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#548: I met a cool person to flirt with and I’m scared of what to do next.

Dear Captain Awkward,

So I met a girl last night, one I’ve run into occasionally when the orbits of our respective circles come into gravitational alignment. We spent the time chatting together and exchanged numbers afterwards. I have zero experience with romantic relationships, but what little knowledge I’ve accumulated from rom-coms and trashy novels leads me to believe we mayhavekindofactually been flirting. She’s smart and funny and similarly awkward, and I felt like we connected really well in the short time we had. It’s early stages yet though and I’m in this weird excited for possibilities but desperately trying to play it cool space.

The thing is, I’ve never considered it possible for me to be in a relationship with someone so I’ve never tried. Ever. I’m trans but lodged squarely in the back of the closet (assigned and currently perceived as a guy, wholeheartedly wishing otherwise as a girl). I can’t imagine myself going through with transition though because I have extremely negative self-image, and the first person to laugh at me would crush what remains of my misbegotten soul.

Thus far my motto has been that if I can’t even love myself, how could I begin to love someone else? That way lies jealousy, resentment, and a whole host of Bad Feelings. I couldn’t do that to anyone because I know that I would do that, eventually. Not the best basis for a healthy relationship.

I don’t even know why I’m suddenly considering the possibility, but something about it strikes me as very selfish. Like, doesn’t my not being upfront about being trans constitute deception? I know I’m on shaky ground here because there are a whole bunch of nasty transphobic deception narratives that trans women have to contend with every day and so I shouldn’t propagate or internalise those. But I’m approaching it from the other side; in my nail-studded closet I’m not being true to myself and I’m lying to everyone else. So… deception, right?

This girl, who is by all accounts an awesome person, who is not obliged to be a receptacle for my obsessive worrying (we haven’t even been on a date, for pete’s sake!), who is totally unaware of all this inner turmoil, doesn’t deserve this kind of baggage. What’s more is that like me she has also struggled with depression and social anxiety. I’m terrified of making things worse for her and fatalistically certain I will. How can I start building a relationship with her while witholding such an important self-defining secret, and even if at some point I became comfortable enough to share it with her, what then? Cisgender people are generally not well-known for reacting positively to such admissions.

I don’t want to assume here but statistically speaking she’s likely to be straight (as opposed to bi, or even more unlikely to be gay). When I interact with her (or anybody else for that matter) I don’t put on a big macho act or anything. I’m more or less honest about who I am and what I like/dislike, just with dampened emotions and responses. A restricted version of me, pushed into the neutral zone between genders. Apparently androgyny is in? I’m not going to cross the boundary into masculinity or male-identification, that’s not me and will never be me. But in an ostensibly heterosexual relationship that burden would typically fall upon me and exert all sorts of pressure to conform. On the other hand I can’t really emphasise my femininity or female-identification because a) I’m too scared to do so regardless; and b) it wouldn’t be what she signed up for.

Can you tell I’m an obsessive worrier? We might date and find we don’t gel after all. She could click her teeth for all I know. But if I put myself out there and something special happens, haven’t I created a moral conundrum hammer that’s bound to smash that special thing into teeny tiny pieces? I also wonder if I’m just in love with the idea of love, or being loved, and wish fulfilment is a shitty way to treat someone. Proximity to Valentine’s Day does not help at all, funnily enough.

I don’t know whether to even attempt a romantic relationship with some careful guidelines in place, or to explicitly make it friends-only, or to NEVER SPEAK TO HER AGAIN!!!!!!111 What should I do?

Sincerely,
Faith, Mope, Love?

Dear Faith, Mope, and Love (good nom de plume, btw):

You put Valentine’s Day in your email header, so you get to be the question of today. For past meditations on the day itself, readers should go here or here.

So, Mx. Mope, there are readers who can speak to the specific risks and exhilarations of coming out, experimenting with gender presentation, and dating-while-trans* better than me. There are a bunch of personal stories, great links & resources in the comments here. The fantastic AccidentalBeard discusses coming out here, and our beloved Lt. Trans talks a reader through the fatigue that can come along with a transition here. You are not alone in feeling scared and alone or in imagining what the future will bring with equal parts terror and a secret screaming glee at the prospect of presenting a different side of yourself to the world someday. The fact that you want to be honest with this cute girl before getting involved with her any further speaks well of your considerate nature, but the good Lieutenant has said many, many times that you don’t owe people your entire life story and all your secrets when first meeting them or figuring out if you want to become more deeply involved with them. You’re allowed to test the waters and move at your own pace.

What I can write about with some authority are the common fallacies and worries that you share with other shy daters a.k.a. the reason the “Overthinking It” tag was created.

First dates are practice. Your job right now isn’t to start a serious relationship. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to maybe go on one date. The purpose of a first date is to a) meet someone new, or hang out with someone you already know in a one-on-one, let’s-get-to-know-each-other-better context and b) figure out if you want to have a second date. As long as you both show up when you said you would and are basically polite to each other, there is no way to fail at first date.

  • If you have a great time and you want there to be a second date, victory!
  • If you figure out that you don’t really want a second date, victory!
  • If you want a second date and the other person doesn’t (or vice versa), that’s still a victory!
  • If you aren’t sure how you feel and think a second date is a good idea if only for information-gathering purposes, that is also a victory!
  • If you ask someone on a date and they say no, that is also a victory. You were brave and honest.

In every one of these cases, you will end up with some information that you don’t have now. The information could be “I look hot in that sweater, it’s a good first date sweater.” The information could be “This spot is not conducive to quiet conversation, do not come back here on dates.” The information could be “She clicks her teeth.” Hey, you flirted with someone and have identified someone that you are attracted to and maybe want to go out with sometime = that is a small step toward knowing yourself better. Victory! You flirted! Victory!

If you come home from a very first date with someone you don’t know very well saying “I’m in love! This is The One! Our children’s names will be Unicorn and Placenta!” I’m not gonna tell you you’re wrong to feel giddy and optimistic, but I am gonna caution you to slow down a bit. Your heart and/or groin are galloping way in advance of your head. Maybe let the head catch up and figure out things like “does this person sweep up broken glass on the regular?” before you commit to a lifetime together.

Auditioning and disclosure work both ways. You, my dear Letter Writer, worry that this person might not accept a secret that you don’t even know whether you have fully accepted. Fair! But this is also about you finding out if she is someone you might could trust with that secret someday. Anyone who is potentially a good romantic partner for needs to be, at least:

  • Not transphobic
  • Bi-curious….ish? Bi-curioush?

There’s a lot of time between “First Date” and “Are We Going To Be A Couple Now?” to feel this lady out on those things, while also figuring out if you laugh at the same stuff and are nice to each other.

There’s a lot of topical stuff that you can refer to without necessarily coming out to her. For instance: Janet Mock’s new book, the twin fierceness of Carmen Carrera & Laverne Cox telling Katie Couric some things, the release of CeCe McDonald and imprisonment of Avery Edison, etc.

I’m not gonna say that these shows are perfect on every front or will be relatable to you, but Jill Soloway’s Transparent is streaming on Amazon Prime and will get picked up if it gets enough votes. Orange is the New Black portrays a romantic relationship where one partner transitioned midstream. These things are out there, being watched, being talked about in mainstream culture. It’s profoundly unfair that any of this should have to be a concern for you, or that one person’s escapist entertainment should have to serve as the carrier for portrayals of your basic humanity. But any lady who has an “ew, gross” reaction to these stories being told or the general idea of transness is not cool enough for you and does not deserve your whole story. 

My boyfriend and I disclosed mental health stuff (Me: depression & anxiety Him: bipolar disorder, I have his permission to write about it) after meeting & really liking each other but before getting serious/exclusive or doing any sexy stuff together. I know it’s not the same, partly because hello, cis privilege! and partly because *other* people in our lives knew this about us, so disclosing to one another didn’t mean creating a vector for a tightly-held secret to come out. And partly because we were on the other side of the worst of it – being diagnosed (hospitalized in his case), several rounds of treating it – and could be secure and comfortable in how we talked about how it affected us. But there was a definite “here’s what you should know before we go any further” discussion.

I don’t know how to construct that moment for you. Maybe it happens with this adorable girl, maybe it’s with someone down the road. But somewhere, sometime, I believe there is a time where you will say “I’m in the very early stages of figuring this out, but I am trans* and I want to be a girl someday” to someone. And hopefully they will say “Okay, tell me all about that.”

There’s coming out, and there is also emotional honesty:

  • “I am enjoying spending time with you, but I feel unready for a serious relationship right now.”
  • “I am questioning a lot of stuff about myself and my life right now.”
  • “I am really new at dating and I need to take things very slow.”

When you feel insecure and shy, it’s easy to get into a mindset where you are the one with something to prove and the other person exists to pass judgment and bestow acceptance, but it works both ways. She doesn’t know it yet, but she has a lot to prove to you before you give your heart and your trust away, and she is going to have her own needs & worries that may or may not match up with yours.

I think it would be a mistake to get deeply involved with someone without telling them who you really are. But I also know that you don’t have to be a final, future-perfect version of yourself to go on one date with a cute girl who seems to really like you. Maybe she’ll be your girlfriend someday. Maybe she’ll be a good friend who shares your journey with you. Maybe you’ll go on a couple dates and make out a few times and then decide it’s all too scary and real, and you’ll have to bail on the dating aspect of things because you’re just not ready. Maybe she’ll break your heart in two and stomp on it in a parking lot outside a depressing bowling alley that you’ve always hated anyway. Maybe she senses and is attracted to all the ways you aren’t like typical guys, and the stuff you are worried she’ll find out is the stuff that is drawing her to you. Maybe she’s secretly trans*/genderqueer/questioning too.

Nobody gets to the good parts of human love and connection by keeping themselves to themselves. There is no magic soulmate out there who will see you once and mysteriously understand and get to know your secret, beautiful self without any risk or vulnerability or effort on your part. To open up is to risk hurt and rejection. In your case, it might be to risk ridicule or violence, and I can’t pretend to understand what that’s like or tell you you should risk those things if you don’t feel comfortable. You are the boss of your own safety and of your own heart.

But I can tell you that one date might be a victory here. I can tell you that I’ve danced at weddings where the drinks are good and the genders are fluid. And I can wish you all the love and hot makeouts and finding your community and your true self in the world.

—————————————-

Moderator Note: Trans* people, people navigating anything to do with coming out and/or gender presentation, we want to hear from you. Cis people, if you have a story about dating a trans* partner that has a happy ending, where you dated happily or became great friends, that might be useful. How did they come out to you? How did you navigate that stuff together? Outside of that, maybe it’s not your thread, and the LW doesn’t need to know your personal dealbreakers, “I could never….”, etc. Those points of view are widely represented and do not need amplification here. My ability to be online will spotty until late tomorrow, so keep it nice.

Second Moderator Note, same as first, a little bit louder, a little bit #@@#$@!#!!!!!!!:

There is a very lovely discussion happening in the thread. I love every comment from a trans*person sharing their story. I love this comment and want to embroider it on a thing, because it is the best valentine the Internet had to offer yesterday. I love the love stories. I want to keep the thread open so the lovely stuff can continue. But after moderating a bunch of comments, we need to set some stronger ground rules:

Armchair linguists who want to discuss pronoun use, like, in the abstract? This is not your thread. If you don’t know what pronoun someone uses, it’s cool to ask “Hey, what pronoun do you prefer?” Whatever they tell you, that’s what you use.

Armchair biologists who want to discuss what gender even, like means? This is not your thread. 

You’ve never thought about trans* issues before? Read. Listen. Learn. Maybe don’t talk. 

Thought experiments about how, if your current romantic interest came out or changed genders, would you want to stay with them? This is not your thread. If that’s not so hypothetical for you, remember, comfort in, dump out.

Staunch defenders of one’s “right” to not be attracted to transgender people? Don’t be attracted to them! In fact, definitely don’t go anywhere near them with your oooooh, so sparkly! perfect amazing attraction. You wouldn’t want to waste it, would you? [The previous sentence may have contained sarcasm] Your personal attraction/lack of attraction/potential attraction is boring and irrelevant. Your need to preemptively announce it is boring and unwelcome.

Staunch defenders of Honesty! Before! All!, your next first date is going to be a very lucky person, I know it! Spot a cute person at a party or in line at the local coffee joint? You can scan Yelp for a good first date place nearby, while, s/he reads your tax returns for the last 5 years, your complete medical records, dental records (+ a full-body scan so they can really “see what they’re getting”), the results of an independent assessment of the cleanliness of your home, written references from your last three lovers, the latest performance evaluation from your employer, a gene scan to determine the viability of any future offspring, and your personal prediction for everything you might do, feel, or become in the next, say, 5-10 years. After all, if you don’t tell a potential date you just met everything about yourself that might help them make a decision about whether they want to date you from the start, you are a lying liar! [The previous sentence may have contained sarcasm]. Without the sarcasm: Your worry about “truth” and “honesty” is concern trolling that you think is masking your discomfort. The mask is not working. Set the thread to “Read Only.”

I love this community, and I really want to assume good faith on everyone’s part, but some of the ignorance on display in the moderation queue is the kind that’s hard to distinguish from harm. This isn’t debate club. This is a vulnerable human being on the threshhold of many exciting adventures asking for reassurance. If your comment can’t center that person, we don’t need to read it.

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190 comments
  1. attica said:

    As International Arbiter of Naming Things ™, I feel obligated to discourage Placenta as a babyname. Unicorn *might* work (depending on middle names, naturally), but I cannot endorse Placenta under any circumstance.

    Not that anybody’s intending that. But we here at the IANT offices have seen grimmer harvests from even more lightly thrown seeds.

    As you were. ;)

    • Pana7otta said:

      Thank you so much for putting in words more elegant than I would ever be capable of my own heartfelt reaction to this…

    • Thneed said:

      a headline on my paper’s online version today:

      “Someone Has Named Their Baby ‘Facebook'”

      [LINK REMOVED BY MODERATOR]

      Attica, we really need the IANT!

      • JenniferP said:

        Cool, here endeth the “making fun of what people name their babies” portion of this thread. It almost always goes somewhere very classist and racist, and I’m not having it. The joke in the OP was “don’t come up with ANY baby names on the first date.”

        Edited: Having clicked the actual article, DEFINITELY NOT COOL. Link removed. Leaving general post up to make this point clear.

  2. Agnes said:

    The Captain is right that you’re overthinking it. You’re not lying to her; you’re still gathering information on which to judge whether she’s a good candidate for the type of relationship that would make telling her a safe decision, and doing the two-way work to build that relationship. You mention probabilities a couple of times (“Cisgender people are generally not well-known for…” and “I don’t want to assume here but statistically speaking she’s likely to be…”) but probabilities only tell you about groups, not individuals. You hardly even know her, she hasn’t had enough time to earn your trust, so why should you bare the most vulnerable parts of your soul to her? You aren’t lying by omission until you feel like you do trust her and your relationship and you want her to know and it’s only your fear of change that’s holding you back, not your sensible risk-assessment.

  3. Muffin said:

    I want to echo everything the Captain said, and to add: I notice that you don’t talk a lot about your friends in this letter. Do you have friends who live where you are? Are they people you trust to be on your side if you come out to them? I’m *not* saying you should rush that process at all, or do it before you’re ready… but if you’re thinking about mooshing the person you are right now against another nice person, it could be really, really helpful to have friends who you can vent to about that process, or decompress with after first date / second date / etc.

    I know that it’s not always easy to find a supportive community, but someone who has helped multiple friends through transitioning, I want to give you the hope that you can assemble that community around you. When you find the really good friends who love you and want to help you through whatever the right process turns out to be, it will make the process of dating cute girls much, much easier.

    I’m crossing my fingers for you, LW.

    • Hi! I’m a Cis Lady who is engaged to the prettiest, nicest, loveliest, squeakiest Trans Lady out there. I would like to reiterate the importance of getting to a place where you are comfortable enough with yourself to be loved/loving yourself. I agree with Muffin about friends, and would like to add that there are anonymous, safe, closed groups for people who are trans*/genderqueer/questioning.

      My Sweetie has been going to a trans group every other week in RI where we live together, and we’ve made a lot of friends. People who are questioning/in the early stages of figuring things out often come and have found the group very useful, because there’s nothing better for TRANSFEELS than meeting other happy trans people. (I’ve never been to a meeting, but that’s what My Sweetie says.)

      I met My Sweetie when she was still a miserable, uncomfortable boi. We were friends, and there was chemistry-a-plenty, but something didn’t sit well with me about BoiSweetie’s aura. I actually asked if BoiSweetie was gay, and was surprised by the ferocity of the NO I got. When she came out to me, trembling with fear and anxiety, I told her, “Oh my gosh! You totally make sense now! I bet you’ll be really pretty!” And, lo and behold, she was the prettiest.

      We sort of lost touch as she was studying abroad (and transitioning! in China! Badass!) and I got stuck in a miserable abusive relationship. But… When we reconnected, I was like, seven thousand times more attracted to her. She was finally comfortable in her own skin, and damn, was that sexy. She was happy with her own presentation, and since she wasn’t consumed by dissonance and dysphoria, I got to know a really cute, funny, smart, girly side of her that she was squishing by trying so hard to be a boy.

      LW, if you are reading this, we love you. Don’t underestimate the power of being your true self, and finding out who she is, even if she is a secret for a while. No matter what, find people to talk to- whether it’s online, in support groups, or with a therapist. We wish you all the best, and hope you find happiness.

      • Bibliophilian said:

        I don’t have much I can contribute to this conversation (except all the Jedi hugs for the LW) but followthefishies, this comment is just so lovely.

      • Azkyroth said:

        I don’t have a huge amount to add to the main topic, but I find this interesting, because I’ve had a somewhat similar experience. I have a friend and possible future partner who’s a trans woman, not out, and pre-transition. I met her on OKC and she was quite open about her gender identity and situation, so there wasn’t really a “coming out” involved, but I noticed when spending time with her that I kind of have this sense of dissonance or conflict…like her being male-bodied doesn’t “feel right” to me either, the same as it doesn’t to her. I wondered if that was just priming, especially since I have an ASD and generally am impaired with interpreting body language and subtle cues. If others report the same kind of experience, though, then LW, I’d suspect that your new interest, if she’s an at all perceptive person, already realizes there’s something different about you and seems okay so far? I don’t know if that helps.

    • Requiem said:

      This. A friend of mine recently came out as trans, and has been absolutely touched by the outpouring of support they have gotten from friends. I think it’s made it a lot easier for my friend to publicly transition (in terms of presentation) knowing they have a group of people that love and support them, and basically have their back. So, yeah, having a supportive community is very important and helpful for your mental health. Also, a good therapist is always helpful if you’re not seeing one already.

  4. Brandelle said:

    I hope the best for you LW!

    I’m not sure where you live but if you have any sex positive groups or movements happening in your area they might be great resources for not just information but also support and friends, even future partners! :)

    I think working something small & news worthy into the conversations you have with people in general when it comes to trans issues could potentially help be a filter for you. Mention how Facebook has opened up gender indentification, ask what they think. Or perhaps how states have made laws for young trans people to be able to use the restroom of their choice… I hope you will be pleasantly surprised by positive responses!

  5. freethinkertx said:

    Just popping in to say that the LW could mention all kinds of trans news / culture to me, and I’d be totally OK with it, be able to carry on an intelligent conversation about it, be able to share stories of friends of mine who have come out and others who have had the hormones and the surgery. . . but I could not date him. Not because I didn’t like and respect him, and didn’t find his jokes funny and his company enjoyable, but because I’m a solid heterosexual cisgendered woman. Absolutely zero judgment involved, just mismatched pantsfeelings, as it were.

    • twomoogles said:

      I’m thinking that bringing them up isn’t so much as a ‘would she be OK with dating me’ but more of a ‘will it be safe to come out to her’ thing. Also possible that mismatched feelings might come out through the discussion, too, as discussions about the media often lead to hypothetical ‘if it were me in this situation’ discussion. But then I am Hypothetical Question Superfan, so there’s that. :D

      • Emmers said:

        Yeah, I think it’s more of a tiered thing.

        Tier 1: Can I discuss trans things in general? Does even mentioning the topic lead to rants and verbal abuse?
        Tier 2: Is this person comfortable with having trans people in their life, or do they require transfolk to remain at a measured distance? (E.g. someone could have sense enough to not scream insults, but still be really unpleasant for a trans person to be around.)
        Tier 3: Is this person comfortable *dating* a trans person? (Corollaries 3a, 3b, etc. involve pantsfeelings and parts.)

        There’s no sense in leaping straight to Tier 3 before you have determined the status of Tier 1 and Tier 2. Don’t put the cart before the horse, Solidly Cis-Het Internet People.

    • JenniferP said:

      This comment is not untrue, but it’s not sitting well for me, either, like thanks for letting us know how your pants feel about things, “Solid Cisgendered Heterosexual” Internet Citizen! We were all wondering! Is the LW really unaware of the difference between someone being generally cool with trans stuff & wanting to date a specific person or people of a certain gender? They seem pretty aware, overall.

