How Not To Come Out

One of the first questions asked by people discovering their gender identity is “how do I come out? When do I tell people?” and it’s probably one of the most difficult questions to answer because there isn’t one answer that works for everyone. We all lead different lives, we all have different families, we all react differently to the reactions of the people we trust with our secrets. At best, those of us who have been through it can offer our stories, tell others what worked for us, and warn against the negativity we may (or may not) have encountered. But, there are generally some basic guidelines you may want to follow that might help keep the possible resulting “drama” to a minimum. Before I get to that, I’ll share a bit about my coming out. Maybe someone will find something of value in it.

 

The first person I remember telling was my girlfriend (now ex) and her reaction was really disheartening. She told me in no uncertain terms that I was “not allowed” to transition, that she was a lesbian and if she wanted a man, she’d go find one. Needless to say, that relationship did not last. My mom was the second person I told. I grew up without my dad around for the most part, and I was extremely close to my mother. When I told her, I said it very casually. Probably something like “I think I am transgender…” in the middle of a conversation. I remember my mom clearly saying “uh… Ok. What does that mean exactly?” And I briefly explained. She didn’t freak out or anything but she wasn’t exactly supportive. She basically told me it was a silly concept, and I needed to make up my mind about who I was. I had originally come out as bisexual, then lesbian, and finally trans. So she probably figured I was just confused about life. I didn’t have a name picked out, I didn’t request a sudden pronoun change, I just let that idea float out there for a while. Slowly I started telling friends, one by one. Just putting it out there and making no demands. One of my favorite memories of coming out was telling my high-school boyfriend, who I was still very close with. His only response was “whoa, so I can say I’ve had sex with a dude?! Awesome!” After I passed along this new information to the important people, I started considering names. I picked one I felt was right and started going by it. Leaving pronouns out still. I met with some resistance from a few people, some had a hard time adjusting but tried, others just seemed set on not bothering. My father never once called me by anything other than my birth name (he’s an unpleasant man in general and is no longer allowed in my life) but I just kept pushing and reminding. Eventually most people got it right and those who refused were cast out of my friends and family. Next came pronouns. By this time I was dating a girl who supported my transition and she was the first to pick up correct pronouns. And one by one other people caught on. The only person who didn’t know anything about my transition was my maternal grandmother. While I loved her dearly, I was concerned she just wouldn’t accept me. I couldn’t tell her… I just couldn’t. So I asked my mom, who had finally come around and was quite supportive, to tell my grandmother for me. I will never forget her response (on speakerphone) “well that’s good! If she dates women, then maybe she is a boy.” Though slightly misguided, that was an extreme show of support from a woman who was raised in Mississippi in the 30’s. She never was consistent with my name or pronouns but she tried and dementia was taking its toll. The last Christmas card I got was addressed to my birth name and the note inside said “I’m sorry I can’t remember you’re new name… Merry Christmas, I love you.”  That’s the best memory I have of that cursed dead name, and my 80 something grandmother was proof that EVERYONE is capable of acceptance and respect, but I’m not naive enough to think everyone will have it as easy as me. I know that’s not how the world works. But maybe someone will read this and see that hope is still very much alive. Patience is key. I know that’s difficult and makes us want to make rash decisions about coming out. Which brings us to my next topic….

How not to come out.

 

The first thing I want you to consider is your safety. If you are already in an abusive environment, it may be unwise to come out until you can remove yourself from that situation. I’m not going to tell you when to come out, but please consider your mental and physical safety before jumping into that conversation.

