Because I’m so approachable and welcoming, I tend to talk with a lot of guys who have never been with a transsexual, but they’d really like to be in a relationship with one. Mostly these are incredibly sweet guys but when they have their chance they make some basic mistakes in how they approach the transperson. So I’ve put together this quick list to try to help you avoid some of the pitfalls.
Just because you are comfortable with our genitals, doesn’t mean we are.
Transsexuals suffer from Gender Dysphoria. Because our emotional and psychological gender identity is not aligned with the bodies we are born into, pre-GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery) genitals are often a constant reminder of our discordant bodies. So saying things like: “I’m ok with the fact you still have a penis” to a transwoman is rarely going to go over well. Instead, get to know the transman or transwoman as a person first. Over time as the relationship develops and they grow more comfortable with you, you will learn how they feel about their body naturally.
Don’t presume a transperson wants to use their genitals in sexual acts.
Over the years I’ve gotten to know a great number of transsexuals and the only constant in how they approach sex is there is none. Different people have different levels of comfort with their genitals. That level of comfort determines which acts they are willing to participate in during sexual activity. For example, I've known transpeople whose only form of sexual expression is bdsm play. On the other end of the spectrum are folks like me who have no issues with using their genitals during sex.
So if there are such a wide range of possibilities, how do you approach including sexual activity in your relationship? The key in a relationship with a trans person is the same as with anyone else -- communication. Start the conversation by expressing your interest in becoming sexually active with your partner and ask them what areas they are interested in exploring. Let them define the areas of possibility and then narrow those down based on your interests.
The past is not prologue.
It's natural to want to know more about the past of a person you are starting to date, but recognize that certain elements of their past like their former legal name are not topics many transsexuals want to discuss. If the person didn't begin their transition until adulthood, it's likely memories like high school could be traumatic. Rather than focusing on specific facts like names, center history discussions on the relationships with family and friends rather than their transition history - that allows them to include or exclude their transgender history as they feel comfortable.
It is not your place to out them.
There's a natural tendency to want to share all the information about our lives to those closest to us. But the fact your partner is transsexual is not your information to share. It changes how the people around you will look at your transsexual partner, especially if they learn in before getting to know your partner as a person. Sadly there are too many misconceptions and stereotypes and real prejudice which will color responses to your partner. Instead, let those closest to you get to know your partner first and let your partner decide when they feel they are ready to share that information. If you need someone to talk with about the extra challenges you face dating a Transsexual, try connecting with others who are dating transsexuals, or discuss it with a therapist.
We're just like everyone else.
This is probably the most important point I will convey. Although our life histories are more complex than the average person, our wants and fears are the same as everyone else of our target gender. Make sure you recognize the normalcy of the relationship and focus on that rather than highlighting the differences. Similarly, don't use phrases which imply the person has overcome their birth gender
This list is far from complete, but it should give you some useful starting hints to navigating a relationship with a Transsexual.