Men are men—whether they're transgender or otherwise

By Josh Kruger
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 22 | Posted May. 21, 2014

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Big dicks loom large in my mind as a gay man. Right? I mean, I’ve been taught since adolescence that because I’m gay, I must be into penises. If I weren’t all about the cock, well, that would mean I’d be a straight guy.

I’m not sure anymore whether that sounds like common sense, or whether it just sounds ridiculous.

Practically speaking, my whole life, I’ve exclusively formed relationships with, and had sex with, other guys born male who identified as men (also known as cisgender men, to use the technical lingo). Some people call this exclusively focused sexuality being a “gold star gay.” For me, it’s just who I am; it’s just what God created.

So you can imagine my chagrin when a really sexy guy recently got my figurative motor humming, and it turned out he was trans. We’re not talking about a crush here; we’re talking completely involuntary physical responses at the mere sight of this guy—good old-fashioned animalistic passion.

I was a bit confused. How could I, a gay man, be so attracted to someone not born male? Did it mean I’m—OMG—less gay than I thought?

It wasn’t the first time I’d found myself connecting with a trans guy. Years ago, on GrindR, one of the hottest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of exchanging messages with was also trans. What a wonderful conversation we had, too: He was candid and willing to tolerate my unintentional-yet-probably-still-annoying ignorance about trans life, and I was keeping my mind open just enough to entertain the possibility of meeting.

When he thanked me for asking him questions rather than rejecting him out of hand, I felt—as Obi-Wan Kenobi would put it—a disturbance in the force. Here’s what bothered me: The fact that he went out of his way to thank me for not being a dickhead about his gender identity suggested pretty strongly that he often did encounter gay men being dickheads about his gender identity.

We never got together, but not because he was a trans man; it just came down to insurmountable scheduling conflicts. We were two dudes who couldn’t find the privacy necessary to be two dudes naked together. When you put it that way, it sounds pretty gay, right?

And yet gay social mores being what they are, this situation—being sexually aroused by a trans man—elicits from my friends at least bemusement or, occasionally, outright hostility. “I thought you loved sucking cock,” one of them said when I told him about my attraction.

This idea of forcing sexual expression to match social identity is a pervasive one. And I was, I realized, close to succumbing to it myself: Here I was, overanalyzing my arousal and giving myself an existential crisis, instead of just running with it.

I mean, obviously, by virtue of what I was feeling toward this guy both sexually and emotionally, it isn’t always the case that gayness simply equals being born male and liking other cisgender males. So why did I need to be confused about anything? What the hell does the gender identity of those I’m sexually or emotionally attracted to have to do with my own identity as a gay man? Well—a lot, actually, and that’s sort of the point. I’m gay and attracted to men. Trans men are men. Ergo, it’s not at all weird for me to be attracted to a trans man.

Sexual expression and gender identity, after all, are two very different things.

You’d think gay people would understand that. And yet, even among the gay community, ignorance about how that fact relates to trans people is remarkably widespread.

Dr. Jillian Weiss, a law professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey and a trans woman, talks about her own difficulties with gay men and acceptance. Writing for The Bilerico Project (bilerico.com), she indicates that when she started transitioning, she “received much negative feedback” from her gay friends. And indeed, the reason she was discussing the topic in the first place was as a response to an outright transphobic diatribe by an “old guard” gay activist on that same website.

When you start to look at sexual expression through the lens of love and attraction, you start to realize just how ridiculous this situation is. The quaintly simplistic identities society has bestowed upon us—identities like “gay” or “straight” or even “bisexual”—just plain don’t say all that needs to be said in order to describe the true range of people’s sexual behavior.

Over a decade ago, U.S. soldier Barry Winchell was beaten to death. Most media reports, as well as the gay activist establishment, canonized Winchell as the next Matthew Shepard. There was only one problem: Winchell was straight, and his lover was actually a trans woman named Calpernia Addams.

David France writes for The New York Times: “The fact is that Winchell, killed for being gay, wasn’t gay ... [he] only ever dated biological women before [and] was in love with” a trans woman.

Winchell himself was cisgender. And he was attracted to women. That’s who he dated. It was just that this woman was trans.

Lots of media commentators ignored Winchell’s apparent straightness, though, opting to force a male identity upon Addams and thus a gay identity upon the couple. That wasn’t exactly unintentional, either: Queer rights activists needed a narrative, and the nuance of this scenario wouldn’t serve the rubber-stamp talking points too well. As France puts it: “The more that Winchell was held up as a martyr for gay equality, the less room there [had] been for explaining such sloppy complications.” Winchell and Addams, he said, “occupied a rare middle ground encompassing both, and neither: socially heterosexual, sexually homosexual, uncomfortably on the margins of all worlds.”

The irony is that the media’s oversimplification of the case played upon precisely the same ignorance that had fueled Winchell’s homophobic killers—to whom the practical details of Winchell’s sexual expression and his lover’s gender identity mattered little. They were different. They weren’t doing things right. If a man loves a woman who used to be a man, those murderous assholes figured, he must be gay.

When you put it that way, it sounds ridiculous. Which forces me to ask myself: What’s the difference between that erroneous thinking and my own hand-wringing over my attraction to trans men?

There is no difference, actually. The reality is, I am operating from a place of social pressure, intentional or not, whenever I find my attraction to trans men “novel” or “curious.” All I’m doing is reinforcing the arbitrary idea of simple sexual identities—which, really, seem to do much more harm than good nowadays.

Inevitably, when you encounter something new, questions will arise. Some are rooted in a good-natured curiosity others, though, are just willfully ignorant. “How does it work?” a straight person will often feel entitled to ask a gay acquaintance, or a cisgender person will ask a transgender acquaintance, without having the sort of intimate relationship that would make that question relevant. I find it fascinating we feel OK asking these questions of queer folks when we’d never ask, say, our straight parents what they do in bed.

Really, at the end of the day, if your entire sexual expression is centered around one eight-inch detail (um, if you’re lucky), it is possible that you may just have an incredibly boring sex life. Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I should limit my relationships—sexual or otherwise. We gay men, rightly, make many demands of society in terms of accepting our being different. It’s about time we demanded from ourselves this same level of acceptance: of trans men and trans women.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 22 of 22
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1. KRS said... on May 22, 2014 at 10:52PM

“"Transmen" have female bodies and a female who takes testosterone is not a male. You can have sex with whom you want but you're a bisexual if you desire to be intimate with both sexes. "Trans" is a facade and doesn't change a person's biological sex. Saying that a gay man must consider everybody who identifies as a "man" not goes against logical reasoning (unless you consider all humans to be bisexual, consider being gay a choice or think that people are attracted to "gender identities"). When we are sexually intimate with somebody their physical bodies matter not their "gender identity". Gender identity is the ultimate western individualism narcissism as it is not based in reality. You are bissexual not gay, I suggest you own it.

It is not about "one eight-inch detail", gay males desire to be intimate only with men (that is adult human males), unless you consider sexual orientation to revolve around a person's "gender identity" and not the reality of sexual dimorphism.”

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2. read said... on May 22, 2014 at 11:29PM

“Not all trans men have female bodies, KRS. Not ALL gay men HAVE to consider anything. Sweeping generalizations contribute to the ignorance. bigotry and hatred in and of the LGBT community. It's time we stand together.”

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3. KRS said... on May 23, 2014 at 12:46AM

“Gay = exclusively attracted to the same sex.

A "trans man" is biologically female, injecting testosterone and having surgeons take part of your skin tissue and graft it into a "penis" does not make you male bodied anymore than I can strap on wings and become a bird. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender dysphoria and thinking you're the opposite sex, so there is nothing to "stand together" about.

If you want sex and relationships with "transmen" as a man you're bisexual, good for you! Nobody is stopping you from having a consensual relationship. It's high time trans and "queers" aka bisexuals stop lecturing and pontificating to gays and lesbians that our sexual orientation is wrong and needs to be fixed reparative therapy 2.0 style.

I'm proud to be a gay man, proud to fuck society and only love other males. Trans seems to have a problem with people like me.”

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4. Anonymous said... on May 23, 2014 at 01:22AM

“KRS, would you have sex with a woman with a penis? would you refuse to have sex with a cis man who lost his penis in an accident or due to a medical condition?

because by reducing your sexuality down to a body part, you're basically suggesting that you aren't attracted to men, you're attracted to penis.

your desire for penis isn't part of your orientation, it's part of your type. I fully understand there are gay men for whom it's a dealbreaker for their boyfriend to lack a penis. that's fine. for some straight men, it's a dealbreaker for girls to have a flat chest. for some lesbians, it's a dealbreaker for a girl to have a penis. that's fine.

nobody has a problem with your sexuality except you. this isn't about your sexuality. this is about trying to erase trans men and insist they're women simply because they lack a penis. does that mean the cis man I mentioned before who lost his penis is now suddenly a woman?”

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5. KRS said... on May 23, 2014 at 03:28AM

“I'm attracted to biological men with a prostate, scrotum and penis and I'm not going to answer impossible hypertheticals over a woman who happens to have a penis. As for eunuchs, I wouldn't date one but they're still men biologically raised as boys and I don't think it would be mutually exclusive for a gay man to date/have sex with a man who lost his penis. No man however has a vagina and ovaries that's just fact.

If you're a bi man dating a "transman" good for you! But you're not gay sorry.”

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6. Anonymous said... on May 23, 2014 at 05:40AM

“So apparently it's not okay for people to determine their own genders but some asshole on the internet has the authority to? Good to know! This may come as a shock to you but biological terminology, like anything, is defined by subjective, human observations. I like how you only arguments are to use you rudimentary understanding of biology and put quote marks around everything.

If you want to be an asshole and tell people what they can and can't identify as, that's your prerogative, but trans men are still men and you're still an asshole. Sorry!”

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7. common sense said... on May 23, 2014 at 07:21AM

“Great posts KRS.

There is no such thing as trans. Period. These are people who are mentally ill and wrongly assume they can change their sex. You can't!! "transmen" are still women and "traswomen" are still men. "trans" people are quite bigoted in their attempt to force their psychosis on the world. They have no business lecturing lesbians and gays and trying to force themselves on us. Medical industry is largely to blame for this. They're only interested in making money.”

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8. Anonymous said... on May 23, 2014 at 09:47AM

“KRS & "common sense", you have nothing to worry about. With those backwards attitudes and way outdated ideas, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that a trans person, or any reasonably intelligent person is going to be interested in having sex with you.

Fantastic article, Josh.”

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9. AP said... on May 23, 2014 at 10:14AM

“Guess what "gentlemen"....humans and animals are not all born exclusively male or female. There are bodies that don't fully belong in either category. And those categories exist only in our minds and on paper. The idea of sexual orientation is a concept only formed in the last 100 years. Again, it exists in our minds and on "either / or" paper. There are civilizations out there that still do not recognize that a homosexual identity exists....yet recognize and support same-sex acts and relationships. The point of this article is to say that we need to stop freaking out when our attractions to other people stray at the boundaries of what society has created as sexual orientation identities and gender identities. KSR - this article is not telling you have to start sleeping with trans men. It's telling you you don't have to freak out if you someday find yourself aftracted to one. And if you do, no one should tell you you have to give up your self prescribed gay identity.”

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10. Anonymous said... on May 23, 2014 at 11:04AM

“Wow. What bias and hatred. Actually science has shown that trans women's brains are likely formed in the mother's uterus -- due to certain type of hormonal activity. And trans brains are, according to MRI studies, like female brains not male brains. As a recent article in the Wall Street Journal said, when reviewing the scientific research: " The issue isn't that sometimes people believe they are of a different gender than they actually are. Remarkably, instead, it's that sometimes people are born with bodies whose gender is different from what they actually are."”

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11. Anonymous said... on May 23, 2014 at 11:33AM

“Who are we kidding that the crotch is the only difference? It's also about the big wide hips, the severe mastectomy scars, the butchered female nipples, the very female way that fat is distributed on the body, the face that's so clearly that if a scruffy woman. I don't care how passable trans people wish they were, the rest of us are acutely aware that we're looking at a female into some pretty rad body mod / medical experimentation. I'd be happy to have sex with a penis-amputee, because I wouldn't be humoring some sexist poseur, and I would have a mental connection knowing that the guy is like me and knows that what we are was not purchased like a pack of gum.”

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12. Mike said... on May 23, 2014 at 11:42AM

“Wow, KRS must be a bottom, if all he cares about is the D.

I know several Trans-men that look more male than most men out there. Hell, until one of them told me last weekend, I had no idea. I am a gay male, I came out as one when I was 15 years old. I am now 40 years old, and still identify as a gay male. Yet, I would probably date the trans-man I met this last weekend, given the chance. And yes, that still makes me gay.”

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13. JTR said... on May 23, 2014 at 12:14PM

“Wow, the anonymous in comment #11 is woefully uninformed. First off, some trans people transition before going through the wrong puberty, in which case the absolute only difference is the genitalia. Everything else you mentioned are possible side effects of going through the wrong puberty before transition. Also, fat redistribution changes with hormones so unless you're thinking about pre/non-medical transition trans people, you're wrong. I think you're falling for what's known as the toupee fallacy. (That is, you only notice the people who don't pass, because you have no idea that the people who do pass are trans unless they tell you, and they're obviously not going to tell you if they know that this is how you will react).”

