Dating as a trans person can require paying more attention to online profiles, disclosure and safety when compared to dating as a cisgender person.
Dating While Trans: A Guide to Apps, Safety and Fun
That said, it’s still dating, and trans people are human, so they also face the same obstacles any other person would when entering the dating world.
I interviewed two trans men, Jake and Lucio, on their experiences dating. Jake is currently partnered with his high school sweetheart and hasn’t used dating apps before, but is familiar with online dating via social media. Lucio is currently single and focusing on himself while living in Spain.
Here's what Jake and Lucio had to say about dating, on and off the apps, in 2023:
Friends to Lovers
“I think a lot of trans people are more wary of getting on dating apps because there aren’t really dating apps specifically made for trans people," Jake said. "There are LGBTQ dating apps, but it's still a hit or miss; you never know what’s going to happen. There also isn't a clearance check -- there could be anyone on there.”
Without much experience dating online, Jake touched on how much of his relationship history has stemmed from friendship circles:
"For me it was like, I was out, and I didn’t have a problem being out, but I’m also born and raised in Texas, so it’s not like I have the freedom to go out and just be like, 'Hey I want a partner,' so I think it was the comfort of already knowing that person from the friend group."
Jake continued, "During the first relationship I was in -- I was 13; I actually came out when I was 13 also, so there was a lot going on -- I met my first partner through Instagram on a trans community page. We were both admins on the page -- just young kids, doing whatever. They were another FTM as well…I’ve never used dating apps other than that [online] experience."
Why not? Jake clarified:
"Honestly, I know more people in person now that I’ve been out for seven years, and am more comfortable.”
READ: 7 Best Sex Toys for FTM Transgender People with Bottom Growth.
Setting Your Own Standards
My interviewees and I discussed the differences between dating men and women, and Lucio pointed out the variance in beauty standards and how that affects him as a trans man. He said it has presented real challenges because he is treated differently in dating spaces when he is being perceived as a man versus as a woman.
“When it comes to a woman I am interested in, I feel like any other guy -- like the most awkward, like I don’t know how to talk to women," Lucio said. "I tend to be very flamboyant and feminine, and then many times women think I am a gay dude and so there is also that heteronormative standard on dating -- like, 'What I am supposed to perform as, as a man, in hetero dating spaces?'"
"I’ve noticed that hetero dating spaces are way different than queer dating spaces," Lucio went on. "To be honest, the straights are not OK. The way straight men talk about women in a dating sense, and the way straight women talk about men in a dating sense, is very weird and foreign to me. It’s because of the normativity: There is all this media and input on what a girl is supposed to do when she likes a guy, and what a guy is supposed to do when he likes a girl, and then there is a lack of communication between the two. That has been really eye-opening to navigate.”
READ: The Shy Person’s Guide to Talking About Sex.
Jake shared that his current partner is the only person with whom he has felt truly affirmed, even though he has shared things in common with other people before.
“I’ve always been a very active person, but I was born without a thyroid, so losing weight and getting in shape is hard, so I’ve always been very insecure about my body," Jake said.
"Then, of course, being trans and having a Puerto Rican dad and a Mexican mom, my thighs and my ass are outrageous, so I’ve always been super insecure about fitting in. [My partner is] the only person who has actually only ever seen me as a masculine man even though I have the curves and those other features. I’ve been off of my hormones now for a year and my periods have come back, and she’s been so supportive. I feel comfortable sharing things about my body with her…She makes me feel like a man, and she makes me feel very loved and accepted.”
Lucio also shared his experience of dating as a trans man while being on the autism spectrum.
“I find myself hyper-focused on if I said something that made [the person I'm talking to] feel uncomfortable, or if I am coming off as creepy, which is also hard to navigate," Lucio said. "In some situations, I will let women know that I am trans for the purpose of making sure that they feel safe. I feel very conflicted about that because being open about your trans identity is sometimes not the safest thing to do.”
Lucio continued, “I have found that resources for cisgender men have actually been very helpful. Helpful as in, 'How I am supposed to act in these heteronormative situations when talking to women?' It’s also [been] even more eye-opening to notice all the social gender norm pressures that are on cisgender people.”
Lucio said he feels most affirmed when his partners treat him like a dude -- whether that be teasing him or letting him fulfill gender norms like carrying the groceries inside.
“I do feel a bit attached, though, from the weird attitudes that men have toward masculinity," said Lucio. "I’ve always been a masculine person, but I also embrace my femininity, and I’m fine with that. As long as I’m not being misgendered and my boundaries are being respected, then I feel affirmed.”
Jake said, “We’re all people. Everybody just wants to be accepted and loved for who they are regardless of their situation, so why wouldn’t trans people deserve that too?”
Jake advises to go out on a date, but don't be desperate. He said:
“I know that there are a lot of people my age who are young and looking for the right person, and they jump in, head over heels, and then they're two or three years in and they realize, 'This person isn’t who I thought they were,' or, 'This person’s family isn’t who I thought they were.' You can trust people, but don’t let your guard down.”
Lucio advises making it very clear on your dating profile that you are trans. He said:
“I understand in some situations that might not feel safe…I always make it very clear that I am a trans man on my dating profile. One, out of safety, and two, to get that out of the way because I don’t want to date some cishet Trump-y girl…Don’t waste your time with someone that might not be OK with the fact that you’re trans. If anything, for some people, that makes you more interesting.”
“The pansexual girls love it!” Lucio laughed.
Jake left me with some final advice about dating while trans:
“You’re bound to get hurt sometimes, and it's OK. Everybody gets hurt, regardless of what they have going on, so just take it as a human and move on. Yes, things are harder for us, and yes, we’re going through a lot, but we’re still people. We’re not less than anyone else, and we’re not above anyone just because we’re different. Everybody is still learning, and just because somebody messes up doesn’t mean they don’t care or they’re not trying.”
READ: POV: Trans Sex Workers.
Lauren (Lo) Cuevas (they/she) is a Filipino social science writer, researcher, educator and artist with four years of experience writing on gender and sexuality topics. You can listen to their podcast on Sikolohiyang Pilipino or check out their photography and documentary films via their portfolio website.