This article was published on October 21st, 2020
Living as a member of the LGBTQIA community is difficult enough, but for those under the umbrella that identify as transgender, there are a multitude of other issues that are not being addressed as they need to be. Gender identity for transgender people is a unique and personal experience that many are ignorant about and there is less vetted information to inform those that are interested to learn more. Being a minority within a minority is something transgender folks have to live with on a daily basis that extends to how they interact with the community, including dating.
The dating scene has an added layer of anxiety for transgendered people as the world moves to a digital presence via dating apps. Of the myriad of issues affecting the trans-community is the fact that many dating apps omit them entirely from their sites, with no way for them to even identify themselves. In others, the dating apps fail to offer the flexibility necessary, forcing many trans people to lie about their identity. The end result is that other users report accounts and trans people are banned or deleted. HomoCulture delves into the constructs of this dilemma for transgendered people and the repercussions of these actions.
Transgender People Ponder How To Identify
For example, if someone that is MTF and identifies personally as female and doesn’t want her past gender as part of her new life… how does she state that on her dating profile and be open about her transition? The options include stating she is MTF and including a symbol that reflects her transgender status or choosing a female (cis-gender) profile and then repeatedly explaining her situation to everyone on the app that shows interest. This is just one scenario in which dating apps are failing to address the needs of transgendered people and further isolating a section of the LGBTQIA community.
The Research Paints A Picture
Dating platform research primarily focuses on a person’s decision about when to reveal certain aspects of themselves in chat conversations or in person. Transgender people in particular face more challenges with self-disclosure on dating apps, but currently there is not enough data available to truly know how pressing this matter is for these members of the LGBTQIA community.
What We Do Know
Data that cannot be dismissed or ignored is the fact that transgendered people are more likely to suffer from physical or emotional harm once they reveal their trans status, but it is often necessary in order to have a sense of fulfillment or a truly loving and successful relationship. People that have to micromanage a stigmatized identity are well aware of the elevated risks involved in disclosing their status, no matter how validating they are of their self-worth and personal identity. Dating platforms have had to restructure over the years as they have been lambasted by users for a plethora of limitations that are only now being addressed properly. What transgender people constantly have to consider is how to effectively calibrate their disclosure.
The High Stakes of Disclosure
Transgender people that are interested in beginning new relationships must often take the risk of disclosing information without knowing the likelihood of rejection based on the limited research that has been done that speaks to their own issues. This lack of data on transgender people makes it harder for trans people to predict how others will react to a disclosure and the stigma of living as a transgender person is only recently seeing the mainstream light as coverage in the mainstream media continues to expand. What little research that is out there now indicates that trans people are more stigmatized in everyday life, particularly in public spaces and when meeting new people. The current available data for trans users of dating apps consistently describes experiences that include objectification, fetishization, invasive and inappropriate questions, and harassment.
Transgender people are often disproportionately at risk of physical violence from others if they decide to disclose their trans identity, and there have been many headlines within the past few years of murdered trans people all over the world. These statistics coupled with dating apps that limit the ability of users to predict others’ reactions to this disclosure means that more work must be done in this area in order to ensure that the trans community is just as protected and respected as others living under the LGBTQIA umbrella.
We Need a Resolution
How do we as society go about putting an end to transgender people feeling forced to lie about their identity? First, there must be more research executed on behalf of transgendered people, including direct outreach to ensure that their voices are heard and plans put into place to ease the tension they are subjected to online. Of course, there may always be concerns around self-presentation and online harassment, but the more resources that are available to trans people and non-trans people that are attempting to understand, the less transgendered people will have to lie about their identities and live their best lives.