For as long as I have been questioning my gender, if not longer, I’ve been questioning my sexuality. That isn’t to say that the two are correlated with one another, because they’re not, but more that as I grew up and became more worldly minded, I started questioning my own perceptions of the world. This questioning included my views on religion, politics, and yes, gender and sexuality as well.
I never thought much about romance or sexuality or anything even remotely related until my late teenage years, and not seriously until I got into college. Of course there was always the peer pressure that surrounded being a teenager and having a girlfriend or boyfriend, and growing up going to Catholic schools, there was always the “homosexuality a sin” mindset being spread around. I would be a liar if I said these notions of sexuality didn’t color my view of the world.
I remember being a sophmore in high school when the first person in my high school came out as gay. They did it publicly on the front page of the school paper. All they wished was to be able to spend their senior year prom with their boyfriend. Surprisingly, most of the students didn’t seem to have a problem with it. The faculty, however, had different ideas. Needless to say I remember there being a lot of drama, but largely avoiding most of it myself.
Until I came out as transgender I considered myself straight. I considered myself that for the same reasons I struggled against being transgender for so long. It was just easier. It was what was expected of me. I liked girls. I had more interest in girls than boys.
In the early days of my learning about social justice, one of my best friends told me I have the SAWCASM bingo. That’s Straight, Affluent, White, Cis, Able-bodied, Sexual, Male, in case you were wondering. I have no idea how prevalent that term is. At the time, she was right. I did. Or, I suppose, you would now say I had passing SAWCASM bingo. This was when I was first learning about social justice, and was learning through my own mistakes, and dealing with my own internalized misogyny and internalized transphobia.
Perceiving myself as straight kept me from wanting to transition for a long time. After all, it would be easier to continue the charade of being a man, and being interested in women, and skipping the entire stigma of being both transgender and a lesbian. I wish it could have been that simple, but as it turns out burying who you truly are deep in a closet for 30 years is far harder than finally coming out and being yourself.
Even now, as a transgender person, I still struggle with my sexuality. After all, if I was straight before, shouldn’t that answer the question? If I was closeted about my gender for so long, is it possible that I am still closeted about my sexuality? What does it make me now? Gay? A lesbian? Bisexual? Pansexual?
I hate labels, but people love labeling things and putting them into nice neat little boxes. As the cultural understanding about sexuality becomes more and more common, the boxes become more and more varied and different. Even as someone who considers themselves pretty socially aware, it becomes difficult to keep up.
I’m going to explain some terms like you’re five, not because I don’t think the majority of my readers know them, but more because I want to discuss my own personal views on what they mean.
Gay, aside from being a slur that’s been used against me for as long as I can remember, is a catch-all for being homosexual. In my mind, though, it tends to lean towards the male side of homosexuality. Lesbian is just like gay, only specific to women, and at least in my experience much less often used directly as a slur (there are, unfortunately, other words for that). Bisexual refers to being into both men and women. Spreading a much wider net, pansexual, generally, refers to being into people, regardless of their gender identity.
You’d probably think that given my earlier description of gender and sexuality as a spectrum, that I’d be more favorable towards the term pansexual, but things get muddy when you enter the real world. Particularly the real world of dating as a transgender person.
At its core, it sounds like it should be more inclusive and welcoming, but in practice that starts to fall apart. I’ve seen more than enough dating profiles that list a user being pansexual, but then clearly mean that they’re interested in women and transgender men, or that they’re interested in men and transgender women. Aside from immediately making me swipe left, it also makes the term pansexual start to rub me the wrong way. It stops being about gender identity, and starts being about “penis havers” and “vagina havers.”
Bisexual, while being less inclusive by definition, at least confirms that a person is in fact interested in both men and women, and while I am sure there are people that exist who use it as a term specifically to exclude transgender or non-binary individuals, I’ve never personally had the experience to meet someone who does think that way. To be fair, they might have just seen that I’m transgender and swiped left, but at least then their transphobia isn’t being worn on their sleeves.
So all that being said, to me, as a transgender person, bisexual and pansexual mean basically the same thing, and I do my best to weed out the transphobic individuals based on their profiles. There’s good and bad about each term, and I’m not going to fault anyone for choosing one or the other for their own personal identities.
That brings us back to me? Where do I fit into all of this? I guess you could say that I still don’t even know. If I had to pick a label, at this point in my life, it’d be lesbian with bisexual/pansexual leanings. Which probably doesn’t help you much.
What I’m trying to say, is that while I am most interested in women (and yes, transgender women are women), if the perfect man (and yes, once again, transgender men are men) or non-binary person fell into my lap and swept me off my feet I wouldn’t say no.
Will that change with time? It’s hard to say. Some people say that being on transgender hormone therapy changed their sexuality as much as it changed their body. I’m not here to say one way or another. Sexuality is a spectrum, just like gender. Once again, more eloquent people than myself have written on those topics so I am not going to elaborate further. In the end, I think that I’ve decided that I’m not going to limit my options for finding love and companionship.