T4T – What’s the tea?
Sensitive parts of myself that I had locked away, finally felt welcome to come out and be held and admired. Both verbally and non verbally. I didn’t have to explain much, which felt like a breath of fresh air. This is what I experienced as a non binary trans masc person while dating another trans person.
Especially in the beginning of my hormone transition it was a challenge for me to let people in. I was letting go of a certain role and was yearning to be seen. But that meant: showing myself. Scary! Especially after some bad experiences in the past.
While navigating my own experience, gender feelings and how I was being perceived, I saw the term T4T popping up around me, on dating apps and online. Or maybe I started noticing it because I was looking for recognition and community. Because it’s not a new phenomenon.
T4T stands for trans for trans and was used in Craigslist personals of the early 2000’s. This way trans people could differentiate themselves from the binary male and female categories on the platform and find each other, mostly for hook ups.
Nowadays the term has grown into a framework of solidarity for trans people to connect with each other in different ways. For community, friendships, collaborations, relationships, pleasure and sex. With a focus on (self)love, care, understanding and healing, in a world with a lot of biases against trans people. In the city I live in, different T4T initiatives can be found. For example for support, to exchange information or to make art or music together.
Almost a year ago I started using testosterone gel again after a long break from hormones. A lot of feelings came up and I couldn’t wait for all the changes. I checked my face and body daily and was excited for most changes. There were also things I really had to get used to. Like bottom growth and the changing sensations during orgasms. It felt like I had to reinvent sex and what felt good for my body, at the age of 35.
So, on the one hand I was very horny because of my rising testosterone levels, on the other hand I felt extra vulnerable. I wanted to keep some of the changes to myself, for now. It was around that time that I started dating another non binary trans masc person who also recently started hormone treatment. We had a lot of things in common. It felt good to share intimate things with someone who understood. With a gleam in our eyes we talked about our physical changes and feelings and reassured each other, kind of acting as each other’s cheerleader.
“A space to be myself, without having all the answers”
With them, the same things in bed that I had avoided for a long time, started to feel completely different. I worried less about how I and my body were perceived. I experienced space to be myself, without having all the answers. Like we created a place together where body parts aren’t gendered and anything is possible, as long as it feels good.
It was a start for me to let people get closer again. The safe spaces that I experienced with trans and queer lovers also helped me communicate more. I’ll ask new lovers what language they want me to use, or want to try out, what I should keep in mind, what boundaries are known and how we will make them known if they come up. And I share what I want to be called and how I want to be touched. This way we can be mindful of dysphoria and do and discover what brings us euphoria.
I also date cis people, but with some caution. If there’s an openness to see my reality, without too many assumptions: yes. If not and it doesn’t feel good, I walk away.
I use this gut feeling check with all people, cis or trans. Feeling safe with someone depends on many factors. And being a safe person myself for others requires continuous work, self reflection and taking responsibility. The inequality in the world is also reflected in our communities, so T4T might not work for everyone.
My experience is not the same as the experience of others. I think by sharing some of our stories we can find recognition, understanding and learn from each other.
What do other people in the community think about T4T?
Since I’ve started with T4T dating I don’t wanna go back to what I was doing before. I noticed I feel more at ease and comfortable with other trans people. Even though it takes time to get to know someone. But for example I feel comfortable faster taking my binder off. I think there’s something really special and healing about T4T. Whether someone is non binary, trans masc, trans fem, I think when you have a different relationship to gender outside the gender binary, you can navigate each other’s bodies, language and life better.
Dorothea Delana (she/her)
T4T definitely plays a significant role but not necessarily a dominant one. The demographic of my sex/romantic life is probably reflective of the social events that I go to (i.e. Flinta*). There are so many factors that contribute towards a person’s character, their attractiveness, a connection, a sexual experience, a relationship, etc. For me it would be overly simplistic to make a definitive statement either way. Each individual experience is different and has its own benefits regardless of whether a person is trans, cis or anything else.
Em Daniels (they/he):
Dating other trans people has been incredibly restorative for me. While I may not be someone who presents as very masculine, the trans people in my life don’t need me to have chest hair or a deep voice – they possess a level of perception that I can only describe as a release. There are no rules, I can play with traditional gender roles without worrying about perception, goal oriented sex only exists as a game and you can never guess who’s gonna don the g-string. It’s a hot, gay chaos in which all that matters is the skin between you and the knowledge that no one’s trying to put you into a box.
I would like to share that devotion and surrender flourishes in a safe space, which we can create ourselves in a world deprived of attention, kindness and general empathy. T4T love is more than sensual or sexual, it is a demonstration of human will to accept human complexity.
If you’re trying to find your way in a binary world as a trans or gender diverse person, there’s no standard blueprint. The stories in the media are often written about us and one-dimensional. So we have to hear from each other, outside the mainstream narratives. Making each other and ourselves a priority is a radical act and can help to see each other and to just be, in all our facets, without having to have all the answers.
Want to read more?
The T4T issue of the academical magazineTSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly: https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article/9/1/1/294561/Meanwhile-t4t