      Discussing relevant news and pop culture stuff isn’t gonna get at the “Would you maybe date ladies someday?” question or “Do you want to date me?” question, but it is a low-risk way to start to suss out if it’s safe to ever broach the topic with this person in a more personal way. Someone who can’t hang with the very idea of transgendered people has self-selected themselves OUT OF PANTS CONTENTION from the beginning. The letter is about baby steps. One date/conversation/interaction at a time. We’re nowhere near pants yet, and you don’t know about this potential datelady’s pants anyhow. We could all do with fewer assumptions about other people’s pants-zone and what goes on there and what is possible.

      I don’t want to beat up on you, freethinkerx, or have this be a derail, but I’d like you and your pants to stay out of this particular thread going forward, thanks.

      • Ethyl said:

        It’s not sitting well with me because freethinkertx misgendered the OP, used male pronouns despite the OP being pretty clear that she identifies as a girl on the inside.

        • JenniferP said:

          Among other reasons, yes, that.

        • Cactus said:

          Thanks for mentioning that, because that was a giant bloody communist ruby vermilion lipstick red flag to me.

      • freethinkertx said:

        I meant it more as an expansion to when you said, “But any lady who has an “ew, gross” reaction to these stories being told or the general idea of transness is not cool enough for you and does not deserve your whole story.” I would not be grossed out, would feel grateful for my friend feeling confident enough to confide in me, and would still be OK being friends if they expressed a romantic interest in me. I guess I just wanted to add a layer that says, “Someone can accept you on every level, but still not be dating material,” because I wouldn’t want anyone to shy away from approaching other people just because it was a mismatch with me.

        And I’m saying this because I’ve been on the receiving end of mismatched feelings many times, and some of the people have either reacted with anger or spun into a depression. The LW seems to be in a very delicate position, emotionally, and I wanted to convey that it’s OK if there’s a mismatch. It’s not a judgement on the LW, it’s not a reason to not be flirty with someone else, and my hope is that the LW wouldn’t take any possible romantic rejection personal.

        I apologize for stating it wrong originally, or now.

    • ZerKo said:

      er this is reading pretty transphobic to me (I’m non-binary trans). This person sounds like they are a girl, or at least feminine (like me). So if you’re not attracted to women or femme non-binary people that’s OK! But if you’re not attracted to someone solely on the basis of them being trans… you REALLY need to question that. And the fact that you needed to strongly assert that when we already feel unlikeable and are in risk of danger just by dating…

      • Tinea said:

        Seriously. Why would you come here to wield your cis-het privilege in the face of someone who came here with a fear of engaging/enraging cit-het privilege? Please show some compassion, you’re repping a violent and destructive point of view. No one would argue your personal choice to decide to date or whatever with anyone for any reason, so there’s no need to lay down blanket “would not date certain kinds of people” probably ever but especially in a thread meant to support those people finding acceptance and love.

      • R. said:

        It’s such a ridiculously common thing for cis people to do though. I come out to somone, and the first words out of their mouth are “Alright, but I wouldn’t do you.” It’s happened several times, each time with people I had never expressed any interest in, and yet. It’s always “my cis opinion: you’re allowed to exist” followed by “my sexual preference: not you, ew. but no disrespect, you do you <3". The mind boggles at the self-centredness.
        And yeah, I get that there are no mainstream cultural scripts about how to be respectful towards trans people, though activists currently are trying to create them. But still, I just don't understand how anyone could think "I would never want to touch someone like you" an acceptable option.

        • staranise said:

          Oh god, people do that to trans people too? I stopped telling people I was bisexual in so many words because people always treated it like a referendum on my existence and an invitation to an orgy. (Oh, who am I kidding, of course people do.)

          It feels like warning trans people not to get too full of themselves or uppity. “I guess I have to tolerate you, but don’t think you actually qualify for admiration or desire!”

          There are two words I want to teach people who might be confronted with a disclosure: “OKAY, COOL.”

          • R. said:

            Oh yeah, I’ve experienced that with the bisexuality too, though not in recent years. It’s almost like the assumption is that freaky trans people aren’t allowed standards, and that’s basically what bisexuality is…
            But yeah. Another thing that really grates, and that both of the “well I’d never” commenters here have also done is when they use their own identity as a justification for telling everyone how they’re not into trans people. “I’m a striaght cis woman”, “I’m gay”, “I’m a lesbian”. Like, ok, good for you? And this stuff is either really weird and out of place, like here where a straight woman says she wouldn’t date another woman (while also misgendering her? it is odd.), or it’s degendering and classing trans people as anything but their actual gender. And again all of this is just dropped onto you unbidden out of nowhere by people who probably think of themselves as amazing allies.

    • Helen Damnation said:

      Her.

    • Marvel said:

      I think you really need to examine your reasons for making this comment. Why do we care who you would or would not date? Is this letter about you?

  6. Sam said:

    This may not be an okay comment to state, but, given the previous one I want to add something that I’ve run into personally and been aware of before. For _some_ cishet people (myself included), the personal gender identity of a partner matters less than the biological (and perhaps presentational) one.

    LW, you have said you do not (currently) intend to transition. Consider that someone who would not be attracted to someone who is _physically_ one Gender, may still be attracted to a person who identifies as that same gender, but is physically not. Assuming your person of interest is not Transphobic and does not place a huge amount of focus on gender identity (as opposed to presentational identity), consider that even if they are cishet, your identity as Trans* may not be a barrier.

    tl;dr: See what happens. Be honest, but don’t derail yourself by preemptively making a mountain out of what could just be a mole hill.

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks, Sam. Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m trying to parse that and coming up with “Some people can be attracted to someone who presents as Gender A, even if their primary attraction is to Gender B people, as long as they have Gender B characteristics where it counts (i.e. pants).” Which I think, like freethinkertx’s comment is true (and certainly true for you) but also not ultimately that helpful.

      Before we have an avalanche of commenters explaining what they are personally attracted to, i.e., Notes From The Pants, let’s try for a blanket statement:

      Building a more inclusive society means making fewer assumptions about people based on their gender presentation and about what is possible in terms of attraction. The Letter Writer does not know where their potential DateLady stands on any of this. More interaction and information-gathering, which can be accomplished through a pleasurable process sometimes known as “dating,” are required before ruling anything out.

    • gmg said:

      Would just note that I didn’t get the impression that the LW was saying she doesn’t “intend” to transition, but rather that she’s not emotionally ready to do so. Seems like a big distinction of which a potential partner would need to be extra understanding.

    • ZerKo said:

      Hi! fyi there is not “physical gender”. There is only assumptions about gender made on what’s the most common gender associated w/ a certain body type. Just a note cuz “physically a ______” or equating body parts with gender at all can be transphobic. We prefer AMAB or AFAB. And there are intersex people too!

      • Marvel said:

        Hey, not to be rude, but I’m also a trans person and I really dislike AMAB and AFAB. I understand that many people do prefer them, but could you maybe not use a general “we”? It sort of implies that you’re speaking for all of us, and you’re not.

        • ZerKo said:

          OK! Should have put “tend to prefer”. in my case FTM or MTF make me extremely uncomfortable and exclude non-binary ppl and I’m not sure of other alternatives. The only time I really bring it up is cuz the non-binary experiences of a CAFAB person are way different than a CAMAB person but they tend to be the most represented and get the positive attention (ending this here so there’s no derailing). I wish there were better terms

          also a note for the Captain! “Transgendered” isnt really correct. There’s posts about transgender vs transgendered that might help explain. Of course, other trans people can disagree w/ me but I think it’s best for cis people to not use it.

          • JenniferP said:

            I will do some reading, especially as the discussion on acronyms was akin to the adults in Charlie Brown saying “wah wah wah” to me. :)

          • Emily said:

            For the reference of people who don’t want to google:
            A_AB= Assigned ____ At Birth
            CA_AB = Coercively Assigned ____ At Birth
            These terms are preferred by some trans people and not by others.

            On the other hand, “transgendered” is almost universally considered wrong and you should really not say it. Just drop the -ED. “Transgender” an adjective, not a verb or noun.

          • JenniferP said:

            Much, much appreciated.

    • Being a trans woman dating someone who is attracted to your AMAB body rather than your identified gender is…not a great situation. It can feel like they’re misgendering you (if they’re only attracted to men, then doesn’t that mean they really think you’re a man?) and it can create one more barrier to transition (since they might not be attracted to you anymore afterwards). This has been the main thing keeping me from dating prior to transitioning.

      • anon//anon//anon said:

        Yeah I was gonna say, one of my friends opened up to me about this exact issue. She found it really triggering to be found attractive (as an AMAB person) before her transition, and I bet she’s not the only one.

        I wish you the best for your transition process – hope that doesn’t sound weird!

        • Not weird at all, and I appreciate it!

      • Phospher said:

        This is one reason I’m not sure about this advice. It is definitely not deceptive for a trans person not to disclose practically all of the time. However, if this woman thinks she’s going on a date with a man, and is actually going on a date with a woman… that seems to me like relevant information she should have had before deciding whether or not to go on the date. She doesn’t need it to go on a FRIEND date, for sure, but, that’s only okay if the LW really is open to friendship as well as romance. And if the LW has a successful date or even series of dates in which the other person’s false belief she’s dating a man and attraction to her as a man is a crucial component, isn’t that going to feel really unpleasant and like being constantly misgendered? It doesn’t seem like a great situation for either of them.

        • Phospher said:

          Eh, I’ve now read enough downthread to accept I’m maybe wrong about this, and LW could be luckier than I guess I was seeing…

          • JenniferP said:

            Yeeeeeeeaaaah. Thanks for acknowledging/apologizing. Get rid of the “maybe” next time.

            Do cis people tell every single thing about themselves before going on a date? Like, if I’m ever dating again, should I bring my student loan documents with me? After all, someone should know that instead of a house, I bought grad school. Otherwise it’s all a trick!

            Transgendered people are not using guilt and falsehood rays to “trick” unsuspecting cishet people into relationships. They are not chasing the adrenaline high of the Shocking Reveal. The reason they would ever have to hide that info about themselves is because: Assholes. Prejudice. Violence. Like, MURDER-type violence.

          • Phospher said:

            Well, I’m cis, but not het, so please don’t assume that. Of course I don’t think a trans person who’s living as their true, non-AAB gender has to disclose their history immediately for all the reasons you mention. It’s *gender* not cis-or-trans status that was tripping me up about this situation, — i.e, what worried me was not,”I assumed I was dating a cis woman, but she’s actually a trans woman!” it’s “I thought i was dating a man, but she’s actually a woman.” And while it’s evidently clear from comments that this can turn out well with the right person who has little or no interest in a partner’s gender, (which is how bisexuality works for some people but not for all), I don’t think your gender is, like student loan documents, a trivial matter that ANY partner should have no interest in.

          • JenniferP said:

            Phospher, gender (and student loans) aren’t trivial, but they don’t have to be first date discussions. Please come back another day in a different thread, your posts aren’t helping the letter writer here.

      • lonespark42 said:

        Mmmm.
        I did this accidentally to my girlfriend, because I asked her out before she came out to anyone but her mom. I feel bad in retrospect about complimenting certain features in certain ways, and more to the point she worried I would break up with her over it… (Which, no, it turned out to be, like, the best unexpected thing ever. But she couldn’t know that, so I think my personal experience based advice might be to bring you gender identity up early in the dating process, and/or to as many friends as possible, IF THAT IS SAFE FOR YOU. With the friends you could conceivably get them to pass the info on for you. Or you could write a letter or email? I don’t know. It’s just that I’m a person who will want people to know stuff but be unable communicate it by talking because anxiety and such, and asked my girlfriend out via Facebook chat for this reason.)

    • staranise said:

      If you don’t know if it’s okay to say something or not, and you’re talking to a person with a ton of insecurities and worries about what other people will think, DON’T SAY IT. Jesus.

      • lonespark42 said:

        AMEN.

  7. Anisoptera said:

    Oh LW have Jedi Hugs if you want them. That sounds so very difficult.

    I want to tell you that for me, as a bi cis woman, if a male seeming person I was interested in told me that actually she is a trans woman, it would not be a deal breaker. I tell you this not because my deal breakers are important here, but just to let you know people in your target demographic do exist! We may not be the majority, but when the captain says this woman needs to be not transphobic and at least bi she’s not describing a mythical unicorn. :-)

    More importantly for you though, it’s not deceptive to find out if this lady is trustworthy before you out yourself. You need to know that she’ll keep your secrets and won’t be cruel, even if she isn’t interested in a relationship and it’s 100% fine to wait until you’re sure of that. It’s also fine to decide you can’t do romance just now and just be friends.

    And hey – you meshed! You got along! At the very least perhaps you are making an awesome new friend, and as someone with a pretty short list of close friends to me that’s every bit as valuable as finding a compatible pants-partner.

    But still, I’m wishing you all the luck with your romantic endeavours none the less. :-)

    • therufs said:

      These are all the things I came here to say! And many good lucks.

    • lonespark42 said:

      At the very least perhaps you are making an awesome new friend, and as someone with a pretty short list of close friends to me that’s every bit as valuable as finding a compatible pants-partner.

      THIS.
      Well put, Anisoptera.

  8. clodia said:

    LW, I just wanted to agree with everything that CA said, as usual, and to say that I think you’re lovely and I hope that things work out for the best, whatever that may be. I’m sorry that you feel you need to overthink everything, but I’m glad that you recognize that you and your feelings are a separate entity from the object of your potential desire. Also, it sounds like you and I are alike inasmuch as we tend to overthink everything, so you might be doing this anyway even if you knew she was going to be 100% into you. Overthinking things is what is done at the beginning of relationships. And the middle. And the end.

    So good luck, LW, and [jedi hugs]!

  9. eldelphia said:

    Whilst you are overthinking things, having been on the other side of this in a long term relationship honestly I think working out what you want for yourself in terms of your gender is a priority. You might meet a totally cool person who happens to be bi or doesn’t care but you might also meet someone who will find it hard.

    You shouldn’t be scared of exploring relationships but just be prepared that where you are right now will weird some people out. What you probably don’t want to happen is what happened to me which is where the person I started dating squashed their true gender and tried to pretend they were male when really they weren’t. I’m not bi or lesbian and whilst I cared for them deeply the situation was made worse because they did not face what was going on. However they are now my best (female) friend so it can work out.

    Now, the fact that you’re thinking about all this stuff is good but whilst I wouldn’t say work everything out before you attempt having a relationship, try and be reasonably open about where you are right now so that the person you’re inviting into a relationship has choices.

  10. Ethyl said:

    LW, I wish you all the good things in life and hope that you can some day find a way through that is true to yourself. I just wanted to say — two of my good friends are married and one transitioned during the relationship and they are so happy and in love even after all these years and their kid is amazing. It can happen.

    • JenniferP said:

      I’ve been to weddings so gay they wrap back around to straight again. <3

      • Ethyl said:

        I think the people involved would *love* that description :) Yay love!

    • Requiem said:

      Yes, one of my friend’s parents transitioned recently after ages and ages of marriage-at least 25 years I think. They are still married, and from what I’ve been told by my friend, the biggest problems are practical ones (ie the transitioning parent feeling like a burden after surgery) rather than the fact that the fact of being trans.So, happy endings are indeed possible for those that come out during a relationship.

  11. SarahJoy said:

    Hi LW,

    The captains response is great as always ^_^
    I’ve got a personal anecdote to add. I was having fun causal sexy times with a lovely individual when they told me that they no longer identified as female, they then proceeded to change their name a tad to make it more gender neutral, picked up they/them pronouns and radically changed dress and hair style. And you know what? It was totally cool. They told me really casually in the middle of a cuddle session and I responded with a thanks for telling me, how can I support you ect.

    The important bit for me was that I already found them really attractive and fun, their gender identity and presentation didn’t matter because we had already clicked as people. Perhaps this could be the same for you and a potential partner (maybe this girl, maybe someone else). Its 100% ok for you to go on dates and hang out and see if the two of you *click*. Its not dishonest or skeezy, its about seeing if you are compatible and if you trust them to share this with them. And when you do share this with them, I hope that you have built up a relationship based on the two of you as totally awesome people so their perception shift of your gender (to the correct interpretation of you) isnt a big scary thing.

    Best of luck LW, I promise that there are cool girls (and guys and genderqueer people) out there for whom your gender identity will not be a stumbling block. And I hope that you find lots of these people who can be your friends and maybe partners.

  12. HI LW!

    I know that media and stories like to draw a line between FLIRTS and HAPPILY EVER AFTER and that can be super intimidating. I had some good chemistry at a party with this lady how do I know if she is an appropriate person to SHARE EVERYTHING WITH AND LOVE FOREVER.

    You can’t LW. And the good news is you *don’t have to*. There are LOADS of steps between “FLIRTS” and “COMMITTED LIFE PARTNERS IN WHATEVER WAY THAT LOOKS LIKE TO YOU”. Here are just some of them. You might have WAAAY MORE.

    0. Observation. This is where you work out what sort of people give you that attraction buzz. Cute awkward girls? Shy dudes? Confident androgynes? You don’t even need to get pantsfeelings (but those are fun too). But work out what sort of people do that thing where your heart tingles? Long hair? Shy smiles? Look at people on TV and in books. What sort of people give you the fuzzies? Personally I really like buzzcuts. And beards. But not simultaneously. I like shy dudes and outgoing genderqueer folks. And agender people! Yay! Women are super cool as pals but they don’t give me heartglitters (which for me are always a precursor to pantsfeelings! But not everyone works this way!) WHAT KIND OF PERSON DO YOU WANT TO FLIRT WITH?

    1. Incidental Flirts. Congratulations! You are in this phase RIGHT NOW. It’s a fun phase and it’s one of the best phases because you can be in this phase with as many people as you want. Oh man this is so fun. Enjoy that heart glitter. See if you were write about what you learned in phase 0! Maybe people you like to look at on tumblr are not the people you like to shoot glances at across a crowded room! Learning things about yourself is awesome! WHAT KIND OF PERSON DO YOU WANT TO FLIRT BACK?

    2. Deliberate Flirts or Spend Some Time With Them On Purpose. This is the stage you are considering moving into with your interesting lady friend. You’ve looked back at your past behaviour and thought “HEY THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN FLIRTS! OMG!”. Now you’re getting freaked out at the thought that she might not be a safe person for your identity. But you are not marrying her and chances are you PROBABLY won’t do that. Right now you just want to work out if this is a person that you want to deliberately spark some heartglitter with. Or whatever and however you describe that feeling. WHAT KIND OF PERSON DO YOU WANT TO GO ON A DATE WITH?

    3. Casual Date. Orr you have the option to skip straight to phase 3. That’s cool! You can skip as many phases as you wan’t – or make extra phases. It’s cool. There are no rules here. This is where you work out if this is the kind of person you want. WHAT KIND OF PERSON DO YOU WANT TO GO ON MORE THAN ONE DATE WITH?

    Wow I have written a lot and there are like hundreds of more possible phases until you get to WHAT KIND OF PERSON/PEOPLE DO I WANT TO HAVE A COMMITTED LIFE SHARING/PARTNERSHIP TYPE THING WITH (and I don’t even know if that’s your end-game! I was mine – I wanted to find someone to be a family with and make more people but not everyone wants that. Some people want a family of grown-ups, some people want a snuggle-buddy, some people want to be a household with one or two people and sex-partners with a bunch of other people. You don’t even have to know what you want right now.) Right now you just want to work out A. Is this the kind of person I would like to go on a date with? and if yes then you do that so that you can work out B. Is this the kind of person I want to go on some more dates with? so I am going to stop because that’s not relevant to you right now. Basically what I want to say is that at each phase you are filtering people and yourself and your own wants and desires and needs to work out if this person or these people are compatible for your next phase.

    As the captain said, sound this person out. How do they feel about Chelsea manning? Laverne Cox? Do they respect people’s pronouns and chosen names? Do they out trans people to you? (maybe they *say* they are cool with trans people because their uncle used to be their aunt hahaha… you get to then decide if this scares you that they might out *you* to other people. That would not be cool).

    Basically you are allowed to do what you need to do to stay safe. You are allowed to hide your identity. You are allowed to lie by omission, you are allowed that dishonesty. And maybe someone will fall in love with you and feel betrayed by you not being the gender they thought or wanted you to be. And that will be sad and painful for them: but what it won’t be is dangerous for them – you don’t have to put yourself in danger to save someone else some future maybe-pain.

    I know this has been a super long comment and I am sorry about that but one last thing I want to mention is that I hope you find some trans folk to talk to and be pals with. If you don’t have a queer society you can join (or if it is has unsafe transphobic people) I hope you can find some cool people online who have experiences which are familiar and/or helpful. LOTS of people have navigated the space you are in now and lots of them are living happy and fulfilling lives with people who love them and their genders.

