Dating is full of assumptions, right? We click. We look. We try to come up with a witty question response. We click. We match. We hope this time it feels great. We try again. All whilst making a lot of assumptions, crossing our fingers we find someone who makes whatever part of our brain act all loved up switch on.

Does this person’s pose look like he will want to move to the country with me in four years?
Does this guy's shirt colour say that he may vote for the local governor I don’t really vibe with?
Do we think this person smiles like someone who may want to dance all night with me on a Thursday?

We all make assumptions. We can try to limit them and catch them before they turn into slippery criticisms—but we still will make them. Some maybe are rooted in experience (yes, I've found a particular clothing brand really does mean this guy probably won’t vote the same as you in the election). But other times, those assumptions are rooted in fear and speculation. Sometimes, you don’t catch them in time and they suddenly spill all over the table at a sticky bar you have taken your trans date to because it is near the gym you may or may not work out in after.

Let me set the scene.

We are at the sticky bar.
He is wearing his gym kit. (insert red flag emoji)
I try and talk about music, new shows, the big, major meme going viral right now.
Every time he answers a question, he brings it back to my transness.
Not in an overtly awful way. He made it clear (ten times) that he supports trans people.
But all I did was ask about his favourite show?
I try to steer the conversation to something that doesn’t sound like a gender studies university essay, but he wants to talk about it all.
I pluck up the courage to say, “Hey, can we talk about something that isn’t gender?”
He looks horrified with probably a hint of shame. And genuine sadness as I feel he thought he was doing a job.
He replies, “I’m sorry, I just thought you may want to talk about it cus, you know….”

Comfort is a weird one. I don’t think dating will always feel comfortable. Eating in front of a date for the first time at an Italian restaurant will never feel good to me. Trying to fumble through conversations until you find the spark. Deciding whether or not to lean in for the kiss. It’s not always a comfortable experience.

I can only speak for myself, but as a trans person I'm not expecting dating to be full of comfort all the time. When it comes to my transness, and dating, I would say the biggest takeaway is not to assume what we may need or want.

There is no blanket rule. Trans people are a pretty diverse group. If you do not have the experience of dating us, try not to create an idea based off of those assumptions. Ultimately, our deserving of love and care is too often left out of the conversation about our lives. Think about you, as your own person, who also deserves love and care—and think about what you would like on a date, and how you may feel. I find, when we are lost, starting with ourselves and empathy is a good place to begin. Ask, don’t assume. And uh, maybe don’t wear a gym kit on the first date!

Try not to ask a Google-able question to your date.

In my life, the thing that I have the most cognitive dissonance about being transgender and dating is if I have the agency to decide whether or not I have to forfeit the idea of normalcy. Am I going to be able to date in my lifetime and feel a sense of normalcy?

Or is it always going to be this constant being an encyclopedia where you have to explain everything. I’ve gone on dates with people who are more with it, who aren’t trans, who I don’t have to explain stuff to — but that doesn’t just come out of thin air. That comes from them having dated trans people before, having a trans partner in the past, or reading.

Trying to not “other” the person so much by being like “Can you really get your surgery undone?” Maybe don’t open with that question.

I love that you’re already thinking about this! First, check in with your own comfort level. Are you relaxed, or are you thinking way too much about your date’s trans identity and wanting not to offend them? As humans, we often coregulate in relationships. This means that the nervous system of one person influences the nervous system of another person. In the context of a date, when you feel uncomfortable, your date is certainly going to feel that, too. I’ve lost count of how many times someone has said something awkward or uncomfortable about my being trans, and the entire room could feel the ickiness of the moment. My discomfort would have totally been avoided in those moments if the other person had started our conversation relaxed in their own relationship to transness.

Second, ensure that their trans identity is integrated into the whole picture of how you see them. This will help you avoid being on a date and only talking to them about their trans identity in some hyperfixated, uncomfortable way. When you approach them, don’t think of them as trans first. Who are they at the intersection of all their other identities? Build a whole profile of them in your mind. Their Hinge profile could totally help you with that. Once you have a clearer understanding of them as a whole person, you’re more likely to focus on them as a human being rather than this one aspect of their identity. I’m not saying ignore their transness, but let them take the lead on sharing their identity.

If you want to acknowledge that you see them and enjoy them for who they are as a trans person, you can always ask them what compliments feel affirming of their gender and immediately use one of those compliments. It’ll show them that you’re affirming and that you like them. The biggest takeaway is to

be relaxed, let them take the lead on sharing their identity, and remain focused on them as a human being.

Trans people have lived so much life beyond our gender transitions, and there is way more to us than meets the eye.

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