Could You Date a Woman Like Me?

This three-part post is really all about the following statement that I was sure I just came up with, but it sounds really familiar, so perhaps someone else actually coined it first. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

To date a trans woman, is merely to date a woman, and that is just to date another human being.

Photo by Troy Ogden 2012

Not Quite Normal

Some humans are wrapped up in strict adherence to rigid gender roles and norms of the time and place in which they were raised. Others, not so much. There are many ways in which I operate quite comfortably within the societal norms of a 34-year-old single woman living in Australia. Simultaneously, in many ways, I don’t. This doesn’t make me more or less female than any other girl I know, rather it ensures that I’m a dynamic individual who is not boring to date. The way I stand out in a group of girls is by quirks that may cause any girl to stand out; it’s not for trans-related reasons.

Similarly with dating, how normal I behave has very little to do with the label trans at all. I’ll talk you through it…

The Big Reveal

Right now, I’m a single lady in my mid-30s, with quite a few long and short term ex-partners. The subtext here is that I’m experienced at coming out and the most important thing I’ve learned? There is no perfect time, nor a perfect way, to tell a potential partner that I’ve been through a gender transition.

Each time has been unique, as my motivation and constraints have differed with each romantic situation I’ve faced. I’ve been asked out at work, and in the street, connected with people at social gatherings, and through dating apps. Some partners felt I told them too soon, putting pressure on them to enter into a relationship for fear of being condemned as transphobic, while others felt I should have told them the moment they expressed interest in me. There were partners who wanted to digest the information and research privately, but others wanted to discuss everything with me in great detail, in person.

Recently I wrote this letter to a romantic interest.

As you already know, I’ve faced significant challenges in life. I’ve shared a lot with you already, but there’s something I’ve been through that hasn’t come up yet. I’m nervously hopeful that this won’t change how you feel about me, because although I think it’s important to acknowledge the past exists, I don’t define myself by it. Who I am now is exactly who you’ve come to know (and like).

As an open and honest person, I feel it’s important for you to be aware before we go any further. It’s a conversation I didn’t want to rush into, but late last night I started thinking about it. I feel a bit bad for not talking about it before we got so hot and heavy.

Because this has a bit of stigma associated with it, it seemed appropriate to write about it to you when we know we’ve got a few days apart. I care about how you feel, so want to allow you to be able to digest the subject matter both slowly, and in private. This is partially for my benefit too, because I would be quite hurt if I saw a negative reaction in your face.

So, here it is.

Because of my rural-Church upbringing, I suffered with an unknown condition until age 19. I finally sought medical advice after moving to Brisbane, and was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Essentially, this means I was raised as the opposite gender, and at 19 I went through a series of psychological, pharmaceutical and surgical treatments. There are labels out there, but I don’t like or use any of them. I’m just a woman who had a slightly different journey to get here.

Though I hope this doesn’t change anything for you, I understand that you might want some time to think, and maybe you’ll have some questions.

Unfortunately, that did change things for them.

It’s an exhausting position to be in, having to open up early on about parts of my life associated with substantial trauma. And scary. With the types of reactions I’ve received, and the varied people who’ve dished out certain behaviours, it’s impossible to assess who’s safe to disclose to. Those who seemed respectable and good have taken some of the worst action following my disclosure. Others who seemed like larrikins or dickheads showed immediate compassion. I’m so grateful for the positive experiences they have provided me with.

This dating bio shows the current approach I’m taking.

Apparently a bubbly, funny, eccentric storyteller, mine has been a life worthy of a book that begins with a page of content warnings.

By day I am paid to coordinate medical student teaching, and by night I help young LGBTIQ professionals for free. Somewhere in there I find time to write, and am very excited about my current ambitious project.

Also, when I was 19 I went through a gender transition which mostly just means I’m a woman who can’t have kids.

Fortunately, there haven’t been all that many trolls.

Sexual Orientation

Many people who have been attracted to me have questioned their sexual orientation upon hearing of my past gender transition. It’s actually really easy to work out. If you’re attracted to me, depending on your own gender, you could be a straight man, a lesbian, or bisexual… There are a few other labels that may apply, but if you have a romantic or sexual interest in me, you’re probably not a gay man or a heterosexual woman. They are attracted to men, and I am not one of those.

Do Your Research First

The best dating experiences have been with those who found out about my history, hit up the internet for some advice and context, and then came back to me with minimal, respectful questions. These people just treated me as a human being they cared for, who just happened to have been through certain life challenges they hadn’t. Rather than defining me by details surrounding my gender, their queries purely served the purpose of ensuring they wouldn’t offend or trigger painful memories. Others have made assumptions, based on the misrepresentation of trans people in fiction.

Fiction’s Part to Play

At this stage in my life, I don’t necessarily need or want to view or read trans stories. It doesn’t matter to me how characters were assigned at birth. Growing up, I saw myself in the stubborn, passionate, loyal, and intelligent Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. I understood the isolation felt by Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden and Sarah Crewe in A Little Princess, and aspired to be strong and quick-witted like Elizabeth Bennet was in Pride and Prejudice. I don’t identify with the trans character Nomi from Sense8, nor Sophia from Orange is the New Black, or Maura in Transparent, and at best feel traumatised watching them navigate similar experiences to my own.

But these stories are needed by pretty much everyone else in my life, to help them understand without dragging me through the mud.

As an adult, it’s unfortunate how often I’ve been someone’s first real trans experience. Before me, they’ve heard horror stories of men reacting with disgust after finding out they’ve had a sexual encounter with a woman who once had the appearance of a man. They’ve seen men dressed in drag, and see no difference between drag queens and a woman like me. Or maybe they’ve read a scandalous story about a celebrity who’s been shamed for being caught with a trans woman. As an adult, I’ve dealt with far too many people with only that exposure. It’s one of the reasons I’ve pushed past pain to write on the subject in such detail.

It’s also why I want there to be more, varied trans characters, despite the fact that I don’t actually want to see them.

This seems like a great place to abruptly stop and mention that Part Two can be found here.

The background story of this post has been included in My Life Most Memoirable. Memoirable tells of Paige Krystal Wilcox’s emergence from a socially anxious girl trapped in a male body, into a strong, self-assured, successful woman and social butterfly… and beyond.