The transgender elephant

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I’m sitting in my favorite bar answering questions from a man I just met. And I suppose I have brought it on myself by telling him that he can ask me anything and that I won’t be offended or embarrassed. “I’ll be as honest as I can,” I say, “and I’ll try to answer as factually as possible.”

The questions invariably come around to sexuality. “Are transpeople sexual?” he asks and I have to chuckle. “Does a bear…” I start to reply. “Of course. But it’s a bit more complicated. For starters, throw out the traditional labels. You can’t assume we’re attracted to gay men, or to straight men, or women, or lesbians. The answer is ‘all of the above’ and ‘none of the above.’” Among my friends there is a post-operative transwoman who identifies as lesbian, another who identifies as a straight female, and a third who is asexual. I knew two post-operative transwomen who were in a committed relationship that they defined as lesbian. “But you know,” I tell my new friend, “one study found that transgender men and women have more heterosexual than homosexual experiences. Another found an almost equal distribution between homosexual, asexual, and heterosexual sexuality. A third found transsexual women as 38% bisexual, 35% attracted to women, and 27% attracted to men. And a fourth showed the majority of transmen are attracted primarily or exclusively to women. But none of those were based on very solid research.” These ‘balanced’ numbers don’t line up with the ‘norms’ of heterosexual society. But then again, just how hetero is it?

He takes a moment to absorb the concept, then nods. “Of course,” he says. “Sure.” But I know what’s really going on, because I’ve been in that room with the elephant while everyone pretended it wasn’t there. What they’re really interested in is what goes on in the bedroom. It’s the same impulse that attracts them to porn, that makes them slow down to check out the auto accident and look for a bloody body, that has them tuning in to watch *CSI* and *Bones*.

“Gay, lesbian, transgender—it doesn’t matter,” I tell him. “The details are private and personal. When two people are intimate, they explore and discover what pleases them, and that’s what they do. They make love. And what you have to ask yourself is why you, or anyone, for that matter, should care. Transgender relationships only serve to underscore the ludicrous nature of marriage equality as an issue. What matters is that two people have feelings for each other that are strong enough that they want to share their lives. What’s heartless and cruel is that anyone would not want that for them.”

He nods, but I can tell there’s still a niggling curiosity and I can tell it’s really about me. I pull back for a second, realizing what he’s really after. Masters and Johnson’s research didn’t stop at *my* house and the general public can’t be trusted. “You *do* know there’s an ‘other’ category. Some men who do not identify as gay are attracted to transwomen. And for some transwomen, having sex with straight men validates their identity as straight women. It’s really not complicated. But again…why should it matter?”

He nods and smiles. “It shouldn’t,” he says, and buys me a drink.




Read stories of transgender in Bobbi’s Book: Me & Bobbi & the Gyrls available at

And find out more on the web at:

Devor H (1997). *FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society.* Bloomington: Indiana University Press.



Also from Bobbi Williams:

Transgender Targets


Dr. Bobbi Williams is an author, teacher, lecturer, and consultant. Comments may be sent to her at [email protected]