Hey Fannie,

I’m a 27 year old gay man, and I’ve been getting more involved with activism, especially trans-activism. I’ve noticed that a lot of lesbians date trans-men, but it doesn't seem to work the other way around. Why don't I see more gay men date trans-women? In fact, now that I think about it, I think I've only ever heard of trans people dating other queer people is when trans-men date lesbians. Why is this? Am I just ridiculously out of the loop?

Trying to Understand

Dear Trying,

First off, good for you sticking up for our trans siblings! We need more "conventional" homos to get behind supporting rights for our entire community and stop cutting out the T when the going gets tough.

Your question is one of those that I can't really answer. I'm not a sociologist and there aren't really studies out there on this kind of topic. So... I can only speculate. And since I'm going to enter the realm of hypothetical, I first want to say that I am far from an expert on the trans experience, so I welcome the input of my trans siblings out there to speak their minds.

The first thing that comes to mind is a book I read by the brilliant Julia Serano, "Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity." In it, Serano talks about many of the struggles Trans people and transwomen in particular face. One thing that I found interesting in her writing was how she felt feminism failed transwomen. Serano talks about how femininity as a set of traits and behaviors associated with female people (i.e. emotional, caring, cooperative, etc.) have been systematically devalued without regard to what kind of bodies are performing or embodying them. So basically, whether it's a cissexual woman subscribing to traditional gender performance, a transsexual woman acting "hyperfeminine" (as frequently accused of by feminists), or femme nelly bottoms getting their queen on; any performance of femininity is seen as an affectation, a falsehood, and a weakness. Conversely, masculinity, to varying degrees is on the whole elevated and rewarded. Being rational, level-headed, strong, and opinionated are all traits that we see as being desirable and natural.

So it makes sense to see transmen, who are marked by masculinity and therefore marked for success, achieve greater amounts of success in relationships with people, queer or otherwise. And similarly this may explain for the trend we see in transwomen not being considered desirable romantic partners by gay men. Especially since gay male culture is so addicted to testosterone, gay men practically worship the ideals of masculinity. Don't believe me? Walk a beautiful, lithe, muscular man in front of a bunch of queens and watch the conversation suddenly halt as they gawk.

It isn't only transwomen who feel the brunt of this war on the femmes. Take a look at any gay social networking site (and I use the term "social networking" lightly) and you'll find sexism plastered all over the place. "No femmes, no fats, no asians." (We'll get into the "asian" bit in another post... I have far too much to say about sexual racism than what can fit here)

Serano described a similar trend in her experience in the trans community. She found that transwomen, especially those that subscribed to traditional feminine gender performance were often scorned by the trans and genderqueer community, even though transmen often exhibited traditional masculine gender performance. She calls this valuing of subversive gender performance over that of conventional gender performance as subversivism.

So, a long story short, Trying. I don't know why you and I don't know more transwomen who date gay men. I'm sure they're out there. There are plenty of hypotheses out there why this seems to be the way things play out, but the fact of the matter is that no one really knows and we should focus on keeping our minds open and broadening our horizons, social, romantic, and sexual.

Again, I invite those with much more expertise and experience with trans folk to weigh in on the conversation.


send your questions in to askfannie@belowthebelt.org

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