Trans Youth Face Unique Difficulties While Dating, Reveals First-of-Its-Kind Study
The study is the first to focus on adolescents who are undergoing transition in the United

By James Factora

Ask any transgender person with a romantic or sexual history — or lack thereof — and they’ll likely have endless tales to regale you with.
Being a trans youth only adds additional layers of complexity to these encounters, and a first-of-its-kind study from the University of
Michigan study explores some of those complications. Published by four pediatric researchers, the report examines what it’s like to date
before and during medical transition, the role that transphobia plays in trans kids’ approach to dating, and the prevalence of partner abuse.

Published in the most recent volume of the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics, the study consists of interviews with 30 trans adolescents
between the ages of 15 and 20; eight were transmasculine and 12 were transfeminine. When asked about their romantic relationships,
participants reported that parents generally did not treat their dating lives differently from before they had transitioned. However, some
stated that their parents expressed heightened concern for their children’s safety and respect.

“With me being trans, my mom was always up my [expletive] about it. Like, is he calling you a boy?” said one 18-year-old transmasculine

Participants also described their difficulties in dating compared to cisgender people and the transphobia they faced at the hands of other
LGBTQ+ people. One transmasculine participant detailed a relationship they had had in seventh grade, in which their partner “continued
to call me her girlfriend and say that she was a lesbian.”

Other participants expressed similar sentiments with regards to their identities confusing potential partners. “I can’t date gay guys
because I’m not a man,” said a 17-year-old transfeminine participant. “I can’t date any straight women since I’m not a man, but I also can’t
date any gay women or straight men because they still think I’m a guy. It’s kind of in that weird twilight zone middle space right now.”

Some individuals also reported transphobia while using dating apps. Two participants said their Tinder accounts had been locked after
being reported for perceived discrepancies between their appearances and stated gender.

Others also described their experiences with coming out to their partners. Some felt that it was more appropriate to tell partners
immediately “because it could end up being dangerous knowing that part of you,” according to a 17-year-old transmasculine participant.
But some delayed disclosure “only after certainty of a relationship” or if they wished to avoid being dismissed on the basis of their

The study also details accounts of abusive relationships, both emotional and sexual. One reported emotional manipulation with the aim of
preventing medical transition, and others reported sexual abuse happening as early as age 14.

On a more positive note, gender-affirming hormone therapy was described
with an overall positive effect on romantic health. Both transfeminine and
transmasculine youth reported increased satisfaction with themselves and their
emotions, although some transmasculine participants also stated that they felt
unwanted anger.

“I think I’ve gotten a bit more assertive,” said a 16-year-old transmasculine participant. I have the confidence now to know what I want and
get what I want.”

A 17-year-old transfeminine participant reported that she “started looking [at] how I felt on the inside and I don’t know, that’s something
that I feel is important.” “You need to find yourself and feel comfortable in your body before you start dating,” the respondent added.

A couple kissing.
New Research Shows a Vast Majority of Cis People Won't Date Trans People
A recent study attempts to quantify the extent of trans discrimination when it comes to romantic and sexual relationships.
Researchers noted that one limitation of their study includes the fact that participants were recruited from a child and adolescent gender
services clinic, meaning that they have some degree of parental support. The experiences of trans youth with non-supportive families
would therefore be different from those studied, and the researchers recommended further studies on this population.

“Despite these limitations, our study has important implications for future research and care of TGNC youth,” the researchers wrote in the
study, ultimately recommending that providers should be aware of these unique challenges that trans youth face, including avoiding
assumptions about their patients and screening for signs of abuse.

In the study, the researchers also noted that overall “there is a paucity of information pertaining to sexual and romantic experiences of
TGNC youth,” adding that the majority of TGNC relationship research focuses on the risks of interpersonal relationships. Meanwhile, there
has been no research conducted on the benefits of relationships for transitioning youth or youth in the United States.

Read the full study

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