5 Tips For Trans People Looking For Love

Ah, romantic love, the source of so much joy and so much misery. For many trans people, seeking a partner isn’t just hard–it’s completely baffling. I see this confusion crop up over and over in our community. As a trans dude who lucked into a great relationship, I thought I’d offer a few pointers for trans people trying to figure out where to even start.

Sweetheart cushion made as a love token by a sailor, circa 1900. Source.

1. Safety first. Sadly, this needs to be said, as I’m sure you’re aware. Dating can be dangerous for trans people. Be choosy about the who, how and when of disclosing your trans status. You may want to gauge their views on trans people, like by mentioning a trans celebrity or TV character (something we can actually do now!). Tell loved ones where you are going and when you’ll be back. Trust your gut. It’s a good idea to disclose as early as possible in a new relationship. Choose a place where you know you’ll be safe, like in a restaurant or at your place when your roommates or family are in the next room.

2. Consider other trans people. The late, great Matt Kailey used to say this often in his advice column. Many trans people find love with another trans person. Obviously, other trans people are a lot more likely than the average to be informed about your identity and experiences, open-minded about your body, and willing to see you as more than your trans status. Given our glorious diversity, whatever you’re into, there are probably some trans people who’ve got it. And you’re guaranteed to have something in common.

3. Bi and queer folks may be your best bet. I’ve noticed that a lot of trans people find partners who identify as bi or queer, including yours truly. It’s no coincidence. Bi and queer people, both trans and cis, are generally open to a range of body types and gender expressions. They’re therefore less likely to see trans people as a threat to their own identities. I also think there’s something about the shared experience of being oft-ignored members of the LGBTQ+ community. Of course, there are plenty of gay, lesbian, straight and other people who are not transphobic and would be happy to date you. Nonetheless, bi and queer people can be a good place to start.

4. Love yourself. Ok, not to get super corny here, but it’s true–loving yourself is so important. As trans people, self-acceptance and love are often challenging. Whether you’re partnered or single, loving yourself is the foundation of bliss, in relationships and every other part of life. Some ways to get started with self-love include surrounding yourself with supportive people and doing one thing each day just to be kind to yourself. When you’re getting ready in the morning, you can look at yourself in the mirror, smile, and say “I love you.” You will feel really silly, but seriously, it helps. When you’re rooted in self-love, you can enjoy the single life, and you’ll be equipped to know a good thing when it comes. Plus, the confidence and positivity that come with self-love are extremely attractive.

5. Hold out for the real thing. Don’t spend years of your life with someone just because they show you a minimum of decency and are willing to use the right pronouns (and don’t even get me started on people who don’t meet that low bar). You deserve a great relationship with someone who shares your values and really gets you–a mutual partnership where you can love and be loved, challenge and be challenged. It’s the real deal when you feel deeply respected and the relationship helps both people to grow. Don’t settle for less. You’re worth it.

Readers–what advice do you have for trans people who are seeking that special someone? Please also feel free to ask questions and share stories about dating while trans.

Anxiety, My Terrible Roommate

This is the kind of shit that Simon tells me. Except about everything. Source.

You still haven’t started that paper. You forgot to send that email again. What’s wrong with you? You haven’t done the dishes in a week. When are you going to write your aunt back? I can’t believe you said that stupid thing at work today. You better call the dog in. Are you ever going to start that paper?

So goes the monologue that so often takes over my mind, and that’s on the good days. I’ve posted before about my experience with anxiety and obsessive thinking. I recently stumbled upon a strange method for getting a little distance form it. I named it Simon.

I got this odd notion from an episode of On Being (one of my favorite podcasts) with pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. She explained,

I named my depression Frances because it was like a really bad roommate who would never leave. And at the time when I really suffered from depression, it was when Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love had their child named Frances Bean, and so I named my — at the time they named their child, I named my depression Frances.

But I always pictured her more like Courtney Love, kind of emaciated in a vintage nightgown with like smeared lipstick and a gin bottle and a cigarette. Like that was Courtney. I mean, that was Frances, my depression. And like at first, she was kind of interesting to hang out with, but then she just never moved out.

Something just clicked when I heard this. Of course! All this time I’ve been observing my thoughts, knowing myself as the awareness, not the thinking/thinker. But it’s damn hard to remember when the dust-devil swirls in. What better way to disidentify from my obsessive thinking than to give it a name?

So I named it Simon. I picture him vividly: a skinny, scrawny boy of 18 or 19, with messy black hair and wire-frame glasses. I feel like he’s my younger cousin or something, and for some reason, I’m expected to live with him. Simon is the kind of roommate who leaves his dirty socks on the floor and eats the leftovers you were saving. Simon has strong opinions on matters on which he is utterly uninformed. Simon believes everything will go wrong and he wants me to know it.

