The following is an excerpt from the new book The T in LGBT: Everything You Need to Know About Being Trans by Jamie Raines, published May 2024 by Sourcebooks. Available now wherever books are sold.

The book offers a practical and highly accessible guide for those navigating society as a trans person or trying to gain understanding of the trans experience, from a psychologist, content creator, and LGBTQ+ advocate with over one million YouTube subscribers.

Entering the World of Dating

There’s definitely a misunderstanding among both cis and trans people, that dating becomes something entirely different when someone is trans. We’re not aliens, we just have a slightly different lived experience that doesn’t necessarily have to impact dating and relationships in a big way.

The way trans people find dating and relationship partners, for example, is much the same as for cis people. I found my partner in college. Maybe you’re into someone from your school, or university, or workplace.

Of course, we can’t forget that a lot of modern-day happily-ever after stories begin on dating apps, the concept of which terrifies me. Not because I’m trans, but because I’m genuinely so awful at flirting. You should hear me with Shaaba – if we weren’t already in love I’m sure I’d be single.

When Do I Tell Them?

A big question that comes up around being trans and dating is when to tell someone you’re trans. The answer to this largely depends on when you feel comfortable and safe, and while there’s no magical formula that spits out a date, there are two guiding factors to help you determine the big “when.”

The primary factor, and it’s one that must be taken seriously, is consent around sex. Not only is it the right thing to do (and hey, consent is totally hot), it’s also the legal thing you have to do. For example, potential partner(s) need to be fully aware if you’re going to use a pack-and-play device, and so naturally, coming out would need to happen before this.

The second factor is when you determine a potential partner should know. I know, I know: Jamie, you cop out. This feels very non-specific, but that’s because there are so many differences that influence when this could be.

Maybe you’re the kind of person who’s very upfront; you might have it in your bio, or told people before a first date, because that’s just a rule you want to live by. Maybe you’ve had a not-so-great past experience that’s led you to be more cautious now. If telling a previous date resulted in them publicly and abruptly ending things, it would make sense why somebody might now choose to go on a first date and only decide to tell them once they’re sure they wanted to see them again (they might even decide to not come out in person this time).

It could be that you go on a date, have a whirlwind romance, and get all the butterflies super fast so you want to tell them because it’s getting serious. Or maybe you’re taking things super slow. If you’ve only gone on three dates in three months, it might take you longer to feel ready to come out to someone. The attitude of the person you’re dating might impact when you come out to them. Maybe they brought up how awesome they think Elliot Page is, and now you know, this is your moment. Or maybe they say something that’s a huge red flag and instead of coming out of the closet, you climb out the bathroom window (can you tell I’ve watched too many rom-coms?).

See? So many influences. The biggest one definitely seems to be personality. Some people don’t want to potentially waste their time developing a connection unless they know that person is accepting, while others want to know if they’re going to develop a connection before being so open about their transness.

I personally would opt to have my transness front and centre so that I wouldn’t have to come out in person, and so I’d avoid spending time with someone who might not want to continue dating after finding out I’m trans.

Again, there’s no right or wrong answer.

Would You Date a Trans Person?

This next section is for trans people, and some for the allies too. People seem pretty obsessed with genitals when it comes to trans people, and there’s no situation where this is more obvious than dating.

It’s not uncommon to hear people say that they won’t date a trans person, and sometimes this is because they’re only thinking about what’s between your legs. It’s important not to assume anyone’s genitals, cis or trans. You don’t know what anybody might be sporting unless they tell you (and it’s a bit of a weird conversation starter for a first date if you ask me!).

Putting genitals to one side (figuratively of course), cis people declaring whether they’d date a trans person or not has become a matter of hot debate. We know the world has been built in a very normative way. Not just for cis and straight people, but for able bodies, and white people, and men and so on.

Stating preferences when it comes to dating, particularly when they’re about marginalized groups, is more widely recognized now as being damaging. As it should be, because often these preferences come from a place of unconscious bias that tells us what we should find attractive, and it’s what society deems to be “normal.”

I want to make a couple of things clear. Firstly, no person, trans or cis, should have to date anybody. At the same time, claiming, unprompted, that you would never date any trans person is transphobic. Both things can be true.

It’s also very different from having a preference for how you have sex. For example, someone might not want to sleep with anybody who has a penis, and that’s perfectly okay; but that’s different to saying that you date women, but you’d never date a trans woman. That’s not okay.

The transphobic aspect often comes in because the people who state they’d never date trans people as a blanket rule don’t see trans people as their true gender (as in, they don’t see trans women as women, or trans men as men).

Which leads me to my second clarification: dating (or even fancying) trans people doesn’t change your sexuality.

Trans people are not magical sexuality switch flickers. The term “trans” is just a prefix, and an adjective. Just like being tall, or brunette, or sporty can describe who you are. So if you’re a straight cis man who finds a trans woman attractive, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re straight (just as finding brunettes attractive wouldn’t change your sexuality either).

Sometimes those around you might try and dispute this. Straight cis men might get teased for being gay, which is not just transphobic, but also homophobic, as the term “gay” here is used inauthentically and in a demeaning way.

Sometimes people within the LGBT+ community themselves might dispute this (though it’s quite uncommon). For example, cis people dating trans people might be challenged on why they don’t identify as bisexual, or pansexual. This is an inauthentic portrayal of those sexualities, and again transphobic, as it stems from not seeing trans people as their true gender.

On the complete flip side, there are some cis people who exclusively seek out the experience of sleeping with, or dating, trans people just because they’re trans. This is known as a fetish. I’m not here to tell anybody, including trans people, how to experience their attractions. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to be with someone for sex, and if everyone involved is upfront, open, consenting and comfortable with the situation, then that’s all good. Make sure that you’re comfortable with what you’re doing, and who you are doing it with.

It’s important to be aware that there are people out there who objectify trans people, particularly trans women. You’re not just there to fulfil someone’s curiosity.

There are plenty of people, trans and cis, who will happily date a trans person, not because you’re trans, or despite you being trans, but because they like you for you.

That’s what you deserve.

From The T in LGBT: Everything You Need to Know About Being Trans by Jamie Raines, published May 2024 by Sourcebooks. Available now wherever books are sold.

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