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This article is intended to provide advice for cis-gendered people taking their first steps towards trans* dating/sex. The language used is not intended to convey any one gender or sexual orientation.
* used to refer to all trans people including but not limited to transmen and transwomen.
This is part 1 of 3 chronicling advice when approaching this situation. It is important to note that this advice is subjective, and everyone’s experience is unique.
Dating a trans* person should be seen the same as dating any other person – but unfortunately this isn’t the case. Often there’s a sense of intrigue, confusion, and mis-understandings when dating a trans* person – especially if it’s your first time.
Trans* People Are Humans
When seeking out or considering a trans* person for dating purposes (here specifically we mean romantically), the first thing you should be sure to remind yourself of is the fact that they are humans. This may sound weird, but often trans* people are mistaken as objects for desire or education.
Be sure your heart and mind are in the right place when you pursue this. Approach the situation the same way you would anyone else. Treat them as a person and understand that as with conventional dating – there is a strong chance they may not be interested in you.
A trans* person is not your one-stop-shop for all things trans*. There are trans* people who are more than happy to help you learn more about the in’s-n-outs of being trans* – but that does not mean everyone is.
It can be exhausting, having the same discussions over and over again, teaching the same things against the same comebacks is tiring. Take the opportunity to do some research into the subject.
(Rainbow Resource Center has an excellent guide on dating a trans* person; available here - https://rainbowresourcecentre.org/files/GetReal-RRC.pdf)
Show the other person that you care by not expecting them to constantly explain things to you or teach you about every little detail. There’s certainly nothing wrong with asking if you’re unsure but brace yourself to be told to look it up on your own and understand that not everyone is comfortable talking about this aspect of their life in great detail.
Pronouns hold significance to some, and next to nothing for others. A recurring theme here is that everyone is different. For some trans* people using their correct pronouns will be incredibly important to them – it’s a form of validation, an understanding that people don’t view you as something you’re not.
“How do I know what pronouns to use?”
A good place to start is asking either the person themselves for their pronouns, or someone close to them. Just be careful with who, how, and when you ask. Coming out isn’t a one-time thing. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community you have to come out again and again and again. This also means choosing who you are out to – for a myriad of reasons. There could be safety concerns, feeling that this particular piece of information is best suited for close friends, etc.
If you are unsure how to safely go about asking someone their pronouns in a group setting without outing them, then simply listen. Chances are you will eventually hear someone refer to them using their pronouns.
As mentioned – pronouns are a form of validation. Under no circumstances should you ever purposefully use the wrong pronouns during an argument, or any situation really. If you even consider doing something like that, then you aren’t ready to date a trans* person.
“What if I make a mistake?”
Correct yourself. It really is as easy as that. Correct yourself immediately and move on. The more you apologize or bring up this mistake the worse the situation gets and the more hurtful it can be. Offer a small “Sorry!”, correct yourself, and move on with whatever you were saying.
Afterwards, a good method of preventing the mistake from happening again is to use their correct pronouns 3 times in a row. Take a moment to think of positive things about them using their correct pronouns and solidify the pattern of speech.
“Should I correct other people?”
This, again, entirely depends on the situation. If you are in a setting where you know the person you are interested in/dating is completely out, then yes. Correct them without making a big deal out of it. Much like when you are correcting yourself, do so quickly and move on.
“Oh, you know Kerri? She’s super cool!
“They. Yeah, they are!”
“Yeah, sorry, they’re super cool!”
Quick and simple correction, without hostility (unless warranted) provides a gentle reminder to the other person that they’ve made a mistake and gives them a chance to fix that themselves.
“What if the other person gets defensive?”
Then they have a problem. Not you, and not the trans* person in the room. If you politely correct someone and they become defensive and/or refuse to correct themselves, then it’s probably best to just remove yourself from the situation. Not everyone is willing to learn, and often people take corrections as a form of attack – insinuating that they did it intentionally and that they’re a bad person. Of course, no one thinks you’re a bad person for making a mistake; reactions to being corrected decide if you’re a bad person.
This is the end for part 1, and we hope you’ll be eager to learn more! In part 2 we will be covering questions to ask yourself, what to do next, and how to explain that your dating a trans* person - should it reach that level.