First Romantic Date
To set the stage, you may have never dated before, perhaps for a variety of reasons. The possibility also exists that you may have dated before in one gender, now many years have passed and suddenly you have a new gender identity and possibly sexual orientation. Brrring Ring! Your date is at the door, and you're just not sure what to do or what this man or woman will expect of you. Relax! A first date as a new transgender person does not need be a traumatic, nerve-wracking event.
Great dates start with a little advance planning and question asking. In fact, questions should arise in your own mind before agreeing to go out. Have you known this individual awhile? Is this someone you really want to know better? Will there be complications if he or she is from your workplace? Most importantly, what is your personality type? Do you feel comfortable in safe water or blindly jumping in the deep end of the dating pool?
If you are having major doubts to the preceding questions or you feel that something is terribly wrong, go with your instincts. Contact the individual and then set the boundaries for a dating scenario that feels right for you. Although some individuals feel perfectly comfortable being spontaneous in everything they do, the vast majority of people respond hesitantly to new experiences, and particularly first time dates. This is why it is so important to set up boundaries, which allow for a good time, but keep things safe.
At the safest end, a great way to meet is over coffee, lunch or dinner. This could be in a quiet caf or in a more public location. Afterwards, you each go separate ways, think about the experience, and decide whether meeting again is a good idea. At the deep end, there might be dinner, dancing, heavy romance, a secluded drive to a great location, or even partying. Sex is usually optional, although more people than you realize have sex on the first date and just don't tell others. A sexual encounter may end up being the best you ever had, ruin the date, or destroy prospects of a friendship evolving first. The latter is particularly true if either party walks away dissatisfied or has next-day doubts about whether sex should have occurred.
Sex on the fly, during a casual meeting or first date, is even weirder than a new dating experience. Contrary to myth, sparks don't always highlight a first time sex encounter. Also, a good sexual experience does not always mean two people have found a good friend or new lover. People who do not have a great deal of experience with dating or having first-time sexual encounters need to be aware that chemistry between two people typically needs time to build. Sometimes a little experimentation and patience is needed, so that both parties gain similar feelings and rhythm. Then, last but not least, repeated dates or sexual encounters with the same person may be wonderful, however, this by no means is a guarantee that two people are right together as friends. If you are a cautious person, these are important things to bear in mind, otherwise you risk getting trapped in a relationship where the romance is spectacular but everyone except you can see that a major incompatibility exists.
Often, people who are inexperienced at dating, may believe that sex is expected of them on the first date. Sometimes it is, however intimacy and closeness are something that should be mutually agreed upon. Sex may also be fine for ordinary purposes, however, just as much fun can be had by agreeing what will take place and what the first date means. Is this a chance to simply get to know each other? If so, having a good time without any expectations is always a winner. Keeping things simple also gives two people something to build on if a mutual like develops. And, asking about each other's interests and choosing an atypical date can often lead to a memorable experience, for one or both, even if romance does not ensue.
Far too many people wed perceptions of self-worth or attractiveness into how a partner responds to him or her on a first date. Don't allow this to happen to you! One mistake, lousy date or over-expectant partner does not negate a lifetime of quality. And, if for some reason you felt your manners or looks could use some improvement, great! This type of self-interest is healthy and will make you attractive to those who feel similarly. On the same note as the preceding sentiments, be aware that a first date is not solely about you, your looks, your ego, your interests, and certainly not your life history or long list of hardships and failed relationships. If your date has the politeness to show, even when he or she may have had doubts, it is important to pay attention to him or her. Ask about feelings and interests. Listen carefully to what your partner is saying. Ask questions about the topics your date mentions. Also, if you are hoping the date will lead to a relationship, pay extra attention to the words spoken by your partner on the first date, and most particularly off-hand comments. Although you need not respond to these later statements, or jokes, people have a tendency to relay their feelings through indirect communication. Someone saying "I only want to have a good time," may just be looking for that alone, and probably isn't interested in commitments any time soon.
It is definitely realistic to compliment a date for having showed up or for something else likeable about him or her. This is especially true if at some point during the date you suspect this is a person you really do not care to date again. A first date is not a relationship commitment or guarantee of another encounter, and these things can be stated clearly if a person seems over-expectant. Still the same, it serves no one to leave a date hurting or feeling a failure. Breaking up after a first date does not need to be an early divorce with dramatics. Treat people right by pointing out their finest feature and stating that someone will someday find them attractive for it.
