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With all the dangers that come with being trans today, Fish Tank, the new series from writer-director Brandon Smithson, is a necessary and comedic look at the lighter side of the trans experience. The series focuses on the dating lives of two trans women. As Arisce Wanzer, one of the stars of the series, says, life is supposed to be fun.
On this week's episode of LGBTQ&A, Arisce talks about the importance of disclosing that you're trans before you go on a date, intimate partner violence in the trans community, and why she's optimistic about recent changes surrounding the public's understanding of trans people.
Read highlights from the interview here, or listen to the full podcast interview on the audio player below.
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Jeffrey Masters: There's been a massive learning curve in the last three to four years around the awareness and understanding of trans people. Have you seen that affected in your dating life?
Arisce Wanzer: Actually, yes. I think people are a lot more open to dating trans woman now that they understand that we're just like anybody else. We're people. We have flaws. Some of us are full pieces of crap. I'm finding that when I date people, they're a lot more open to it and they have a lot more information than they used to have.
I'm kind of a ball-buster. I'm like, "Have you dated trans women before?" They ask so many stupid questions. I'm not a teacher. I only know my experience and you have to date me as a person. If this is going to be a Trans 101 course for you, I'm really not here for it.
I was wondering how much defining and definitions you have to do on dates.
I don't do it. You have to do your own research. We all have Google. I learned about myself online in 2007. It was a long time ago. I'm a veteran trans girl, so I'm not here to answer their questions. "What does it mean to be transgender?" Oh, absolutely not. There's so many resources now. There's no excuse to be ignorant to anyone's plight or experience. You can literally look it up online in an afternoon.
When you're going on a date, when do you disclose that you're trans if someone doesn't know?
Oh, no, no, no, no. You do not go on a date with a guy unless you disclose, because that is how you end up chopped up in a trunk in Jersey. I've been saying this for years. If you don't disclose, you're putting yourself at risk for whatever feelings that are going to erupt in this person.
Because a lot of the violence against trans people is intimate partner violence.
Yeah, exactly. That's what happened in New York to Islan Nettles. It turns out this guy was flirting with her. We're still breaking through to that frontier of being introduced to the friend group or being introduced to family members.
So many people have questions about the private parts of trans people, but when it comes to dating, that's an appropriate scenario to talk about it, right?
It is appropriate, but I don't disclose anything surgically or private part-related until I decide that I like you. This is a two-way street. I might not want to see your private parts. I don't want to speak for all trans people, but if someone's dating you, you will disclose when you feel appropriate.
They don't need to worry about asking.
Yeah, no. I will absolutely tell you what's going on between my legs when I feel like we could get there, but you have to work to get there, honey. None of us are getting out of this alive. Life is fun. Let's have a good time. Don't take yourself so seriously. I don't take myself that seriously. So you can't be so serious about this subject that I don't ever think about.
I don't wake up every morning thinking, Oh, God, I'm trans. Woe is me. Right? I genuinely don't care. I'm secure enough in my femininity and I don't care what you think of me when I walk down the street.
How are you meeting people?
I meet people organically from time to time, but people are so flaky these days. I don't think dating is hard. It's finding a connection that's hard, and that's a not a trans thing. I use Grindr. Grindr is the new frontier for trans women because it just got trans-inclusive and friendly. There's a bunch of hetero guys on Grindr looking for trans women now.
What's the line between men being attracted to trans women and men fetishizing you?
Oh, it's a thin line. It's more of a lack of listening and a lack of understanding, because they just want what they saw on Pornhub. When they meet me, these guys get so turned off by me. As soon as they find out I have opinions, that I'm political. As soon as they find out that I'm mouthy and I'm not going to stop joking. They hate it. They want to keep you on a shelf, but they'll never introduced you to their friends, their family, nothing. They would never just be with you because it's so shameful, or at least it was. We're breaking that barrier now very slowly.
I hope it happens while I'm still attractive. I've got like six good years left on me.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Subscribe and listen to the full podcast interview on LGBTQ&A.