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.
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!
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.