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As a bisexual trans woman, it’s kinda funny how I react to my own sexuality. I’m mostly comfortable with my attraction to women, but on some visceral, unreasoned level, being with a man feels gay.
Imagine that last word being uttered by a merciless highschooler and intended as the ultimate insult. Now imagine that you’re the most primally insecure childlike part of me from the deepest depths of my subconscious, hearing it. That’s how I feel when I consider my attraction to men.
Obviously, I am a woman, and I’m not conflicted about that. But I was brought up as male, and learnt to be scared of how people would react if I were into guys, and that’s how it still is, even though times have changed. Nowadays, people bother me on the street if I’m walking hand in hand with a woman, and not if I’m doing the same with a man, but internally, I expect it to be the other way around.
I’ll call this “internalised homophobia” – e.g. self directed homophobia – even though it’s not technically homophobia because me being with a guy is not a homosexual act. But “heterophobia” doesn’t fit, and “homophobia” makes some kind of sense because the part of me that this comes from is seeing it as a homosexual act.
Note, by the way, I’m accepting this inaccuracy for convenience, but please be aware that it’s not normally okay to call a trans woman’s attraction to men as “homosexual”. It is actually very, very un-okay and is likely to cause immense hurt. Please never do it, unless you’re a trans woman writing about herself and no one else.
So, my internalised homophobia, as we will call it, has affected me immensely. To begin with, it prevented me from realising I was bisexual for twenty years. I buried my attraction deep, ignored it, rationalised it away.
Then, when I began to discover my bisexuality, my internalised homophobia made it massively difficult for me to come to terms with my attraction to men. This initially manifested in a long and painful period of uncertainty. As I see it, part of me was attracted to men, and part of me was repulsed by them. I assumed at the time that this repulsion might be because I was actually lesbian. I eventually realised, though, that it was because I was repulsed by myself, being attracted to men.
My first fling with a guy was equal parts weird and nice. My second and third encounters were also some combination of weird and nice. It was only the fourth, fifth and sixth times I tried anything with a guy that it started to be predominantly pleasurable, and only the sixth time that a serious relationship came out of it. Note, by the way, that around five years passed between the first and sixth encounter, and there was plenty of reflection and internal struggle in between.
Even in recent times, I’ve had moments in the middle of lovemaking where I had a sort of flashback to highschool mentality, and I might imagine someone saying, “you’re so gay” as if that was the ultimate insult. And I feel gay. And I hate these invisible highschool voices, and I want to throw something at them and make them go away.
Sometimes I have conversations with these voices. “Look,” I say, “See all this love? How could something so beautiful be wrong?”
And sometimes I like to affirm, “You mean nothing anymore. You have no power to affect my life. I don’t have to care what you think.”
Sometimes it’s a bit sad, because one of those voices was my old highschool best friend, who cut off contact with me after I came out. I have to let him go, so I can get on with my life. There’s no point hoping for his approval anymore.
What I haven’t mentioned yet is that it’s not just with cis men that I get that gay feeling. I get it with trans women and trans men too. This is important, because I’ve been with a lot of trans women recently.
I feel gay when I’m with trans women because I know I would have been hated for it had my evil highschool companions ever seen me in such a context. I feel less gay when my partner is more “passing” and is post-op, and I feel gayer when my partner passes less and is pre-op.
Even though my inner homophobe seems to consider my trans female partners men for the purpose of hating me, I also feel gay as hell when having sex with trans men. It seems to depend a little on their passing too, but not hugely. It’s like the highschool phantasms have a very liberal interpretation of gender, but only insofar as it pertains to being able to bully me at as many opportunities as possible.
As I’ve spent more time with male and trans female sex and romantic partners, I’ve been forced to face up to my inner homophobe, and to a fair extent I’ve changed it. I’ve slowly become less uncomfortable and awkward in such situations, and more able to just enjoy the moment.
I’ve noticed as I’ve done so my apparent sexuality has changed. Perhaps it never really did change, just my experience of it; but in any case, I’ve moved from feeling “mostly lesbian” to being somewhat closer to 50-50 bisexual. As this has happened, I’ve become more curious about exploring more relationships with men and discovering this side of myself more.
It seems that sometimes, it’s only as you transform that you see just how much you had to transform in the first place. I see how I’ve been subtly uncomfortable around same-sex, particularly male-male couplings, and how I used elaborate mental tricks to work around my homophobia (e.g. by taking focus off of the gender of the couple, or somehow managing to put them outside the box of “homosexual” in my head).
I’ve begun to be able to see same-sex relationships as really, really normal and everyday and unremarkable, as they should be. I notice these moments in contrast to when my homophobia comes in and I start having to use mental tricks to feel normal around these people again. Right now I seem to cycle between the two states.
I watched some male-male porn recently. I was interesting to note how uninhibitedly I could enjoy it, as opposed to previous times when doing this would make me feel incredibly, irrevocably high-school gay. For me, that was a small revelation.
I do still need to make a lot more progress here. I asked a gay friend and he gave me the age-old advice; “Give it time”. So I will. Hopefully, one day I will be completely free of my internal high school bullies. Till then, I’ll try to be patient and work through things bit by bit.