 

I recently saw a Facebook post from someone who wanted to out themselves at a grandparents (90th…i think) birthday party because the whole family would be together and they could tell everyone at once. Here are the problems with that idea. First, you may save time and energy by announcing it to everyone right then and there but that also means you have each person in the group to answer questions for, to possibly defend yourself against, and there is a chance things could get ugly. The next problem is the lack of respect for the guest of honour. If the event is a birthday, wedding, anniversary, graduation or any other celebratory event centered around a specific person or couple, it’s not a good time to come out. The focus isn’t you, and it shouldn’t be. Don’t take what is a celebration of someone else and turn it into your coming out party. Do you really think that’s appropriate? Imagine it’s your aunts birthday, the whole family is together honoring her. You decide it’s the right time to announce your transition and while your aunt may be totally accepting (or not), a few people might  freak out and make a huge scene. Is that fair to your aunt? Is that how she should remember her birthday? Don’t steal someone else’s special day, even if all you get is positive comments and acceptance, that day is not meant for you. It’s just disrespectful.

 

Whether you come out to everyone at once, or tell people slowly, your tone and wording are exceptionally important. I can’t tell you the right words or tone for your individual situation but I can probably tell you a few of the wrong ones. It’s likely unwise to speak with any anger or attitude. I’ve seen people who were troubled by having to keep their identity secret and when it comes out, it’s angry. It’s accusatory, and it’s used to explain away all of their current life problems. You may have a fair amount problems in life related to being Trans*, I’m definitely not going to dispute that. You need to be honest with yourself though. We ALL have issues that are unrelated and if you have yourself convinced that transitioning will make your whole life perfect, you are going to be extremely let down. Own your other issues and don’t make them a part of your coming out. Don’t put blame on anyone, that is not going to gain you any acceptance, even if there is some valid reason to place blame. Leave that alone for the process of coming out. You can get to that later. Don’t make demands of anyone. It is their choice to accept or reject your transition and you can’t make anyone do something they don’t want to do. I’m not saying you have to tolerate misgendering or any negative reactions. You are entitled to respect, but if you don’t get it try to be calm, educate, offer places to find information and be prepared to walk away. Reacting with anger only makes things worse and gives people an opening to accuse you of being irrational (regardless of whether you are or aren’t.) Don’t expect anyone to be ok with this new information right from the start. A lot of people will be, but don’t expect it. There is an insane amount of misinformation about Trans* people out there, and there will be times when a person reacts negatively based on that misinformation. Be patient and educate.

 

Another less than stellar way to come out is during an argument. If you are already fighting with someone it’s wise to save the Trans* disclosure for another day. I have known people who basically dropped a “well fuck you! I’m Trans*!” bomb in the middle of a fight. Firstly, no one is going to be in the right frame of mind to actually be rational and the person you are fighting with may use that new revelation to say hurtful things they don’t really mean. Or worse, you may have just told an angry bigot you are Trans*. A bigot is hard enough to deal with, let alone one that’s already angry about something else. Just don’t do this.

 

Coming out on social media can be an easy way to address a lot of people at once and remove any immediate threats of possible violence. It’s certainly less personal though so consider that when deciding how and when to come out. One thing to be cautious of, something I have seen happen in the past, is poor wording when coming out through text in any way. We all want immediate validation and support, but that may be a bit of a stretch for some people. I would personally refrain from posts like this:

 

“A lot of you don’t know yet, and I feel it’s finally time to put it out there. I am transgender. I will no longer tolerate the use of *insert dead name* or *insert wrong pronoun* when referring to me. My name is________, and I am male/female. If you can’t deal with that, unfriend me right now. If I find out you address me wrong, you will be instantly deleted”

This is fair if, and only if, you can remove the first part. If you are just telling some people for the first time then this post would be totally unfair to most people. People will make mistakes, people will have a hard time understanding, and people will have questions. Don’t just start casting off friends and family because they struggle to comprehend at first. Be open to questions, be ready to educate, don’t overreact to those who are having a hard time processing. Again, patience is key. However, if someone is being blatantly disrespectful and bigoted and you are reasonably certain that will not change, then by all means stand up for yourself in whatever way you see fit. In no way should anything I have written here be taken to mean we should tolerate insults, slurs, bigotry, misogyny, or any other form of hate. But it’s incredibly important to do things in a fair and respectful manner for everyone involved. As I have said before, if we want respect, we need to give it.

