I’ve had a new experience, one that I had been fortunate enough to avoid since outing myself as transsexual and beginning my transition 15 months ago. For the first time, I felt as if there was something wrong with me. I felt ashamed of who I was; I was embarrassed of my identity as a transsexual and needed to hide it.
The fact that I made it 15 months without feeling this has been made possible by the multitude of accepting, loving, and amazing friends and family members in my life. I recognize this as extraordinary, given the accounts I’ve heard from my trans friends. There are many who experience shame on a daily basis, and it’s one of the reasons 41% of trans individuals have attempted suicide, with even more who consider it an option.
So, what happened… Dating happened.
Dating is a nightmare, and is second only to public restrooms on the list of things that scare me.
I’m not the most proactive OKCupid user, so when a message arrived in my inbox from a well-adjusted woman I found attractive, I was delighted. Several messages and texts later, a date was scheduled over coffee (hot chocolate in my case). We met, we talked, we laughed, and overall the date was a success — save for one comment in the middle that left me confused, upset, and uncertain.
After exhausting the subjects of work and hobbies, she asked me about my general experience with OKCupid. I expressed mixed feelings, as I’ve received numerous messages that I consider creepy, offensive, and rude. Seemingly happy to express a shared experience, she told me ‘I was creeped out by a transvestite that messaged me, he sent me five messages even though I didn’t reply.’ This is where she lost me. The instant this left her mouth I was searching for meaning in her words, and wondering if she understood what she had just said.
My mind got to the “f” in “fuck this,” after which I would begin flipping tables. It stopped at the “f” though, because at face value, I couldn’t refute the creepiness in her statement, for two reasons.
- I would also be a bit put off by anyone who messaged me five times without a reply.
- I identify as a lesbian, have it clearly indicated that I’m only interested in women (her profile has the same), and am less than pleased when men decide that they would like to message me.
So yes, in this situation, being messaged five times by a male-identified individual is creepy.
However, these things don’t excuse the statement she made or make it any less offensive or questionable. The way the word “transvestite” left her mouth made it clear that this was a strong negative to her, as if they were unpleasant and not to be trusted. Her tone, phrasing, and the fact that she used the word “transvestite” instead of “cross-dresser” left me with the distinct impression that she was uneducated about trans issues, and that the person who had messaged her was likely a trans woman, not a cross-dresser. As we had not yet discussed my identity, this was distressing.
Everyone has an opinion on when a trans individual should out themselves to a potential partner, anywhere from “never” to “the first sentence out of your mouth.” My personal approach to this is being open and proactive about it, so it used to be front and center on my OKCupid profile. This approach, however, resulted in enough creepy, rude, ignorant, and hurtful messages that I removed it. I now vet a person via a first date, and if I think a second date will result, we have a conversation about it. While I don’t believe that being transsexual is a necessary disclosure for friendship, I do believe it’s necessary for a potential romantic partner.
I choose not to live my life hiding away my identity as a transsexual. I’m not ashamed of who I am. This is not something that I need to hide; this does not make me less than. I’m vocal about being transsexual and will not deny it. However, I’m also not blind to the acts of violence and discrimination that happen to trans individuals entirely too frequently. I’m able to minimize these occurrences in my life by being indistinguishable from any other woman you see in your daily life; in other words, I have “passing privilege,” meaning that I am not recognizable as a particular group; in this case, transsexual.
Even though I have the option of disappearing into the crowd and going “stealth,” I want to be an advocate. I write publicly about my experiences and thoughts, correct people when I hear ignorant comments, speak freely about my identity on social media, and openly converse on the subject in public places. There’s an upsetting amount of misinformation floating around, and I want to fix it.
I am privileged, but please don’t misunderstand; I’ve still experienced discrimination because of my identity. I’m constantly scared because of the choices I make and the situations I place myself in. I willingly out myself in unknown situations and it isn’t always fun and supportive. A pretty face doesn’t negate the hate others can have towards a group of people; it just means they didn’t want to punch you in the face prior to outing yourself. I have the privilege of being able to choose my battles: I can decide when I out myself, or if I out myself; if I fear for my safety, I can choose to remain in the closet. This has allowed me to be prepared for every difficult situation I’ve placed myself in; I have my defenses up when I walk into the fray.
This time was different; I wasn’t expecting it. This was the first time it had really shaken me. Experiencing discrimination can easily make me angry, sad, or frustrated, but rarely will it make me doubt my value as a person. I was starting to doubt.
It was clear that she was unaware of my transsexual identity, or that it was even a possibility I might be a trans woman. The privilege of passing often places you in the awkward situation of being insulted to your face. I couldn’t help but think the negative stereotypes I imagined she had in her head about the trans community would be shattered when we discussed my identity.
At that moment, I was faced with a decision: do I use this as a springboard to out myself as transsexual and clear up her statement, or do I continue the date as if nothing was wrong? One thing I did know is that I wanted to have this conversation with her. I needed to know if she understood what the words she said meant. Did she know the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual? Did she mean transsexual? What were her thoughts on the subject? How would this change the positivity that she’d been flooding me with so far?
I don’t expect everyone to be knowledgeable on the subject, or to have the most accurate information. Given the amount of disagreement and misinformation out there, unless you’re actively engaged in the topic (and sometimes even if you are), you may be working with false, out of date, or made up information. I can’t fault someone for being ignorant on a subject, unless they’ve been given an opportunity to be correct. If they’ve been presented with accurate information and persist in hurtful speech, then they’re a jerk (don’t be a jerk).
My decision was not to burn the house down; this didn’t seem like the best time to clarify her statement, and I was sure I would have the opportunity to talk about it later. The remainder of the date was pleasant, but I was semi-checked out, analyzing her statement and trying to find the intent behind her words. My identity didn’t come up as we left the coffee shop and walked towards the parking lot, where we hugged and parted ways. She expressed interested in continued conversation and a second date.
Up until this point, I was confused and a little bit offended, but not embarrassed or ashamed (I think). I wasn’t sure when I was going to have the conversation with her about my identity, but it was going to happen, and we were going to have a chat about her earlier comment.
Later that afternoon, a few friendly texts were exchanged; she asked my plans for the evening. An innocent enough question, but one that left me unsure how to respond. I was planning on going to the second meeting of the trans youth support group that I had helped start. Do I tell her that I’m getting together with friends and avoid the subject? Do I skirt the truth to keep the possibility of a second date, so that I can have the conversation I want to have? Or do I out myself by telling her where I’m going? It was while contemplating this decision that I felt the beginnings of embarrassment and shame. Why did I so badly want to hide my identity? Why did I want to lock it away and never have to speak about it again, to disappear into the crowd? This was my first experience with wanting to withhold this information out of embarrassment. What had happened that I was now ashamed of who I was?
Upset with myself for beginning to feel this way, and trying to shake it off, I told her exactly where I was going. Her response? “That’s cool… See, you do volunteering work and you didn’t even know it.”
This absolutely shocked me. I had thought my association with this support group was the same as outing myself. Was I so far from the idea of trans in her head that there was no way I could be “one of them?” Or did she refuse to make the association because there was something so wrong with trans women that she could never be attracted to one?
The earlier embarrassment I had just walked away from decided that we should be reacquainted. What was so wrong with being transsexual that she didn’t want to associate me with it? What was wrong with me? I wanted to correct her, to tell her that I was transsexual, but her words had left me so unsure of myself that I couldn’t respond. I was angry, scared, and frustrated. I hated what I was feeling; it was so against everything I believe. I love who I am, I am confident in who I am, I believe in who I am. Emotions are hard, and I couldn’t walk away from those negative feelings.
*bing* “What drove you to get started with the group?”
With a flood of emotion I answered her follow-up question by outing myself as transsexual.
I have not heard back from her, and don’t expect to. She’s now added “trangender” to the list of things she’s not interested in. If you’re going to discriminate against a general population, please be educated enough to use the correct terms (and spell them correctly). Also, be specific enough that you don’t hit innocent bystanders… There are many identities under the transgender umbrella, some of which you’re probably ok with.
