Sleep­ing with trans women doesn’t af­fect your queer­ness

Sleep­ing with trans women doesn’t af­fect your queer­ness

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Florence Ash­ley Com­men­tary Writer

Tin­der has been a con­stant in my life in re­cent years. Those who know me will tell you that I’m about as slutty as I am picky, mak­ing the prospect of weed­ing out peo­ple quickly quite ap­peal­ing. As far as I know, I am typ­i­cally read as a cis­gen­der wo­man when I go about my day. Nay, worse! Much to my dis­may, I am gen­er­ally read as straight, too.

I am non-bi­nary. I was as­signed male at birth. When dis­clos­ing that I am trans­gen­der on dat­ing apps, I usu­ally put for­ward a trans fe­male iden­tity. Peo­ple un­der­stand “trans wo­man” bet­ter than “non-bi­nary.”

Dis­clos­ing that I am trans doesn’t al­ways hap­pen in the same way, since I don’t com­mu­ni­cate be­ing trans on my Tin­der profile. To start, there’s the clas­sic of sim­ply telling the per­son “I am trans.” If you talk about trans-re­lated top­ics, peo­ple of­ten as­sume or ask. One of the ways I favour treat­ing as a known or mun­dane fact, ca­su­ally re­fer­ring to my tran­si­tude when it’s rel­e­vant to the con­ver­sa­tion. My ab­so­lute favourite has to be pe­nis jokes, though! The guy says some­thing about some­thing be­ing hard, to which I’ll re­ply: “…like my pe­nis.” It’s dou­bly funny be­cause I haven’t been able to have erec­tions since I started tak­ing hor­mones.

Re­ac­tions range, but you’d prob­a­bly be sur­prised that out­right re­jec­tion is not par­tic­u­larly com­mon. The re­al­ity is that, for the most part, men are fine sleep­ing with trans women. The more con­ven­tion­ally at­trac­tive, the hap­pier they are. It’s dat­ing us and ad­mit­ting to be­ing at­tracted to us that’s the big­ger bar­rier.

Whether they’re in­ter­ested in sleep­ing with trans­fem­i­nine peo­ple or are on the fence, one can dis­cern a per­sis­tent dis­com­fort. They’re at­tracted, and they’re afraid that that makes them gay.

The easy an­swer, of course, would be to re­as­sure them. No, no, you’re not gay. How would be­ing at­tracted to women make you gay? It wouldn’t. Some women have penises. Women’s penises are not male gen­i­talia, but fe­male gen­i­talia. They’re all small and pink and cute.

How­ever true that may be, it’s not the per­spec­tive I want us to take. What I want us to con­sider is the “what if…” side of things. What if it were gay?

“I don’t want to sleep with a trans wo­man be­cause that would be gay,” says Gary. Gary is not at­tracted to trans women, and when asked about it, links it to the fact that he’s not gay.

“I don’t want to sleep with a trans wo­man be­cause that would be gay,” says Jonathan. Jonathan is at­tracted to a trans wo­man. He doesn’t mind that she has a pe­nis as far as at­trac­tion goes; if any­thing, it’s a bit of a turn-on for him. How­ever, Jonathan iden­ti­fies as a straight man and be­lieves that trans women are men. So he re­fuses to sleep with trans women.

I sus­pect that more cases fall un­der the sec­ond sce­nario than un­der the first. Gen­i­talia is a small part of the to­tal­ity that con­sti­tutes sex­ual at­trac­tion and most peo­ple will be at­tracted to some­one or not be­fore they know which gen­i­talia they have. Although one may pre­fer cer­tain types of sex­ual acts to oth­ers, it’s im­plau­si­ble that a small body part would negate the (strong) at­trac­tion that was al­ready es­tab­lished. Cishetero-nor­ma­tiv­ity runs deep in our so­ci­ety, and peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence strong con­scious and un­con­scious pres­sures to con­form to those stan­dards, which casts doubts on the au­then­tic­ity of swift changes in at­trac­tion. You don’t usu­ally go from be­ing at­tracted to some­one one minute to not be­ing at­tracted at all the next.

