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Online Deception: Catfish Dani


Ever pretend to be someone else online? Yes, I can see you all looking down sheepishly scratching the back of your heads. If you are trans, there is a really high probability you have done this, even if inadvertently. MTV is currently airing a new show called ‘Catfish’ that tracks down people who are doing this for allegedly romantic reasons. The practice, as you may have guessed, is called ‘catfishing’. We have a clever little term for just about everything now, don’t we?

Catfishing, if I understand it correctly, is engaged in by somewhat lonely individuals who have come to find through bitter experience that their pretty face as is isn’t quite getting so many nibbles on Plenty Of Fish, or wherever. The temptation to maybe borrow the pictures and data from perhaps someone who could be one half of Brangelina to get a little positive attention may get a bit too enticing. It often starts out as a curiosity thing, maybe a joke, or just harmless way to pass the time. Unfortunately, it occasionally so happens that a big sloppy love connection is made, quite possibly on the grounds that the catfisher looks really hot. Once the ‘I love you’s’ start and the catfisher digs in deeper and deeper, coming clean probably seems way too risky a prospect. Since it is unlikely they are able to alter their appearance to look like the sculpted ab Chippendale’s dancer or the face clipped out of a L’Oreal ad from Cosmo whose face they borrowed, stalemate is achieved.

For the record, this seems like a bad thing to get into and likely to cause a lot of heartache all around for both parties. Even if for some reason it does work out, you are looking at a lifetime of “remember that time you deceived me online” shots peppered into almost every argument. It also can’t be much fun being shot down after pouring your heart and soul into you true blue personality in endless exchanges once they see your real face. It’s just as bad for the deceived because trust is broken and they will not only face the pain of being actively lied to, but be compelled to question to death every poor honest person who attempts to get close to them thereafter.

As trans people, we know a little something about this all. Many of us catfished at one time or another. Some of us have created profiles to better match our true gender, while others make compelling profiles in their birth gender  and base major life decisions on the response. I’ll come clean as an example of the latter, having sent out my Air Force pic, which was 5 years old at the time, and the very best I looked ever. It’s OK, I followed up shortly with a real crap-ass pic that nearly killed the budding relationship all together. In reality, had I been able to face the truth about myself, I would have sent out a shitty trans pic like the one on the side of this blog and let that be that. OK, I’m going to circle back around to the point now.

I was watching ‘Catfish’ with my ex and I found the episode to be surprisingly relevant. A woman contacted the producers to help her figure out the truth behind a really handsome looking dude she had be online dating for months. As per usual, the person under suspicion claimed zero access to Skype, which would have immediately cleared things up, unless I guess if he was using his buddies profile and could get the guy to stand in. This is very suspicious because I think even snail mail is now equipped with a handy Skype interface. Well, they got to the bottom and of course the dude didn’t turn out to be the gorgeous rake from Switzerland, but a young trans man just starting his transition named Dani.

I usually jump up and down denouncing the catfisher as an evil prick, but in this case I found myself rooting for him heavily. He seemed like a really sweet kid who got caught up in the ‘right before transition’ madness anyone trans is deeply familiar with. I know, I know, he should be held to the same standards and all, but still. It’s a little hard to me to get all judgy after walking a mile in someone’s shoes. I was thrilled with the ending where the woman decided to look past both his deception and birth gender and continue the relationship. I hope they make it.

The moral of the story of course is don’t catfish. It’s kind of a shitty thing to do to someone else and you are almost guaranteed the very rejection you were so worried about to begin with. It’s a whole lot easier to be shot down before someone gets to know you than after, and you are bound to paint yourself as damn near unlovable as a result. If you are doing this because you are still a closeted trans and think you can remain satisfied living a second life online, it might be a good idea to stop for a moment and evaluate your own need for doing this. It’s only going to get worse.


About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

7 responses »

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  4. Nice, helpful article.

  5. What is scariest about “TransFishing” (copyright pending) is that the T person stands a very real risk of an undesired outcome, like violence. Some random guy may be frustrated that his beautiful dream girl of the internet turned out to be a not so pretty woman with very good PhotoShop skills. He then has the chance to be noble and see the true inner person. Now if it turns out that his date has “plumbing that doesn’t match the blueprints” (another new euphemism!) he may feel quite righteous in getting extremely nasty and frustrated testosterone angry.

    From what I’ve read, the Dani situation seems to have had a sweet ending that was handled well so “Thanks” out to MTV!

  6. Hiya Sis,

    Really complicated subject when you have to factor in the trans* thing. You really closed out the point well.

    I think we need to work hard at educating the world about the fears and obstacles, both mental and physical, faced by pre-transition trans* people. After transition, we all face the scorn of those who think we deceive for the fun of it. It is good that the person in the programme you watched appeared to have a good outcome, but for many of us it doesn’t go so well.

    As usual, good approach to a difficult subject.




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