Naming Simon has sparked something of a revolution in my mind. That evening, all my anxious thoughts were suddenly in sharp relief, obvious in their absurdity and complete uselessness. Shut the fuck up, Simon, I though to myself over and over. In the few weeks since this happened, my anxiety has plummeted. Best of all, whenever it rears its ugly head, it is easily shot down. I wouldn’t put up with this crap from a roommate; there’s no need to put up with it from myself, either.

No more Simon Says.

A Dog Is An Indispensable Friend

I couldn’t have gotten through transition without my dog. When the world looked at me with bafflement and disgust, she looked at me with pure attention and love. No judgment can pass through her gaze. She doesn’t give a shit about gender. A dog is an indispensable friend on this river.

I remember one day, back when I was desperately questioning my gender. It had been a horrible week of misperceptions by strangers and misunderstandings by family and friends. I was exhausted, almost heartbroken. I found my dog taking an afternoon nap in a patch of sun on my bed. I laid down and wrapped my arms around her and cried. She nuzzled my tears. I thanked her over and over for loving me with no thoughts at all of my haircut or my hormones.

She showed me that, whether people call me “he” or “she”,” I am myself. She showed me an acceptance that can be hard to find in human beings. Her love convinced me of my basic worth, my realness, the universe lovingly allowing me to be. Her soul shines through her eyes, and that soul is all souls.

A beautiful rescue with a scar on her face, she is intensely loyal. She seems to know that I took her in and keep her safe. She looks at me with gratitude and a little bit of awe. She has no idea that she saved me, too.

Right Body, Wrong Culture

“I think of transexuality as a kind of birth defect.”

So do I. I was born into the wrong culture.

– Riki Wilchins, from “17 Things You Don’t Say To A Transexual,” Read My Lips

Dysphoria came first and fiercest as the sense that something was wrong with me. Something was terribly, fundamentally wrong with me, and it would never be put right. The feeling was vague and confused, yet vast, pervading everything. I didn’t know what was wrong, exactly, but I knew it was very, very bad. It seemed to be my fault, though I had never intended to cause it. It had something to do with the future, with world of adult relationships. I knew that I would never marry a man; the idea was absurd. Would I marry a woman? Would anyone ever want me? I did not know. I had a deep, gnawing fear that I would never have children. I wanted to, desperately, but it seemed extremely unlikely. I remember trying to comfort myself, Most people have kids, right? I wanted so badly to fix myself, solve the problem, grow up right, be worthwhile. I didn’t want to be a boy, per se. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be like everybody else.

When did the burden materialize? I have no recollection, and I suspect it is as old as I am. It was a strict taboo in my family. It wasn’t til many years later that my parents acknowledged I had always been masculine, that they knew something was going on with me, though didn’t guess what. My masculinity went unacknowledged like toilet paper stuck to somebody’s shoe. Embarrassing. I think my parents thought it would crush me to point it out–they felt a need to insist I was normal and adequate as a girl. But I just wasn’t, and that was far too obvious to miss. So instead of knowing I was masculine, I knew myself as a failure. Everything came so easily to everybody else, but all I tried to do came out crooked.

What was I supposed to make of it? I had been given no words, no examples, no stories, no chance. Occasional snippets caught from grown-up television gave intimations of freaks, wholly alien kinds of people, pathetic in doomed quests to be what they are not. “Men in dresses,” etc. I vaguely related to Joan of Arc and figured I’d missed the boat by a couple of centuries. I could only see myself as an abject failure, utterly hopeless, a doomed hybrid in a world of opposites.

Since no one ever acknowledged it, I thought I might be the only one who realized what I was. Here is where things really went to shit. Seeing myself as a freak and failure, and with everyone else pretending nothing was wrong, I learned it was my job–my most important job–to keep the secret. To fake it, to act like it wasn’t happening, to pretend to be a girl. They were pretending in an insane extremely misguided* attempt to protect my feelings; I was pretending in a desperate bid to spare theirs, to spare myself the look on their faces when they realized what had happened, who I really was. I was suffocated by the burden of their hopes for me–hopes I could never fulfill. I learned to lie by example. [*Thanks to captainglittertoes for raising concerns about my use of the word "insane" in this post.]

The damage of that denial runs deep, deeper even than the gender issues that sparked it. I have grown up into a man; my whole family accepts me. Yet I still suspect I am not worthwhile. The bullshit habit has its own momentum. Sometimes I can observe myself swallowing a thought or emotion, recoiling from love in fear and mistrust. I struggle to release my stranglehold on the same old shit. I get good grades to be good enough; I am impeccably polite to be good enough; I mentally berate myself to be good enough. I was so afraid of disappointing my parents, but maybe I was disappointed with myself all along.

