[Image description: On the left is Laverne Cox, a black trans woman actress/activist known for her role in Orange is the New Black and her vocal support of trans/black communities. On the right is all black with white text. It says, “It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist. -Laverne Cox- AZ Quotes.
***Fag and hag are both considered terms that can be homophobic and sexist under certain circumstances. I’m using them here because they were ways that I and some of my communities joked about and used ironically/half seriously. I’m also using them to demonstrate the dynamic shift that I’ve experienced since transition. These aren’t terms to use freely.
Once upon a time, I was a bisexual/gay/queer/I’m confused boy-ish critter. I was pretty young and naive and believed in a politicized queer community. It took 7/8 years for me to go from that to jaded, frosty transfeminine critter. This journey was filled with oppression of varying sorts. I’m writing this to document for any questioning critters out there who internalized all sorts of grossness. I’m also writing this as a big fuck you to the psychiatric bullshit that categorized trans women (who were acknowledged as trans women) as either “homosexual transsexuals” and “autogynophiles”.
Homosexual Transsexuals were trans women who were exclusively into men prior to transition. Autogynophiles were trans women who were exclusively into women prior to transition. Notice the lack of bi/pansexuals, ace spectrum, and non-binary folks here. The ideal situation was the Homosexual Transsexual who’d become a “heterosexual woman” through the process and forget about life prior to transition. Autogynophiles were understood to be an extreme fetishist where the trans woman would get off to femininity (of both herself and other women). Both of these terms were coined by a non-trans sexologist, Ray Blanchard and demonstrate the violence of having white non-trans men theorizing about bodies that aren’t like their’s. Theorizing about people’s experiences and bodies should never be in the hands of those who don’t live it.
I’m still hella gay even though I’m transfeminine. I’m always going to be gay and it doesn’t matter what my gender identity. I’m too queer to function. My feminine gender is how I express my queerness, it does not make me straight.
When I was a baby queer, I was annoyingly out, flamboyant, loud, and obnoxious as fuck. I flaunted my homosexuality because queer visibility was important… And I did it to feel like I wasn’t drowning in a sea of cisheteronormativity. My queerness was driven into the spotlight by my body’s sudden need to find its mate immediately when I was 16. It hurt so badly so I somehow found how to channel that pain into queer community activism/art.
For the first time in my life, I had friends and community and could begin growing as an individual. Prior to this point, I was your Good Quiet Studious Asian stereotype because I was secretly a mess. I was an undiagnosed autistic child without any social supports trying to survive an abusive, unhealthy home and deal with years of medical abuse/trauma all of which I had no language for.
I developed a network of bisexual girl friends (because gay boys generally wouldn’t associate with me). They were my everything because I never had a support network or fierce friendships before this. I latched onto the language of fag and hag that I had heard about in the queer media I was completely enamored with. Queerness became my passion and I devoured as many queer books, songs, and movies that I could get my hands on.
My queer education came primarily from anti-oppressive queer women and trans folks, many of whom were social/community workers. There were a few gay/queer men, but they all also had anti-oppressive backgrounds too.
Women were most of my community and I identified with the dynamic of being a gay boy surrounded by female friends. Hence the fag and hag dynamic. I didn’t know about other meanings of this dynamic at the time. What I knew is that girls were the keystone of my community and that I wouldn’t survive without them.
My earliest exposure to queerness was through anime and fan culture. I instinctually latched onto the label of “uke“. It fit how I imagined myself to be like in a relationship. I wanted to be the feminine one, have things go in me, and really didn’t have much interest in using my junk. It also felt right to be the feminine in relation to another who is more masculine. It felt like my compliment. It felt right in my skin to have this dynamic.
I didn’t talk much with gay men. I also didn’t have any potential love interests really. I was propositioned for hookups from a grand total of two bisexual boys, but I declined. I wasn’t interested in hookups at that point of life. I was definitely read as too femme, too political, and likely, undesirable in all the ways by the boys around me and online. What gay boy would want to date let alone fuck someone flamboyant, femme, fat, and socially awkward? Now that I look back on it, cis bisexual men have almost always been the ones to express interest me in my life.
