Google search “Valentine’s Day couples” and you’ll see an endless amount of images of cis and straight couples. In the US, those dominant identities have been at the forefront of public celebrations of romantic love since the land was colonized. After all, queer and trans people have to “come out of the closet” because the presumed gender identity and sexual orientation are neither queer nor trans.
Even within the LGBTQ community is a schism between lesbian and gay communities and the trans community; while gay marriage was ruled to be legal almost ten years ago, trans people are now under greater scrutiny for their existence, let alone their right to marry.
As for TV and film representation, of the 775 series regular characters tallied across 97 primetime scripted shows on the broadcast networks, 138 are LGBTQ identified with only 42 of them being trans or nonbinary, according to the GLAAD 2021-2022 Where We Are on TV Report. From POSE, to Boy Meets Girl, and Sense8, the few displays of trans people in love often revolved around their dating a cis partner as opposed to another trans person.
But for many trans people, T4T, or trans for trans love, is a form of self-love.
Originating in Craigslist personals for trans people seeking other trans people, T4T now describes not only the extents of attraction amongst trans people, but also the acts of solidarity and mutual support for one another.
“T4T love is such a source of strength for so many of us,” said Sunny Shanjani, one of the co-creators of T4T: The Zine, a collection of trans-for-trans experiences highlighting trans love. “So much of the media surrounding trans people are so hard to swallow, so painful to engage with.”
Trans people in the US are currently under attack, being pushed out of school bathrooms, access to healthcare, LGBTQ inclusive education, and even entertainment performances. So for a lot of trans people, being with each other provides a deep level of understanding for one another.
“When I’m with trans people, I don’t need to bring them up to speed,” T4T’s other co-creator Gwen Gothe told Reckon. “I have more energy and more time to get into the stuff that really deepens the relationship; there’s not a layer of performance that I’m putting on.”
“This elephant in the room is automatically known and understood in a way that takes a lot of pressure off,” a third T4T collaborator Lev St. Valentine added. “It’s like we’re rooting each other on.”
So this Valentine’s Day, Reckon spoke to five trans couples finding solace with one another, in love with not only their own transness, but their partners’ too.
Taylor Chapulín Orcí & Roxy Johnathan “Johnny” Valle (Los Angeles)
TV writer Taylor Chapulín Orcí (they/them) met producer Roxy Johnathan “Johnny” Valle (they/he) in a basement of a gay bar where the two were performing at a drag king show, fundraising for Puerto Rico hurricane victims.
Because it was Orcí and Valle’s last outing before the pandemic, the two didn’t see each other until months later. Dating while doing drag shows virtually together during the pandemic, it was hard for them to make out what Valle really looked like out of drag. “I remember thinking it was like dating a diamond, where you look at it from different angles and the light hits it different, but all the angles are gorgeous,” Orcí said.
Now married, Valle reflected on his experience having dated cis men prior to transitioning and meeting Orcí. “I felt like I was just filling a role that I felt obligated to fulfill because I was scared of my truth.”
“My spouse and I are just focused on loving one another, reprogramming ourselves from the gender expectations of the Latinx culture we were raised in, and finding ways to keep our relationship about respecting one another and being honest,” Valle said in an email to Reckon. “It’s hard to explain to our Latinx families our dynamic of being two trans folx when they still see us as two “women”. We have experienced similar things and have supported the other in whatever they want to pursue. Being in a T4T relationship has been one of the hardest and most gender euphoric experiences in my life.”
“I think where I know [T4T] is for me is because I don’t have to explain myself all the damn time, or feel like I’m “letting someone down” for not being “girly enough” or “man enough”— whatever the hell any of that means,” Orcí added.
For Valentine’s Day, the newlyweds plan on going to Sweethearts Night at Disneylands and high- fiving all the queer people they run into.
Xelestiál Moreno-Luz & Malo Soc (Los Angeles)
For Malo Soc (he/him), sliding into Xelestiál Moreno-Luz’s (she/Ella) DMs was nothing more than him shooting his shot. For Moreno-Luz, it was a DM from someone she had already tried pursuing, though failed.
“I literally screamed and threw my phone across the room!” she said. “I can’t remember who I was with at the time, but I shared with them that I had messaged him a few years ago and he PAID IT! Left me on read and I was so bitter, so seeing that he messaged me was so shocking to me!”
Moreno-Luz is a program manager at REACH LA as well as an interdisciplinary artist specializing in photography, and Soc is a program supervisor for an organization working with adults with developmental disabilities. A week and a half after the DM, the two set up a date at Dockweiler Beach in LA. For the date, Moreno-Luz prepared tortas for the two.
“They were spicy as hell, and I instantly fell in love,” Soc said.
Aside from being able to share her love of spice, the security from being with another trans person was critical for Moreno-Luz.
“Being with Malo has been a transformative experience,” she said. “It’s really helped me identify what safety looks like in my relationship, as well as how to show up for trans people in romantic and platonic ways.” Prior to dating Soc, Moreno-Luz’s experience with cis men was eye-opening.
“They want [trans women] in secret because we fulfill their fantasy,” she said. “Cis men [didn’t] want all of me, they only [wanted] the parts of me that [pleased] their sexual desires. [For me], T4T is more than just a romantic and sexual sentiment, it’s a political one.” With Soc, she feels seen, honored, and valued for her whole self—the exact same way she makes him feel.
“There has always been an ease and comfort [with Xelestiál] since the start,” Soc said. “I did not feel the pressure to present myself in any way or have to worry about always having to explain some of my “transness” that was questioned.”
