A Non-trans Perspective

After I wrote about dating as a Trans* person, I realized that it was an extremely one-sided post. I can tell you all about dating from my perspective, as a pansexual FTM. What I cannot tell you is how it might be for a non-trans person to date a Trans* person. This got me wondering about how my girlfriend perceived things since she has dated a wide variety of gender types. Did she see a lot of differences in dating Trans* and non-trans women or men? Were there any specific difficulties she faced in relationships with Trans* individuals? Did she have any advice for other non-trans people who might be dating or open to dating Trans* individuals? So I asked her, and then I asked her to write about it for this blog. It’s extremely important that you understand this is only one persons experiences and should not be considered a definitive explanation of anything. I wanted her to specifically highlight the problems she has encountered as a way to possibly warn against them, or provide explanation as to why they happened. I’m sure if I asked her to just tell the story, the negatives would have been minimized because she understands the struggles Trans* people go through and is a true ally. I asked specifically to have the problems addressed by her. As Trans* people we need to know what we can do to make our relationships stronger. And non-trans people need to understand some of the trouble we go through and how to be supportive of those things. So, here is one woman’s story of dating across the gender spectrum.

“I am a pansexual non-trans woman who has dated across the gender spectrum (note: I have not dated genderqueer, bi-gender, and a variety of others. I am not intending to invalidate those folks, I just have no experience and therefore, for the purpose of this writing I will not be addressing them.)  I would like to address my experiences in dating Trans* and non-trans individuals, both positive and negative, within these relationships in hopes to provide some insight.

I first learned about transgender individuals while in a college level human sexualities class. There was a transgender panel consisting of two MTFs and two FTMs that spoke about what it is to be transgender, what it’s like for them, and the process of transitioning. I found it fascinating. I had never had an experience (to my knowledge) with a Trans* individual before. I didn’t even consider the concept of being transgender, I had no knowledge of the idea. These people showed me that everyone is beautiful in their own way, and unfortunately, some people were just born into the wrong body, but they were absolutely normal human beings. These individuals were just like any other person. They had their own personalities, their own style, and their own stories. Through the incredible journeys that they shared with us, I realized how blind I had been and how little I really knew about other genders besides “traditional” male and female. It was a learning experience I will never forget and am so happy I got to be a part of it. The openness and visibility of those Trans* individuals was paramount in my education and I am grateful for it.

Eventually, I started having my own personal experiences with Trans* individuals. I have dated both genetic men and women, MTFs, and FTMs, and I am currently in a wonderful relationship with an FTM. I have had both positive and negative experiences with each. There are things non-trans people often don’t understand about dating Trans* people and, likewise, there are things that Trans* people need to be aware of when dating a non-trans person. I’d like to take this opportunity to express my opinions on these matters.

I’ve found there is a bit of a divide sometimes as a non-trans person dating Trans* individuals. Often some (not all, of course) assume that any question is a personal attack on their gender identity. I met a girl online and after talking to her for a time, we decided to go out on a coffee date to get to know each other better. The date went great, she was very nice and we had good conversation. I realized she was Trans* despite her not actually vocalizing it. Regardless, she was very pretty, she dressed in feminine attire, talked and walked like a female, and was clearly a woman by most definitions of the word. I had a fantastic time with her and later that night I e-mailed her to express that. She was the first Trans* person I had ever been on a date with or had any real interaction with, so naturally I had some questions and curiosity. While writing the email I decided to ask her a question. I asked her what her gender identity meant to her since I wasn’t 100% clear on how she identified and I wanted to make sure I was being respectful. Her response was less than polite. She started with an explanation that she was born with a penis and still had it and explained how she identified, but suddenly the tone of the email changed, she had decided my question was offensive and went on to lash out at me for even asking such an absurd and offensive question! Clearly I should already know or shouldn’t care what’s in her pants or how she identifies. Apparently, I needed to be psychic. Nothing I said was meant to be malicious or offensive, I was trying to gain information and insight on the more detailed workings of a Transwoman so as NOT to offend her! But that backfired and she never spoke to me again. Although my first experience with a Trans* person ended negatively and could have very easily turned me away from ALL Trans* people, it did not. I am not the type of person to get turned off to an entire group of people just because of one unpleasant person. But it is safe to say that many people are not the same, demonstrating the importance of openness and willingness to answer questions in the right setting.

