I will argue till I am blue in the face that sexuality is complex, shades of grey, and messy. Expect when it comes to taking shit about men in relationships with trans women or women in relationships with trans men. They could be bi or straight, but it is pure spite and homophobia to label their relationships ‘gay’ because of their love of a trans partner. Trans women are women, just as trans men are men, regardless of the genitals either partner has. Period. Fact. End of story.
Oh how I would love to end this article here, leaving love as love, and all the happily ever afters to drift into the sunset. However, society has a nasty habit of reducing sexuality down to its most basic functions and organs, leaving seeming gaping holes in my premise. Surely, if a man find a penis attractive he must be gay, just as if he is a top and has anal sex he must be gay. How reductive, yet also there is a grain of logic that must be dealt with. There is the common trope of gay erasure, whereby men who have sex with men on the low down and still see themselves as quintessentially straight in the eyes of themselves and society. Their fuck buddies in the bushes and shadows are left in the bushes and shadows. Guilt, shame, and secrets hang around them. This a battle that the gay community has fought for centuries to overcome. A man who likes anal sex with a penis owning person is either gay or bi. Simple, reductive. Settled.
Enter our trans woman heroine, I will call her Diana. Diana is a woman. A woman who carved her own path, moulding her womanhood through pills and scalpel, yet a woman in every external way. Just that she is a proud penis owning woman. She has no urge for gender reassignment surgery, does not loathe or hate her penis. In fact, she rather likes it and is very comfortable using it sexually. Not all trans women are like Diana, and Diana is a woman of her own choosing, at ease in her own skin.
Stage right, Brian drops a parcel at her door, numbers exchanged, and a quiet coffee date leads to more. They become a thing, a them. Stars align, trumpet sounds, and, well love. She is his, and he hers. Tale as old as time. A straight couple. Yes, as simple as that. Except Brian’s mates and family find out about Diana’s past, and start calling him gay and worse. Obviously, he is very upset by this, frustrated that his love for Diana, his wonder woman, is clouded by everyone else’s assumption about their union. For him, their time together is as normal as his previous relationships. It is other people that will not let them be.
For Brian, his congress with Diana is his own business, and he certainly does not feel or identify as bi or gay. While he does march at Pride and wears a rainbow pin, it is as an ally, a partner of a proud trans woman, not because he himself is a member of the community. His joy is centred in Diana, their love empowers him. All the odes and soppy poetry talk of futures built and sunsets shared as man and wife. It is a future rooted in a heteronormative view of himself and his love of an amazing woman.
It is very easy to get wrapped up in sexuality as shades of grey. Indeed, most people to a point have some form of same sex attraction, be it full blown amour or simple appreciation that the same sex can in fact be attractive. However, who you choose to sleep with, date, marry, commit to is an entirely separate matter, as is the personal label you choose to identify as. Sexuality morphs and shifts across our lives, our personal preferences can be as whimsical as the weather. The irony is that those very labels are for the sake of the observer, and thus, the point comes back to the reductive men who like anal sex must be bi or gay in the eyes of society.
As Diana and Brian highlight, heterosexual relationships are inclusive of men and penis owning women, as the very notion of the hetero dynamic is male and female. If Brian identified as bisexual, then that is his business, but he does not. He personally identifies as straight, and both him and Diana happily acknowledge their relationship as heteronormative. If we choose to question this, it says more about us as a wider society than it does about them. We choose to act as the mirrors of their souls, and it is us who will be found wanting if we doubt their description of their relationship.
It is hard enough for men to square their sexuality in general without feeling like they are lacking. Porn is a powerful indicator of the tastes and proclivities within a society, and penis owning women are a particular font from which men often drink. It is done in the dark, with shame, and any truthful acknowledgement of those attractions is met with derision and scorn. Just because a man happens to find a woman with a penis sexually and romantically attractive does not diminish his manhood or his sexuality, for it is his alone to define. Of course, there is a whole other layer of identity and masculinity wrapped up in this; namely, that being perceived as bi or gay is something lesser and weaker than ‘pure’ heteronormative attractions.
This cuts to the heart of the issue. That to find penis owning women somehow diminishes men, strips them of an alphaness that they can never claim back. It pushes their sexuality to the margins, into the grimy underbelly that punitively punishes both the men and their trans female partners. Most trans women who are murdered knew their attackers, and their deaths are directly correlated to this societal shame. By castigating men for their love of trans women we leave the door open to this barbarity, this slaughter in the dark. It is a worm that burrows and hacks its way through innocent lives. Diana has every much the right to live as her cisgender female friends, every much right to love and fuck who she pleases without fear or the sword of damnation.
This is why our choice of words and actions matter when discussing men’s sexuality with trans women. By shaming them we push them into the dark, by abnegating their joy we turn it into guilt and a gaping wound that festers. Their pride in their partner, their cherishing of every moment, should be celebrated, not brought low by base laughter.
So, yes, boy, your trans girlfriend does not make you gay. She is the light of your life, the person who brings you the morning, the stars, the sun and the moon. You are every much bi or heterosexual as you wish to define, and there is no shame in your love. To all the Brians in the world I hope your Dianas uplift your soul and complete you. There is no shame in love, only in how society treats you. For it is society’s turn to look in the mirror and acknowledge we need to do better, not yours.