BY DANIEL TIRASBASSI
Dating can be hard for anyone, but trans people often face additional obstacles that make dating seemingly impossible sometimes. But in the end, it’s worth it.
A major struggle when transitioning is finding someone to share your life and experiences with. This is due to many different reasons. The first that many transgender people face is discovering their sexuality.
In many cases, transgender people start their journey identifying their sexual orientation as something that it may not be forever. Trans men often originally identify as lesbians, while trans women often identify as gay men. This tends to lead to discovering a new gender identity as they transition to their true selves.
Many transsexuals may have a shift in sexuality as they transition. Many trans men who identify as straight find themselves attracted to men, both cisgender and transgender. Some trans women find themselves attracted to women, both cis and transgender. A theory is developing that links idolization to attraction. The theory revolves around a transgender person wanting to be the gender so bad that their idolization turns into sexual attraction. Though many may not explore this new attraction, some find that the exploration helps in discovering who they truly are.
In the case of non-binary or gender nonconforming folks, many people have trouble dating them because they don’t fall under the binary terms of gender. This means that the person dating a non-binary or nonconforming individual might lose their sexual identity. This is troubling not only for the person losing their identity, but also puts a strain on the non-binary or non-conforming person. Many times, resentment builds from this loss of identity, causing an unsafe environment for the non-binary or non-conforming person.
Once a person discovers who they are attracted to, the next hurdle is safely finding a person to date. This is challenging for many reasons. The most prevalent of which is the safety of the transgender person.
The first issue comes with a decision. Transgender people, primarily those who undergo some sort of transition, need to decide when the appropriate time is for them to be open about it. Some feel that being open in the very beginning is not only safer, but allows them to screen out people who would challenge their identity down the line. Others would rather get to know a person before opening up about their transition in order to try and gauge the reaction of the person they are telling. I have even heard of some transsexual people who have waited years to tell their partner that they were born in a different body than the one they have now. To be honest, this decision is based on how a person wants to be seen by their partner and what they are comfortable with.
The next step for safety is how to meet new people. Using dating apps is all the rage right now. This is good when using apps like Tinder, due to their platform including a plethora of gender options to allow people to be open about their identity. However, danger lurks on many sites in different forms. Sites that do not offer you to chance to identify yourself as anything other than “man” and “woman” leave transgender people, especially transgender women, extremely vulnerable. People who believe that dating a transgender person changes their sexuality may react poorly when faced with a transgender person who had no option but to choose “man” or “woman” on a dating profile.
Even on sites such as Tinder, transgender people are faced with hurdles that are very uncomfortable. People tend to become curious and invasive when they are not immediately meeting a person face-to-face. Many trans people are faced with questions about their sexual preferences, genitals, previous experiences and “true” sexual orientation usually right when a conversation is started. Not only are these questions uncomfortable, they make it difficult to get to know the person behind the transition.
There is even added anxiety after clearing all of these hurdles. The first date is always daunting, but it often becomes amplified for transgender people. Not only do they have to continuously worry about being accepted by the person they are on a date with, they focus on how everyone around them are reacting to them. If the people surrounding the date are obviously uncomfortable, a trans person’s date can feel that the scrutiny is too much to deal with and possibly end the date abruptly. Trans people also have to worry if their date is only there to check off a bucket list, explore their sexuality or cause harm to the person they are on the date with.
People who transition while in a long term relationship have separate struggles of their own. Of course, the questioning of sexual orientation by the trans person and their partner(s) is always in the foreground. However, other issues may arise, as well. Issues with how the partner(s) react to the transition vary, not only from relationship to relationship, but can occur in one relationship from day to day. Other problems arise when HRT is added into the relationship. Not only does the body change on HRT, but also a person’s demeanor, emotions and thought processes change along the way. This could put a strain on even the strongest relationship.
However, with all the fear, decisions and battles a transgender person faces when it comes to dating, so many have found a relationship worth the struggles. Often those relationships help through the process of transitioning. A strong relationship can help someone push through things that they could not face on their own. By having someone else to tell you that you are becoming who they always knew you could be is the greatest support any person can get, especially if you’re transgender. It only takes one person to see in you what you’ve always known was there to make even the most difficult steps in the process seem simple. And knowing that there are so many transgender people who have those types of relationships makes the issues discussed here seem more than worth it.
Finding love means facing your fears to find the part of you that was missing. This is a process that transgender people face on their own every single day. And, in both cases, the rewards well outweigh the reasons to not do pursue it.
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