Looking for Love and Acceptance: Dating While Trans in America

The Daily Beast spoke to transgender people across the country to find out what challenges they face in relationships. “>

In the third season of Transparent, Maura Pfefferman goes where the character has never gone before: the bedroom. After Pfefferman, played by Emmy-winner Jeffrey Tambor, meets Vickie (Angelica Huston), a breast cancer survivor, at a womens music festival, the two quickly strike up a romance. Its a first for the groundbreaking Amazon show, which has depicted the pressures of coming out and dealing with acceptance frankly but has yet to explore the topic of dating while trans. Elsewhere, Mauras son, Josh (Jay Duplass), develops an attraction to Shea (Trace Lysette), a stripper who challenges his ideas of who transgenderwomen are.

Telling these stories is extremely important. A survey from Match.com published in May showed that trans people, even as they have made strides in media representation, continue to be discriminated against by potential partnerseven by others in the LGBT community. Just half of LGBT singles said they would date someone who is trans. (Match.com is owned by The Daily Beast’s parent company, IAC.)

Over the past few months, The Daily Beast has spoken to transgender people across the country about their romantic lives and experienceswhether its being turned down by partners or finding acceptance. Their answers are varied and wide-ranging, but they show a great deal in common: Dating cisgender men is a challenge, but cisgender women and other trans people are easier. The interviewees the Beast spoke with are searching for love but also validationto feel wanted and desired.

To read their responses, collected through phone interviews, is a reminder of the universal struggles and need for connection that make us human.

Jen Richards, Los Angeles, Calif.

Actress and activist

Trans woman, she/her

On disclosing her gender identity to partners:

I always start from the assumption that the possibility of a relationship is over the moment I mention Im trans. I would often find myself delaying disclosure because theres this the momentthis little bubble, I called itwhere I was just a girl, talking to a boy and there were possibilities in front of me. I knew the moment I told him I was trans, that bubble was going to burst. There was always a chance that they would say, Oh, thats great, but incredibly unlikely. So I like to live in that moment.

There was this one situation where I met a guy on an airplane. I travel a lot. We had talked for a week. I really liked him a lot. After we started emailing one day, he looked up my email address and found links to me. He emailed me an hour before our date and said, I just found out what you are. I have no interest in that. Goodbye.

What its like to date women as a transgender woman:

Women havent had an issue. Ive been asked out by lesbians, not just bisexual women. Ive been with lesbians who have never dated a man and who have never touched a penis. But so far in my experience, theyve all been unfazed.

The first time that a clearly lesbian-identified woman pursued me, it meant the world to me. It was one of the most affirming moments of my womanhoodbeing desired and pursued by a lesbian-identified woman. A lesbian who is a woman who loves other women, and there being a long tradition within lesbian community of exclusion of trans womento have women who love women pursue me, it just means that much more.

Devon Shanley, New York, N.Y.

Public school teacher, 34

Trans man, he/him

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Because I felt so isolated, I found myself feeling more vulnerable and a little bit scared. I didnt date that much. I had ended this four-year relationship. I was by myself. I had some really good friends I went to college with who were New Yorkers, so I had a really strong support group. But I didnt end up dating that much. I went almost entirely on a three-year span of not dating. Thats because the times I did almost date, I was turned down.

There was an friendship Id developed over a long period time with the brother of a close friend, but he had not known that I was trans. It led to a situation where we were literally making out in the rain and coming to my apartment, and I had to do that last-minute disclosure thing. He was a gold star gay boy and got nervous and ran away.

The people who I became interested in afterward, I didnt really expect to be treated fairly. I became self-protective and just closed myself off.

When he came out to his current boyfriend:

My current partner is six years younger than me and really good looking. He went on a date and we were at Mercury Lounge, and my friend was performing. I felt like I didnt want to create the space to feel vulnerable again; it wasnt a safety concern or a fear there was something wrong me. I didnt want someone elses issues to make me feel uncomfortable. He didnt know any other trans people and had never been with any other trans people. I didnt want to be someones teacher: This is whats right, this is whats wrong, you shouldnt say this.

Now hes become part of the community. Hes in conversation with trans women and men who are friends of mine. He does little things every human should do when they hear somebody say something negative or use derogatory terms about trans peoplehe will school people on that. Hes not looking for a sticker, but hes proud of himself for knowing that were all in a different space.

All of this is to say that, surprisingly, things worked out. We live together, weve been together four years, and were in a monogamous relationship.

Karari Olvera, Chicago, Ill.

Organizer for United Latino Pride, 31

Genderqueer, they/them

Nurse practitioner, 28
Librarian, 33

When he began to date men after his transition:

I was planning on just dating women before my transition. That began to change once I started testosterone. The person I first started dating three months into my physical transition was a woman. And then over the course of that relationship, I realized I was more attracted to men and less attracted to women.

It was very confusing for me because I had been attracted to women all of my adult life and through my teen years. I came out in high schoolI was 15. I didnt want to be a stereotype because theres a stereotype in the community that [taking testosterone] makes you gay, which is totally not true. Its a huge thing within the trans male communitybecause so many trans guys develop an attraction to men or become more comfortable acknowledging attraction to men. Its totally a thing, and I didnt want to be that thing.

I struggled for a long time with it. I kept dating women. After [my girlfriend and I] broke up, I moved to Illinois and went on these dates with women that were totally my type prior to transition. There was this one woman I had been dating for a month. I hadnt even kissed her, and I didnt want to kiss her. Things were moving really slow with us and we eventually stopped seeing each other. I realized that I just wanted to be friends with these women.

Once I actually admitted that to myself, it was like, Oh, I am still gay. Just not the same way I was before.