For Valentine’s Day, the two plan on going out for vegetarian Indian food, though Moreno-Luz plans on making it extra special for Soc.
“I might surprise him with something, but we will just have to wait and see!”
Piper & Taylor Rey (Seattle)
Piper (she/they), a dental hygienist, vacationed to Palm Springs just weeks after managing broker, Taylor Rey (she/they) vacationed there They didn’t meet but they had coincidentally befriended the same trans woman.
Little did Rey know that their mutual friend gave Piper Rey’s social media. Since Piper had just begun her transition and the two are in Seattle, the mutual friend wanted Piper to connect with Rey, though she never did. Six months later at a gay bar in Seattle, Piper recognized Rey and approached her.
“I was so enamored by [Piper’s] energy, and I immediately remembered what it was like to be a baby t-girl, and how I pretty much had to do it on my own without a close trans presence,” said Rey, who at the time was grieving her drag mom. “I gave her a hug, and something told me that I needed to hold on just a little longer. To be honest, I think I needed the hug just as much as Piper did.”
“I allowed myself to pursue a relationship with her because I knew she would understand my transition being that she had gone through those changes herself,” said Piper, who fell for Rey despite hoping to date later into her transition. “She knows all the right things to say to affirm me and make me feel valid as a trans woman. I imagine it’s harder to find that same level of support and empathy from a cis person.”
For the two, being able to affirm each other daily while sharing the going through the motions of their relationship has reinforced the joy of being in a T4T relationship.
For Valentine’s Day, Rey is hoping they go to their favorite Thai restaurant in Capitol Hill after work.
“She already gave me my Valentine’s day gifts because she couldn’t wait,” Piper said. Rey gave her a gold necklace with the nickname “Pipes” on it, along with framed photos of Piper’s coming out. “I already know she’s going to love the gift I have for her.”
Morgan Ruaidhri O’Sullivan & Maze Felix (Los Angeles)
Morgan Ruaidhri O’Sullivan (they/them) met Maze Felix (they/them) at an LGBTQ acting class.
Despite having a nesting partner who is cis, dating another (polyamorous) trans person for O’Sullivan, in hindsight, felt deeply needed in their life. While it hasn’t been a prerequisite for dating, getting to experience T4T dating with Felix has been a highlight.
For Felix, dating another trans person is special. “I feel at home when I am with Mo, who still carries and experiences their own personal journey. There is something empowering to be with someone who understands the nuance of being trans and there is an unspoken bond of someone who can respect, honor, and care for you and your body in the way that feels euphoric.”
For O’Sullivan, this particular relationship was special to them because as their relationship with Felix formed, they had top surgery, a procedure Felix themself had gone through as well. “There’s this beautiful understanding of who we are and feeling seen that I think a younger version of myself never imagined could exist,” O’Sullivan said. “It has absolutely helped me to love myself in a new way and heal a lot of feelings of shame and fear.”
Dating O’Sullivan helped Felix, who disclosed having been in relationships with multiple people who are cis, realize what might have been missing from previous relationships.
“There is a level of nuance that cis folks do not understand and can never understand, even if they are doing their best and are the most supportive,” Felix said. “For myself personally and my own experiences with cis folks, I feel like I had to constantly explain, re-explain, and even justify my existence as a trans person in our relationship.”
In addition to dating O’Sullivan, Felix is also in relationships with two other trans people and told Reckon that they feel “incredibly lucky” to be surrounded by an abundance of T4T love.
For Valentine’s Day, O’Sullivan and Felix don’t have particular plans (or maybe too many plans), but the plans themselves are besides the point.
“My favorite part [about spending time with Morgan is] talking to one another, looking into each other’s eyes, being goofy, and laughing endlessly for hours,” Felix said.
“I have a feeling we’ll do a lot of snuggling and probably have an adventure,” O’Sullivan added. “We always get the adventure part right, no matter what day of the year it is.”
Jojo Brown & Bex Kuʻuleipoinaʻole (New York)
When Jojo Brown (she/her) moved to New York to have her Off-Broadway debut and spend time with her grandmother, her social life was stumped. But through her roommates, Brown paid a weekly visit to buy goods from Bex Kuʻuleipoinaʻole (all pronouns). In her routine, Brown quickly realized that she had feelings for Kuʻuleipoinaʻole.
“One day Jojo came to my apartment and never left,” Kuʻuleipoinaʻole said, cheekily.
Dating another trans person, for Brown, may or may not have been intentional. At that time, Brown had been shut out of social circles that were entirely cis and straight. While unpacking all the ways her experiences were gendered, she “found it most affirming to spend my time connecting with other trans people, but I definitely wasn’t looking to date or be in a relationship at all. And then we fell in love.”
The case was the same for Kuʻuleipoinaʻole, who never exclusively sought out to date trans people. Although sexually and romantically attached to many types of people, the longest relationships he has had have been with trans people. “The biggest difference for me is being able to easily discuss certain topics with a sense of mutual understanding and some shared experiences. We’re also able to share a lot of clothes (something cis people don’t do),” he said.
Having been in serious relationship with only cis women in the past, for Brown, being with another trans person allows the two to relate on things cis people are not able to, despite their respective differences as two different people.
“What I do know is that Bex and I are meant 4 each other, and we both happen to be T,” she added.
For Valentine’s Day, the two are heading off to watch queer Asian short films at Through the Queer Diasporic Gaze: A Screening of Queer Asian Cinema.
“We’re mutually queer and Asian, so it seems fitting!” Brown said.
“And we like movies,” Kuʻuleipoinaʻole added.