Content Notice: My thoughts below the article speak frankly of my sexuality as a trans woman.
Lauren Tamaki writes on The Transgender Dating Dilemma:
I’m surprised at how often I encounter people — typically cisgender men — who don’t understand what transgender means, even in a world where Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox make headlines. Despite the slowly turning tides, dealing with these potential partners is difficult because I often have serve as both and therapist and a teacher.
Sometimes the response has been positive. A few people — both men and women — have had a sense I was trans before I even told them. Other times, potential partners seemed to feel pity for me and quietly congratulated themselves for deigning to date me; I’ve had to check the value I’ve placed on cis people who dared to consider me worthy of their attraction. Still other times, the response — particularly from cis men — has been overwhelmingly negative: “If I had known, I never would have wasted my time” or “How could you think I’d be interested in that?” or the misguided “I’m not gay.”
Then there are the “experimenters.” The ones who say, “I’ve never been with a girl like you, but I’ve always wanted to.” I knew one guy who hoped to hook up with me as his first-time fetish, but when we discussed if he’d ever seriously date a trans woman, it was a whole different story. He had no problem having sex with or hanging out with a trans woman, but didn’t really see their value as actual partners. Aside from worrying about what his family and friends would think, he had decided that since trans women couldn’t have children, he didn’t want to date one.
I can relate. Ugh.
There’s no respite in Queer dating, either:
Queer women’s circles are particularly plagued by transmisogyny. Being a “gold star lesbian” means never having had sex with a man or with a penis — that status is viewed as an achievement. Lesbians have to have a certain body, and only have sex with certain bodies, in order to be the “best” queer women — which doesn’t only shame trans women, but also shames the women who have loved them.
When I hear that someone doesn’t want to have sex with a trans woman because of her penis — say, a lesbian who wants to maintain her gold star status or a straight man who insists he isn’t “gay” — I hear assumptions about how that sex would play out. Many trans women who have penises are not interested in acknowledging that body part during sex, and there are many ways to be respectful of that. Trans women don’t all have the same genital configuration or surgical history, either — our bodies are all different.
I’m shocked to live in a world where the notion of negotiating prior to sex sounds alien to most people. Not taking my partner’s pleasure for granted means, you know, asking them about their turn-ons, what buttons they want pushed, getting feedback during sex, checking in during sex, etc. What this means is I often discover sexual (in)compatibility before we start fucking, regardless of who or what the person is, but I’m making that decision based on what they tell me rather than assuming they like it a certain way.
This has weirded people out. Which has weirded me out. You assume what feels good to a person based on their body? What the fuck? Why not assume what cuisine they prefer based on their skin colour? You’d be just as wrong either way.
Those assumptions go on to inform the decision on whether or not to engage sexually, despite that many of these people don’t stop to confirm which ones are true, if any. For example: Chasers assuming I have any interest in giving anal sex. Not only am I incapable of doing such (at least not without toys), but I have zero interest in doing so. Yet I am pursued by them under the assumption that I not only can fulfill this request, but want to. What pleases me is simply taken for granted because of my body. Cishet men definitely aren’t the only ones guilty of doing this.