When it comes to dating and transsexuals, I understand that it can be complicated and difficult. Pre-op or non-op trans women just don’t have the parts that some women want to interact with. I believe this to be a valid reason not to be romantically involved with someone, along with a few other reasons that are a physical impossibility for trans women (i.e. pregnancy). However, in this particular case, I hadn’t offered my status, and she hadn’t asked.
Days later, I’m still swimming in my emotions, trying to get back to solid ground. I want to bury my head in the sand and not deal with this again. Dating can go away. I’m upset at myself, I’m upset with her. I’m just upset.
The thing I can’t get over, and that I most clearly understand, is that while this experience hurts, it’s among the least painful that the trans* population faces. If I get hung up and scared over this, where does that leave me for the greater hurt I will inevitably face? This brief experience is a tiny drop in the sea of pain we live with. I wasn’t harmed, I didn’t lose a friend or a loved one; I lost nothing other than a potential second date, and the chance to talk about a subject I’m passionate about. I’m upset that I was so affected by such a minor experience, and that I still haven’t gotten over it. I’m upset I lost the opportunity to educate and potentially reduce transphobia. I’m upset I wasn’t an advocate because I was scared.
Somehow, even though I lost nothing, a comment not aimed at me hurt me deeply. The power contained in the words we use is vast, and we often hurt others without knowing. I wish I had addressed her comment when it happened, that I hadn’t let it linger and become something more than it needed to be. I let that opportunity go, probably out of fear. I want to be better at actively correcting ignorance in others, to accept being corrected for what I am ignorant on, and to invest in meaningful conversations with those who are willing to listen.
I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished. Being transsexual does not diminish my value as a person. Fuck you, and the things you say, for making me feel like it does.
This is wonderfully written. Thank you for sharing.
SO MANY HUGS
I think it makes total sense that an experience like this makes you feel hurt and ashamed and off-balance. It doesn’t take outright, dramatic violence to make us feel violated. You are beautiful and fierce… feel the feelings and fight the fight :)
I love this. So much.
Yes, FUCK HER for making you feel less than human. Keep on being unapologetic, Nicole. Thank you for writing this!
Also I appreciate all the trans content on Autostraddle, lately. :)
I’ve got to ditto the appreciation of the appreciable amount of trans* content on AS as well.
Sending big hugs from Montreal, xo.
Dating puts us in such an emotionally vulnerable place and it’s such a risk to try to share our selves with others… it makes sense this affected you so. It also is a risk to write about and all the emotions and thoughts it stirred up in you, so, I think you’re brave, and strong. In fact, kudos to you for outing yourself too… I feel like the emotionally easy route would have been just dropping contact.
*hugs* (if you want them.)
Also, what dance are you leading in the black and white photo?
I did consider just dropping contact… but honestly, texting her back felt like the easy way out to me. It felt like, and turned out to be, a way to avoid an actual conversation with her about it.
The dance I’m leading is Blues, are you familiar? I also do Lindy.
Yes, I am! That’s what it looked like to me. I also lindy, too. :)
how long have you been dancing?
it looks like you’re in pittsburg? i’ve danced there during steel city ^_^
(i won 1st in the J&J 3 years ago?)
On the one hand i’ve been dancing for almost 15 years. On the other it’s been fairly intermittent over the past 7. But my lindy’s fairly solid still. Oh, I was actually at that steel city! My friend katy comes in to town for it, which always brings me out. Are you coming this year?
It’s not letting me reply to your latest comment, so I’ll use this one instead…
I would like to go to Steel City this year, but I don’t know how much I would be able to dance. I’m having bottom surgery next week, and from what I’ve heard about recovery, it’s going to be a while before I get to be very active again… So, it is unlikely >.<
Good luck with your surgery! My wife had hers a year and a half ago. (I can’t believe it’s been that long ago!) For her the emotional recovery took longer than the physical part, but she has a history of depression which may have complicated matters. Best wishes to you!
Also my wife and I met on OKCupid. After messaging back and forth for a while and before I drove the 2 hours to visit her she disclosed her trans* status. I knew just enough to know that I didn’t know much but was willing to learn. And so I came to Autostraddle and read several helpful articles.
Late replying… good luck and congrats on the surgery, and good luck on the recovery. Do let me know if/when you are in Pittsburgh. :) I’ve been dancing the last two weeks in a row, so…. maybe I’m making a come-back.
As a fellow trans blues dancer, what’s your experience been like? I’ve only followed a few times (ever), and am a little nervous about getting back on the floor for Red Hot later this Spring.
if you’re in the DC area (i’m assuming you are based on the Red Hot reference), then you have nothing to worry about. the DC blues scene has been incredibly supportive and accepting of me. the national blues scene has been great with everything as well. i’m in DC if you ever want to chat about anything.
also, how long have you been dancing? if you started in the DC area, it’s possible you’ve been in one of my classes…
Awesome! I’m only in D.C. occasionally (I grew up in NoVA, but am doing grad school on the West Coast). I’ve been doing Blues seriously since about 2011, mostly at Glen Echo (sadly, there’s not much of a blues scene in Eastern WA, no idea why…the last time I actually got to blues was at Red Hot 2014). We’ve probably crossed paths (or at least been on the same dance floor), though I would’ve still looked like a dude at that point. I’m not particularly plugged into the scene, but my twin brother is (it helps that he shared an apartment with one of the Red Hot organizers).
I’d love the opportunity to chat- like I said, dancing has been something I’ve angsted over when it comes to transitioning, because it seems like it would be a very, very different experience from a woman’s perspective than a man’s, and hearing from someone who’s successfully navigated that would really help.
<3 <3 <3 thank you for sharing your story, nicole.
Thanks so much for this. I can very much relate to it, because I’ve had the same privilege myself since I transitioned (much to my surprise, because I never thought I would). I’ve heard so many times, either directly or indirectly, things like “I never would have guessed” — which is intended to be flattering, but I’m not sure it really is. I know that it makes my life a lot easier, but it doesn’t solve everything.
I completely understand how hurt you were. It’s fear of exactly the kind of experience you recount that has prevented me from trying to meet someone, ever since the end of the relationship I was in at the time of my transition back in 2005. Also, I’m a lot older than you are, and kind of assume that women around my age are considerably less likely to want to be with someone like me, regardless of the fact that I’ve had GRS, than younger women. (Maybe I spend too much time reading negative things, but there isn’t so much out there that’s encouraging.) So I haven’t been brave enough to try; it’s easier just to stay single, and tell myself that I’m fine with it, and that I’m “too old for that kind of thing anyway,” since I’m over 50.
I do tend to find that the older people are, then less ok they are with the subject, and it sucks. I’m sorry that you’ve felt this too, it isn’t fun. I hope that you are able to get back out there though. Times are changing… slowly.
I actually believe the “I never would have guessed” comments are pretty hurtful, and have written about that in another essay I wrote.
Here’s part of the essay about it:
Anyways, the most frequent, and innocently harmful, compliments I receive are remarks such as; “you’re beautiful, you don’t even look trans”, or, “I would have never guessed that you’re trans, you look amazing”. While these are meant as genuine compliments, there is subtext that accompanies each that isn’t realized. This ‘compliment’ is putting every transsexual in a box, and implying that it is the exception when we are attractive on the social beauty scale; society is using beauty culture to define our worth. It is as ridiculous as telling me, “you’re beautiful, you don’t even look Korean”.
Why do you feel the need to qualify a compliment in this way?
What does a trans woman look like? What are we supposed to look like? What do we act like? What do we sound like? Which box would you like me to sit in?
Thank you. And I agree with you about the implications of comments like “I never would have guessed.” There’s another thing people have said which I suppose could also be taken negatively, but it doesn’t bother me in the same way at all: when people say things like “I can’t imagine you as anything other than a woman.” It felt best when my own son said that to me a few years after my transition (which happened when he was 15.) Because I know he wouldn’t lie about something like that. And it meant a lot to me.
I agree that the comment of “I can’t imagine you as anything other than a woman” isn’t a negative, at least not to me. It feels more like it’s directed at your being, not just your physical self, which feels good. Like they’re recognizing your whole person as your identity.
