You’re scrolling through Tinder and you see someone really cute. You click on their profile and you like what you read; you’re about to message them and start flirting when you notice their gender says “trans.”
What do you say? You’ve never dated a trans person before—although you support trans rights, of course. You want to talk to this person and you want to be respectful, but you’re not sure how.
If you’re online dating, there’s a high chance that you will come across someone who is gender-diverse. When you do, it’s important to know how to engage in a way that is respectful, appropriate, and affirming.
You click on their profile and you notice their gender says “trans”
It’s also important to understand that for most trans or gender nonconforming people, it’s not just about respect—it’s about safety, too. Many trans people have suffered verbal, emotional, and physical abuse and violence, including on dates.
With that in mind, here are some tips for how to engage in early texts, a first phone call, or even a first date.
Learn About Gender Identities
First, educate yourself. There are plenty of places online to research more about these identities, and this is a perfect opportunity to learn something new. Plus, your learnings will benefit everyone involved. More extensive lists of gender identity definitions can be found on the web, but as a quick intro, here is an overview of gender-diverse terms:
Trans, or transgender, is an umbrella term for someone who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, trans men are men who were assigned female at birth; trans women are women who were assigned male at birth.
Trans, or transgender, is an umbrella term for someone who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, bigender, androgynous, and other terms are used by people who identify outside of the gender binary (the myth that there are only two genders of man/male and woman/female). Not all nonbinary people identify as trans, and not all trans people identify as nonbinary.
Cis, or cisgender, describes someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. Someone who is not trans or gender nonconforming would be considered cis.
Someone who is not trans or gender nonconforming would be considered cis.
Learn And Use Their Pronouns
Learn their pronouns and respect them. A great go-to is simply asking, “What pronouns do you use?” (For those who don’t remember much from grammar class, pronouns are those little words that replace someone’s name in conversation, like he/his/him, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, etc.)
Someone’s pronouns may not be what you expect, and that’s OK—it’s important you respect them anyway. There are also gender-neutral pronouns, such as they/them/theirs and ze/hir/hirs. It may take some time to get used to using new pronouns, but it’ll get easier with practice.
“What pronouns do you use?”
Don’t Ask Invasive Questions About Their Gender
It’s natural and totally fine to be curious. But at the same time, remember that the trans person’s safety and comfort is more important than your curiosity, and that it’s not their job to teach you everything about transness. Keep educating yourself on your own, and follow their lead on how much they want to share.
So what’s OK to ask, and what’s not? A good rule of thumb is, Would I ask a cis person these questions? or Would I be offended if someone asked me this?
More specifically, don’t ask about what’s in their pants, whether they’ve had surgeries, if they’re on hormones, etc.—you can save any general curiosity on these topics to your Google searches.
Also don’t ask “Are you a man?” or “Are you a woman?”—instead, ask “How do you identify?”
In general, focus on asking the standard, getting-to-know-you questions that you’d ask anyone else—about their life, work, family, passions, and hobbies. Follow their lead on how much they want to talk about their gender.
Respect Their Name
Always use the name they tell you. Don’t ever ask about their “real” or “previous” name—that’s no one’s business but their own, and besides, their “real” name is the one they use now.
Block: Always use the name they tell you. Don’t ever ask about their “real” or “previous” name.
Don’t Say “Wow, I Couldn’t Even Tell You Were Trans!”
Don’t say, “Wow, I couldn’t even tell!” Society has some pretty strict standards about what men and women “should” look like. Unfortunately, that means thousands of gorgeous trans and gender nonconforming people are constantly ridiculed for how they look because it doesn’t fit into what society thinks is “right.”
There are lots of ways we can unintentionally reinforce this idea that “cis is more beautiful than trans,” and one of them is by telling someone how “not trans” they look. When it doubt, don’t comment on a trans person’s appearance, except to give them a compliment that you’d give anyone else you were interested in, like “I love your haircut!”
Don’t Fetishize Gender-Diverse People
Gender-diverse people are sometimes fetishized, where their gender becomes the main point of interest and they are seen as uniquely attractive or exotic because of it. Fetishizing is not the same as genuinely desiring or being attracted to someone.
Remember, gender-diverse people are whole people, and don’t want to have their gender singled out as a topic of fascination any more than anyone else wants to be fetishized for their race, ethnicity, disability, or any other part of themselves.
It’s OK to express interest in someone’s gender, as long as it’s clear that it’s one of many things that’s attracting you to them. Treat them as a whole person, the way you’d treat anybody else. For example, if they disclose their gender or come out to you, a response like “Awesome, thanks for telling me! I’m looking forward to getting to know you better,” can go a long way toward communicating respect for their whole self.
It’s OK to express interest in someone’s gender, as long as it’s clear that it’s one of many things that’s attracting you to them.
And be sure to check in with yourself—are you mostly interested in them because of their gender? If they were cis, would their other qualities interest you? If it seems like you’re mostly interested in them because they’re trans, it’s probably best to contain that interest to Google for now.
If You Misgender A Trans Person, Just Apologize
If you unintentionally misgender them, apologize! And then keep it moving. Long, drawn-out apologies can make someone feel uncomfortable, so don’t dwell on it. You’re not a horrible person, you’re learning—acknowledge your mistake and the impact it had on them, and commit to continue learning.
And remember, they’re not the only one with a gender identity—you have one too! You can use this as an opportunity to reflect on your own gender and pronouns, what it means to you to be cis, and all the different ways you express your gender.
If you misgender them, apologize! And then keep it moving. Long, drawn-out apologies can make someone feel uncomfortable, so don’t dwell on it.
So now that you’re clued up about trans and gender nonconforming tips and terms, go out and have fun flirting with gender-diverse hotties. Enjoy!