“I’m just not attracted to trans people.”
I’m sure that almost every trans person has heard this in some way, shape, or form in their lives. Whether it was directed at them or not, whether it was explicitly said or merely implied, the discomfort of seeing trans people and their bodies as sexual and desirable runs rampant in our culture.
Albeit in a different way, trans people also experience sexualized desexualization, such as I discussed in this post about the desexualization and hyper sexualization of women of color. “Chasers” are people who exoticize (mostly) trans women and seek them out for sex in a fetishizing way. Recently, the new hit show Transparent crafted an entire episode around the aspect of “chasers.” In their article in The Guardian, author Avery Edison touches on this trope of the exoticized trans woman: “Transgender women are often fetishized: explicitly in ‘she-male’ porn…sensationalist headlines about a celebrity having a ‘sex change.’ We’re cast as mysterious and exotic, repellant but seductive. There are people who find transwomen irresistible, and others who see us as just another illicit conquest” (Edison).
Trans men and trans masculine people also experience this on gay dating apps like Scruff and Grindr. David Levesley’s article discusses the complexities of being a trans man on queer men’s dating apps. A Grindr user named ‘Transartist’ discloses that they have been harassed on the app and has even been told that they didn’t “belong” on the app (Levesley). Transartist’s experience also includes having to provide potential hookups with a basic “Trans 101″ before meeting up (Levesley). Trans artist says, “I’ve gotten really sick of fielding basic ‘trans 101’ questions that could be answered by spending 30 seconds on Google. I just block ignorant guys now” (qtd. in Levesley).
The frustration that Transartist expresses reflects the reality for some in the trans community when it comes to sex, dating, romance, intimacy, and other “four letter words.” In addition to being fetishized, trans people and their bodies are consistently looked upon as undesirable. This unwillingness to see trans bodies as desirable is rooted in the fear of the unknown and the larger cultural hatred of gender nonconformity.
Those who have cisgender “passing privilege” may be able to choose when they disclose to a potential romantic or sexual partner. As part of The Stranger‘s Queer Anthology edition, author Tobi Hill-Meyer wrote “How to Have Sex with a Trans Person,” and truly illuminated the frustration with the “big disclosure” that almost every trans person has to go through:
I love moments in which being trans just doesn’t matter. It can happen in porn, with a familiar partner, or just with someone who I know is a good ally. I don’t have to stop to say, “Wait, there’s something about me you should know,” as tension rises for a dramatic reveal. I don’t feel like there’s some toxic cloud hanging over me that requires us to sit down and have a serious conversation. I can feel like any other person. In the throes of passion, I don’t want to have to ask a potentially mood-killing question like “Are you afraid of seeing me completely naked?” (Hill-Meyer).
Those who do not have this privilege, those who are actively read as trans, can face disastrous outcomes, including violence and death from potential or current partners. The desexualization of trans people serves to dehumanize trans people. Dehumanization allows for the perpetuation of violence against trans people. The perpetuation of violence against trans people allows for the culture to not value trans lives. When the culture does not value trans lives, the phrase “I’m just not attracted to trans people” stops being a “personal preference;” instead, it reflects larger themes of inequality and the value taken away from trans people.
Edison, Avery. “I’m trans and on Tinder, but I am not a fetish for your sexual bucket list.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.
Hill-Meyer, Tobi. “How to Have Sex with a Trans Person.” The Stranger. Index Newspapers, LLC, 2014. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.
Levesley, David. “Grindr’s Trans Dating Problem.” The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company, LLC, 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2015.