That must have felt REALLY good to hear that. I’m so happy for you ^_^
Thank you! It was just about the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me, to be honest.
I’ve had similar to think that I took really well. I think it was my first day wearing a dress at work, and I made a comment to one of my friends worrying about my boobs and she just looked confused. After a bit of back and forth I said “because I’m trans” and she just replied that being a girl is just so much more honestly and happily me that she forgets my past. Made me so happy when this was only like 6 months after I came out at work.
Donna, even though I’m a stranger on the internet I love you and support you! It is scary to put ourselves out there and I completely understand. I can’t tell you what your experience should be, but I do hope that you find someone who loves *everything* that you are and makes you feel wonderful, because you deserve that.
The same goes for you, Nicole. Thank you for sharing this.
Thanks for sharing your story, I find the first person entries so eye opening. This reminds me of Ivan Coyotes piece on femme invisibility. The parallels between glass closets and not having passing privilege, or always having to have the conversation, outing oneself.
(Aside; I wish I could just buy an expansion pack for my brain with respectful LGBT/queer/alternative vocabulary)
Thanks for sharing your story. A real eye opener.
<3 <3 <3 brave stuff.
I never post comments on the internet, but wow, I really loved reading your article. Thank you for sharing this experience so eloquently.
I’m sorry that she made you feel so hurt and angry at yourself. That is really shit.
But you know, it really speaks more to what’s wrong with her rather than what is supposedly wrong with you.
I’m newly out as gay and dating furiously, and I have to admit I have complex feelings towards dating/having sex with trans people. Not because what genitalia they have, but because of some fucked up notion I have regarding what the genitalia of my potential partners says about me, about my newly forged identity. I know how ignorant that shit is, how much I’m buying into the gender game. So I’m calling myself out on it, I’m challenging myself to do better.
Anyway. Stuff her and her ignorance. You go out and find someone awesome.
I think it’s really great that you’re self aware enough to know that about yourself. It seems like not a lot of people see those distinctions.
Honestly, I still don’t really think she’s a bad person… she just doesn’t know enough about the topic to make a rational decision about this. The date was actually rather pleasant, and she was a very interesting person. Blah, dating is hard.
Your awesomeness is further underscored by your unwillingness to dump her on the “shit human” pile on account of her insensitive behaviour.
By the way, I totally agree about the “no response” response and/or the drop-off-the-face-of-the-earth being far more hurtful than actually having a convo about why something wont work etc. In my recent spate of internet/app dating I’ve only had two actual conversations about not hanging out romantically anymore, both of which were initiated by me. Which kinda underscores my feeling about this medium leading to people treating others as consumable commodities. Eh, people are afraid of difficult/frank discussion, I guess.
it’s sad, because difficult/frank discussions are what i thrive on…
i definitely agree with you that online dating can lead to treating others as consumable commodities. when you’re presented with a mass of profiles to look at, you have to narrow things down somehow, and you just don’t get to interact with people to do it. the more there is of a thing, the less valuable they seem… which just shouldn’t be true when it comes to people and relationships >.<
I actually am trans myself and have some complicated ideas about dating trans people who aren’t trans in basically the same way as I am (i.e. other trans men), so I get what you’re saying, even though the origins of our issues are different.
(I feel like I should clarify that just because I am trans and feel similarly doesn’t mean I don’t wish it were otherwise for both of us. I’m real paranoid about the whole “well my [marginalized identity/race/etc] friend said this, so it’s okay” thing, which I recognize is not the kind of reaction you’re looking for anyway. But I’ve had a lot of encounters with people who have never met another trans person – as far as they know – and I always feel this pressure to represent for the entirety of the community.)
But yeah, it’s nice to see someone who’s willing to admit that their rational side is a bit more progressive than their irrational side. I don’t know too many people who will talk about that kind of thing in specific terms rather than the abstract “no one is perfect” kind of statement.
I actually find people more trustworthy when they recognize the prejudices they have rather than /just/ trying not to fuck up or offend. I mean, I’m guessing it’s refreshing for you too, when straight people fess up to unresolved conflicts that they wish they didn’t have, right? But it’s rare.
(I feel like I sound really self-congratulatory in this comment, which is SO not my intention. I just – I think being comfortable with the fact of one’s own hypocrisy is really important, both for social justice reasons and just generally, for living a full life.)
I agree….it is a very rare human who doesn’t have a prejudice or misconception or bias of some kind. The problem for me is pretending that those predjudices etc. *aren’t * actual prejudices etc. And not asking what these patterns of belief/thought say about us. It’s always about us, heheh.
Yes! “Pretending that those predjudices etc. *aren’t * actual prejudices etc” – it’s so difficult not to try to explain away my own imperfections to myself, even though I have zero doubts that I’m not just imperfect, but that I’m not even perfectible! I try to remember something I read in an essay about men’s relationship to feminism (written by a man) that said something along the lines of “we are all born into systems of oppression, which inevitably shape us into who we are; and we all participate in oppression, including the oppressed” which he says is actually a good thing, because it means that all of us, including the oppressed, have some level of influence on oppression, that we can change it. But it’s also a good reminder that we’re not alone in being prejudiced, and that our culture’s oppressive systems are not *originally* our fault – basically, you’re accountable but not responsible, I guess? It’s a concept that has been really helpful for me, as someone who is constantly plagued with guilt about all manner of things, personal and political (anxiety ftw :( ).
I basically try to express this idea in every conversation I have about social justice or politics because it’s so useful and non-judgmental. And it’s a good “bridging the gap” idea, which appeals to me a lot. I feel like if you remove the guilt-blame dynamic from the discussion and focus on accountability and helpful actions, dialogue about prejudice and social justice becomes a lot more constructive/productive. (Not that people don’t have a right to be angry and/or un-constructive when they’ve been wronged.)
I am so sorry you had to deal with this shit person :( nobody deserves that.
Your reaction and pain and feels to this situation are completely legitimate and even though you may wish you had responded differently in hindsight, you handled it the way you felt you needed to in the moment. Be gentle with yourself.
There are many many MANY people out there who will (and do!) love you for who you are. Keep fighting the good fight. Sending massive hugs xo
It never ceases to amaze me (in a terrible way) how some queer-identified folks can discriminate against other members of our community.
This is beautifully written, and I’m sorry that you were treated that way.
People can be so horrible.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I think that sometimes just being is enough. Your romantic life shouldn’t have to be a teaching experience. That is hard enough without any of that. It makes my heart hurt.
However, if you’d like it to be…
I have a question I’ve been seriously, overwhelmingly thinking about for a while and it would be awesome if you, and or anyone else for that matter would answer. I was hoping it would pop up on A+ so that I could do so without the whole internet being privy to my awkwardness. Yeah y’all, shit gets real on A+, another reason to join! Well that and how much do you spend on coffee beverages in a month? I did the math. I cried a little. But here nor there, it’s here and so am I.
What is your ideal response when you tell a date?
This is something I worry about every single time I go out with someone new. This isn’t often, probably because I spend so much time overthinking potential date dialog. So it would be super helpful for my dating life if I could get some advice. I’m assuming that, “When this ends badly, that won’t be why.” Is not a proper response.
I realize that it’s not anyone’s job to educate me. I’ve tried to educate myself. But I can’t be the only person worrying about this. I don’t make any assumptions when I go out with a woman. I guess this is the opposite of what you experienced with this person. But I think there are a whole lot of us who might like to not at minimum fuck our first or second or third or whatever interaction with another woman up. So, could we get some advices? Plz?
I’m always willing to chat and answer questions about this ^_^
I can only answer this question from my perspective, but I do know, based on conversations with others, that they feel the same way.
My ideal response to outing myself, in any situation, is a simple “ok”, or something similar. In my opinion, one of the nicest things someone can do is to make me feel like it isn’t a big deal, that it doesn’t make me some oddity in the world. However, don’t give me an “ok” if you’re not ok with it.