    I wish that for you, Letter Writter, but remember there are lots of steps and lots of phases before you have to jump right into that! Good luck!

    • lonespark42 said:

      I think this is great advice and maybe I will bookmark it to share with my kids when they are older.

      You don’t have to get on a particular relationship escalator. (I would link to that post but I can’t remember where it is.) You can take any path that works for you.

  13. LW, I just wanted to touch on that “extremely negative self-image” of yours. First of all, I think you are very brave for flirting with that girl, brave for daring to question your gender identity and acknowledge that it is different from your biological gender, and brave for reaching out for help. These are all big accomplishments in themselves. You didn’t ask for it, but you have hard issues facing you, and by saying, “I’m going to have to tell this girl (or whoever I date) eventually,” you are choosing to face them right back.

    My hope for you is that, whether your journey involves transitioning or not, you learn to become comfortable in your own skin. I once decided, “I’m gonna transition,” and then, for Reasons, turned around and said “Nope,” but that’s still an important part of my identity that I renegotiate from time to time. I only mention this because it seems like you are beating up on yourself for being “too scared” to attempt to transition, and it’s becoming a negative feedback loop (“I dislike myself, therefore I cannot transition, therefore something must be wrong with me”). I know we covered this in a different post, but it bears repeating: there is no right way to be trans*, and there is no schedule on which you have to transition in order to be a “brave” person. You are already being brave. Hang in there.

    While you figure this all out, you need a safe circle, so vet this girl thoroughly! Whether you ultimately wind up in a relationship with her or not, the experience of meeting someone new, finding out if they are safe, and coming out to them is a valuable one. Maybe she won’t be your girlfriend (or maybe she will!), but she could be a friend, or introduce you to someone, or be your memory of that time you had to be brave again, and you were, and it got a little bit easier after that even though it’ll always be scary.

    There are a million more things I want to say to you, LW, but I’ll try to wrap it up: there is no law that you can’t date while you are still figuring the gender stuff out. Plenty of trans* people do. I do. Jedi hugs and good luck.

    • Good comment re transitioning! I’m a trans guy (occasionally slightly genderqueerish but mostly guy) and at this point I have no plans to transition, I haven’t mentioned it to my doctors either because I’m also mentally ill and trying to focus on that without anything that might complicate how they treat me. Especially since I’ve been moving around, will move around more, and thus end up dealing with multiple people. But my friends still respect my identity, and if I’m in a position in the future where I can I’m pretty open to changing my mind, particularly with regards to top surgery. It’s definitely something that is not solely reliant on internal factors. In some ways it might almost be MORE reliant on external factors because of how difficult it can be to jump through all the necessary hoops. If even a couple of the hoops are a little bit higher it can make it just too hard.

    • anon//anon//anon said:

      I know we covered this in a different post, but it bears repeating: there is no right way to be trans*, and there is no schedule on which you have to transition in order to be a “brave” person. You are already being brave. Hang in there.

      I just thought this bore repeating 1 more time.

  14. Hey cap, I wrote a suuuuper long comment that took me so long to write that I’d started it way before I saw your very well warranted reminder about this mayyybe not being a thread for cishet people like me. Thanks for the reminder and I am sorry I didn’t maybe think about my comment a bit harder before being so enthusiastic. Basically I want to say I wasn’t ignoring you or thinking I was some kind of magical exception to your reminder.

    Thanks for being a cool mod <3

    • and feel free to kill this one too ty before I get into The Apology Loop

    • JenniferP said:

      It was caught in spam, I let a slightly redacted version through, I hope that’s ok. :)

  15. staranise said:

    Whoa, there are a lot of cis people making this All About Their Personal Preferences. I’m sorry you have to deal with that, LW. Life is absolutely full of people trying to give their opinions on you and your body, and cumulatively those opinions can trample what you think and feel and experience and love into the dust.

    I take direct exception to the cultural meme, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself.” Like, nope, sorry, I learned how to love myself after long practice in the art of loving other people, and letting other people love me. It was the last thing that connected. Every time I hear the cultural meme about self-love, I remember that it’s an opinion, not a truth. Standing opposite it is a line I take from the Prayer of St Francis: “It is in giving that we receive.” Because even if you can’t love yourself, in loving other people you become so steeped in love and accustomed to the ways of gentleness and compassion that it is a little less impossible to do it to yourself. The deepest root of self-love for me is my intense love for other people, and the knowledge that profound love does not admit exceptions, does not believe that anyone is unworthy, so if I love them I cannot exclude myself.

    The only problem with loving other people when you hate yourself is logistical. We need love, like we need food or water; and much as the body, when deprived of food, will begin to eat itself, the heart will twist its own functions to produce enough love to get by. I know people with self-hatred so profound their methods of generating self-esteem are like eating your own arm to stay alive: “I am the worst person ever. I don’t even sully myself with the illusion that I might be worthwhile or try to fool other people into thinking I’m a real human being; I will be diligent in my self-punishment, complete in my isolation, and then know I have done well.” Which, the Worst Person In the World award comes with a really crappy prize package and pity parties have crappy food, so once you eat the tiny bit of love you get you’re even less likely to get some in the future unless you’re willing to switch tactics.

    But it is possible to hold onto the quiet whisper inside of you that tells you who you really are and compels you to preserve yourself, and let that fill you up. It’s the seed of self-love within you.

    As to whether someone else will love you the way you want–well, upfront there are no promises. But. If you look for people like you, you will see that many of them have found people who love them deeply. People who will love all of you are out there, and if you’re willing to risk disappointment, you can find them.

    (And–FWIW–I’m a cis bi woman who wouldn’t mind at all if her partner’s sex or gender changed. We exist!)

    • Ethyl said:

      This is beautiful and true. Thanks for putting into words at least some of what bugs me about that “you can’t love others unless” meme. There’s a lot of other crap bound up in there, toxic crap. It just fundamentally doesn’t recognize the multiple and various ways humans interact with themselves and each other. A lot of assumptions in that idea are ableist liek whoa. It’s just…… It’s an ok mantra for people who need it, but it’s not realistic for everyone. Like. At all.

    • This is wonderful/ Esp.
      ” in loving other people you become so steeped in love and accustomed to the ways of gentleness and compassion that it is a little less impossible to do it to yourself.”

    • I mean, doesn’t that make it harder to love yourself if you’re someone who won’t let yourself love other people? Like, “No fuck off, I’m trying to make myself believe I’m a decent person. Man, I suck so much for pushing people away all the time!”

      • staranise said:

        For me, it came across as, “My self-hatred makes me unworthy of human connection. I must cure myself before I am worthy of loving others.”

        So now I’m like: No. Fuck that shit. No cutesy little aphorism gets to tell me who and when I can or can’t love. There’s no level of “good enough” you have to be to be worthy to partake of love because you already are, from the moment you are born.

    • h said:

      “The deepest root of self-love for me is my intense love for other people, and the knowledge that profound love does not admit exceptions, does not believe that anyone is unworthy, so if I love them I cannot exclude myself.”

      I just wanted to take a moment to say that both CA’s post and this comment are really lovely and beautiful.

    • Zillah said:

      I take direct exception to the cultural meme, “You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself.” Like, nope, sorry, I learned how to love myself after long practice in the art of loving other people, and letting other people love me.

      I totally agree. I can completely understand the LW’s reticence and concerns about dating, but I don’t think she absolutely needs to get herself to a place where she’s totally, completely comfortable with herself to find love. Learning to love yourself is very much a continuum, not a binary system, and you don’t need to be way over to the “self-love” side to be in a happy, functional relationship. Often, those relationships can even help get you there.

      • Zillah said:

        The quote thing didn’t work. :( Sorry!

    • Datdamwuf said:

      thank you staranise, my last session in therapy was on this topic. My therapist saying I had to love myself before I should date, I like myself and that is good enough. And hell I’m old, it took a while to even get to liking me but I’ve loved and been loved. And yes, it’s worth risking the hurt to find people to love and be loved by.

    • Sarah G. said:

      Could we have this comment set aside somewhere so people can revisit it? I’d hate for it to get lost. Maybe there should be a “best comments” tab on this site?

      • JenniferP said:

        I’m going to make it its own post soon. :)

        • staranise said:

          !

          If I’d known that would happen, I wouldn’t have pulled out a few paragraphs for being OT. ;)

          • mamacitaconpistoles said:

            staranise you wonderful human.

            Thing I like about this, too: it doesn’t have to be specific. Specific love is so scary sometimes. But general love, a reminder that we are all “created equal in dignity and rights” and should treat one another accordingly is much easier when trying to imagine how this whole petsonal love thing will work out. If we go to the effort of treating others with humanly love, it gets harder to leave ourselves out. The habit gets easier to apply. None of us is guaranteed love offered or accepted. But while we wait to know if it will come our way, some groundwork in living lovingly might help.

            This is just so good to read. Thank you for writing it. My heart is sitting lightly in my chest because of it.

    • Jane said:

      This is amazing. Thanks so much for posting it. The thing that pops out to me is saying that you love so you “become accustomed to the ways of gentleness.” I think it’s good to think about love (loving yourself! loving others!) as a skill, a hard but learnable skill. A skill like becoming a virtuoso musician — there are so many levels on which this skill operates, so many nuances of listening, reacting, creating, understanding! Most importantly — it takes fucking YEARS. You might get good at it, but you will always have more to learn, and that’s okay.

      Which, in regards to the LW — I’m sorry if this is a repeat from other commenters, but — would it be possible for you to volunteer in an environment where you are working with other people? Perhaps reading books to kids or chatting to people in a nursing home? I know that sounds weird and unrelated to your current problem, but I just remember when I was in a hell-pit of hating myself for being unlovable (particularly related to being rejected by a particular person), it was really nice to give a cooking lesson to a bunch of nine-year-olds — one, because it totally occupied my thinking brain (LOTS OF ENERGY TO CHANNEL INTO PIE) and two, because it helped me remember my connection to the rest of humanity does not just rest on whether or not I can find a partner. It’s also about giving of myself into the more general community. Also, I don’t know where you live, but would it be possible for you to volunteer for a trans rights organization, or perhaps a more generic human rights organization if that doesn’t feel safe? I feel like it would be good for you to be validated by the fact that other people are willing to fight for your right to exist and love as you are.

      Aside from the issue of romantic relationships, I think practice in loving and being loved as deliberate actions might be good.

      • staranise said:

        :) Love absolutely is a skill. Sometimes people crawling out of depression or trauma get really down on themselves for being self-hating (this is the song that never eeends…) but let’s be real, you can’t re-program your brain overnight. If you decided to learn to play the guitar, you’d expect that it would be months of practicing tiny little hand motions, and then repeating chords over and over and over, before you could clumsily string them together for an entire song. That’s the way it is with emotions, too. And it’s easier to pick them up if you have related experience–guitar’s easier to pick up if you’ve already played violin, and self-love or romantic love comes more naturally if you’ve got experience being compassionate and empathetic with other people.

    • Alienor said:

      That logistical problem is precisely why I believe that you cannot love anyone else unless you have a baseline *minimum* of self-love. If you feel completely worthless, you will isolate yourself, cut yourself off from other people to avoid inflicting your presence on them, stop communicating with them–in short, stop loving them, or stop expressing your love for them.

      However: I think the keyword in what I said above is “minimum.” If you’re not so devoid of self-love that you think you can only be a burden and a pain to others, if you believe you can love others and that your love for them can be a good thing, then you have that minimum. You may not have *as much* love for yourself as you deserve to have, and you can work on that, but you have the minimum. LW, it seems to me that you do have that minimum.

      I think part of the reason for the popularity of this “you can’t love anyone till you love yourself” meme is that people feel they need an “unselfish” reason to love themselves, and to put themselves first. So they come up with this reason: that loving yourself is a prerequisite to loving others. And I think that’s true in a way and to a point, but not past that point. You can love someone if you have self-esteem issues, if you are anxious, if you are insecure.

      • Alienor said:

        I should add that (1) you don’t need an “unselfish” reason to love yourself; you can do so simply because you are worthy of it, and (2) the logistical “can’t” is not a moral or otherwise prescriptive “can’t.”

        Meaning: the descriptive statement “not loving yourself can make it harder for you to love others because you start believing that you’re unworthy to love others” is not the same as the prescriptive statement “You should stay away from others until your self-esteem is on solid ground.” The descriptive statement describes a pitfall. The prescriptive statement *is* that pitfall–which means it should be rejected, not taken as a rule.

        So LW, there’s no need for you to take the description of a pitfall as a rule that you should follow.

      • staranise said:

        The way I phrase it internally is, “You have to be able to metabolize love.” It has to, in some form or other, pass through your mind and body, even if it’s just as something you hunger for but never really feel. Even that hunger can give you enough momentum to get going.

        I come from a religious tradition that actually has strains of extreme asceticism and self-denial, where followers honestly meditate on their own “worthlessness”, and yet find ways to metabolize love to find extreme emotional strength and commit their lives to doing good for others. So I’m personally quite skeptical of the aboslute necessity of self-love on a practical basis.

        But then, I also see self-love as an independent moral good. Which is a pretty subjective thing; not everyone believes what I believe. Another strain of thought in my religion is, “Love other people the way you love yourself.” It seems pertinent to me that that’s an equivalence. It’s not, “Love your neighbour more than you love yourself,” though that’s been argued. I think it’s important that it would be possible to turn it around to, “Love yourself the way you love other people.”

        • Alienor said:

          Yeah, I’m curious how someone could commit their lives to doing good for others if they really believed they were toxic or worthless. In that case, wouldn’t you believe that your involvement could only harm others? Of course I’m speaking from my own personal experience here; it took me a while to teach myself that not everything I touch would turn to poison. So it’s hard for me to understand how someone who tells themselves such things, and actually believes them, could motivate themselves to do good. Maybe the “metabolizing love” idea would explain it–I will need to think about that.

          But I also see self-love as an independent moral good, so I don’t think it requires the “excuse” of “oh, but it’s necessary to have self-love in order to love others.”

          • staranise said:

            The “how” involves a religious workaround: “Even though I am worthless and despicable, God loves me and will help me do good.” Also, people that committed to their ideals often live in religious communities that work to keep them on an even emotional keel. Although the conscious mind isn’t working the way one might think it ought, the entire system is metabolizing love coming both in and out. It’s a tricky balance, and one I think shouldn’t be recommended for most people, but for some it works.

    • Ally S said:

      Someone from Man Boobz linked me to your comment, and I found it so enlightening and helpful that it’s enough to make me delurk. Thank you so much.

  16. Hi LW! I just wanted to say I have several friends who have dated someone who was trans* or transitioning and several more who have verbalized that it was something they were completely okay with. (And my grandma had a trans* friend who found love in the 40s and 50s!)

    I have a trans* friend – in Texas – who just found her first boyfriend after transitioning. She was very open about the process on facebook. It didn’t seem easy but she wanted a boyfriend, a great boyfriend, on her terms, while being honest about who she was, and she’s now with a great guy. They seem happy!

    I just wanted to let you know that a) people like that may not be common, but they’re not unicorns and b) at least one of my friends didn’t know she would be okay with it until the person she was dating started having serious conversations about transitioning and then she realized she was, as she said, in love with the person, not the gender.

    And the people I know – they’re fantastic, but they’re also pretty ordinary people. You’d think nothing of meeting them in the grocery store. They have flaws and make mistakes and sometimes do amazingly wonderful things, just like most good people.

    You seem considerate and nice and I wish you the best of luck!

  17. MuddieMae said:

    I’m not trans and thus far, haven’t gone on a date with any trans folks (that I’m aware of), so this is more of a general comment on being new to dating and having anxiety about it.

    LW, I am an obsessive worrier also. I’m fairly new to dating – from 18 to 30 I was in a succession of relationships that hadn’t started as traditional dating situations, so when I started dating again I completely freaked out. I literally didn’t know how dating worked. And it was scary! And depressing! And anxiety provoking!

    One thing I decided on very quickly was that my only agenda in all dating was to try new things and have more fun dates than terrible dates. Every person I talked to online or at a bar was just a conversation – if we decided to go on a date, great. If we didn’t, I had probably learned something about traits I’m attracted to, or not. Same thing for every first and second and third date I went on. I gave a guy my number at a bar (first time I’d ever done that) and went on one date with him and it was a victory – I’d given someone my number! Like the Captain says, victory all around.

    The other thing I find very helpful, as someone who struggles with anxiety, it knowing that I’m not alone in this. It’s the non-porn version of Rule 34 (Rule 35? or is that already taken?) – no matter what you are struggling with, you are pretty much guaranteed that there are other people in the world struggling with the exact same thing. They may or may not have advice, but just having someone to commiserate with is worth it. The internet can be a great boon for finding those folks. A trans-friendly counselor could also be a great resource.

    Kick ass and take names, LW.

  18. TiFi said:

    Lurker popping out to comment. <3

    My now-spouse told me, back when we first started dating (and I mean first – like, right after we boned for the first time and I am /not a patient person/ so that was pretty fast), that they identified more as a girl, and were considering maybe transitioning, maybe presenting as androgynous in the future. Being young, impetuous, and having recently discovered my enthusiastic bisexuality, I thought nothing of it. Besides, I was the Rebound Girl, so… the relationship probably wasn't going anywhere, right?

    Wrong.

    Fast forward a few years. Their trans*ness has come up more than once. Each time, I'm more and more hesitant, because a) I'm young and pretty emotional and kind of selfish and stupid, to be honest, b) I now have more invested in the relationship than casual banging, and c) I have zero personal experience with supporting anyone ever through transition. I went on the internet, finding support communities, sure, but also horror stories of broken families, side effects, and a whole host of Everything Wrong Ever. Because /the internet./ So I'd shut my laptop, calm myself down, and go do something mind-numbing for a while. And so my S.O. goes nowhere with their gender, and I feel like shit in the back of my mind for feeling as though I'm holding them back.

    Fast forward again, and we're married. And moved far away from family and friends. Their gender identity comes up more and more often, and I have the same worries as I did when I was 23: What if your personality changes? What if you find someone who didn't know you presenting as a man, but only as a woman and it feels better to be with them because of that? What if you don't want me anymore? What if? WHAT IF WHAT IF AH GAHD DROWNING IN DOUBT SPIRAL SEND AQUAMAN AND A DOLPHIN OR SOMETHING

    Granted, my fears were mostly about our relationship, not the biology bit. They like tits, I like tits – should work out fine there.

    Anyway, they told me one night (it's an anniversary for us, now) a year ago that while they /could/ live as a man and be relatively happy, they really felt that they wanted, more than anything, to present as female and oh god was I sticking around? And at that point, I just felt this kind of… *whoosh* leave me. In a good way, not like queefing or something uncomfortable. It was a relief. And I cried and apologized for ever questioning, and they cried and said that no, it was always their decision and they needed to make it for themselves, regardless of me.

    So they've started electrolysis, and now we're looking into sperm banks and gender clinics and working on building their wardrobe, and I am so fucking peaceful sometimes it scares me. Like this weight I've been carrying for years is gone. There's still a lot of difficult stuff ahead, like choosing who to tell and going through the initial bio changes and the rest of the damn world and my insecurities, but it's worth it. (To be honest, at this point the grammar stickler in me is more aggravated by 'they' originally being plural than anything else.)

    Ah, this turned out long. LEMME SUM UP

    tl;dr: I was told at the beginning, then nothing happened for a long time except tension and sadness, and now my wife is transitioning and we'll probably have rough bits but I'm still here so don't ever think that you'll never find someone because I was and am a total assbutt but I still totally fucking love my wife. The end.

    • TiFi said:

      Mostly I wanted to write our “it worked for us!” story out because this part of your letter:

      “The thing is, I’ve never considered it possible for me to be in a relationship with someone so I’ve never tried. Ever. ”

      made my heart hurt a little, for how often I’ve heard it from some of my trans* friends, all of whom are awesome people (like I suspect you are!) and I just want to seriously cheer you on.

    • minuteye said:

      Soothe the grammar stickler within you! Singular “they” dates way back (as in, Chaucer used it), and only fell out of use in the 18th century. And no, the personal pronouns someone prefers should not be subject to external debate… but all the same it’s kinda nice to have a response for people who object to singular-“they” for arbitrary historical reasons.

      • TiFi said:

        That’s interesting – I’d never heard it before! And of course, preferred pronouns are accepted without question. The ‘Chaucer’ thing is going to be good ammo to use against toolbox walnuts who argue semantics in gender discussions.

        • Heather said:

          The Language Log site has blogposts aplenty about singular they. One of the examples is the Bible.

          http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003572.html

          And OP, I have little to contribute that others have not said better, so I’ll just send Jedi hugs, and add another to the list of people who have friends who transitioned while in relationships, and it’s been fine with their partners and fine with their friends.

          Right now, I’d focus on the part where you get to know this lady and manage the first date jitters. Big Secrets can wait until you are ready to deal with them.