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. “

To Pee Or Not To Pee…

Let’s talk about these new proposed law that would make it illegal for Trans* people to use the restroom associated with their gender identity. That is to say, I would be forced to use the women’s bathroom. I cannot fathom why this is even an issue. The arguments for these proposed laws are as ludicrous as the laws themselves.

“I don’t want a man using the women’s restroom with me/my daughter/my wife, it would make me uncomfortable”

“If you have a vagina, you need to use the women’s bathroom. If you have a penis, use the men’s bathroom.”

“If we allow Trans* people to use the wrong bathroom, what’s to stop a man from pretending to be Trans* to rape women in the bathroom?”

“Bathrooms are designed for specific genders genitals, if you have a vagina you can’t use a urinal so why would you want to use the men’s room?”

“I don’t want little boys waving their penis around at my little girl in the bathroom at school! She shouldn’t be exposed to that.”

“Maybe we should have four different bathrooms: male, female, MTF, FTM. ”

These are just a few of the things I have read/heard regarding these proposed laws. I don’t have the time or energy to address every absurdity that has come up over this issue and these are the ones I’ve heard the most so let’s break them down.

1. “I don’t want a man using the women’s restroom with me/my daughter/my wife, it would make me uncomfortable”

Ok, for starters no one is suggesting we let men use the women’s bathroom. Although, frankly I don’t really care who is using either bathroom. We are talking about Trans* people. Transwomen are women. Transmen are men. Chances are you have shared a bathroom with a Trans* person at some point in your life and never even knew. Unless you are peeping through the cracks in stalls or looking into occupied urinals, you would really have no way of knowing what genitals other people in the bathroom possess. And if you are doing some extra looking, the issue isn’t the Trans* person in the bathroom, the issue is the pervert peeping at the Trans* person!

2. “If you have a vagina, you need to use the women’s bathroom. If you have a penis, use the men’s bathroom.”

I have no idea why people concern themselves so much with the genitals of others. But here’s the thing…the signs on the doors say “men” and “women” not “penis” and “vagina” and if I identify as male, look like a man, dress like a man, and am fully accepted by society as a man, then I am damn well using the men’s room. Vagina or not, I need to pee and I’m doing so in the bathroom that fits me best.

3. “If we allow Trans* people to use the wrong bathroom, what’s to stop a man from pretending to be Trans* to rape women in the bathroom?”

I never know if people are being serious when they present this as an argument in support of these horrific laws. With or without these laws, what’s to stop a rapist from raping? The threat of a misdemeanor (being in the “wrong” bathroom) is clearly not going to stop someone who is planning to commit a felony. Stopping Trans* people from using the proper restroom will not stop predators. It will not reduce the incidence of rape but it will increase the number of violent attacks on Trans* people when they are forced into the wrong bathroom. No rapist is going to think “well shit… I can’t put on a dress and do the bathroom idea… I guess I just won’t rape anyone ever again.” If you want to stop rape, then stop promoting rape culture, start raising kids to respect all other genders, and stop making boys believe that sex is a conquest, an important rite of passage. Raise your children to believe that no gender should have power over another. Rape is a societal issue, not a gender identity issue. Stop making excuses to discriminate against the Trans* population.

4. “Bathrooms are designed for specific genders genitals, if you have a vagina you can’t use a urinal so why would you want to use the men’s room?”

I have a vagina and I have used urinals many times, it is not only possible but convenient. I’ve also noticed over the years that every single men’s room I have ever been in also has a regular toilet so this is really a pointless argument since anyone who prefers to sit when they pee can do so. It is also equally invalid to say MTF’s shouldn’t use the women’s bathroom because of a lack of urinals. I don’t know too many people who have urinals in their home. They all seem to make do with the same toilets you will find in a female restroom. So stop using porcelain waste receptacles as an excuse to be an asshole.

5. “I don’t want little boys waving their penis around at my little girl in the bathroom at school! She shouldn’t be exposed to that.”

