Welcome to lesbian trans womanhood. I know, we aren’t supposed to say that. Welcome anyway. Let’s assume you know two things: that you are a woman, and that you like other women. Good. That’s a fine place to start. Follow along, and we will get you from this humble beginning, to being a real-live dater.
Take a deep breath. Ready?
1. First, lower your expectations. Whatever you think might happen in the next few paragraphs, or in the next few months, expect less.
This isn’t in reference to any particular difficulty facing trans women, though there are many; it is always helpful to lower your expectations. Low expectations mean high excitement at small success.
For example, if you expect to dance alone at a bar, you will be thrilled to find that someone beautiful is dancing with you. Repeat as needed.
2. Next, create an online dating profile. OkCupid, Match, or Tinder; it doesn’t really matter where, but you’ll need one. This is how you meet shy lesbians. You may be shy yourself. This could be the best place for you.
3. Spend quite a bit of time agonizing over the photos and your description and hobbies. Be clever. Be charming. Ask a few close friends, “would you theoretically date me based on this profile?” Hear them laugh a little. Tell them, “No, I’m serious. Is any of this good?”
4. Take their advice. If they have no advice, find some other friends. Without them, you will end up posting a photo with kale in your teeth, or where there is clearly a dog using the restroom in the background. You will not notice this on your own.
5. While you wait for responses, go find the queerest bar nearby. Attend events specifically targeted towards lesbians like you. Dance. Get used to dancing. The music will likely not be great. Get used to a mix of pop hits, Shakira, and Bikini Kill. Don’t try to explain why Kathleen Hanna is problematic while dancing.
6. Wonder, “why do so many of these girls have bow-ties on?”
There is no answer.
7. Assume they must not be able to take them off. Do not offer to help them take their bow-ties off. Just dance away.
8. Flirt. Often.
9. Hone your ability to turn a conversation into a fun tête-à-tête. Read the face and responses of the other people. Assume that at any moment, they might sour, and you will need to disengage. Be lighthearted. Be friendly. Don’t press anyone, and focus on enjoying yourself. Cool people enjoy themselves. Cool people are definitely not sweating horribly, right now, as they dance around the room, hoping for a match. When someone asks how you are doing, never mention the harassment, mis-gendering, or stress you’re going through. They don’t actually want to know that stuff yet. Talk to your aforementioned friends about those.
10. Hear, “wow, you’re tall,” at most of these events. Kiss a few people, gently. Brace yourself for the inevitable pre-hookup question or revelation about your body or identity. Practice explaining why “biological woman” is ridiculous. Use lines like “Of course I’m a biological woman, and not a cyber woman… or a giant snake.” At no point be seen unhinging your jaw to devour a goat.
Also try, “Hi, this is how my body works… and this is what I like.”
11. Be prepared for some rejection at this point. Practice your smile and, “Ok, that’s fine, I had fun,” response to “I can’t sleep with you now,” or “I’m just not attracted to [your genitals],” or “I’m a gold star lesbian, I can’t sleep with you.” You may also hear, “you’re so brave.”
12. Find ways to forgive them in your heart for being such shitheels.
13. Be surprised when not everyone rejects you. Bask in the glow of reciprocal attraction when it does occur – it may be rare. You may want to high-five the women who are still attracted to you, regardless of what you discuss. Resist. High-fives are firmly in second date territory.
14. Check your phone. Oh, your mom called. Call your mom back. Remind her that you won’t be meeting any nice boys because you are a lesbian. Yes, you might want to settle down. No, there’s not much going on lately. Yes, you’re really a lesbian. No, this isn’t a phase. Yes, you did get the dress she sent… it’s… nice. Tell her you love her. Hang up.
15. Check your phone again. There sure are a lot of biologists on your online dating site.
How’d they get access to my karyotype? Did they take a blood sample?
What’s that game? You know the one… Where complete strangers ask you about your genitals? You’ll be playing this whether you like it or not a lot more often now. It is not possible to win this game.
16. Use some of your flirting skills from being at the bar while you are online. Realize those skills don’t translate. A lot of people online are too shy to go out, so they will not know how to respond to you. You may be seen as forward, or at least not shy enough. Carry on.
17. Talk about books. Talk about food. Talk about anything but how you’ll probably never meet up, and if you do, there won’t be a second date. There often isn’t a second date.
18. Get ready to hear a lot of very surface-level readings of Judith Butler. Take heed that many of your fellow women have taken exactly one women’s and gender studies course in college, and “know all about being transgendered.” (sic) Be prepared to hear girls talk about how they’re “not really feminists, because they like to have fun.” Feel free to shake your head and pour a drink. Get better at reading through their answers to weed out the ubiquitous racism, transmisogyny, littering, and incompatible goals. Remember that you don’t have to settle.
19. You should probably have a pet. I should have said this at the beginning. Choose: cat or dog. Go adopt your choice animal. Start at the top. I can wait. You may be alone for a while.
20. Find a partner or dater. At some point, you will succeed. You will feel like you won the lesbian lottery. You will be elated in your heart that someone cares about you, and wants to kiss you… like more than once a week. High fives may be appropriate at this point.
21. Prepare yourself for anyone you date to be called a chaser. It doesn’t matter if they actually care about you for who you are as a person, there are many who enjoy distilling you to your transgender history. Gird your loins against the barbs flung at you and your partner. Learn to laugh, and to cry. Embrace being a really hot lesbian with a super amazing girlfriend. It’s pretty great.
22. Laugh to yourself at all the ridiculously sad people who would want to hurt you and your partner. Try to not be burned by them with every single uneducated, casual insult. It will sting, but you can be strong.
23. But, most of all, have fun! Being a lesbian trans woman is probably the best thing in the world. Be proud of yourself. Be excited. You get to kiss other girls.
Brook is a queer trans woman living in Portland who hangs out with her cat, and does all manner of technical magic for a software company. She travels as often as possible, and can often be found on her couch, reading and enjoying a cider.