Fast forward a little to the next time I met an MTF online. Naturally she didn’t disclose her Trans* status, and she had no obligation to do so, but I thought I was meeting a non-trans female and she passed incredibly well. Even after we hung out the first time she did not tell me. My guess is that she had bad experiences telling people in the past which made her wary of informing me.  The next time we got together I noticed a bit of facial stubble but didn’t think much of it. During our conversation she eventually said, “There’s something I have to tell you before this goes any further…” I waited and listened to what she had to say. She said, “I was born a male.” Without pause I said, “Oh, okay cool” And that was that. She was shocked at my calm reaction and relieved that I didn’t run away screaming… (Because I’m not an asshole, ya know). Also, as I said in the beginning, I am pansexual. I don’t date genders, I date people. I dated her for a brief period of time, but after learning she had some severe issues I was not prepared to handle, things ended between us. After that experience, and having a more physical relationship/interaction with her than the previous, I was much more comfortable with the idea of dating a Trans* person. Luckily she was more open to discussion about her being a Transwoman and I learned a lot from being with her.

Communication is, and I can’t stress this enough, so important in ANY relationship no matter who you are dating. In my opinion, if your partner is not willing to discuss intimate details about themselves with you (at least at some point) then people will never learn and understand and grow,  both as a couple, and as individuals. Educate your partner if they are unclear about things. It’s the only way we can eliminate ignorance and learn to be accepting of everyone. The main difference, in my experience, with dating an MTF versus a genetic female is that the estrogen gives MTFs a bit of an emotional roller-coaster in the beginning so it’s important to understand that transitioning, although worth it, is still extremely tough. MTFs are women through and through regardless.

A couple of years later, my friend introduced me to this really cute pre-transition FTM. I saw him hanging out and immediately asked, “Who was THAT!? She’s really cute!!” Of course, this was before I knew that ‘she’ was actually an FTM that hadn’t transitioned yet. Apparently he thought I was cute too and gave me his number. We got together at his house eventually, and I thought he was great. He was cute and sweet. When it came time to getting physical though, something happened that I didn’t expect, and later found out it was quite common with Trans* individuals. He wouldn’t let me touch him. In his mind, he didn’t have the correct genitals and didn’t want anyone near them because he was not comfortable in his own body. At the time I didn’t understand it and I was a bit disappointed at our physical interactions. It’s very difficult to be with someone who won’t let you touch them or get too intimate. It was a struggle to not be able to physically display my feelings for him in that way. Things ended with him for several reasons, he was young and still maturing. I didn’t think he was ready for a serious relationship and neither did he. We lost contact for a bit and then one day I got a call from him after he had started taking testosterone and he sounded amazing. I was so happy that he was able to start his transition! Unfortunately, he was homeless at the time he called me and I never heard from him after that. I still wonder to this day if he’s okay and wonder what happened to him.

Moving on from that, I started learning more about Trans* people through my own research and found that it is common for them to not want to be touched in a sexual way. For a lot of Trans* people, their bodies are basically a “no touch zone.” I assume that after some of their transition and surgeries they allow touching, but honestly, I have not had enough personal experience to know that. It’s different for each person I suppose. It is important to keep this in mind when entering into a relationship with a Trans* person, check in with them about what is and isn’t ok physically.

