Sexuality Labels and Transgender

Subject: Sexuality Labels and Transgender
From: TheCallan (
Date: Sat 18 Apr 1998 - 14:39:21 BST

"Are more MtF TG's than not are self-identified lesbians, neither bisexual or

For me, there seems to be four kinds of identifications, two actual and two
political. Poltically, we have to identify what identification meets our
poltical goals, both immediate goals of acceptance and future, ideal goals,
and actually, we have to know both what we desire in the ideal and what kind
of sexual behavior we would engage in tonight. I would say that these four
issues are often at odds.

I have come to believe that desire is homo or hetro -- we either want someone
like us or someone who contrasts with us. Butch/Femme lesbians, for example,
like the crackle of different, the heat of contrast, while AndroGrrls like
people like them, and there are a whole section of gay clones who love people
like them.

What this means is that our desire shifts as our gender identity shifts, and
for some of us, identity shifts quickly. If we identify as a straight man, we
may be interested in a straight woman, but when that identification shifts to
woman, we may be interested in a straight man. I know many transsexuals who,
during transition, found that while they had no interest in gay male sex with
"another man," as a women they found men more interesting. Of course, the
challenge of a transsexual woman attracting a straight man is not simple for
many, but the shift does occur.

My own personal position on this is simple: of the four classic postions
(straight man, straight woman, gay man, lesbian) the only one I never had an
interest in was gay man, because it is the only one that has no room for
women, and that means no room for that part of me. .

This hypothetical desire is very tough to identify in transgendered people,
for a number of reasons, including the clouding of the three other types of
desire and the fact that it is not easy to tell somones gender identity and
role and who they see as same/opposite from a cusror inspection. Our gender
aspects, internal gender identity is multi faceted and our gender role shifts
to different positions. We often don't have the experience to know what we
like or don't like, and even if we know, we may find ourselves unable to
attract those people because of our gender/sex dissonance.

This can be baffling to people, straight or gay. who have assumptions of a
fixed relationship of gender cues and desire. The one question I find from
gays is "Who do transgendered people want to sleep with anyway?" and that is
not simple to answer.

In any case, the roots of desire run deep, and we each have very unique
patterns of what we are attracted to and what repels us -- and how those
interact. Volumes have been written on this, and I certainly can't be
comprehensive here.

The second actual identification is who we will sleep with. This is much more
situational. It may be as simple as "anyone who asks us" or "nobody, because
I'm celibate," or "only my partner," or more complex than that. Many of us
are chameleons, kiki and shift around our partners, learning in the process

The first poltical identificaton is about how we want to communicate ourselves
to others in the moment. There are many crossdressers who identify as
heterosexual men, no matter what they actually desire, or what they will
enagage in tonight. In Brazil, for example, AIDS outreach workers have
trouble identifying all people who have male/male sex, because men who
patronize trans-women prosituted identify as a straight, for pragmatic

There are many challenges to this political identification. Just last night,
20/20 had a piece on Joann Loulan, who clearly identifies as a lesbian, but
has been with a man for the past few years. Others note transgendered people
who pass well as men, but continue to identify as lesbian to maintain a
connection with lesbian women, and on and on.

Our poltical identification of desire keeps us in a position that we feel is
important to us, and we claim because we need to.

The second political identification is what we see as an ideal. I have argued
in the past that on this poltical level, all transgendered people are
bisexual. This is not because they are equally attracted to every sex/gender
(which is a myth about bisexuals) but because they demand their partners
embrace both the masculine and feminine inside of them, the way they cross
sex/gender boundaries.

Transgender takes the meaning away from heterosexual/homosexual, because if
sex and gender are not linked clearly, what is same and different? It's why I
prefer people to actually be clear on who they desire rather than just use
homo/hetro, same/opposite labels, which are not clear unless their own
sex/gender identity/role is clear.

One crossdresser who was clear about their heterosexuality started to discuss
how sex and gender were not the same thing. It's a position I agree with, the
the linking of male-masculine-man-loves women is a vestige of hetereosexism
and is what limits us.

I asked them, if they believed sex and gender were different, were they
heterosexual or heterogenderal? Did they only want females, or did they want
people who were opposite to their gender expression, whatever it might be?
How did their gender expression as a woman, even if part time, affect their
heterosexuality and or heterogenderality?

They backed off the "sex and gender are not linked" rhetoric soon after that.

The problem with this ideal position is that it limits our linkages to groups
in the practical present, and that is important of we want social networks,
and even if we want to get laid -- many people are uncomfortable with
pansexuals in their bed.

So when we want to know about someone and their sexuality, I think there are
four questions to be asked

Who do you desire?
What acts will you engage in with whom?
How do you identify?
What do you think the ideal would be?

The problem is, for me anyway, is the most people have never taken the time to
ask themselves these questions, and understand all the threads that come
together in their desire.



This archive was generated by hypermail 2a23 : Wed 21 Jul 1999 - 18:20:52 BST