A reader writes: “I’m a teenage girl and I’m currently attracted to a trans person who is biologically male but identifies as female. I’m completely fine with it, and she and I are interested in starting a relationship, but I’m a little nervous about a few things.
“Unfortunately, my family is quite close minded and there aren’t many online resources for people my age who are dating transgender people. I was just wondering what tips or pointers I should be aware of to make sure she’s comfortable.
“One of my biggest concerns is in regards to sex, especially considering that we’re both in our teens. Is there any right or wrong way to talk to her about it?”
First of all, thank you for being accepting of your girlfriend’s history and identity. I think it’s your generation that might finally break down the barriers that trans people have had to face for so very long.
As far as your family, this is going to be even more important to someone your age than to those who are older and are no longer living with and supported by their parent(s) or caretaker(s). I assume that you live at home and depend on them for your food, shelter, and other necessities, as well as possibly spending money.
Because that’s the case, they have some control over you that they won’t in a few years. They can try to regulate who you see outside of the home, and they can definitely regulate who you bring into the home. So you need to tread carefully and slowly if you think that they might forbid you to see your girlfriend.
The first thing you need to do is talk to your girlfriend. You need to find out how she wants you to handle this with your parents, or if she wants to handle it with them or join you in handling it. The two of you need to come up with a plan.
I personally think that, if your parents are not at all familiar with trans issues, what will frighten them most (and negative responses to trans people are usually generated by fear) is the unknown. If they have not met your girlfriend, they might formulate all sorts of negative and distorted images in their mind based on what they have seen on television or read in magazines.
If they can meet her and see that she’s just a person like everyone else, and not some scary media concoction, they will probably feel a whole lot better. So, in my mind, they should meet her sooner rather than later.
They might also be afraid that you will get hurt – possibly emotionally or even physically. We as trans people are sometimes thought of as “fakers” or “betrayers” – somehow not trustworthy. So they might fear that she will lead you on or lie to you.
You have to remind them that they raised you – they taught you how to make the right decisions about the people that you let into your life – so they have to trust your judgment. After all, they instilled in you the ability to make wise decisions. If they reject your current partner, are they saying that they didn’t do a good job of that?
They might also be afraid that you will get physically hurt. If they read the news at all, they know that trans people, and particularly trans women (and specifically trans women of color – I do not know your or your partner’s racial or ethnic background), are at high risk for physical assault. They might be afraid that you will be in harm’s way if you are with her.
There are no guarantees in life, and you can assure them, once again, that they taught you to make intelligent decisions, including those with regard to your own safety. Risk is everywhere, but they raised a child who is aware of that and is able to make the best choices possible in this regard.
Because they are “close minded,” as you say, they might just need some education overall, and I think any book that explains trans issues will probably be helpful. Your girlfriend might have some that have really resonated with her or that she feels describes her experience, so I would suggest that you ask her which ones you might present to your parents. Readers might have suggestions as well.
I think that their education (through reading, films, or websites) needs to come in conjunction with meeting your girlfriend, so that they are not just reading about a clinical “condition,” but they are also seeing a real live person, which I think will help them put these things together. But again, I suggest that you take your cues from your girlfriend about this.
As far as sex is concerned, I don’t know how old you are, but this is another area that calls for open communication with your girlfriend. There is no hurry to engage in sexual activity, but I think that if your relationship starts heading in that direction, you need to have a conversation (or several – your communication really should be ongoing) about what you both want to do and what is appropriate, given your ages and experience levels.
There’s probably no better way to start a conversation about sex than to say, “Let’s talk about our sexual relationship.” Then you can discuss what exactly that’s going to look like. But that might be a conversation for the future. It’s not something that you even need to bring up until you see that your relationship is moving down this path.
I don’t think there is necessarily a “right” way or a “wrong” way to discuss it. I think you talk about it like two human beings getting to know each other in terms of what you both want and feel comfortable with. Don’t look at it as if it’s going to be a big deal and a big hassle because she’s trans.
Too many times, we go into sexual relationships without any communication, and we assume things will go the way they’re “supposed” to because it’s all we’ve been taught. If we all, trans or not, had discussions about sex before we just blundered into it, our sexual relationships would probably be a lot better.
However, it is important for both of you to be aware of the risk of pregnancy. No matter how she identifies, and no matter what her plans are for the future with regard to medical transition, if her body is producing sperm and your body is producing ova, that risk is going to be there. You need to take the usual precautions, and this is another thing that you need to discuss when and if your relationship gets to that point.
For now, don’t rush into anything. Get to know each other. See where this relationship is going. If it is getting serious and you know you are going to be together for a while, then it’s probably time to approach your family. If it starts getting even more serious, then it’s probably time to have the “sex” conversation. But don’t get so stressed out that you don’t enjoy the fun and excitement that comes with forming a new relationship.
Just have some fun for a while. Things will probably evolve by themselves, and you’ll both know when it’s time to do what you need to do. Don’t treat everything differently because your girlfriend is trans.
There are lots of people that your parents might have a problem with you dating. There are lots of people that you might have to have a conversation with before you hop into the back seat together. Don’t let the fact that she is trans color everything about your relationship. Just relax and let things take their course like they would with any new romance.
Readers, what thoughts, suggestions, and/or resources do you have? Thanks for reading!