I have to say, I really really like the New York City queer culture. I went to a mixed queer event there that felt like paradise. There were dykes, queens, fags, transfolk, genderqueers, butches, and femmes, all mixed up and dating one another. It felt fantastic to be in a queer space in which you couldn’t tell many people’s gender or sexuality by looking at them and a major relief to be somewhere where it was not assumed that someone like me would be a “she”, identify as a dyke, or date women. I was particularly intrigued by one couple, a trans guy and a female-bodied person who could have been a butch, a female faggot, a genderqueer, or a pre- or non-transitioning transguy. The female-bodied partner seemed to embody my fulfilled desire. There s/he was, clearly a fag, clearly not a lesbian, clearly female-bodied, living in this state with full social recognition for the community. This person, as well as my experience in this bar – in which I was gendered masculine, but with no assumptions about my identification, sexuality, or future embodiments – made me feel that it might be possible, in a big city queer space, to live at peace, recognized for who I am, able to date who I wanted to date, not burdened by constant misrecognition. It felt tremendously freeing. In a space like this, I might not even feel the need to transition.
But there’s another part of me that pulls in the opposite direction. While I was in New York, I found myself hanging out with a lot of transguys who related to me as if I were another transguy. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but I felt a strong sense of kinship with them, that they were my people, the ones who I wanted to understand and accept me. And it felt great when they did. Even though I obviously don’t have in common with many FTMs the experience of physically transitioning, I nevertheless feel a strong sense of kinship with them. Or maybe it’s just a matter of affinity and aspiration. Regardless, it’s been really nice lately, with two transguys I’ve been hooking up with, to feel understood and believed in my description of my gender and sexuality, and to be referred to as a similar type of person to them with certain shared experiences (in the expression “people like us,” for instance). On the other hand, while I have many friends who are lesbians and/or women, I am aware of a certain limitation to what we might have in common. Talking to my butch ex in New York, I was struck by the fact that, although previously she had been the more masculine one, she was connected to her femaleness in a way that I was not. While I am all too happy to be folded over into transness and referred to as a “guy”, she feels strongly the need to stake a space for non-trans female masculinity.
It’s hard to articulate this, but I think my desire to transition is less about wanting to be seen as a man or wanting to change my body than it is about participating in certain types of relationality. I feel different from lesbians and from women; I want to draw away from them; I feel a sense of resonance and kinship with transguys and gay guys; I want to be like them, be one of them; I want to date them without the difference of my obvious femaleness coming between us (however unobtrusively). When I went out with my gay non-trans lover recently, people could only see us as a non-sexual couple of friends, since he was so faggoty and I so “butch”. This bothered me. When I went out with an FTM lover recently, servers repeatedly called him “Ma’am”. He said that he hadn’t been passing much lately, but I couldn’t help but wonder if seeing him out on a date with a “butch” “woman” made people more likely to read him as female.
This fall, I am moving to a big city with a large trans community. I know I will feel better there, more recognized, with greater dating possibilities. But I have no idea whether being recognized and eroticized for who I am will make me feel at peace with my femaleness or whether being a part of a community of trans men will pull me toward transition even more.