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14. JTR said... on May 23, 2014 at 12:15PM

“Trans people don't think that gender can be bought either. They just want their body to align with their gender. You accept that traditionally intersex people exist (if you don't, you're literally not worth arguing to because their existence is very easily demonstrated). That is, some people have parts of their sexual differentiation that don't match the other parts. If this is so, then why is it so hard to believe that the sexual differentiation of the brain can be at odds with that of the rest of the body? If there were no such thing as sexual differentiation of the brain, it wouldn't matter what gender that intersex people were assigned to, they would take to it. However, this isn't true, because like everyone else, they have an innate gender identity. Why is this any different in trans people? (Someday, being trans is going to be recognized as a type of intersex, because the brain is a body part too and not just some magical, Cartesian dualist entity.)”

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15. Anonymous said... on May 23, 2014 at 04:54PM

“How can "innate gender identity" be anything but a sexist and homophobic concept? Where does that leave me, a man who loves men? Does that mean I have a female gender identity? What about a woman who's assertive and athletic? Are those male things in any way other than as cultural constructs? Fuck your queer ideology and fuck your regressive eugenicist bullshit. Whatever type of brain I have is by definition a male brain, because I'm a male and it's my brain. Whatever way I behave is by definition manly behaviour, because I'm a man and I'm behaving than way. Who I am on the inside doesnt "match" shit. You queer people should really educate yourselves about the difference between sex and gender.”

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16. Anonymous said... on May 23, 2014 at 05:15PM

“Intersex people exist, and trans isn't intersex. Quit co-opting and appropriating intersex and quit co-opting and appropriating the gay and lesbian movement. If you don't like the straightjacket assigned to your sex, what is and isn't considered mannish or womannish, your enemy is sexism. Also known as the cultural invention of GENDER. Cut your hair as short as you like.”

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17. Anonymous said... on May 24, 2014 at 02:47PM

“@16 quit co-opting transgender people and telling us what our identities should mean or are, or what our sex is and basing that around genitalia or gonads or chromosomes. You LG's are the enemy, pure and simple, it can be no other way...You make yourselves the enemies of transgender people every time you participate in the societal coercion of our identities. You people are fucking privileged lunatics with no idea what being transgender or intersex is, QUIT CO-OPTING INTERSEX PEOPLE FOR YOUR TRANSPHOBIA you stupid fucking cisprivileged idiot.

Also @15 my existence isn't a "homophobic" what's queerphobic was all the beatings my dad gave me when I was three years old, claiming to be a little girl, until I was bleeding out of my nose and ears, and had to have fucking tubes put into my ears due to the infections that resulted. Hundreds of beatings well beyond anything that clueless delusional privileged dipshits like you can even fathom.”

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18. More please said... on May 25, 2014 at 01:16PM

“Josh, you haven't taken it far enough. Your next assignment is to get hard for a biological woman with breasts, body fat, vagina and everything else, as long as she identifies as male. After all, that's what matters!! Enough with the "really sexy guy" trope. What matters is a person's inner identity. Get with the program, and please, continue to educate your gay male peers about their sexuality.”

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19. Jack said... on May 26, 2014 at 03:50PM

“@17 when trans peoples' 'identities' require that gay people be coerced into heterosexual sex, you bet we'll make ourselves your enemy. telling gay guys they have to like pussy or else, what a lot you have in common with the religious right.”

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20. AltheaLost said... on May 29, 2014 at 02:46AM

“Lol, I love how a group of people who experienced massive oppression and hatred based on others not understanding (and not wanting to understand) their identity are now giving the same attitude to those who identify differently. Pot, meet kettle, kettle meet pot.”

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21. eliana said... on Aug 14, 2014 at 03:27PM

“Straight's spend more time holding the closet door open,then is really needed.If your gay then be gay.I'm worried! First Smarts closed . Then Olney,closed.then Sneekers closed,and other countless gay bars. Now Sister's closed.And Mel wants to make it a straight bar. Chucks was to be straight,but, the gay's would not let it go. So, in the end Chucks failed and we pray Mel's will fail too. It's just something about a closet.”

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22. Victoria said... on Oct 20, 2014 at 11:48PM

“@20 I was thinking the exact same thing. I am ASTONISHED that the gay and lesbian community, a community that suffers from constant heteronormative oppression, would do the EXACT same thing to the trans community. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Nobody is pushing an agenda or forcing anyone to sleep with anyone. Gender and sexuality have the possibility to be fluid and this article is trying to express that very possibility. Keep an open mind and stop attacking each other. Let's remember that transgender/gay/lesbian/queer and the like are fighting against society for acceptance and rights, so support and listen to each other. I want to throw up from reading some of these ignorant and cowardly comments. Stop trying to protect orientation and accept the fact that people are not always cookie-cutter.”

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