But as an emotional or sexual partner, it is even more crucial that you not only get it right, but that you support your partner when they come home grumpy from having been misgendered a bunch of times that day. We already hear all the excuses at work and elsewhere about: “But it’s a habit!” or “We need time to get used to it!” so please don’t feed your partner the same B.S. and expect them to not resent you.

With more specific reference to trans guys, something I read a lot on the blogs of my fellow trans men is that they have trouble dealing with the gendered expectations that partners may have. Whichever sexual orientation a trans guy has, he often winds up dating people who have fairly strict ideas about how a man should act. Unfortunately, this can put a lot of pressure on a guy, especially in early transition when he is still discovering what it means for him to be a man. As Kaldera’s article (the one I can’t find anymore) pointed out, if he does something that appears to you to be “unmanly”, the worst thing you can do is say something like: “You move/talk/walk like a girl.” To paraphrase Kaldera, if he is trying very hard to be manly, you will embarrass him. If he doesn’t care about gender norms or actively seeks to refute them (like me, for instance) he will be turned off by your adherence to a set of values that he chooses to refute. Of course, if you care about that sort of thing and don’t plan to change, perhaps you shouldn’t be dating someone who chooses not to live by those rules and find someone with your gender values instead. Just sayin’!

In terms of sexuality, patience is the key. This guy is discovering a whole new worlds and there will be ups and downs. Sometimes he might be uncomfortable being naked, especially until you’ve earned his trust and he knows that you won’t show discomfort with his non-gender conforming body. Sometimes, he might go through phases where he doesn’t like certain parts of his body to be touched. Perhaps he might want you to call certain parts of his anatomy by another name such as “front hole” or “pecs”.

Trans people obviously don’t have a monopoly on body discomfort. Fat people, physically disabled people and other “non-mainstream” bodies deal with similar issues all the time. How can someone feel sexy when they know that so many people might potentially be disgusted by their bodies? How can people get over that fear when the media pumps us full of ideas about what a sexy body looks like? So I think that *most* people who have *regular* bodies (ie: not modified to look like the fake pictures in the glossy magazines and on the big screen) can relate to what a trans person goes through, even if it’s not exactly the same kind of body image issue. In one case, it’s a case of feeling like one doesn’t live up to societal expectations. In the other, it’s a case of not feeling like one is connected with the correct body. But still, if you’ve ever felt hesitant to be naked in front of someone or be sexually free with them even when you’re really into them, you can have a bit of an idea of what it is like for many trans folk.

So keep this in mind when you are dating someone who is trans, especially if they are in early transition and especially if you are still at the “getting to know each other” stage. If you don’t think you have the patience, you might reconsider whether it is a good idea to date this person. Of course, it might not be an issue at all. There are indeed trans folk who are perfectly comfortable with their bodies and with expressing their needs.

Finally, something that will bother most trans guys is the feeling that you are fetishising them. If you come across as someone who is with him because you want to look cool and hip for dating a trans guy, that will hurt him. Some guys are OK with people being attracted to them because they are trans but I wouldn’t say that this is the majority. Like anyone else, we want to be loved and appreciated for who we are.

And another finally: if you are lesbian identified and happen to be in love with someone who comes to identify as male, it is understandable that this may be a struggle.  If you choose to pursue the relationship because your love for the person overrides your lesbian identity, that’s great. But if you say that this is because you still consider him a woman, he may come to resent that. I’ve never experienced this because I tend to date bi-identified or pansexual/queer women. But I’ve read some other accounts and I understand that it can be painful for a guy to find out that his partner is with him because s/he still considers him to be a woman. However, if you can find a way to reconcile your identity as lesbian and your love of a man, and if your partner can understand why your lesbian identity is still important to you and not feel threatened by it, great!

In any case, dialogue is extremely important, as it is in any relationship of course. It is OK to ask a person if there is any part of their body that they don’t like touched. It is OK to let them know that you are open to listening to them if issues come up. It is OK to admit that you don’t completely get it, if that is the case, and that you are open to learning from them or from any other sources that they would recommend. It uber important to remember that not all trans people are the same so that, even if you’ve dated 10 trans guys, this 11th guy, is not going to be the same.

Hope this helps!

