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19 November 2021

Being transgender in the world of online dating

Pure Team

The dating world is complex for all of us - with all its written and unwritten rules, communication, and the pitfalls we may encounter. It’s even more complicated, however, for minorities. Especially for transgender people, who face some of the highest levels of discrimination among all marginalized groups. For most trans people, the complexities of dating far outweigh all of the “regular” dating issues most cisgender people might face. It’s Transgender Awareness Week, so we felt now is the perfect time to touch on this layered subject and get a firsthand perspective on what it’s like to date as a trans person. 

We spoke to two transgender guests about their own experiences with online dating, intimacy, and relationships.

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Eva, 23-year-old woman, developer, identifies as heterosexual, she/her pronouns.
Casey, 21-year-old man, working in film programming, identifies as pansexual, he/him pronouns.

— In general, how has your experience with dating apps and online dating been?

Eva: Pre-transition, the experience was mostly negative - I had to “put on a mask” of a gay man, which I obviously was not. Post-transition – incredibly positive, for the most part.

Casey: My experience with dating apps has been on the positive side of neutral, I haven’t had any negative experiences and a couple of good ones.

— Do you disclose to your potential dates you’re transgender when you’re getting to know them? How soon? And how does the process go?

Eva: I mention that I’m transgender in my profile description. I do it because I don’t want to waste my time and energy on a potential romantic or sexual relationship with someone who either won’t accept me or worse - will hurt me emotionally. I’ve chosen this strategy and it works for me – this way, I’m filtering out the wrong people and only speaking to those who accept me as I am.

Casey: I always disclose that I’m trans to anyone I’m talking to. It goes pretty well, as I surround myself with open-minded people, so I never feel nervous about bringing it up. I’ve been very lucky and have only been met with acceptance by the people I’m interested in.

— What would you say is the hardest thing about being transgender in the dating world?

Casey: Transphobia, of course. I have a lot of anxiety around revealing that I’m trans (even though it usually goes great!) and with my body. Dating is hard enough when you’re fairly comfortable with yourself, and it’s hard to be vulnerable and open when you’re so insecure. So, the fear of targeted hate is hard, but also allowing yourself to accept love and attention is hard, too.

Eva: In my opinion, any transgender person who uses dating apps has gone through enough in their journey to get to this level of openness - so not much will surprise them at the point where they’re ready to date. For me, the most difficult part was finally deciding to disclose my identity in my profile. But even up until the moment you start to identify openly, you’ve already faced all the most difficult parts, experienced enough hardship, and pretty much already know what to expect. 

— What could cis people do better to make transgender people feel comfortable in dating? 

Eva: Cis people could educate themselves on basic and fundamental things, for instance, what is appropriate to ask and what isn’t. I had this situation recently where someone asked what my deadname was (pre-transition name). That’s like, up in the top 3 questions you shouldn’t ask a trans person.

Also, if cis people stopped trying to build the entire connection around our transgenderness alone, I think we would all feel much more comfortable and relaxed in communication.  

Casey: I think cis people can improve the transgender dating experience by being more open about their love for and attraction to transgender people. There are cis people who hide the trans-ness of their partners in cis-dominant settings, and it’s dangerous. It “others” us and it makes loving us taboo, which, in turn, makes living and dating us hard. The first step cis people can take is being honest when they are attracted to trans people.

— Tell us about your best encounter with someone you’ve met on a dating app or online?

Eva: It's a really special story as it was one of my first dating encounters post-transition. I matched with this guy and we hit it off right away. The conversation was flowing so nicely, he did not once ask about my transition or anything in regard to my identity – I even assumed he hadn’t read my profile. It turned out that he actually did read it, and then he told me he’s never been with a trans woman. That was something I found very appealing as it’s sort of validating for a trans person – he sees you as you are. We met up right away, he was so thoughtful and considerate, the intimacy was amazing and the connection was great. And I have to mention, once you get on hormonal therapy – the connection starts to excite you way more than intimacy. We parted ways soon after, but I still consider it one of my most special encounters. 

Casey: I recently was in a relationship that was 80% online and it was amazing. I think the internet allowed me to be a bit more confident and honest with her and eliminated the worry about my body. She was very accepting and that was great, but we never would’ve worked if I hadn’t had that buffer of the internet. I think online and long-distance relationships have their pitfalls, but it really helped me then and I’m sure what I learned will help me later down the line.

— How do you feel about ONS and FWB? Is that something you’ve tried or consider trying out?

Casey: I think one-night stands and friends with benefits are great. I’m totally for having spaces and relationships for people that don’t want to be tied down to the traditional idea of dating and monogamy. They’re not for me, though, I personally need a more romantically-led monogamous relationship. But I think healthy relationships come in all forms and if sexually-led encounters/one-night stands/FWB work for you, then go for it.

Eva: A good option if that’s something you’re looking for. I used to practice both ONS and FWB regularly, and then realized that I tend to get attached to people very easily – so now I'm only doing long-term monogamous relationships. Commitment is important to me, so I guess casual dating just isn’t my thing. I do, however, think they’re great concepts and I support non-monogamy when it’s done ethically.

Get ready for unforgettable connections

Whether you’re looking for a passionate adventure, meaningful conversation, or something else, we promise one thing: what happens in Pure stays in Pure.

Pure is dedicated to equality and the destigmatization of gender and sexuality. We stand against any form of discrimination in our community and strive to make dating comfortable and safe for everyone involved. We feel it is our utmost responsibility as allies to educate ourselves and others by uplifting voices that need to be heard - and, in this way, make sure that marginalized groups are accepted, heard, and understood by us.


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