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Gay affirmations

January 3, 2013

I recently met this man through mutual friends –let’s call him H– and we’ve already seen each other a couple of times. I still have no idea where this is going to lead, but I like him and he makes me feel really good. Part of it, of course, is that he makes me feel desirable, attractive and respected, but partly it’s because he makes me feel like a gay man.

This is confusing for me because it’s been a while since I’ve needed any sort of affirmation of my gender. Actually, I’ve always gotten uncomfortable when someone goes out of their way to prove they see me as a man; I’ve never even identified completely with the idea of manhood. And I used to scoff at phrases like “he/she makes me feel like a man/woman” –when pronounced by anyone, trans or not– because I thought a person’s gender shouldn’t depend on anyone but themself.

I felt this kind of validation for the first time when I went to a rather seedy gay establishment with several queer trans guys. Lots of men checked us out and even approached some of us, and it felt amazing because (in the words of a friend) “we stopped being seen as trans and began to be seen as hunks”. I didn’t engage with anyone there, but I left feeling super empowered, like I finally belonged. Later on, I made out with a friend and I was completely floored by the way our beards and leg hair rubbed together, and by the way he ran his fingernails across my body, which was so different from the light touch I had experienced with girls.

Spending time with H has been especially incredible because he’s always known I was trans, but it hasn’t been an issue. We’ve both talked about our pasts, including my transition, and he has seen me naked, but he’s never made me feel different. Partly it’s because he’s amazing, but I think my attitude helps, too: I’ve managed to embrace my body and history so my comfort kind of rubs off on others.

I finally feel like a gay man not only in theory, but in practice. I don’t really care about being A Man or not, but being a Gay Man –and being with gay men– feels just right. I love the way H caresses my beard and body hair, the way he holds onto my hand or shoulder on the street despite the occasional insult hurled against us, and the weight of his large hand on my back as we drift into sleep. I am thrilled by the idea of being someone’s gay lover, although I don’t want to get my hopes up because he’s too perfect to be true.

But I’m also scared by how good he makes me feel because it could end at any moment. I  guess love is always like that, though, and I just have the extra fear of feeling excluded from the gay world once again (which is silly because there will always be more men who are into me, like I wrote last week). I suppose cis gays feel this too, especially if they don’t resemble the “ideal” gay man, although they mostly don’t have a history of gender denial to throw into the mix.

I know I’m not alone in my feelings because they’re echoed in an article called “There’s No Pamphlet for the Kind of Sex I Have: HIV-Related Risk Factors and Protective Behaviors Among Transgender Men Who Have Sex with Non-Transgender Men”:

“All of the participants reflected on the sense of validation that having sex with a non-trans man could provide. Many suggested that this was particularly powerful for trans men in their early years of transition and that being sexual with a gay non-trans man could feel like the “ultimate affirmation” of one’s manhood. This led many participants to ponder the risks that they, and other trans men, were willing to take to receive this sense of affirmation.”

The risk-taking doesn’t resonate with me because I’m not willing to have unsafe sex (or even have safe sex with people I’m not attracted to), but many of the participants’ quotes are spot-on. It’s a very good read and it’s gotten me interested in sexual health among queer trans men (possibly something to work on this year?).

I wish us all a great 2013, with love, strength and energy to tackle our dreams.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2013 6:54 pm

    Awesome to hear things are going well for you- I wish you the best of luck with H.

  2. May 1, 2014 1:58 pm

    I identify with everything you wrote here. Especially about touch – the way gay men touch either other is just different than the way most queer women do – rougher and even clumsier. I remember liking it and feeling like it matched my sexuality better. Just before I transitioned, I hooked-up with a couple butch women, and was very disappointed to find that they wanted to kiss and touch more softly and work their way up to sex more gradually than what I wanted. It felt wrong to me – I was attracted to them because of their masculinity, and I wanted to be gay with them, but while making out, it became very clear that they identified as WOMEN and wanted to have LESBIAN sex, and I did not. This is part of what convinced me that I wanted to transition, especially after hooking up with a cis gay guy and experiencing a very different form of touch.

    And yes, it IS incredibly affirming to find oneself desired and seen as by cis gay guys. I still have anxiety around this as well as a sense of pleasure and affirmation when it turns out well. It is exactly what you said, about experiencing being a gay man as a form of interrelationality rather than as a solitary identification. As someone on the faggier side of gay, I also enjoy being CULTURALLY gay with gay cis guys – having the gestures, modes of irony, turns of phrase, and cultural references, as well as the body, to experience fag interrelationality. And yes, there’s a thrill and a pleasure to being accepted without question into a group of fags. This is, of course, a form of privilege that non-passing trans men do not enjoy, and I try to be aware of that and to think about what it means to rely on oneself and one’s group of trusted friends for an affirmation that gay cis men do not give everybody.

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