What the hell do you people think is happening in bathrooms?! I have never once seen a person showing off their genitals in a bathroom. Never. What your child shouldn’t be exposed to is the type of bigotry this argument presents. Most (certainly not all) Trans* people don’t really want anyone to see their genitals. They don’t even want to see them! Why on earth would you think they’d be strutting around, pants off, in a public restroom?! Have you done that? Have you ever walked into a bathroom and decided to show off your junk? If you have, I’d like you to refrain from using any public restroom, regardless of the gender it’s meant for.

6. “Maybe we should have four different bathrooms: male, female, MTF, FTM. ”

This isn’t exactly an argument for (or against) these laws but it’s something I see a lot in discussions about them. It’s asinine and offensive. For starters, there are more than just those four gender categories, and the marginalization of all the other identities covered by Trans* is intolerable. The second issue is that this statement says MTFs and FTMs are not female and male, respectively. I am a man. There is no need for an FTM bathroom. What we need are unisex bathrooms. We also need people to stop whining about the genitals of other people.

Look, this is all very simple. I have to relieve myself, I’m going to do it in the bathroom I am comfortable in. Any law that would require me to use the bathroom associated with my assigned at birth gender is ridiculous. If I were to use the women’s room looking like this what would happen?

image

I’ll tell you exactly what would happen. I would, at the very least, be told I was in the wrong bathroom and at worse, I’d be accused of being a pervert, possibly assaulted, and may even have the police called on me. I would certainly make women uncomfortable. If an MTF is forced into the men’s room, the same dangers apply except the risk of physical assault is likely even higher. There is absolutely no logical basis for any of these recent proposed laws, these laws come from bigots, from a dark and hateful place in society. They are not about protecting women from predators as they are often described, they are about making the lives of Trans* people harder unnecessarily. It is an attempt to take away basic human rights and deny us the ability to take care of a simple biological need. These are bathrooms, it’s a place to eliminate waste, it doesn’t matter who is in there with you. Let us piss in peace!

Trans*, Single, and Ready to Mingle

As a member of a few Facebook Trans* groups, I see a lot of the same post over and over again, worded slightly differently of course. One of the most common topics is dating. Some people think they will never find love because “who would love a Trans* freak like me?”, others want to know how to meet someone who might be interested in dating Trans* people, and then there are the questions about when it’s appropriate to disclose their Trans* status to a potential partner. There are also questions I hear from non-trans people about dating as a Trans* person. I’d like to say that I have all the answers and if you follow my 4 simple steps, you too can find love! But that’s simply not true. No one has the answers, but as usual I have a lot of opinions…

