Tips for Staying Safe when Using Online Dating Sites

The Internet has opened up the world of dating for everyone. While it is still possible to meet that special someone through a friend, at the local club or coffee shop, or any of the other various ways people use to find dates, a large number of people have turned to online dating sites to find a romantic partner. One of the most important things to consider when you use online dating services, is how you can remain safe. There is an anonymity to online that is less present in offline dating. Your safety is the most important thing, so you need to do everything you can to ensure you remain safe.

Find the Right Transgender Dating Website

There are a multitude of online dating websites, but only a few of them cater to the transgender community. While sites like OKCupid offer options to list different genders and have non-binary options that does not always guarantee that people you contact or who contact you are okay with dating someone transgender.

When anyone, regardless of gender identity, is able to use a dating site, that may mean your safety may be compromised. The truth is, as transgender people, we are more likely to be victims of violent assaults, being raped, or even worse. Disclosing your trans identity is not always safe. This makes a transgender dating site all the more appealing.

With that in mind, the first step is to find a site that is supportive of trans identified individuals. You want to go to a website where people want to date someone regardless of their gender identity. While going to a site specifically for transgender people to find dates is a great first step, it still does not guarantee your safety. However, once you have chosen the right website, you are one step closer to finding that prospective someone.

Avoid too Many Personal Details

You need to make your profile attractive to prospective dates. This means you need to have clear profile pictures. Blurry pictures can be a turn off, and imply you have something to hide. In some cases, you may prefer to not show your face on your main profile. This may be due to work, family, or some other important obligation. Make it clear in your profile that you are not able to share your picture because of that obligation or not being out, but that you would be willing to share a picture once you have connected with someone if you seem to hit it off. Most people who understand the issues facing the trans community know the safety issues surrounding being outed, and if anyone is offended by this, they probably are not the right person for you.

You will want to avoid providing too many personal details, such as your full name, location, or phone number. Introducing yourself to someone by asking them to call or text you, can be quite dangerous. When to disclose personal information is each individual’s choice. Still, it is recommended that you get to know the person before sharing such intimate details. In the early days of the Internet, most people would chat by email, text based chat room, or personal messenger, then by phone, and finally in person. Following this formula still seems effective. People on the internet have the option of lying about who they are, and you will not find that out until you meet in person, sometimes not even then. Be cautious and careful. Your safety is the most important thing. Use common sense and you should be fine!

Talk on the Phone or by Video First

While this might not be possible for every person, especially someone with a disability who may have trouble with verbal communication (there are many individuals with disabilities who identify as trans or non-binary), if you have the ability to talk on the phone, try to get to know the person you would like to date before you meet them, by chatting with them. They do not have to be long involved conversations, but hearing their voice, and sharing something with them vocally can be a great way for both of you to learn more about one another. It is understandable that some trans identified individuals may not like their voices, and may avoid the phone at all costs because of this. In this case, try texting them. It is not the same, but it is better than sticking to the computer exclusively.

Your phone and computer/laptop may have other options such as Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangout, so you can video chat together. If you are gamers you may find success playing games together, and using programs like TeamSpeak, to talk with one another while you play. In any case, the goal is to find a way to reach out to a prospective date beyond email or messenger, and get to know them before meeting in person.

Reach Out on Social Media

Most people have some form of social media presence, typically a Facebook profile. As you get to know potential dates/partners, ask them if you can connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or any other social media site you use. If they refuse to connect with you on social media, but insist you meet in person, this should set off warning bells. If they do allow you to connect, you will most likely have the chance to learn much more about them.

Facebook is often a great way to get to know a person. You can look at their pictures, which will tell you more about what they look like, how they dress, and possibly what they do with friends, family, or in their free time. If they list their interests you can learn what sport they like, if any, the kind of movies they watch, the music they listen to, and what groups they may have joined. What they post on their feed is also a great indicator of their interests. You can find out if they are politically active, and if so, what their views are. You may learn about the causes they support, and how they interact with their family and friends. This is one of the best ways to help ease your mind when getting to know a prospective date.

You should be cautious of profiles that have little information, little engagement, and no pictures, as this may be a sign that the individual has something to hide. Of course, it might also mean they are not very computer savvy or just don’t use Facebook much. Just keep in mind what all of the possibilities may be, and it will help you stay safe.

Let People Know When and Where You Meet

If you get to the point where you decide you want to meet, it is so important that you tell family and/or friends where and when you are going to meet. If you can, try to meet in a public place and even consider bringing along a few friends. You could have a double date or group date, by inviting friends to stay with you throughout the night. Ultimately, it is about you being comfortable throughout the meeting. If the person you plan to meet pressures you to meet alone, don’t do it. If they truly respect you, they will understand your desire to stay safe, and will be supportive of whatever methods you put in place. The right person will understand that you can never be too cautious.

If you go anywhere with them, especially during the first couple times you meet, make sure family or friends know exactly where you are, and if you leave that place, text or call your loved ones to tell them where you are going. This is about you remaining safe. It only takes a few seconds to text or make a quick call. Your life is worth the time it takes. You may also want to have someone who cares about you call you during the date to check in, or you can call them to check in. Knowing you are safe throughout any date will lift the weight off their shoulders. They can be comfortable knowing that you are safe and everything is okay.

