“We Deserve Love Stories”: Trans Women On The Highs & Lows Of Modern Dating

Photographed by Jackie Harriet.
Trans visibility is better than it ever has been but trans women in happy, loving relationships with men are almost completely absent from mainstream media. With perhaps the exception of Janet Mock, whose New York Times bestseller Redefining Realness documents her relationship and marriage, it is rare to see trans women publicly loved and desired.
This lack of visibility makes it easy to draw the conclusion that trans women aren't lovable, which has an understandable effect on their self-esteem (especially early in their transition). It also helps stigmatise the cis men who desire trans women. What little research there is on this subject appears to corroborate that myth; according to this study, only 12% of people, irrespective of sexual orientation, said they would date a trans person. The implication is that these relationships rarely happen but of course that couldn't be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is they do but are often kept quiet on the part of the cis men who fear the taboos that still surround this expression of love.
This stigma has real, violent consequences. Trans women are desired and, like cis women, subject to misogyny and harassment. But that same misogyny is exacerbated for trans women, and is laced with transphobia.
As Charlie Craggs told us: "There's a correlation between guys who like us and the guys who are killing us." In other words, the internalised shame cis men can feel about their desire for trans women can result in them lashing out. According to the latest Home Office findings for 2018 to 2019, transgender hate crimes have increased by 37%. That number could be much higher though, as Stonewall reports that four in five hate crimes against trans people go unreported. And this violence doesn't just happen on the streets – while there is limited research into this area, Stonewall found in 2018 that 16% of trans women had experienced domestic abuse from a partner, compared to 7.5% of the women surveyed by the Office for National Statistics over the same period.
Straight trans women, like everyone, deserve love stories and safety, neither of which they are currently getting or are told by society that they can have. To try and change that narrative, we spoke to three trans straight women about their experiences with dating, how to navigate dating apps and never accepting less than you deserve.

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