I’ve been quite lucky in dating in regards to Trans* acceptance. Just after I came out as Trans* in 1999 I met a girl I was very much interested in. She made it clear that she felt the same but I was worried she would run the moment she found out I wanted to transition. I told her early on though; I didn’t want to get too attached just to be devastated later. To my surprise, she was not only accepting but very supportive. Over the next 10 years, we had a somewhat difficult relationship that ended rather abruptly, but it truly had nothing to do with my Trans* status. And while her and I had a lot of issues, I can say she is definitely an ally. After dealing with the end of that relationship, I had no idea how to go about dating. Half the people I knew had met their current partner through internet dating sites but where exactly would I fit in on your average dating site? The truth is, I didn’t. I tried, but it just didn’t feel right. I had two options, lie about being female, or lie about being male. Now, me being male isn’t actually a lie but I had not had any surgeries at all and physically I was not male by any means. I realize I might take some shit for what I just said, but I have my reasons for feeling this way. Let me explain before I get any hate mail. I am a man, I always have been and always will be. However, when an average, non-trans person is looking for a man to date, they are thinking about the physical aspects. They are looking for someone without breasts, who has a penis. And there is nothing wrong with that as long as it’s a dating preference and is not an issue of prejudice. There are people who have a sexual attraction that relies heavily on genitals and we really have no right to judge that. So if I say I am a man on a dating site, there is a decent chance one or both of us is going to be disappointed even after I had my chest surgery. I can’t say I am a woman either, I don’t identify as one, I don’t have breasts, and people are usually looking for certain things when they are attracted to females. A lot of Trans* people want to get upset when someone rejects them because of their genitals, but that’s not fair. Be offended if that person says you are not a “real” man/woman, be angry if they become hateful, throw a fit if slurs get tossed around but how can we flip out because someone has a preference for who they date? I have many friends that are extremely supportive of Trans* people but wouldn’t date me because they simply are not interested in vagina and I intend to keep mine. Perfectly fair in my opinion….So, for the most part, your typical dating sites (POF, OKCupid, match.com etc…) just don’t work well for Trans* people. But are there any Trans* dating sites? And if so, are they safe and worth the effort? These are questions I set out to answer when I was ready to date again. It turns out there are several Trans* dating sites. Most of them seem like a scam to me though. They claim to be “free” dating sites. You can sign up, create a profile, and all that great stuff but as soon as you want to send a message or read one you have received, you suddenly need to be a premium member. That just doesn’t work for me. I did find two sites that are (for the most part) actually free. Trans Passions is one of them (NOTE: Make sure to type passions and not passion!!!!! That final ‘s’ makes a world of difference and if you leave it off you will be at a porn site and I will not be held responsible for any content seen or damage done to your computer!) and the other is Transgender Date (again, if you mistype, I am not responsible for the outcome!) Now, are these sites effective and safe? Well, I think that really depends on a lot of things. The safety of these sites is probably equal to the safety of any other dating site, it’s up to you to judge the people you come in contact with and determine if they are safe to be interacting with. As for effectiveness, I met my current girlfriend on Trans Passions and we have been together 2 years (as of this past Sunday!! I think some Congratulations are in order folks!) I also made some friends and met a lot of people I had no interest in knowing, a few creepers, a few people who I just didn’t click with. The best thing about a Trans* specific dating site is that it removes the issue of when/if to disclose your Trans* status. Another plus is knowing that most of the people on the site that are not Trans* are looking for someone gender variant in some way and there is far less risk of that person being a bigoted jackass. Of course, the effectiveness will vary from person to person because lets face it, a lot has to do with personality and some people just suck. Which leads me to the next part of this post…

 

Those of you that feel like you are destined to be alone forever because you are Trans* need to get that shit out of your head right now! I am Trans*, and though I pass extremely well, I am very open about it. Since coming out as Trans*, I have been in two relationships. One for 10 years, and my current relationship that just hit the 2 year mark. I know an FTM that is engaged to a non-trans woman, I know one who just got married last year to a non trans-woman, another who is in a loving relationship with another FTM, and yet another who has been married several years and has a child with a non-trans woman. I also know MTFs that are in relationships with both Trans* and non-trans men and women. The problem finding love isn’t going to be your gender identity, it’s going to be your confidence and personality. I realize it might be harder in certain parts of the country (or world) to find accepting people, but it is most definitely possible. When I met my girlfriend, she lived in Utah, me in California. I’m not saying you should meet someone online and start packing your house up. I am simply saying that love and acceptance are out there if you are willing to look for it and be patient. All of that “woe is me, I am an unlovable freak” crap isn’t going to help you either. If you don’t feel like you are worth loving then you aren’t, but it has nothing to do with your gender or being Trans*. I know that sounds harsh but most people are not interested in dating someone who doesn’t see their own value at least partially. It’s ok to be a work in progress as long as you are doing the work and don’t expect a future partner to fix you. And don’t be a dick, nobody wants to date a dick.

