There was a time when I, as so many now seem to profess to do, accepted that sexuality and sex were distinct from each other. Time and examination have since led me to a different understanding.
In general terms, when we are dealing with a natal sex binary (male/female) and without the influence of transsexualism, that premise is true. The fact that one is male or female is no determinant of a person’s sexuality. There are no shortages of homosexual and bisexual males and females and there seems to be no physical determining factor in either biological sex as to what makes someone gay or bi.
The introduction of transsexualism, though, brings a new dynamic into play when considering the sexuality of both of the transsexual themselves and their partner in relation to their natal sexes.
Arbitrary Classification in Trans Relationships.
When we look at the personal relationships of transsexuals within society the codification we apply to them is more from the stand point of convenience and linguistic simplicity than a factual description of the nature of the relationship. So where we note what appears to a relationship between two people who present as opposite sexes to each other (irrespective of each of their birth sex’s), we codify such relationships as heterosexual or straight and where the parties present as the same sex, notwithstanding their original birth sex we would codify such as gay or lesbian relationships. This though is the use of language for the purposes of navigating daily societal interaction. When it comes down to a factual examination of the circumstances of such relationships things are much more complex.
The Mechanisms at Play
To form an understanding of the nature of a relationship you must first understand the dynamics of sexual attraction within it, whether or not that attraction is acted upon.
Males are sexually attracted to Femininity, Masculinity (to varying degrees) or both.
Females are sexually attracted to Males, Females or both.
This is because male sexual attraction is primarily visual in nature where female sexual attraction is much more nuanced. There is of course a visual element to female sexuality but it is only one of many factors, but it wouldn’t matter to a man if a beautiful girl had the personality of a door post, he would still likely have sex with her.
The distinctions between Female and Femininity and Male and Masculinity are key when looking at the nature of sexuality between the sexes. It is perfectly possible for a person to commit what would by a dictionary definition be a homosexual act, without that person themselves being homosexual. It is the attraction, in other words the physical and mental triggers which determine sexuality.
Relationships Between Transsexuals and Non-Transsexuals
Some transsexuals are in denial about their understanding of their own biological sex, though this is mostly prevalent in Autogynephilic (AGP) transsexuals. It is often a deliberate deception and it is unlikely that they are in fact deluded as to their biology. There is also a number of Homosexual Transsexuals (HSTS) who have succumbed to this ideology of denial but they are rare. The vast majority of HSTS are perfectly aware of their natal sex and are prepared to acknowledge the same if confronted, even if, when in a social setting or for legal or administrative purposes they would refer to themselves as female, this is more about social navigation rather than an attempt to deceive themselves or others.
This denial of biological sex in the AGP population is what gives rise to these ridiculous classifications such as “trans-lesbian” and “lesbian with a penis”! In some instances this permeates trans-male culture too, with transmen referring to themselves as “gay trans-man”!
The reality though is that the sexuality of transsexuals is no different from the norms of their natal sex.
So Who’s Gay and Who’s Not?
These are uncomfortable truths for many, but are inescapable in biological reality and are predicated upon one’s knowledge of one’s self rather than wishful thinking. There are of course outliers in all groups, who would require closer study but generally speaking:
An MtF HSTS who is attracted to men is homosexual, irrespective of what hormonal or surgical steps she has taken to modify her body. Dependent upon her attaining a sufficient level of femininity, any male attracted to her would not be homosexual, as his attraction is a typical male’s attraction to femininity. To use my own example as a HSTS, to the outside world my husband and I look like a straight couple, but I am genetically male and attracted to males and particularly to their masculinity; it has ever been thus and so I remain homosexual. My partner is a heterosexual male who did not know me prior to my full surgical transition and his attraction is to my femininity, as other than at an abstract genetic level there are no remnants of my masculinity remaining for him to be attracted to. So while I am homosexual, and sex between us is by a dictionary definition a homosexual act, he himself is not homosexual.
The male partner of an MtF TS, of either phenotype, who does not look feminine at all, is unlikely to be heterosexual and is more likely to be bisexual or less likely homosexual, though the degree to which the TS displays any masculinity would have a particular bearing on this, as again it is the femininity or masculinity which would drive the sexual attraction in such men. Gay men are not attracted to feminine transsexuals.
AGPs who are attracted to females are almost without exception heterosexual; their attraction is to the femininity displayed by their female partners. This, though, would include the extremely rare examples of AGPs forming relationships with masculine presenting lesbians and even rarer examples of AGPs themselves being purposefully masculine-presenting themselves and forming relationships with other masculine lesbians. They are male and attracted either to masculinity and/or femininity of their partner and so could potentially be bisexual but are not homosexual/lesbian. The females who form relationships with these TS are without doubt bisexual, as female attraction is much more complex than that of males and is not based only on the presentation of femininity.
The same is true in reverse for transmen who are sexually attracted to males; they are heterosexual while, provided they are sufficiently masculine, their partners would be homosexual or, less likely, bisexual, for similar reasons as those set out above.
Transsexuals who partner up with each other are heterosexual where their birth sexes are opposite and homosexual where their birth sexes are aligned. So a transman and a transwoman are a heterosexual couple though two transmen together or two transwomen together are a homosexual couple, but not in the traditional sense. The two transmen are lesbian or bisexual females and the two transwomen are gay or bisexual males.
While it is possible, once you have an understanding of the rules of attraction, to approximate that of the opposite biological sex, it is just that an approximation. Both male and female sexualities are simple enough in their physicality but the social rules of female sexuality are labyrinthine and even many HSTS struggle with them at first.
Sexuality and the Motivation for Transition
Although Dr Ray Blanchard’s codification of transsexuals makes clear that, in his research, sexual desire plays an equal part in both HSTS and AGPs motivation to medically transition, HSTS desire for sex with men and AGPs desire for sex with their feminine persona. It seems to be lost on some and deliberately falsely denied by others that this is the case, perhaps because they perceive it as having negative connotations. Though this is unnecessary as this is somewhat of a “red herring”!
We are all human and so are all sexual creatures. Most people’s motivations, irrespective of whether they are transsexual or not, for doing most things, are centred on sex, be it for procreation or recreation. Men compete in the workplace or on the sports field to gain status to make themselves sexually attractive to their preferred partner or to maintain that attraction. Whether they admit it or not women dress or perform femininity for the purposes of attracting or keeping a mate. Of course this is not the only motivation for such things but it is without doubt the primary driver. Why then should transsexuals be any different?
Sex is of course a motivation for transition. Historically this had to be denied, by transsexuals, to medical staff who, in the past, would have withheld treatment where they thought this to be the case; but it is not the only or necessarily even the primary motivator.
Simply trying to exist in wider society is difficult enough for anyone, but these difficulties are exacerbated for HSTS, where one is unable to blend either fully or at all with either one’s natal sex group or acquired gender group; that tends to be the primary driver behind transition, the sex thing is just a pleasant bonus.