So, I’m thirty, ostensibly male, and have been working on and improving with dating using OKCupid. I also recently realized that I’m trans. I’m not sure yet how far I want to transition to female, even putting logistics and economics aside. However, I still do exclusively prefer women, and assuming I had a significant other, her opinions would be important to those decisions too.
My question is, how does this impact courtship? When does this come up? I don’t want to feel like I’m hiding something, but it’s also not like this is the main central point of my identity. Maybe she won’t care, maybe she’ll think it’s hot, or maybe it’s a deal-breaker. This is tricky stuff!
Any sort of insight would be great!
-Girl In The Mirror
Not going to lie, GITM: you’ve got a complicated situation on your hands. The conversation about trans people in relationships, especially gay trans people, is still just beginning and there’re really no clear guidelines yet. Your current situation means that you’re going to have to clear a number of hurdles, which is going to make dating an especially tricky needles to thread.
Now keep in mind: you’re asking a cisgendered, hetero guy for advice on this matter. I’m coming at this from a very limited perspective and 2nd hand knowledge at best. So take anything I say with appropriate servings of salt – and you may well want to get a 2nd, 3rd and 4th opinion on the matter because I could very well be missing things that’re glaringly obvious to other people.
But here’s how I see things:
Realizing that you’re trans is a pretty big moment of change. You’re changing almost everything about your life and how you’ve thought of yourself. That’s going to put your life into a significant upheaval as you work to find who you are and get to that new equilibrium.
So perhaps this isn’t the best time to consider a serious relationship.
You’re a transwoman who hasn’t begun transitioning yet. You don’t mention to what extent you have begun living as a woman – whether you’ve started with electrolysis or laser removal to deal with your beard and body hair, changing how you dress, etc. Depending on a lot of factors, you may well still be presenting as male. As a result, I think it’s safe to say that a large proportion of the women you’re going to want to date – gay and bi women – may balk at a relationship with you initially. You may be a woman, but if you’re still visibly male, that dichotomy will throw a lot of people off. Meanwhile, pursuing bi women presumably because they can handle both can feel kind of insulting to the women involved; it’s more likely to make them feel like you’re more interested in the “bi” part of their identity rather than who they are as a person, which is a shitty thing to do to somebody. So finding someone at all is going to be a very difficult needle to thread.
Are there women out there who are open-minded enough to date a trans person who’s still at the beginning stages of their transitioning? Yes, there are… but they’re going to be thin on the ground, especially if you’re not in a major metropolitan city. Even then, you’re going to have to do a lot of searching to find them.
But then there’s the effect that transitioning will have on your potential relationship. In a lot of ways, you’re still at the beginning of figuring out who you are. You’ve spent most of your life seeing yourself one way and now you’re starting to realize that this isn’t who you really are. But at the same time… you haven’t really nailed down this new “you” yet. It’s very difficult to get into a relationship with someone when you’re still trying to figure out your new relationship with yourself.
Just learning how to adapt to living as a woman – even without going through any physical transitions – is tricky and can put a strain on relationships. In a lot of ways, you’re becoming a new person – the person you were always meant to be and who you always were on the inside. This can be a confusing and stressful time for everyone involved. There’ll be a significant learning curve for you and the people in your life as you adjust to new pronouns, new ways of relating to one another, even in the ways you communicate with others and carry yourself. There’re going to be pronoun slips, lapses into old behavior and learning to deal with the changes in how you’re treated as a woman rather than as a man.
But it’s the physical changes that may cause the most difficulty. While I realize that the plural of anecdote is not “data”, there’re plenty of partners of trans people – men and women – who’ve said that a relationship in the early stages of transitioning have a harder time surviving. It feels shallow to admit it, but as much as we may love our partners’ souls, we have to acknowledge that we also fall in love with their bodies. Drastic changes to those bodies can be hard to accept – and then we feel guilty for not being able to accept them. Those changes affect how we see our partners and their bodies, and in a very real way, we mourn for what was lost. Sometimes we’re not able to make the leap between the old and the new, no matter how much we’d want to.
Similarly, the chemical changes – hormone treatments, etc. – will effect the personality as well as the body, and it can take time to settle into the new equilibrium. That can be a tumultuous period for any relationship and it takes an especially strong one to survive it intact.
With all of this in mind: I think it might be best to spend some time getting to know yourself before you focus too much on dating. You’re still at the early stages of finding your identity, and it’s going to take a while for you to get a firm grasp on your authentic self. You’re going to be continually experimenting with new sides of yourself and new identities and archetypes until you find the one that fits best and it’s hard for someone to really connect with another person who’s consistently changing. I don’t think you should take yourself off the dating market entirely or that you should forgo love, sex and companionship until you’ve sorted everything out, but I do think it should be a lesser priority for you right now. You should be your top priority for a while.
So if you’re going to date, date casually for now. Be up front with being trans – maybe not in your dating profile, but sooner rather than later, assuming you’ve vetted this person and feel safe around them – and where you are in your life currently. But don’t look for a committed relationship yet. Find out who you are at your core and build your new life… then look for the partner who’s going to compliment you. It’s much easier to build a lasting relationship when you have a strong foundation to start with.
Good luck, GITM.
Readers: please feel free to add your thoughts and advice in the comments section, especially if there’s anything I missed or got wrong.