I love talking, and I especially love talking about myself, and I very much especially love talking about my gender and sexuality and the interesting ways my life intersects with the dominant culture. Today's brown bag gave me and four other people who lie outside the gender binary-- "gender outlaws" if you will-- the chance to educate the Colgate community about who we are and why. Unfortunately trans** issues are as diverse as the identities that term subsumes, so trying to get through everything in one hour is literally impossible. So, I'm going to take this opportunity to throw some more information about trans* issues into the atmosphere.
Let's talk about sex. The fun kind.
We all touched a bit on being read as male or female, and what that can mean in different situations, and some of us made reference to sexuality, but we didn't get to talk in depth about navigating sexual relations as trans* people. I can't speak for anyone but myself, so I'll just talk about what it's like to be me and how I do. I don't identify as homosexual or heterosexual (or bisexual, but for different reasons); I identify as androsexual. The difference is that homosexuality and heterosexuality imply the sex of the object in relation to the sex of the subject. That is, a woman who likes women or a man who likes men is homosexual, and a man who likes women or a woman who likes men is heterosexual. But what if you're not a woman or a man? As such, I define my sexuality only by the sex of my chosen object: men ("andros" is a Greek root meaning "man"). I also identify as pansexual, but that's a story for another day. I identify as transsexual MTF, and as feminine, so for shorthand, you could say that I'm a straight woman. It's oversimplifying my identity, but when it comes to dealing with guys who don't necessarily know the first thing about gender theory, it's helpful. So how do I navigate a relationship with a guy in a climate that tries to destroy any hint of homosexuality in straight men? Very very carefully.
Have you seen the "Shit white girls say" or "Shit black girls say" or "Shit white girls say to black girls" videos? If I had to make one for "Shit straight guys say to transgirls", the number one phrase I'd put in there is "sorry, I'm straight", or my favourite phrasing, "sorry, I'm attracted to women". ......really? As Sojourner Truth would say, "Ain't I a woman?" The amount of guys I was interested in who have said that to me is too large for me to care to remember. In all but one case, my response to "sorry, I'm straight" has been, "me too." and I stopped talking to him. The problem is that when guys actually know me, they know all of me, including the fact that I was born male. Which means for straight guys, I'm off-limits no matter what. My only shot at finding a guy who will like me back is one who doesn't know who I am.
Which is one of the few ways the hook-up culture on campus could be seen as positive, because it gives me the chance to be desired, to be read as a woman and sexually valued by men. It sounds more than a touch anti-feminist, but at this point, I'll take what I can get. Once, I was at the Jug (as we do), and I started hooking up with this guy on the dance floor, and it was fantastic. Long story short (and sorry if this is TMI...oops!) he started trying to finger me, but obviously he wasn't going to find what he was trying to finger, and I'm sitting there wondering "how long is it going to take him to figure it out, and what will he do when he does?" luckily, we got spotlighted and had to stop, so I didn't have to deal with that awkward situation, but from what I've heard when he was told the next day about what happened he was cool about it.
The point is there is a fundamental ignorance about how to make love to a transwoman. Because we equate sex and gender-- and say that all women are female and all men are male-- when a guy finds a transwoman he's interested in, if he gets to the point of having sexual relations with her, it might be really difficult for him to know what to do sexually with her, which completely destroys the masculine imperative to be more sexually experienced than his mate. This is why we need to revolutionize sexuality in general; because this is but one symptom of a culture where we don't know to ask for what we want in bed. And if we don't ask, we sure as hell won't get it.
* the signifier "trans*" will be used in this article as an umbrella term for all non-cisgender or non-cissexual persons