That said, if you have questions or concerns I want you to bring them up, I want to talk about them, a lot of times aversion is based in not knowing. So, if it’s an “ok, but I’d like to talk more about it later (or now)” or something, that is totally fine. If you need time to process, just tell me that. The worst thing you can do is cut off communication without notice, as that makes me feel like I’m the harbinger of the apocalypse or something.
If you’re not ok with trans, tell me that (not in a hateful way). The more open you are about your feelings the better, but give me a chance to talk to you and understand why. I assume most people are rational beings, so they must have a reason I can understand for not wanting to be involved with a trans individual. Let’s talk about it.
Hey this was such a great article.
I don’t think you should minimize your hurt over this by comparing it to all the other things that trans* people have to face. (I always do that though – “hey I can’t be sad about this thing because think of all the worse stuff other people have to deal with”)
I agree about the minimizing… but I do it anyways. On some level, if the resulting feelings are the same, then the event(s) that caused them take a back seat.
It actually really frustrates me when gay or bi individuals tell me that they can never understand what coming out as trans is like, and that it must be so much harder than coming out as just gay or bi. NO! Coming out can suck regardless of what it’s over, and how difficult it is is largely dependent on the people around you.
I really enjoyed this piece. Well as much as one can enjoy reading about a horrible situation.Thanks Nicole.
Amazing piece. I really admire your being able to set this all out so clearly while the emotions are still raw.
I can completely relate to the sense afterwards that you missed an opportunity to be an advocate. In date settings, though, the expectation is so focused on being pleasant and not to rock any boats, to spend time looking for common ground, it’s entirely understandable that you weren’t able to pull away from that expectation and shift the situation around to a teaching moment.
It’s a pity you didn’t get another chance to adress this with your date, and I do wonder – could it be that she, too, thought back to her ‘transvestite’ comment, felt that she had made an enormous blunder, and was too embarrassed to get back in touch?
Thank you so much for writing this!
It’s a shame people aren’t more educated and things like this happen and I hope that your next experience on the dating scene is more positive.
You deserve to have great amazing dates with people who make you feel valued and wonderful for being exactly who you are!
While your ability to pass is a privilege, it is also a burden as you find yourself forced to answer these questions for yourself about when and how you out yourself to people who might become important to you.
Yeah, passing definitely creates a slightly different set of experiences >.<
I actually really dislike referring to the ability to pass as a "privilege", as it places more value in passing than it should have. Passing doesn't make someone better than someone else, it just makes them different. If someone places personal value in passing, that's one thing, but not everyone wants to pass or cares about it, so universally placing it on a pedestal is hurtful to many.
I understand the reluctance to refer to passing as a privileged position, but I think it is necessary.
I don’t think of myself as better than others because I am white, but I know that my experiences with police are greatly influenced by being an educated, tall, thin blonde woman. On top of that, I pass, so my fear of police is read as nervousness and every time I interact with police they act protective and end the interaction with “Do you need help getting home?” or “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
I wish we lived in a world where my friends who don’t pass could have similar interactions at banks, with bureaucrats or any other time a strangers initial perception of you can make your life easier, or much much harder. Heck, I wish I didn’t get panic attacks at the thought of entering environments where I might not pass (gay & lesbian communities, meat market bars, etc).
When I talk to teenagers I encourage them to avoid life decisions that force passing for long periods of time. I couldn’t have lived in the dorms if I hadn’t been stealth, but no one should have to live in fear in order to have access to education. I think activism needs to start focusing on eliminating situations where passing is a necessity.
However, I cannot conceive of a world where passing ceases to be a privilege any time soon. I know that the times I did biology field work in central america or taught in rural U.S. public schools was only possible because I passed. This frustrates me…I know part of the reason teenagers like Leelah Alcorn give up is because they see the possibility of passing slipping away.
I hope my rambling response is still coherent enough to make it clear that though I think passing is a privileged position, I wish it wasn’t.
I 100% agree with you, which is why I continue to call it as a privilege, I just hate that I have to.
That’s the thing with privilege, you don’t have to like it, but it helps if you recognize it for what it is.
“That’s the thing with privilege, you don’t have to like it, but it helps if you recognize it for what it is.”
Wow, you certainly said that more concisely than I did.
Living a life of contentment and pride is the best responses to such a myopic mentality. Well done Nicole!
* response *
Hi Nicole, your article was great. Thank you for writing, and expressing what so many of us feel and struggle with.
My advice is that before any romantic feelings are pursued, we should all get to be friends with a woman and have developed an emotionally trusting friendship…..then you should reveal that you are transgender….but make her know it is “a trusting” her with this news…and assure her that you just wanted her to know who you really are inside, not anything that has to “react” to …just wanted her to know. That way, she will not feel “misled” later in case any “feelings” develop.
Now she knows who you are as friends…..and you avoid the disclosure after she is romantically thinking of you as “cis”.
Just my thoughts. Early disclosure, where and when she can feel “safe”….before she has committed any “love” feelings for you, and feel misled….then you continue your friendship, and see if she can understand and become emotionally connected as girl to girl with you. Whether we love someone or not always depends on many factors….
I think we do need to do some kind and gentle “education” to help others know that we really are female, if we are going to be able to find that special woman who loves us.
Good luck, and I hope you write more for AS.
It would be nice if *we* could feel safe too, though, you know? Like, as trans people, disclosing, I feel like our emotions (and, too often, our actual bodies) are usually more at risk than those of a cis partner. I think fear of rejection is a big part of why I haven’t really been attracted to hardly anyone since I started hormones a year and a half ago. (I mean, I used to sleep around a fair amount, and I’ve always crushed on like half my friends – but not anymore.)
But also I get where you’re coming from. If they trust me and feel safe with me, they’re less likely to get mad or say hurtful things when I tell them, and if I’m into them, either as a friend or a potential romance, I want the conversation to go smoothly. On the other hand, I feel like I’d rather know upfront if it’s a problem for them, because it’s gonna be a lot more painful for someone you have an actual friendship with to cut you off than for someone you just met to do the same.
It gets exhausting, being so careful all the time. Thinking about how I’m going to come out to my extended family before the next big holiday thing I go to is stressful enough – I’d really like friends and dates to be a little more straightforward. Sigh.
Disclosure is important for us as well. I definitely want any potential romantic partner to know I’m trans before we date at all. I don’t like being hurt, so I’d like to know they’re 100% okay with it before feelings.
I would prefer that, I really would.
For whatever reason, I want to try and have an experience with people first. There are many who will avoid a trans individual simply because they’re trans. Since I don’t read as trans, I want to have some sort of face time with them before talking about it… as the aversion typically comes from misconceptions and ignorance. I know that it’s going to involve more hurt for me, but it’s something I feel like I can do.
I want them to see me as a person, not just trans.
I’ve done that in the past before (meeting someone before having the trans talk so they get to know me for me rather than making a judgment based only on my trans status), but I got tired of the “I’m sorry, no” or “I’m not into trans people” or scary followups the next day. When it comes to OkCupid dating, I tend to target folks who at least casually express an openness to dating trans folks by looking for their answer to the transgender dating question. Unfortunately, not everybody has answered it—publicly.
When it comes to in-person developments, however, I do fall back to agreeing to a date, but then telling them toward the end if it feels good. Sometimes that works out okay. :)
You are so beautiful. I would consider myself extremely lucky to have a date with you. That woman was obviously stupid.
And yes, it’s a pity that you didn’t get an opportunity to educate her or reduce transphobia, but hey, you’re reducing it right now, with this article.
SUCH a good good article! So honest and true and THANK YOU.
It makes me think of something that’s been on my mind for awhile. I’d love A-camp to do a workshop, or an article to be written about, something about queering our desire or at least calling our desires into question. I think more often than not people date kinda subconsciously, which can be fine, but I also think that for many people this equates to NOT dating a POC (if your white) or trans women or a differently abled person or a multitude of other things. Society has ingrained fatphobia, ableism, trans misogyny, and racism into our heads, and I think sometimes we really need to focus on calling that out in ourselves and questioning it. Also femme-phobia is a thing in the queer scene, as well as people feeling icky about butch/butch pairings and a whole plethora of other things. While having preferences are okay, I think it can be a fine line.
