As much as I love sharing my dating stories, there are a lot of experiences that I haven't had. That's why, as part of It’s Not You, I'll be talking to people with a broad range of experiences to see how things are different — and how they're the same. Of course, these individuals don’t speak for entire demographics, but they do provide some insight into the nuances of the very human search for love and connection.
This week, I spoke with Hannah, a 32-year-old trans woman who identifies as bisexual.
Tell me about yourself.
“I’m a trans woman. I do identify as sexual. I’ve been doing a lot of advocacy work and speaking out on trans issues lately. I was in medical school two years ago, but because of an administration that was hostile to my transition, that kind of fell by the wayside. So now I’ve been writing and doing public speaking which has filled that gap.”
Are you currently in a relationship?
“No, but I am dating. Sometimes. Dating is complicated.”
That’s true for many, but I’m sure your complications are different than my complications.
“Yes and no. I’m confident about being trans, and my philosophy about dating as a trans woman is I bring up my trans status as soon as possible. And sometimes it will be as simple as mentioning, ‘Oh I just got off a Lifeline call.’ Because I was a volunteer coordinator for them. Or I’ll say, ‘Oh I was working with this youth person and they’re trans,’ and then I can segue into saying that I’m trans, too. I feel the person out about it, and I do that quickly. It’s not a dominating conversation when you’re dating somebody, but if they’re not fully on board and aware of what’s going on, they’re not worth my time.”
I’ve spoken to trans individuals who don’t like feeling like they “need” to disclose something like that upfront. Does it bother you that you feel like you have to disclose your trans status so early in a relationship?
“I think it’s the reason why I do it. I don’t put it on a dating site directly. Now, some will give you the option to list a trans status, but I don’t believe it belongs there. That said, when I’m meeting the person, I believe it’s about my time and my feeling this person out. I pay attention to what they know, what they’re willing to learn, and what kinds of questions they ask me immediately. If I don’t think they’re worth my time, then that’s fine. I have plenty of other people who want to date me.”
Why don’t you like listing your trans status on your profile?
“There’s a level of prejudice that comes with putting it on the dating site in black-and-white. On certain sites, like OkCupid where you’re able to write in longer profiles and descriptions about yourself, I’ll put it in the actual profile description. But it’s not the first line, and it’s not the last line. It’s in the middle. It’s a good barometer for me of who actually reads my profile, because if you read it all the way through, you would have found it.
“I firmly believe that with dating apps especially — and that’s the only way people date these days that I’m aware of — you get out what you put in. So if someone just says, ‘Hey baby,” and expects me to go on this diatribe about myself where I reveal everything, that’s not who I am. And when I’m with the person, in person, I’ll put them on the spot with it and see how they react. Although that depends on the partner I’m with and what circles they travel in.”
Why do you mean?
“So I’m bisexual. If I’m dating someone who identifies as a female, then they are already generally identifying as queer, or else they wouldn’t be dating me. So they’re already into queer circles, and there’s a lot less exposition that I have to do about what trans is. It’s when I’m dating guys, the majority of whom are straight, that I have to give that exposition. So there is a gender bias, but it comes from the fact that one population is usually in the queer community, and the other isn’t. And I’m trying to weave in and out of those, because I belong in both words, and I deserve to be seen as a woman in both words. It’s not like I’m a guy in straight world and a woman in gay world — I’m a woman everywhere.”
And you date mainly online?
“Yeah — I’ve tried a bunch of them. I have profiles on most of them. I try to ask out people I meet in synagogue and in social places, too. Online dating levels the playing field a lot, but it kinda sucks. And that’s part of the reason why I’m 32 and I’m not in a relationship. I’m not getting married or starting a family. And that weighs heavily on me. Even as a trans woman, [I feel like] my biological clock is ticking.”
Did the weight of wanting to start a family pop up for you once you transitioned, or is it something that you’ve always wanted?
“I wanted to be a daddy or a parent even before I transitioned. But I knew I never wanted [my transition] to destroy a partner’s life. I wanted to transition before I became a partner or a parent. I never wanted to do that first, and then transition and have it affect all these other lives. That was the narrative I’d read when I was younger, because that was the only path afforded to a lot of people.
“That being said, the practical reality of having children is all the more difficult now. I did freeze sperm before I transitioned. That was something that was very important for me to do. And it depends now whether my future partner has a uterus — whether it’s a cis woman or a trans man — and we use it.
"The other possibilities are that my partner and I will adopt children one day together, or that I may end up being a stepmother to children who he or she brings to the relationship. That’s already something that scares me, in terms of those power dynamics. How do I come in as a first-time parent to a situation when these children already have both parents? I’m forever sharing these children, whom I want to be fully invested in, because I do want to be fully invested in them. You’re Italian, I’m Jewish: You know what it’s like to be that fully invested mother in a child’s life. [Laughs]”
Oh yes, I totally do.
“But even though I took into consideration the family I might have in the future, I transitioned for me. The burden of satisfaction in my body and my life doesn’t shift to somebody else. If it did, I could have just found a partner who was fine with me having a penis. But it’s not about having a penis, it’s about having a vagina, and being who I am. So any partner has to take me as I am, and they have to want to face the realities of my life with me. And the right person is going to want to do that with me.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Gender and sexual orientation are both highly personal and constantly evolving. So, in honor of Transgender Awareness Week, we're talking about the importance of language and raising the voices of the LGBTQIA community. Welcome to Gender Nation, where gender is defined by the people who live it. Want to learn more? Check out our Gender Nation glossary. For more of our many paths to, through, or away from parenthood, head over to Mothership.
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