You know the old saying: “assume” makes an ass out of you and me? Well, welcome to the world of pronouns and why they can be so important to have a healthy, and best of all, fun relationship with a trans woman.
Before we get into it, though, it’s important to never forget that everyone is unique, with their own special needs, desires, limits, concerns, and fears. Obvious, right? Even though it might be for you, for others this is a reminder that just because you think you know someone, let alone their preferred pronoun, you don’t really know until you honestly and openly communicate.
6 Pronoun Principles for Transgender Dating
1. Ask First
Rather than guessing or going by what you believe, politely inquire as to what their preferred pronoun is.
You might think they want to be referred to as female but until you hear what they explicitly say, don’t make any suppositions. It might be awkward at first, and some much needed apologizing may be in order, but if you’re going to have a healthy relationship, you need to get those lines of communication open.
Let’s hear it for Aretha Franklin and for respect! By this, we mean that after you’ve talked, and especially listened to the person you’re dating, you must abide by their pronoun preference.
If you slip up, apologize and learn and be better going forward. If you care for this person, after all, you have to be understanding and respectful of their identity. Otherwise, you might want to do some rethinking of your attitude.
3. Pronouns Can Be Fluid
It’s important to understand that pronouns are not always set in stone. For instance, a person may want to be referred to as “they” or “them” on social media or the workplace, but with friends or people who are more than friends, they might be more comfortable with “her” or “she.”
This can also pop up with other circles of friends or parents. The bottom line is that when you work this out beforehand, don’t always make the supposition that pronouns are absolute.
Unsure? All you need to do is politely ask. Let’s say you’re heading out to an event or gathering and are unsure how to proceed, pronoun-wise. All it takes is a brief chat to find out what your trans date would be most comfortable with. Seriously, it’s not that hard.
4. Be an Ally
While it might be tempting to step up and bop someone on the nose who misgenders your friend or partner, never forget that this kind of response might be exactly what they don’t want to have happen, especially as it might escalate an awkward situation into something far worse.
Ask your trans date what they would prefer if something like this should occur, and listen and truly absorb this answer.
This is not to say, though, that you shouldn’t turn a blind eye to someone who is intolerant or rude (or worse), but don’t forget that you more than likely come from a place of privilege, where you haven’t ever been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior or felt deeply threatened or scared for your life.
So, respect your trans date and everyone else whose gender identity is different than theirs at birth by respecting pronouns, educating yourself on what it means to be trans, and always working to be inclusive, supportive, tolerant, and most of all loving.
5. Choice Is Choice
It might sound cliché, but everyone is unique. You, your trans date, lover, or partner—everyone. By this, we mean that even though more and more people are embracing gender-neutral pronouns like the singular “they” and “them” some trans women might prefer to be called “she” and “her” and might not be comfortable with other terms.
So absolutely be an ally, but don’t let your enthusiasm for being supportive override what the trans woman in your life would prefer. Again, be there for them in every way you can but respect them and what their limits might be.
6. It’s All about Love
When you get down to it, pronouns, communication, tolerance, understanding, and respect are all about caring for someone else.
As with every kind of relationship, there will be good times and bad times, miscommunications, frustrations, and maybe even profound screw-ups. Pronouns might also be part of that, with red faces and clumsy scenes aplenty.
But if you keep your heart focused on why it’s important to your trans date or partner, and thus why it must be important to you, every stumble will never fail to be a key part of going forward—and not falling behind.
What’s your experience with pronouns while dating trans women?