What the difference is between dating men and women:

Dating women was a lot easier. In my experience, women were a lot more flexible in their sexuality. I dated straight women. I dated queer women. They didnt have any issues with my transition. When it came to dating men, it was the opposite of easy. I found a lot more men had a lot more hang-ups around dating trans men than the cisgender women I had been seeing before.

A lot of it was ignorance. A lot of them had never met a trans men before. Many of them assumed what my anatomy wasthat was really common. They would say, I dont like vaginas or Thats gross. If I put I was trans in a profile on a dating website, they would think I like to wear dresses. People were really confused as to what trans was.

On getting rejected by men:

A couple years ago I was in D.C., which is where Im from, visiting my mom for the summer. I went on OkCupid. [Ed. note: OKCupid is owned by The Daily Beast’s parent company, IAC.] I wanted to see who was around. This one guy hit me up. He was totally gorgeous. We went out to lunch on his lunch break. We had such great chemistry that he ended up staying two hours on the date and he wanted to stay longer. After the date, he texted me. He said he thought I was really cute. He said it was refreshing to go on a date someone like me. He asked if I would like to see him the next day.

Normally, I dont go on second dates the day after the first date. It seems like a little much. But I thought he seemed really cool and I wanted to hang out with him again. The next day we go out and we go out to this Thai restaurant. Afterward, I decided to take him out for a smoothie for dessert. We go to this place across the street. Im paying for the smoothies and he sort of playfully grabs my license and he looks at it. In the license photo, Im smiling a huge smile because it was the day I got my legal name change. It was a big, cheesy smile. He was like, Why are you smiling so hard? At this point, I hadnt told him. I thought about not telling him, but I thought, This is the moment.

After I told him, the whole mood changed. He became less talkative. I paid for the smoothie, and we started walking to his car. I asked, Whats wrong? Is it the trans thing? He said, Yeah, I dont know if I can date you. He texted me at around 2 a.m. the following night and said he just wanted to be friends.

Sometimes I have those moments, its really rare, where I hate being trans. I felt really shitty about it. But I try not to stay in those places when I get like that.

Michael Miller-Ernest, New York, N.Y.

Student, 21

Transgender man, he/him

Software developer, 38

Why dating cisgender men is a challenge:

Theyre worried that being interested in you makes them gay. This is a huge fear for themat least for straight men. They generally dont want to be seen with you. If youre a straight cis guy, it means weathering a bunch of teasing from your friends, it means educating them, and it means educating your family. Theres a lot of work involved, and I think that a lot of people just dont want to do it.

On trying to find a partner online as a trans person:

If youre on OkCupidas a trans woman or otherwiseits like turning on a fire hose of assholes.

The worst is this guy who kind of looks like a bodybuilder. Hes just obsessed with boobs. Every couple days, he sends me a new message about how he wants to motorboat meno context, no anything else, just I want to motorboat you. It became a running joke in my life: Is the motorboat guy going to message me today?

If I go one OkCupid and dont tell people Im trans, I get one kind of jerk. If I do tell people Im trans, I get a different type of jerk. Theres pain no matter what side of the fence youre on. If I dont tell people Im trans, I get a lot more of what look like real messagespeople who are trying to charm me in some way. It may not go anywhere, but they put in some effort. If you advertise that youre trans, they put in no effort whatsoever. Its just garbagebecause they know they can get away with it. They think were desperate for attention: This is the only message shes going to get today.

Why its not getting better:

The problem with me is that Im 38, and Im trying date people who are around my age. After awhile, people dont really change. Theyre stuck in their ways. Imagine youre a trans kid who is 18, 19, or 20. Your dating options when youre 38 are going to be very different because theyre people you grew up withwho grew up with the notion that trans people exist and its OK. I think that people my age are a lost generation. Its probably not going to get better for us, while it gets a lot better for the youth.

Jacob Tobia, New York, N.Y.

Writer and advocate, 24

Gender non-conforming, they/them

How coming out as gender nonconforming has affected their sex life:

Its been pretty bleak, to be honest. I rarely date. Hooking up is really hard. It creates a negative feedback loop. You get negative reinforcement from other people, like when youre at gay bars. That hurts your confidence which leads to more negative reinforcement. Its a cycle that a lot of us are trapped in. Its tough.

I certainly know for a fact that when I presented as masculine, I got a lot more action and a lot more interest. The second you let your wrist fall limp, you wear a pair of heels, or you grow your hair out a little bit, its game over for so many folks in the gay community.

Why it can be difficult to date as a trans person:

My roommate is a trans woman and we commiserate all the time that it is so hard to find people who will date us, admit to our attraction to us, and be happy to embrace that publicly, because our identities are so stigmatized. Admitting that youre attracted to somebody or love someone with a stigmatized identity is just about as bad or takes just about as much courage as having that stigmatized identity in the first place. Admitting that youre dating a genderqueer person and taking someone like me in a little Jackie Kennedy dress or to some work function with all your cisgender heterosexual colleagues, thats going to be just about as hard as if you were the one in the dress.

Its not like people dont see us as sexy now. Its just that everyones ashamed to say it. But there are so many people who walk down the street who think Im gorgeousbecause, like, I am cute. But no one knows how to admit that. Everyone has all this shame about finding me beautiful in my heels with my leg hair. Theres nothing shameful about finding me beautiful, but people have so much internal work to do before they can admit that.

Erica Johnson, Chicago, Ill.

Senior software developer, 43

Transgender woman, she/her

Originally found athttp://www.thedailybeast.com

The post Looking for Love and Acceptance: Dating While Trans in America appeared first on Dating Guide To Everything.

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