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!