How To Tinder In A Gender-Diverse World
So you matched with a trans cutie on Tinder—awesome! Here’s everything you need to know about gender identity and how to engage with them respectfully.
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!
Myths and facts
Setting the record straight.
At O.school, we know that few things are one-size-fits-all. Read on for insights from Pleasure Professionals and other experts:
Check out what the O.school Community is buzzing about and send your questions and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sex Ed Videos
Previously recorded streams we love.
What the Hell is This Poly I Keep Hearing About!?
In this intro to Consensual Non-Monogamy, Dr. Yoni will tell you about the types of alternative relationships out there, share some concepts of how they work, and will give you some tips to take into your monogamy that would enhance your relationship.
Is It A Date Or A Friend Hangout?
Have you ever wondered: are we on a date? Did they just invite me on a date? Or are we just hanging out as friends? It’s not always clear, read on for tips to figure out where things are at.
You’ve been hanging out with someone new, someone cool, maybe even someone you have a bit of a crush on. But is your time together just a hang, or something more? Let’s discuss how to read the signs, send the right signals, and have an honest discussion about what you both need and want.
Reading The Signs And Signals
There’s no foolproof way to know if someone is interested in you as a friend or as a potential romantic or sexual partner. To make matters more complicated, feelings can change! You or your friend might be interested, but not know where you want to take things yet. As you both explore how you feel, it can be hard to ask or be asked what your feelings are.
Some signals are easier to read than others.
Some signals are easier to read than others. If your friend finds little ways to be affectionate - touching your shoulder while complimenting your jacket, a hug held a beat longer than it needs to - or if their compliments tend towards the physical, that can be a good indication they’re interested in you, physically.
But then again, touch or praise aren’t always a sign of sexual desire. Lots of signs that scream “crush!” to some people can say “considerate friend!” to others.
The best way to know if someone is giving you a signal that they’re interested in being more than friends is by getting to know them. If you haven’t known them long, observe how they spend time with you.
Is your time together different than when they hang out with other friends? Do they come up with nice activities for the two of you to do alone? Do they talk about other crushes or dates?
Still not sure? There’s only one way to find out: ask them!
Is This A Date, Or…?
Your first step is knowing what you want. Do you want it to be a date? Have an idea about what you want from the other person, even if it’s just to go slow, and about what level of clarity you need to feel comfortable hanging out with them.
Remember that you want to avoid miscommunication, so keep it short and sweet and as direct as possible: is this a date?
“Is this a date?”
You can acknowledge that the situation is a little awkward but you’re having a nice time and want to be on the same page. And if your time together is over and you’re on your way home still wondering if it was a date, now is the best time for a post-hang text: I had a great time and I’d love to go out with you again.
Setting up an actual day and time to meet up instead of a generic “let’s do it again sometime” sends the sign that you’re interested in more than a casual hang.
Bottom line: if you’re not sure whether or not you’re on a date, ask!
Have A Crush On An Old Friend?
You hang out together all the time, talk and text constantly, and feel like you ‘get’ each other. Maybe you start having feelings you never had before: romantic or sexual fantasies, pangs of jealousy if they go on a date with someone else, sudden nerves when it’s time to say good night.
As with finding out where you stand with new friends, having a clarifying conversation with an old friend about where things are going can be equally uncomfortable. Ultimately, the stress of not knowing where things stand can be worse than the stress of having the talk.
You can acknowledge that the situation is a little awkward.
Before you talk, have an idea of what you might want to try with your friend (a date? a kiss?) and how you want to proceed if they’re not interested (still be friends? take some space?)
It’s normal to start feeling like you want more, but it’s also normal if your friend wants to keep things as they are. Maybe you have a romantic future ahead of you—or maybe you’ll have something to laugh about together years down the line.
No matter what the context, it’s always a good idea to know how you’ll respond depending on what they say. Imagining their response can help clarify your own feelings, too. It never hurts to ask, so ask yourself how you feel before you ask someone else what they want.