For example, La Wah made this honest and hard comment above:
“I’m newly out as gay and dating furiously, and I have to admit I have complex feelings towards dating/having sex with trans people. Not because what genitalia they have, but because of some fucked up notion I have regarding what the genitalia of my potential partners says about me, about my newly forged identity. I know how ignorant that shit is, how much I’m buying into the gender game. So I’m calling myself out on it, I’m challenging myself to do better”
I’m super impressed that La Wah is self aware enough to realize that.
I think that preferences are totally fine, as long as you can see the person past your preference. A person is more than just a few characteristics, and is more than each characteristic individually. How they interact within that person is amazing, and is why everyone is a unique snowflake.
I love the phrase “queering desire” because no matter your orientation or gender identity or expression we’ve all been conditioned by heteronormativity and patriarchy. For e.g all the non orgasmic or low libido straight women out there in partnerships who try therapy etc. How often do they get counselled to really discover their own desire or Eros? About ten percent are probably not straight and don’t even know it yet, so get classified as frigid. It makes me wonder how sexually liberated the average woman truly is…
I’m so sorry that girl was ignorant and acted like an asshole instead of being open to questioning her preconceptions. Hugs!
Reading this straight after reading b. binaohan’s Ruminatons post on AS made me immediately think of this point she made-
“How comforting is it, exactly, for trans girls to hear cis people talk about how they would love a theoretical trans child but never talk about how they might love or date a real live trans adult? ”
I read most of the Trans posts on AS and don’t comment because I don’t feel like it’s my place to take up space in the discussion, but in the context of the quote above, and feeling very moved by your story, I just wanted to state my support as a cis ally for you and all Trans women and say that I consider you worthy of love, I consider you desirable and I would continue date a woman who came out to me as Trans.
I know there are a lot of ignorant people in this world, but please don’t lose hope. There are many of us who do recognise you for the incredible women that you are.
I think it’s really helpful to have cis people in the conversation. It lets us know what you think and care about, but also what you want to know or don’t know about.
Thank you for caring ^_^
Lesbians dont date male bodied people. Everyone has the right to reject someone sexually without any reason.
By your statement, a lesbian dating a pre-op or non-op trans woman is no longer a lesbian? If so, what does that make her?
I’m not trying to attack your statement, but I do want to know what you mean.
My understanding is that lesbians date women, trans or cis. I feel that your definition undermines the identity of trans women as women.
Also, nobody ever has any obligation to anyone sexually, ever. That said, I find it nice to have communication when rejected.
No, lesbian means female same sex attraction. lesbians arent attracted to male bodies, penis. If so, she isnt a lesbian. Bisexual, pansexual I would say.
You speak your truth when you claim it is right to choose how you wish to choose, however, by the same right extended to others,
Others can choose how they wish to choose, and you have NO right to define if someone is male or female “enough”, if they are trans or cis male or female. Others have the right to affirm and assert their identity/gender and sexuality without you defining/undermining/compromising that for them.
Do as you will and HARM NONE. Your statement undermines the individual’s right to define and assert how they choose to define themselves. Go away and live your life how you choose if you disagree, but butt the fuck out if you assume you can define anyone by your own narrow and limiting ideals.
Fantastic. What a well-reasoned, enlightened, compassionate, non-bigoted, thoughtful respon– oh wait… It was none of those.
What the hell does it even mean to call somebody ‘male-bodied’?
Not to mention that trans (and cis, although obviously you weren’t referring to cis people in the implications of your comment…) people have all sorts of different bodies.
And, like b binaohan’s piece here (http://www.autostraddle.com/listening-to-the-living-and-the-dead-ruminations-on-justiceforleelahalcorn-271780/) says: trans people and allies aren’t requiring everybody to find them desirable, just situating the responses many people have to the notion of being with somebody who is trans in its political context. ‘As noted, the (nice) general response [to why a person might not want to be with a trans woman] is “I simply don’t find trans women attractive because of penises” or something similar. At worst, this leads to (and this is very common from lesbians and feminists, when this is articulated by trans lesbians) accusations that trans women want to require that everyone have sex with us, whether they want to or not (basically accussing us of being rapists for wanting people to not be disgusted by our bodies).’
Its not bigoted to not be attracted to male bodies, penis. Its what lesbian means.
Right. Except when it doesn’t for vast numbers of women or GNC-people who identify as lesbian. So, actually, no. You’re wrong.
Also having a penis does not make a body male. A person’s body is the gender/sex that they are.
What you’re saying is transphobic. Sort it out. It’s fine to have personal preferences – although you should acknowledge where they’re coming from – but it’s not fine to make grand assertions about gender, sex and sexuality identities and what they entail, whilst also implying that trans women insist everybody find them desirable in (what this sorta rhetoric often presents as) a coercive way.
Calling our non attraction to male biology trans phobic is guilting lesbians into dating you, having sex with you. We dont want that. Its rape culture, its rapey. Find trans women to love you and quit making lesbians to be bad women because we have an orientation that doesnt fit you.
That’s what being a lesbian means…to you. I personally think your definition is reductive and useless, and reduces a complex matrix of feelings, attractions, and personality traits that are vital to forming relationships to just SEX. I’m not about that life, sorry not sorry.
I’m not attracted to women because OMG VAGINAS (though…I mean…I’m obviously on board with vaginas). I’m attracted to women on social and emotional levels as well. I feel more comfortable in the company of women, I find (in general) women more interesting, I only feel chemistry with women, I feel like I click on all the wavelengths necessary to form a relationship with women. I’ve never felt any of those things with ANY male-identified person.
So yeah, vaginas are great, but if I meet a great woman who I think is super awesome and she doesn’t have a vagina, I’m not going to walk away and risk losing something great. And I resent the implication that makes me “less” of a lesbian somehow.
Obviously, like you said, nobody is ever obligated to have sex for any reason, and if you’re uncomfortable with it, I don’t think that makes you a bigot. What is bigoted is thinking you have the right to define other people’s identities, to reject the experiences of others, and to impose your opinions and worldview on everybody as fact.
No, its what lesbian means. lesbian call themselves lesbian because they are attracted to born females. Anything else isnt lesbian. Lesbians are only attracted to born female bodies, minds and souls. If you say this is bigoted, then by golly arent heterosexuals a bigoted lot. You dont get to redefine what lesbians means. We dont want male bodies, penises in our beds, in our love and sex life. Thats what lesbian means. Use another word.
You’re right, I don’t want a male body in my bed or in my heart. I want a person who identifies as female and who I connect to on every important level. Which is believe what I said.
But hey, you have fun defining lesbian in your own way, and I’ll keep living it out in my own way. And yeah…beautiful thing about personal autonomy is that I can keep calling myself a lesbian if I want to, and there’s not a single thing you can do about it. Except maybe rage some more into the void of the internet. And I’m sure I’ll run across more TERFs like you that don’t like it, or tell me I’m not a “real” lesbian, but I’ve found plenty of like-minded people to spend my time with, and I think I’ll be just fine ;)
Im not a radical feminist. Also, not wanting to sleep with male bodied people, penises isnt exclusion. Its a sexual orientation. You are not a lesbian if you are attracted to, love, have sex with male bodied, penised people. Thats the definition and majority of lesbians agree with me and dont sleep with trans women. That is fact. Its not our fault trans women exist. Its not our fault we arent attracted to male biology. Its what lesbian means.
You seem to be operating under some misconception that I think YOU or any lesbian who agrees with you should have to date trans women to be “inclusive.” I don’t believe I’ve ever said anything of the kind. I believe what I said was that I – as a LESBIAN – don’t really care what genitalia a woman has, as long as she’s a woman. That’s my sexual orientation. As a lesbian. L-E-S-B-I-A-N. Lesbian.
From what I am hearing it’s the old tired comments, I will date a trans man because they are afab, but a trans woman no because amab. Does this also mean you will date a trans man who has bottom surgery because they are afab?