I felt pretty alienated by gay men. I felt ugly and wished with all my heart that I’d find someone when I made it to Toronto. I remember that I had this haunting re-occurring dream of this boy with the warmest, darkest brown eyes and an achingly bright smile. He always told me that I was loved and there was somewhere out there waiting for me. I dreamed of a partner, someone with profound empathy and cares without thinking. Someone who appreciated who I was, what I’d done, and felt like a ball of warmth where that black hole called my heart was. Thinking back on this moment, I really should have always listened to my teenage self’s instincts. I only now know my now frosty, battered heart only opens to someone sweet, kind, and thoughtful.
I started identifying as genderqueer at 18. I didn’t feel comfortable with gay men because of how they treated me and I was different from them. I also had horrible internalized transmisogyny. Although the older trans women that attended the trans group in my home town were nice, they weren’t like me. I didn’t want to be like them. I didn’t want to look like a cis woman. I wanted to be weird, queer, subversive, and boyish. I used boi to describe me at times because that was the closest language I could find to describe how I felt when most of my language was still rooted in lesbian feminism. (Although I strangely have never read Rubyfruit Jungle. I know, a travesty!)
I found trans youth community when I left for Toronto. And for the first time, I had nerdy, weird trans girl friends. I met punky trans boys and more activists than I’d ever seen before. But still, very few were interested in a weird critter like me. I’d always been pretty androgynous and gender confused a ton of people just by existing. I found out years later that a number of trans youth assumed I was transmasc. Probably because I used they/them, played with gender, and was fat enough to have enlarged breast tissue.
I hooked up for the first time at the age of 19. It wasn’t long after I started university. I did it because I felt so ugly that I needed something to make it go away. It was pretty bad. I dissociated and felt dirty afterwards. Yet I kept on trying to get dates or hookups. I’d try a lot “for science”. Anything to get rid of the burning in my blood which I realized after taking hormones was my way to express I hated the testosterone in my body. It was pretty unsuccessful in making the pain go away and at best, left me feel that there was something missing. At worst, I felt dirty for days.
I spent years in gender ambiguity and still identify as such. I held myself up to AFAB genderqueer ideals because that’s what I was exposed to and idealized in the texts I read. I flitted between trans communities and trying to fit into gay male community. I still felt ugly and wrong in my skin, but that was nothing new. I didn’t feel like I had any ideas of who I could be, no language to describe it. When people said that I was clearly a trans girl, I got defensive because in my mind, trans girls were still the older trans women and I wasn’t them. Even with my trans girl friends, it still didn’t quite click in my brain.
That is, until I read the Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. It was a random book that I picked up probably at the Women’s Bookstore (may they rest in power). It changed my entire outlook. For the first time, I found someone who got it. And explained how I was feeling in words and stories. I was finally given the gift of language.
I knew I needed something that was in that book, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be female per se. I wasn’t like the older trans women. I was too politically enmeshed in queer community and fandom and I’d never want to be straight.
I remember that I was at a queer halloween party and feeling profoundly out of place. This hot guy spoke to me briefly about my costume (trickster!John Egbert) before sliding up to this girl and dancing with her. And I felt so much envy. I wanted that so badly. I wanted to be looked at and desired like she was. I needed that more than anything and I started crying there on the dance floor.
I left the dance realizing that I needed to do hormones. I needed to change who I was. I needed to be feminine and embody it explicitly. I went to Gender Journeys and got hormones. I had already experimented with nail polish, (genderfucking) drag, and clothes that were just feminine of center. This is where I was ensnared by a predatory trans woman “elder” who did help push my transition. She helped me switch underwear, went with me to get my first explicitly female wardrobe, and made me throw out almost all my old clothes (which I wish I had kept…) I changed my name towards the end of this friendship and my queer, feminist, and trans communities took these changes in stride. From there, it’s just been learning my own taste in makeup and clothes over the years. I tried new things slowly like I didn’t wear skirts or dresses for probably a year into my medical transition. I had a lot of support from my communities that were willing to go to bat for me after I managed to get rid of my abuser who tried to destroy my life via gaslighting.
