So you’re cis – i.e., not trans – and you have an upcoming first date with a trans woman. Or maybe you’ve been going out with someone for a few weeks and she just came out to you as trans. Or you keep seeing hotties with they/them pronouns in their bios and you want to know what you need to know before you slide into their DMs. Here, for fellow cis women, is an extremely general introduction to how to date trans people.
Remember: I’m a cis woman and not an expert on transness. As cis people, it’s our job to educate ourselves and also listen when trans people share their lived experiences with us. The expert on how to date an individual trans person is the individual trans person you want to date. That said, here, for fellow cis women, is what to know when you’re starting to date trans people.
What’s The First Thing I Need to Know About Dating a Trans Person?
Seems obvious, but the first step to being a cis person who dates trans people is to not be an asshole. How do you not be an asshole? Here are some suggestions:
Share your pronouns when you introduce yourself, and then ask for theirs. If you mess up down the line, it happens. Apologize, correct yourself, and don’t do it again.
Treat your date like your date. How would you act on a date with a cis person? That’s how you should act on a date with a trans person. Be flirty, be respectful, be interested. Don’t ask about their gender or sexual identity or medical history, just like you wouldn’t ask a cis person.
Remember that trans women are women and trans men are men. If you’re a cis woman on a date with a trans woman, you are two women on a date.
Learn on your own. For instance, if you’re going on a date with a trans person and you don’t know why saying “transgendered” instead of “transgender” is offensive, you should educate yourself so your date doesn’t have to.
What If I’m Not Sure If My Date Is Trans?
Trans people, especially trans women, face a disproportionately high rate of violence. Some trans people are very public with their transness, whether by choice or by necessity, while others aren’t. If you’re not sure whether your date is trans, and your date hasn’t told you, then you can assume she’ll tell you in her own time if and when you reach that level of trust.
Okay, My Date Just Told Me She’s Trans and Now I’m in the Bathroom Reading This to Make Sure I Say the Right Thing
Take a deep breath. Your date trusted you with something personal, and like any other moment of trust in any relationship, there’s no one thing you can say that will be “the right thing.” Respond with gratitude and openness. You can ask if there’s anything specific she wants you to know about that right now, or you can let the conversation flow. Do not ask about her genitalia unless she brings it up first. (See: don’t be an asshole.) Just keep getting to know each other.
That Went Really Well, But I’m Just Not Feeling It
There are lots of reasons to keep getting to know someone and lots of reasons to decide to go your separate ways. Check-in with yourself: are you not interested in continuing to get to know your date because she’s trans? If the answer is yes, you have some work to do on internalized transphobia. If the answer is that it is genuinely not a good match, then go your separate ways.
That Went Really Well, And Now We’re Talking About Hooking Up
Congratulations! This part’s the easy part. Why? Because you already know that you should never make assumptions about what anyone likes in bed. Like you would for any sex date, talk about your safer sexual practices in advance. You can share a few things you’d like to do, and ask what she’d like to do. Listen and figure out where you overlap. There are lots of ways to have lesbian sex with a trans woman. If you want to learn more, Mira Bellwether’s Fucking Trans Women zine is required reading for anyone having sex with trans women.
That Went Really Well, And Now We’re Dating
As you become bigger parts of each other’s lives, you might come across instances where you notice that you have different privileges than your trans partner. This can come up in small ways, like needing to find a gender-neutral bathroom instead of a gendered one. Or it can come up in bigger ways, like needing to leave somewhere that feels unsafe. In those moments, defer to them and their experiences.
Building a long-term relationship is full of joy and challenges, regardless of gender. Being respectful, asking questions instead of making assumptions, and practicing vulnerability and openness is important no matter what.