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How to Interact with Trans folk Online

Transgender folks are in the uncomfortable position of being both fetishized and stigmatized. In porn there are thousands of images showing “shemales” and “ladyboys” that eroticize trans-gender bodies. This puts transsexuals in a very uncomfortable position, where the people that show sexual interest in them, often are interested in them as an exciting fetish. It is no surprise that many trans folks feel like they are often reduced to their genitalia, and not treated like full and complete human beings.

Is it ok to find it sexy that somebody is trans? Yes. We are all aroused by unique components of a person, and for some, being with a trans person is exciting. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, there is a way to interact with trans folk that respects their humanity and personhood.

Before going into how to interact with trans folk online, I’m to go through some basic sex education. People have both a biological sex and a gender identity. Biological sex is determined by your chromosomes, your internal genitalia, your external genitalia and your hormones. In our society, we tend to think that all of these components of a person neatly aligns with either male or female. However, when you look a bit closer, it is more complex than that, and it is not so much a binary of men and women, but a spectrum between typically male and female biology. For example, those that are biologically male generally have more testosterone that those that are biologically female. However, there are many cases where women have a lot more testosterone, for example I am biologically female but I have something called Ovarian Cyst syndrome, which leads me to have more testosterone that most women. In a more extreme example, almost 2% of the population is intersex, which means they have a mismatch between typically biologically male and typically biologically female anatomy. All of these differences constitutes biological sex, something that you are born with, and doesn’t really change without surgery or pharmaceutical intervention.

Biological sex is different from gender identity, which is the way someone feels and experiences gender. Regardless of their biology, do they feel male, female, both or neither? For transgender folks, there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.

How do you interact with trans folks?

-Trans people are so used to people fetishizing them, so instead treat them like a person. If you are having a sexual conversation with them, ask them about what turns them on, what they are into, if they have any fetishes. The types of questions you would ask anybody. Then they will know you are genuinely interested in them as a person, not just because they are trans.

-Pronouns are an important way to express how you identify. Don’t assume trans folks pronouns, or call them something offensive like ‘it’. Instead ask what pronouns they prefer, or call them by their name or use a word like ‘they’ until they tell you what they prefer. Mistakes happen, if you mis-gender someone just apologize and make sure not to do it again.

-If it gets to the point where you are talking dirty, or hooking up with a trans person, don’t make assumptions regarding what to call their genitals. They may have a penis, but identify as female and prefer that you call it something more feminine. Also, just because they have what looks like a penis, it doesn’t mean they want to use it for fucking. Don’t make assumptions. The best way to find out what to call their genitals and what they like to do with them is to ask them what their preferences are. Don’t ever call someone a shemale ,transvestite or ladyboy unless they explicitly ask you, because these terms are offensive.

-This should be a very obvious one, but never report someone’s profile if they don’t look like the gender they are identifying as. So many trans folks profiles get reported, but remember biology is different from gender identity, and not everyone looks the way that they feel. If someone says that they identify as a woman, then you have no right to question that.

-When you are interacting with someone who is trans you may not know if they have a penis or a vagina. There are pre-op folks, who are not yet able to have the surgery to make their biology match their gender identity, non-op folks who have decided not to have bottom surgery to make their biology match their identity, and post-op folks, who have had the surgery to make their genitals match their gender identity. There are also many folks that may have taken some steps to change the way their body looks but may not have had bottom surgery. For example, many trans-men may take testosterone to make their face grow hair and increase their muscle mass. When you are just looking at a person's dating profile, it may be impossible to know if they have a penis or a vulva, the same way you often don’t know the size of someone’s dick or what someone’s pussy looks like until you either see a picture or see it in the flesh.

-If you are only into a specific type of body you can find out in a way that is respectful. One way to do this could be to ask if they are open to exchanging dirty pics or start describing a sexual act and see what their desires are. You can also tell them what you are into, and see how they respond. It is not polite to straight up ask someone what their genitals look like, unless it makes sense in the context of the conversation. Once you find out more about them, it is also completely ok to not be into someone who looks a certain way, but there is no situation where it is excusable to be rude or hostile toward them

Trans-folks are people just like you, treat them that way. If you are ever unsure as to what is an appropriate way to interact with someone, do some research online or ask a trust worthy source. Remember, pornography doesn’t necessarily show a true depiction of sex with someone who’s trans. Be kind, educated and thoughtful.