But that’s a red herring, right? If you’re anything like other people who hold these views, you don’t consider a trans woman who has a vagina to be a woman either, or a non-trans woman who’s with her to be a lesbian. Oh, pardon me, you don’t call that a “vagina,” right? When you’re around your friends, you call it a “surgical fuckhole” or a “second asshole,” and claim that it has a distinct smell of rotten meat and hibiscus, right?
So it’s really a “do you now or have you ever had a penis” question for you, right?
Lesbians love biological women. Its not our fault you are transgender women. It also doesnt give you the right to change our reality and our love.
I would never call a post op vagina a fuck hole or another derogatory word. But Im not attracted to it, is my right.
I guess we have different ideas of what it means to be a lesbian, which is fine, everyone has the right to define their own identity. Just please don’t define mine.
No, penis, male bodies is not part of lesbian sexuality. It is in fact the opposite of what lesbian is.
Straight women arent attracted to women. That doesnt make lesbians less of women. Its not ok to say, because lesbians arent attracted to male bodies, penis, this means we dont see you as women. That is guilting us. Trans women should understand lesbians arent attracted to male bodies, penis. Not demand we consider that. Its lesbophobic.
From the article you obviously didn’t bother to fully read:
“When it comes to dating and transsexuals, I understand that it can be complicated and difficult. Pre-op or non-op trans women just don’t have the parts that some women want to interact with. I believe this to be a valid reason not to be romantically involved with someone, along with a few other reasons that are a physical impossibility for trans women (i.e. pregnancy).”
Exactly! This essay states right out that if you’re a lesbian who just can’t get down with a penis, that’s okay, there’s no judgment there. The piece is about treating other people with decency and respecting who they are. Not mandatory dating!
Do I…like…need to just keep copying this paragraph from the article for you? Do you perhaps need somebody to order you Hooked on Phonics? Because it worked for me.
“When it comes to dating and transsexuals, I understand that it can be complicated and difficult. Pre-op or non-op trans women just don’t have the parts that some women want to interact with. I believe this to be a valid reason not to be romantically involved with someone, along with a few other reasons that are a physical impossibility for trans women (i.e. pregnancy).”
I am a lesbian, and you’re right, I’m generally not attracted to male bodies. I am attracted to women. And some women have penises. The fact that they identify as women means that they do not have male bodies, the presence or absence of a penis is irrelevant in determining someone’s ‘womanhood.’ You don’t have to find them attractive, but you should show a little more respect, especially on this website. There are a lot of great essays and articles on here if you’d like to educate yourself.
Nicole wrote a great piece and it was probably hard for her to do that, and hard for her to publish it online. And I hope that comments like yours don’t deter other people from sharing their equally important stories.
Many lesbians online are pressured by trans women and allies to consider trans women as sex partners (or we are bigots_. This is rapey. Lesbians arent attracted to male bodies nor penises. Ive read accounts of (young)lesbians having been pressured into sex by trans women (which is rape) against her wishes, because they had to see ‘trans women as women’ and ‘not liking penis is bigoted’. So yes, I post when I see a trans woman complaining lesbians arent sexually interested in them and make an issue out of it. This is all rape culture. Guilting, hating, attacking, mocking, pressuring lesbians into something we dont want and never want, is rapey. So stop it.
Wen, the article does not read to me as pressuring anyone to have sex. And she straight up says she respects that a lesbians aren’t attracted to male parts.
I get that your saying that sexual attraction is biological (Secondary sexual characteristics….pheromones….penis). I very much agree that I was born this way. Though, i’m not certain what the transition process does to the biology of sex. Are you aware that it involves taking hormones maybe that changes pheromones? Considering that many lesbians seem to date transmen maybe you have a point that the transition doesn’t change sexual desirability. But you don’t know that. Maybe there are lesbians that find between a transgender lesbian and cisgender lesbian equally attractive.
It’s a interesting research question. But in everyday life does it matter? People can date whomever they want.
This comment has been removed as it is in violation of Autostraddle’s Comment Policy. Repeat or egregious offenders will be banned.
Wen I’m also glad we can have a conversation but your seeing hard facts where there aren’t any.
“Yes I’m aware of hormones and stuff. It doesn’t change the body for lesbians.”
Wen, we don’t know that. There are quite a few people clearly saying that their lesbians and capable of attraction to transwomen. Now, I’m sure your response is that they must by bisexual. But again we don’t know that. Biology and psychology aren’t that simple. “Hormones and stuff” literally change the body. It’s not clear how exactly that will play out in terms of sexual desirability. You know inter-sex people can and do have partners of both genders.
Lesbians shouldn’t have to say “im a lesbian, im not attracted to male bodies, penises’. No, there is a word for that already: lesbian.
I’m not sure I agree that Lesbians are being hurt by having to talk about these issues. I think a lesbian stating respectfully “I’m a lesbian and I’m only attracted to cis-gender” is perfectly ok.
You say that you and your friends feel pressured by transwomen. I can’t speak to that because I haven’t any experience in it.
Now I have the chorus to a Tribe 8 song in my head. Is anyone here old enough to remember Tribe 8? Lezbophobia? The context sure has shifted, and the discourse.
Who exactly made you the lord of lesbians who gets to define what a lesbian is? You have no more authority than any other lesbian and most lesbian here disagree with your opinion.
So not only are you declaring yourself the leader of lesbians but you are a dictator who doesn’t listen to the opinions of their people. What a terrible ruler you are.
Incase you hadnt notice, Autostraddle is a very trans inclusive place so you should probably leave before you embarrass yourself even more
No one ever said you have to date someone to whom you are not attracted. Quit making straw woman arguments, bigot.
The article directly states that no one is obligated to date a woman with a penis if they are not comfortable with that, so it’s obvious you are just ignoring what she actually wrote in order to justify your misguided verbal aggression against trans women.
This comment has been removed as it is in violation of Autostraddle’s Comment Policy. Repeat or egregious offenders will be banned.
Any couple identifying as being married who are same sex is by definition not a married couple. Only a man and a woman can define a marriage.
At least, that’s what some people say. Or is that not the case?
The funny thing is, same sex marriage shows that homosexuality means same SEX attraction and love, not same gender identity.
That’s why I call it same-gender marriage, actually…
The moral of this story is that arguing by definitions only works in math.
So a man calling himself hetero also has sex with males? No. Definitions matter otherwise we wont use them.
So you’re saying, that since I’m a lesbian, I am attracted to individuals with vulvas? But, you see, I’m not attracted to men with vulvas. I’m attracted to WOMEN. And women, to put it simply, are people who identify as women. Genitalia plays no role here.
Again, if you don’t wish to date a woman who has a penis, that’s FINE. I’m actually the same way. Doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us to be attracted to her. She IS a woman, and lesbians are allowed to be attracted to her. Cuz she’s a woman.
Nope. Lesbian means you’re a woman who has an exclusive attraction to women. Period.
You said lesbians can date trans men? But that doesn’t make them a lesbian, it makes them bi or pan. Cuz trans men aren’t women, they’re -omg- men!
Oh wait you went to University? Damn. Forget everything I said. You’re in the know.
Many men that identity as hetero also have sex and sexual attractions to men. TLC has new show on this very topic. That is why medicine uses the term MSM men that have sex with men.
I think most LGBTQ people agree that they were born this way. You can state that sexuality and gender identity are innate natural variations. While still acknowledge that personal identification is tricky.
No, not many men. A man that has sex with men and is attracted to (also) men is not a heterosexual man.
Wen I would expect that there are far more people with same-sex attraction and trans gender identity living as heterosexual cis-gender people than there are LGBTQ people.
I get that your saying that despite their identification there not heterosexual. But the whole point is that identification biology don’t always align.
It’s important to have these discussion so that more people feel able to embrace their true natures. I don’t think categorically rejecting a lesbian’s ability to feel attraction to a trans-woman encourages anyone to embrace their true natures. I think everyone here is telling the truth about there experiences.
Well, definitions are created by consensus, not by some abstract defining entity out in the ether. I mean, how would that even work? “In this study, trained linguists go out into the wild to discover the True Meaning of the word ‘rock.’ Does it mean the same thing as stone? And if so, does it always and only mean the same thing as stone? What relevance does the term ‘rock and roll’ have to this question?” Clearly that’s not how it works.
