A straight, cisgender guy sits alone at a table, the glow of his phone illuminating wide, darting eyes. He’s visibly anxious. I walk in and see him before he sees me. I study him. Our eyes lock. I’ll never forget the deer-in-the-headlights look on his face.
I’m a transgender woman. I started talking to this guy online. He’s in his 20s, dark and handsome. After I twisted his arm, he finally agreed to meet me in public. Of course, he initially wanted to just come to my place for quick, convenient and “discreet” sex, but I wouldn’t allow it. I’ve taken to making guys meet me in public like an actual, human woman.
A park bench, a coffee shop, a restaurant — where we meet and who the guy is doesn’t matter. It’s always the same, trans-attracted dude, and the same look of fear on his face. I’ve seen it before, and I will see it again.
Dating and disclosing while trans can be a minefield of fragile masculinity and shaky sexuality.
I’ve been dating and hooking up as an out-and-proud trans girl for the last seven years. I meet guys the regular way, out in the world, but I’ve met most of my casual liaisons and sexcapades online. OkCupid, Plenty Of Fish, Badoo, Blendr, Tinder, Whipler, Bumble. Let’s pretend it ends there.
What I’ve learned along the way is that there are countless trans-attracted men who quietly and confidentially admire and lust after trans women. I’m talking about regular dudes who self-identify as straight and “only ever” date and hook up with cisgender women. (Mostly.) You probably never hear about it, because they can’t and won’t talk about it.
Online, it’s easy for guys to find and connect with trans women and explore their curiosity and pursue their attraction. There are many apps and websites dedicated specifically to trans dating. These interactions happen on regular dating sites and hookup apps, as well as through social media and in real life. But they always seem to happen on the sly.
It’s this clandestine culture and underground world that I’ve become privy to. In my world as a trans girl, this is an accepted reality. It’s normal. But to the rest of the non-queer world, it may as well be an alternate dimension like the Upside Down.
The secrecy and discretion that cisgender, heterosexual guys ask for seems to stem from internalized stigma, transphobia and homophobia. It’s the misconception that liking a trans girl is somehow “gay,” which in turn is somehow wrong or shameful. False and false. Trans women are women, but social conditioning prevents many men from seeing that.
This transphobia is underscored by instances of straight, cisgender men who have been outed in the media and shamed, trolled or put on trial for their attraction to trans women. This is alarming and sad. In the case of Maurice Willoughby, it can be fatal.
I’m so fed up with this. My wish is that trans admirers and trans-attracted men come out of hiding. My dream is that dating, loving, marrying and having families with trans people is normalized.
‘I deserve to walk in the sun with a man who loves me’
Dating and fucking while trans has been equally exhilarating and disheartening.
I prefer to meet a guy for the first time at a cafe or somewhere communal to vibe him out — mostly because I want to be treated like a regular girl and shown a good time, but also for my safety as a trans girl.
Many guys, on the other hand, want to slide into my apartment and slide into me like they slide into my DMs — then bounce. Insult is added to offence when they request to be “discreet” about the whole thing. It usually goes some variation of:
“I respect you babe but let’s keep it discreet”
“That’s cool hun but I like discretion, I’m private if you know what I mean haha”
“I don’t mind that you’re trans and all but can we do it discreetly tho?”
No. Just — stop. Meeting a trans girl isn’t some clandestine operation.
I’ve been told that I’m very feminine and pass as female (a problematic privilege), but that doesn’t seem to reassure these straight dudes that everything will be OK when we meet. They’re afraid of being found out, persecuted and rejected.
That’s fair, I get it. I really do. Social stigma is real.
But it seems they don’t consider how their actions affect me. I’m treated like a perpetual post-midnight booty call, reduced to some fetish or kink that can only be explored under a hidden veil of shame. It makes me feel dirty, like a horrible secret. It’s a degrading, disgraceful feeling to not want to be seen with — to be unwanted and unacknowledged is rejection.
It impacts the heart, stings the soul.
When I was in my 20s, I allowed that bullshit to happen. I was naive and wanted to get my jollies, too. I used them like they used me. But I grew up and grew tired of their shit. As I entered my 30s and matured into womanhood, I learned my value and worth. I learned to love and respect myself. There’s a lot more now that I just won’t put up with. I now know that I deserve to walk in the sun with a man who loves me.
Like our girl Laverne Cox says, trans girls deserve for a man to declare their love and claim us publicly as their girlfriend when we’re dating. But what will it take for trans-attracted guys to overcome their unfounded shame and thirst for discretion?
To start, guys need to start talking to their bros about the trans girls they’re attracted to or hooking up with. When they do, they’ll most likely find they have something in common, because their friends probably like trans girls, too.
And for the men who are in secret relationships with trans women, but haven’t told their friends and family, I hope they find the support and courage they need to be honest with themselves, their family and peers.
What is needed is for them to step out into the open, show public affection — holding her hand on the street is so simple, yet so revolutionary.
They owe it to their women to say, “Yes, this is my girlfriend, she is trans and I love her.”
And, hopefully, a parent will say, “Oh that’s sweet, honey, good for you. Where did you two meet? Pass the potatoes please.”
I know we’re a long way from that. But these men do currently exist. They’re out there, they’re real. Like my loving man, for instance. I’ve been in a relationship with a straight, cisgender man for three years. He loves me publicly and shamelessly. In fact, he’s proud of me being trans. He is a wonderful ally and supports me in every way that I need.
So, to all the trans women waiting for their ideal relationship, whatever that looks like to you, I want you to know it’s possible and they’re waiting for you, too. You deserve shameless love and affection.
And to all the straight guys who shamelessly, proudly and publicly date and love us, I admire you for being man enough to love a trans girl.
A version of this opinion article originally appeared in the Brockton Writer’s Series.
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