So lets say you have found someone you are into, they seem to reciprocate those feelings but they have no clue you are Trans*. Do you tell them? And if so, when? There is no right answer here… None at all. Only you can decide what’s right for your situation. If you have had all the surgeries available, and you pass 100% then maybe you can get away with never divulging any part of it. I don’t know, it’s your life, your “secret”, and your choice. For me personally, I have always been upfront right away and if I ever find myself dating again (hopefully that day never comes…) I would continue to do so. I don’t want to get something started and have it all fall apart over my identity as a Trans* person. I also don’t want to be in love, and spend my life keeping such a secret from the person I am supposed to trust the most in life. I find it better for everyone involved to say “Hey, I am Trans*, I was born with the wrong bits and pieces, I’ve taken steps to fix that and regardless of my body, I am a man. If that’s cool with you, then we can see where this goes but if it’s not, lets’ not waste any more of each others time.” That’s honestly what I would recommend to anyone who asked me what to do but again, it comes down to each person and how they want to handle it. I don’t think there is a wrong way to go about it. Just think it through and make sure you can live with whatever decision you make.

 

Ok Trans* folks, I am done with you for now. Non-trans people, listen up! This is for you and the ridiculous questions you ask us! Ok, they aren’t all ridiculous questions but I won’t be going over those….

 

Let me list the absurdities I have been asked, or heard others being asked.

 

  • Aren’t you afraid you’ll never find love?
  • What about kids? Don’t you want to have a family?
  • Why would she date only Trans* guys? I don’t understand the appeal.
  • How do you even have sex if you haven’t had bottom surgery?
  • If you don’t tell someone up front that you’re Trans*, aren’t you lying to them?
  • Why would anyone date a Trans* person when they could date a real man/woman?

The list goes on and on and on, but I am limiting it to the realm of dating for this particular post.

 

Look guys, I am all for asking questions and learning. but these are some seriously messed up questions! Lets break each one down and maybe I can stop even just one person from asking a Trans* person these questions.

 

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll never find love?”

Seriously?! Why don’t you just tell us we are freaks and don’t deserve love because no normal person would ever date us!!! That’s pretty much what this question says. It’s you saying you don’t think we can find love, that we are somehow damaged and unwanted. If you say this to a Trans* person, I hope they punch you in the throat. And I am typically non-violent. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Trans* people have enough self-doubt running through their minds already, we don’t need you adding to it.


“What about kids? Don’t you want to have a family?”

First of all. It’s not really your business if I do or don’t want kids. Secondly, Not everyone feels the need to have kids and raise a family. Thirdly, there is absolutely no reason a Trans* person cannot have kids. Before I had my hysterectomy, I had the option to not have it if I thought I might want to bare children, I was also told about the option of having my eggs frozen for future use (a very costly option but an option still). Trans* people can procreate before they eliminate the ability to do so, they can have sperm/eggs saved, they can adopt, their partner may be able to have children through artificial insemination. There are so many options I can’t even list them all here. I never wanted to be pregnant, I was never concerned with having my own biological progeny, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted kids at all…I’m still on the fence actually. But being Trans* does not limit my ability to be a parent. Now, all of that is assuming that when you asked that question, you were referring to the ability to produce children and/or find a suitable mate. It’s possible that you were implying that as a Trans* person, I SHOULDN’T have kids because there is something fundamentally wrong with the idea of Trans* parents raising children. If that’s your implication, then I am far more worried about you raising kids, than myself. My ability to raise a child has absolutely nothing to do with my gender identity. In fact, with all the counseling we typically have to go through to transition, we are probably more mentally stable than you! Dick!

 

“Why would she date only Trans* guys? I don’t understand the appeal.”

I had someone ask me this. I was left nearly speechless! First of all, the person in question only dates Trans* guys because that is her sexual preference and none of your damn business! You don’t get to judge why a person is attracted to a certain type of person. And if you don’t understand the appeal then don’t date a Trans* person, but you damn sure don’t get to imply there is something wrong with those people who do date Trans* people. This is a completely unnecessary question. I don’t know why a person dates one type of person exclusively any more than you do. Stating that you don’t get the appeal is basically saying that because you don’t find it attractive, no one else should. Dick!

“How do you even have sex if you haven’t had bottom surgery?”

