Yes, I’m Trans, and Yes, I’m a Lesbian
The most common stereotype of a trans woman’s sexuality is that we’re into men; in a sense, we’re sort of next-level gay men, so into men that we seek to turn ourselves into women in order to appeal to them. This is closely linked to two other stereotypes: that we’re deceptive and that we’re sex workers, both as ways of more easily riding that coveted cis dick.
These are all grounded, of course, in oppression and hate: misogyny, because it centers the emotional lives of women on men; homophobia, because it necessarily posits gay men as manipulative; and the unique forms of hate we describe as transmisogyny.
Similarly, a common perception of trans men is that they’re next-level butch lesbians, although patriarchy prefers to ignore the existence of trans men because, by existing, they give the lie to a foundational belief of patriarchy, which is that a man may choose to divest himself of masculinity (and that “he” should thus be ridiculed), that line between male and female is utterly impermeable in the other direction; i.e. someone labeled “girl” or “woman” cannot acquire that quality of masculinity that entitles men to that position at the top of the hierarchy.
Obviously, this is bullshit, but it’s important background. I am a lesbian. I was assigned male at birth, and I like girls, and because of those two things, I never questioned my gender identity; at least, not where anyone could see it. And to the extent that I recognized that I wasn’t really a cishet man, I rationalized it away that I was better off, since most women are into men, which gave me better odds, right?
This is the part where I kinda wanna smack some sense into my younger self. See, none of my attempts at a relationship went anywhere before my marriage, because I was pretty bad at being a “man” in a putatively heterosexual relationship. There just seemed to be so many things that het women expected and that I just utterly failed to even be aware of. And my marriage is a great big bundle of ways to fail utterly at relationship, in no small part because I was trying very hard to be a Man, and it mostly meant I was controlling and paternalistic.
In the meantime, all of the romance stories I loved the most? They were f/f: femslash, manga, anime, movies every now and then. I went out of my way to take in these stories, because they felt much more true to me than all the het romance stories I saw literally everywhere.
We go to sometime in early 2010. A friend of my spouse’s has come out as a trans man, and he said something, at one point, about how all of the stuff he wrote about gay men, before he came out as trans, was partly about expressing a gay male identity. One day, a month or two later, I’m thinking about this, and also thinking about how I keep reading and wanting to write stories about queer women, and I realize that all of that’s about trying to express my identity as a queer woman.
I remember when this happened. I was at my part-time job at the bookstore café, cleaning up after close, and I had this epiphany as I’m cleaning the counter underneath and around the cookie oven. I actually stopped wiping for a moment, and then have to take care not to burn myself on the still-cooling oven as memories explode in my brain, ten thousand little moments that suddenly make sense when viewed in that light.
Before I figured this out?
Seeing something like the above would have utterly wrecked me and I would have had no idea why. So here’s what I’m getting at: I’m trans. I came to realize that because I realized that, yes, I like girls, but I like them in a gay way. (Shout out to Khaos Komix for putting that phrasing in my head; in that comic, it was a line from a gay trans man.)
Both my being trans and my being a lesbian are inseparable parts of my identity; I can’t isolate them except to say that, on some level, I knew I was a girl before I understood what sexuality was or what mine was like, but I didn’t know how to express or explain it, even to myself — but I should probably have known something was up the first time I watched a talk show that featured trans women and my only thought was “well of course they feel that way” or when I kept crushing on queer women.
Yeah, I wasn’t very good at being cishet.
Originally published at asymbina.tumblr.com.