First off, trans men (like Sam) are men. Trans women are women. A lot of your concerns aren’t really all that complicated if you can internalize this.
Refer to people with the pronouns they personally prefer. He/she/they/ze whatever, it’s common courtesy to respect whatever a person indicates they wish to be referred to with.
SRS has nothing to do with what pronouns you refer to a person with. Pronouns are totally up to that person’s discretion and has nothing to do with what you imagine their genitals to look like. It’s none of your business. Also important to note there’s no such thing as “the surgery”/SRS. There’s no single surgery that all trans people who want to go that route have (whether ftm or mtf, this holds true). So, for example, “Sam” is now “he” because he told you that he’s a man and wants to be referred to as such.
Furthermore, people who haven’t had any medical intervention at all are no less trans and are no less the gender they’re telling you they are than people who have had medical intervention. Not all trans people want surgery or even hormone therapy, that doesn’t negate any asepct of their gender identity. Just from your post, this sounds like a concept you’re struggling with/haven’t heard before. You don’t need a vagina to be a woman. You don’t need a penis to be a man.
If Sam is a man who is attracted to women, then he’s likely heterosexual (only he’s in a position to determine his sexuality, though).
If Sam dates a woman who doesn’t know his history, it’s up to him to decide if/when he wants to tell her about that aspect of himself.
Violence against transgender/transsexual people is sadly the norm. And yes, it’s been the case where a trans person has been murdered and their proven/confessed murderers have essentially gotten off because somehow “I found out their genitals didn’t match what I expected from their gender presentation and I went into a rage and killed him/her” has been a successful “”””””defense”””””” in the court of law. The most famous case is the murder of Brandon Teena, but the panic defense was especially successful for the murderer of Joel Robles (be careful if you look up these cases, as they’re incredibly graphic and horrific).
California’s the only state that has banned this defense. Let that sink in. In any other state in the US, you can claim this “trans panic defense” when you’ve killed somebody. That’s essentially the court system saying it makes sense to murder a trans person. So Sam’s well within his rights to judge each situation on its individual merits when deciding who to tell about this aspect of his identity.
Not to mention, if he’s upfront from the beginning, he might find it really hard to find anyone open minded enough to date him (that’s not even taking into account whether or not they’re romantically compatible with him). If he waits until he and his partner get to know each other better, he runs the risk of being accused of “lying” and “leading them on”. Again, what he tells anyone much less his romantic partners is ultimately none of your beeswax, but hopefully this will help you understand some of the factors he’s likely weighing in his mind when he makes that decision.
To sum up: 1. It’s up to the person in question what pronouns you should use to refer to them by. This has nothing to do with whether or not they’ve had any surgeries or not, but rather what they’re telling you they’re comfortable with. 2. None of your business who any trans person is out to – whether they’re romantically invovled with them or not. 3. SRS does not equal trans. You’re a man if you identify as a man, you’re a woman if you identify as a woman, etc. Whatever genitalia a person possesses does not negate any of that. And SRS itself is really a misnomer.
Sorry for the essay. I think it’s probably clear this is an issue near and dear to my heart and my life. Feel free to message me if you want to discuss anything.
Also, I hope I don’t come accross as curt or mean or anything. Seriously, props to you for recognizing that you don’t understand an issue and taking the time to try to educate yourself on it. Agree with you that Bruce Jenner is not the first trans person to be out and about in the media, but he may be the first trans person that a lot of people in this generation are actively aware of.