Dating a Trans Person 101: Respect

Dating a Trans Person 101: Respect

Respect looks different to each person, and the things that feel respectful to one person may feel disrespectful to another. Use these tips to start a conversation about respect.

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Eine trans* person daten 1×1 – German

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Dating a trans person 101: respect

Respect your partners gender and sex characteristics

Always use the name and pronouns they choose, and never say they’re not a ”real” woman, man, or trans person for any reason – including the way they dress, the name they use, their hobbies, their attractions or sexual orientation, the ways that they like to have sex or not have sex, or what you imagine life was like for them growing up. Even if you’re really angry at them; criticise the behavior you’re upset about, never invalidate their gender.

Respect your partners body

Respect their body, including the words they use to talk about it, and their choice to take or not take hormones and have surgeries or other medical treatments. Respect their right to make contraceptive and reproductive choices, and to use protection against STIs and HIV. Respect their ‘no’ if they don’t want to use alcohol and other drugs, or be around drug use if they struggle with it. Respect their mobility, hearing, seeing, and sensory or other accessibility needs.

Respect your partners sexual boundaries

Respect their boundaries, including the ways they are comfortable with being touched or not being touched, and sexual activities they don’t want to do or times they don’t want to do them. Sometimes you might feel rejected if they say no to cuddles, sharing a bed, or hooking up, but pressuring them will only make them feel that you don’t care what they want. Show them how much you love them by never manipulating them into sex or other kinds of affection.

Respect your partners autonomy

Respect their ability to make decisions for themself about the daily things they need in their life. This includes decisions about when and where they sleep, what and how much they eat, needing time to be alone, and not always being the person to take care of your emotional or other needs. Respect them as a whole person; accept responsibility for your share of the child care or house work and do not treat them as an extension of yourself. Don’t expect them to fulfill your ideals or fantasies of what someone of their gender, or someone with their sex characteristics, should do.

Respect your partners other relationships

Respect their other relationships, including with whānau, friends, kids, other partners, and ex-partners who they are friends or family with. It’s healthy for your partner to spend time with other people they care about, and sometimes they need to spend time alone too. It can be scary learning to trust, but controlling them just means pushing them to make a choice between you, and everyone else they care about. Even if they choose you in the moment, no one can can choose that in the long run. Don’t push them away by isolating them from others.

Respect your partners safety

Don’t put them in dangerous situations such as drinking and driving, or going places they will be exposed to transphobia or other harm.

Respect your partners emotions, mental health, neurodiversity, and wairua or life force

Be honest with them, make time to talk with them about things that are important to them, have patience to work through difficult emotions without blaming them, putting them down, or becoming abusive, accept responsibility for your own emotions and actions, and only expect them to take responsibility for theirs.

Respect your partners economic situation

Respect their economic situation, including their choice to do sex work or to not do sex work, do not prevent them from working or take their money or expect them to pay for your expenses. If they have work or study the next day they can’t stay up all night, so letting them sleep is part of supporting their economic situation.

Respect their privacy

Don’t tell other people personal information about their sex characteristics and/or gender, their body, their HIV status, or the ways they have sex or don’t have sex. Don’t share their private photos, videos, or messages. Do not insist that they share with you the intimate details of their past sexual experiences. Don’t insist on knowing their passwords, reading their email, or having access to their social media.

Respect their culture

Respect their whakapapa, their people, their language, their values, their spiritual or religious practice, and the land they’re from. Respect the histories of their people, and the ways in which gender and sex characteristics might be thought about differently than in your own culture. A healthy relationship has room for difference and can celebrate each others diversity.

Thank you to our sponsors

This resource was developed with support from International Trans Fund, and Wellington City Council.

Learn more about healthy relationships with transgender partners

Active Listening: a Communication Resource

Active Listening: a Communication Resource

Good communication can support a healthy relationship, be it with partners, family, or friends. Active Listening is a specific kind of communication, which many people find useful for enhancing understanding.

This article is part of our series “Sex and Sexuality for Trans People”.

Active listening is a form of therapeutic or empathetic listening, which focuses on understanding the speaker’s perspective, and encouraging them to explore their thoughts and emotions. Like most skills, active listening takes time, effort, and practice to learn. Other types of listening include critical listening (listening to evaluate the information or message), and informational listening (listening to learn). Active listening is neither of these: it’s purpose is help you listen thoroughly and understand the speaker’s point of view. Often active listening is used when supporting someone, building trust, and discussing difficult experiences. It can help the listener focus on what is being said, rather than their thoughts about it.

Key Features

Give feedback

Show you’re listening and make it easier for the speaker to continue by giving feedback. This may include facing the speaker, making eye contact, leaning toward them, nodding, or saying ”yes” or ”mm hmm”. Assure them with verbal or non-verbal cues that you want to hear what they have to say.

Defer judgement

Defer judgement while you listen. Remain open, rather than quickly forming an opinion. If you find yourself disagreeing, try to see the situation from their perspective – it doesn’t mean you have you have to agree. Remember that the point is to understand their experience.

Be patient

Allow for pauses, give the speaker time to reflect and explore their thoughts. Avoid rushing toward problem solving.

Reflect

Reflect back what was said with questions, such as ”so what you’re saying is…”. Mirroring means using the same words as the speaker, and shows that you are listening. Paraphrasing is putting it into your own words, and shows that you are trying to understand.

