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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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 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…?”


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 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:

Thank you to our sponsors

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

Irawhiti takatāpui: transgender rainbow Māori

Irawhiti takatāpui: transgender rainbow Māori

Irawhiti is an umbrella word and an individual identity, which refers to all transgender people; including binary,non-binary, and some intersex people.

Takatāpui is an umbrella word and an individual identity, which refers to all rainbow people – including transgender, pansexual, lesbian, queer, gay, bisexual, and some asexual people.

When we speak te reo Māori, we may refer to all transgender people as irawhiti, or all rainbow people as takatāpui. However, usually only Māori people use ‘irawhiti’ or ‘takatāpui’ to name their personal identity.

Note: According to Stats NZ, just under half of all Māori people speak some te reo Māori. Almost 17% of Māori adults speak it fluently.

Māori people come in all shapes, sizes, and skin tones. While some of us are more quickly recognised as Māori, all Rainbow people who whakapapa Māori are equally part of the takatāpui whānau.

Many of us whakapapa Māori, and also whakapapa to other ethnicities and cultures, such as English, Irish, Chinese, and Indian. Having more ancestors from other cultures does not erase our Māori ancestors. We reject caste systems and measuring our blood quantum – we are not ”part Māori” or ”half caste”. We are Māori, and we carry the blood, histories, and wairua of all our ancestors.

To stand in our power as irawhiti takatāpui is to carry the mauri – the life force, and connection to all things. We are not separate or apart from our culture – we are part of our culture, we always have been, and we always will be.

Illustrated by Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho. Design by Ahi Wi-Hongi.

Download the posters and infographic

You can download each of these posters, as well as the infographic version, on our posters page.

Find out more about irawhiti takatāpui

Transgender Refugee Support

Transgender Refugee Support

We are excited to announce the new website of Rainbow Path – an advocacy and peer support group for the rights of Rainbow refugees and asylum seekers living in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is led by Rainbow refugees and asylum seekers, with support from other Rainbow human rights defenders.

Their new website contains lots of useful information for transgender and other rainbow asylum seekers, refugees, and former refugees in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Ban “Conversion Therapy”: Petition Delivered Today

Ban “Conversion Therapy”: Petition Delivered Today

Green MPs Dr Elizabeth Kerekere and Chlöe Swarbrick today delivered a petition to parliament with over 157,000 signatures, calling for an urgent ban on ”conversion therapy”.

Conversion therapies, sometimes known as ”reparative therapies”, are pseudoscientific practices that aim to stop a person from being gay, transgender, or otherwise not heteronormative. Ending conversion therapy would make it illegal for individuals, organisations, agencies, or other entities to offer, advertise, or perform conversion therapy on another person, or to remove a person to another country for conversion therapy.

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Often we think of electroshock treatment, or of faith based groups preforming “exorcisms to cast out the demons”, and while these practises do happen, there are much more routine ways that trans people are regularly subjected to conversion therapy.

When trans people seek medical care – regardless of whether this is gender affirming care, a simple cold, or a broken bone – they are commonly subjected to conversion therapy. No matter what health complaint they have, it is often blamed on hormones, and the clinician tries to end their hormone prescription.

Many trans women are told by clinicians to get RLE (or “Real Life Experience”) for 12 months before seeking treatment, or to go away and learn to be more feminine first. That is to say, the medical advice the clinician gives is to wear lipstick and high heels for a year before they will accept that the patient is a transgender woman.

This is a system that erects barriers, denies who trans people are, and tries to convert trans people by making them not trans anymore. These unscientific, unhealthy, biased, and discriminatory practices must stop.

Conversion therapy also affects the treatment of intersex people, or people born with a variation of sex characteristics. Intersex infants often have surgeries performed on their genitals, or are later pressured to have medical treatments. It is essential that the wording of the legislation protects intersex people from unnecessary interventions to conform their body to a heteronormative ideal.

“It’s 2021 and it’s still legal to erase queer identities in the name of conversion therapy because our government has failed to act.” said Shaneel Lal, co-founder of End Conversion Therapy NZ.

“Aotearoa should be a place where no matter who you love or how you identify, you are accepted, and no one should be allowed to force people to change who they are through this harmful and traumatising practice.” said Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, in a recent press release.

“We must have the legislation introduced as soon as possible. As the weeks and months roll by, we risk more rainbow New Zealanders being exposed to this harmful practice. Not only is it unethical, but it has been linked to serious long term mental health issues.”

Labour, National, the Māori Party, and The Opportunities Party are also in support of a ban on conversion therapy.

You can read more in the media here: