Queer and Trans: A Primer
“If you still like men, why did you transition?”
So many gay and queer trans men have been asked this very question.
The truth is, not many of us gay, queer and non-monosexual trans guys have much visibility in media, and in queer and trans communities as a whole. There are stereotypes that all of us are straight, and even confusion (in some communities, media and through representation in general) that gender identity and sexuality are the same or somehow go hand-in-hand.
Simply put, it’s not true.
To go over the basics: Sexuality/romantic attraction is who you’re attracted to sexually, romantically, spiritually or lack thereof (e.g., asexuality/aromanticism).
Gender is how you experience, feel and identify your gender – whether it be on, or off, the binary. This can also be influenced by culture, race and ethnicity. Not all of our cultures recognize only two genders, and not all cultures hold, express, feel and identify gender in the exact same way. The narrative of how we see ourselves and identify our gender is unique to every one of us.
Gender and sexuality/romantic attraction are two entirely separate entities. Gender does not determine or negate who you are, or aren’t, attracted to — and who you’re attracted to does not determine or negate your gender.
I’ve seen so many trans men and trans-masculine folks being told that that if they’re gay or attracted to other men then they’re “not really a man,” that they aren’t “masculine enough,” or are just outright pelted with homophobic slurs and micro-aggressions or are erased entirely.
Why is it such a difficult concept that a trans man can be attracted to other men? Not all of us are straight or even mono-sexual (only attracted to one gender). Some of us are gay. Some of us are bisexual. Others are pansexual or polysexual, while others of us are asexual or aromantic, etc. All of these sexual and romantic identities are valid regardless of gender.
We don’t access gender-affirming transition materials (e.g. hormones or surgeries) because of who we are, or aren’t, attracted to. We do it to affirm our gender and possibly even feel more comfortable in our skin. But it’s important to note that not all trans people have access to transition materials for myriad reasons, and not all trans people want to access transition materials — also for myriad reasons.
Keep in mind that not all trans people – in this case, trans men – are the same. Our gender does not, and never will, determine who we’re attracted to. To assume that all trans people are attracted to the “opposite gender,” or that those of us who access transition materials do so because of who we’re attracted to (or to define who we’re attracted to) is at best cis-sexist and, at worst, transphobic and queerphobic as hell. Furthermore, it only furthers the erasure that non-heterosexual, non-monosexual and asexual/aromantic trans people face every single day.
So often, systemic toxic masculinity provides us with such a small, rigid definition of what is and isn’t “manly/masculine.” Homophobia and queerphobia aren’t far from the minds of people who hold and perpetuate toxic masculinity. As gay and queer trans men, our experiences can be quite unique because we regularly experience both transphobia and homophobia/queerphobia simultaneously. This can even be intensified – for non-binary folks such as myself – who also experience binarism.
To put things in perspective, earlier this month, activist and blogger Aydian Dowling was featured on the cover of GT Magazine, a UK-based magazine that focuses on the experiences of gay and bisexual men. Why has Aydian, a straight trans guy, been allowed to take up space and take an opportunity away from a trans man who’s gay or queer? Why does it seem like GT’s writers and editors don’t understand that “transgender” and “gay” aren’t synonymous?
Personally, I think it says volumes. Where’s the space for gay and queer trans men (and trans people in general, honestly)? Though we’re trans, we’re still having heteronormativity and binarism forced on us regularly. With our intersecting identities, we’re typically not taken seriously about who we are, in the way that straight, binary trans men/people are.
Our gender has absolutely nothing to do with our sexual or romantic identity. The two don’t go hand-in-hand and never will. Our gender, transition, presentation — these don’t determine who we’re attracted to. Queer, gay, and non-binary trans people are in serious need of representation, aside from the typical white, thin, straight, cis-passing folks who are said to “represent us” in the media time and time again. It’s true that we do have privilege, and we aren’t as marginalized as other trans folks, but we need to recognize that every single transgender person is unique. No two experiences will be the same. Toxic masculinity is rife in trans male and transmasculine spaces. It’s time that we recognize that, and begin to deconstruct this rigid idea of what we do and don’t see as masculine. There is no one way that masculinity looks, and there’s no one way that trans looks, period.
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