People used to complain, sometime in the early 1900s I think, that young women were trivializing and warping language and the truly felt expression of emotion by saying “I love [something that isn’t a person she cared dearly for]” – so the mundane declaration “I love cake” or “I love this dress” would’ve elicited disapproval from the language police back then. But now it’s fine, and the word love has taken on new uses since then. And these days, there’s a lot of disapproval for text/internet/chat speak, uptalk, and vocal fry – all language mannerisms adopted first (primarily) by young (and also white and upwardly mobile/middle class) women.
Even if “lesbian” were scientific jargon, meant to have a very precise and specific definition, there are a couple of challenges: 1. scientific jargon itself is always evolving, and 2. the words within the definition are flexible.
For one thing, the words “woman” and “female” are inadequately defined in biology and medicine. There are many biological features that collaborate to make up what we think of as “woman” or “female” and further social variables that signal a person as feminine, masculine, androgynous, or Not Applicable (like being really into sushi or Renaissance music). An incomplete list: genital shape, hormone levels, chromosomes, bone structure, breast tissue, fat distribution, metabolism, libido, ability to impregnate or become pregnant. All of these things have variations that aren’t immediately assignable to either one category or the other, and even when they “definitely are” female, they can combine with others that make any binary classification difficult.
Besides which, neurology is also inherently part of a person’s biology, and in almost every other area, our culture(s) have agreed, at least theoretically if not in practice, that your brain is the ultimate arbiter of your identity.
This is a situation where the boundaries between categories are blurred, and you can only make an “objective” judgment where it “definitely is,” not where it “definitely isn’t.” Like, no one will ever argue that a woman who was born with genitals in the shape that we typically see as making up a vagina and clitoris, who culturally signals as feminine, who calls herself and feels herself to be a woman, who was raised as a woman and was given a culturally female name (like “Rachel” or “Kyoko” or “Natalia”) – no one will argue that that person isn’t a woman, unless they’re being willfully obtuse or making some point about how all of us are just human really (an interesting argument, sure).
Over the years, the label/identity “lesbian” has been very useful! It says “no, heteronormative society, I am not the woman you want me to be” and “I am romantically and/or sexually attracted to women and you can’t change that.” But it does not say, nor has it ever said “I have never been attracted to men nor male bodies nor bodies that have parts typically considered male, and I never will be.” I bet you already know that “lesbian” is derived from “Lesbos” as in the island where Sappho, the Greek poet, lived. She wrote beautiful poetry, sometimes erotic. Sometimes it was erotic with regard to women, which is where the name for modern female homosexuals comes from. But – sometimes it was also erotic with regard to men. So no, there is absolutely no way, either subscribing to the idea of language as a fixed form with rigid definitions, or the idea of language as constantly evolving, that “lesbian” excludes women who are attracted to trans women.
And finally, LABELS ARE NEVER MORE IMPORTANT THAN PEOPLE.
Oliver my identity and use of the word lesbian is different from what your describing.
“Over the years, the label/identity “lesbian” has been very useful! It says “no, heteronormative society, I am not the woman you want me to be” and “I am romantically and/or sexually attracted to women and you can’t change that.”
To me romantic and sexual attraction are the same thing. Auto straddle has taught me that other people conceptualize them differently and I respect that. But to me they are the same. Romance is merely sexual attraction accompanied by a desire to date or court someone.
“But it does not say, nor has it ever said “I have never been attracted to men nor male bodies nor bodies that have parts typically considered male, and I never will be.”
But that is exactly what the word Lesbian means to me. I realized I was a lesbian by the absence of attraction to boys. The other girls were giggling about crushes and receiving their first kisses. And I realized I didn’t want to do the same. I reacted with terror and rage because I realized I was fundamentally different. I grieved because I would never be able to fulfill society’s expectations of finding a strong successful man to marry me.
I assumed other Lesbians had this same experience. To the born this way movement perfectly articulated by understanding. And in my psychology/biology classes gayness was taught and understood as a natural benign variation that science couldn’t quite explain yet. When people are being homophobic I normally say “you don’t understand the science”
Apparently, many lesbians don’t understand/think about sexuality in those terms. I reconcile this difference by just saying that identification doesn’t align with biology. But I empathize and understand that Wen didn’t understand. I think that if were talking in person. I’d be able to articulate it better.
I bet you already know that “lesbian” is derived from “Lesbos” as in the island where Sappho, the Greek poet, lived.
Frankly, I’ve always viewed Sappho as bisexual. I thought historically she was described as a Lesbian because of bi-erasure.
Wen obviously isn’t going to get it… please everyone stop.
Thanks for this article, it’s making me think that maybe I should put something about being trans-friendly on my OkCupid profile (that I always forget to use…).
As a cis person, the only time it’s important to me to know the trans status of someone I’m dating is if it comes up naturally in conversation. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they had to hide from me. I was heavily involved with a mixed-gender BDSM scene for a while and after seeing people’s diversity of bodies and sexualities I wouldn’t be shocked if I found someone wasn’t what I expected under their clothes. There are a lot of reasons for that to happen, for people both trans and cis, and if I’m attracted to someone that’s not going to change.
As far as I’m concerned, OK Cupid is a cesspool for most trans people. I don’t date women but, when dating men, you can take your experience here and magnify it several times (plus add in a big helping of fear about violence). I find myself incapable of dealing with what you’ve described in this piece of yours and now prominently advertise myself as trans at the top of my OKC profile—if I could format to be in flashing neon and put giant inflatable bunnies next to it I would.
The pathetic thing is, many guys never read the profile at all and just go by pictures so even then I still have to go through some of this nonsense. I have neither the energy or psychic strength to do this anymore, I just don’t. Just to say, as someone who’s long since had ‘bottom surgery’ it really doesn’t matter. If they’re creeped out by the very idea of you, don’t believe you’re “real” or still consider you male because c h r o m o s o m e s, it doesn’t matter what your parts look like or who you are.
Thank you for writing this article. It was really honest, and also brave, I think, because of how you explored your vulnerabilities here. Also, while I hate that you had this experience, it’s …reassuring? helpful? to read about someone dealing with it. I don’t really know how dating while trans works, because I’ve only been on one date since starting hormones, and the dating practices of my trans friends are either nonexistent or…I don’t know, one friend is poly and I’m not, and another – tl;dr – never mind.
But anyway. I’m grateful that you wrote this. I wish you better luck with dating in the future, and I think you were a better advocate in this situation than you’re giving yourself credit for. Plus, advocacy cannot always trump self-care. So go easy on yourself – it was a tough situation.
Thank you for sharing your story – it was beautifully written
This piece and its message were both gorgeous. Thank you. It’s so important to see how parts of discrimination that are less visible still have huge impacts–it may be as simple as a lost second date or chance to advocate for yourself, but these things are still significant and still hurt. Sometimes the little things hurt most, because it’s the little things that can make you go “I’m wrong” instead of “they’re wrong”. It would be naïve of me to say I wish you no discrimination in your future, because discrimination is the world we live in. But I hope you continue to work to change that, as you’ve said you’re passionate about it. And I hope you stay strong, and unapologetic. Being unapologetic about your identity can be the best “fuck you” to give.
(By the way, I think it’s so great that you started a trans youth support group. Way to go, Nicole!)
I’ve never been not-embarrassed enough to say this, but the conversation I read on this thread is so incredibly honest, and it just occurred to me that other people might be having the same thought process.
Here goes: I have the opposite problem than your terrible date partner. I’m entirely open to dating trans women – and indeed it would be deeply hypocritical if I wasn’t, since I’m on the trans spectrum – and have many times been attracted to trans girls my age (who were all taken or not people I knew personally).
But I would feel some reluctance to date a trans girl out of a neurotic fear that I would hurt her unintentionally through subconscious prejudice. Like, I am so terrified of what the deep recesses of my education could do to her that I feel like the best most responsible thing I could do is to spare her my contact.