I remember my depression and rage as a child. I didn’t want this life. Strange. It seemed at once so fair, so unchosen–yet I blamed myself completely, believed I could fix it, be different.

I am so sick of carrying the belief that it’s all my fault. It’s not my fault. My body and soul were simply given, and then badly mishandled by an idiot culture and well-meaning young adults who knew very little about the world. And there is nothing wrong with me.

I know this. I’m still trying to feel it.

If guilt is hell, what is its opposite?

– A Course In Miracles

7 Questions For Transgender Spiritual Seekers

Reality radiating inward from Ein Sof (No End). Source.

For a long time now I’ve wrestled with a recurring question: What is the spiritual significance of being transgender? In my tradition, questions are more important than answers, so I respond to this question with more questions.

Each of these queries points towards possibilities in trans experience, lenses this life has offered me. This investigation is both intensely specific and ultimately universal. I ask about the spiritual meaning of being trans because it is a profound, formative, and raw experience for me. Any experience will do. Circumstances provide us all with doorways, superficially unique yet essentially identical, in that they all lead to the same place. Countless roads have one destination; all of reality empties into the Infinite. All tears, like all rivers, flow to the Sea.

  1. When society turns you away, where can you go?
  2. When axioms crumble, what remains?
  3. Who is this you, whom neither body, nor society, nor life history define?
  4. Who is the one who can accept the unacceptable, do the undoable?
  5. When you are on the outside looking in, where are you?
  6. When you lose everything, what do you have?
  7. When everything changes, what stays the same?

People Are Nicer When You’re Gender-Conforming

Over at Alas, A Blog, Ampersand raises the topic of being better-liked after weight loss:

When I think about losing weight – and like nearly all fat people, my mind sometimes strays there even though I’m against trying to lose weight myself – this thought always bothers me. I’ve read enough studies – and seen enough life – to be convinced that I would probably be better liked, and treated better – not by my close friends, but by acquaintances and strangers and business associates – if I lost a lot of weight.

But I think that would in turn make me paranoid. How could I make new friends, for instance, if at the back of my head I’m wondering if they’ll drop me if I regain the weight (as most weight losers do)? Would I take every instance of nice treatment as an opportunity to think “if you saw me two years ago, you wouldn’t be being this nice?”

This is a depressing reality, and as a thin person, I’ve never had to deal with it. It did get me thinking, though, about the ways transition has simultaneously improved and imploded my social life. People are just so much nicer to me now that I fit neatly into the male box. Cashiers and waiters meet my eyes; guys slap my back and call me brother; children don’t gawk at me in the street.

It was damn stressful being visibly gender-nonconforming. Every new interaction was laced with anxiety. People disrespected me in subtle ways every day. But more than that, people just kept their distance. A subtle chill seemed to follow me everywhere. People kept their eyes and bodies averted, stood a few feet away from me. Some may have been disgusted; most, I think, were just confused, overwhelmed with the awkwardness of meeting a person who might be a “he” or might be a “she.” Maybe they were even trying not to stare to be polite. It felt like shit, though.

Now, I’m some kind of golden boy of the system, and people are nice wherever I go. Women flirt with me, men get buddy-buddy fast. From bus rides to job interviews to bars, people seems easy around me. The few people who are rude or cold are probably treating everybody that way. A slew of single-syllable terms of familiarity, all of them gendered, follow me around the city, little olive branches extended everywhere I go. Bro, dude, man, bud, kid, sir.

I really enjoy the warmth and ease that have emerged in the last few years. It’s nice to have friendly chats with strangers, to be on a first-name basis with everyone in my classes.

But I take it all in with a more than a bit of suspicion. How conditional is this kindness? Will it drop if they find out I’m trans? In my limited experience of coming out, no–apparently, you’re good once you get through the door. More insidiously, then, the nagging suspicion that these nice-seeming people would’ve been completely different if we met when I still looked like a butch/he-she/dyke/freak (to use some frank terms).

Since transition, I’ve gained dozens of friendly acquaintances, but no close friends. The kindness is cruel; my general social trust has disintegrated. How can I open up to people now that I see just how two-faced they really are? It’s part outrage, part fear, part disgust, part loyalty to my past self, part internalized transphobia. I enjoy the superficial niceness for what it’s worth, but I am extremely hesitant to get close to anyone. How can I accept such gifts, now I see on what basis they’re given?

The Transition Blues

“He who can understand that the story of his higher nature is imbedded in this symbolism will receive intimations concerning a great awakening that is possible.” — A. E. Waite Source.

Sometimes, things really do get worse before they get better. I read a lot of blogs by people who are currently in transition, and I wish I could do more to help people survive that crazy time. This includes the process of self-recognition, questioning, and charting a course, as well as the process of physical, social and legal transformation. For now, let me just say this.