With first dates, or any date for that matter, it is important to be prepared for unexpected situations. Whether or not you intend to have sex, discreetly carry protection with you so you are not paying for the encounter years later. A large proportion of those who insist sex won't happen on a first date later find that it did, so be prepared. I also suggest carrying a credit card or enough cash to cover the cost of dinner and a taxi ride home, just in case the person doesn't bring quite enough to cover the bill or turns into a monster. Some people believe they should call a friend for safety when they get home from a first date. However, in most circumstances this is unneeded if you plan things out safely in the first place. Nevertheless, it can be fun to share with a friend the events of the good time you had.
Perhaps the hardest part of dealing with dating for transgender men and women, is deciding how much of their gender issues to discuss on a first date, if at all. This is true for persons who are beginning to crossdress, live in role, and also persons who don't intend to tell, and those who have recently had surgery. Here there are no easy answers, because much rests on your ability to present well, your ability to discuss gender issues, and your general level of comfort introducing your transgender status before an intimate moment. If you do not have the capability of presenting 100% stealth and never having to tell, disclosing your transgender status is generally a good idea early on in a relationship so your dating partner does not feel tricked.
One of the best methods of disclosing, is to place the burden upon the date to have observed that you are a transsexual or crossdresser. Do so by stating, "I assume by now you have observed I have a transgender identity?" Whether or not the person actually observed your transgender status beforehand is unimportant. After he or she has responded, simply proceed in a cool manner by simply explaining your situation and offering the date a chance to ask questions. Make certain to give your date time to adjust to this new information.
Not surprisingly, when this information is early relayed in an honest manner, many transgender men and women go on to establish meaningful relationships. The most you risk by being honest up front, is being rejected before a significant relationship develops. Even telling, slowly, over a period of non-intimate contacts or dates, can become a method of gauging how a person will respond to the issue. If your date responds to initial questions about people with differences with hostility, disclosing your situation is probably not a good idea. This slow-method of disclosure is particularly good for young people who do a lot of dating, or those who are unfamiliar with telling others about gender issues.
When discussing gender issues with a first time date, avoid allowing these issues to become all encompassing or the sole subject of conversation. Answer basic questions about your date's concerns, tell your history, and then move on. Do you have a life beyond being a transgender man or woman? If so, talk about those things, and express interest in your date. If you fail to do this, the dating experience risks turning into a "let's meet a transsexual experience" for your partner. That person will unlikely remember anything else about you, and you will have failed to establish common points of interest. That type of experience can be very unsatisfying for both parties.
Disclosing one's transgender status during a first date can sometimes result in a hostile, or more likely, a poor attitude type of reaction. Some people just cannot handle differences in others, and that is their choice. You however do not have to accept rudeness, abuse or degrading questions that would not be asked of others under similar circumstances. Certainly, when its obvious a new friendship has no chance of evolving, its permissible to say the encounter is not working for you, and ask that you be taken home or call a taxi. Rather than tolerate a loser, part company early and find yourself a date that is going to treat you respectfully.
When you enter the dating world as a transgender person, it is important to recognize that there are those who are attracted to the unique attributes of pre-operative individuals. This can result in some interesting dynamics ranging from lesbians, looking for a dominant with special qualities, to straight-identified men, looking for a woman with something extra. This special interest is something that needs to be respected in people who seek out transgender folk, however, only you can decide if their interests would fulfill your needs. If that special interest is not yours, state so very early in the relationship, and then move on and find someone who is capable of satisfying you.
Dating is one of the first steps into romance, intimacy and relationships. It is a great time to communicate your needs, and find out what the other person is looking for. Dating is most certainly a special activity which demands other questions. What do you intend for your first date? Are you going to kiss and hug? Or, are you planning a balloon ride in California's wine country? The most important feature to the first date is to have fun. You only get one first date in your new gender, so relax and agree to do what feels right for you. Do not forget if you put extra effort into your appearance to have a friend snap a photo of you. You may want to add that to your album, or use the photo online if you decide dating different people is right for you.
GENDER ARTICLES. This educational column authored by Gianna E. Israel is regularly featured on the 3rd Monday of each month in Tg-Forum, the Internet's most up-to-date, weekly Transgender Magazine <http://www.tgforum.com/>. Several weeks later each article is forwarded to Usenet and AOL <Keyword TCF>. Each column has been written to inspire contemplation and dialogue. Columns may be reprinted in any medium insofar as each article, its introduction, and the author's contact information remains unaltered.
GIANNA E. ISRAEL provides nationwide telephone consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations and referrals. She is principal author of the Transgender Care (Temple University / in press 1997). She also writes Transgender Tapestry's "Ask Gianna" column; is an AEGIS board member and HBIGDA member.She can be contacted at (415) 558-8058, at P.O. Box 424447 San Francisco, CA 94142, or via e-mail at Gianna@counselsuite.com.
Copyright © 2001 by Diane Wilson. All rights reserved.