          Take care of yourself

          H

  19. argent said:

    I have been … affected by this sort of thing from a few different perspectives, actually. I have a close friend who’s in the same sort of situation, albeit the other (FTM) way round, so I have been thinking about this for a while. I have another friend who discovered bisexuality because someone she had a crush on came out as trans. And in my own case, I’m dating a straight guy while navigating my own maybe-female, maybe-nonbinary gender, and coming out to him about that was difficult.

    I think the Captain’s advice that you’re maybe overthinking it and should take it slow is spot-on. This would be my addition:

    Firstly, the question of ‘when do I tell this person I’m actually a woman?’ is a delicate balance of ‘this is a fundamental part of who I am and I’d like you to respect that’ and ‘this is a secret that could potentially put me in danger’. You know that. But I want to say that it is YOUR BALANCE. You have ZERO ‘obligation’ to tell her anything you don’t feel safe telling her. It is 100% UP TO YOU when to decide ‘hey this person is important to me and I’d like her to be able to respect me better’. Being a woman isn’t something you should be ashamed of keeping from her, and you shouldn’t feel deceptive for choosing not to come out. Your mental health and safety come before anything else.

    And the second thing is, say you get to know Cool Person a little more and you decide she’s someone you’d like to spend more time with, you bring up trans issues without outing yourself and she seems receptive, and you reach the point where you decide you want to come out to her. If her response is ‘I wouldn’t have pantsfeelings for you if you presented more feminine or transitioned’, that is okay. Making friends is important, having supportive friends is important, and two people can have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship without pantsfeelings or romance.

    All the Jedi hugs to you, LW, and best of luck in finding supportive friends and partners.

  20. Anonymous This Once said:

    (I’m an occasional commenter but am posting anonymously this time to protect my ex’s privacy.)

    LW, that sounds so stressful (and wow, what an understatement that was). Jedi hugs if you would like them!

    If it helps to hear stories about other people navigating coming out as trans* to a new dating partner, my first love came out to me (a queer cis lady) as genderqueer after we’d been dating for about a month, right around when we were discussing making our relationship exclusive. During that first month we were dating, she had sounded me out a little about trans* issues by mentioning that her best friend and her most recent ex were both trans*. After finding an old research project I’d done for an experimental art class on gender-performance-as-performance-art and asking me about it, she said, “I’ve been really worried about how and whether to tell you this, but I’m actually genderqueer.” She explained that she wasn’t currently out to many people and asked me if this changed how I felt about her. I told her that it didn’t change anything, thanked her for trusting me, and asked if I could ask a couple of questions, like what pronoun should I use when referring to her? (As you can probably tell, “she” is her primary pronoun.)

    And then we went out for lunch. And continued dating and continued to fall madly in love with each other. And eventually broke up many months later, for unrelated this-relationship-is-no-longer-working reasons.

    I’m not going to pretend that I was always a 100% perfect ally to my first love as she navigated coming out as genderqueer, even though I tried my damnedest to be, because I am imperfect and also cis-privileged. But whenever something came up, we’d talk through it, and I’d try to do better. I loved her, and I wanted to be a safe person for her to talk to about anything and to support her in any way I could.

    So: LW, there are totally people out there who will prove themselves worthy of your trust and who will love you and give their all to support you, even if they occasionally fuck up. It is okay to take all the time you need to identify those people and screen out the ones you can’t trust to be gentle with and respectful of you. As the Captain said, that’s what the dating process is for. Perhaps this girl will prove to be one of those people! But even if she doesn’t turn out to be one of them, there will be others in the future. Your people are out there!

  21. michelle said:

    ‘Maybe she senses and is attracted to all the ways you aren’t like typical guys, and the stuff you are worried she’ll find out is the stuff that is drawing her to you’

    THIS. So, so this. My best friend, who is female-identified and bio-male (and is married to a woman) – is my favorite person in the world, and what made us click as friends, and what makes us continue to click as best friends, is that he isn’t like ‘typical’ guys, so to speak (he choses the male pronoun).
    LW – so many hugs, we’re rooting for you. Know that there are things about you are amazing, and that *can and will* attract people to you.

  22. Orange and Violet said:

    We’re writing this as a couple here, just talking about our experiences with some things that are similar to how you feel, LW. Orange is cis, female, and bisexual; Violet is trans, female, genderqueer, and yeah, also bisexual. Orange and Violet have been together for 10 years, married for 3.

    Violet: So back ten or so years ago, I was kind of similar to where you are now about your gender. I knew I was some flavor of trans, and thought I didn’t need to transition. I didn’t have enough crippling self-image issues to keep me from thinking I’d ever date, but I certainly had some and it messed me up pretty badly sometimes. I met Orange when she was a college freshman direct from the Midwest, and we started flirting pretty soon after.

    Things I did right that made my budding relationship with Orange better:
    * Let her know from the get-go that I was genderqueer. Back then I was just getting over tons of internalized transphobia that made me ashamed of being trans and genderqueer. It sounds like you might have some of that going on, too. What you need to know is: being trans is not something that will keep everyone from loving you. It doesn’t have to be a deep dark secret forever; when I brought mine to light I was surprised at how nobody else seemed to think it deserved to be as deep and dark as I’d feared.
    * Ascertained that she was bisexual. I don’t think I’d have dated her otherwise.

    Things I wish I’d done:
    * Been clearer that I didn’t know the future of my gender and my body super clearly. Not saying transition is inevitable, or even right for everyone trans — you’re the only judge of that for yourself. But it is something that’s there. It’s something available if you want it, and predicting then that I’d never want it was a mistake.
    * Gotten a therapist earlier. I had a lot to work through. There are good, non-gatekeepery therapists out there that could help you work through your self-image problems, and maybe provide a framework for you to make decisions about your gender and body that leave you feeling good about yourself — you clearly aren’t, now.

    Orange: Violet’s gender was what attracted me to her in the first place! I wasn’t interested in macho guys, and here was this androgynous-pretty person who didn’t have that macho desire to turn everything into a contest, and wasn’t interested in forcing our relationship to fit traditional gender roles. Win!

    Violet was always open with me about being genderqueer, but didn’t realize she wanted to transition until halfway through our relationship. Being with her during that time wasn’t always *easy*, but it was always *worth it* to me. She was still, above all, an awesome person, and transition was making her a happier one. And now…it’s not something we think about every day. We’re just another married couple, taking care of our cats and saving for a house.

    Things that frustrated me while dating Violet:
    * Being stereotyped as an insensitive cis person. Don’t get me wrong–I did say some stupid things every so often. But just because I am cis doesn’t mean I can’t empathize or learn. Dear LW, *you* know how harmful and hurtful stereotyping is–so don’t do it to this nice girl of yours just because she’s cis (as far as you know). Don’t assume she’ll hate you or run away screaming–you do her a disservice.
    * Being dragooned into acting as a therapist. Of course, it was good and healthy for Violet to tell me what was going on, and work some of it out with me. But I am not a trained therapist–and even if I were, it is not my job as Violet’s partner to give that kind of disinterested, selfless care. I eventually talked her into seeing an *actual* therapist, which took the pressure off me. I wish she had gone sooner.
    * Watching her be down on herself. When she would say she felt unloveable, it hurt because I loved her. When she said she felt unattractive, it hurt because I was attracted to her. When she said she felt like a freak, what did that make me, who was dating her? Remember that there’s a certain selfishness to self-hatred. And that being trans is not something to hate yourself for.

  23. Typhimurium said:

    Hey, LW, all the Jedi hugs are yours.

    I’m a cis woman, but one of my first dating experiences was with a trans girl. I was just realizing that I was bisexual, and when we first met, I think we were both anxious. I was freaked out that I was attracted to a girl, and she nervous about whether coming out to me would change that (obvious, intense) attraction.

    So we went on a few dates, in which I cooked for her and she played piano for me, and when things took a turn towards the sexual, she came out to me, And it honestly, truly, didn’t matter to me that she hadn’t had surgery or a facelift or whatever. She was the super sexy lady she always was, and I was most attracted to her feminine qualities (to the extent that I use ‘bi’ to describe my sexuality rather than ‘pan’). I don’t think that any of my friends or family could have predicted how it played out. Heck, I’m not sure if I could have predicted it.

    So, as a former straightest, cis-est, most heteronormative lady ever, I can tell you from experience that people might surprise you. I’m beaming my openmindedness towards that cutie you met, and all the cuties you will meet. And I hope you can find the courage to let your new friend surprise you. Stay strong and stay true to the woman you know you are.

  24. Piscatorius said:

    Something that stood out to me was LW’s discussion of sex stereotypes in terms of her gender confusion. She says that she doesn’t want to put on a macho act, and worries that if she is in a heterosexual relationship and later expresses “femininity”, it wouldn’t be what her potential date signed up for. Which, tbh raises some flags for me because it seems like LW is assuming that the woman in question wants men and women to act a certain way, and would feel betrayed if LW wasn’t upholding her stereotypical gender role. I feel like that is a bad way to think about relationships in general, trans or not.

    So my advice to LW would be: try to focus on being the person you want to be right now. See how it goes being completely honest about what you like without restricting or dampening your emotions. I think you should do that first before entering a relationship.

    • Erin said:

      Well, I don’t think these worries are too far-fetched. I don’t think anyone would necessarily want her to be “macho”, but there are some unwritten rules in society that even open-minded people don’t realize are there, until they run into them. Like who orders food when people are together, who pays the meal, even who’s addressed by service staff, whatever. If you’re open-minded, these examples won’t be problems concerning how people treat each other in a relationship, but I see a different very real problem here: The LW could feel dysphoria when she’s treated as “the man” in the relationship, but won’t even be able to talk about it with anyone. That would be a really hard position to be in. On the one hand: yes, this is a little overthinking it. You haven’t even had one date and I think what the Captain suggested is a good plan. But the LW’s worries arent’ baseless.

    • staranise said:

      It’s a sad reality that some people really do hold their SOs to normative gender roles and dump them if they err. I get really frustrated every time I overhear women talking among themselves about, “He liked to watch romantic movies and cry, I thought that was so weird,” or “My boyfriend backed down from a fight, I was so disappointed in him.” I want to turn around and yell “STOP PUNISHING MEN FOR NOT BEING SUPER MACHO, YOU’RE RUINING IT FOR THE REST OF US.” It happens a lot more in my conservative city of origin than my more liberal current location; some places just do have more of a culture of gender-policing.

      • sophiablue417 said:

        And this is a lot worse for trans people, particularly trans women. We’re expected to adhere to traditional women’s behavior rigidly, and any deviation is proof that we’re “really men.”

      • therufs said:

        “STOP PUNISHING MEN FOR NOT BEING SUPER MACHO, YOU’RE RUINING IT FOR THE REST OF US.”

        Can you, like, somehow let us know if you ever do this, because I would make you so many brownies.

        In fact, brownie offer stands for everyone.

        • staranise said:

          I do it in private conversations. :) Just not to strangers standing behind me at the bank. And I do love me some brownies.

      • epigraphical said:

        Yeah. So right. I think it is totally valid for the LW to feel afraid that if she doesn’t CON-FORM to the masculine role of the relationship, she might get backlash. A lot of people are really like that! We here at CA are pretty on board with “present how you want! identify how you want!” but lots of people are not and expect the Masculine Coded One to do the Male Things and the Feminine Coded One to the do the Feminine Coded things. I don’t think the LW thinks that, but I think the LW is afraid that other people will think that.

        • staranise said:

          And the thing is… although many people will think that and it will suck, and true shelter from them is very rare, there are enough people out there who think differently that the LW can find a community that will embrace them. It might not be in the “obvious” places (I’m still a bit bitter about how exclusionary the gay&lesbian groups I reached out to are, and found My People elsewhere) but it can happen.

        • therufs said:

          It’s a little difficult for me to imagine LW clicking with someone who was actually a total hatespore. One’s gut reactions about other people have to be carefully teased apart from whatever’s going on in one’s own internal monologue (whether your internal monologue is like “NO BUT THIS PERSON IS GREAT” or like “NO BUT THIS PERSON WILL HATE ME”), but after that they should be trusted. (Or at least given airtime.)

          • ordinarygoddess said:

            I was just thinking this – about the trouble we run into is where we conflate broader narratives, expectations, or abstracts (as in LW’s “statistically speaking she’s likely to be straight”) with individual people. Actual, honest, self-aware observations – of the people in front of us, of how interacting with them soothes or agitates our brainweasels, of the interplay of emotion and energy and chemistry, are the antidote to the jerkbrain’s “why would you even try?” heckling.* It’s not about “a [theoretical] girl,” it’s about THIS GIRL, and the LW would be doing both of them an unkindness to lose sight of that, however it ends up playing out.

            *The voice of experience: it sounds a lot like hypocrisy. LW, my heart goes out to you. Don’t be me, overthinking oneself out of romantic opportunity after opportunity because “well, statisctically speaking, SOMEONE LIKE HER would never want SOMEONE LIKE ME” and ending up lonely and sad. Look, I understand – INTIMATELY – having a self-image and a trust in one’s own perceptions that is fragile at best. I know how advice like “trust your gut feelings, you’ll be fine!” can be absolutely fucking terrifying. But trusting your own perceptions and feeling resilient enough to weather emotional storms is a set of skills, that can damaged but can also be rebuilt, with long, slow, careful practice, infused with a lot of self-kindness.

            I haven’t seen anyone else cite <a href="http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-worst-thing-in-world.html&quot;The Worst Thing In The World yet, but I’m going to gently suggest you go read it, because when you’re down so far that “the first person to laugh at me” rates TWTITW terrors, dear LW, you’re living in a tiny box made of fear that doesn’t let you stretch in any direction, and I want better for you. It’s these moments – you’ve met someone, you don’t have a lot invested in them right now but you’re having fun and feeling good about possibilities – these are the perfect times to do that work in small ways, which will help you do the work in the bigger ways, later, when it needs to be done.

      • AnonWife said:

        In the TMI category, I had my sister once confide in me that her current boyfriend liked pegging and wanted to know if that made him gay.
        “Are you a boy?”
        “WHAT? No!”
        “Then you’re still having straight sex. Go, enjoy. Don’t tell me the details.”

        • Utter East said:

          I’m an occasional Dan Savage podcast listener and he gets this call all the time. MY BOYFRIEND LIKES TO DO BUTT STUFF WITH– HIS OWN BUTT. (scarechord) IS HE SECRETLY GAY? IS HE IMAGINING ME AS A MAN? SHOULD I OUT HIM TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY? (ans. No; No; HELL NO)

        • Epiphyta said:

          “Go, enjoy. Don’t tell me the details.”

          I have had this conversation with a sibling, more than once.

  25. anon this time said:

    I am a cis queer woman happily married to a trans queer woman. (Yay! Happy, well, not ending, because we have many years ahead of us, but happily ever after, anyway.)

    Now, my wife had transitioned when I met her (although only within the last four years, well into her 30s, for much the same reasons as the LW), and we met in a context where she knew I was queer and hung out happily with openly trans women, and we were friends for nearly a year before we began dating, and she was always very open about her history. So, different set of stuff going on. Just to give you a small slice of where I’m coming from.

    I’d go ask my sweetie for advice, or point her at this entry, but she’s trying to settle down to sleep, and I’d rather not interrupt her right now.

    We have talked about these kinds of things and other issues of openness and confidentiality, though. I’ve got my own stuff that I don’t necessarily disclose right away, too. And here’s what I think: The Captain is right. You are not required to disclose anything on or before the first date. Audition her. Test the waters. Make sure she’s not generally transphobic and is open to a relationship with a woman and that you’re actually interested in having more than, oh, three or four dates. If she’s good enough for you — and that is what we’re talking about here — then you think about when and how to tell her.

    There’s lots of coming out advice out there, if you decide to come out to her or to anybody else, but coming out will always be terrifying. I wish you the very best with any coming out you decide to do.

    Don’t give up on transition. It will always be there, an option you can choose. A whole range of them, really. There are many ways to transition, and many ways to be a woman. Whatever you choose now, you can choose differently later. And transitioning can — not will, but can — improve your self image and confidence. I’ve known several trans women who became so much more secure and were able to love themselves better once they started transition. My wife included, according to her friends who knew her pre-transition. Just… remember that possibilities other than remaining closeted your whole life exist out there, in a theoretical nebulous fashion, even if you can’t envision actually taking them, ok?

    Er, um, that last bit may be pushing what I ought to say as a cis person on this thread. If so, I’m sorry. I know a trans person said something similar upthread, and I wanted to reinforce it.

    Anyway. Whether or not you ever transition, I promise you, there are women out there who will happily date and marry trans women. Including ones who have trouble loving themselves. We exist, keep looking for us. Having someone else love you can be a good way to learn to love yourself. It was for me.

    I’m going to post anonymously this time, because I don’t want to interrupt my wife’s quiet time to check in with her before I hit post. I try never to post anything about her transition in any way that can be linked to her without checking in first.

  26. Pikkunen said:

    So! I am a one of those cispeople who has a trans* partner. We’ve been married for nearly 12 years now (together for 16) and have kids, even, thanks to the assistance of a local sperm bank.

    When I first started dating my partner I was dating a woman. I am also a woman and have always been fairly open with myself about being pansexual. Not open as in first date here’s my entire sexual preferences open, but open as in that’s who I am and if we get into past dating history it will be pretty clear that I’m at least bisexual.

    However, I am pansexual. Let me assure you, you’d never know it to look at me, I am a boring plump middle-aged mother of two who works as teacher. Total cisgender, always have been. Furthermore, I never frequented edgy clubs or wore edgy clothes or in any other way advertised myself as being some sort of sexual revolutionary. For crying out loud, I’ve been known to wear Mom Jeans sometimes. (Please forgive me.) My point in telling you this about me is to illustrate that I do not at ALL look like what might be popularly perceived as someone who would not only embrace but love a trans* partner. However, androgyny was appealing to me even as a teenager and gender fluidity is a turn on for me. My partner’s gender fluidity – something which, at the time at the time we started dating, they were not actively trying to project, they were firmly in the closet with themselves as well as everyone else, but it was there, believe me, it was there – was absolutely a sexual turn on for me.

    I fell in love with my partner pretty early on. They were fun, smart, and their company was something that made me entirely happy. I had already been married and divorced and had (thanks to some pretty good marriage therapy, most of which I went to alone) a fairly good idea of what I wanted and needed in a relationship, and this person hit all of the sweet spots. It was really good. (It’s still really good.)

    It took some time for them to tell me they were trans. I was 100% okay with that, because it was clearly something that they needed to work through. I knew it, though. Despite the fact that their sex was female, it was fairly clear to me from the get-go that their gender was not necessarily the same. I was patient because I really loved them and because this was obviously something that they were struggling with and the last thing I wanted to do was cause them any distress. I was afraid that blurting out, “So hey, we need some more milk if you are going to the store tonight and oh, by the way, it’s totally fine with me if you want to transition,” would do more harm than good.

    However, when they finally brought it up with me they were clearly so afraid that I would reject them that I felt terrible about keeping my peace and giving them time. In retrospect, I wish that I had dropped a few subtle-type hints for them to give them at least a little idea that I would not run screaming from the room and never come back. Their fears – which they told me about later – were much the same as yours, LW. I still wish I could go back in time and sort of float out my general acceptance without pressuring them to come out before they were ready. As it was it was a good few years into our relationship, even after our kids were born, before they were ready to tell me. That was too long a time for them to be afraid that I would leave them, especially since that was just never ever going to happen.

    So let me just say this here and now…for our relationship? It really was not that big a deal. I am not at all saying that being able to come out fully to themselves and to me was not a big deal for them! I am saying that in terms of the impact that the actual coming out had on our relationship it was just not that big a deal. It did not cause any undue stress to our relationship.

    They were not deceiving me, LW. They were not deceiving themselves. My partner is who they are. Their actual gender is just a part of that. That person that loves Star Wars and dog shows and really cheesy Italodisco hits from the 90’s and Agatha Christie novels and cinnamon buns and puts too much salt on their food was not a lie. That person is who I married! That person is who I love! It’s not like all of those things that I loved about them were suddenly made false by the revelation that they were actually male. It was just another facet of who they are. Instead of being the woman I loved who always forgets to turn on the dishwasher, they were the man I loved who always forgets to turn on the dishwasher. I just want the dishwasher turned on! I hope this makes sense, dear LW.

    For various reasons – the most important of them health related – my partner is unable to go through with any surgical transition. They have made peace with this. After a lot of thought and soul searching, they have decided to present as female to the world at large while remaining male to themselves and to their wife and kids and close friends and relatives. I have made it clear that if at any time they would like to change that and present male to the world at large I am 100% on board with it. It is their choice to make, and I support them fully in this.

    And hey, listen, I am not perfect! I have my faults the same as everyone else, sometimes I can be a real asshole and I have been insensitive to my partner a few times and they have (quite rightfully so) called me on it. It is a process, for sure, but I’m an active and a very willing participant in that process.

