Whether you have grown up with an accepting family and group of friends or have had to flounder alone on your transgender identity journey, everyone questions how to navigate the complicated world of dating.  You want to be honest to yourself, honest to the person you are dating, minimize the chances for rejection, but ALSO want to be treated as the gender you identify with.  In this way, we are all the same.  We want to connect, to love, and be loved in an authentic way.  To the depths of our souls, human beings long to be known.

Its tricky, though.  Reveal yourself to soon, you risk scaring away someone you like.  If you wait too long, you are perpetuating a dishonesty which can ultimately feel like a betrayal to your partner.  Most people in this and similar predicaments believe it is best to get the truth out ahead of time, so no one is left wasting time on a relationship that can’t go anywhere.  Conversely, you don’t want to be dated BECAUSE you are transgender, as some sort of curiosity.  Ann Landers hasn’t covered this yet, but there are voices of experience to guide us through this complex terrain.

A young transgender woman named Corey Rae is a contributing writer to many online forums such as the website Stylecaster,  which aims to be an “accessible, inclusive, ahead-of-the-trend destination for the millennial woman who wants to live with style and substance”.   She writes about her experiences as a “successful” transgender woman.  On dating, she advises, “Because of the general knowledge on gender identity today, it’s best to be honest about your transition and how far along you are in that journey. This does not mean you have to divulge your gender identity right away, but if you feel you can’t be open with someone from the get-go, they’re probably not right for you. (Silver lining: It’s a quick eliminator.)”

Most importantly, Ms. Rae advises to play it safe.  You want to be honest but trust your gut when it comes to your own well-being.  If you think someone is liable to physically threaten you, keep your personal information to yourself, and gracefully retreat from the situation.  This is advice all woman should follow.  Your instincts will tell you when someone is a possible threat.  You need to listen to that voice that says something isn’t right.  Better to be safe than labeled a bitch.

In a world that is still rife with violence against transgender men and women, technology may be your best defense against it.  Raquel Willis from Buzzfeed no longer even has that talk with people in person, just as matter of preservation.  Texting or social media is perfectly safe way to tell a person news without having to get within miles of them.  “I try to nix my own feelings of dread and shame as soon as I meet a person. Now I typically come out via text message or on my online profiles. It’s not very personal, but it lessens the possibility of a more life-threatening situation.”

Along these same lines, when you are officially dating someone, don’t put yourself into the unenviable position of being a teacher and behavioral specialist.  If a person makes cracks about your sexual identity or puts you down in anyway, this is considered abuse.  Trans or Cis, this is destructive.  For a transgender person, this can make you feel like you have lost all the ground you have gained in accepting yourself, because you have chosen a partner that invalidates who you are.  Remember, always remember, that you are a person that is worthy of love and respect.  If a person makes jokes that you “used to be” a man or woman, they just don’t get it.  If they address you as tranny or drag, they are putting you down.  When you choose a partner, they should make you feel good about yourself, on an emotional level.  Be ok with being alone, and you will be ok waiting for the right partner.

All these things considered, it is best to reveal your transgender status before you are sexually intimate.  This isn’t so much about not being accused of trickery, as it is about both parties being comfortable in their skin when in such a vulnerable position (ahem).  Universally, sex is just better when you can be yourself, without having to think too much.  Hiding such an integral part of your identity inevitably leads to getting stuck in your own head, when you should be letting yourself get carried away by the experience itself.

Dating is can be a painful, awkward experience regardless of gender or sexual identity.  But those issues, coupled with the fear of physical reprisals make the idea of getting out there even more daunting.   But everyone deserves the chance to find someone, to experience love and sex and emotional fulfillment.  Never apologize for wanting those things, for trying to get them, or for living your truth.

Below are just some of the websites written by transgender authors who have been there and done that.  You are not alone in your search.