On desperately hoping I am not like a transamorous man
BY JACQ BRASSEUR
In many ways, I consider myself really lucky. As a white settler, queer, non-binary, trans-misogyny-exempt (TME) person who was female-assigned-at-birth, I have been actively engaged in queer communities since I came out at 11 years old. I have always felt represented within my friendship circles and communities: I grew up watching trans masculine people and butch lesbians taking up space unapologetically. I have been lucky enough to have queer circles where I had a shared or similar story to other queer people like me. We could bond over our sore armpits from wearing binders for days, and our love of boy-briefs, and it was easy for me to find people who were like me in the queer communities I spent time in. I know this isn’t the case for everybody, even other trans masculine people.
Despite this, I have somehow lacked feeling a truly intimate kinship with other trans masculine communities. Throughout the past decade of trying to get comfortable in my identity as a non-binary trans masculine person, I have worked hard to unpack and challenge toxic masculinity and patriarchal attitudes that I’ve found myself emulating as a way of seeking acceptance from cis men and cisheteronormative masculine communities. Today, I find it hard to share space with other trans masculine people and bond over the same things I did as a teenager, things that are reminiscent of frat-boy or bro-like behaviour. Every time I witness a group of trans mascs taking their shirts off at a party to compare top surgery scars, it makes me think about the college parties where young straight men would drunkenly take off their shirts and chest bump. Whether or not this is a fair comparison to make, I’m not sure, but it’s a parallel I see either way. I’m still trying to sort out how much of this discomfort is wrapped up in my own masculine-guilt, my own recognition that my behaviour has (and most likely continues to) perpetuated harm against trans femmes and trans women in the queer communities I spend time in.
I don’t think I really realized how desperate I was for a close kinship with other trans or non-binary people until I found friendships with trans women and trans femmes after I moved away from my hometown to a bigger city. Today, I am blessed to be in a committed, non-monogamous partnership with a trans woman. Our chosen family includes a number of her other partners, the majority of whom are trans women. It is in this way that I consider myself exceedingly lucky. There are some days where I feel like I’m a witness to these extraordinary ways of caring and support between trans women that should be a secret. Almost like a teenage boy who has wandered into a girls’ sleepover and is watching girls relate to each other in a way he never would have imagined. I try to remind myself daily that I am a guest in the spaces that my girlfriend shares with her trans girlfriends… that my masculinity and my TME status carries responsibility within queer and trans spaces. That the transphobia and gender binarism I experience, although incredibly valid experiences are rooted in a different kind of violence than my trans girl loved ones. And in the same way, men who try to support women have to walk an allyship/chivalry/chauvinism tightrope, I find myself trying to strike a similar balance. At what point does my desire to support and protect trans women from violence become a queer version of male chauvinism?
I ask myself hundreds of questions like these while I share space with trans women and trans femmes, and the sexual spaces I share with them are no different. As with many other trans and non-binary people, my transness cannot be separated from my sexual experiences, no matter how much I wish it could be. While I’ve experienced negative things throughout my sexual relationships because of my transness, I recognize that these are nowhere near the realities of trans femmes’ near-constant fetishization and hypersexualization. And as I engage in self-criticism around how I may perpetuate toxic masculinity within trans spaces, questions around how I experience sexual attraction to trans women and trans femmes is no different. Cis straight men are simultaneously jerking off to trans women’s bodies and refusing to be in public with a trans woman, or declaring themselves as trans allies because they fantasize about sucking off a trans girl, all while referring to themselves as “transamorous”. My girlfriend and other trans women in my life regularly joke that I’m a “chaser”, and while I laugh along, I know that if I want to be truly in solidarity with trans women, I have to ask myself if there’s truth to the joke, and if I perpetuate the same violence that transamorous men do.
I spent most of my adolescence watching porn with one of my hands covering whichever portion of the screen I need to in order to be sure that I couldn’t see a man’s body. The first time I saw a trans woman’s body in porn, I was ecstatic--I didn’t want to cover her body, I wanted to witness all of it. I spent the next few months seeking out trans women in porn, and as a teenager living in a small city in Northern Canada, I couldn’t have even imagined seeking out trans women as potential partners. I remember feeling disappointed at how few porn videos included lesbian trans women; the only trans porn I could find seemed to be designed entirely for the cis male gaze, with trans women being placed as these predators who “tricked” straight men or who acted as the dominant, aggressive partner. I quickly felt like it was a hopeless mission, and returned to the sad life of watching cis lesbian porn (which was naturally designed for men).
Even before I came out as non-binary and trans masculine, I knew that I was attracted to all kinds of bodies. I knew that I was attracted to all kinds of genders, and that a person’s gender didn’t define their body. I knew that a trans man could have a body with or without a penis, and I knew that a trans woman could have a body with or without a penis. As I’ve come to meet more people who share an attraction to trans women, I’ve come to realize that this isn’t something that they all realize. There are many “transamorous” people who claim to “love trans women” but only if those trans women have certain bodies--society’s obsession with women’s bodies does not cease when women are assumed to have penises. And while I wish that I could say that my attraction to trans women has nothing to do with the fact that it is more likely they’d have a penis, I know that this isn’t the case. After all, I’ve said many times to friends that the only reason I still fuck men is because there aren’t enough women with dicks.
And so, as I seek to understand my own attraction and sexualization of trans women, I ask myself if my attraction to trans femmes is tied to my consumption of their bodies as “different-than-cis-women”? In simpler terms, why do I define my attraction to trans women as something different than my attraction to women in general? Over the years, I’ve come to believe that being specific about my attraction to trans women as romantic and sexual partners is important in a world that so often excludes trans women from the “women” category. Even within queer spaces, somebody proudly exclaiming “trans women are women!” doesn’t correlate to them including trans women under the “women-I’ll-fuck” umbrella.
When discussing ways forward with challenging tokenization or fetishization of marginalized people (whether it be trans women, fat people, Black women, or other communities) in sexual spaces, seeing people as their whole selves is pointed to as a step to building less oppressive bedrooms. But as transamorous people are watching trans porn or fantasizing about a trans woman who’ll want to top us with her cock, it can feel like an unnecessary exercise to consider the non-sexual humanity of this imagined woman.
By the first time I expressed sexual interest in a trans woman, I had no expectations about what her body would look like or how she would want to use it. I had put the onus on myself to read as many things as I could about trans women’s sexualities and stories to try and be careful to not perpetuate the fucked up things I had dabbled with when consuming trans porn or my own fantasies about trans women. While my first sexual relationship with a trans woman was only online, and quite short-lived, I took it seriously and realized that if I wasn’t careful, I could be enacting the same violence that transamorous cishet men commit against trans women every day.
As I have now become one-half of a committed partnership with another trans woman, I have spent even more time exploring and considering how our sexual relationship has shaped my continued attraction to trans women. Not only has she given me tips on how to find good lesbian trans porn that include bodies like mine and bodies like hers, but I’ve come to realize that my attraction to trans women is way more than simply the “if only more girls had cocks” conundrum, after all, my attraction to a trans woman would remain whether or not she had a penis or had surgery to get a vulva. While I appreciate how much better a woman’s penis is than a man’s, my love of trans women isn’t about the existence of a penis.
To say that my attraction to trans women isn’t about their bodies would be doing a disservice to all of the hot trans femmes I’ve been attracted to; but I experience attraction to trans women’s bodies way before I ever get to see them without their clothes on, realizing that the pleasure I get from looking at them has nothing to do with their genitals. My attraction to women is wrapped up in my love of softness, my love of fucking-up-the-patriarchy, my love of gentle kisses, and mutual care. My attraction to women is tied to how well they hold me, and how well I can hold them, and how our bodies intertwine with each other in ways where it’s impossible to tell where my body ends and hers begins.
At the end of the day, it is important to consider how we, as people who are attracted to trans women, interact and share space with the trans women we are sexual with or think about being sexual with. How are we conceptualizing their body? Is our white gaze or masculine gaze or heterosexual gaze forcing them into boxes that they don’t want to be in? Are we misconstruing our sexual interests as allyship? Are we willing to acknowledge our own complicity in a sexualized society that simultaneously hypersexualizes them while positioning them as predators? Do we hold them in our arms after we sleep with them, and offer space for them to be angry at us, disappointed in us, to expect us to do better? Are we willing to express (with their consent) our enjoyment of a sex life with them to our cishet friends and partners?
I'm asking myself all of these questions as I explore and interrogate the concept of transamory and how it does (or does not) relate to my own attractions, and while it is impossible for me to be sure that the bed I share with any trans women in the future won't perpetuate the same violence that transamorous men often enact, I can be open, honest, transparent and self-critical about how toxic (trans) masculinity impacts the sexual relationships or sexual desires I have for trans women.
Jacq Brasseur (they/them) is a white settler bigender queer organizer and social worker who is currently studying their Masters of Education, focusing on queer and trans community-based curriculum. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on Twitter at @jcqbrssr.