As we kick off the month of February, I have been moving forwards into the next stages of my transition. I’m set to be starting HRT on the day that this article comes out, and am making steps towards gender-affirming surgery. It has been a five-year-long process for me to get this far, and I have started to unpack a lot of the baggage that has come along with being out as trans from a young age. Specifically in how it has skewed my idea of romantic relationships.
T4T (or trans4trans) relationships are exactly what the name describes. Though the first uses of the word tended to have connotations relating to hookups, the way it’s used in our lexicon now is related to all kinds of romantic and sexual relationships. It is essentially the choice that a trans person makes to only date other trans people. This can be done for safety reasons, and/or to find a relationship with a person who can better understand one’s lived experience. T4T isn’t its sexuality, you can be straight, bi, gay, lesbian, a-spec, etc., and still fall under the T4T umbrella.
As the theme for the blog this month is romance, I wanted to share my experiences in trans representation, specifically as it pertains to romance media or romantic subplots. If you take this as your sign to write an earth-shattering T4T romance, by all means, please please write it, but I don’t want anyone to take this as a sign to stop writing relationships between cis and trans characters as well. I’m not saying that there should only be T4T relationships in media, but they should be written in addition to what already exists.
While I have been able to find quite a bit of trans media these days, I have yet to find a piece of media where the central relationship doesn’t involve cis people at all. Hell, many of the stories I’ve read or the shows I’ve watched will only include one trans character, two at most. I think this is one of the most common pitfalls that occur when it comes to representations in media, as many people seem to believe that having more than a few queer characters in one series is “unrealistic.”
While doing some research for this post, I came across a November 2020 article, from a news outlet Pink News, entitled T4T: 4 devoted trans couples who will restore your faith in love. In this article, they interviewed four T4T couples about their experiences, both in current relationships and past ones. One quote that stood out to me was this:
“I think our society conditions people into believing that trans people are these hyper-sexualized beings that are only good for sex. It’s so hard to find any remotely positive representation of a trans person in love in media, let alone a T4T love representation.”
This quote resonated with me in particular, especially when looking at the representation of trans characters and their love lives. For the most part, trans characters in the mainstream media have either been hyper-sexualized or infantilized, and there are virtually no pieces of mainstream media that show T4T relationships. Instead, we see loving cis people who deign to date us, if we get any romance at all. It’s almost as though trans love is unimaginable to many cis authors and showrunners, and this is an idea that many trans people have had to grapple with in real life as well.
Throughout my early life and transition, the persistent message that I was taught, was that my trans body was not worthy of love. That if someone cared for me, it was despite my transness, not because of it. It is an idea that I have internalized so deeply, due to external messaging sent to me primarily through media, and that I am still working to unlearn.
I tend to lean towards writing T4T relationships, but even I have had doubts about it, wondering if any potential audiences would see these relationships as “unrealistic”, and worrying that a trans love story couldn’t exist without cis people. These worries are obviously untrue. Writing trans love stories has been healing for me. It’s allowing the young, scared, newly out kid living somewhere deep in my heart to see that he is worthy of being loved and adored, just as much as anybody else.
is a young writer from Ottawa, Canada. When he isn’t in school, he enjoys reading, writing, crochet, and playing with his two cats. Their favourite genres are horror and fantasy, and they enjoy all things strange. You can find him on Instagram at @nate_fahmi.