I want to have a conversation on gender and sexuality through this article. Sex is not equal to gender and gender is not equal to sexuality. While talking about sex and gender we all know that transgender persons are those whose assigned gender at birth doesn’t match their gender identity. In progressive spaces and queer movements, people try to be trans-friendly by respecting your gender identity. If you are a trans man automatically a so-called progressive person or a person who is aware my gender will try to address me with my correct pronoun. I appreciate that and it helps me to be comfortable in that space. When I feel safe in a space I come out as a trans man and I never ever use my dead name /birth name in any space.
However, there is something that often happens in these spaces that bothers me. I really think that everywhere people see gender and sexuality together. Sometimes, to appear cool or just to initiate a conversation with me people ask about my relationship. When they ask me about my partner they often assume that I must have a girlfriend or, at the least, I must be dating a girl. The moment I say that my partner is not a girl but a transmasculine person then my gender identity is questioned in that space by that person. This questioning about my gender identity is not limited to me but also reflects on my partner’s gender identity. People start questioning who is a man and who is a woman in this relationship? They start putting people into boxes and even if someone tries to understand they will consider one person as genderqueer or gender non-binary but these boxes are so tight that no one understands that a trans man can be in relationship with a transmasculine person or another trans man.
There is a strong notion that if someone is a trans person they must be straight and that persons who are homosexual are not trans but cis. Assuming the gender identity of my partner or assuming my sexual orientation is also a kind of discrimination. This question affects me and my partner a lot not only emotionally but it also affects our mental health. This continuous erasing of someone’s gender identity causes dysphoria. Similarly, if you are trans and not straight then this erasure of sexual orientation is also homophobic and transphobic. The idea of opposite attraction – if you are a trans man you must be attracted towards women and if you are a trans woman you must be attracted towards men – even in queer spaces is really disturbing for me.
I want to share one of my experiences with a psychiatrist. I went to him to take a GID certificate. He was very sensitive and asked me the bare minimum of questions. There was only one question that made me uncomfortable. He said that he completely understood that I am a trans man and I have gender dysphoria and want to go through surgery and take hormones but he could not understand how I am attracted to another person who also identifies as transmasculine and whose gender identity is the same as mine. It made him stop to think and it was very disturbing for me but he finally gave me the GID certificate.
We need to understand that gender and sexuality are different. Trans men can be attracted toward men and trans women can be attracted to and have relationships with women. Me being attracted to a transmasculine person doesn’t make me less of a man and my sexual orientation does not change my gender identity. Statistics show that more numbers of trans men after transition are attracted towards men1. Trans persons can also be homosexuals. I identify as bisexual and this identity is invisible in the movement. Being a trans man and bisexual is difficult and there is little space to talk about it.
1 A 2015 survey of roughly 2000 American trans men showed more variation in sexual orientation or sexual identity among trans men. 23% identified as heterosexual or straight. The vast majority (65%) identified their sexual orientation or sexual identity as queer (24%), pansexual (17%), bisexual (12%), gay/same-gender loving (12%), asexual (7%), and 5% did not answer. Please see: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4059421/
Vihaan (he/him) is an Ambedkarite Queer Feminist Trans man