What's a lesbian transwoman got to do to find a date?
February 26, 2017 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend who's having trouble finding a date: I am a 26 year old transwoman from Los Angeles with an attraction to other women and I've been on hormones for a couple years, slowly transitioning. I'm at the end of my rope and am close to giving up trying to date – every attempt has been a disaster, and my life falls apart a bit after nearly every serious attempt at it I take. What are my options? More details below.

A major problem is many of them have been “straight” or bi-curious girls who would lead me on in online friendships, but the second I'd seriously ask them I'd often not only get shut down, but verbally and emotionally torn to shreds by them. The last girl I had a crush on was someone who insisted they didn't mind, and wouldn't mind meeting me for coffee offline – she lost her nerve, probably after I sent her a picture she seemed to be happy with, and one day blocked me on social media and never talked to me again without even a hint of a goodbye. Similar things have happened in the past, and I don't feel like I can trust attempting to even online date anymore.

As for trying in real life, the idea is mortifying. I am really quite skittish of queer (for lack of a better word) women since I try my best to avoid TERFs, and from what I've heard of the few remaining lesbian clubs/bars around they are notoriously unfriendly to transwomen. Honestly, I don't want to feel like I'm invading someones space, but my desire to be inoffensive has just lead me to be alone. Even trying to muster up talking on Okcupid has ended up with me never getting a reply back.

I'm prolly gonna resetup my okcupid account, and probably a fetlife account for munches (since I hear the community is pretty open to trans people), and I have a friend who said she can try to help, but other than that I am at a loss.
posted by Senza Volto to Human Relations (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
So, I've never been to LA and it's been a while since I was 26, but I am a queer lady who dates on the internet, and I want to encourage your friend not to write off all queer women as TERFs. There are definitely some and they are awful, and I'm sorry she has to deal with that--but I'd encourage her to message more queer-identified women online. Obviously I don't know the scene there, but in the queer circles I run in, TERFs are not common or especially welcome. If she's right about the bars there, she might try seeking out other forms of queer community--maybe queer and trans yoga, if that is of interest? Or volunteering at a local queer/trans organization, or some kind of other relevant meetup group (is there an Autostraddle meetup group in LA?)? My experience is that making queer friends is a good way to get queer dates.

Best of luck to her.
posted by dizziest at 8:33 AM on February 26, 2017 [8 favorites]


Most of the lesbian trans women I know met people through Fetlife (I know you mentioned that, just reinforcing it). There must be a few trans groups in LA (general, not necessarily for dating); does she go to any of those?

(For reference, I'm a trans guy.)
posted by AFABulous at 9:39 AM on February 26, 2017


Oh - and the key to online dating is to meet them after no more than a week of chit-chat, so you don't get strung along. When I was dating I asked them out after the second message if their profile met the standards of decency. Go some place low-pressure like a coffee shop, and you haven't really lost anything if it doesn't work out or they flake.
posted by AFABulous at 9:42 AM on February 26, 2017 [12 favorites]


One, it sounds like your friend is getting WAY too invested in women at a too early stage. I understand it's hard to find dates, but she should not be emotionally invested in a person after talking to them online for a few days. That in itself can scare people off.

The second thing I would say is that she probably shouldn't chalk up all her bad experiences to being trans if there is no explicit mention of it. Sometimes people flake on a first date, sometimes people change their mind, sometimes they even block you. That happens to cis and trans women both. I'm saying that to hopefully help boost her confidence. The dating world sucks and it's full of people who cancel last minute, decide you aren't cute enough for their liking, etc. etc. It may have nothing to do with her trans status and everything to do with that person just being a jerk.

OKC has a TERF question iirc (something like 'Are trans women real women?' ) and I'd start with checking that for every queer woman you decide to message, and understand that you won't get replies from most of them even if they answer correctly. Like, probably 90%, even if you're a greater than 90% match. This was my experience as a fat lesbian -- being fat is a different kind of dealbreaker for people, but might give you an idea of how it is to online-date when you are not traditionally 'desirable.'

