Trans people in the media—from The Crying Game to Family Guy—tend to be represented as freaks and disgusting surprises. So it's easy for trans people to begin thinking that no one will want to date us, that people who appreciate our gender will expect different genitals, and that people who appreciate our genitals will expect a different gender. On the other hand, people who specifically seek trans partners are seen as potential "chasers," treated with skepticism and caution, and considered possibly dangerous.
So who else is left?
It's really tempting to fall into this line of thinking—that there are only these two types of people to date—and a lot of trans folks believe it. But it's not true. Not by a long shot.
While it is true that dating can be difficult, there are always possibilities.
Trans women are women, and trans men are men. So it should not be surprising that many folks attracted to men in general will find themselves attracted to a trans man now and then, and folks attracted to women will on occasion be attracted to a trans woman. The problem is with messages that tell people to hide those feelings, feel shame for them, or reject them.
All of this can leave you paralyzed in front of someone you want to flirt with, whether you're a trans person or the recipient of your affection is trans. So what should people do?
Flirt the same way you would with anyone else. When it comes time to bring up the subject, if you're still nervous, you can test the waters by mentioning trans issues in current events. Give your opinions on the recent Medicare decision (see Danielle Askini's essay on page 15) or talk about Laverne Cox in Orange Is the New Black. It can be a great chance to share your opinions and gauge their reactions.
If you aren't trans, how do you show you're not transphobic while also showing you're not a predatory chaser? Unless you come with references, you probably can't with a few mere words. Just come to terms with that. It's not about finding the right code words; it's about taking the time to show that you are trustworthy.
If you're not familiar with trans communities, you'll probably say the wrong thing at some point. Just be humble, be genuine, and try to let your true personality shine through.
That goes for trans folks, too. If you genuinely care and your heart's in the right place, most people will be able to see that. In the end, you could do everything right and they might still not be into you—that's just how dating goes.