If you were raised in India, in all likelihood, you’ve seen trans-people since you were little. You've probably come across them on the streets in all their colorful ambiguity, ill-treated and misunderstood. My first encounter with them was at the age of four, when my brother was born. It scared me. Amid song, dance, blessings and loud claps, when I asked who these people were and why they were smearing red stuff on my forehead, no one really bothered to explain.
When I discovered that I was different, that I didn’t like being a boy, I thought I’d end up on the streets too. I pushed it away for years, called myself a queer man, tried to be comfortable with that, and sincerely hoped all would be okay. It’s only now, after two decades of self-discovery that I’m comfortable identifying as trans*. I’m finally on my way to becoming who I was always meant to be: a woman (and a surgeon, but that’s a story for another time).
Author's note: Transgender is A term that is used to describe someone whose psychological gender identity is different, and could be the polar opposite or anything that differs from what they were assigned at birth
Transition isn’t just legal or medical. It is also social: my body is changing, and that means I’m suddenly also the object of heterosexual male desire. No longer do the gay-networking circles feel like home. I am, after all, a straight woman yet to make some serious medical and social decisions.
That’s where Tinder comes in.
On a day-to-day basis, I still dress masculine to work and present myself as male to a large extent. I’m figuring out how to move out of a boys’ hostel, and a whole bunch of other legal processes.
So, Tinder was one of the first spaces I discovered that let me present to the world the way I wanted, without necessarily being fraudulent.
I was curious to know where I placed among the several million other fish in a whole new ocean. I created a profile which, in my opinion, does a decent job at letting people know I wasn’t born female – in a way that isn’t as crass as the words ‘chick with a dick’ – and then I began to explore.
The experience has been fascinating, validating, hilarious, and sometimes scary...
The Serial ‘Sapiosexual’
Every time the word ‘sapiosexual’ pops up on a profile, I know to take things with a pinch of salt. The first time someone apparently attracted to intelligence matched me, we made small-talk, spoke of our work and what we liked to do in our free time. Benign conversation. Then, the bomb dropped.
“Do you ever want kids of your own? Like, a pregnancy?” he asked.
Assuming he wasn’t aware of the biology of it all, I politely replied stating that they don’t transplant uteruses and ovaries yet.
He apologized for asking about my ‘fertility issues’ and proceeded to guess which female-reproductive-system disorder I had. PCOD? A hostile uterus, perhaps?
I finally put the guy out of his misery and told him I happen to have male genitalia; that I’m a pre-op trans-girl.
The following day, his profile had disappeared.
Bob Vagene N/A
I know that there’s always going to be a certain level of curiosity surrounding my body parts. It’s only obvious given how uninformed we are about trans-people and LGBTQ+ issues in general. India shrouds itself in a veil of holy denial: we don’t talk about these things. But this dude took it to a whole new level.
He was extremely attractive: low-key Mr. India material. His grammar was impeccable too. Imaginary ovaries exploding, I made small-talk with him. We discussed our interests and pasts. He mentioned my transition like it’s nothing and I was very impressed.
Of course, it was all too good to be true.
Everything went to hell when he said something along the lines of “I’d like to see your surgical progress, send me a snap of your full body?”
I reply stating that I’ve had no surgery, and that ‘send nudes’ isn’t the classiest way of figuring out what I’ve had done.
Poof. He was gone the next minute.
Every once in a while, you’ll meet someone who has things so out-of-place in their heads, you don’t even know where to begin. This one profile, of a man with a long (rather sexy) beard, hair falling to his shoulders, had an interesting description that talked of spiritual and cultural exploration.
Our very first conversation began with him interrogating, ‘male or female?’
“Female,” I said. “But still biologically male.”
Then, he proceeded to explain to me how I had to find a spiritual connection with my masculinity. He told me that it was probably my father who was a poor role model, which is why I hate men, which is why I hate my male body. He suggested I fix my relationship with my father, and that would make it ‘go away’.