Is this even a real question or are you just a perv that wants to know how I get down? I have sex the same way every other Trans* person does. However the hell I want! Just because I do not have a penis does not mean I am unable to fuck. There are several appendages and orifices on the human body and they can be combined in any number of ways to provide pleasure. If you are a non-trans straight person, don’t pretend like you have never committed a sexual act that was lacking either a penis or vagina (or both!). I am more than happy to explain what surgeries I have and have not had, I will tell you all about my transition, and everything related if you ask me respectfully but asking how I have sex is just plain asinine. You have an imagination, you know what human bodies look like and what they do. My sex acts are not your business. Unless we are getting naked together, or you are my friend and we are talking about our likes and dislikes. Don’t ask this shit. Dick.

 

“If you don’t tell someone up front that you’re Trans*, aren’t you lying to them?”

How exactly is it a lie? I am a man. If I tell you I am a man, that’s not a lie. There are things in everyone’s past that they don’t want to talk about right away, if ever. If you don’t tell someone you were raped and exclude that incident in the number of sexual partners you have had, are you lying to them? No, you are not. That’s some private, sensitive shit and you get to decide when and if you talk about it. End of Story.

 

“Why would anyone date a Trans* person when they could date a real man/woman?”

If you don’t get kicked in the junk for asking this, then you are extremely lucky. I am a real man. MTFs are real women. Our bodies do not define our genders. Don’t be a bigot. Dick.

So there you have it. Trans* dating summed up from the perspective of an opinionated Transman.

I am on this side of gender, you are on that side….

I stumbled into an interesting conversation today about labels. A non-trans woman was stating her stance as an ally of Trans* people and said she was a “born this way” female to identify that she was not Trans*. Someone was inevitably offended by this, stating that she needed to use the term “Cis” and not say “born this way” because Trans* people are born this way too. This poor woman was damn near attacked over not using “Cis” to identify herself even after she explained why she didn’t, and never would. I later asked her privately to explain further her position on the term “Cisgender” and I got the following:

“My views are based on my interactions with ppl here in Iowa. A small group of younger trans & androgynous ppl at a support group meeting. Prior to them making me aware of the term a few years ago, I didn’t know it existed. Neither did my best friend [who is MTF]. This group of ppl basically demanded I refer to myself as cis always. And that as such I am lesser than they are. They personally disrespected me, made jokes about the term, and affected my alliance with them. I don’t really like labels in the first place.”

This isn’t the first time I have heard a non-trans person say that Trans* people have used the term in a derogatory manner and I find this extremely upsetting.

I personally don’t like the term Cisgender. I do use it on occasion because most of the time people know exactly what I mean when I do. Lately I have been opting for “non-trans” though and I’d like to explain why.

Cisgender means, quite literally, “on this side of gender.”

Transgender means “across gender.”

What exactly does Cisgender say then? That there is a proper side of gender to be on? It makes me think of the phrase “on this side of the law”, which is to say on the right side, We are all on one side or another of gender, and whatever side that may be, it is “this side” to each person. I am on this side of gender, you are on that side.  But you know what, I don’t like that either! The idea of “sides” is ridiculous and puts a divide where we don’t need or want one. Transgender (remember: across gender) would almost seem to encompass everyone. Gender is not a coin with two sides, it is a spectrum and we all fall somewhere across that spectrum. I’m not saying we should start calling everyone transgender, that just silly! But I really do believe we need to stop using Cisgender.  I find it offensive, so-called Cis people find it offensive, and now Trans* people seem to be using it as a slur! Just because certain factions of society hold negative opinions of us and throw around slurs, doesn’t mean we get to be excused from doing the same. If the Trans* community wants acceptance and respect, we need to give it right back. Especially to our allies!

Ask Me About My Genitals!