    I know, LW, that you said that you are worried that the person you might potentially date would walk away from the relationship because they would not have signed up for a trans* partner since you outwardly present as male. And I want to say this to you…life has a way of throwing people curveballs. Things happen in life, unexpected things, lots of things we didn’t sign up for. Yes, it is true that many people can’t handle those unexpected things. But on that same token, many people CAN handle them, and handle them with love. You deserve love, LW. You deserve love from someone who will not only be okay with your gender identity but will embrace it as a part of you that they love. (A part of you that makes them feel some pretty damn good sexytimes, too, because let’s face it, we all deserve some good sexytimes with people who find us hot hot hot.) We do exist out there! We do! Please don’t give up hope. I know that transphobia is a very real and very present thing, but I also know that not everyone in the world is transphobic. Date your lady friend and see how it goes, and like the Captain said, if she turns out to be someone you want to spend a lot more time with then, when the moment is right for YOU, you can tell her. She might walk away, LW. People walk away from relationships for all kinds of reasons – some of them earth shattering, and some of them just petty and small things. But the thing is, she might not.

    LW, I wish you all the best. With all of my heart. I know this is a difficult journey for you and that you have to find your own way through it. I just wanted you to know that finding love as a trans* person is not impossible or even improbable.

    • staranise said:

      This is a beautiful comment. Thank you.

    • datdamwuf said:

      I want your clone to marry me Pikkunen

  27. Rose Fox said:

    Dear LW, you are not alone, and there are lots of people out there who will love you for who you are–not just who you might be down the road, but who you are in this moment, questions and struggles and closet and all. It’s okay to be where you are. It’s okay to have questions about things. It’s okay to not be sure who you can trust with your vulnerability. It’s okay to want to let someone in a little bit, but not too much.

    It sounds like this lady you’re interested in is pretty cool. You get to hang out with cool people and be interested in getting to know them. Being trans* is no barrier to that, nor is being stealth, nor is being uncertain about the direction that your life is going in. Go on and hang out with her. Get to be friends. See who she is and where you want to take things once you know her better. Take your time. Relationships develop just like identities do.

    Being stealth means prioritizing your emotional and physical safety over honesty and trust. YOU GET TO DO THAT. I cannot stress this enough. If you’re not sure whether it’s safe to be out to someone, you get to not be out. This is a shitty dangerous world sometimes and coming out as trans* is risky. You get to decide when and whether you’re ready to take that risk. Safety first.

    I do think that it’s a bad idea to enter into a romantic or sexual relationship with someone if you know (or are pretty sure) that your gender or your trans*ness would be a dealbreaker for them, because sooner or later that conflict is going to make one or both of you really miserable. But right now you don’t know that about this woman you’re interested in. She could be totally transphobic or totally cool with it or have never thought about it or in the process of figuring out how to get rid of the bigotry that this culture has installed in her brain. She could be straight or gay or bi or queer or questioning. I agree with the Captain that the first order of business is to learn more about where she leans on those matters. That will help with your risk assessment.

    In the meantime, consider looking for trans*-friendly counseling and/or a trans* support group in your area, or hanging out with trans* folks online under a pseudonym. Getting comfortable with yourself and your identity, whatever it turns out to be, is a great way of preparing yourself to eventually come out if that’s what you decide you want to do. And talking with trans* folks will give you comfort with vocabulary and concepts that can be very handy for coming-out situations as well as for conversations where you suss out other people’s comfort with trans*ness.

    When I realized I was trans*, my two loving awesome partners went right on being loving and awesome. Both of them are queer, which helps; and honestly, I don’t think I would have loved them and wanted to be with them if they’d been monosexual or in any way transphobic, because even before I really started exploring trans*ness, I knew I wanted gender to be a thing I could play around with, and I wanted people who would be cool with that. I found them and they’re marvelous. Recently one of them has come out as agender, and the other continues to be a very cis guy. It all works because we love and accept each other. You will find the right person or people to love and accept you in all your stages of self-exploration.

  28. Hollis said:

    This is totally do-able, LW.
    First, transitioning can be really tough. Not transitioning can also be really tough in an entirely different way, and realizing with version of tough you want to deal with can be hard if not impossible (especially since it’s variable to change over time; this is fine).

    I can share an experience that might be helpful/give you hope? When I was still sorting out this whole gender thing, I was dating a straight dude. (And by sorting out this gender thing, I mean “realizing that I’m non-binary and spend a lot of time trying to think my way out of that realization”.) Things did not work out in the romantic department, mostly because he didn’t want to deal with the indefinite LDR that comes with dating a college student who is planning on going to grad school. This guy is still someone I’d consider a pretty good friend, and we hang out pretty much whenever I’m visiting home from college. Admittedly, I haven’t come out to him as trans yet, but I don’t foresee much difficulty (partially because he was 10000% cool and understanding when I told him I was asexual and non-strictly-into dudes, even if he didn’t always get it; partially because it’s not super surprising given how I presented and still present today. For goodness sakes, if I stayed at his house and had laundry to run we had to be careful to make sure we weren’t mixing up each other’s underwear*. (The rest of our clothes would have been a problem if we had been the same size, though too.))

    I’d also argue that you don’t need to 100% love yourself for other people to love you. Other people might not see you under the same microscope you see yourself. Other people might also see certain aspects of you in a positive light that you yourself don’t. Also, for me, when I’m dealing with more dysphoria, I have a tendency to become depressed. I mean, I’m dealing with depression even when I’m not feeling particularly dysphoric, but the dysphoria does seem to be a trigger for my depression, which makes everything seem worse and makes me feel like a far worse person than I actually am. I don’t know if that’s something that you experience, but it might be something to keep in mind–you are probably far more lovable than your jerkbrain is letting you think you are, and letting someone love you/show that they care about you can be helpful in shutting your jerkbrain up.

    *I’m not trying to imply that presentation=gender. It’s just that “mixing up each other’s underwear in the wash” does not seem like a typical problem in a heterosexual relationship, and in this particular set of circumstances my presentation does in fact do a great deal of informing about my gender.

  29. Saint Roonicorn said:

    LW, I want to give you the biggest Jedihugs!

    (For context I am a ciswoman and I identify as queer)

    My partner is genderqueer and considering transitioning (maybe) and might want new people in their life to use neutral or male pronouns, but is terrified to ask family members and current friends/acquaintances to use different pronouns. When we met, my partner presented as a MOC woman, but was occasionally (okay, daily) mistaken for a man by your average cishet person.

    We had been dating for over a year before my partner stated that they were considering transitioning, although we had discussions about top surgery within the first few dates. I can confidently say that I had a very good idea that transitioning was a possibility long before we explicitly discussed it. As a previous commenter said, I wish I had said “hey, it’s cool I you want me to use different pronouns. That would never change anything for me.” But I didn’t want to pressure or assume.
    I love my partner, and their gender could never change that for me because they are the same person.

    I feel like that is the real point I mean to make. My partner is the same person regardless of boobs or genitals. They are the same person. Other people may see them differently or interact with them differently, but they are the same person.

    Feel out the situation not just with how this girl feels about other trans* people, but also with this girl’s general ability to be a safe person for you. The Captain’s advice for dating is spot on and time will tell you if this girl is a person you can confide in. If not, you’ll move on and have learned a thing or two.

    Regardless, there are plenty of ladies and dudes who love people regardless of pants parts. Also, I feel like there is no way to have a healthy and honest relationship with someone and not know, on some level, things this big about that person.

    My best wishes for you in your dating adventures, LW!

  30. RiceIsNice said:

    Hi, LW! Long-term lurker, delurking because your letter just tugged at my heartstrings and I had to post something in response. I hope this isn’t too long or rambly, I just wanted to offer some extra support along with the rest of this fantastic community.

    Backstory: I’m a genderqueer trans guy (somewhere between transmasculine and agender, but also pretty femme, use both male and gender-neutral pronouns, because gender just isn’t that simple sometimes) who has three long term partners. One of them is a trans woman, and the other two are cis men. I’m still in the process of figuring out what I want to do about an actual, physical transition, so the rest of the world reads me as a woman. My story isn’t typical, but I hope that maybe it provides some comfort or reassurance re: love and dating while trans.

    My fiancee is trans. She’s largely closeted except to me, my other partners and some of her other friends for personal reasons (mostly pertaining to an extremely religious family). We’ve also known each other since high school, so growing up, I knew her as a guy. When we got together four years ago and began living together – I don’t recommend moving in together right away like we did, but our circumstances were highly unusual and it worked for us – it became clear to me right away that she wasn’t happy in a traditional “male” role and had a lot of androgynous leanings, dropped some subtle hints much like the ones The Captain suggested, etc. Basically, when she came out to me as trans, I wasn’t surprised, and we had a really good talk about how we wanted to handle it going forward (i.e., what pronouns she wanted me to use, public vs. private presentation, who she wanted to know, all the basic stuff). It didn’t affect our relationship in a negative way, or change how we interacted outside of a pronoun shift – she was always the same person whom I love dearly (of course, it helps that she knew I was openly queer even before we got together). Her ex had never wanted to hear about it and wanted her to stay firmly in a set, male role and them to have a traditional cishet relationship, so she was really nervous when she first came out to me, because she was afraid that I might have the same sort of reaction, even though she knew I was queer and just a generally accepting person. Obviously, I did not, and she now has at least one place in the world where she can be completely and totally herself, without judgement or reservation. When I came out, a year and a half later, she did the same for me. Things are good. They’ve been tough at times, but we’ve stuck with each other, and we’re stronger for it.

    My boyfriends, as I mentioned above, are both cis. One identifies as pansexual, and one identifies as heteroflexible, i.e., gay for me (as we often joke). I started dating both of them before I came out, and when I finally realized what was going on with me and accepted that hey, maybe all this stuff I’d been ignoring for a really long time might require some real examination and soul-searching and oh shit I’m actually a dude or at least, not a lady, I freaked the fuck out. I freaked out because I’m a depressed, hideously anxious worrier who overthinks EVERYTHING and has a bad dating history with unsupportive partners, and I was afraid that I was going to take attention away from my fiancee’s discovery of herself and her transition and I was afraid that my straight boyfriend would dump me and that my pan boyfriend wouldn’t want to date someone who was trans and I was just afraid. Of the change, the potential for pain, all of it. But then I realized that maybe I wasn’t being fair to them, putting thoughts in their head and ascribing motivations and feelings that might not even be there, and just not thinking very highly of them in general because I was all caught up in the whirlwind of my anxiety and tendency to assume the worst (and again, this doesn’t necessarily apply to you and your flirtation buddy, since I’d already been with these people for a while when I came out and knew them really well at this point). So, I bit the bullet and told them all that I was genderqueer/trans, and that I was changing my name to something more gender-neutral and also possibly thinking about transitioning, depending on what was possible/available to me, since I currently live in a not-very-QUILTBAG friendly area with limited resources.

    That was a while ago, and I’m still with all three of them. They love me for ME. They accept me as I am. We’ve talked honestly about how things might go if/when I do begin transitioning (I’ve always presented pretty gender-neutral with hair and dress, so I’m mostly referring to top surgery and hormone replacement therapy, here), and I’m confident that they’ll support me. Do I sometimes worry about my lesbian fiancee and my straight male partner maybe no longer being attracted to me when I have a permanently flat chest and facial hair*? Occasionally. But they’ve been so wonderful and supportive and good about treating me as the person I am, not the way that rest of the world sees me, that I choose to believe in them. So, I guess you could say that I’m still in the process of building my own Happily-Ever-After, but it looks pretty good so far. My point is, being trans doesn’t mean that people won’t love you or accept or want to date you, regardless of your stage in transitioning or whether or not you even plan to transition or when you come out to them. You’re not deceiving anyone. You’re not just a trans person. That’s only one facet of your beautiful, complex makeup as a human being, and there will be someone, or more than one someone, out there who can appreciate you for you, full stop. Maybe it’s this lady. Maybe it’s someone else. My advice is to take it slow, see what happens, and remember that you are worthy of love.
    <3

    *I may not actually grow facial hair once I start T, whenever that is. But I can dream.

  31. Clementine Danger said:

    LW, I really responded to your assertions that “this girl doesn’t deserve this baggage”.

    My husband was in an emotionally similar place when we were first starting to date. He has had many issues throughout his life (which aren’t mine to share, so I can’t elaborate here) that made him unsure about whether he was fit for a relationship at all. Unbeknownst to me he went through an entire emotional journey with this idea that he was deceiving me and he should not “drag me into it”.

    It’s kind of terrifying to think that we may have split up then and I wouldn’t even have known why, but he did eventually decide to tell me how he felt. And I’m so glad he did. Because at the end of the day, I get to decide what I deserve. He though he was offering up a Boyfriend With Issues and made the decision that I didn’t want that. And I decided I did want to be with Caring, Loving Boyfriend Who Is So Much More Than The Sum Of His Parts. And I’m so glad he made the choice to tell me and allow me to make the decision of what I deserve.

    I guess what I’m saying here is that you’re offering any potential partner more than just Trans Person. It’s such a cliche, I realize that, but there are many people out there who will see things in you that maybe you can’t see right now. You aren’t deceiving anyone by existing. You aren’t lying. Nobody is required to throw everything about their past and feelings and personal issues on the table after (or before) one date. Nobody asks that of cis people, and nobody has the right to ask that of you.

    What other people deserve is up to them. Just like it’s up to you to decide what you deserve. And I don’t want to step on your agency here, but I personally think you deserve to be deliriously happy with someone who is cool and nice, because you sound like a wonderful person who deserves to be loved by someone like that.

    (The links the Captain has provided are excellent, and I want to throw another one out there. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Dr. Nerdlove, but he has a lot of dating advice for people who are anxious or generally confused, and he talks about modern masculinity a lot. His blog is not about being trans, it’s basically a “how to be” for anxious and insecure people. Maybe you would find his advice useful? I don’t think I can post links here, but it should be the top Google result.)

    • Streaming Unconscious said:

      I’ve never commented here before, but this hit hard.

      You aren’t deceiving anyone by existing. You aren’t lying.

      I have written the sentence “I feel like I’m lying to people just by existing” (to say nothing of thinking it) more times than I can remember. Seeing someone else say–in those same words–that no, that’s not true… Well, I’m sitting here at work trying not to cry because breaktime is over in five.

      What other people deserve is up to them.

      This is something I’ve been struggling with lately. Not so much on the romance count as it seems personal dysphoria will make that impossible. Just, I haven’t let myself have any friends for years, partly due to severe trust issues but mostly due to a reluctance to saddle another human being with me. I keep thinking that I need to wait until I can get access to some kind of therapy/sort things out on my own/just generally stop being the Saddest Panda before I can even attempt to hang out with other people. Except isolation contributes to the sad, and it just gets worse from there.

      Basically what I want to say is thanks for this comment. I’m not the LW, but this is something I needed to read.

      (Also seconding the Dr. Nerdlove rec.)

      • Clementine Danger said:

        I’m glad this has helped you. I can only repeat what I said, because I believe it without question. You are not lying by existing as yourself.

        A footnote about Dr. Nerdlove: it should be mentioned that while I wholeheartedly support 90% of what is said there and I find his insights to be largely feminist and progressive, it is NOT a safe space, it’s fairly 101 in tone and the comments can get very triggery.

  32. Malin said:

    I have another potentially encouraging story about how I thought of myself as 100% straight, and then this person I was into turned out to be non-binary, and I continued to be into them, and when they started hormonal treatment to make their body better match their gender identity I thought that was wonderful and it did not make me any less attracted to them.
    We never formalized the relationship (they didn’t want that), and we’ve been living on different continents for 2.5 years so make-outs have also become rare, but we’re still close.

  33. Pterinochilus murinus said:

    LW, what really shone out to me in your comment is how much you need people on Team You. You said that you weren’t planning to transition because the first person to laugh at you would crush you, and I believe you, because you sound very lonely and scared.

    But what if you weren’t alone? What if you had a posse of other trans people who knew how it felt from the inside and could hold you up when you’re being crushed, because you would do the same for them? And friends, trans and cis, who looked at you and saw the girl you are, even on bad body days, and had your back?

    I’m not going to pretend no one would ever be horrible, because you know better than I do that there are horrible people out there, but could all that very real bad stuff be survivable if you had a Team You?

    I think it might be, but even if you don’t, even if you still are definitely never going to transition, you still need and deserve people who will see you and be good to you even when you’re not good to you. More than that, I think that’s something you can have. It’s possible and it’s allowed. You can go look for them.

    And also, there are trans support and social groups, online and off, with no minimum level of transition (or commitment TO transition) required for you to enter them.

    I’m sorry, I know what you really want advice on is whether you’re deceiving this woman by flirting with her, but it feels like I’m a first aider and someone with a sucking chest wound is asking if their sprained ankle needs a bandage.

  34. LW, I don’t have too much to add to the other commenters on this, but I wanted to share some stories that other women have written about transitioning with partners and having partners who transitioned. So this might get caught in the spam trap because of all the links…

    One of the most impressive people I knew in college, Emily Aviva, has a blog (http://plantingrainbows.wordpress.com/) where she talks about Deafness, autism, trans community, Judaism, and mental health. She wrote a few posts early in her blog history about transition, about which Meditations on transitioning with a partner might be most relevant here; her circumstances are different than yours, LW, but she found someone who wanted to be alongside her through that journey and process. (Emily’s fiancee had her own slightly snarky summary of the early part of the process, Introducing… the partner.)

    Melissa blogs at Permission to Live about atheism and growing up in a very conservative Christian subculture. Her wife Haley transitioned after they had married and had children. Melissa has collected links to posts she wrote about their whole relationship story, from meeting to highly patriarchal courtship to Haley’s transition. I’m offering it as another documented perspective of someone who supported their partner through a transition neither of them expected to happen, who were raised to believe could never happen. (Haley helped with the writing and editing and has a few guests posts herself tagged Haley’s Posts.)

    LW, I hope that this post and its comments have convinced you that you are lovable for you, that whereever you go on your gender journey you have the potential for finding love. While being trans and/or genderqueer and/or otherwise not cis is obviously hard in this ciscentric world, the anxiety of flirting with or dating someone new while frightened that they will judge or reject you is something many people, cis and trans, have dealt with. Some of your fears are absolutely justified and there to keep you safe, but taking things one step at a time, collecting your Team You, and not putting pressure on any one date or interaction to be The Biggest Thing Ever will serve you well in deciding when and where to have the scary conversations. Good luck!

    • sunnyside said:

      So glad you mentioned Permission to Live! I love the blog and, having read the OP and comments, think people here would really appreciate their story. Their love for each other is absolutely touching and it’s…empowering, hope inspiring, to read how much their family has gone through and how far they’ve come.

  35. Kuro said:

    Hey,

    Trans* person here. I’m non-binary/genderqueer but considering steps to physically transition: I’m AFAB and absolutely hate being consistently read as female. If I had to choose one side of the gender binary, I’d much rather be a boy.

    I got into my current relationship while still thinking of myself as a cis woman. I certainly had some suspicions that this wasn’t true but they were mostly repressed. However at some point I realised that not only was this not who I was but that I had a clear idea of my identity and I wanted to embrace that. I told my partner about this, and he was 100% supportive. He’s cis, and from a very cisnormative background, so knew very little about what being trans* meant, but listened to me when I explained and tried to understand. He’s bisexual, which helps, and I think that even when I wasn’t totally explicit, he kind of already knew there was something going on.

    I’m not saying that your experience will necessarily pan out like that, but it’s not impossible. And even if it doesn’t work out with this girl, I’m certain that you will find somebody who loves and support you.

  36. Anonymous, for privacy reasons said:

    I’m bigendered, AFAB. Part of that is hormonal, and a lot if it, I’m coming to accept, is just who I am and how I’m wired.

    I’m also poly, with two cishet guys who met me when I was presenting entirely female. To one of them (and this is kind of painful, but we’re not ready to part ways yet), his identity as Het is important, so when I present as male outside of our home, he won’t act like my partner. In private, he’s affectionate and cuddly regardless of how male or female I am at a given moment, but he has no pantsfeelings for me when I’m being a guy. It’s hard and awkward sometimes, which is probably not what you needed to hear, but it’s our situation, and I wouldn’t call it a bad one. We’re pretty happy.

    My other guy, though… He loves me fiercely and always finds me sexy, in dresses or jeans or a binder and packed boxers. He says he loves me for who I am between my ears, and that if a time comes when I’m spending more time as male than as female or gender-neutral and want to pursue transition, he’ll still love me and feel pantsfeelings for me. And I believe him. So that’s an outcome that can happen too.

    So you don’t have to be super-sure about how you want to proceed in the future or even how you want to identify yourself right now. Just get to know this nice lady friend for now, take things one step at a time.

  37. anon-for-this said:

    I’m female, very much cis, kind of a girly girl, and queer.

