This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Internet dating when I was a lesbian was infinitely easier than how it is now as a trans man. Granted that was years ago when only saddos partook and the rest of the world hadn’t joined in to ruin it for us. Ghosting wasn’t even a word back then, let alone a tolerated behaviour.
Now dating online is like rifling through the bargain bin in your local supermarket – you scan the aisles quickly for something that catches your eye with little attention paid to anything else. Swipe, swipe, swipe.
But dating as a lesbian was more understood, too. People know what that means. As a trans guy, the majority don’t seem to know what to make of me, so they run away. I’ve played around with the big reveal and I know the two are linked. It’s hard not to see a connection when you arrange a second date, drop the T bomb and then she cancels in the next breath.
So, I did the most obvious thing to try and understand what was going on – I asked randoms on Reddit. “Why do women vanish when I tell them I'm a trans guy?” I posted on /r/dating_advice, an advice forum with 1.1 million readers. That might sound like a recipe for disaster – and yes, I was prepared for nasty replies. They did come, but not in the volume I expected.
At the start of my dating adventure following the end of a three-year relationship, I had profiles on three different dating apps but only stated I was trans on one. I racked up the likes on Tinder and Bumble – nothing exceptional, but enough to know I wasn’t repulsive. Things were significantly slower on OKCupid where I had stated that I was trans.
I won’t lie. It got to me for a while. I’d be chatting with a woman, making her laugh and seemingly getting on well. Then I’d tell her and she’d vanish. Over and over and over. Before dates, during dates, after dates, it didn’t matter. The result was almost always the same.
When I went back to collect the comments on Reddit for this piece, I was glad I’d saved some because many had been deleted. Determined not to take the horrible posts to heart, I actually found it all quite cathartic.
One of my personal favourites was the person who told me they would ghost me because I seemed too insensitive to people being “squicked out” before revealing “that kind of thing squicks me out”. (By “thing”, I assume she meant me.)
Another said: “A woman born a woman is always a woman, no matter what. The women on the dating apps are not interested in dating other women so they vanish because they are interested in me.”
It made me feel sorry for those who have such a limited view of how gender and sexuality works and it helped me realise that it isn’t, actually, anything to do with me. It’s a societal problem, theirs not mine. I mean, how do you counter someone who thinks an Adam’s apple is an essential component in a mate?
What also struck me was how a lot of the replies were penis-centric: “It’s probably the genital issue,” replied more than one. Another answered: “I would assume it’s the thought that you don’t have a penis that puts them off." I have a drawer full of dicks, a size to suit every pleasure and not one of them has ever failed to get up, get hard, or get her off. Not something I can say for these all-singing, all-dancing, superdicks that cis men are apparently endowed with. But is that all sex is to a ton of cis het people? And all men are worth? A penis to go in a vagina? Seriously?
The suggestions on how to address this ‘problem’ were varied. One helpful user informed me I should find some lesbians to date, presumably because of their well-known love of hairy men like myself, as they assumed (wrongly) that I hadn’t had lower surgery.
More than one accused me of trying to trick potential mates by not declaring my transness upfront. I didn’t check their dating profiles but I assume they’ve listed every medical condition they have on theirs. I noted how they didn’t seem to expect a man who’d lost a testicle to cancer, for instance, to declare that upfront on his profile, nor a woman who might have lost breasts to the same disease.
Women obviously want a ‘real’ man, I was told – one born that way. As I was born a woman, I’d always remain one I was told by someone else. Perhaps these potential dates wanted children, I was informed. Yet we don’t require anyone else declare their fertility status on their profiles, so I doubt that’s the real reason either.
The overriding sense I got from the replies was one of ignorance about trans people and while most of the offensive and ridiculous replies are now gone, there was some hope in the others that remained.
“I keep clashing with people because of this but I honestly don't think that trans people are obligated to put their transsexuality [sic] as a disclaimer in front of each and every potentially romantic interaction,” wrote one woman.
“I know I'd be uncomfortable as hell if I had to disclose what my genitalia look like or what my fertility status is to complete strangers. I wouldn't expect a guy with a micropenis to tell me about it before any feelings could possibly develop just because I might not want to have sex with him after finding out.
“I can't think of any other bedroom issue that is seen as having to be discussed that early on.”
That, really, is the whole issue in a nutshell. We hold trans people to a higher standard than anyone else when it comes to dating. We require of them more than we ask of others, all while constantly sending the message that trans people are somehow ‘less than’.
The reality is, being trans is a magic sorting hat. As tough as it is to have people vanish when you tell them who you are, it does me a favour. By telling them that one thing about me, their reaction tells me everything I need to know about them.
I should probably message them to say thanks.