I am 24 years old, yet I am still relatively new to the world of dating. It was just last October when I went on the first date I’ve ever been on. We met on a dating app, and we went out for ice cream. Before dropping me off at my house, we ended the date with a kiss — then I never heard from him again. Another date I went on ended abruptly when I brought up my gender identity: My date had not read my dating profile, where I clearly state that I’m transgender, and soon the invasive questions began. My pattern with dating cisgender men has led to experiences so similar to these in fact, that I have their excuses memorized like a skit for an open casting call.
Disclosing your trans status to a potential cisgender partner can be difficult or even dangerous, but the creation of dating apps are making it safer for more and more transgender and nonbinary people to put their identities in their profiles, eliminating potentially transphobic matches. Although this is helpful, it doesn't mean that it's still easy dating in my community.
Despite my experiences dating, I refuse to be discouraged. I asked 10 transgender and nonbinary individuals about their experiences with dating cis partners, and their stories show that even though dating someone who doesn't share your relationship with gender can be tricky, it's well worth it — as soon as you find your person.
"I first met my primary partner at a transgender/genderqueer support group in 2014. I matched with my other partner on Her, [and] we had our first date shorty after. My secondary partner is cisgender, and while she has transgender friends, I was the first transgender person she had dated.
Whenever I go into relationships, there's always that fear that the other person is going to react badly if I disclose my gender identity. I generally pass as cisgender. I go on first dates in a public place before telling someone I’m trans. Unfortunately — particularly with guys — people will stop talking to me after I disclose my transgender status, even if the date was fun and they expressed interest in seeing me again.
The biggest piece of advice I have for other trans and nonbinary people, is not to waste your time on someone who can’t see that being trans or nonbinary is just one part of who you are. It’s not worth wasting your time on people like that, even if the initial validation feels good."
"Going into any relationship, I worry whether a man will be good to me, whether [we'll] be compatible, and whether I’m in a good place to be in a relationship. I especially worry about disclosing when I’m starting to date a cis person. Being trans, while dating cisgender people, means that there’s always some background level worry, there’s always some tension in a relationship, because actually being serious with a cis man always means having to plan when to disclose. I think that first and foremost, we have to understand that cis people don’t have to confront their gender like transgender people do.
I believe transgender and nonbinary people need to be in love with themselves first before dating someone else. The world is full of cissexist and transmisic messages that tell us we are wrong, we are sick, and we shouldn’t exist — and as trans folks, we need to recognize how powerful and revolutionary our existence is.”
"Before my relationship, I used to be afraid that no one would want me for who I am. My primary fear was typically that I would be alone for my entire life, because I've had to give up a lot of things and drop contact with a lot of people in order to transition. It just looked like love was another thing I'd have to sacrifice to be myself. I did consider finding validation in dating a chaser, but I have always found the idea unappealing. Dating someone for how they see your body is not advisable for anyone — trans or cis.
No one starts out knowing their significant other perfectly, but [...] you have to know that you can trust [your partner], otherwise communication is meaningless. Especially for trans people — we have to believe that our partners will be with us through thick and thin. They will be our strongest support system no matter what we face."
"I’ve always dealt with plenty of guys wanting to 'experiment', [who] saw me as a thing rather than a person to date. It took a year of bad dates and short-lived relationships before I found my current partner. I was initially worried that my partner, who is cis, would be treated poorly because she dates a transgender person, but that hasn’t been the case.
My advice for others in the transgender and nonbinary community is to remember that you deserve to be treated well and have a partner or multiple partners that respect your identity. There are plenty of people out there that can see the beauty of being transgender and nonbinary."
"It takes a lot of trust to go into a relationship with someone, especially considering there are a lot of ways that trans people’s partners can hurt them. I’ve been with my current partner since August 2016, after messaging her on Tinder, but before that I dated people who had serious trouble respecting my identity. It can be hard to know how to act around trans people, because so much of our social behavior is determined by a gender system that trans people challenge just by existing. But it’s really emotionally troubling to date people who don’t know how to act around you. It’s especially damaging when your partner doesn’t seem comfortable touching you, sexually or just casually. And that can really start to make you feel like a pariah."
"I first met my partner through Twitter. She followed me and then ended up sending me a direct message. Since then, we’ve been together for a little over a year. I was happy because she already knew I was trans and supported me a lot before we started dating, and she never said anything ignorant or discouraging to me.
Before I met my partner, I used to just stick to myself and wasn’t in a rush to meet anyone because I didn’t want to go through the process of coming out over and over again. I never disclose that I’m trans at my jobs, so a co-worker could have liked me and not even know. I tried to avoid all of that. Going into a relationship already disclosed makes it easier for trans and nonbinary people to feel comfortable with dating."
"I was initially nervous to message my [now-] fiancée on OkCupid, but, when I saw her picture, I knew I needed to get her attention. We’ve now been together for over seven years, during which time I began to truly explore my gender identity. I didn’t know the term nonbinary to describe myself back when I met [my fiancée]. Over time it was clear to both of us that my gender expression is very fluid. Looking back I now realize I have always been [nonbinary], I only really began to embrace it fully after we’d been together for a while. My fiancée has helped me feel very comfortable in my skin. I think I do the same for her. That’s all that matters."
"I first met my partner after I asked her out on a date, and we’ve been on and off again for awhile. Cumulatively, we’ve been together for about eight months. It may sound short, but to be honest, I haven’t had many long relationships.
I was pretty pessimistic going into my first relationship with a cis person as a trans woman. I grew up being bullied by boys, and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to pursuing men to date. I thought that they would use me for sex or just hurt me. I dealt with self-esteem issues in the dating world, before meeting my partner, and a lack of confidence to initiate anything romantic or intimate out of fear of rejection or insults. [But] it’s so important — especially as trans people — to focus on our individual needs and try to meet them as much as we can, ourselves."
"My first thoughts going into a relationship as a trans person were that I was very early in my transition. I still was considered a woman by most of society despite how androgynous my appearance was. I was uncomfortable with male pronouns at the time. I was insecure about my presentation to men and women, and didn’t view myself as a boy. Hell, it even bothered me when she called me her boyfriend — I didn’t know how to be someone’s boyfriend.
Before meeting my girlfriend, I found myself questioning what dating would be like after I transitioned. That was my first question — who would love me? I couldn’t fathom trying to navigate straight social circles to find a partner.
If I could tell my younger self anything about dating, it would be to not have fear. The only thing you can do is be yourself and luckily, that is all you have to do when the time comes. Being true to yourself is the best thing you can do for your love life. Hands down."
"I met my wife because we grew up together in the same small town. We lived across the street from each other, and our grandmothers were friends. We have pictures of us playing together when we were just four years old. I didn’t transition or even come out as trans to myself until I had been married to my wife for 10 years.
I didn’t have the experience of dating while trans, but rather of coming out to my cisgender, straight partner without knowing how it would affect our relationship. Neither of us knew how to navigate this. But fortunately, for me and my wife, we found examples of couples that stayed together through a transition that continued to have a healthy relationship.
Being trans can result in a smaller dating pool. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find someone who’s perfect for you. And really — once you’re comfortable with yourself, it’s way easier to be with someone else."
The dating world is tough for everyone, but transgender and nonbinary people face particular nuances, complexities, and dangers that make dating a much more difficult exercise. But despite living in a society where we are often faced with discrimination and violence, there is still so much love to be found. These 10 people face unique challenges of having relationships in which they come from different communities and identities, yet they have shown in various ways how navigating those differences lets them grow in their love together.