Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dear Ally

Last Summer, I started a "Dear Ally" column inviting you to raise any subject that interests you.  I just received a letter from Alya, a delightful young woman in South Jersey who used to have a fashion-blog.  Alya converted her public blog to a private one so she could address more private parts of her life.  I'm honored to be among the few who have the password for it.

I met Alya in person this Fall and found her to be exactly who she seemed on her blog.  Engaging, intelligent, attractive, and possessing a wicked sense of humor.  I like Alya and consider her a friend.

Dear Ally,

There was something I was curious about that maybe you could clear up for me and I'm sure many others.  What's sexual orientation like for transgendered people?  For example, since you are a woman on the inside, does that automatically make you attracted to men?  Or would you consider yourself a lesbian because you are still attracted to women?  I don't mean to pry and understand if you don't share personal details, but I think the subject itself is something a lot of people might wonder about.  At least, I do!


Dear Alya,

Thank you for raising a question that's probably on many people's minds when they first encounter my blog.  I certainly don't mind addressing it and believe sharing some personal details might help you understand the answer.  The answer is both simple and complicated.

Transgendered people are like normal people in most respects, including sexual orientation, but we grow up in an inhospitable environment that warps us.  Most transgenders are taught and forced to suppress who we really are -- and that suppression can distort aspects of our life. 

Recognizing this is what makes the answer to your question more complex than it seems initially.  We are all a mixture of nature and nurture.  Genetic predispositions are affected by environmental factors like the parenting we get, the society we live in, and the culture surrounding us.  Those factors, when powerful, can overcome our natural inclinations.  For example, imagine living in a totalitarian society where political dissent is forbidden and any sign of it is harshly punished.  A person might want to say something they truly believe but rationally conclude such action is too risky.  In that instance, societal force trumps personal choice.

Back to sex...  :)

It is important to know that gender-identity and sexual orientation are separate, unconnected things.  In the same way that a normal person can be straight or gay, a transgender can be straight or gay.  There is nothing inherent in transsexualism that makes a person straight or gay.  One's sexual orientation can be anything and is not determined by whether your gender-identity is considered normal by our society or deviant.

As one would expect, the majority of transgendered people have heterosexual orientation.  A minority have homosexual orientation.  This mirrors the entire population at large. 

Of course, it seems odd that someone male on the outside and female on the inside would consider loving men to be a heterosexual inclination and not a homosexual one, but that's only if you can't wrap your head around the reality of gender-identity.  I, for example, am female -- even though I look male, ride a motorcycle, and battle forcefully in court every day against hyper-aggressive men.

The simplicity of this point gets complicated by the experience transgenders have in society.  For example, when I grew up, I was taught that I couldn't be female and that I would never have a female life.  Like everyone else (normal or transgendered), I was encouraged to have and exhibit heterosexual orientation (for a man).  That is our social norm.

This social pressure caused me to suppress my natural sexual instincts.  It caused my sexuality to become twisted around.  Our society segregates boys and girls.  I was shown that I would be spending most of my life in the company of men.  To make that possible, I learned how to not view men sexually and how to be around them with the easy air of a straight buddy.  I learned how to make men comfortable with my ostensible heterosexuality.

In childhood, I was pushed into athletics and spent a lot of time in locker rooms.  As an adult, I took up motorcycling and spend time with other men on trips, in tents and at social gatherings.  I have always been seen and accepted as a straight man.

All of my sexual experiences have been with women -- but I can't say that they've been typical male-female sexual encounters.  In those experiences, I was intently focused on pleasing the woman, in learning what she liked, and providing that to her.  I exhibited an attitude in those experiences that some might view as traditionally female.

My attraction to women has been fascination at their femininity, fueled by a deep desire to learn how to be more like them.  Even in sex, I watch women to see how they act and respond, what they want and do.  In the back of my mind, I'm observing in an effort to learn how to be more like a woman.

In an ideal world, I would be a heterosexual woman seeking a long-term relationship with a man.  But I don't live in an ideal world.  I do not consider myself gay and do not embrace any part of gay male culture.  I am not gay, I am female.  In this world, where I can't be accepted as female, I have not had sex with a man as another man.  That's just not who I am.

