The Hazards of Dating While Transgender

My friend Micah Wood is braver just by being who he was born than most people I know, and he was kind enough to write about his experiences as a trans man in New York City.

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Dating in New York City is difficult. It's expensive, time consuming and often does not pay off (though there are certainly different definitions of paying off, mine is meeting a woman I may actually be "compatible with" in a relationship).

The worst online dates are the ones who show up after clearly photoshopping their profile pictures and/or using photos from a time long since passed. I still remember the woman I met many years ago at an Ethiopian restaurant after a brief online courtship. The pictures she had sent me showed her in various countries, climbing mountains and helping children. She had a sort of charming bohemian look to her; extra long skirts, lots of earth tones, dangling jewelry. I was psyched for this date!

Then she sent me a text message an hour or so before our date: "Just so you know I cut my hair, so I look a little different from my pictures."

"No big deal. Her long, slightly curly, brunette locks will simply be a little more bouncy," I thought.

Imagine the expression on my face when she arrived in Bigsmith overalls with a freshly shaven head. Not that anything is wrong with wearing overalls or shaving one's head, mind you. It is simply not the look I am, ahem, attracted to.

So take the usual modern obstacles of urban dating and add being transgender to the mix. I am still figuring out the "right way" to do this. I was born female and now I am not; that much is simple. The rest: not so much. I tried using OkCupid for awhile with my transgender status tucked away in my profile. I wasn't trying to hide the fact I was trans, but I didn't want that to be the first bit of information people learned about me, either. I got quite a few responses. If I was interested, I would always reply with something charming and subtly ask the woman in question if she had read all of my profile. On nearly every occasion I never heard back from these women again. A few did reply, but only to say in the nicest way possible that I was not what they were looking for. I did manage to have one successful date with a woman who was educated, attractive, and simply didn't care that I was trans. She even wanted to see me again. Unfortunately for me, the timing was off.

Now I am back at square one. In addition to deleting my OkCupid profile, I have sworn off all other online dating for the time being. I find it too exhausting to battle with myself whether I am disclosing my trans status too soon, or not soon enough.

Disclosing to anyone is energy-consuming and it is a risk. I am lucky in many ways. Statistically, the risk I encounter is far less dangerous than the risk a transwoman encounters when disclosing. I cannot go to Transgender Day of Remembrance events anymore. Story after story, year after year, the narratives are nearly all eerily the same. The vast majority of victims are transwomen, often of color; their untimely ends are violent, bloody, and alone.

My risks typically involve rejection, which I am accustomed to now. In fact I expect rejection and am nothing short of surprised when I receive something more. I also risk disgust. With the exception of my family, I have largely avoided this reaction, but I am always prepared for it. Confusion can actually be entertaining: people seem to think I am male but identify as female from time to time. In my opinion, these are the people who conflate transsexuality with cross dressing, i.e., a man in a dress. They have never considered that a female-bodied person would identify as anything other. My least favorite reaction is undoubtedly, "Have you had THE surgery yet?"

Of all of the emotional twists, turns, and changes from injecting testosterone into my body, society's perceptions and treatment of me, friends' reactions, and the numerous other more interesting factors involved in my transition, the most compelling factor about me in these people's minds is my gentalia. Don't get me wrong, genitals certainly matter. But unless we have made it past a couple of dates or plan on being intimate, don't ask me about mine.

Living in New York and swearing off online dating has led to me, for the time being, not dating. I would like to date at some point, but want to meet a woman organically. As far as I can see I have few options at achieving this. Fortunately or not, I happen to live in the transgender Mecca that is Brooklyn. There are many of us here, and we have a very active social scene. I get weekly Facebook invites to events that are sure to be chock full of transgender people and the people who like to date us.

There is much I don't like about these events; one problem I have with these parties is their incestuous nature. This is the same problem I encountered when I was younger and identified as a lesbian. Going into a social space knowing full well you will likely see not only one or two or three, but perhaps even more of your exes or people you have dated in one space at one time! To each his or her own, and if you feel comfortable in an environment like that, go for it, but it is simply not for me.

Currently, I am trying the old fashioned approach to meeting women. I am staying socially active and not forcing anything. I am, for the most part, content. But the question remains: if I meet a woman who does not know I am trans and she shows interest, when am I obligated to tell her?

Before the first date?

After the third date?

Before physical intimacy?

Disclosing, like transition itself, is an ongoing process with no final end in sight. So, while I can't look forward to the day I no longer have to deal with trans issues, I do long for the day when my dating life has met its end.

-Micah Wood

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