This is also con­firmed by my ex­pe­ri­ence with dat­ing apps. The more con­ven­tion­ally at­trac­tive I ap­peared, the less men seemed to care. If gen­i­talia were a strong de­ter­mi­nant of at­trac­tion, we would ex­pect the rate of peo­ple chang­ing their minds to re­main sta­ble. Were they balanc­ing their de­sire with the risk of ap­pear­ing gay for their sex­ual in­ter­est? Prob­a­bly.

Sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion is about at­trac­tion, not be­hav­iour. If you’re at­tracted to men and women, you’re bi­sex­ual whether or not you’ve slept with both men and women. Imag­ine if ex­pe­ri­ence were nec­es­sary. Could any­one be pan­sex­ual given the end­less va­ri­ety of non-bi­nary gen­ders?

Re­mem­ber, we’ve as­sumed for ar­gu­ment’s sake that there’s some­thing gay about lik­ing or sleep­ing with women who have penises. We’re forced to con­clude that Jonathan is gay. Or, if we un­der­stand sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, ei­ther bi­sex­ual or pan­sex­ual. Ei­ther way, he’s not straight.

When Jonathan tells us that he doesn’t want to sleep with trans women be­cause it con­flicts with his straight­ness, we would have to con­clude that he’s in bad faith. He’s not straight, and he’s only deny­ing his own at­trac­tion in or­der to put up a façade of straight­ness in a world that de­val­ues queer­ness. That’s pretty gay. Should Jonathan deny his own at­trac­tion in or­der to main­tain his iden­tity as straight? Should Jonathan avoid sleep­ing with peo­ple he’s at­tracted to in or­der to avoid ad­mit­ting his own queer­ness? That seems wrong. He may not want to tell oth­ers, but that’s an­other is­sue. We’re talk­ing of self- de­nial here, not of pri­vacy. Jonathan is queer whether or not he sleeps with trans women, so he might as well. Sex can be fun! There are plenty of good rea­sons not to sleep with peo­ple. “It’s gay” is not one of them.

We’re a small por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion. A bit over 1/ 200. Per­haps around one per cent for our age group. Chances are you won’t sleep with a trans wo­man even if you want to. Plus we’re re­ally bloody picky and tend to sleep with other queer and trans peo­ple, which makes it even less likely for you. So I want to point out an­other sex act where my ar­gu­ment is rel­e­vant. Peg­ging. The pre­cise def­i­ni­tion of peg­ging is un­clear once we stray out­side the bound­aries of cis ex­is­tence. From a cis per­spec­tive, peg­ging is when a wo­man puts a strap- on and en­gages in anal sex with a man as the re­cep­tive part­ner. It’s lovely, and also works for trans­fem­i­nine peo­ple who are un­able to have erec­tions. I par­tic­u­larly ap­pre­ci­ate it, on a per­sonal level, be­cause of the dys­pho­ria I ex­pe­ri­ence re­gard­ing my pe­nis. The strap- on seems to con­firm, sym­bol­i­cally, that my pe­nis doesn’t be­long there.

I’ve talked to men and women who were in­ter­ested in try­ing peg­ging with their part­ners. Women are of­ten con­cerned that their part­ner will refuse, whereas the men are con­cerned that it’d make them gay. See how my anal­ogy works? Yeah.

The same ra­tio­nale ap­plies. It’s im­ma­te­rial whether peg­ging is gay. If it’s gay, then con­grat­u­la­tions, you’re gay—or more likely bi­sex­ual or pan­sex­ual. If it’s not gay, then it’s not gay.

Ei­ther way, whether you’re gay or not isn’t based on whether you en­gage in peg­ging. So go ahead. You have a prostate, might as well use it!

The point I want to make here is this: it doesn’t mat­ter whether sleep­ing with trans women is gay or not. If it’s not gay, then it’s not gay. If it’s gay, then you’re gay for be­ing in­ter­ested—whether or not you sleep with us. In any case, sleep­ing with us doesn’t change any­thing about your queer­ness. So, stop wor­ry­ing and just do what you feel like do­ing. Don’t re­strict your­self be­cause of silly so­cial constructs.

The more con­ven­tion­ally at­trac­tive I ap­peared, the less men seemed to care [about me be­ing trans].

nelly wat | The Mcgill Daily

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