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Gianna Israel Gender Library

Singles Scene

Recently I attempted to run a relationship advertisement in the personals section of a local newspaper. Rather than running the advertisement, I was told by the newspaper that my advertisement "was welcome, but could not use the word -transsexual- in it contents." According to the newspaper their relationship section was for "singles looking to establish a relationship with other singles.

I mention this incident because it characterizes the difficulties transsexuals, crossdressers and other transgender persons can face in the pursuit of establishing meaningful, romantic relationships. Society, even in progressive locations during the late 1990's, still is not completely aware that the vast majority of transgender persons seek or are actually involved in healthy, committed relationships. Contrary to stereotypes, family values also plays a major role in the lives of transgender men and women. Many have children and seek to be in traditional relationships. Others, even come from conservative backgrounds. In fact, with the exception of having gender issues, many transgender men and women are not much different than non-transgender persons.

One of the most difficult obstacles single transgender persons face is other's assumption that "transgender" equates to sexually erotic, or socially forbidden behaviors. For example, while I dress and act conservatively in day-to-day life, on occasions when men recognized my transgender status, I have been frequently approached as if I am an "easy" conquest or work as a sex worker.. The single crossdresser must also often deal with similar assumptions. Often potential dates forget all about a person's validity as a potential companion because they only can see crossdressers as kinky freaks. Lastly, in the singles dating world, transgender men and women who self identify as gay or lesbian must often contend with validation issues as well as both homophobia and transphobia.

Homophobia is an irrational fear, hatred, misunderstanding or bias toward gays and lesbians based on misinformation or ignorance. Transphobia contains the same dynamics, yet is targeted at transgender men and women.

Writing about transgender singles issues is no easy endeavor. For transgender persons, dealing with coming-out, employment and other issues associated with incorporating transgender needs into one's life can be challenging. However, being single and learning how to confront society's stereotypes and meet potentially transfriendly romantic or relationship partners can seem almost impossible. This is especially so without some guidance and information about how others have dealt with similar issues. As such, I strongly encourage people to talk about their experiences, share within support groups, and ask questions of those with more experience.

The most important thing you can do is to have confidence in yourself and accept rejection in stride. Either someone is interested or they are not.

My experience having an advertisement turned-away was frustrating but did not surprise me. Fortunately, I have had excellent luck running advertisements in other newspapers with minimal or no harassment at all. I have found that one positive benefit to running an advertisement is safety. You can state what you are looking for, get the phone numbers of people interested in your description, and not give out your phone number until you feel comfortable doing so. You also can screen the individual before meeting in a neutral location of mutual choosing. This screening process empowers you, and provides an opportunity to talk with potential dates you may never have had a chance to meet. When screening potential partners or people you wish to meet ask plenty of questions. Do this so that you can better understand the person's intentions. Question-asking can be fun, so don't be intimidated! Is this the first time you have dated a transgender persons? Do you fantasize about being crossdressed or actually do so yourself? I'm a (transsexual), what do you know about transsexuals? Are you looking for "fun and games" or for friendship? Are you exclusively bottom, top or do you like variety? Have you considered being in a long- term relationship with a transgender person? The preceding are questions I personally use, you may have others depending on your situation and interests.

During your conversations also invite questions and listen closely to the person's comments. It has been my experience that people generally reveal a great deal about themselves often without even realizing it. Pay close attention to how the person speaks, what types of things make him or her laugh, and what terminology is used. For example, if an individual refers to transsexuals as "she-males" you can be relatively certain he (or she) has been reading pornographic magazines. In those type of situations I clarify that I am a transgender woman (or transsexual) and not a sex industry worker.

One interesting aspect I have discovered when running an advertisement or in meeting people interested in transgender persons, is the fact that the individual may actually be gender-questioning. It is possible they may even have a transgender identity, some realize it while others do not. Finding an initial inroad to the transgender community can still be challenging for people who don't know where to look, so I always anticipate hearing from other transgender persons. Last summer I ran a relationship advertisement for 4 months. Five people out of the 40 calls I received actually seemed far more interested in gender issues than me, and were referred to appropriate resources. You may find these curious callers may become new friends. Or, as sometimes occurs, find dating another transgender person an intriguing idea.

As a transgender person seeking dates it is likely you will encounter individuals who are seeking sexual fantasies that may not interest you. This is particularly so if you are a pre- operative male-to-female transsexual, headed toward surgery, and you encounter an individual who specifically savors pre-operative fantasy. As a consequence, in addition to talking about intimacy and safe sex, role play becomes an important issue when discussing intimacy. In many circumstances pre-operative transgender persons may not be interested in sex. This is fine, however, it should be stated up front. Also, don't allow the absence of actual sex to interfere with hugging, holding, kissing and snuggling. Everybody needs luvvins, including you!

Dating for the transgender individual who has recently separated from a long term relationship can initially seem both frustrating and frightening. Do not let this new challenge drag you down! I have seen pre- as well as post-operative individuals form new relationships and romantic liaisons at all stages of life, including those in their 50's and 60's. As I become more experienced in dating, I have noticed that the more mature people become the less emphasis they place on gender issues. Rather, it is important to recognize that more mature people become established in their own ways routines and habits, and may not have the flexibility of youth. As such, keep this in mind. Whatever your age, keep in mind that when you are accepting of another person's needs, if they care for you they will extend the same to you.

Advertising in a newspaper's personal section is not the only way to meet potential companions and dates. However, where safety is concerned the same rules apply. Only do things you feel comfortable doing. Generally I prefer to date people interested in friendship first, sex later. Also, I only offer my phone number if the other person is willing to share theirs. Depending on your preferences, you may not wish to have the person visit your home until you know where he or she works or lives You may also choose to date people referred by friends. Make certain your friend really knows this new person. Don't feel afraid to ask your friend questions. Lastly if you have a chance encounter with a stranger, watch what you drink and who hands it to you. I have counseled a number of women, transgender and not, who have had date rape drugs slipped into their drinks. If you find yourself feeling very faint or ill do not go home with strangers. Demand that you be allowed to call a friend, an ambulance or the police.

Fortunately most first dates are not usually this dangerous or scary. This is particularly so if you sensibly plan your activities. Sometimes "first-date" jitters can get the best of a person. My suggestion, plan low-key, relaxing activities where you do not have to invest a great deal time, energy or money. If the person cancels, it is then no big deal. If you are uncertain whether intimacy is right with this person, not meeting over dinner places less expectations on an outcome. During most first-meeting situations, I prefer to take a potential companion for a nice walk. Usually, to "Just Desserts." Afterward, if my craving for something sweet is not satisfied, I'll let you imagine what comes next.


Follow-up Note: As a result of my experience having an advertisement turned down because it contained the word "transsexual," I have offered consultation to the corporation which maintains that particular personals advertising section. Like many corporations the company was interested in learning about transgender needs, and is looking at their policy and practices. My commendations go to that corporation for its willingness to assert that their policies do not arbitrarily discriminate against transgender men and women.


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.