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11 responses

21 12 2009
Shirley Anne

As much as I agree with you on this subject I am finding it difficult to post a meaningful comment but I will try. The things you describe DO apply to trans people and they are relevant, of course they are but this is also the experience of anyone in a blossoming relationship. For a relationship to start in the first place ther must be some form of attraction, whatever that attraction might be so I am thinking it isn’t specifically the things you describe which are abhorrent to you personally but you want the relationship to develop as you think it should. For someone to want a relationship as a ‘fetish’ thing is ok for others but NOT for you. Unfortunately we have to try things out, test the water so to speak before we can decide whether the relationship is going the right way, by which time it’s too late to avoid those things which we find distasteful to our way of thinking. I think you know what I am trying to say. The things you have described are unfortunately unavoidable but things get better as you travel down your chosen path. Love

Shirley Anne xxx

21 12 2009
cheshire

This is really cool, I wanted to add that in your second to last paragraph that also goes for straight-guy/queer trans guy relationships, with very similar difficulties with regards to identity and they idea that they may soon be seen as gay.

21 12 2009
Jacky V.

Cheshire: You’re absolutely right. Thanks for adding that. It crossed my mind but since I hadn’t really read anything by any trans guys who were dating “straight” ID’d guys or vice versa, I didn’t want to pronounce myself on it prematurely. But I do imagine that the identity struggle would be similar. I haven’t experienced it and I’m not closed to it (dating a straight ID’d guy) provided he’s not so wound up with his hetero ID that we would feel he had to hide our relationship. I’ve avoided that dating “market” simply because I don’t feel like experiencing rejection over and over until I find a guy who is open. And the hetero but curious guys I’ve encountered online tended to be “fascinated” with me and wanted to meet me because they wanted to “try something different.” It just sounded . . . creepy to me. Hard to find a balance there.

Conversely, I *have* read from some gay or bi ID’s trans guys that it’s also hard to date a gay cismale if he has trouble viewing a trans guy as a “real” guy because he has no penis. I know of a few male couples where one of the guys is trans and that doesn’t seem to be an issue but I’ve also read and heard of lots of rejection stories there as well. In any case, I tend not to date anyone until I know there position on trans and how they deal with trans anatomies.

Shirley Anne: I *did* specify that a lot of these issues are applicable to all relationships. But I don’t think that lack of respect is unavoidable at all. Learning to respect people is something everyone should work on regardless of their ID. There are just some particular ways of respecting trans folk.

21 12 2009
Trans and dating non-trans? « Tboy Jacky

[…] and dating non-trans? 21 12 2009 In my last post, I discussed some of the concerns that may arise for someone who is dating a trans guy. Lots of the […]

28 02 2010
Jessica Sideways

You touched on a very important point and I would like to bring that up right now. My school (Naropa University) was showing “Diagnosing Difference”, a film about the GID diagnosis and how it does more harm than good in the transsexual community. One lady actually told the panel (we got the film maker to come to Naropa to talk with everyone after the movie) that she always thought that she thought of us as human but having the people in the documentary say that again, and again and again, it showed her that she really didn’t see us as human.

So it is a very important thing to say to make sure that people remember that.

20 03 2010
Jacky V.

Jessica – yes, through all this and all our differences, it’s essential to keep in mind that at the end of the day, we are all human beings. The beauty of humanity is our diversity!

2 01 2011
Wordpress 2010 Stats « Tboy Jacky

[…] Dating a transguy? December 2009 6 comments 4 […]

24 10 2011
Ali

Hey Jacky,
I don’t have anything informational to add, nor any questions to ask, (both for the moment only, I’m sure!:)) but I do want to say that I really appreciate your straightforward communication style and ability to encourage being direct in others.
Ali

11 07 2012
Transguy sex | Seeitdoit

[…] Dating a transguy? « Tboy JackyDec 20, 2009 … Griping about incorrect pronoun usage is already common on blogs by trans folk. But as an emotional or sexual partner, it is even more crucial … […]

11 07 2012
Transguy sex | Seeitdoit

[…] Dating a transguy? « Tboy JackyDec 20, 2009 … Griping about incorrect pronoun usage is already common on blogs by trans folk. But as an emotional or sexual partner, it is even more crucial … […]

15 08 2012
Bryan Cornel Fox

Thank you for this article it is greatly appreciated.

Bryan

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