Don't get invested too early, have great pictures and an awesome profile, and disclose your trans-ness in that profile. People can't say they haven't been "warned" and those who message you back will be fine with it.

I have a friend who is dating two non-binary AFAB people, one of whom she met through the kink community and one she met because they had a shared interest online. You're young. You'll find your people.
posted by possibilityleft at 9:49 AM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


Just in general, the "lead me on in online friendship" kind of worries me. Given that your friend doesn't have an ok cupid profile at present (?), what kind of social media is she using? The behavior she's reporting (people who chat with her, followed by shutting her out / blocking her when she asks them out) sounds like it's happening in a context where the women she's talking to DON'T think she's romantically interested in them and are startled when it turns out that she is.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 10:15 AM on February 26, 2017 [12 favorites]


Queer LA cis-lady here. I'm also pretty heavy, which on OKC gets me a lot of people who say hi, then bail after more photos, or after the first date. The advice possibilityleft gives about using the okc questions to screen is spot on. There's one I use that's something like "Can overweight people be sexy" and that's my bellwether.
I don't have a lot of experience with meetup in LA, but it's huge, people do use it, though with typical LA flakiness.
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:17 AM on February 26, 2017


A few things:

1. I strongly recommend your friend get herself into therapy. I am a trans woman and know what it's like to have a hard time finding dates. I also know how easy it is for a socially structured lack of access to intimacy to result in all kinds of maladaptive relationship strategies. Therapy helps us manage expectations, manage reactions if something doesn't go as planned, and improve our self-esteem, which makes us more desirable. The "I don't feel like I can trust attempting to even online date anymore" attitude seems to me to be a defense mechanism built up around scary experiences, which are real, but moving forward isn't likely to be very attractive to very many people.

2. I live in LA and haven't personally gone to any gay bars. The WeHo bar scene seems completely alien to me. I met my current partner on OkCupid, but I've also had a bunch of terrible experiences on there: stood up, creeps, you name it. I would definitely recommend Fetlife. My only experiences there have been hook-up-type dating situations, but the queer kink scene is definitely more trans friendly than say, WeHo.

3. There are queer kink parties that might be a good place to meet people. PM me and I can exchange info with your friend. I don't have a lot of extra energy to spend, but I could definitely point her in some new directions in LA.

4. Don't assume all cis women are TERFs (I personally hate the term - I find this type of people neither radical nor feminist). Granted, you have to trust your intuition when something feels weird, but if someone is going on a date with you, they are probably halfway decent. Your desire not to be offensive in certain spaces is definitely something that can be worked on in therapy. That said, it's all about finding the right spaces. Lesbian bars might not be that way for you. Queers, Coffee, and Donuts, which is run by a trans woman and her partner, might be the right space.

I'll try and post again if I have more thoughts.
posted by lilies.lilies at 10:21 AM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


I guess my approach to dating as a trans woman has been to lean real heavily on social proof. I haven't been on a date with a stranger since I transitioned — not even a stranger from OkCupid. I've dated friends, or friends-of-friends, who I already knew from experience to be good allies or who came well vouched for. I've dated people I met and befriended at queer meetups and munches.

My experience has been that there are some queer community events that are not at all trans-woman-friendly, and others where we're actually really completely welcome. I've never tried my luck at an old-fashioned lesbian bar — never really lived someplace where those existed at all — but there are tons of queer women's meetups and social groups and whatnot in big cities, and I've found some of those to be totally welcoming and TERF-free. Seconding the suggestion of looking for an Autostraddle meetup too — that community's generally really trans-friendly and anti-TERF.