Simple, yet complicated.  Does this help?

All responses invited.


  1. Wow, Ally. I love how you really want folks to understand you. And you aren't upset at everyone's natural curiosity. But then, that's how girls are. You are not so different after all! :-)

  2. Very well written post. So glad you can help us understand a little bit more about you :)

  3. That's deep! This post goes to show that it's not a simple matter. I think some people are so black & white they get thrown off when something doesn't fit into their expected box. That's tough. I'm glad there are people like you who are willing to explain the details and prove that it's okay to be out of the ordinary.

  4. I'm always shocked at your strength & honesty to post answers to questions like this. I would have an overwhelming desire to respond 'none of your beeswax'.

  5. I very much appreciate your thorough explanation - I agree that your honesty and strength in revealing this about you is one of the things that I deeply admire about you, Ally. Thank you.

  6. I think this is a very common question on most minds, but people are afraid to ask it. Kudos to your friend for having the courage to ask, and more kudos to you for answering. Your answer made me think about more than the question and what sort of behaviors/personality traits we associate with each gender that may just be learned from how we are treated based on our gender, as opposed to hard-wired brain differences. Does that make sense? Ah, well, we can't all be as eloquent in our writing as you are. ;)

  7. I think this is an interesting question - which I think you have answered in great detail.
    Even though I did not ask you, somehow I just knew this was the way it was.

  8. This is such a great post. Thanks for being so honest about your life. I think people forget that there's diversity even among people of a shared group. Just like how no 2 women are the exactly alike even though they're both women.

  9. Wow. Thank you so much for writing this post. You're such a brave, honest person--- that's very inspiring to me. In a way, getting this chance to empathize with you makes me sad, though. I simultaneously can and can't imagine being coerced into repressing an important part of your identity... It's not fair that society does this to anyone. I hope you maintain your strength to let this part of yourself bloom and grow. I'm sure it's not easy to do -- but know that you have a lot of supporters who are rooting for you! Your journey of self-love is seriously inspiring!!

  10. Fab question and and even better answer. I'm very intrigued by this. I feel lucky that you are in my life so that I can learn more. I don't think I would have asked you that question but I've wondered before too. So, this was great. I feel even closer to you now. You are an incredible person. I'm sorry that our society did a number on you but you have really come through and you are a role model.


  11. I admire the way you wrote about this complex topic.

  12. Thank you for such an honest and open post. This was very well said.

  13. Ally, thank you for sharing this with us. I have know a lot of gay people both men and women, but I have never before known a transgendered man or woman.
    You wrote very eloquently about your feelings. I cannot imagine what it would be to feel like you do. Your honesty and courage in sharing inspire me.

  14. Fascinating.. i really love your willingness to share with us and generate greater awareness for those of us who dont know alot about complex issues like this. As always, great post!! xoxo J

  15. It sounds like a real conundrum to puzzle through, and I certainly wish you the best on your journey.

  16. I really appreciate your blog. One of my dearest friends, who happens to be married to a woman, feels out of place in his male body. He had mentioned a gender-identity issue once or twice so we had a weekend alone snowboarding last year and I got to hear all about it. I felt so trusted and honored that he could explain to me what he feels. I can't imagine what it's like, the magnitude is greater than my experience with any feeling I might have had that I am not living a life completely as intended. I appreciate your beauty, as a man, as a woman and as a hybrid of both.

    I'm lucky to have been in the New Wave/Goth circles as a teen in the 80's, it was almost de riguer to be bi, which just opened the door to everything beyond. The only thing I've ever found shocking is when we, as a society, forget that every living, breathing being seeks to be loved, has the capacity for love, compassion, change, that compartmentalizing is nothing short of prison.

    Bless this day and age we live in. It's certainly better than it used to be. I only hope it continues moving in the right direction.


  17. Ally, thank you for opening up this intimate side of your life and feeling comfortable enough for sharing. In University I had transsexual guest presenters talking about gender and identity so learned a little but have learned way more from your blog than I would from academia. I hope one day the ideal world can be created so everyone, anywhere can live happpily and without threat in whatever gender or sexual identity they prefer. As Canada's former prime minister stated "there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation."