Alright, my loves, I have a real treat today. A reader of mine, who is also a long-time friend IRL agreed to collaborate on a series of blogs, and be the voice of an outside viewpoint.
With that, I’d like to thank my contributor and her husband for creating a really thoughtful dialogue.
Here we go!
Is the dating style of a person who identifies as transgender different from a person who identifies as cisgender? How so?
I’m not sure that I would say that there’s a difference in dating style. There are definitely some hurdles and considerations which transpeople face in all parts of life. Dating brings many of these differences into focus. One major issue is the question of whether to share one’s trans* status, and if so, at what point? Another thing to consider is that most of the population (gay or straight) have difficulty envisioning themselves in a relationship with a transperson. I think this happens because transwomen are not seen as being ‘real women,’ and transmen are not seen as ‘real men.’ As that’s the case, this challenges people’s concept of their own sexuality.
What struggles are unique to transwomen in the dating world?
To elaborate on my earlier point, I think the people we seek to date often have a definition problem in accepting a transwoman as being truly female. Cisgender, straight men are taught by their peers that looking at, or touching a penis is disgusting and shameful and DEFINITELY means one is gay (which is seen as basically the worst thing a guy could ever be.) Much of how men experience male privilege requires the convention of heteronormativity. In this way, a cisgender, straight man is known to be dominant over a cisgender, straight woman. In my experience with male socialization, having a penis is central the experience of what being a man is. And men tend to hold the idea that sensitivity, compassion, and other ‘feminine’ expressions of emotion must literally mean that one’s penis is physically smaller than it should be. Now, obviously most or all of this programming is based on truly absurd ideas, but it is still deeply engrained in the psyche of those who are socialized to be male.
With all of this in mind, it may become more apparent what a transwoman identifying as straight or bisexual/pansexual is up against in trying to find a man to date.
As it happens, I identify as a lesbian, and that has many of the same challenges, just flipped upside-down. Women are also given to conflating ‘man’ with ‘penis.’ In this way, the penis becomes the literal symbol of male privilege and oppression. So, if I want to date a lesbian, I do so knowing that I bear the damning mark of the patriarchy. As a vehement feminist myself, it is emotionally complicated to walk the earth bearing any such symbol.
As a transwoman, what is your biggest fear when going on your first date.
I think the biggest fear that is specific to my status is that I will not be seen by my date as I see myself. I have this experience more strongly when dating women who do not exclusively date other women. I worry sometimes that someone will see me as being both male and female and be attracted to me for that reason. Whether the difference is a positive or negative in the eyes of the person I’m dating, seeing me as different is painful.
Straight transwomen have even more difficulty with this, because there are a substantial number of men who fetishize transwomen.
What do you think about the forced responsibility most cisgender people tend to place on transgender people when it comes to making your “status” known.
I don’t know that I believe the cisgender population are actively thinking about our responsibility to be ‘out.’ Then again, we hear over and over justifications for violence against transpeople because the perpetrator(s)suddenly became aware of a transperson’s status. (If that’s news to you, You might find the film “Boys Don’t Cry” eye-opening.)
It’s a delicate subject. For pre-operative transsexuals, like me, it seems a given that a conversation will be necessary before any physical intimacy can happen. I guess I am part of the problem, really. I expect not to be treated as anything but a ‘real woman’ and yet, I have been disclosing my status on my dating profile, because I expect that it will be a deal-breaker for most people. My thoughts on this subject are moving, though. It may be that I start practicing what I preach and stop ‘warning’ people about me at some point.
In any event, the bottom line is this: I would love to live in a world that did not differentiate between transgender people and cisgender people, but that is not the world that exists at this time.