For that matter, do you go to trans women's meetups or have any connection to trans community? That would be worth exploring too if you don't. Like, first of all, a lot of the gay trans women I know date other gay trans women, and trans meetups are a great way to meet trans people. :) But also, if you make friends with trans women, you'll also start to meet the cis people in their lives who they consider genuine friends and allies, and those cis friends are way more likely than the general cis population to be comfortable openly dating one of us. It's tricky — some trans community events are super "support group"-y and geared towards people in crisis or in very early transition, which doesn't make a good dating pool. But if you can find (formally organized or informal-friendly-brunch-type) social events attended by trans women who've maybe been out for longer and are more comfortable with their situation, that can be a really good way to meet people.

My impression has been that using FetLife as a dating site (rather than as a Facebook-type site for keeping up with existing friends) can be a bit of a shitshow for trans women. I haven't tried it myself, but what I hear from friends is that you meet a lot of people who are interested in us as fetish objects and not a ton who are interested in sincere relationships. Your mileage may vary. Going to munches and play parties in person seems to work better, for whatever reason.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:31 AM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the responses, everyone! My friend really appreciates every one. She says this is all great advice, and very helpful to her.

She says she feels bad that she's caused the impression that she thinks all queer cis-women are TERFs, which she doesn't not think at all. She says it was poorly worded on her part.

@steady-state strawberry, she met those previous crushes on online forums and such in the past. She had an OKCupid account, but closed it eventually and had to take an emotional break. At present, she is not using any social media sites for dating, but as mentioned, she is considering restarting OKC and joining Fetlife. She also points out that the latest potential relationship was clearly romantic, but it crumbled when she tried to make it serious.
posted by Senza Volto at 10:42 AM on February 26, 2017


(Yeah, people treating trans women as good for a fling or a hookup but not good for a serious relationship is definitely A Thing. It's impossible to prove that a specific person who ghosts on you was doing it for transphobic reasons, but we sure do seem to get ghosted on an awful lot compared to our cis friends. Don't let people tell you it's all in your head, because it's not.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:53 AM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


Online relationships are just a safe fantasy for a lot of people. They enjoy the flirting and the feels but are never going to take the actual step of meeting in person because actual physical connection does not fit in the fantasy. I think your friend is getting caught up in these fantasies and thinking they are real. They're not, like Alex in Up In the Air, they have a real life and will resent any intrusion on that. Dating sites are explicitly excluded from this dynamic but elsewhere all bets are off.

Dating in person is scary but less so if it grows organically out of your existing relationships. The only time I've ever found it hard to meet people romantically was a period when I had to few friends and a terrible social life, due to a series of moves and working too much. Once I made the effort to rebuild that I started meeting people through friends again. So 50% of dating "effort" at least should be into just having a robust social life.
posted by fshgrl at 11:00 AM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


By the way, anyone who responds to her with anything other than "you're deluded, disgusting and mentally ill" is almost certainly not a TERF. I've never seen one hide their views and string along an unsuspecting trans person. As soon as they know you're trans they will let you know how they feel about it, believe me. I've had them hunt me down on Twitter just to give me a piece of their mind, and I'm a dude.

I agree with nebulawindphone that Fetlife mostly works if you use it like Meetup, i.e. find in-person groups rather than let random people message you.
posted by AFABulous at 11:01 AM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


Online dating is rough for just about everyone. Actually it's not even online dating, it's just trying to find a partner in general. It's definitely challenging and you aren't alone in being frustrated with the process.

I'm an atheist which is a deal-breaker for a lot of people in my area, so I put it up front and center. This weeds out the people who would be wasting my time (and theirs) by engaging, and it means that the people who do message me are more likely to be a good fit.

At the same time that you work on meeting someone special, also work on making a life that you are happy with whether you have a partner or not. This has the end result of making you a happier person and also more attractive to potential partners.

Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 11:51 AM on February 26, 2017


A major problem is many of them have been “straight” or bi-curious girls who would lead me on in online friendships

I do not want to pretend to be qualified to address anything other than this one aspect. But my advice here is really clear-cut: allowing the above scenario to develop is a recipe for heartbreak.