Although I am pansexual, like many others I still have preferences and typically that was for genetic females. However, once I entered into the world of FTMs, I realized I have a pretty strong attraction to them. In 2011, I started seeking out FTMs online because I had no idea how to go about meeting them in any other way. I found a dating website that was specifically for Trans* people and people looking for Trans* people to date, Transpassions.com. Through that site, I messaged an attractive FTM that had a profile I liked. I heard nothing back for a couple of months. But eventually I got a message back from him saying he was never notified of my message and apologized for the late response. Our conversation went to texting and we ended up talking every day. I should mention that at the time we were talking, he was living in California and I was living in Oregon and then moved to Utah. We continued talking for months, despite being in different states. I just felt this connection with him that I hadn’t felt in all of my previous relationships. Eventually he flew out to Utah to meet me and after our first night together, we started dating. I was surprised that he was so open about his transition and any questions I had he would answer without getting offended or awkward. We dated for a few months but I struggled with the long distance which lead to a fairly rough breakup, which was mostly my fault. But I need to date someone who I can physically see and be with. So we stopped talking and I started dating a non-trans guy. Eventually we moved in together and I lived with him for four months, during which time I was verbally abused and neglected and left in a deep depression. Needless to say, that relationship did not last. My mom was awesome enough to fly out to Arizona to rescue me. My parents had recently bought a house in California, where they had moved from Oregon the year before.

Once I was safe again, living in California, I found myself still thinking about that FTM that was so good to me that I let go. I felt horrible about how things ended so I decided to write him an apology e-mail, not expecting him to even respond or want anything to do with me. But I was wrong. The next day I got an e-mail back stating I had hurt him and it would take a lot for him to trust me again, but he was willing to try to rebuild a friendship. I understood completely and we started talking again, eventually agreeing to meet near his home. It turned out that we both had been through some pretty terrible things and we talked about all that had happened in the past year. We started dating again on February 22nd, 2013. And guess what? We are still together to this day, two years later. I’ve learned so much from him about the inner workings of FTMs, the intimate details that I was curious about.

Through meeting other FTMs, I’ve learned that Transmen and genetic men have certain similarities and differences. An FTM is just as much a man as any other self-identified man. But I learned that a lot of Transmen try to overcompensate for not having the correct anatomy, and they honestly turn into cocky assholes. Luckily this was not the case with my boyfriend. He had been on testosterone for 4 years when we started dating. It’s now been 6 years, he has lovely facial hair, a deep voice, and had chest surgery last June. He fully passes now and his gender is no longer questioned by anyone. He is male. He has always been male, despite being born into the wrong body. He’s finally comfortable with himself. The main difference between genetic males and Transmen is their physical body. Mentally, they are the same as any other man. Having their own unique personalities and varying levels of “manliness.” Some are more masculine and display that proudly, and some, like my boyfriend, are less than “macho” and don’t mind displaying a slightly more feminine nature to the world. And, just like MTFs, the beginning stages of HRT can be quiet an emotional roller-coaster.

I’ve noticed insecurity seems to be a big part of the Trans* community, and rightfully so, but the resulting overcompensation can be off-putting in some cases. I understand the reasons for it, the discrimination and prejudice they have to deal with is horrific. There are Trans* people being killed or killing themselves just because of something they can’t control and they just want to be treated like everyone else. When I date genetic females or males, there is little fear of them being killed because they don’t look “feminine or masculine enough.” Yes, lesbians get a lot of discrimination as well, but I’ve never seen more than I have in the Trans* community. I never realized their plight and how hard they have to fight just to be accepted. It makes me so sad that we live in a world full of hate. Enough hate to kill even!

My advice when dating a Transgender individual is:

  • Be sensitive and understanding of their struggle and to be supportive through their transition.
  • Treat FTMs as men, and MTFs as woman because that is exactly what they are.
  • Use correct names and pronouns.
  • Communicate. If one party isn’t willing to communicate, chances are the relationship won’t last. Trans* people need to be okay with talking about their wants and needs in a relationship just like everyone else does. I point this out because I’ve had bad experiences with some transgender people who weren’t willing to communicate about their transition, or answer questions that maybe someone new to dating Trans* folks might have.
  • Be open, be honest, and don’t get offended needlessly. Humans are curious creatures that need to be educated on such matters so maybe the ignorance about Trans* people will be diminished and there can be more acceptance in the world. No one should be afraid to answer honest, respectful questions.

Everyone deserves love and acceptance. I have dated along the gender spectrum and no matter what’s in their pants, it’s really their personality and character that’s important. “

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