Dating While Trans Is Complicated. HBO’s “Euphoria” Pushed Me to Unpack My Online Romances
Like most girls in her generation, a Euphoria, falls in love through her phone. “Literally just had the most amazing night talking to Tyler,” Jules, a high school junior, texts her best friend and classmate, Rue, referring to the crush she’s been messaging for weeks. Jules texts Tyler nonstop: in class, before she falls asleep, and first thing in the morning when she awakes. As she gazes into her screen, she can’t stop smiling. “I’m legit falling for him,” she tells Rue.
But Jules’ romance on the show, which is airing the final episode of its first season on August 4, isn’t quite like other high school love stories on TV. Jules is transgender, and her character is played by the model and actress Hunter Schafer, who is also trans. And that’s just what got me hooked on her storyline: in part because show creator Sam Levinson allowed Schafer to help shape the character, Jules is the best portrayal of a trans girl that I have seen in media.
e ShyGuy118, on a hookup app that looks just like Scruff, a real-life dating app for “gay, bi, trans, and queer guys to connect.” Though Jules is not any of those things, she has a history of using the app to meet men who are into sleeping with trans girls like herself.
But this exchange eventually turns sour, when e used by Nate, the conniving jock whose flirtation with ily. After coaxing Jules into sending nudes, Nate threatens to get her charged with distributing child porn unless she stays silent about their virtual romance-and the fact that she free hookup sites for married previously slept with his dad. The show hints that Nate wrestles with his sexuality-he’s insanely awkward about seeing naked men in the locker room, while his phone is littered with other guys’ dick pics-but it’s unclear if he has feelings for Jules or merely uses her for his own selfish ends.
My own dating life isn’t quite so dramatic, but whether Jules is tempting a straight-identified man, or simply getting played, I can relate. I’ve chatted online with many boys like ShyGuy118, who are attracted to my femininity and intrigued-or explicitly turned on-by the fact that I have a dick. The vast majority of these trans-attracted men have come into my life through Grindr, and many trans girls I know say the same. The app gives men “a somewhat more secure way of cruising us,” says Charlene Incarnate, a prominent trans drag performer in Brooklyn. “All of my non-queer-identified sex partners [come] from Grindr.”
While originally launched as a gay dating app, Grindr now includes “trans and queer people” in its marketing language, and photos of trans femmes on its homepage. A Grindr spokesperson told me that trans people are “integral” to the platform, which in 2018 added profile fields allowing users to display their gender identities and pronouns. A spokesperson for Scruff, who was pleased by Euphoria’s nod to the app, says that roughly 5 percent of its users are either trans-identified or looking for trans people. Based on the composition of my local grid (the place in the app where nearby users’ pictures are displayed), I’d venture to say that Grindr’s rate is even higher, with a rising prevalence of trans femmes specifically. As a result, more and more straight men, like, supposedly, “Tyler,” are using gay apps to meet trans girls like Jules and myself.
What’s going through the heads of straight guys fishing for trans girls?
For years, I used these apps while presenting as male. Choosing feminine photos would turn off many gay men. But when I started transitioning and began using photos in which I looked like a woman, my Grindr experience completely flipped. Before, most of the attention I got was from gay men who treated me with bullish impatience, demanding nudes in caveman English. My trans femme looks attracted more straight guys, who hewed to a different cultural script; they tried to charm me with pickup lines and offered to take me on dates. After a long day of getting misgendered in public, I found great validation in turning on my phone to finally be treated like a lady.