One aspect of the transgender phenomenon that may not be well known or understood by the general public, is the issue of attractions. Who we are attracted to, who we were attracted to and how that sometimes changes is something we often talk about in our community.
Male to female transgender women, especially those who do not transition at a young age, very often end up with female partners or wives while they are living as males. It's also very common for these couples to have children. Having a wife, female lover and/or children can add layers of difficulty to a transgender woman's transition and even affect the decision to come out. The interesting dynamic we will examine here is how attractions can change.
Many trans women say that sometime after they begin taking hormones they become attracted to men for the first time in their lives. Some do not report having this change until after undergoing gender reassignment surgery (GRS) and others remain solely attracted to females throughout transition and the rest of their lives. These women often refer to themselves as trans lesbians, or simply lesbians, and some of them also become attracted to other transgender women.
The fascinating thing, to me, is the change in some trans women from being solely attracted to females to being attracted to males. This isn't always an exclusive attraction and it is my thinking that most people are bisexual, at least to a degree if they are really honest with themselves. The fact remains that many trans women become attracted to men for the first time at some point during transition.
A lot of us don't really experience any change but were attracted to males all along. Some are like me in that they always felt attractions to males but never really acted on it, repressed it or possibly experimented at some point. There are trans women who identified as gay before transition but, at least among those who transition as adults, they seem to be in the minority.
I remember telling my mother when I was in the first or second grades, that I wanted to marry my (male) best friend. Of course there was nothing sexual about that. I didn't even know what sex was all about at that point. I believe that was saying what came natural to me, that I felt I should marry a man when I grew up. Of course she wasn't very happy to hear this and I remember her telling me that this was "queer" and that I was not going to be that way. In the early 1970's no one was talking about gay marriage. I believe that I was thinking of marrying him as a female.
Puberty was a confusing and difficult time for me. While I had inner feelings of being female from pre school age, I never figured out that being transgender was the cause of my life long depression until I began transition and started hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Even when I first got on the internet, found out about transition and knew I wanted to do it I never equated all of the dark, morbid feelings I had inside with having a male body chemistry. The change I experienced when I started HRT was an uplifting of my mood, feelings about myself shifting from negative to positive and an end to the chaos that had resided in my brain since I was a teenager. My attractions, however, never changed.
All my life I've dealt with my attractions to males. Repression might be a more apt description than dealt with, for the majority of my life. As a late teen I had a couple of experimental episodes that I didn't follow through with and didn't feel good about. I realize that I was under the influence of my parents expectations and societal pressure to not "be gay". In spite of that, these experiences taught me that I wasn't really gay because it felt so wrong I couldn't really follow through with anything. It wasn't just a guilty feeling afterwards. It felt weird that I was being looked at as a male, although that is how I was living then and how I appeared.
The fact is I was also attracted to females although it was quite different. Maybe it was because of my upbringing but I felt more comfortable romantically with females even though I didn't feel very comfortable in those relationships. I think the real key was that I never felt comfortable at all. Perhaps if I didn't have the specter of my upbringing I could have just as easily been with men before my transition but I didn't feel comfortable within myself so I doubt I would have been any happier. Another thing about being with men when I wasn't presenting female is I that couldn't stand the guys looking at me as male or touching me. In those very limited experiences I only wanted to pretend in my mind I was a woman and be with them passively.
The real sea change for me, at least sexually, when was when I was finally able to present myself as a woman (how I felt inside) and allowed myself to be with a man. I've heard gay guys say when they were first with a man that it felt natural. That never felt that way with me as a guy but it did when I could be a woman. Something inside clicked, and any issue I had about attractions was solved.
I finally felt comfortable with myself and felt comfortable being with someone I was attracted to. Not too long after coming to terms with who I wanted to date, I met a man and fell in love. I didn't think I was ready for any sort of relationship because I was not out, in sort of a weird stage of pre transition and still married. It did work out and we've now been together almost three years. It's just been a fantastic experience for me and I'm so happy.
When I was talking to my therapist about coming out to my parents, the Big hurdle (Mount Everest) in my quest to transition, I asked her what I should tell my them about my sexuality. I want to be truthful about everything from now on and the fact that I still maintained some attraction to females must make me bisexual, right? The therapist then asked me if I ever saw myself in another relationship with a female. The honest answer was no, I don't. There, I had my answer. Almost everybody has attractions to various people, even to both sexes, but if they don't act on them or its not part of their identity then that is something that can be kept private.
Some of my attraction to females is simply wanting to be that person or be like that person. That is even more true now than ever before as I have gone from a point where I could see myself having some type of intimacy with a woman to a point that I don't think about it anymore. So I guess I have undergone some form of change in my attractions since beginning transition. For me, it has not been the total change of being attracted to the opposite sex for the first time, (for me as a woman, men are the opposite sex), but it is a slight change nonetheless. Transition is all about change so I guess this is par for the course.
They say that when we transition, others in our lives have to transition too, in their own way. One striking example of that is married heterosexual couples in which one of the partners undergoes gender transition. Very few marriages withstand transition and many that do simply remain as friendships of two partners. My marriage was basically a friendship since its inception so ending it made sense for both of us, although it is still very painful.
For a marriage to weather a complete gender transition and still maintain its romantic nature, one of the partners must change their sexuality. That has got to be a lot to ask of a spouse. "Honey, I'm becoming a woman now, you are going to have to become a lesbian." You can see why this very rarely works out.
Then there is the trans woman who informs their spouse that they are now attracted to men. That is sort of what happened in my case but the underlying feelings were always there, not just the transgender feelings but the attractions. For many though, these feelings are new and come out of the blue when female hormones are introduced. I think that must really play with your head for awhile.
Usually by the time someone reaches the point of transition they have gone through their self acceptance, their inner battles, their realization that they have to transition. The denial, hiding and/or repression are behind them for the most part. And then many get hit on the head by the attractions dilemma. There seems to be so much confusion among so many trans people about who should they date, who do they want to date.
I met a trans girl the other day that told me she is pansexual. She will date anyone, regardless of sex, gender etc. Actually that is becoming fairly popular and it is a good way to be. It certainly makes it easier to find a partner and accept your sexuality. So many who undergo this phenomenal gender transition get caught up in the intricacies of who they are attracted to or who they will be attracted to in the future. This is one of those things in which I believe you just have to go with your feelings. And be prepared for them to change.....