Transition is at once exhilarating, stressful, magical, devastating, terrifying, overwhelming and beautiful. Research suggests that during transition, we are at special risk for suicide attempts, even moreso than usual. Take care of yourself now. I personally guarantee that someday, you will see that this is one of the hardest things you’ve ever done, indeed one of the hardest things that anyone will ever do.

You went out on a journey, looking for a new life–one worth living this time. This is truly a mythic quest. You’ve met friends and enemies, overcome challenges, solved riddles. And now, you have descended to the underworld. If you feel like you’re in a living hell, well, my friend, you are. There is no way up, out or around; you can only go through. You will be a new person when you reach the other side. And you will–you must–reach the other side. Do it for all of us.

As Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Stay strong, comrades. You are not alone.

I Am A Cosmic Course Correction

It happens once in a long while, maybe in the steel hush of a winter morning or the live buzz of a summer night. It happens a few times in a generation, a realignment, pieces clicking into place. A different wind blows over the face of the waters. Wait, She whispers.

I am a cosmic course correction. I am a readjustment. I am the intelligence of the organism, searching for homeostasis.

Through wars and famines, exiles and migrations, we endure. Trauma twists us; loss contorts us. And we carry on, one step at a time, on the tightrope over oblivion. One false move and it all falls apart.

If they ask you for a miracle, reply, I am the miracle. If they ask you for healing, reply, I am healed. If they ask where you are going, say, I am here. If they ask where you have been, smile.

I am a balancing act, a rebalancing act. Unfinished creation, we are the artists of fulfillment. The glory of the world rests on our shoulders. We are the restoration.

Now I tremble at the hidden face of the Most Secret.

My Lord, I come to You as myself.

Ethnicity, Facial Hair & The Sexed Body

“A post card from the 19th century showing the rich mix of ethnic and religious types in the Indian subcontinent.” Source.

Hairs decorate my chin, dark and delicate. My mustache is a gentle brush across my upper lip. Sandpaper scratch of stubble on my sideburns and neck.

I have been on testosterone for 4 years. Testosterone continues to shape the body across the lifespan, but I’m told that after 5 years, the puberty stage is complete. I figure at this point, what I see is what I get, more or less.

When I first began to contemplate transition, I was 19 years old and still waiting for my mustache. I squinted my eyes at the tiny hairs, sure that any day now, they would multiply and darken. The hairs didn’t come. Something was very wrong.

Life continued; two years passed. I got my first shot of testosterone. Somewhere along the way, I picked up the idea that I needed to grow a beard. My mustache dream receded.

It’s a beard moment. My friends have them; the hip guys on the street have them. I was disappointed when my facial hair began growing in slowly, slowly.

I told my mom about my hirsute aspirations. “A beard?” she said. “I don’t know. We’re not a very hairy family.”

I look into eyes of my grandfather and great-grandfather, their perfectly smooth faces suspended in gelatin silver. No beards in sight. Just the occasional shadow of stubble in a candid shot of my saba.

I was extremely embarrassed to grow in my mustache. I couldn’t resist it; I liked the sight of that fuzzy shadow far too much. But who has a mustache like mine? I was afraid to look foolish.

I think it was Alma who finally put the idea in my head. I’d been looking at white guys’ facial hair, bushy beards in sandy brown. The image of “man” in my mind was dripping with racism. Nice beaner stache, my brother told me, teasing. I don’t think he had any clue how racist that sounded.

My eyes were opened. Suddenly, mustaches like mine were everywhere. Thin, perfectly formed mustaches crowning the upper lips of brown guys of all varieties. Strolling around the university on a sunny day, I see facial hair like mine on Latino, Asian, Native and Middle Eastern guys.

My legs are a forest of brown hairs. My arms are smooth, haloed in delicate gold fuzz. My mom touches my arms and says it’s a Sephardic thing. Staring in the mirror, I laugh when I remember that they used to call us Oriental.*

My people spent 500 years in the place where the Middle East collides with Eastern Europe. It’s a place of varied features, of thick black hair and soft fair locks, where gazes may be the darkest brown or silver-green as a still lake. Complexions come in rich shades of olive, brown and gold. Some men have long, thick beards; some have bushy, carefully groomed mustaches; some have a slender frame of hair at the edges of mouth and face; and some men don’t grow facial hair at all. I have always known this, but somehow in the rush of my American youth culture, I forgot. I have to look outside the mainstream if I want to see a person who resembles myself.

So I like my little mustache. There’s something slightly counter-cultural about it. I like that it’s a little unusual–and I like who I share it with. I’m not waiting for a white man’s beard anymore.


* Until the mid-20th century, it was common for white people to call the Jews of the Middle East “Oriental Jews.” It was not a term of affection. We had our own words. My people have always called ourselves Sephardim.