    The person I’m married to is male-assigned-at-birth, queer, and not 100% sure about gender identity, which came to light several years into our marriage. He sums up like so:

    – He doesn’t mind the physical attributes of being male, but doesn’t particularly think he’d mind the physical attributes of being female.
    – He prefers his hair long and finds it very amusing and idk…comforting? when we are mistaken for two women, which happens frequently. That I am taller than him probably “helps” with this frequent mistake. And he also finds it really aggravating when someone who has called us “ladies” falls all over himself (and it usually is a guy who’s done this) apologizing, “as if being mistaken for a woman is the worst possible thing.”
    – He absolutely DOES mind the social role of being male, and finds it a very bad fit, though he’s not sure whether this means anything about actually being trans* or genderqueer or whether this is his way of trying to downplay the degree to which he has male privilege. And I think this is where things get difficult for us and I am the least sure of how best to be supportive.
    – To make this worse, his family of origin was very abusive about enforcing gender norms, to the point where he got in trouble for…cooking. Because that’s for girls. Yes, really.
    – I think he has dated exactly one woman who didn’t identify as queer (as well as having been involved with a few men), and most of his friends are something other than cis het men.
    – We have daughters, though one of them has occasionally seemed to identify as maybe something other than cis-female. Their dad loves being “daddy” but is relieved that we don’t have sons and feels like he would have a really difficult time helping a boy grow into a man because of his own gender-ambivalence.

    And just speaking for myself? The ways in which he doesn’t fit “male social role” are some of the things I love about him best and many of the things that attracted me to him in the first place.

  38. reuzenhaai said:

    Captain, thank you so much for trying to ensure these comments aren’t terrible. It’s a near-impossible task on this topic, so unfortunately several of them are terrible.

    I am trans, and here is my very strong advice to the LW:

    If you are reasonably sure you’re a woman, don’t get into a relationship with this woman unless you find out she is lesbian or bi, or at least very, very bicurious. Perhaps first meet up for a coffee or something and find out that information as subtly as you can.

    I’m sorry. Your situation is really painful. But it will be a lot more painful if you’re dating a straight woman while your need to transition intensifies.

    Do remember that, as the Captain said, this woman might have already sensed that in some way you’re not male.

    Please ignore the extremely transphobic advice about your “identity” and your “biological gender” and how it might be OK for you to date a woman who loves the body you dislike but doesn’t give a shit about your mind. You deserve so much better, LW.

    You can and will find a partner who is attracted to women. If you’re dating someone while transitioning, date someone who loves female features and will be thrilled when your body becomes more female.

    I’d like to ask commenters to remember that being a trans man or trans woman does not = gender fucking, so the whole “androgyny is such a turn-on” business when we are discussing a trans woman is really unpleasant.

    • Katie said:

      thanks for this.

    • I really agree with the principle of this. Three non-negotiables for a potential partner: A) do they have pantsfeelings for you? B) are they gendering you correctly, once informed? C) would they be able to support you and be attracted to you during and after your transition if/when that happens?

      I’m not really so sure that trying to suss this out on the first date is a wise option. I’m afraid the LW would be selling herself short if she doesn’t pick up any signs that the girl is potentially attracted to women. After all, turn it around–this girl might still be vetting the LW for whether or not it’s safe to talk about her sexuality! And there’s always the chance that a straight-identified girl might say, “I thought you were a hot boy, but now I see that you are a hot girl! You are a woman, and I’m straight, and I’m attracted to you anyway! Unexpected! Neat! You’d look so great with boobs!” On the other side, there are unfortunately some gay and bi women who are prejudiced against transwomen. Sexual orientation alone isn’t enough to verify, or rule out, A, B, and C above.

      Of course, opening your heart to a girl who hasn’t mentioned any attraction to women is emotionally risky, and no one says you have to give everybody a fair chance in love. If you get the vibe that this girl won’t be attracted to you for your awesome lady self, you can turn her down for another date even if you haven’t talked about it explicitly. And you can exclude heterosexual women from your dating pool if you want. At the end of the day, as long as you’re only accepting partners who make you happy, meet your needs and like you for who you are, it’s all good.

      Seconded: being trans* and being androgynous are not mutually exclusive, but one does not imply the other.

      • Cactus said:

        “And there’s always the chance that a straight-identified girl might say, “I thought you were a hot boy, but now I see that you are a hot girl! You are a woman, and I’m straight, and I’m attracted to you anyway! Unexpected! Neat! You’d look so great with boobs!””

        Yeah, I think this is a HUGE thing that was missing from one of the terrible comments further up in the thread: sometimes people surprise themselves with who they’re attracted to. I don’t think it’s useful to say “I could never date a trans* person,” it’s not like they’re monolithic.

    • I second all of this, but one of the things the Captain is saying is that there can be several steps between “flirting” and “getting into a relationship.” First dates! Second dates! Hanging out with friends! Non-traditional dating activities! Life isn’t a 1950s high school musical where after you meet at the soda shop you give her your pin. LW, there is TIME to suss out if the person you enjoy flirting with is also a person you could build a relationship with. It is not a failure if the answer is no. There is also time to figure out if the person you enjoy flirting with is safe to come out to and interested in dating women in general, trans women/genderqueer folks in particular, and you in most particular. You do not have to figure it all out on your first date, or your second date, or when you’re talking at a party. You will get better at the sussing out thing with practice, and it’s okay if it takes a while the first couple times. You are not the only one auditioning for a relationship, and it’s okay if the other person doesn’t measure up to your standards for safety and awesomeness. You can move on, because there are people out there cool enough for you.

    • Kuro said:

      Totally agree. The “androgyny is such a turn-on” idea is pretty unpleasant even for those of us who are androgynous/fluid/a bit genderfucky because it’s an identity, not a fetish. I certainly don’t want to be in a relationship with somebody who finds me attractive purely BECAUSE I’m trans*.

  39. Shoal said:

    Good luck to you, LW! I’m a lesbian in a wonderful relationship with a transwoman and we’re planning to get married. She was already out of the closet before we started dating, but we met online where disclosure is safer, and we were good friends online before we started dating.

    In our case, we probably wouldn’t have become a couple if she was still closeted because I would have been under the mistaken impression that she was a guy, but who’s to say, really. We definitely would have ended up been good friends and maybe I would have grown romantically attracted to her even if I didn’t know she was a woman, because she’s the person I’m in love with. Maybe I would’ve started questioning whether I was bicurious or whether she was the one in a million exception to my being a lesbian, if I hadn’t known she was really a woman inside, and then when she came out it would’ve been a happy surprise.

    Coming out is scary and it can be dangerous, so it’s important to trust your gut feelings. If you’re afraid or uncomfortable coming out right now, you should listen to that feeling. It’s okay to wait until you feel safe, to take things slow and test the waters. You don’t owe it to anyone to come out before you’re ready. You’ll be happier in a relationship with someone who sees you as you, but you don’t have to disclose until you feel safe to do so and want to do so to that person.

    There are people out there who will be cool with it and I hope this girl is one of them! But for now, get to know her better, hang out with her more, try dating. You don’t need to go faster than you’re comfortable with.

  40. Elle said:

    LW, I’m so sorry for the pain you’re going through. The best I can offer is a happily-ever-after story.

    My wife and I were married for about a year and half (and we’d been together for about 3 years before that) when she told me that she was most definitely trans and wanted to transition and have me accept her as a woman. I was pretty torn up, because I was scared, and because I thought of myself as pretty solidly straight.
    Fast forward another year and a half, and I’ve long since realized I was wrong. I’m so glad to be married to this beautiful, wonderful woman. The ways in which coming out has changed our relationship have been for the better. And it turns out I’m not straight, either, by the way.
    I wish I could promise you that any partner you find will react in a way that’s supportive and kind, but we all know that’s not always the case. Nevertheless, I’m one of many couples that are living proof that a relationship can continue after someone comes out.
    You deserve partners that love and care for you in the ways that you need, and I wish you all the luck in the world in finding that.

  41. Totally unrelated to the main topic, but I want to thank CA for this:
    “When you feel insecure and shy, it’s easy to get into a mindset where you are the one with something to prove and the other person exists to pass judgment and bestow acceptance, but it works both ways.”
    because that is how I felt about all people in general, when I was a teenager. And it is so damaging and so hard to get out of, and I’d never even managed to put it into words before so thank you.

  42. minuteye said:

    “Maybe she senses and is attracted to all the ways you aren’t like typical guys, and the stuff you are worried she’ll find out is the stuff that is drawing her to you.”

    Very much agreeing with the above quote. It was with respect to mental health, rather than gender issues, but there were some things about me that I was really afraid would be dealbreakers for a potential romantic interest. When I finally worked up the courage to tell my current partner about them? They basically responded with “Umm, thanks for telling me, but I already know”.

    LW, what you’re going through right now is hard, and there will probably be more hard things and some heartbreak down the road for you. But please believe me when I say there are people who will love you because of who you really are, and not in spite of it. And there are definitely people for whom your trans*ness will just be an extra helping of delightful candy sprinkles on the cupcake that is you.

  43. Jake said:

    LW, you mentioned in your letter that you’re worried that if you start having a more romantic/dating type relationship, that that will push you into a position of having to act more masculine than is comfortable for you. I want to push back on that assumption a little bit.

    If you’re clicking with this lady, she’s obviously clicking with _you_. There’s no reason to suppose she would want you to start pretending to be someone you’re not (at least not any more than you currently are).

    There are lots of cis-gendered straight women who don’t want or need their romantic relationships or even first dates to follow the ridiculously gendered norms we see on TV. Even if you’re presenting as a man, and she’s perceiving you that way, that doesn’t mean you have to hold doors or buy flowers or be in charge or be sexually aggressive or do any of the stuff we typically think of as the “man’s role”. I don’t think your only options are COME OUT RIGHT NOW or PRETEND TO BE VERY MANLY. The middle ground that you currently feel safe in is a place you can stay for a while while you get to know her and decide if/when you can safely come out. And if it turns out that she _does_ want her dates to take on that manly role, well then you know that you guys aren’t a good fit for dating, and that’s good information for you to have.

    In terms of you being dishonest, I also think that a person who cares for you and who wants to be with you will understand why you might stay closeted until you feel safe, and will be able to forgive you for not being 100% honest right away. Coming out can be very unsafe (and very scary even if it isn’t actually unsafe this time), and a reasonable person who you come out to will not make that about them.

  44. AnonWife said:

    Hi,
    I want to say I am cisfemale, bi, and very happily married to a trans guy. We got together while he was female-presenting, he came out to me after roughly a year of marriage, and I have supported him every step of the way. I played candycrush in waiting rooms, joked around with him when his voice cracked, counted chinhairs when they started coming in.

    It’s part of who he is, and I love him dearly and I want him to be happy. I think the important thing is that yes, being a woman is part of who you are, and being trans is part of it, but there’s so much more to you. And a potential partner may find your trans status a non-issue, but be horrified that you’re a dedicated goldfish enthusiast, or that you listen to polka, or say “put the item up” instead of “put the item away.” or any number of things. It doesn’t mean you’re not awesome, just not awesome as a partner for them. I won’t say it makes it any easier, but for the right person it won’t be a dealbreaker.

    • AnonWife said:

      Replying to this to add that one thing to keep in mind as you go through life, people with similarities to you may have good advise. They may have utterly awful advice. And I say this because I remembered that some of the trans spaces can have their flaws. For example, when my husband came out to future in-laws there was some tension. My mother would slip up with name/pronoun and then get embarrassed and her response to that was to go on the offensive that it was all His Fault for putting her in a confusing situation and forcing her to make mistakes. And she dealt with every possible hint of embarrassment/mistake this way. (If she ordered the wrong pizza for dinner, it was because her husband forgot to feed the cats that morning and flustered her and that was horrible of him and she would follow him around telling him so.) It wasn’t unique, but it was still very hurtful. He went onto a trans forum to vent about how it was frustrating to get blamed for her slip ups.

      What followed was a flood of misogynistic bull. Women were horrible creatures and he needed to dump my butt ASAP and find himself a nice gay trans boy who could fully understand and support him and never go near any vile woman ever again. Because if my mother was transphobic, it meant I was secretly transphobic and just biding my time to strike.

      He sat there with his jaw hanging opened, showed me it because he couldn’t believe it, then deleted his account and never went back.

      And you know what? I was not about to lecture them on how their anger was wrong or they needed to be all sunshine and kittens and love everyone. It just meant that the community was a very bad fit for my husband and that just because they shared something in common (trans status) there was no requirement that they’d have matching opinions on everything else. This is, at heart, your individual journey. No one else has taken it exactly like you, and no one has the right to tell you the ‘correct’ or ‘right’ way to take it, or think about it. Some trans individuals talk about “Back when I was a boy/girl” and some don’t. Some openly share details across social media, some keep it private. Some struggle with finding resources and support, some go “Huh, that was easy.” I think at some point in another answer the Captain said something along the lines of “Plan for the worst, but don’t forget to plan for the best too.” Don’t let the worsts (She might say no to a cup of coffee) stop you from trying for the best (She might say yes.)

  45. Once upon a time I went to a meet up with someone I had randomly met at a rally. At the meeting I saw this really hot person. I thought they were clever and interesting and captivatingly androgynous. In fact I couldn’t gender them, which I found confusing at the time. I was mostly straight, but I had previously dated one woman. Anyway, I smiled and flirted and ulitmately asked them out to coffee. I got the impression they weren’t particularly interested in me. Possibly because I was totally clueless about trans stuff. They came out to me as a trans woman, gave me some basic trans 101 and pointed me in the direction of some stuff to read.
    We became good friends, and hung out pretty regularly. I came out as queer and got more involved with the queer community. I am not sure exactly when or why we moved from friends to lovers, but it happened, and it was great. She is an awesome person, and although we have since gone our separate ways we are still in touch and I still think she is wonderful.
    I agree with the advice offered, and just wanted to add my story.

  46. Anon Fairy Boy said:

    FtM guy speaking, who is also gay. I know that feeling of cis people often being crap with trans things. And yes, it does happen.

    BUT! It is by no means a given. I have hooked up with cis men who have never heard of trans guys before, with bi men, with gay-but-used-to-be-married-men, with twinky gay men and beary gay men, and with an impressive number of gay guys who had never been intimate with someone in possession of a vulva.

    I say this as less of a relevancy to your current situation, LW, but more to offer some hope that even though cis folks can be profoundly awful regarding the trans issue, there are many who don’t care or are willing to experiment and learn how it makes them feel in bed as well as out of it.

  47. Cis biromantic ace woman, to start off with, formerly in a relationship with a trans man (with permission to talk about all this). To start with, I want to make clear that the relationship ended because we couldn’t find a balance between our relative needs for independance vs attachments, not for any reason remotely connected to either of our gender or sexual identities. He is still my best friend, and I am his. We had some of those ‘If we’re both single at 45, we’ll get married and adopt’ plans, but I’m going to be at his wedding this spring, so those are off.
    That said, I wanted to lay out a few of the difficulties we faced.
    Neither of us was completely sure of our sexualities at the time. He had only ever dated women, and so had I, with one adolescent exception. There was some concern over whether or not I was dating him as a man or not. Fueling this fire was the fact that I was not interested in any kind of sex/sex preludes. My relationship prior to him had died because of exactly that, so while he knew it wasn’t him, it still prodded at his sore spots of feeling of feeling unappealing because he was trans that I didn’t want more than the occasional cuddle with him.
    Solution: We talked. A lot. And arranged other ways to show attachment and be intimate. There was so much talking. And I remember all of it really, really warmly. I’ve never had so honest and happy a relationship.

    None of this is really relevant at the first date level of things. What is is this: I had known him over a year before I found out he was trans. (three years before we dated). We were already close before I knew, but he knew I was safe to come out to. It’s not deception of any sort to wait until you know that. And if she (or anyone) gets mad either because you told her the truth, or because you waited to do so until you knew you could, then you know something important about her.

  48. Boy howdy, do I know how you feel. I’m a trans*man, still recognized as a girl (I have not yet begun the surgical/hormonal aspects of transitioning, nor have I yet changed my name due to cost, or even told anyone I know IRL about it because….well, I’m rather afraid of how they’d take it.) It’s not an easy road, but in the end – I think it’ll be worth it.

    Honesty is the best policy is a saying for a reason, but there are exceptions. Maybe bring up transgender topics in a conversation casually, and see how she reacts. If she reacts with disgust, obviously it’s a no-go and you may want to cut ties with her. If she’s interested or understanding, then hey, press on! You don’t have to give everything away up front, especially if it could be unsafe for you.

    Above all else, stay safe.

  49. JenniferP said:

    I added this to the post itself, but I want it to pop up for people already following comments:

    Second Moderator Note, same as first, a little bit louder, a little bit #@@#$@!#!!!!!!!:

    There is a very lovely discussion happening in the thread. I love every comment from a trans*person sharing their story. I love this comment and want to embroider it on a thing, because it is the best valentine the Internet had to offer yesterday. I love the love stories. I want to keep the thread open so the lovely stuff can continue. But after moderating a bunch of comments, we need to set some stronger ground rules:

    Armchair linguists who want to discuss pronoun use, like, in the abstract? This is not your thread. If you don’t know what pronoun someone uses, it’s cool to ask “Hey, what pronoun do you prefer?” Whatever they tell you, that’s what you use.

    Armchair biologists who want to discuss what gender even, like means? This is not your thread.

    You’ve never thought about trans* issues before? Read. Listen. Learn. Maybe don’t talk.

    Thought experiments about how, if your current romantic interest came out or changed genders, would you want to stay with them? This is not your thread. If that’s not so hypothetical for you, remember, comfort in, dump out.

    Staunch defenders of one’s “right” to not be attracted to transgendered people? Don’t be attracted to them! In fact, definitely don’t go anywhere near them with your oooooh, so sparkly! perfect amazing attraction. You wouldn’t want to waste it, would you? [The previous sentence may have contained sarcasm] Your personal attraction/lack of attraction/potential attraction is boring and irrelevant. Your need to preemptively announce it is boring and unwelcome.

    Staunch defenders of Honesty! Before! All!, your next first date is going to be a very lucky person, I know it! Spot a cute person at a party or in line at the local coffee joint? You can scan Yelp for a good first date place nearby, while, s/he reads your tax returns for the last 5 years, your complete medical records, dental records (+ a full-body scan so they can really “see what they’re getting”), the results of an independent assessment of the cleanliness of your home, written references from your last three lovers, the latest performance evaluation from your employer, a gene scan to determine the viability of any future offspring, and your personal prediction for everything you might do, feel, or become in the next, say, 5-10 years. After all, if you don’t tell a potential date you just met everything about yourself that might help them make a decision about whether they want to date you from the start, you are a lying liar! [The previous sentence may have contained sarcasm]. Without the sarcasm: Your worry about “truth” and “honesty” is concern trolling that you think is masking your discomfort. The mask is not working. Set the thread to “Read Only.”

    I love this community, and I really want to assume good faith on everyone’s part, but some of the ignorance on display in the moderation queue is the kind that’s hard to distinguish from harm. This isn’t Debate Club. This isn’t Theory of Sex and Gender class. This is a vulnerable human being on the threshhold of many exciting adventures asking for reassurance and guidance from people who have been there. If you don’t have anything to add, that’s cool, we’ll have a new thread in a few days. But don’t subtract.

  50. Reading these comments as a genderfluid person, married to a cis guy (who doesn’t seem to get, or want to get, trans* issues) has been encouraging. I joined PFLAG, so I could other people more-or-less like me, and maybe make friends. Well, this thread isn’t about me, but it wasn’t a good experience. Thank the gods for the internet!

    Anyway, I’m here because on Twitter I met a fellow trans*/genderqueer person who is a therapist, and they have expressed interest in taking on new clients. Wasn’t sure if mentioning that here would be of interest to anyone.

    Beyond that, they wrote a book about a child who is nonbinary. I bought 4 copies, back when I thought someone in my family of origin might be interested in learning about my gender identity.

    therapist is @talcottronic; TL for the book is @MeetPolkadot.

    Hope this isn’t a derail.

  51. Hello LW: Lots of encouragement and good wishes for you here. My happy ending story is a family one, not a personal one. One of my siblings dated a lovely person who happened to be trans* for a long time. When sibling told my parents about this facet of their *hug’s* life, they 1) did it because the *hug* said they should before there were family introductions. My parents 2) said “okay, thanks for letting us know” and thought about things for a bit and said “okay, well that’s cool.” 3) We all adore that person, who is smart and funny kind and generous and just grand and is a lovely guest and host and all the other things. 4) My mama’s big response after getting this news was “how nice they have an advanced degree in [cool thing]. What [specific area] do they work in? Hey! We’re going to see *hug* soon. Have I told you about their cool career?! 5) We’ve all been asked the consumately inappropriate personal questions you might expect people to ask over the years, and we’ve all replied with a variation on the theme of “I would never be so rude as to ask that question, but they do have this really fun hobby and a great pet rabbit!”

