Forming Safe and Healthy Relationships as Transgender Youth
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Before getting into a relationship, you may find it helpful to talk with yourself about what types of people you would like to date, and the feelings that come up when you have a head-over-heels tingly-feeling crush on someone. Figuring out who you like, what you like, and how it makes you feel can be confusing, unexpected and overwhelming. These are all completely normal feelings, regardless of who you are attracted to. It’s good to take an emotional step back when you start to feel that way to think about your boundaries or limits, your expectations of the other person or what you want from the other person, and any worries or fears that you have about the situation.
Dating when you are transgender calls for a lot of talking with your partner. It is important to think about how gender affects your relationship and how to navigate it. For example, you may find it important to talk with your partner about what terms to call each other, like “partner,” “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” “datefriend,” or something else. If you need tips on what else to talk about with your partner, you may want to check out this article on “Dating and Gender Roles when One Partner is Trans.”
Like coming out to other people in your life, coming out to your partner is a personal experience that you get to control. You get to pick when, how, where and why you have the conversation. It can be important to talk about those feelings early, though. If you let yourself develop more feelings for a partner without coming out to them, it will end up hurting more if they aren’t OK with you being trans than if they had rejected you when the relationship first started. This is one reason why talking with a partner can be important for both of you.
If you are thinking about coming out, refer to our “Coming Out Coming Out to Parents and Friends as Transgender” page.
Consent is a never-ending conversation about boundaries and limits you set with others. It isn’t just about physical touch, but also includes emotional limits. Discussing these things with your partner can help them be respectful of your needs, can strengthen your relationship, and lets you learn about their limits and boundaries so you can respect them, too.
Emotional limits are limits that you set for yourself, so there is no right or wrong. Emotional boundaries could involve needing time to cool down before you talk about a problem or a fight. They could also include not feeling guilty about someone else’s negative actions, feelings or comments toward you, as well as discussing how much time you need for yourself, or how much attention you need to feel your partner is invested in the relationship, too.
Physical boundaries could be something as simple as asking to hold hands or hug. They could involve talking about when and where it is OK to kiss, like in public or not, as well as sex. Many transgender people feel disconnected from their bodies and have very individual discomforts about when, where and how they can be touched. For example, a transgender man may be uncomfortable with being pressed chest-to-chest with another person, like in some hugs, because it reminds him of his breast development, which causes him dysphoria. Your comfort is important, and everyone is different when it comes to what they are OK with and what they are not. It is never “silly” if something makes you uncomfortable, and your partner should never tell you to “get over it” or make you feel guilty about it.
If you’re interested in reading more about consent, you may be interested in the Anti-Violence Project: Consent.
It is sometimes hard to know what’s OK and what’s not when it comes to someone you like, but talking about these things can make a world of difference. Dating can be exciting, scary, fun and sometimes confusing. All relationships have ups and downs, but there should be a happy balance. The relationship should be good for you. This Sex Etc. article on “Dating: What’s Healthy...and What’s Not” looks at healthy and unhealthy relationship traits and gives examples of different relationships to help make tricky or unsure situations easier or clearer.
Sometimes, it’s hard to see when you are experiencing something that is particularly harmful or could become particularly harmful, especially when it is coming from someone you care about. It is important to be aware of things that can go wrong in dating and how to recognize whether it’s just a normal dating mishap or if it’s abuse.
Abuse, in any form, is about power and control. Learning what abuse looks like and learning how to talk about your feelings with people that you trust (other than your partner) are both important steps in keeping yourself safe in your relationships. For more information on abuse, check out the website loveisrespect.org. Loveisrespect is aimed at helping adolescents recognize the signs of dating abuse to prevent and avoid it. Their website offers an explanations of different types of abuse, checklists to help you think about where you are in a relationship, and options for how to make a safe exit plan if you realize you are in an abusive relationship.
Sometimes, relationship abuse can be a little more complicated for LGBT+ relationships. While much abuse is standardized regardless of the sexuality and genders of a relationship, LGBT+ people are faced with another layer of power dynamics that others aren’t. This Power and Control Wheel for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Relationships can help you identify the signs of abuse and how to keep yourself safe.