Why don’t people read profiles? I’ve made it clear in my profile that I’m trans. But I’ve learned the hard way that men basically look at my photos and message me without reading details. When we meet they act surprised when I say I’m a transgender woman. Some men don’t even understand what trans means. I’ve been asked if trans means I’m a drag queen or a cross-dresser. I’ve been asked if I have a penis. (I don’t.) Then there are the men who want to have sex, just to “try it,” but don’t want a relationship. And the ones who think their attraction to me means that they’re gay or are scared other people will think they’re gay. It’s disheartening to finally be myself and still have to navigate so much ignorance. I guess I don’t really have a question. I love your column and just needed to vent.
You may not have a question, but I have answers. To exist as the woman you are—that could be simple. But to be the trans community’s ambassador is a major responsibility. You might choose to wear that mantle, someday. For now, let’s focus on why dating is frustrating: You’re in a continual battle against bias. It’s exhausting to be hyperaware as you navigate every date. But there is a very real possibility that once a man discovers you are trans, he might respond in anger or shame. Most terrifyingly, he could use those emotions as fuel for violence against you. Having become more fully yourself, you now carry a passport for the uncharted wilderness of love and sex, where attraction, expectations and belief systems don’t always align. But did they ever?
I’d argue that, throughout history, fear of rejection, expulsion and violence has inspired people to hide their desires and experiences of love and sex. But I haven’t yet heard of anything in the realm of love or sex that I didn’t know about growing up in the ’70s and ’80s in the San Francisco Bay Area. And that includes your dilemma. Your challenge is to stop believing that someone’s ignorance about you as a trans woman is a reflection of you as a woman.
In other words, when a man asks a stupid question, please accept that it’s because he lacks education. Questions are not a sign that you’re not passing or that you are passing. It’s about him. He’s curious and confused. He may suddenly feel insecure in his masculinity or sexuality. He may feel embarrassed discovering how little he knows about himself. He may wonder why he never took a human sexuality course. He may ponder whether he’s truly hetero or if labels are even useful. Got it? Don’t allow your fear to become the engine that turns a man’s problem into a deficiency in you. That’s lying to yourself and I invite you to stop.
Here’s the truth: The man on a date with you is having a reaction to something in himself. Disengage from his reaction. Tend to your own thoughts and emotions. Shake off thoughts that nourish your insecurities. By doing so you will more fully inhabit your beautiful soul. And isn’t that what you’ve wanted all along?