    So the point of that all was, not only are there cool people who want to date someone terrifyingly cool like you in the world, some of those people will have families who will be delighted you are in your dating partner’s life. I am so glad we got to know *hug* and the relationship was clearly really good for sibling, as long as the relationship lasted and beyond. We’re always lucky when the people we care about find awesome people to love and date, and this situation in my family was one such. I can only hope I end up with someone so wonderful in my lifetime.

  52. I wanted to chime in on this because I’m a masculine genderqueer person (or maybe a trans guy? things remain somewhat unclear) and I started dating my boyfriend when I was presenting as entirely female. And I’m still with him. Things that helped:

    a) Unbeknownst to me when we first started dating (because, as the Captain says, nobody gives you their full life story on the first date), he’s queer and had been attracted to and slept with men before.

    b) He told me he was attracted to me, to whatever ineffable me-ness I can’t and wouldn’t transition out of, not to my gender. He wanted to be with me in whatever form I took, not with me-as-long-as-I-was-a-woman.

    The first time I told him about my complicated genderfeelings, his response was “then you can be my first boyfriend,” and LW, I wish you all the relief and joy and feeling of being loved and accepted that might come with hearing “then you can be my girlfriend.”

    Is the girl you’re interested in right now going to be the person who says this to you, LW? Maybe she will. Maybe your chemistry will be terrible for completely non-gender-related reasons and you’ll never find out. Maybe she’ll be disappointingly, crushingly transphobic, and I’m so sorry and it’s not your fault if that turns out to be the case. But people who can be awesome partners to trans people in transition are out there, and it’s wonderful to be with one.

  53. There are so many deeply personal things that aren’t brought up at a first date; I don’t understand why this wouldn’t also be one of them. You can’t go zero to sixty within the first few moments of meeting someone. Things you learn on the first date would include, say, how vegetarian you are, or how many kids you have, or why you’re a Cubs fan instead of a White Sox fan. Things you learn later could be, say, “I was estranged from my family for a decade and didn’t speak to them,” or “My aunt suicided a year before I was born,” or (as Jennifer put it) “I’m in the very early stages of figuring this out, but I am trans* and I want to be a girl someday.” Why would anyone unpack all that baggage on a first date? These are things that absolutely should be discussed at some point, but not right away.

    And to be clear, there’s a happy medium between, “How ’bout them Mets?” and “Here’s a rundown of my gothic family history.” That’s what second, third, and so on dates are for. I like to use words like, “So my family relationships have been problematic, and it’s something I’ve been working through for years. I don’t really want to go into it right now, since we’re having such a great time at the ballgame, so let’s talk about it later. Soon! I promise.” It seems to me that the worst that can happen is that you quit dating before you feel close enough to the person to disclose. But that’s not deception; that’s no harm, no foul. (Example: an ex of mine had a cocaine problem before they started dating me. We split amicably after being together only briefly, and now they’re happily married to someone else. Should they have told me about their past cocaine use? I’ll say that I hope the current spouse knows; but I don’t think I needed to, and I absolutely don’t feel deceived.)

    Later, once things are more unpacked, then the parties can decide whether they should be looking into a more Long-Term, Serious Relationship, or This Is Someone I Can Keep in My Circle of Acquaintances But Not in My Bed, or Yeah, No, This Is Too Heavy for Me, But I Wish You Luck. (Hopefully in the last case, it’ll happen gracefully. But even if it doesn’t, at least you haven’t stayed for years in a relationship with someone who doesn’t actually want to be with you.) The process will be longer or shorter for different people and couples, but it’s definitely not a first-date thing.

    LW, please keep in mind that everyone has a gothic family history. I don’t say that to diminish your struggle, but to suggest that the cool person you met is also likely harboring something that she is worried about bringing to your attention as well.

  54. yellow duck said:

    Hi,
    didn’t read the other comments so I might not be adding anything new.

    Anyway.

    I think the most important thing is to keep yourself safe and as comfortable as possible. You are not lying if you decide not to tell her, you are protecting yourself + taking care of yourself. Coming out is a big deal and you definitely need to do it on your own terms. And you don’t owe this truth to anybody.

    Obviously not telling will limit the level of trust/intimacy one can reach, but I for one have had a few really nice and warm relationships while being in the closet (I’m trans and umh, pre everything so to say). And for me having these romantic relationships, even while my secret has left them relatively shallow, has really helped me to come to terms with myself. I really think the saying should be the other way around – how can you love yourself if no one has ever shown you how? And sometimes you can start practicing tlc with someone else and then move to yourself.

    What I’m trying to say is that there are cuddles and warmth and love type things to be had even if you decide not to disclose your trans-ness. It will probably feel weird and bad (for me it does) but it’s still a valid choice and I imagine you deal with feeling weird/bad anyway. And that less serious relationships can also do good to a person and relieve the stress that comes with being trans.

    And that you are the most important thing and deserve all the best and should always put yourself first and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. And I wish you all the best, whatever you decide.

    Oh and someone probably mentioned this already but getting in touch with other trans people (even if only online) would probably cheer you up and help you feel more comfortable with yourself.

  55. entendante said:

    Nothing long and substantial to add that hasn’t been said better by someone else; I just wanted to add another round of Jedi hugs and another voice of encouragement.

    (This, from a probably-mostly-cis person who didn’t know she was attracted to the ladies at all until meeting an absolutely smashing woman with long pink hair, who was, as it happens, trans. Also from someone whose next partner was FTM, and transitioned mid-relationship; it ultimately didn’t work out, for entirely different reasons, but it was a damn good run. And now I’m engaged to, hopefully, my final partner, whose gender *and* sexual orientation have undergone some intriguing evolutions since we first met. Humans are just inherently weird; you’re a data point on the scatter plot of human potential, not a freakish outlier, and your potential swoony-friend may well have her own quirks. In fact, I rather hope she does. Either way, Love Is Possible.)

  56. Hi LW,

    I wanted to touch on your reluctance to transition because of people potentially laughing at you, or otherwise being assholes. I can’t at all tell you that this won’t happen, because a lot of people are terrible to trans women. It’s a shitty truth but it’s there. I do think that there’s use in weighing the pain of that possibility against the thought of a future where you have carved out your space in the world, to be a woman in whatever way works for you, with friends and loved ones who are sweet and supportive at your side to help you out.
    I was really afraid before I started transition, I thought I would just be awkward and didn’t really know what my gender was (just that it wasn’t the one I was assigned at birth). My doctor flat-out told me “I don’t think you’ll pass with hormones.” I had a hard time standing up for myself when friends persisted in using the wrong pronouns for me when I’d asked them not to. It was tough, for sure, and it was hard to feel like I “deserved” to be treated any better. I cried a lot. But I am SO GLAD I did it, because life is a lot better now, and I’ve learned a lot about which people in my life really care enough to be part of it.

    Have you made connections with other trans folks, either in person (some queer community centers will have support & socialization groups) or online? I think having some outlet where you can be honest, even in tiny ways, about who you are and get some support might help you feel more ready to, if not come out, receive and be worthy of love as YOU. I don’t think you can’t love other people if you don’t love yourself much, but feeling better about yourself can’t hurt at all.

    Also, if you can find any awesome trans-friendly therapists in your area, you might find the process of talking to them helpful, even if you don’t go in with the initial goal of “transition NOW!” Just being able to bounce thoughts and ideas off of someone in a safe space where you know they’ll be on your side could be a relief.

    And hey, I’ll be another voice saying it really is possible to find love as a trans person and even transition in a relationship. I transitioned while dating someone who was *also* trans, and while our identities and transition processes weren’t the same we were able to support each other through them.
    But I’ve also dated cis folks who had never been involved with trans people before and, as far as I can tell in some situations, hadn’t been attracted to or involved with people of my gender before at all! I don’t know if I’m just so awesome I can change other people’s sexual orientation, but I suspect it’s just because some folks have a more flexible orientation than they’d initially thought.

    Best wishes to you, LW. You deserve love, you deserve to express your gender in whatever ways feel best to you, you deserve respect from everyone in your life. <3

  57. My spouse A (not legally married because of logistics/law reasons, but we had a pretty ceremony and cake and stuff) came out as genderfluid to me and our boyfriend at the time maybe 2-3 years into our relationship (we’re about to hit the five-and-a-half-year mark now.) Zie tends to go back and forth between feeling like a masculine man and a feminine woman. It’s difficult for hir to be publicly out right now due to A) few people understanding what nonbinary identities even are, B) not feeling like zie “passes” when presenting as not the gender zie was designated-at-birth, and C) a lot of people zie knows being uncomfortable with that presentation, which is crappy. But zie’s mentioned multiple times that my reaction to hir coming out as genderfluid was one of hir favorites: “Oh, that makes sense!” Some of the time, I can tell what gender zie’s feeling on a given day whether or not zie’s deliberately presenting that way; other days, I have to ask what pronouns to use, and that’s just fine, too. Sometimes I have to use the pronouns for the gender zie was designated, even though those are least comfortable for hir, because zie can’t be out to whoever I’m talking to. Sometimes I goof on pronouns, and A either isn’t bothered or asks me to use the right ones next time.

    Dude, lady, or androgyne, Spouse is one of the most fantastic, thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, sexy people I know. LW, your overthinking actually reminds me a little bit of hir. I have every confidence that once you’re ready for it, you will stumble into someone with whom you can become that honest and comfortable with, and I also have every confidence that you are deserving of it.

    P.S. Spouse actually mistook my orientation when we first met and didn’t think I’d be attracted to hir. You never know until you find out!

  58. AMM said:

    (I hope this isn’t a derail.)

    I’m in a situation that is sort of similar to the OP. I’m a Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) man. Most noticeably, I wear skirts and dresses pretty much everywhere except at work (where they wouldn’t allow it), though I don’t try to pass as female since it would be hopeless. In contrast to the OP, I’m out — if there’s anyone in my town or in the groups I participate in that doesn’t know how I dress, they’re really, really not paying attention. (Also, just to make things even more complicated, I’m also now wondering if maybe I’m trans — though I have no idea trans _what_)

    So for me the issue is: if I date someone who doesn’t already know me (and how I present), do I go in “male drag” when I first meet them, and hide how I usually am until she gets to know me better, and _then_ spring my, uh, unusual fashion sense on her? Or do I show up as I usually am, and risk completely alienating her from the get-go? (Or warn before even making a date.) I have a phobia of rejection, but could probably twist my arm into going either way.

    • Mary said:

      AMM, I think first dates are the kind of situation where it is totally OK to put your own comfort first, rather than try and second-guess what the other person’s comfort zone would be – because you just can’t know. If you’re more comfortable turning up in male drag, seeing how you feel about this person and progressing to “this is who I am” on a second date, do that. On the other hand, if there is no point to you in meeting someone who isn’t going to be cool and you’d rather filter those people out in advance, send an email when you’ve arranged the where/when/what and let them know that you usually wear dresses and that’s what you’ll be wearing on Saturday, and that you hope they’re OK with that, but to let you know if they’re not.

      Either of those is a perfectly nice and respectful way to treat the other person, so consult your own wishes and what you’re more comfortable with.

  59. lucy said:

    The bit of your letter where you wrote ‘I also wonder if I’m just in love with the idea of love, or being loved, and wish fulfilment is a shitty way to treat someone’ really struck me because I used to feel something really similar. I spent several years feeling totally unable to date because I knew that one of the reasons I wanted to date people was a kind of status thing, like a proof that I’m not unattractive or unlovable. That made me feel like I was a horrible person and like it would be wrong and bad of me to ever express an interest in anyone while I felt like I wanted a partner. It also made me feel totally despairing because I couldn’t work out when I would ever be completely free from the feeling that having a partner would give me some reassurance that I wanted and therefore I would never be able to date ever.

    I think it helped me to realise that almost everyone has some internal, wish-fulfilment stuff going on when it comes to dating. That is ok and ordinary and allowed! Having a wish to love someone and to be loved by someone doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad partner for someone.

    Sending you so many good wishes and hoping things look much, much brighter for you soon!

  60. panda flannel said:

    Hey LW, there are a lot of comments on this post and I only had the energy to read some of them, so here’s my $.02 as a transmasculine person who started dating regularly right about the time I started transitioning.

    I noticed that you didn’t mention in your letter whether you were out to your friends or anyone else in your life about gender stuff. I went through a pattern when I was first transitioning where the people I dated were the ONLY people who I came out to about trans stuff. Some super close friends knew very, very vague things, but whoever I was dating at the time would end up being the person who I talked to about it the most (for me, I HAD to tell the people I dated or else I would completely shut down emotionally, whereas I could grit my teeth and get through the rest of my relationships while staying closeted). I was really lucky in that the people I dated were really great about trans stuff and so I felt comfortable talking with them about gender and really grew a lot from their support.

    Anyway, one thing I noticed about that pattern was that it meant that I would fight tooth and fuckin’ nail for those relationships to keep working, even when they really weren’t working anymore for other, completely unrelated reasons. I stayed in those relationships for longer than was healthy, or was really intensely needy or manipulative in order to get that person to keep dating me, because I was totally terrified of losing that person. They were the only one who knew about my trans stuff! If I didn’t have them, I didn’t know what I would do. I would feel completely, completely alone, so I did anything I could to keep those relationships working because the idea of coming out to more people was fucking horrifying.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it’s quite possible that this person (or another human you’re interested in) might be AWESOME about trans stuff. You may feel so supported and heard and start taking really important and validating steps towards figuring out what you want in your life. And I would still highly, highly recommend that you find your Team You outside of the relationship and consider slowly coming out to people who you have safe and supportive friendships with.

    Because, like you said, there can be lots of other things about relationships that might not work out, and it can help take the pressure off a new relationship to know that there will still be people there for you, who see the real you, even if that relationship ends.

    That was kind of rambly, and I don’t really know if it makes sense. Just know that there are so many of us who are proud of you and rooting for you in everything you do, and so much good luck to you.

    • anon//anon//anon said:

      This is really wise advice, I think.

  61. Don’t worry about the details, I’m dating a man (genetically) who didn’t tell me until later into our relationship that he perceives himself as a woman, it may be different from others, but my own experience when I found out was just a little confusion as what the title i.e. [gay, straight, pansexual] was, I didn’t care about him being trans I just saw him as who she was, the person I fell in love with, I’ve been happily with him for over 5 years now and I plan to propose to him this October, [I thought it would be lovely for him as a woman in his heart and mind to be the one being proposed to].

    • wondering said:

      I’m sorry if this comes across as rude, but if xie perceives hirself as a woman, why are you referring to hir as a man? Has xie said xie prefers male pronouns?

      • Cactus said:

        Seconding this question.

        • Seen as my reply to this has vanished, it’s a force of habit for me, more often than not when trying to explain to people that my partner is a woman in a male body after i’ve referred to her as she, the most common question I receive is when is ‘he’ going to have gender realignment surgery, which is not something my partner has decided about or looked into and feels rather insulting that people automatically assume she would have done taking away her choice in the decision, the result is that I refer to my partner as he in public on habit to avoid this question.

          • JenniferP said:

            It was trapped in the spam filter, sorry!

  62. Twitchy said:

    My boyfriend and I got together in high school, when I identified as a fairly butch girl. A few years later, I started testing the waters, spent some time identifying as genderqueer, and am now out as trans. He’s been nothing but sweet and supportive, and it’s pretty much been a non-issue for us. I think part of that is that he’s bi, so he didn’t have to go through a lot of thinking about what it means that he’s with a man now. But part of it is that, well, I’m still me. I was always the way I am, I just called it something else. Given who I am and how I act, it’s just not that surprising that I’m a guy after all. So hopefully my story can give you some reassurance that transitioning while in a relationship can work.

    Another story is one that my friend, a trans girl who had to think a lot about whether transitioning was worth the costs to her, shared with me. Pre-transition, she had a girlfriend who wasn’t very good with her. But she stayed, because she thought she was odd enough that not many other people would want her. She had gender issues, she’s geeky, she’s a little kinky but not willing to get into anything too rough, and idek know what else.

    But then she stopped thinking like that. She just decided that she wasn’t going to be with someone who didn’t treat her well, and she left. And she met another girl, who was a great fit with her. And they got married, and she transitioned, and they have a very happy life together. So you can’t assume that just because some people don’t get you, that no one will.

    Good luck, and I hope things go well for you.

  63. Alodia said:

    I am a 24-year-old gender-questioning person who is mostly ok with the gendered aspects of her body. My current partner is 38 and has in the past settled for long-term partners who didn’t really provide him with all the stuff he needed from a relationship, in part because he thought there wasn’t ANYBODY OUT THERE who would be ok with him:
    – Being a trans guy (physically transitioned 14 years ago)
    – Being non-monogamous (at least sexually)
    – Being kinky
    – Having mental health issues (that he deals with quite ok)
    – Having a lot of debt from school and a business attempt
    – Etc etc etc

    And, lo and behold, I’m not only “ok” with the above, but I LOVE the first three things I mentioned and I try to help him with the other two.

    And, while I don’t criticize his reasons for staying in those relationships for so long, it does make me sad to think that he never thought he could find someone who can love him like I do (i.e. who doesn’t think that transness, non-monogamousness, kinkiness and other awesome things about him are character flaws!).

    So, LW, here is to you and to finding love(s)!

  64. cyllan said:

    LW: I wish you all the best, and I hope you come to a place where you are comfortable with your body, your presentation and your Team You.

    I wanted to make one quick statement: no matter what you decide to do, or how you decide to present yourself, there will be amazing people who think you are attractive, sexy awesomesauce and amazing people who don’t. (For the purpose of this comment, we are discounting the judgmental jerks; you wouldn’t want to date them anyway.) Please do not think that it is the fault of your state of transition, your ability to pass as the gender of your choice, or anything about how you express your personal gender identity that makes you attractive to some people and not to others.

    I’m a cis-bi female who is attracted to a wide range of gender, gender expressions and gender identities, and I can not tell you what chemical magic is involved in setting my response to someone. I have reactions to ALL gender expressions that range from “Meh” to “Oh god, can we please go find a room right now?” Do not think that you are unlovable just because someone who is open and accepting decides you are not for them. Dating is weird and complicated and filled with opportunities for both awesome and awful, and it takes time to figure it out. It’s okay. We’re rooting for you.

  65. There is a musician in San Diego who was born a boy but came to realize that she is a girl. At the time this realization was happening, she was dating a girl, who had signed up originally for a boyfriend. They are both happy girlfriends now – it can happen. Which isn’t to say it WILL happen. But if you want to read their story, this musician has been very vocal about the process and feelings and such on the band and personal blog arena, so google Bunny Bennett and Steam Powered Giraffe (bloodspot, google +, YouTube, and the SPG site), and check out the YouTube blogs and text blogs and maybe you will connect with that story. Bunny now performs in the band as a female – talk about a public outing! – and while Bunny already had Paige when he transitioned to she, I hope that the story of that will be of some comfort or inspiration to you, LW.

    Many Jedi hugs for you and I hope this community and Bunny and the people who love you can help you with your pain.

  66. entitything said:

    As I’m sure some other people have mentioned, bi/bicurioush people are NOT the only people you can date if you’re trans. I am trans (guy-type), and I have dated: straight cis guys, gay cis guys, straight cis women, lesbian cis women, bi cis guys (they exist) and bi cis women (them too), queer trans guys and queer trans women, and genderqueer folks of various varieties. The only prerequisites I’ve found are that people I date must be:

    1) Not transphobic (or otherwise phobic)
    2) See me as the person/gender that I am
    3) Attracted to me as the person/gender that I am
    …and also generally nice and we get along.

    I’ve been lucky to have very little transphobic crap to deal with from would-be dates, but mostly because I’ve been good at screening that stuff out before pants-time. My relationships have mostly been great, and I recently met the person who makes me happier than I thought I could ever be (a genderqueer person) and we are about to get married (and stay non-monogamous and kinky and queer and generally non-standard, but dammit we want to have all our friends and families celebrate our love too, so: wedding). You can date and find love as a trans person. It takes a little extra work to get really comfortable with who you are, so that you can be at ease with other people, but that work is worth it.

    • JenniferP said:

      Hello! I think the “bicurioush” came up because the Letter Writer presents as male now but is (& will likely eventually present as) female, so it would be helpful in figuring out if their object of affection is/would be “Attracted to me as the person/gender that I am” thing. But yeah, bisexuality is not a blanket requirement for dating trans*folk!