Your friend isn't looking for friends. She's looking to date. So as part of the weeding process, she needs to not invest her time in nurturing connections with people from online dating sites; she needs to get these people offline and into coffee dates basically immediately. Their willingness to do that is a good initial screening mechanism.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:53 PM on February 26, 2017 [9 favorites]


I think some of the Hi Cuties! events could be great places to meet folks. Like Queers, Coffee, & Donuts!! (They are opening a coffee shop too.)
posted by listen, lady at 1:30 PM on February 26, 2017


hi! I am a single queer woman in LA (silver lake). while we don't have lesbian bars (alas, they seem near-extinct) I attend quite a few events. they range from your stereotypical weho dance parties to quirkier, friendlier eastside gatherings with a greater diversity of queers, including more trans men and women. the latter definitely tend to be more welcoming (& more fun IMHO).

a few recs: Dyke Day LA is amazing & trans-inclusive, and they have a couple fundraiser parties each year before LA Pride weekend. Cruise is once a month in silver lake, super queer -- we all wish it was weekly. I just went to A Club Called Rhonda, which is pansexual/polysexual; very mixed, inclusive crowd & great music. also on the eastside: EVERYBODY, a new queer/trans-inclusive feminist gym. first-ever gender neutral locker rooms! they also hold fun events, & hope to become a community gathering place.

I online date as well, mostly through Tinder, as do most of my single queer friends. you can now choose "transgender female" specifically, and search for women only. good luck, & feel free to memail me!
posted by changeling at 2:21 PM on February 26, 2017 [5 favorites]


Your friend isn't looking for friends. She's looking to date. So as part of the weeding process, she needs to not invest her time in nurturing connections with people from online dating sites;

This, except more so. The "leading me on" narrative is something I've heard in many contexts, but I don't think it's a productive one. If she's not on a forum dedicated to dating, her online friends are unlikely to know that she's targeting them romantically -- particularly if they don't identify as an appropriate orientation. She's not even being friendzoned.

I have no doubt that being trans complicates things, and she's almost certainly going to have a harder time dating because of the stigma around it, but the first thing you need to do when you're only interested in dating someone is make sure that they're actually interested in dating you. It sounds like that only happened once.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 2:58 PM on February 26, 2017 [6 favorites]


In the Bay Area there are some queer dating/cruising groups on Facebook that explicitly talk about being trans-friendly and that seem to walk the talk, so to speak. It looks like there's a smaller one for LA - I will memail you the URL (I feel strange linking to it publicly, worried it could lead to a flood of people joining it for sketchy reasons.)

Nthing not to drag out talking to people before meeting up, though. That's important.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2017


Also, what about dating other trans women? OKCupid has expanded gender identity descriptors now, and you can search by those, so she could search for and message other trans women there.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:03 PM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


A major problem is many of them have been “straight” or bi-curious girls who would lead me on in online friendships, but the second I'd seriously ask them I'd often not only get shut down, but verbally and emotionally torn to shreds by them. The last girl I had a crush on was someone who insisted they didn't mind, and wouldn't mind meeting me for coffee offline – she lost her nerve, probably after I sent her a picture she seemed to be happy with, and one day blocked me on social media and never talked to me again without even a hint of a goodbye.

Could you clarify what you mean by “lead you on”? I honestly don’t understand what it would even mean to lead someone on in an online friendship.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:40 AM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


nebulawindphone said:
(Yeah, people treating trans women as good for a fling or a hookup but not good for a serious relationship is definitely A Thing. It's impossible to prove that a specific person who ghosts on you was doing it for transphobic reasons, but we sure do seem to get ghosted on an awful lot compared to our cis friends. Don't let people tell you it's all in your head, because it's not.)
heck yes^

i'm trans femme, around your age, lived in ca until a few months ago. i've had luck with okc & tinder. i primarily message people who are good with trans femme politics (this usually shows up as either "i date femmes of all genders" or even just "no terfs or swerfs"). i'll exchange a handful of messages and then ask them out for a drink or coffee. i don't message straight or bi-curious women. i agree with the person above who said that was a recipe for heartbreak

like you, i'm also open to a long-term relationship. do you bring this up with potential partners? when? if someone tells me they want to be in a long-term relationship within the first few dates, that would freak me out because i'd think that they were just interested in a long term relationship, not in a long term relationship with me

and finally, i just wanted to say i can relate to a lot of the feelings you've described and i hope things improve for you ♥
posted by yaymukund at 12:48 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