When you start dating online, no matter who you are, you need to be aware that there are safety risks. You can significantly lower these risks by following all of the steps outlined above. Dating can be great, but no date is ever worth risking your life. Those who are transgender are even more at risk than the cisgender community. As trans individuals, we are more likely to be harmed by someone we date. We face significantly higher levels of intolerance simply because we’re transgender. We owe it to ourselves to remain safe, no matter what.

Online dating has given transgender people more opportunities to find love, relationships, and/or companionship. It is a great way to find a date, a partner, or even a snuggle buddy. Now you can better utilize trans-friendly dating services, such as this website, to find that special someone. By using the tools above, you are ensuring that any person, trans or not, can participate in online dating, while remaining safe.

What Not to Do on a Date with a Trans Person

Dating someone who identifies as transgender is no different than dating anyone else. Just like most of society, many trans individuals have the same desires for companionship, love, or some other aspect that makes having a relationship appealing. However, there are some common sense rules you will need to follow, to handle what few differences might exist. Most of these are things that can be used when interacting with any trans person, but especially if you wish them to consider having future dates with you.

Never Force Them to Discuss Being Transgender

While it isn’t necessarily wrong to ask questions, especially if the individual you are interested in makes it clear they are willing to discuss aspects of being transgender with you, you should never force the issue. it is always best to follow their lead. So many aspects of their lives and experiences as transgender people are so personal. Many have experienced heartache and other emotional feelings based on how they have been treated and what they have had to endure.

Treat anything, such as their transition (if they have chosen to transition, or not, is completely up to them and each decision is very personal, especially concerning the reasoning behind said choice) with the respect it deserves. Many trans people have been victims of hate speech, assault, and even rape. So, be aware that some questions can be triggering. It is best to let them determine when it is the right time to talk about these things. If you cannot handle that then you might not be the right person to date them.

Never Intentionally Misgender Them

So many trans people are at various points in their transitions (if they wish to transition and/or are able to), which means some people may assume the trans person identifies as a way that fits their date’s expectations. One of the first things you should do is ask what pronouns your date prefers to use. Some trans people may bring that up, on their own, relatively early in the relationship. Of course, if you don’t know, ask them what they prefer.

Just because you assume that someone should be labeled a certain way, does not mean that is how they identify. While you may not intentionally misgender them, if you know they identify as transgender, knowing what pronouns they prefer is one of the first things you should ask them. Most trans people do not get as upset if it is clear that the person did not mean to misgender them, but thinking ahead avoids such awkward scenarios.

If you knew the person before, and now they have chosen to use different pronouns, try very hard to remember that. Mistakes happen! We have all been misgendered unintentionally by a loved one at least once in our lives if we are trans. Apologize, and try not to do it again. That being said, willfully ignoring what pronouns an individual chooses to use, because you think they should identify another way, is just wrong. You shouldn’t even be dating someone who is transgender, if you think it is okay to misgender them.

Don’t Ask About their Genitals

If you plan to have sex, eventually this topic will come up. While it is your right to say that you do not want to have sex with anyone until you have this discussion, do not force the issue. They will talk to you about their genitals when and if they want to. You deserve to know what you are getting into, but they deserve to lead the conversation. Ask them if they are willing to talk about it, especially if you are new to dating someone who is transgender. If they aren’t ready to talk, then drop the subject.

It is not the right time to ask about genitals on a first date or even a second, unless, of course, you plan to have sex. This is probably something you will discuss (and they will probably bring up anyway) with them if you plan for the relationship to be strictly sexual, which is perfectly fine, as well. Like everything else mentioned, this discussion needs to be led by them. It is their body, and therefore, they need to be the one that make the decision to talk about it. Not you. Not anyone else.

Do Not Assume They Follow the Gender Binary

Our society attempts to put us in little boxes labeled male or female. Transgender is an umbrella term for a wide variety of individuals, some who stick closer to the binary, and others who feel they are something beyond the two, very restrictive binary options. Part of this is acknowledging their pronouns of choice. The other part is not holding them to any pre-set gender standards. Nobody should be expected to live up to unrealistic gender ideals.

Try not to make assumptions about how they should act or respond. Avoid attempting to characterize how they look or act as male or female. They know who they are and no one has the right to question how they choose to identify themselves. Like everything else, look to them for guidance, and this is one of the places where you can ask questions! If you don’t know how to talk about their gender, ask them.

Never Out Them to Others

This is probably the most important rule for having any type of relationship, whether friendship or otherwise, with someone who is transgender. Just like misgendering someone, outing a person as transgender can have life altering consequences. Trans people, especially trans women of color, are dying because people cannot accept who they are. Outing them could have life or death consequences.

A lot of people get excited for their friend, when they come out as trans, so you may have to avoid the temptation of sharing the news of your date being transgender with the world. Most of us know that the best way to stay safe is picking and choosing when to be out, if that is even an option. Safety is the most important thing, so remembering not to do this can and will save lives.

In nearly every case, let your trans date lead the conversation and guide you through the dating experience. Even if this is new to us too, we would much rather be the ones to address being transgender with you. Being transgender is one of the most intimate parts of us, so treat that knowledge with respect and dignity and you will be fine!


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