What are some nuances when flirting with someone who’s trans?

I think when talking to someone who is trans, especially if you’re trying to engage with them romantically, language is so important. Like, literally cannot emphasize that enough.

Very frankly, I know often we (trans people, and more specifically trans women) are taken out of our bodies by the language that people use to engage with us. And by that I mean limited or uniformed language that can easily trigger body dysmorphia or gender dysphoria in trans people.

I’m thinking about every time I’ve been out and a man has stopped me in the middle of a club and asked me if I play any sports or if I’m in the WNBA or encouraged me to pursue such a career.

I remember one time I was at a Dominican spot; and while I give very Dominican spanish mami fly I do not speak Spanish well or really at all. Anyway, I’m walking through this crowd of people towards the bar and all these men are trying to get at me. I can’t understand anything anyone is saying. But what I can make out is that this man just called me, “La Grande,” which immediately translates to, “The Big One.” To which someone added, “Damn that’s a big ass girl.” I think that was the only thing I understood from anyone that spoke to me that night.

And it took me out of my body almost immediately. Now I’m overly aware that I am not only the tallest bitch in the room and can see over everyone’s head, but I’m also the only trans woman here.

I guess what I’m saying is there are nuances in language that are important to keep in mind, especially when interacting with people who don’t have the same lived experiences as you.

It’s really important for me to know from a romantic partner, even if it's early stages or super casual flirting, to know that I’m seen. My visibility and my respect are big parts of my safety, and I think that’s true for every black trans woman.

And when I talk about the visibility of trans people, I do not mean tangible vision.
I know you see us
I know I’m the tallest girl in the room.

But I need to know you see me enough to respect me.
You see my identity my intersections my boundaries my truth my flaw my beauty.
That you understand me enough to engage with me in a way that affirms me.

If I don't have that, I cut the conversation short.
Every time a man has used the “do you play sports” line,
I promise they did not get any more
than a head nod from me
That man that yelled “la grande” at me?
I did not miss a beat in walking away from him.

I guess in all, I think people aren’t used to or taught to engage with trans people the same way we are cis folk. The trans community, especially in a romantic lens, aren’t and haven’t been spoonfed and almost commercialized to masses the same way cis gendered people and heteronormativity has. And because of that there is definitely a shift in language and boundaries. The things that affirm and excite us are a little bit different.

I knew I was nonbinary way before I had the vocabulary to name it. During my freshman (and only) year of college, I spent most of my free time writing poems about feeling disconnected to my body. I changed my hair and wardrobe (what felt like) daily, exchanging the feminine staples of my closet with ugly sweaters and bulky jackets from the men's section of the thrift store. However, tweaks of external presentation ultimately didn’t make me feel validated as a trans person. What it really came down to was how the people I cared about the most were recognizing me. I started to get a really big crush on a person who went to a college a couple hours away, they were also nonbinary. They were surrounded by many more trans people at school and in life than I had ever been, so flirting was nothing new to them. They complimented me with words such as “handsome” instead of “beautiful” and “attractive” as opposed to “pretty” or “cute.”

Like learning a new language, I figured out what made me feel my most confident and appreciated.

When I can tell people are unsure of how to flirt with me or compliment me, I start by asking them what their favorite compliments are. I ask whether they like to be called “pretty” “attractive” or “sexy” and encourage them to ask me the same. It never hurts to ask questions that may seem so silly or elementary when getting to know someone new.

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