My friend replied to a fiendish thingy's question:

So this is a bit odd a thing so I can get why people are confused. These are women who I would talk to for weeks, sometimes months, in a couple cases years at a time. There would be a lot of flirting, sometimes open statements of mutual like (I dont call it love. It was basically crushes), erotic text role play, a lot of time playing online games or what have you together. The last girl literally told me she liked me, and when asked for a coffee date she said she would be totally down for it soon, and she literally, literally promised she would never just disappear on me. I'd ask her if she still wanted to meet when she was back in LA, and she said sure. Then she got back to LA where she then said sorry, I was perhaps leading you on with that - I don't really want to meet for coffee (yes, she said that). She then said she still wanted to keep up online and hand on heart promised she would not disappear and just needed time. That was the last time we ever spoke – she blocked me on her social media that same night after what I thought was an amicable night.

This isn't even close to the first time this has happened. Is this because I'm trans? Honestly, no idea. I've never gotten a satisfactory answer out of anyone on why. Maybe I'm a terrible person; maybe I come across as needy; maybe I lack confidence; maybe I fall for the wrong people. Maybe all of the above. All I can say is I've been crushed a lot, and I don't really trust myself or potential partners anymore. I've been Ghosted by nearly every girl I've ever told I liked in my life, and even had some of them turn around and actually bully and harass me.

I hope that clears things up for people on that.
posted by Senza Volto at 11:44 PM on February 27, 2017


It doesn't mean you're a horrible person, just that many people have a very hard line between online life and real life and you don't. You don't really know people you meet online.
posted by fshgrl at 12:06 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


Personally, being a very shy and rejection-wary lesbian POC, what helped me in regards to being brave and approaching women I found attractive was to just go up to them in person, out and about in public, and tell them that I thought they were beautiful. Like "I just wanted to let you know that I think you're really pretty/beautiful/cute."

Once you've done that several times, it becomes less and less terrifying expressing your interest to women. Because at first you do it without the expectation of getting anything in return, you're just giving out a compliment.

When you are at the point that you're confident expressing your attraction, you'll be comfortable approaching the woman you want and asking her out on a date. Online friendships/communication is difficult to gauge because everyone is really just playing each other with this contrived and constructed facade of what they would like the other person to perceive.

When you literally just ask a girl out for coffee/drinks in person without explaining anything, you don't have to invest your time and emotions in an online conversation. Just go out on a first "hang out" date and during that first date, being totally true to who you are. At some point, do the queer thing and drop a hint about your queer identity, and gauge her reaction. Obviously, since you're both people physically in front of each other, her reaction (if negative) should be more compassionate that a cold "I'm dropping you" which seems to happen often when it's expressed virtually online.

In the end, any self-respecting queer girl will see you as a person, a woman, and will want to know you as a woman and hopefully as a future lover if you eventually put your guard down and you allow yourself to be vulnerable and show her what you're really like. Because any trans person who's brave enough and self-aware enough to go through the difficult process of transitioning is obviously an awesome person. You will eventually find someone. And if the perfect person doesn't reveal themselves to you during your lifetime, you can have hope that she will in heaven (assuming you are someone with faith). I'm Christian, and I know that my God knows me so well, and loves me so much that I can trust that he will lead me to my soulmate in heaven. Every Christian can trust that their "glorified spiritual body" will be the way it's supposed to be. God hardens who he hardens, and has mercy on who he has mercy because the more you suffer on Earth, and the more you rely on him and seek him and his word, the more faith and trust you have in him, the more glory you'll have in heaven. The reward of eternal life is really a free gift. All you need to do is have faith in your personal savior.

