Women who identify as straight and who kiss other women for attention, a thrill, or "an experience." Sigh. I used to find them profoundly annoying. Maybe not so much anymore. Yet while I have nothing against a good make out session with Ms. Straighty McStraightyPants, I'm also not really interested in dating her. Or fucking her (or less commonly, being fucked by her). There's always something missing from the equation. Add being a lesbian trans woman into the mix and the situation just gets worse.
I really want to make it clear, I'm speaking here about cisgender straight women and my experiences with many of them across my romantic and sexual history. I recognise many of my trans sisters are, in fact, quite heterosexual. I have not personally had any romantic or sexual experience with other trans women (there have never really been any other trans women, of any sexuality, in my social circles until extremely recently). I'm sexually and romantically interested in women identified persons. And that includes other trans women (assuming I find them attractive for the same reasons I would find any cisgender woman attractive). I'd still want to make sure that any trans woman I was seeing was also not straight.
It isn't my place as someone whose own sexuality included quite a bit of experimentation (Men? Sorry, nope, stiiiiiiill gay. It's not you, it's me) and ended up fairly straight forward (gay forward?) to negate someone else's sexual journey by making a decision about who is and who is not "queer enough" or "lesbian enough" (or "trans enough" and wow, do I hate all of these). If someone is seriously questioning how straight they really are, then maybe I can be part of that process... Maybe. Lauren Marie Fleming of QueerieBradshaw says this better than I could when she writes:
If you are queer and looking to explore that part of you, that's one thing, but most queer women aren't going to appreciate being the tick next to the box "make out with a girl" on your to-do list. Women, especially queer women, are highly sensitive, highly emotional beings and we don't appreciate feeling used, especially by other women.
No, we don't. Let's be honest, I have to take care of myself first. I'm not there to be a straight woman's "experiment" or "thrill." So when a woman who identifies herself as "straight" then proceeds to come onto me with serious intentions, I start looking for the exit. This is especially true when I am in a distinctly queer space. And even while I say here that I'm okay with kissing women who identify as straight, I always have to wonder just what the endgame is for those women being in the queer space in the first place. Are you here for the exoticism of it? Are you here for the lesbian "version" of "slumming it" (as if that term itself isn't horribly bound up in issues of classism and racism)? Or are you genuinely following your heart? And kisses or not, are you acting in a respectful way towards the queer space you've just entered? After we make out in an alcove, broom closet, or bathroom, I really need to know, and again Fleming's got the right of it here:
When I'm out at a gay club, I'm looking for someone who calls the place home, not a tourist seeking an exotic romp while on a vacation from their ordinary world. Your fantasy is our life, a life that is constantly intruded upon emotionally, politically and physically. When your "fun" is over, you return to a life of heterosexual privilege while we're still here fighting for equal recognition.
And the issue just gets more complicated when queerness involves both lesbian and transgender. One of the biggest issues I have had dating/sleeping with straight women (from high school on, really) is the notion, conscious or unconscious, that I'm just like a boy/guy only "safer" or "nicer" or "more understanding" or "more emotionally compatible" because I'm actually a girl/woman (only not really, not deep down, because blah blah blah unexplored personal paradigms) and can be treated like a woman/girl SPACE friend/girlfriend when it suits, and a boyfriend or cisgender male partner when that suits. There's always an issue when straight women start thinking, "Ugh, I'm fed up with men, so I'll try women" and pursue a same-sex relationship on that premise, and let me assure you, it fucking sucks when my identity as a woman is invalidated based on the idea, "Well, I'm not quite ready to try women yet, but you're sorta in-between, so you'll do!"
Seriously?! Wow. Fuck that noise.
Even pre-transition, I was pretty damn clear about my gender identity. I tried to bring it up in high school, but I wasn't terribly successful. I absolutely did bring it up throughout my relationships at university. I was always pretty visibly queer (and I was routinely mistaken as an effeminate gay man and not correctly identified as a tomboy femme gay woman), and so I felt like the women I was interested in (and whom appeared interested in me) would be open to my gender identity and sexual orientation. This was often the case... In the beginning. See, I had a three date policy. Only once did I ever have a terrible reaction, and even that wasn't that bad. About halfway through my junior year of university, a girl I was dating had a bad reaction upon being told. She dropped her fork in the middle of our dinner date, stood up, and walked out of the restaurant without a word.
Normally, however, the response was pretty positive. There were a couple of, "Oh, I'm not cool with this, sorry" comments and a few, "Oh. Wow. If you're a woman, and you like women, you're a lesbian. Sorry, I'm pretty straight, and this won't work for me" responses. And I really appreciated their honesty. Unfortunately, the most common response was, "Oh! Wow! Well, this is different! Let's go for it!" and I'd try my best not to set a mental stopwatch on how long before it crashed and burned due to a complete and total failure to understand what being in a relationship with a queer woman, especially a lesbian trans woman, really entailed. My longest relationship with someone I am pretty sure still thinks of herself as straight actually managed to last over two years, but even with a fair bit of sexual exploration, eventually this issue would crop up over and over and combined with a heap of other relationship problems, it just couldn't last.
Sexual incongruity is a really massive part of this. While there are a variety of ways that cisgender men's "junk" works and can work, as both a lesbian trans woman and just as a unique individual, there are a lot of paradigms and social baggage straight women have brought into the bedroom which just don't work. I have had partners who show complete bafflement at my general dislike of penis in vagina sex. Really? Is this so surprising? I fit the "classic transsexual" narrative in many ways, a narrative I have shared with you before we even started tearing each others' clothing off on our way towards that way-too-fucking-far four poster. You know sex reassignment surgery is a personal end goal. If you're not ready for eventual vagina/vagina fun times, what are you doing here? And weeks or months down the line why are you still expressing the same bafflement at the very idea this could happen between us?
I have had great difficulty getting women who identify as straight to communicate and listen in comparison to queer women. In some ways my cisgender queer women partners have found me to respond very well to the same sexual techniques they have used with their cisgender women partners. Not to say queer women, as individuals, don't have our share of issues, but there is a sort of lesbian sexual lexicon which is accessible by me and applicable to me, as well as to my queer cisgender partners. The dynamics of a lot of the sex I participate in would be pretty damn familiar to many cisgender lesbians and is certainly clear to my cisgender partners. This lexicon has been, unsurprisingly I suppose, unknown and unaccessible by the straight women partners I have had.
There is nothing more mood killing and invalidating than being told, "Wait, you have a penis, so why is X not working for you, and why is Y what you want? Shouldn't you respond like Z?" in the middle of sex. Or worse yet, "Wow, you totally sound/act/seem like a woman during sex! *squeal of delight*" Or the worst of all, "Oh. Oh. You are a woman. I really see that now! And I'm not a lesbian, so this isn't going to work out." Gee, thanks. You couldn't have told me that earlier? All of these really stem from the same place, that I am not really a woman in the deepest, subconscious conceptualisation of "woman." That I am a placeholder for "man" without the sociocultural baggage which goes along with "man" because I do not see myself as a man or comport myself as a man. And just as lesbians, cisgender or transgender, may be exoticised by straight women for their gayness, so too can lesbian trans women specifically be exoticised because of their transness.
So, straight women, maybe in the dim lights of the bar and the inebriated haze of that one too many gin and tonics, I might make out with you, but I'm definitely not taking you home.
Image via Katrevich Valeriy/Shutterstock.