While there is no official data on the dating patterns of transgender people, interracial relationships in this community happen and happen a lot. The way race plays out for these couples is influenced by a host of factors beyond skin color—whether they’re MTF or FTM, queer or straight, visibly gender different, urban or rurally located, etc.
Geo, 20, a biracial transman who socializes in the New York City and New Haven progressive queer scenes, says, “People think I am very sexy in my community, but I realize that I am being fetishized for being trans and for being racially ambiguous.” Geo has considered dating only people of color, but says, “My identity is so complex that it seems silly.”
There are also plenty of people attracted to transwomen, but sexual (and racial) objectification often come attached to this dynamic—sometimes violently.
“Some transwomen feel like dealing with being objectified or stereotyped is the only way we can get a date,” says Naomi, 29, an Asian American transwoman who works with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Naomi, who is queer, often finds herself in relationships with other people of color because, she says, “They’ve also had experiences that marginalize them.”
But minorities and transpeople are not inexorable allies—because transphobia is still accepted while other prejudices typically are not.
Karen, 63, is a Michigan-based transwoman who has been married to a Japanese woman for 41 years. The two have slept in separate beds since Karen’s gender reassignment surgery in 1997. “Because of my wife’s cultural heritage, she had a tough time with [my transition],” says Karen. “And if we slept together, that would mean we were lesbians, and we are not lesbians.”
In a society still painfully ignorant about the transgender, the community prioritizes finding that special someone who simply “gets them,” which explains the spectrum of partnerships—gay transmen dating women, transpeople dating each other, and yes, lots of transpeople of color dating white people and vice versa.
The same goes for that growing number of souls who seek out love with a transgendered person. “When you’re looking to date someone trans,” says Kara, 21, Geo’s white, queer partner, “you are shopping in a niche market and race becomes a non-issue.”
Elizabeth Cline is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer who covers gender and queer issues. She is currently writing a how-to guide for teen girls who want to start their own rock bands.