It seems like everyday I hear or read a complaint about Trans* people being asked invasive questions. And I just really don’t understand what all the commotion is about. The most common complaint is about questions regarding genitals. Yes, it’s awkward to have someone ask you what’s between your legs, and yes it awkward to explain your genitals to them. In the grand scheme of things, unless you are in an intimate relationship with someone, your genitals are not their business. I want it to be clear that I mostly agree with that. But there really is more to it, isn’t there? Trans* people like to point out that we don’t go around asking non-trans people about their junk, so why do they get to ask about ours? Well, we already know what a nontrans person has between their legs don’t we? There is no mystery there at all. We know what they have and how it all works so of course we aren’t asking. Trans* people are different. It’s virtually impossible to know what genitals we have, how they function, what the medical procedure was like (if we have had one)… There are a ton of unknowns. As humans, we are naturally curious about things we do not understand or have knowledge about. How do we expect people to learn if we aren’t willing to teach? It’s hard for people to accept things they don’t understand and I’m pretty certain a big goal for the Trans* community is to gain acceptance. We need to be more open, more willing to share our experiences, and more willing to answer questions. If someone asks you if you have had any surgeries and you start going off about how rude the question is, Trans* people may then seem unapproachable to that person. The last thing we should be doing is breeding ignorance and putting a wedge between ourselves and genuinely curious people who may be, or become, allies. If a question is asked with respect then I feel it’s our duty to answer it. I’m not saying we need to go into detail about the size and shape of our bits and pieces, but it’s definitely possible to answer legitimate questions honestly and directly without letting it get too personal. I’ve been asked many times if I have had or plan to have surgeries and I always answer. I have had top surgery, but have no plans for any bottom surgery aside from the hysterectomy I had several years ago.

 

What was the top surgery like? Are you happy with the results?

 

I answer these questions too! Top surgery was fucking miserable. I was horribly uncomfortable for a month, my drain tubes stayed in longer than expected, and I couldn’t shower for 18 damn days! There was pain and discomfort from all the tape and bandages, it was a lot of aftercare and it was all a giant pain in the ass. But was it worth it and am I happy about it? YES! I have never made a better decision for myself and I would do it all over again if I had to.

 

Why don’t you want bottom surgery? Doesn’t it bother you to not have a penis?

 

I don’t want bottom surgery because I don’t particularly like the results I’ve seen, I don’t feel that it’s worth the risk right now, and I have the ability to pee and orgasm. I don’t want to mess with that. I have arrived at a point in life where I am happy with who I am. While I absolutely wish I had the proper equipment for my gender, I don’t particularly feel like putting myself at risk any more than I already have. I want to live my life, I want to enjoy orgasms with full sensation, and I just don’t feel I need any more surgeries to make myself complete. My decision on the matter is certainly only my opinion, and everyone is different. What’s right for me may not be right for the next person and that’s perfectly Ok.

 

When I talk to people in an open way like this, they seem to relax around me and get comfortable with the idea of me being Trans*. I show them that I am a human being with flaws and fears just like them. Being honest and non confrontational with their questions allows them to learn, to see that I am just another person trying to live as authentically as possible. I’ve had people thank me for my openness, I’ve had people tell me that they had no knowledge of what it meant to be Trans* prior to knowing me, and I have helped them see past things like gender. I take pride in that. We should all be striving to educate, to dispel myths, to help people understand and become comfortable talking to us about things. Otherwise, all we are doing is encouraging ignorance, fear, and hate.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are definitely times when these questions should not be asked or answered. Like on public television, or in front of other people. These are private questions, and they should be asked respectfully. If you happen to be a curious non-trans person, I invite you to email me with your questions (if you do, I will post them on this blog with an answer as others might have similar questions and I’m all about education!) at redwynstorm@gmail.com. I don’t recommend asking a random Trans* person any of these intimate questions though. Not everyone is as open as me, and while I wish they were, it’s their right to have their privacy respected.


Someday I’d like to live in a world where gender is not questioned and the mystery of my genitals is not an issue to be addressed, but we are not there yet. In order to reach that goal, we need to answer awkward questions, educate, and stop overreacting to the curious nature of human beings. .