Dating these days is a challenge for people regardless of gender or sexuality, but dating while trans comes with a specific challenge – disclosure. Judy Virago discusses, at what point do you tell someone you’re trans?
When does anatomy become relevant to a conversation? Do you need to disclose if you don’t want to have sex with someone? Do you need to disclose if you’re post-op? Post which op?! How you disclose will depend on how you meet them. In a bar? Online? Through friends?
For a while, it actually terrified me if a man hit on me in a straight club because it meant that, if I reciprocated his advances, a conversation about my gender needed to happen for my own comfort and safety. I could never be sure If they knew I was trans or not just from looking at me, and couldn’t trust how they would respond once they knew. There are usually three types of responses I have had from men – angry and violent, polite but dismissive or creepy and way too into it.
So I decided that if a man came onto me in a bar, I would not engage unless he asked for my number and I could deal with the conversation over the phone. A handsome French guy did just that after meeting me in Wellington. Over text, he asks me out for a drink. I disclose to him that I’m transgender and explain what all of that means. He wants to meet again regardless. We have instant chemistry upon meeting again and make out like teenagers in the middle of a packed Wellington bar. After our date, he tells me that as attracted to me as he is, he wants to have a child “the natural way” and just isn’t ready for a girl like me. It was heart-crushing.
After a series of unfortunate in-person encounters, I decided that I would only date through apps and websites. By using an app, I could tell would-be suitors that I was transgender in my profile and forego the potential for rejection post-disclosure. This was not the case; plenty of men interpreted me stating I was transgender as an invitation to share their opinion.
“So transgender, does that mean you’ve still got a cock? Cos you look as if you have nice tits.”
Apparently, telling them I was transgender wasn’t enough – they wanted all the details. But providing further anatomical detail on my profile just invited increasingly more intrusive questions, and requests for pics. I decided online dating was not worth the constant exposure to transphobic comments, fetishisation and scrutiny, and deleted my accounts.
With Wellington being the small town it is, I had resigned all hope of meeting a partner. I had exhausted all the methods of dating available to me. The traditional method of dating through mutual friends was an avenue I just didn’t consider to be an option for me because I was trans. I had friends and lovers and tried to convince myself that that was enough. But the moment I was honest with myself about my needs was the moment I met my partner. At a pre-Covid New Year’s Eve Party in my neighbourhood, I found myself to be the only single person in a crew of couples. Another friend arrived at the party with a handsome guest in tow. He and I were instantly drawn to each other. We sat together detailing our lives, our careers, and our hopes for the new year before the midnight countdown. He asked if he could kiss me and I consented, enthusiastically. I stop and ask “Uh… you know I’m trans right?” “Yeah” he replied, “I had some information.” What I didn’t realise at the time was that this moment was not by fate but by design – my friend had vetted us for each other. He didn’t ask any further details, he didn’t get creepy or weird, violent or dismissive. He just kissed me back and told me I was beautiful.
Happy Trans Awareness Week everyone!