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.