Jesus gives peace. He is the Prince of peace.
posted by hellomina at 4:34 AM on February 28, 2017


She then said she still wanted to keep up online and hand on heart promised she would not disappear and just needed time.

Oh, babe. Never assume someone will actually follow through on this. Think of it as a very misguided attempt to be kind (which it sometimes is) or an awkward person who doesn't know how to set clear, honest boundaries (which it also sometimes is). Their choices are about them, not you, especially if they're essentially strangers.

she literally, literally promised she would never just disappear on me.

This isn't a promise anyone can truly make, but I really wouldn't trust someone who says it before they really know me.

I don't think that either of those things are because you're trans.

I think finding ways to meet people in person (as opposed to through dating apps & sites) might be a solution here. I know it is harder (belieeeeeeeve me), but you get feedback right away about whether you're interested in them and whether they're feeling you. Or: do not let online chatting & texting go on for more than like five days before saying, "So what are you looking for? I can't spend a ton of time flirting online—I'd like to get together, and if you don't, that's totally cool, but I need to know," and if they say they want to see you, set something up within, like a week at most. If they flake, drop it. If they say they are going out of town, tell them they should get in touch when they're back, but put this entirely on them—think of it as your attempt to be kind, without getting attached to it happening. And if they flake, drop it. I know this is hard.
posted by listen, lady at 6:39 AM on February 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


This isn't even close to the first time this has happened. Is this because I'm trans?

100% no, not at all. This is a thing people some people do when they form online relationships. It almost sounds like some of these people were trying to RP with you, and then when it turned out you wanted to meet them for real, they panicked and did and said really hurtful things. Still their fault and not yours, but the context sounds a LOT like fandom blowups I have heard about over the years, where one person thought they were both in a mutual RP scenario, and the other person thought it was going to be real. It is A Thing that happens, but it is not about you as an individual, nor about you being trans. Part of why I asked about the phrase "leading you on" is because that phrase indicates intent, but I'm betting at least some of these women thought you were both on the same "this isn't real" page, right up until the moment when they realized that wasn't the case. (Have you ever read any of the stories on Fandom Wank? A lot of people get really deep into pretend scenarios and created personas, and then burn everything to the ground when they are found out. It's like the flipside of all the gross hetero dudes who tell their partners that texting nudes to random women online "isn't cheating, it isn't real!")

In this case, I am going to say that the intimacy of longstanding internet friendships seems really tempting, but I have to agree with everyone else saying that you just need to meet people IRL, and not cultivate intense online friendships for years, or even months, or even weeks. It is much scarier to ask people out up front, but it is also much less likely to lead you into this kind of dreadful experience. (Especially not with people who ID as straight. No matter what kind of flirting/RP they do with you. They are not on the same page as you, and trying to get them there is going to be a waste of your time and a bruising experience for your heart 99.9% of the time.)

Meeting people in real life is hard and scary, especially for those of us (myself included!) who love the protective bubble the internet can provide. But, as you're seeing, the bubble has its downsides.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:00 AM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


In this case, I am going to say that the intimacy of longstanding internet friendships seems really tempting, but I have to agree with everyone else saying that you just need to meet people IRL, and not cultivate intense online friendships for years, or even months, or even weeks.

Yes to this. I have had long flirty online relationships with people and then got very uncomfortable when I could tell that they were taking it more seriously than I was or they wanted to meet in person. It's hard to explain why exactly but the discomfort was very real on my end. Whereas with people I met online with the express intention of meeting in person, who I met IRL soon after we made contact online, that hasn't been an issue.
posted by bunderful at 5:15 PM on February 28, 2017


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