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Archive for the ‘Sexual Orientation’ Category

Question MarkIn these two letters, we look at the confusion around, and intersections of, sexual orientation and gender identity. Here we go:

A reader writes: “I’m dating a trans man now and it’s been amazing. I’m still slightly confused as I have always considered myself as a straight female and have always seen him as male, but at the same time I’ve accepted that for the moment he is still female and am willing to do stuff with him (obviously, haha).

“I know labels are not the best way to go about things, but I’m not sure of how else I can understand what I am feeling? I hope this doesn’t come across as naive or stupid. I’m just a little bit confused.”

It’s not uncommon for those who are dating trans people to become confused about their own sexual orientation. For you, it seems pretty straight-forward – you’re a straight woman dating a trans guy, so you’re a straight woman … because he’s a guy.

I would argue that he is not “still female.” I think what you mean is that he has not had any type of genital surgery. Maybe you even mean that he is not taking hormones. But if he’s living as a man, then he’s not female. And if you see him as male, then he’s not female to you, either.

Just because he has a different body type from what you might be used to doesn’t negate any of that. If you’ve been with several men in your life, you know that their body types vary widely, even though they all might have come closer to the particular prototype or representation that we have of a “standard” male body than your current lover’s body does. No matter. He’s a man, you’re a woman, and the label for that type of relationship in Western culture is “straight.” (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I was hoping I could get your opinion on this issue. I recently read a diatribe by a cisgender gay man stating that those who identify as girlfags are being disrespectful to cisgender gays and lesbians, as well as gay transmen.

“I agree that the term does sound pejorative, and it would be better if a new term was coined. But I believe that it is a legitimate identity. What do you think?”

I had never heard of this term before, so I had to look it up. On Urban Dictionary, “girlfag” is defined as: “A woman who is very attracted to gay/bi/trans men. She may (or may not) also feel she is (fully or partly) a ‘gay man in a woman’s body.’ Girlfags identify primarily as queer, and are often attracted to more types of people than just gay/bi/trans men.”

I think every identity is legitimate. I also think that reclamation of negative or harmful language can be beneficial in certain circumstances. However, I have three criteria for reclaiming pejorative language, and I feel that all of these criteria need to be met before a word or words can be reclaimed:

1. The people reclaiming the language must be aware of the history of the language – the word or words to be reclaimed – and how that language was used against people in the past (and still today). What is the origin of the language? How did it come into general use and how did it come to be used against a group of people? What were and are the ramifications of that use? The people reclaiming the language need to be fully aware of this and make a conscious decision to reclaim the language based on their thorough knowledge of the past. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am a gay man and have no doubts really about that. I was late in coming out after being married and having children. However, 15 months ago I started a relationship with a guy who I had met several years earlier and who also was previously married with children.

“After we had been dating for six or seven months, he started to talk about how he really liked dressing as a girl and felt he should have been born a girl. I did know he was always quite fem and liked fem things and that was part of my attraction to him.

“Well, now he is well into transition to her, including name change and hormone treatments, and is fully out to family and work. I have supported this transition because I loved/love him/her and know that it was making her happy and it was what she wanted.

“Now, though, I am having a real problem in my head as to how can it be that a gay guy is still fancying a girl. Is it an identity issue? What is going on in my mind? Can this relationship continue?

“We have talked about surgery and I have said I would not like her to have reassignment and she says that she doesn’t want it anyway. However, will that change in a year or two? Just struggling with where I am in this relationship.”

Once again, labels are hanging us up. Remember that “gay” is just a label for your sexual orientation – it is not your sexual orientation. You have the label “gay” because you have a particular type of body and gender identity and you are attracted to people with the same type of body and gender identity.

Your attraction to this person started out in this way. It’s possible that if you had met this person after she had already transitioned, you would not have been attracted to her. But that’s not the case. So you fell in love with a person who a gay man (you) might have fallen in love with, and now she has changed, but you are still in love with her.

In my opinion, that does not mean that you are no longer gay. It just means you are in love with a particular person, and this person no longer meets a specific set of criteria that a gay man might look for when choosing a partner. But you’ve already chosen a partner – this person – and you are in love with her, so those criteria no longer matter. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I have been an out Lesbian for 24 years (I’m 44) and recently met and fell in love with a Trans guy. For obvious reasons, this was a little confusing at the start, and I am still curious about my changing ‘identity’ (which appears to have become a little more fluid and harder to define than previously!).

“What are your thoughts on Lesbians dating Trans men? Should we still even care about labeling ourselves? How do I (or do you think I should) raise this stuff with my straight friends?”

I think it’s fine for anyone to date anyone, including lesbians dating trans men. What I have found to be one of the biggest problems for anyone dating a trans person is that the person then starts questioning his or her own sexual orientation. This can be a huge challenge for people whose identity is strongly tied to their sexual orientation.

This is not a specifically lesbian-related phenomenon, although this is where I have seen it most, and I believe that this is because so many trans men have come out of the lesbian community. I have had straight women question whether or not dating a trans man made them a lesbian (of course not), and I have had straight men question whether or not dating a trans woman made them a gay man (of course not).

I have had lesbians worry that they are now straight because they are dating a trans man, and gay men worry that they are now straight because they are dating a trans woman (or even a trans man!).

All of this is fairly common in my experience, which is why I devoted a chapter to it in Just Add Hormones called “What Does That Make Me?” In this case, what it makes you is a lesbian dating a trans man. Or it could make you a bisexual woman dating a trans man, or a queer woman dating a trans man, or even a straight woman dating a trans man. (more…)

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GeeseIt’s an annual tradition – my Thanksgiving coming-out poem. Hope you are having a great day.

My regular readers have likely seen this poem more times than they care to, but if you’re new, welcome to the tradition. Thanks for reading, and here we go:

 A Thanksgiving Coming Out

By Matt Kailey

There’s a holiday coming on which we give thanks
For the wonderful things in our lives.
Not cell phones or new cars or what’s in the bank,
But our partners or husbands or wives.

We think of our loved ones as we plan our trips.
To see them will be a real treat.
And we know that the question on everyone’s lips
Will be, “When the heck do we eat?”

Now I’ve been through many a Thanksgiving feast
And lived to tell the story.
I can’t really rank them from most fun to least —
They all seemed a little bit gory.

There was one at my grandmother’s house, when she said,
“Let us each say what we’re thankful for.”
But before we could answer, my drunk Uncle Ted
Was sprawled out like a dog on the floor.

Another time everyone came to my place
With their offers to get in the way.
They crowded the kitchen and took up the space,
But at clean-up, they just couldn’t stay.

Then my sis tried her hand at the family feast,
With enough food to feed twenty-one.
But her poor old dog, Rover, that ungrateful beast,
Got there first and left us with none.

So, what’s really going on here? Are you excited? I mean —

(more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am a 39-year-old gay male. Ever since high school, I have geared being more like a female. It was tough when I came out as being gay. I got teased and made fun of in school. My mother accepted me being gay.

“I have tried to be a full-time male, but just was not happy with it. I drank a lot as well. A year ago I decided to start the process of transitioning. I have already decided that I am not going to have the surgery to be a full female. In other words, I’m going to leave the below parts alone, although I want to grow breasts and desire to take some hormones to obtain more fem features.

“My problem is my mother. She accepts me being gay. Today we went shopping and some people referred to me as a female, which did not bother me at all. In the car while she was driving me home, she stated I make an ugly girl. I understand that given she is my birth mother this is hard for her. She knows I want to be more like a girl but does not realize what I am doing. I am totally happy with who I am and who I will become. Just not so sure of my mother?”

One thing that can be difficult for some trans people is having to come out twice – first as a gay man or lesbian, and later as transgender. The way some people see it is similar to the boy who cried, “Wolf!” – so you said you were gay, now you say you’re trans. What are you going to say next week?

What those people don’t realize is that it is not uncommon for trans people to come out as gay or lesbian before coming out as trans. Here are some reasons that could happen:

1. In some cases, trans people don’t have the information they need to determine what it is that they are feeling. The closest thing they can come up with is that maybe they are gay or lesbian. So they come out as gay or lesbian, thinking, “This must be how all gay men and lesbians feel. What else could it be?”

When they realize that this is not how gay men and lesbians feel, and that there is a word for what they are feeling and whole communities of people with similar experiences, things finally start to make sense, and they come out as trans. Once they have a name for what they are feeling, things come together relatively rapidly, and they are finally able to understand who they are. This might be the most common scenario for trans people who have come out of gay or lesbian communities. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I’m 25. I’ve been questioning my gender identity since I was in my teens, and for the last few years I’ve identified as genderqueer.

“Being male feels more natural to me than being female, and I’m considering transitioning. However, I’m not sure what I want to do, and I don’t want to make any decisions right now. Because I have a very feminine face and body, however, I don’t have much chance of passing as male. Because of that, sometimes I feel like a fraud.

“I haven’t dated much, and I haven’t dated at all since I started to acknowledge my gender dysphoria more. I would like to date more and have sexual relationships, but I’m in a difficult position. For one thing, I don’t know how to tell people about my gender identity. I mostly look for people in LGBT-friendly environments, but it’s still tough.

“I worry that telling people that I’m a trans guy will give them the impression that I’ve transitioned more than I have (especially on dating sites, where people haven’t actually talked to me or seen me up close). But letting people assume I’m female feels dishonest (and frankly, I don’t know if I’d be happy being with someone who saw me as a cis woman).

“I also feel like I won’t be able to find anyone who finds me attractive as I am, and that I’m selfish for wanting that. I’m bisexual, and for some reason I’m particularly concerned that no men will be happy with me. I can’t believe that a gay/bi man would see me as a guy, but I also don’t think that many straight men would find me attractive as a woman. I have similar concerns about finding female partners, but I’ve known more women who were in relationships with trans people, so I guess it’s a little easier for me to accept that it’s possible.

“If I knew that I was going to transition in the near future, maybe I’d be more inclined to wait a bit. But as it is, there’s no guarantee. I know that things could change down the road if/when I transition, but I want to try dating more now. Do you think there’s a way for me to navigate this while being relatively true to myself?”

I think there is a way, because I know a lot of people who identify as trans and genderqueer (at the same time), and who might or might not medically transition at some future time, and they are dating and/or have partners, and it has been no problem. It depends on where you look and who you look for.

I agree with you that you will probably have better luck in LGBT-friendly environments. I also agree that, in some cases, identifying yourself as a trans man might cause some people to make assumptions about your physical appearance, medical status, legal status, and so on. But those are their assumptions, and you can put them right when and if you become involved. (more…)

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