I'm Attracted to Trans Women
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I never thought I would have to come out about being attracted to women. But that’s the funny and sad position I’m in these days. Although I don’t see anything different about my sexual orientation, most people do.
About four years ago, I was an exchange student in Thailand, a country known for its large, open transgender population. While most men avoided trans women, I saw no difference between them and cisgender women (women who were born biologically female). I was attracted to trans women, in other words, and I spent the next three years of my life in confusion and shame.
The heteronormative world in which we live had successfully convinced me that being attracted to transgender women meant I had a fetish. I began questioning my sexuality and even my masculinity. I didn’t even know what to call my sexual orientation. Finally one day, after hours of searching, I came across two terms that described what I was feeling. Trans-attraction and trans-orientation. Neither one is official or common, but their use is growing due to the increasing demand for a way to categorize people who are attracted to transgender people. When I saw these words, a feeling of relief washed over me: I was not alone. I don’t always describe myself as trans-attracted, but the label helped me feel like I had a place in the queer community and it helps others understand my sexuality.
My year in Thailand made it a second home for me, and I returned last spring for a study abroad semester. Once again surrounded by the transgender community, I started thinking about my sexuality almost every day and this inner conflict re-arose. That was when I started reading queer theory. Julia Serano, a transgender activist and writer, pointed out that it is not acceptable to consider attraction to trans women a fetish, because that reduces them to fetish objects. Trans women are treated as if they are not worthy of love. In her speech, titled “ The Beauty in Us,” she said, “Because our culture deems us undesirable, our lovers and partners are often expected to explain why they choose to be with us.” After reading that powerful speech as well as many other queer theorists, I stopped feeling so backward. It was the shaming of trans-attraction that was ridiculous — not my sexual orientation.
However, I wasn’t ready to be open, because I wasn’t yet aware of the desperate societal need for me to do so. I didn’t realize just how damaging my shame could be to trans women. It wasn’t until I fell for a transgender girl in Thailand that my own toxic silence finally melted away. When we met I thought that she might be transgender, but I was not sure. Regardless of what might be between her legs, I found her confidence, independence and grace inspiring. We started seeing each other.
We met three times before she told me she was transgender. It breaks my heart when I remember how nervous she was. She was afraid to tell me for two reasons: One was fear of rejection. It must be so painful to be turned away and shunned by someone you like because he does not see you as a “real” woman, whatever that means. The other devastatingly sad fear that she had to deal with was fear for her safety. I could have exploded into a violent rage and responded with my fists, or even a weapon. This certainly happens to transgender women, often when all they are doing is searching for love. According to Trans Murder Monitoring, there were 265 trans people murdered in 2012 alone. Somehow, facing those fears, she mustered the amazing strength and courage to tell me.