  67. TheNextRomana said:

    Figured I’d add another “happy couple mid-transition” story, from a cis bi/queer lady. When I met my Trusty Companion, she was actually someone’s husband, and I was tentatively dating both the husband and wife. The wife turned out to be a Darth, and she pretty quickly left not only the relationship but the state. A few months later, my “boyfriend” started to mention that “he” had been wanting to explore various gender expressions, but had been smothered by The Darth, and could “he” maybe try wearing some of my skirts around the apartment? That pretty quickly led to skirts and such out in public, and, a couple of years later, hormones. Two years after the start of hormones, 99.9% of people call us “ladies”, call her “miss”, etc. She tends to be socially anxious, and is a chronic worrier, but she’s also SO MUCH happier when she can wear a dress and some eyeliner, or when we can do the “girl thing” and go to the restroom together. It’s been a tough process, for both of us, but it’s worth it, and now we know we can weather any storm together. Sure, it took both of us a couple of tries to find someone worth the long haul, but Your People are out there, and I have confidence you will find them.
    PS pro tip for anyone who wants to seem to have a bigger bust: start with a dollar store pair of thigh highs or pantyhose cut apart. fill each toe with dry rice or millet, 1/2 cup for every cup size you want. tie off. place in bra or undershirt. (you can even position the knot to seem like a nipple, if you’re feeling saucy.)

  68. Lily said:

    Dating story with happy ending:

    I’m not really a cis person, but at the time of this story perceived as cis woman.
    I once had a (sex) date with someone I already knew a little bit, but I didn’t know he was a trans man. On that evening, he told me that he’s a man. I was a little bit surprised that I hadn’t known it before, but not too much. We then continued to talk about completely other things. Later on the same evening, awesome sex followed. yay!

    We then had a FWB thing for a short time, which ended after a while. Today he’s my best friend.

  69. anon said:

    Haven’t read the whole thread, but, some thoughts for the LW coming from a trans/gender queer person:

    1) There is a lot of transphobia you’re up against. Its encouraging you to dislike yourself. Its hard to fight it, but don’t give up on yourself. I know it doesn’t help a lot to logically understand that you’ve got a lot of self hate because of external lack of knowledge/hate when emotionally you’ve still got self hate, but… for me at least, its better than nothing. *jedi hugs if you want them* It can really help to find a community of JUST trans people (allies are great but its not the same), or a psychologist who is an expert in this stuff.

    2) There is a lot of anti-homosexuality in the normative narrative too. When I poke at it, I’ve found that for myself the underlying tone is “If I ‘make’ them attracted to me, and then they find out I’m a different gender than they thought I was, then now I’ve made them feel gay and that’s apparently the worst thing ever”. I hope you’re not hitting this too, but, if you are then once you realize it, you can see its junk for a million reasons. Being cis and het (of the privileged class) and having to suddenly question your sexuality is perhaps hard, but I can’t imagine it being as hard as having to fight every time you leave the house against your sense of gender identity versus what your body looks like or society is telling you your gender identity should be (depending on if you have dysphoria and what causes it). In one of these scenarios, when you’re done, you return to the privileged class. In the other, … you don’t. Never mind that, there is nothing wrong with being gay or trans. Never mind THAT, its not my fault they assumed my gender instead of asking. NEVER MIND THAT I cannot ‘make’ anyone attracted to me. Never mind that they were always attracted to a person they made up in their mind that doesn’t exist.

    So, it might make you feel better to hold onto:
    1) Your gender is important. Perhaps your favorite color is also important. Or your political leanings. Imagine a person who after getting to know your other aspects throws a shit-fit over your favorite color or political leanings? Does that happen? Yeah. Do you want to keep this person in your life? Probably not. Sounds like a jerk to me. Is it possible to tell someone ALL details about yourself in the first meeting? No. Is it your responsibility to manage their feelings if they get all homophobic or transphobic on you? no.

    2) Other people are allowed to not want to date you for whatever reason, but, you are also allowed to not want to date them. “Transphobic”, or “keeps getting their cis-het privilege all over my damn shoes” is as good a reason to not want to date (or befriend) someone else as any other reason. You can be cis and have this reason. You can say “hey, you seem kind of biased against this concept that’s important to me, want to talk about it?” without giving up that you’re trans, or immediately throwing out the friendship/relationship. Lots of people are biased without realizing it or meaning to be and might be willing to try to do better. Lots of people aren’t willing. Talking about it will help you decide if they’re cool. For me, I’ve found that one of the most wonderful aspects I can have in a relationship is someone who sees me for me and accepts it and celebrates it with me.

    3) You don’t know if this cute person you’re talking to is trans, just like they don’t know if you are. They might be. They might be gender-curious but have no one else to talk to about it. Or not.

    Happy stories time:
    My cute person and I found each other by becoming friends around common interests, and at some point each tested the waters around gender stuff, and found that gender was a common interest, and figured out the trans stuff together with each other, eventually started dating after that (and kept figuring out the trans stuff, cause, its a process). We’re both trans non-binary. Its really great sharing it with each other.

    One of my friends from college was closeted a long time (perhaps like you), but long after she started dating came out and eventually married her girlfriend and transitioned and she seems super happy now. I don’t know when she told her girlfriend, but, again she had an interest in gender even before coming out and dressed androgynously or en femme.

    Gender is sometimes a filter for who you might consider dating, but once you’re in love it matters less. Sometimes no, its really critical. But, even when I thought I was cis, I talked about that with my partners (in that they brought it up…”I would date you even if you were a different gender” vs “no, I would break up with you in a heartbeat”. I’ve heard both.). You could bring it up with the cute person after a few dates because its interesting thing about them and how their mind works.

    Good luck in all things! This stuff is hard, but you’re not alone, people do succeed, and you can do it too.

  70. LW, a lot of people have said a lot of really kind things a lot more eloquently than I can at the moment, and I hope they help.

    I just wanted to chip in and reiterate: no, your (sensible, reasonable, self-caring, safe) decision to not be super-mega-pre-first-date upfront about being trans is not deception. It is NOT. You are not a bad person for wanting to wait until you are comfortable and you have a better idea of if she is safe. You are not a deceptive person, any more than I am deceptive for not giving someone my address and a key to my home after twenty minutes of

    You are brave to have flirted, and smart to have been so articulate about all of this, and deeply thoughtful to try to figure out where this could go. (I think you are also being an eensy bit “but it is my responsibility to not give anyone any baggage from the horrible unloveable person I am, and relationships with people who might be straight although I’m not sure yet will never work,” and my heart kind of breaks for you over that. Because it is not true.)

    It seems from what you have picked up so far that a relationship with this girl would make you both happy. If you get to know her and all additional information still points that way for you both, I hope you two have an awesome relationship. If it doesn’t, you have still been brave and smart and thoughtful.

    Either way, I hope you get to leave your nail-studded closet. Those things are painful, and you do not deserve pain. You deserve love, and friendship, and happiness, and I want you to have all those things.

    • Argh. Second paragraph should finish “after twenty minutes of conversation in which we clicked happily.”

  71. EdelC said:

    This thread is awesome. I have zero experience with the issues of the LW, but have learned so much of incredible value from reading the thread (it’s taken me three days)

    As someone who has dated a lot and is also complete overthinker, I second what dozens of people have said, you don’t have to disclose everything, just have fun, give your brainweasels a good boot in the arse when they start to suffocate you and keep on smiling, You rock and I am sending you jedi hugs and all of the happiness and joy in the world..

    and I am also sending hugs to the moderators, you guys are doing a fabulous job-well done, This thread rocks because of you.

  72. M Dubz said:

    Hey LW. I am a (mostly) straight cis lady with loads of friends all over the gender spectrum in happy awesome relationships. Several years ago, I fell head over heels for someone who was presenting as male at the time, but later told me that they identified as female. We didn’t work out for lots of reasons (distance, religious differences), but part of that was that at the time dating someone female identified was super out of my self-image and comfort zone. Here’s the thing though. That was MY problem to get over and had nothing to do with them being unloveable and not-awesome. We remained friends for a long time, and I did my best to support them as a friend. And about six months later, they met a lovely and wonderful person who is totally supportive and thrilled by who they are, who they are with until this day. And when they met, my first thought was how happy I was that this person who was dear to me had found someone who could give them the relationship they deserved.

    Basically, I just want to affirm for you that if this person is not interested in you, it does not have to be the end of the world, or even the end of a fulfilling and supportive relationship. And best of luck to you, and all the love in the world.

  73. Elle said:

    I have a dear friend who is trans, who was really there for me during my divorce, and so he and I ended up having a bunch of intense conversations about sex and stuff.

    At the beginning of this time, he was still (presently very androgynous but) letting people call him by his birth name and female pronouns. He dates women, and is a super charismatic person. So one thing that always struck me was how many straight girls fell for him when they thought he was a woman. The women he was attracted to and were attracted to him could suss his true self despite the societal trappings. They seemed, at times, to be less confused than he was. So have lots of hope, LW! Don’t let what you think is the statistical likelihood of a person being the kind of person for you deter you from finding out. If there is mutual l chemistry, there’s at least a decent chance they’re attracted to you you, irrespective of trappings.

  74. BoldlyGo said:

    Hello there LW! Everyone’s already said a lot, but I just wanted to throw in my hat as another trans person who finds it difficult to know when to say things and when to tell people and also fears that sort of shitty reaction about things. :( Uggh. My best advice is to maybe try and being up trans people to her in conversation and see how she reacts. Have you seen Janet Mock’s new book? Considering reading it? Maybe talk to her about that book and see how she reacts? I mean, fundamentally you don’t want to date someone who’s a transmisogynist ass, but it also really hurts to be on the brunt end of someone’s shitty behaviour, and I can see why you wouldn’t want to just bare your heart and soul in that way. Another option is to just see how she reacts to trans stuff and then make your choice from there.

    Also to Captain Awkward, I kind of feel like you calling LW “Mx.”, which is a gender neutral title, is a little fucked up. I mean, LW says she’s a trans woman. And Mx. is for gender neutral people. Unless LW says her pronoun is gender neutral (and if LW has, my mistake and apologies), when you know someone is a trans woman, you should refer to her with female pronouns and titles unless otherwise specified. Because you wouldn’t likely refer to a cis woman with gender neutral titles automatically would you?

  75. Tasha said:

    I’m poking my nose in out of lurkerdom to say 2 things, briefly. 1) My wife came out to me as trans after 9 years of marriage and 15 years together. We are still happily married, and while her transition wasn’t the most fun we’ve ever had, I’m still thrilled and honored to have her as my best friend and soulmate and (yes) romantic partner. There is a shortage of happy ending stories out there, so I like to share ours periodically. :)

    2) Trans* people DESERVE TO BE LOVED. Unequivocally, no exceptions, no conditions. Like anyone else, they can have personal issues that make them a bad fit for a given partner… but transness is not an automatic dealbreaker for everyone, and for the people for whom it is, that’s *their* problem. (In the sense that people are entitled to have any number of dealbreakers, including teeth-clicking, not in the sense that it’s necessarily a character flaw to be unable to cope with a partner’s transition. Not everyone has that much give in their orientation, ability to handle change, etc. But in those cases, it’s as much a factor of the partner’s own personality and needs as the trans* person’s.) I’m terrible at dating advice, never having dated, but I can certainly weigh in to say that the letter writer deserves as much chance at happiness at anyone else, up to and including hoping for/getting a partner willing to walk through transition with her if that’s what she’d dream of in order to be able to feel up to transitioning at all. And that’s a genuine if; I’m only saying it’s not an impossible dream should that be what she wants, not that she *should* want it.

  76. I am late to this comment game but I just had to pour out some love for you LW: the fact that you’ve put so much thought into this and worry about this girls comfort shows you to be thoughtful and caring, and yes you’re bound to worry, (as many of us do in new relationships!), but I just wanted to grab you and hug you every time you spoke about, ‘deception.’ Because the honest truth is you’ve just revealed yourself to be a caring and awesome soul and I would date the hell out of you. You are awesome. Take the advice that all dating outcomes are victory and prepare yourself a victory reward for whichever one comes your way.

    Lots of love to you LW xx

  77. Lonespark said:

    Happy story? I resemble that remark!

    When I met my girlfriend (online and later in person) she was presenting as male, and she didn’t know I was single. We got the first thing sorted out first and the second thing a short time later. Everything is not sunshine and roses; there are a lot things to sort out: mental health, finances, distance, etc., etc., But there is so much wonderful and happy that it is much easier to wrestle those monsters.

    That’s the personal story. I have other friend happy stories. They all start with small overtures toward friendship and trust. Anyway, I wish you all the luck in the world.

  78. Skada said:

    Late to the party, but here goes.

    LW, when you’re dating, you ask a lot of questions of people, and you get replies. Some of your questions may be conversation starters–was Picard more badass than Janeway?–and some of your questions may be attempts to suss out the personality of the Lady You Are Flirting With. And then, some of your questions may be subtle and delicate attempts to find out if LYAFW has any aspects to her personality that you consider deal-breaking flaws.

    For me, somebody who thinks reading for fun is a waste of time, that is a dealbreaking flaw. So are racism, being ugly to the waitstaff, any kind of tobacco use, and being in a relationship with somebody else (I’m not poly, and that’s okay). Obviously, for you, somebody who is transphobic is a deal-breaking flaw. You will have others, and that’s okay, and it’s not a bad judgement on your part and it doesn’t mean that you’re not dateable/loveable. It only means that this one particular person is not a good fit for you. If, in your conversation with LYAFW, you come across a deal-breaking flaw, it’s okay to stop and back away, polite and gentle if need be, and quick and fierce if need be.

    That said: the thing about subtle and delicate attempts to draw out an answer is that sometimes, they may be too subtle for the other person to get. And if the other person doesn’t get whatever subtle thing you’re probing at and you drop a bomb on them (in their view), all kinds of awkward can happen. You can forestall that by either becoming more open, or simply tabling that line of conversation until later, when you know her better and have a better feel on how to say what you want to say in a way she will understand. There’s no hurry, and no need to dump everything on the table right away.

    Good luck. :)

  79. Anon said:

    Oh, LW, your letter hit me right in the feels. Jedi hugs and tea for you, if you want them. I dated a genderfluid person for five years. He (his preferred pronoun) was beautiful and amazing and although the relationship didn’t last, I have very fond memories of our time together. We did eventually split up for the (relatively) mundane reason that we went to college in different states, a thousand miles apart, and long distance relationships are difficult. However, he went on to marry a lovely woman and they’ve been together for several years now.

  80. soukup said:

    Oh, honey. So, so, SO many hugs for you.

    The Captain is right on that you don’t owe her any kind of explanation at this stage. I agree with and second everything she said, and I would like to add just one thing: you say that most cis people don’t react well when they learn that you’re trans. You also seem skeptical that your crush could be into you given the fact that you’re both women. I just want to point out that at this point these are hypotheses, and I would urge you to keep an open mind where both of them are concerned. There are plenty of fun, interesting, sexy girls who would jump at the chance to date you, and there are plenty of people who, when you tell them about being trans, will be supportive and sweet and will definitely want to keep being your friends.

    Of course, the world is wide, and some places are way easier on transfolks than others. You clearly have a lot of trepidation about coming out in the place where you currently live and to the people you currently know. Do any kinds of trans or queer social mixers or support groups exist in your area? (If you’re nervous about exposing yourself this way, you can always claim you’re there because a friend of yours is queer and you want to understand what they’re going through.) There’s no harm in making new friends, and you can decide down the road whether you feel okay about trusting them with your story. It looks like you’ve already realized it, but the internet can also be full of friendly supportive folks, some of whom are going through similar things to what you’re going through. You might try out a few message boards centered around trans topics, search for communities on journalling sites like LiveJournal and Dreamwidth, and/or browse some Tumblrs bearing relevant tags.

    I hope you can figure out how to do gender exactly how you want to. And I hope that this person is cool enough to hang with you while you start that process, as a friend or a lover. And if she can’t handle it and bails on you, please know that the world is full of people who will be supportive and awesome.

  81. Jae said:

    I know I’m very late but only stumbled across this interesting post now.

    I would like to second the Captain’s suggestion that you just go ahead and see if that person develops into someone you can trust. Because, trans or not, every one of us has issues and fears we don’t confess to each person we casually meet at a party. We all needed to test the waters and if all goes well we find a partner whom we finally (sometimes after years of relationship) open our whole heart and they still love us. I hope you find that too.

    The thing with being trans: I know I can’t persuade you to come out of the closet. You have to do that at your own pace. I can tell you though from experience that most people really don’t mind and find it a lot less severe than you do in your own mind.

    During long friendships, two female friends turned out to be bi. I think they were both very shy about admitting it to me, and where completely flabbergasted that I didn’t mind. I’ve had one long-term acquaintance switch gender (male to female) and she’s still in that same circle of friends and nobody seems to mind. I’ve met half a dozen trans people by now and only found one of them to be a horrible person (and that wasn’t because she’s trans). What I’m trying to say is that people with half a brain cell will judge you by who you are and how you behave towards them and not by your being trans. Those who’ve known you before will likely not see you as a different person and those who haven’t will get to know you as a woman then and probably not even notice.

    I hope you are getting there in your own time and I hope you will be happy when you get there! Good luck (also with the lady)!

  82. Gallantqueer said:

    LW I am sending you all the jedi hugs and jedi tea/comforting beverages.

    Checking in here as a twenty something trans*/genderqueer ftm person whos generally pretty out and also has two cis partners. Partners also its worth noting that you wouldn’t expect to be queer but are. Partners who love me even when I don’t love myself and as part of that love give me clear guidelines about how much they want to be involved with me cause oh hey we’re all messes. Partners that I vetted and now trust bc wow they consistently show they get gender.

    Yes! First dates are lovely! So I agree, go on a first date with her if you really want to. I don’t disagree with the captain, but I want to offer a completely different course of action that I think upholds the same principals.

    If you are scared and worried about how she will react to your transness, esp as its in its nascent stages, decide not go on a date with her. Hang out with her, maybe in queer/trans friendly places, until you know that she can handle the journey you’re going on gender wise. To do this you don’t have to out yourself, just do some detective work.

    What “handle the journey” means is up to you and changes over time. I need partner, for example, who is comfortable enough in their knowledge of trans* life to provide support when I need to think aloud about something. I find my partners off the internet (oh hey okcupid) or among groups of friends or organizations who I know are likely to be versed in trans* life.

    I’m sending you luck.

    Also. I hear there are alot of ppl being like “omg I am SO STRAIGHT so I could never date you.” I also know straight ppl can get upset about trans* bc omg how does the gay/straight thing work?

    Of course one way to deal with that is to roll your eyes and say “I’m a girl. Why are you making this so damn complicated?”

    I’ve found that for me the best way to not internalize this bs is to use the terms androphilic, androgynophilic, and gynophilic. The mean roughly atracted to masculinity, attracted to androgyny, and attracted to feminity. Those have helped me determine whether partners were attracted to me in a way I found affirming w/o getting caught in the swamp of gay vs bi vs straight. I dunno if it would help to look for partners who are gynophilic instead of gay/bi? Ymmv.

  83. Kitsunechylde said:

    I’m the cis partner of a trans man. He came out to me nearly 2 years ago and began hormone therapy this November. I identify as lesbian, he doesn’t know what he identifies as yet. Queer, I suppose. We’ve been together for 5 years and plan to marry. He’s one of the most loving, gentle, generous people I’ve ever met and he’s changed my life for the better.

    Trans* people can and DO have wonderful romantic relationships, but it’s much, much harder. B and I have a polyamorous relationship, and I get to see his struggles with finding people to date. It’s frusturating. It’s harder to find someone to date, but those who do are worth finding. You won’t be forever alone, but you do have to take some risk. I say be yourself first and if she can’t hang, that’s not your problem, it’s hers. It’s better to find someone who loves you for YOU, someone you can be completely honest with.

    Transitioning is scary, and B is lucky to have someone by his side who is willing to fight for and beside him every step of the way. Fortunately, being trans* in this day and age, while not easy, is easier. I say it’s worth the risk. Being who you are is so liberating.

    Good luck, no matter where your journey takes you!

  84. Cis bi woman here. I dated a trans woman seriously for a while, and today we’re really close friends. Our how-we-met is pretty cute, I think.

    We met properly about two years before we started dating – at that point I was in a monogamous relationship with a guy. D and some of my other friends had just gotten a big group house together, so I knew her mostly as “Z and A’s roommate.” We were pretty immediately attracted to each other, so I actually wound up more-or-less avoiding her for a while – I was freaked out by what I saw as a massive temptation to cheat on my then-boyfriend. I don’t remember when I found out she was trans – it was probably very early on, because she’s pretty open about it – but it didn’t lessen my attraction to her any.

    Flash forward a while, to when we’d been dating for a few months. We’d gone to the same high school – she’d been a senior when I was a freshman – and she was talking about her history in its theater productions. She idly mentioned the role she’d played in the school musical, her senior year – a boy role, from when she was presenting as male.

    My jaw dropped. “OH MY GOD. I HAD SUCH A SILLY FRESHMAN CRUSH-FROM-AFAR ON YOU.”

    Anyway, mostly bringing this up as a demonstration of the fact that people can be perfectly attracted to both the pre-transition and post-transition versions of their partners. :)

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