Since I started IDing as transfeminine and as a trans woman in some spaces, I’ve been thinking about how things are different now… Or not. Who I’m attracted to hasn’t really changed much. I like the odd trans girl now. I’m not into many straight men, they’re not queer. I still find trans/cis gay boys attractive when I don’t get annoyed at them. Straight and bi/pan trans men rarely notice me, and bisexual cis men make up most of those who express interest in me. (There’s this joke in trans women community about how pansexuality means everyone EXCEPT trans women…)
The dynamic has flipped. I’m now the “hag” when I’m around gay men. It’s awkward still finding them attractive. I’m in a space where I still feel awkward about my body and my identity, but in different ways. As a fan girl, a large chunk of what I read is about two (or more) men fucking. I still get off mostly to gay porn. I’d kill to be in a threesome with two guys who’ll fuck for me and then cuddle with me afterwards. I have a lot of trouble imagining having sex with someone anymore even if I’m besotted with them. (Partially because sexual abuse by the trans woman “elder” coerced me to have sex with strange men). My brain is wired for gay sex, but that’s not the body I have or how I’m looked at. This causes a moment of cognitive dissonance. It just… Doesn’t compute.
And another thing. Why aren’t trans women included in gay men’s spaces/services for some things? We certainly are part of their statistical demographics. We’re included in cis women’s services, but sometimes that doesn’t quite fit. I like how the Hassle Free Clinic does its services. It does men and trans services, and women and trans services. If you’re trans, you’re welcome to use whatever services you want no questions asked. Although I often prefer to be in women’s spaces, there are moments when something for gay men that resonates with me because of my past. And by the same token, I suspect that there are trans men who still feel a connection to lesbian communities…. Actually, some of them are still part of lesbian communities. Why can’t trans women be included and supported by gay men? Oh yeah, #transmisogyny.
One thing I find different from other transfemmes is how I never went through a “forced feminization kink” stage. In fact, forced feminization was on my list of major turns offs. The forced feminization porn I tried to read was usually premised on an “alpha” (not the problematic/sexy A/B/O kind) heterosexual man finds a “beta” heterosexual man and forces the beta to become effeminate and gay then fucks him. The alpha male asserts his superiority as a heterosexual and masculine. He always has a girlfriend that he also fucks/cheats on and he degrades the beta on how feminine and gay he is.
It went against everything that I was taught as a good little queer. It worshipped heteromasculinity and degraded queerness and femininity aka people like me. It made me feel ugly because it said that being femme and queer was bad. And this is why I’m majorly turned off by humiliation and degradation kink.
I was privileged by how I grew up in anti-oppressive queer community. Although this community was strongly transmisogynistic, I learned the right language unlike many trans women who’ve not had the access to these communities or to academia. Even to this day, I’m not completely comfortable with the label of trans woman. I’ve used they/them pronouns for nearly a decade now and I’m attached to them. I’m afraid that if I use she/her pronouns, I’ll lose my tenuous connection to my genderqueer roots, my queerness, and be labeled as a heterosexual. Still much of me is a gay boy at heart. And I don’t really like most straight boys. They’re usually not very queer.
My gender is still squidgy even though I followed a fairly typical medical transition for a trans woman. This would be dangerous during the era where Dr. Zucker was still in power. And I’m okay with my gender being squidgy. I’m not comfortable playing much with masculinity, but I do have some ideas for post-op.
And queer/trans male-ish folks, please ask me out and/or spend a lot of time with me. I’m demisexual, it usually takes me a while to develop feelings for someone.