dating

'I've been used as an experiment.' What it's like to date as a trans woman.

We have all heard it before, the perils women face dating over 30, in an age where finding love through a screen is the norm. 

Add into the mix that you’re a trans woman and what seems to be an abundant dating pool, quickly turns into a mere puddle. 

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Ever since my transition just over a decade ago, I’ve always thrown caution to the wind when it came to dating. 

I wish I could say I have mastered the art form but I’m still learning, with a little less anxiety and pressure about it all. 

As I am attracted to men, I will be sharing my experience of dating them from a trans woman’s perspective – the good, bad and ugly. 

Let's face it, most men are averse to dating a trans woman and that is okay, people are allowed to have dating preferences, just like I have my own.

In my early 20s, all I ever wanted was to find a boyfriend, a desperate need to validate myself as a woman through a man – go figure.  

In my nomadic search for wholeness outside myself, I came to be acquainted with men who fetishised my body and would use me as some experiment. 

The eroticisation of my body seemed common practice for men who only desired me behind closed doors. 

This is perfectly illustrated in Euphoria, when Jules has her first encounter with Nate’s dad, Cal Jacobs, who lives a double life.  

Most trans women have met many Cals in their life before they begin to know their worth.  

Retrospectively, it still bothers me a little that I allowed myself to be treated like this but this is the plight of most straight trans woman early on in our transition. 

We green light this kind of behaviour from men because we are starved of love by the world.  

Our emotional bankruptcy leads us to people who exploit us where we ‘accept the love we think we deserve’. 

In the defence of some of these men, they face shame from society for loving us openly. Their sexuality is called into question because we aren’t seen as real women, which is viewed as an attack on their masculinity. 

They face ridicule from family, friends and work colleagues just for loving us but it is nothing compared to what we have to go through. 

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Since being single for the last two years, I have had much better dating experiences than the ones I have had in my 20s. 

There is something beautiful about being in your 30s, a sense of conviction in knowing who you are, which is reflected in the dating experience. 

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When I tell a man I am trans, I am met with curiosity. 

Curiosity is a great predisposition for learning, and most guys actually want to learn. 

I have forged lifelong friendships with men I have dated. I have dated men who didn’t care I was trans but our relationship didn’t work for other reasons. 

I have politely rejected potential partners because their values didn’t align with mine. 

What people need to understand is that just because someone accepts me for who I am, I am not automatically prescribed to date them, trans people deserve the luxury of options.

With time, dating for me has gotten slightly easier because of the way society sees trans people is slowly shifting but more importantly it’s because of how I have shifted the view of myself.

Despite this overall confidence with dating, as a trans woman I am still met with barriers in the dating game. 

I often have to prioritise my safety, particularly when dating men. 

If we are perceived as a cisgender woman to our date then I do believe disclosing your identity as soon as it is safe to do so is best practice. 

Disclosure may look like telling your date via a dating app or in a public place during the day. Your date has the right to know but we also get to discern who is worth telling. 

If you are ghosted (it happens) because of your identity, don’t take it personally and move on – it is out of your control.

The path to love is a risky business but the first stop has to be unequivocal self-love and it often takes a bad relationship to realise this.

As trans women, we must have the highest standards when it comes to dating because our stories are so delicate. Not everyone deserves an invitation to the most intimate parts of ourselves. 

I am optimistic about love and a lot less apprehensive about when it finds its way to me. 

I know that as long as I am living in my truth, then I am going to attract the right people into my life. 

A man loving a trans woman openly shouldn’t be the ceiling, but the bare minimum. Until then, I am forging a life for myself that I can be proud of when it’s all said and done. 

Feature Image: Getty.