Sometimes when I am alone in my room -- when I have stayed there long enough for me to tune out and tune in -- I find myself feeling beautiful. I stand in front of my mirror, feeling magnificent as I look at my body in all of its transness: the way my shoulders frame my slightly conical breasts, my emerging hips and thighs, and of course, my penis. In those moments, an intense desire usually follows, and I want badly to share my body with someone I can also delve into.
The problem though, is that trans women are often pathologized for our very normal desires, which are filtered by society as perverse and sometimes even criminal. Why do we chastise trans girls for simply craving intimacy and sex?
I began to take feminizing hormones so that I could have a healthier, closer connection with my body. Before that, I wasn’t comfortable in my body at all. Sex was something I desired immensely back then, as I understood it to be peak intimacy, but was too vulnerable of an act for me to allow. It wasn’t until I was several months into my transition that I finally felt ready for that kind of intimacy.
When I was a teenager, I sought to fill my need for touch -- and maybe deeper than that, for companionship -- through the people I knew from school and mutual friends. I had a huge hunger to see how men would react to my body, and that was only exacerbated by years of repressing my desires. But after a traumatizing couple of months messing with a boy who neither respected me nor my gender and did not prioritize or understand what it took to pleasure me, I became exhausted.
I realized that the social circles I was in, and the limited environment I was exposed to, wasn’t going to be an easy place for a girl like me to find the loving I wanted. I felt like being a heterosexual trans girl was an affliction, and vowed that if men were going to use me for their desires, I was going to find a way to use them. I retreated into celibacy. Anytime I did come into contact with a man who wanted something from me, I would demand something back.
When I turned 21, I started going out to clubs with my gay friends, but I couldn’t really expect to find intimacy in those places. I’ve always been envious of the trans girls I’ve come across in the New York City ballroom scene who are able to date within their community, because I found that gay men were rarely ever interested in me. Finally, I found a trans sister who was also in a phase of exploration, and we began going to straight clubs together. It was incredibly affirming to receive attention from men in public, not to mention share moments of intimacy with my sister, but the threat of violence or harassment was very real, and it inhibited me from letting myself be vulnerable with anyone.
Around this time I also began taking dating apps more seriously. At this point, I was practically overflowing with desire and my body badly needed the healing power of touch. It didn’t take long before I met a guy who really took the time to learn my body. He showed up for me consistently and took me out on dates, which was something I hadn’t really experienced before. But he is still a cishet man with an investment in patriarchy and disapproved of the ways in which I look to be held, validated, and touched.
I recently lamented to a friend about how hard it is to find a decent man that I am attracted to and who is open to my transness. She advised me not to lower my standards despite this, which only disheartened me more, because I give in to this. I definitely have found myself catering to men’s desires to get an ounce of the intimacy I craved. Many people are still disgusted by trans bodies and are embarrassed by their attraction to them. She couldn’t understand the power that touch has on someone like me, who has harbored so much shame underneath this skin.
Recently, a trans woman posted on social media after she was violently assaulted by a date, someone who actually catfished her and who she ended up having sex with anyway. The comments under her post were filled with blame and vitriol, questioning why she would engage in any kind of sexual activity with such a man. But there were also comments, mostly from other trans women, offering explanations for the victim’s actions -- maybe she was still attracted to him even though he didn’t look the way he initially presented or maybe she was just lonely, horny, or both. Whatever the case, trans women’s perspectives humanized the survivor instead of putting blame on her. She deserved care and understanding in that moment, not further criticism.
I feel like we need to maintain this level of sympathy at all times. Until we address the societal stigmas that inhibit trans women from acting out their desires, we cannot punish them for the ways in which they seek to fulfill them.
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