I downloaded my first dating app in 2012, during my first year of college, before I even had an iPhone or Instagram. A friend of mine had shown me an app, then called “Badoo,” and I matched with someone I dated casually for a few months. That summer, I had sexual reassignment surgery, and was excited to start dating and using dating apps as a transgender woman with my new body going into sophomore year. Tinder was the first big app everyone had around me. I used it quite frequently with my friends to get free food or to see who in our classes was using the app too. At the time it was a social game of “who’s hot and not” or “who secretly wants who.” As dating apps evolved and grew more common, they became my best friend and a way of validating my beauty as a woman. After college graduation and that entire year before coming out publicly in June of 2016, I dated a lot, and half—if not most—of my dates I had matched with were from apps like Bumble, Hinge, The League, and Raya. At the time, finding a potential partner seemed fairly easy. But now, not so much.
In January of this year I decided to give up all my dating apps due to my growing frustration with how I was being treated on them. As a twenty-something you might wonder why I’d want to alienate myself from a sea of single people. Dating is hard, but as an openly transgender woman, dating apps unfortunately have made it more difficult for me to have a successful relationship. I started to notice a pattern amongst the men I was matching with over the past three years.
The five most common happenings with men once they discover I’m trans are this:
1. I get unmatched or blocked immediately.
Even if a conversation hasn’t started yet, or during us getting to know one another. I always assume they either look me up on the internet or find my Instagram account. I noticed that over time I became more and more numb to this happening, but nonetheless, it didn’t make me feel good and always made my heart drop into my stomach, even for the quickest moment.
2. They stop responding in the middle of a conversation.
This hurts, but a bit less because sometimes people just stop replying because they’ve found someone their more interested in, or delete the app, but I almost always feel it’s because I’m trans and they’ve found out. No matter how great the conversation is, being trans seems to be an issue for most men on these apps.
3. Stopping our conversation to bring up that I’m trans.
These men usually express that they wish I had put “transgender” in my bio as a warning sign to them. Some of them berate me with questions about my story, some do so in a more respectful manner, but typically they subconsciously (or consciously) blame me for being attracted to and talking with a beautiful transwoman. Which leads me to the next thing that usually happens:
4. “You’re pretty, but…”
He asks if I’m transgender and upon reading “Yes” they say, “You’re pretty, but…” Usually what follows is “This won’t work for me” or “I’m not into trans girls” or “I didn’t realize you were trans.” And although trying to be respectful, they never end up wanting to go out. I usually go into an entire spiel about my transition and how if they’d met me in person and seen me for me, they wouldn’t care. But it almost never changes their perceptions or fears of dating a trans woman.
5. Sometimes it works out (kind of)
There have been very few instances where men have not “found out” before our date, or just not cared at all when they do, and on a rare occasion have met up with me in person. But alas, I’m still single.
I see these experiences as my weeding out process. I don’t want to spend my time dating or even talking to anyone who isn’t open minded and comfortable with themselves. Maybe they just don’t understand what transgender really is, but I’ve found that their attraction towards me is a hit to their sensitive male egos. They question what it “means for them,” Does it make them gay? The answer: No, it doesn’t. Often it’s their fear of what their friends and family would think about them, and I can’t help with that. It’s not my job to help the people they surround themselves with to become more supportive human beings.
After deleting all of the dating apps I had profiles on, this is what I’ve learned:
I feel incredible, have a truer sense of self, and I have way more time to myself. I don’t feel crazy or lazy for mindlessly swiping through people and judging them based on photos and a mini bio. When I get bored, it leaves fewer apps to waste time on while waiting for something amazing to happen. Deleting these apps has actually given me more hope in finding something organically—which I have done these past few months, but nothing worthwhile has come from it. It’s also led me to wanting a relationship less, being able to fully enjoying being single, and learn about myself through alone time
To put it simply, it sucks that I have to go through this, yes, but it makes me stronger and more hopeful and appreciative of the man who will steal my heart away. I hope our society can move past this discriminating time in our lives and see transwomen as women.