Amos Mac recently interviewed some non-trans guys who have been mistaken as trans men. (Read the interviews in full here.) There was one instance when one of these cis men was read as trans in a semi-sexual situation and the person who had mistaken him for trans was actually upset to learn that he wasn’t. I’m going to talk about that now and I’m going to throw a little warning out because it could be triggering (particularly for binary-identified FTMs and MTMs) for reasons I will discuss further on.
Here is an excerpt from Rico’s interview:
I don’t know, but it was like the queer bar or whatever so we were there. I was dancing with all these beautiful ladies and I was like, “Yay, they love me here in SF!” I was super excited, and one of them started like gettin’ all over me and I was like, “Alright, she’s hot, whatever, I’m into it.” We made out a little bit, then I went to get a drink at the bar. She came up behind me and grabbed my crotch. I looked at her and she turned PALE face white. She was like, “What are you doing here at DYKE NIGHT?” And I was like, “I didn’t know that was what night it was.” She got super offended even though I was the one who just got groped.
So I go to my trans friend and told him what happened and he was like, “It’s because they all assume you’re trans.”
This bothered me a lot. Trans men are men. Someone who is attracted to us should be attracted to us as men, otherwise they are not seeing us for who we truly are and are not affirming our identities. Along the same line of thought, it’s a little upsetting to me that the woman in this story would be so outraged that he was at “dyke night” though she was more than accepting (I’d say excited even) about a trans man being at dyke night. While I’m certainly (and obviously, given my writing for Autostraddle) open to discussions about where some trans men might fit in queer women’s spaces, depending on histories, motives, and identities of everyone involved, I would say that a club night is much more about pure attraction. And if this woman believes a cis man should not be at dyke night, I’d assume it’s because he is a man and what dyke would want a man… and a non-cis man should fit into that logic, as well.
I read this story as someone failing to see the maleness of a trans man or at least minimalizing it in the face of his female history and/or anatomy.
Which brings me to the other thing that bothered me about this story. When she groped him and assumedly felt his penis she immediately “knew” he wasn’t trans. There are a LOT of assumptions made (especially in queer circles) about FTM/MTM genitalia. A lot of trans men have penises, people. Some of them are packers, some are prosthetics, and some are the results of surgery. I recently met a young man who had bottom surgery when he was 18. Not all trans men lack dicks. This misunderstanding is becoming a growing pet peeve of mine.
AND if a man is trans, he may have bottom dysphoria and might not want to be touched (a good amount of pre-op trans men prefer to not have sexual contact like that) especially so early on into a “romance.” I mean, I think it is incredibly offensive to grope anyone like that and is actually sexual assault when consent so clearly has not been given. But it just adds insult to injury that she was doing this to someone whom she believed to be a non-/pre-op transgender man.
But back to my main issue with this story… this is not me saying that I disagree with a queer women’s ability/right to be attracted to a trans man and claim queer status. I even support a lesbian-identified woman claiming that label while being involved with a trans man as long as she is attracted to him as a man and he is okay with her identity (lesbian is often an important political and/or social identity, and I know lesbians who have had relationships with non-trans men and continued to identify as a lesbian)… that’s an issue of identity politics for someone else to debate. I don’t like to get bogged down with who has a “right” to certain labels.
This is also not me taking issue with people who may be particularly attracted to trans people. Or to the bodies of trans people in particular stages of transition (i.e. someone who is attracted to pre-T trans men because they like feminine men or someone who is attracted to transitioned non-op trans men because they like men but not penises, etc.). I’m actually really cool with that. And I don’t think this story is an example of that. This is a woman who based upon her defensiveness about dyke night identifies as a lover of women. She was attracted to a man based on his trans status because she saw it as making him less of a man.
Which it doesn’t.
I’ve debated for a long time putting my trans status on my OKCupid dating profile (yes, I’ve got one - I’m told lots of cool people do, okay…). As a non- or pre-op trans guy, it is important that I tell my romantic partners at some point previous to a physical encounter, so disclosure is something I definitely intend to do with anyone I meet through OKC. BUT, I worry that putting FTM on my profile will attract women like the one in the story, who may be attracted to me, but would be for the wrong reasons, which would actually make me feel pretty awfully.
Disclaimer - still sick with fever. I know, it’s been going on for forever - I relapsed! But anyway, not totally positive I’ve written this with clarity and conciseness.