Transilient’s outreach coordinator, Sierra, recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Sky. He is an ally and started a dating site for transgender people and our allies. Read up and learn a little about Transgender Date!
Transilient: Tell us about the mission and vision of Transgender Date.
Jim: The site was started in 2007 with the goal of being a real dating site for transgender people to find love. During that time, pretty much the only sites out there were “NSFW” or “not safe for work” dating sites. These sites’ main intention was tricking guys into paying to meet trans women – in reality, these sites used fake profiles. Chasers were the intended target – that left nowhere for trans people to feel comfortable. Unfortunately, things aren't all that much different today. We are looking ultimately achieve one thing: to separate ourselves from the stigma that is attached to those trans dating sites. We want to be top of mind for all trans people who are looking to find love through online dating. We cannot keep chasers from joining, since we don't know who they are before signing up… but we do ban them as soon as they show themselves. We do not advertise in the places that most of the scam sites do. This is in an effort to attract as few chasers as possible. We don't allow nudity on the site. We send out welcome emails about respect and what to not do on the site. We don't use bots to send out fake messages. We have a concierge/moderator who answers questions that anyone may have in regards to proper standards.
Transilient: You spoke a little about the difficulty that trans people have when it comes to online dating. How could other online spaces (dating related or otherwise) be safer for trans and gender non-conforming people?
Jim: The biggest challenge will always be keeping trans members safe and feel comfortable. This usually means making sure you keep the chasers out who are only looking for trans members for sex to fulfill a fetish. The problem is there is no way to know who a chaser is until they show themselves. Dating sites and apps that are not worried about the safety of their members advertise on NSFW sites and use derogatory terms like tranny and shemale as that is what a lot of chasers search. We avoid advertising in any place that we think attract chasers. The major mainstream dating sites and apps have started trying to attract trans people by changing some of their policies. That being there are still many cases where trans members are discriminated against on those sites. We actually wrote an article about how these sites can do more harm than do by trying to be trans inclusive, which can be found here: https://transgenderdate.com/topics/dangers-for-transgenders-dating-sites/
Transilient: What has been the most rewarding part of creating and running this website? How has it grown and evolved over the years? How have you grown in relation to your work over the years?
Jim: The most rewarding part is every time we get a message or email from one of our members that tell us they have met the love of their life. We are actually happy when we lose members because they no longer need the site. The site went pretty much unchanged from 2007 until last year. Early last year it got a full makeover and it is bigger and better than ever now. There was some pushback when we made some features that were previously free VIP, but we did that to weed out the bad apples that weren't there to find love. That has proven to be a very good decision.
Transilient: What do you think are the biggest challenges when it comes to dating? Online dating? And then, same questions, but specifically for trans and gender non-conforming people?
Jim: I am so far removed from the dating scene personally that I am not the best person to give a status of the current state of dating whether it be with cis people or trans people. I will give the challenges that trans people that we try to address when making the best site we can. Finding guys who are actually single and not "curious" or "experimenting". Way too many people, especially cis men, think having sex with a trans woman is easy because they were introduced to the concept of trans woman through porn. They are more interested in the fetish than the actual person. Those are the chasers that I mentioned before. Another problem is even if the people are generally interested in dating a trans person they may be afraid to be seen in public with them. This makes "traditional" dating very hard if someone is not willing to fully embrace being with a trans person.
Jim Sky is a longtime web developer that noticed the need for a legitimate transgender dating site when one of his trans friends complained that there was nothing out there for people like her to find love. He decided to develop TransgenderDate to be a safe and enjoyable space to help transgender people find real relationships. Over the past decade he has continued to be a trans advocate by doing all he can to help the transgender community.