To mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, Euronews Culture has been talking to trans people about the difficulties they face in the world of dating.
The 17th of May is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. First conceived of in 2004, the day was first celebrated as the International Day Against Homophobia the following year. Since then, multiple LGBTQ+ initiatives and charities have worked together to grow its support and be inclusive to the trans community.
For many trans people, transphobia is a fact of everyday life. Transphobic talking points are regular features of the media cycle, while right-wing lawmakers across the world work to legislate against trans rights.
Even in people’s private lives, lack of understanding of trans people’s experiences causes regular friction. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the dating scene.
“The Trans community doesn’t seem to be a part of the LGBTQ community, even though the T is there,” Bee Astronaut, a 30-year-old transman says. “Transmen often get overlooked because the community isn’t able to tell if you are cis male or trans male. I would definitely say it’s been a bit more difficult to find Women that are genuinely interested in you.”
Bee doesn’t believe his experiences dating as a transman have been too badly affected by his gender, however he has found a general ignorance about trans issues. “Cis women do expect you to act like a cis man, and I can understand that. I’m often told the only difference between myself and a cis man is that I have the heart of a woman; I’m very caring and friendly. In my opinion, gender roles have nothing to do with that.”
While Bee is into women, he doesn’t exclusively date straight women. “I avoid the women that have “only into femmes” in their bio,” he laughs. But that doesn’t mean he would rule out a connection with a lesbian woman. “If a woman is into masculine presenting Women, she won’t have an issue when it comes to dating transmen. It all depends though. Many lesbian women begin to question themselves if/when they find a Transman attractive.”
When dating, Bee is more than happy to explain himself, provided people are polite and not overly intrusive from the off. Regarding questions about private parts, Bee finds many people jump to that kind of demanding personal information too early. “My motto is, if I’m not sexually active with you, you shouldn’t need to know that answer.”
Connor Vanauken, a 23-year-old transwoman has found dating to sometimes be less than comfortable. “Usually as trans women, we’re treated as sexual objects and partners want to keep things discreet and keep you separate from their life,” she explains.
Although she’s not looking for anything too serious on the dating front, Connor still has no time to be reduced to someone’s fantasy. “I think people should heavily consider if they’re going to be able to fully acclimate their partner into their family and friend circle. If you have any insecurities regarding what they might think then dating a trans person isn’t for you, we’re not something to be embarrassed of.”
As a Transwoman looking to date men, dating cis men comes with an added risk of physical violence. “When I was 17, I was held at gun-point for being transgender and ever since then I’ve never made the first move on a man,” Connor says.
“I just think that as long as I don’t try to hit on a guy that ends up hating trans women, I won’t be putting myself in danger any more than I already am just existing,” she adds.
Nonetheless, Connor wouldn’t prefer to date under any pretence. “I have a lot of confidence in dating, I’m not ashamed of who I am at all and it’s probably due to me starting my transition when I was in 4th grade,” she says. Bee shares a similar feeling. “My identity has had a positive effect on my dating life because it allows me to be exactly who I am…there is no hiding or covering up how I feel. I can say that I definitely have more confidence since beginning my transition six years ago. Through all the weird dating situations and losing friends and family, transitioning has been the best decision to date. I’m thankful for being able to put myself first.”
The LGBTQ+ focused dating app Taimi recently ran some surveys of its user base to find the parts of online dating trans people find the most frustrating. 51 per cent of respondents found the most annoying part of dating was people looking at them as “a sex experiment or a fetish”, while 33 per cent took issue “with people who ask insensitive personal questions about transitioning before even building a genuine connection.”
Taimi employs a customer support team to ensure users encounter as little homophobia and transphobia as possible. As the company Relationship Expert Angelika Koch summarises though, “Remember that being trans is a beautiful part of who you are. If someone treats you with disrespect, block them.”