No number of facepalm-emojis could ever suffice for this conversation.
The Accidental Right-Swipe
Certain profiles are instant left-swipes. We’ve all done it. This one profile, with a name spelled in characters spanning every diacritical sign known to man, showed up on my screen once. The description proudly boasted, ‘nOt YeT WorKinG sTilL sTudYinG’.
I think this might’ve been some sort of neuronal error: I swiped right.
Instant match. Instant regret.
His first message: “sexy boobs pls send @my number”.
He sends me his phone number. I un-match and wash my hands thoroughly for several minutes.
I've always known trans-people are often treated like a kink, much like a bunch of colorful categories on a pornographic website. I just didn’t think it’d happen to me.
A profile I once matched started the conversation with “you haven’t had surgery right? Please don’t. I think girls with penises are very hot.”
Funny how some folks assume that it’s okay to objectify you and tell you which parts of your body deserve cutting into for their pleasure in one breath. I regularly lose breath over explaining that what I’m doing to change my body doesn’t stem from a need to “look more beautiful” or “give a guy a boner”.
My transition is for me alone, and I’m doing it because right now, I don’t recognize what I see in the mirror.
One man I matched was several years older, and seemed to have a job, a full life.
I think it was our second conversation. Out of the blue, from talking about his hobbies, he said something along the lines of, “my wife doesn’t know that I like to sleep with transwomen. I’m bisexual, and I think you have a penis so you can satisfy my urges. Don’t worry I have place so my wife doesn’t interfere.”
For want of a better reaction, I un-matched.
Can’t Take A Hint
It’s not always that you un-match someone you don’t like, it’s just too rude sometimes. So you hope they take the hint. But sometimes, conversations with transphobic people that don’t know you’re trans look like this.
“I have male genitalia, still.”
Despite the horrors, Tinder occasionally throws a bunch of wonderful conversations your way. Sometimes, I match profiles because I know life lessons lie ahead. One specific match comes to mind.
Like me, he was Bengali too. We talked of Pujo, relationships, and philosophical epiphanies. We talked of our daily routines and nihilist memes. We knew it was going nowhere, but it was fun talking nonetheless.
If only every conversation I had was as stimulating and… normal. It’s conversations like these that I still use the app for.
A lot of matches want to know more and they know how to ask. Once, a match started the conversation with “I know nothing about what you’re going through, but I’ve followed you on social media for a while. Please tell me what to google. I want to support folks like you but I don’t know where to start.”
I have a massive amount of respect for anyone that wants to know and understand new people, and when it comes from a genuine space, I’m an open-book. I sincerely have no issues disclosing the most personal details of my transition to someone that hasn’t forgotten courtesy.
I don’t ask you how your partner and you like to do it, or how you like yourselves groomed down there, or how well you’re endowed – because it’s rude. And I expect the same courtesy. Respect is key.
One profile that matched me when I was 18 changed the way I treated myself for good. This was a very confusing time for me, and I knew nothing besides the fact that I liked men, but didn’t like that I was born one. He talked of an avid interest in art, culture, science, and food. We spoke a little, and we ended up meeting at a queer safe-space in person. We spoke for a good four-or-so hours over the phone that night.
He was the first person to ever say that he liked me for the person that I was. Words can’t describe the euphoria. 18 years is a long time to wait before someone remotely expresses interest. Unfortunately, the timing was awful and I had a few days to go before I left for medical school. Things ended there.
I’m sure I speak for a lot of queer people when I say that we spend a significant amount of time worrying we’ll end up alone. When we hit puberty, and the massive juvenile line separating the boys and girls disappears, we’re the weird misfits in the corner. We know unrequited feelings all too well: one of many contributors to our thick skins. It’s a weird space to be – too masculine for most straight men, too feminine for most gay men. And those two orientations are the majority, unfortunately.
I still use the app hoping that I’ll find again what I did when I was 18, learn a thing or two along the way, and get a good laugh.
Trinetra is a 20 year old artist who hopes to function out of an operating room someday.