What's My Next Step?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Question

I am a gay transman who wants to know if it is possible for a relationship with a straight man to work out. We seem to have a lot in common when we talk on-line or on the phone. But I am really afraid to meet him in person. What if he is expecting me to still be like a woman? I don't want to disappoint him but I also don't want to go backwards. It has been too hard for me to get to where I am with my gender identity today. But I am also very lonely. I don't think it is good for me to go so long without human touch. He says he has only been with transwomen in the past and he understands my situation is similar but different. I have been sleeping with his photograph next to my bed for three weeks now. He has offered to come visit me any time I want to see him. Am I being stupid? Sometimes I think I should just stop talking to him and break things off completely. But then he sends me a sweet e-mail or asks to chat, and I want somebody to be there for me. (I want to be there for them as well. This letter probably makes me sound like a do-me queen.) What does your experience tell you? From what I can tell, transgendered people rarely find happiness in a relationship anyway. So maybe I shouldn't even try.

Answer

Wow. What a tough question. So much depends on who your friend is, as an individual, and I don't know him well enough to be able to say run away or marry him. Instead, I think I should just point out a few of the possibilities. Then you can ask him questions or get to know him better and see if things are going in a good direction or not.

You deserve to be loved and desired for the man that you are. I think that's the most important factor in this potential relationship. All transmen need to be with a partner who validates our gender. Obviously, straight men tend to date women. So I am curious about how he intends to relate to you. Does he believe that because you were born female, you will still make a suitable partner?

I would have fewer qualms about this if he described himself as bisexual. If he has no sexual interest in men at all, he might be turned off by your masculinity. You might feel that in order to please him, you should become more feminine. This would be confusing for you and it would also invalidate your struggle to live as a man.

Maybe he is secretly curious about having sex with men. The idea of having sex with another, genetic or born man may be too intimidating. He might hope that you would allow him to experiment with man-to-man sex without being too scary. In that case, you might have to deal with some homophobia or self-hatred. For men who have previously been straight, a good sexual experience with another man can be quite world-altering. Sometimes they just roll with it and are happy to have more choices; sometimes they go through an identity crisis.

If you still have the genitals you were born with, he could be assuming that they are available for penetration, and as long as the two of you can have intercourse, your appearance doesn't matter. While some transmen do enjoy penetration, others do not; you should probably be clear with him about where you are comfortable being touched and what kinds of sex you don't want to experience. You don't have to let him penetrate you in order to be a good lover.

Unfortunately, there is no term to describe people who are aroused by or attracted to transsexuals. Given your friend's experience with transwomen, he may fit that category. He may simply like being around people who are differently gendered. In that case, terms like "gay" or "straight" have little meaning. He might very well be able to understand your unique life experience and give you support for how hard it has been to achieve a male identity.

Another thing to remember is that the way people behave and the way that they talk about or label themselves are often radically different. There are straight men who get fucked in public restrooms and straight women who have affairs with their girlfriends; there are gay men who enjoy sex with women once in a while and lesbians who like sex with men if the circumstances are right. With a seductive and experienced partner who knows how to be persuasive, people can stretch their limits in all kinds of surprising and miraculous ways.

There are two reasons (at least) why you could be afraid. You might be reluctant to see him because of something he's said that leads you to believe he perceives you as a woman, or as partly female, and wants to date you or have sex with you because of that belief. If that is true, don't see him. Keep looking. There are men out there who like to have sex with transmen. Maybe you are nervous because you know that talking can't take this relationship any further. It's time to meet in person and see if there's chemistry. If so, you've just got a case of performance anxiety. Bite your nails, twiddle your thumbs, tap your toe, but make an appointment to get together.

Sometimes in life, it doesn't matter whether you open Door A or Door B, it's only important that you open a door, either one, so you can move forward. Just don't let yourself be stalled. Grab that gear shift (yours or his) and go for it!

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