I don’t think this is an unsurmountable thing or anything, but at this point I’m even scared to make friends lest I feel like a walking time bomb.
Are you able to articulate an example? I don’t want to press you about something in such an open forum like this, but I’m curious and like learning things ^_^
Well, it’s never a fear of an action or an utterance in particular, just that I know that I carry around a catalogue of false things I have been taught that will unexpectedly surface in my brain when confronted with a certain stimulus (things like ‘I am a bigger authority on little-girlhood than trans women’ or ‘this set of facial characteristics are boy characteristics’), and I feel like these subconscious beliefs would have to show at some point if we became close, causing hurt. Although I know rationally that most people have the same things ingrained and that it’s hard to get rid of them, I just feel like it wouldn’t be honest on my part to ask for bond formation, like ‘I like you but I also believe on some level all these things that hurt you, let’s be friends?’
I was worried when I first started dating the woman who is now my wife, who is trans*, that I would say the wrong thing, or be unintentionally harmful. But you know what, she was also raised in our society, and has some of the same “false things” that were ingrained in her, too. Open communication can go along way as can positive intent. She knows that I love her, oh so very much, and if I make a mistake I didn’t mean to be hurtful. And talking through things can help, especially at the beginning, was very helpful as she also has issues that she was working through.
Thanks, I really appreciate you sharing your experience. It makes me think of myself as a hazard a little less.
(*Argh, pressed send mid-message*)
Thanks a lot Nicole too for this discussion and for talking about this vulnerable experience. I think it might to do wonders (at least this is doing for me) to bridge the gap between trans women and girls and their potential partners, even when the gap is just caused by a fear of doing badly.
Thanks for sharing Nicole, a well written article and something not easy to talk about, something for me to look forward to as well. Yay.
Thank you and looking forward to seeing more from you.
Much love. xx
And people should fall in love for you as you… all of you every bit of you. Your heart, your soul, your eyes, your voice…
Just because she wasn’t capable of being respectful and pleasant over not feeling you were right for her, doesn’t in any way make who you are something to be ashamed of.
Hope you find someone soon who appreciates you for you.
You are beautiful.
You didn’t lose the opportunity to educate and potentially reduce transphobia – I learned so much from your piece. Thank you, and I hope your next first date pampers the hell out of you.
Your article was great. I'm really sorry that you had to deal with someone like that, but glad you could share. You'll meet someone and find the acceptance and love you deserve.
I'm ten months into HRT and have reservations about dating. Right now, I feel weird about my body (but also more happy living in it than ever before!) and I don't know how I would feel trying to be intimate with someone at this point. In a kind of fortunate turn of events, my hormone levels have nearly eliminated my libido, so that drive isn't present, and I think I'm glad. At least until I get to a place where I'm fully comfortable in my skin and don't have to switch from "guy mode" to "lady mode" on a regular basis. I miss being in a relationship, absolutely, but I've got to figure myself out before I start dating.
Stay strong, you'll learn from this and be better equipped to handle this type of event in the future.
It’s not all bad, I’ve met some wonderful people on random dates, and made some great friends as well. Being good with yourself goes a long way ^_^
Oh, I didn’t mean to be so dour about dating! I have a friend who encourages me to get out there (but also understands not necessarily desiring to.) She emphasizes that same point, even if it doesn’t end up in a relationship, it can result in a new friend.
Oh yes, being good with yourself is huge. This past year I’ve made so many friends and done so many things that I would never have done before! Living my truth has been the best choice I’ve ever made.
As a trans person on okcupid, I have mixed feelings about this. I regularly go on okcupids and where there’s no spark, we just never message eachother again. Online dating I kind of feel is very much an efficiency thing, like you bypass all the time wasting of finding people in real life and figuring out if you like them or your views match up.
I have my gender identity on my profile, because I don’t want to waste my time with someone who wouldn’t be ok with my gender identity and I don’t want to waste their time either. They are entirely entitled to not want to date a transperson, and from the outset we’re both coming to things from the perspective of finding compatible people in real life is slow and boring. I would personally be uncomfortable with leaving something that important out of a conversation, but still having that person take time out of their day to come have coffee with me.
I dunno, thats just my thoughts
Matt, are you a trans guy? Because I see your point (I also feel better with someone I’m into knowing ahead of time, so I don’t have to waste time on people I’d never have a future with anyway), and my profile on okc also mentions up top that I’m trans, but I feel like it’s a different kettle of fish for a trans woman than for trans guys (like me, and maybe you too). Like, creepy fetishistic dudes and boatloads of transmisogyny in that kettle. (Why on earth would you put fish in a kettle anyway, kettles are for tea.)
I feel safer from harassment on okc as a trans guy, even with that information out in the open, than I did when I still publicly identified as female or genderqueer. Seems like having a beard has gotten people to be more respectful. (Also turning off the option of seeing or being seen by straight people – thanks, okc!)
No one goes out of their way to inform me that I’m not real online, and no one has ever messaged anything hurtful to me about being trans. From what I’ve heard, that’s not so for trans women.
(In real life, I’m pretty sure most straight people don’t even realize FTMs exist, because the phrases “transsexual man” and “transsexual woman” call up the exact same idea for them. This can be exhausting for me sometimes, as I have to explain that no, I don’t mean that I like dressing up in women’s clothes, I mean that I take testosterone injections every week, etc. – but it’s not as scary as fearing actual violence if someone finds out. Not that violence is off the table for trans men, but it’s not nearly as likely as it is for our sisters. Mostly I worry about disgust/rejection/confusion/rude questions, and even then not much, because I get read as male most of the time, and even when I don’t, me being trans is not the first, or second, or third thought that occurs to the person I’m correcting. They literally have no clue about it, the overwhelming majority of the time.)
Thank you for sharing your experience. Your piece was beautiful. My partner is trans and I’ve often heard how difficult dating has been.
Excellent article Nicole. I’ve found dating interesting. I’ve met lots of intelligent people with common ground, but no *sparks* so far.
I think all of us seek happiness and love of who we truly are. And who is the person we truly are?
It is the emotional self inside our body that is the real “you”. The one who “feels” and ” loves”. Your body does not determine what you feel, whether you are cis or trans. Your feelings ….your emotions…..determine who you are.
And we all seek to find …..and need to find …..love for that “true self” …. to be happy and feel loved as that person. We need that validation, though we can survive without it.
Here at AS, we transfemales have found many who acknowledge intellectually and compassionately that we are female……and “bravo” to all of you!!! :)
But just like I believe might have been for most cis lesbians, the time when you had your first lesbian love, that moment of realizing the lesbian feelings in your “self”, so it is withus translesbians. Like you, we can “know”” we are lesbians, and “know”we are transgender, but like you we need to “feel” that love with a woman to sense the complete truth of being whole.
I hope my thought is understandable!
I am not amazed by her reaction,but am fully understanding your feelings on this.
The issue is that we have always been viewed as a fetish issue, let’s get real on this, we would be o.k. if we were autistic, so as we genuinely have a medical issue and not a fetish as the general public choose to think the issue should be taught in schools as it is .
Keep your head up and do not Ever feel ashamed, you are beautiful !!!!!
This woman that was so rude to you, was truly and obviously ignorant, and thusly so this created her fear of the unknown.
I have some really close friends who are trans, both male and female, and their stories are so sad sometimes, because the struggles that a trans person faces are the hardest out of the LGBT community. They face more ignorance and cruelty than anyone else in our community, and large it is due to a lack of public education, and a stereotyping media.
I consider myself largely pan, though I prefer to date women and trans people, rather than cis gendered males. I feel safer with a woman, or a trans person of either gender. I know that dating for trans people can be so very difficult. One of my best friends has struggled with it ever since he made his transition, and some days his depression and loneliness is so bad that it scares me.
Know this, ignorance and fear are one and the same, and they have absolutely nothing to do with your beautiful person. It may hurt, and I know it will not be the last time someone says something hurtful or ignorant. But they live inside their own universe, filled with misconceptions they’ve been taught. The only thing you can ever do, is educate them to the best of your ability, with love and understanding. You’re amazing, and no one can devalue your person.