Pay attention

Listen for the message, as well as intent and emotions. Listen for what is being said, and what is being left unsaid. Watch and listen for non-verbal cues. Tone, facial expressions, and body language can help you understand the emotions and the strength of the emotions, as well inconsistencies between what is said and non-verbal cues being expressed.

Name the emotions

Name the emotions without making a judgement on the accuracy of the facts, for example ”it sounds like that was really frustrating for you”. You can validate the speakers emotions without having to agree with their reasons. For example, ”if you thought x it’s totally understandable why you felt y”.

Ask questions

Ask questions to encourage the speaker. Relevant questions help build or clarify the speaker’s thoughts. Open ended questions invite them to elaborate. Ask what they’ve tried or or what solutions they see rather than offering advice. If you don’t follow, ask for clarification – ”what did you mean when you said…?”

Focus

Don’t interrupt the speaker with your thoughts or actions, and try to stay focused on what they’re saying rather than thinking about your opinions or something else. Never interrupt or finish a sentence for the speaker. Changing the subject (even subtly) can make the speaker think that you are uninterested or have not been listening.

Summarise

Summarise the speaker’s main points at the end of the conversation, so that you both know whether you have understood them correctly. Be concise, and be prepared to be corrected. After the conversation, the speaker and listener should have the same understanding of what was said.

Find out more

Other useful articles on this topic:
www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/coaching-others-use-active-listening-skills/
www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/active-listening.html

Thank you to our sponsors

This resource was developed with support from International Trans Fund, and Wellington City Council.

Consent

This resource explains some core concepts for making sure you have consent in sexual situations, as well as practical steps and examples. It is designed for transgender adults, and may not be suitable for younger viewers

You can scroll down to read the original online, or download the second edition PDF.

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Translations

Согласие – Russian

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Соnsent – German

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Consent.

Consent means agreeing to something without feeling like you have to agree to it. At a glance, consenting to sex can be simple – someone asks you if you want to have sex and you say yes or no. But there are many factors which can make a person feel pressured to say yes. When a person says yes because they are pressured into it directly, this is sometimes called ‘coercion’. Coercion can be very direct and easy to see, or it could be more subtle. It may include forcing them, sulking, passive aggressive pressure, or saying ‘if you loved me you would…’. 

Consent should never be coerced on purpose, and we also have a responsibility to try to make sure we don’t coerce consent by accident as well. We call this ‘good consent practises’.

Making sure you have good consent practices can be a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun. 

There is a metaphor called the ‘Consent Castle’, where we liken starting a new relationship to building a castle. It goes like this:

When you meet someone you like, you might decide to build a castle together. In the beginning, you will need to talk a lot about what you both want from a castle, and make sure you’re on the same page. You might write some things down, draw some diagrams, share your ideas. 

Next, when you start to build your castle, you will probably need to be extra careful – you might wear hard hats, steel toed boots, and check in with each other frequently. As time goes on and the castle takes shape, you will be able to relax and enjoy it more without having to talk about every step, and one day when the castle is finished, it will become a comfortable and familiar place where you can have fun together. Castles are always a work in progress – you might need to do some maintenance now and then, and if you want to change something or add another room you’ll probably need to put on your hard hats and overalls and plan it out carefully, but by planning and talking and working it out together in the beginning, you will have build a strong foundation for a mutually satisfying castle. 

Before they first have sex with a new partner, some people like to have conversations about sex in a relaxed situation when sex isn’t about to happen immediately. If the conversation is not focused on ‘if/when we have sex’ but instead is about ‘when people have sex’, this can make it easier to bring up broader social pressures and other issues, likes and dislikes, emotions, expectations, and any other issues. This can give everyone involved an opportunity to talk about how they feel, and what they want from sex or a relationship, and from each other.

During sexual encounters, it’s important to check in – or ask how the other person is feeling or if they want to do a certain activity, or whether what you are doing feels good. The answer may be that they want you to do something a little differently, or that they want to try something else, or that they feel amazing. Communicating during sex can be fun and sexy, and it means that you will always know if your partner likes something or not. 

Likewise, talking about it afterward can be really useful. Sometimes we did like something at the time, but later we realise it also gave us a cramp! Or made us feel insecure about part of our body. Or we think of something else that might be good to try next time. Talking about sex can be empowering, and it gives us lots of opportunities to make choices.

What about hookups and one night stands?

Practicing good consent is also possible for casual hookups. While you may not want to have long conversations with someone you’ve just met, getting into the habit of discussing sex before you start having it can mean that you both have better experiences.

For example, Andy tells Shay he sometimes feels like the gay dating scene expects everyone to do oral sex without condoms, and that’s hard for him as a trans man, because he wants to fit in but he also wants to protect his sexual health. Later when they’re hooking up, Shay has the opportunity to let Andy know it’s fine to use condoms, which makes Andy feel much more relaxed and valued as a person, and then he can make more of a free choice about whether to use a condom or not. Understanding each other more and being more relaxed also makes the whole experience more fun for both people.

Tip: asking for consent while physically initiating a sexual action can make the other person feel pressured into accepting. Get consent before you act.

More info on sex and sexuality for trans people

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Thank you to our sponsors

This resource was developed with support from International Trans Fund, and Wellington City Council.