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Back You are here: Home Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity - [Archived] GLB Why is the sexual orientation of trans people often invisible?

Why is the sexual orientation of trans people often invisible?

Trans_sexual_orientationWe all have a sexual orientation – trans and non-trans. It might have a label and it might not. But all too often, trans people’s sexual orientation gets lost in the mix of ‘LGBT’, writes Matt Kailey.

10 October 2010

Trans survey-takers ran into a glitch recently when an otherwise inclusive organization posted an online survey targeted to LGBT people and dealing with discrimination, employment, violence, and other issues important to the community.

When some trans people chose the answer “Straight” under the sexual-orientation category, they received a polite message saying, in effect, that they could not complete the survey, because it was not for straight people.

Of course, the problem was immediately remedied after the first complaint, but some damage might have already been done.

It is possible that several straight trans people tried to take the survey before the problem was discovered and just gave up, meaning that their voices would not be heard and counted. It is also possible that they left the website feeling alienated from an organization and a community that claims to be inclusive.

Trans sexual orientation often gets lost in the mix, and there are variety of reasons for this. The most obvious is when “Transgender” is included in a survey under the category of “Sexual Orientation.”

But that wasn’t the case with this survey, and that isn’t the only reason why our sexual orientation seems to vanish like my potential dates.

My sexual orientation might disappear because I’m not getting any at the moment, but I think there are at least three primary reasons why our sexuality gets lost in the shuffle.

1. We are the “T” in LGBT.

Yeah, I know – I argue for our inclusion whenever I can. And I still believe that it is appropriate and necessary. But it is not without problems.

Transgender is not a sexual orientation, and it is absolutely necessary for LGB ‘T’ organizations to recognize that there are straight-identified trans people, and that there are couples that consist of one or two trans people who may appear to be “straight” to the outside world, but who do not identify as such.

There are also couples that consist of one or two trans people who appear to be gay or lesbian to the outside world, but who do not identify as such. Yes, we mess up your categories a little bit. We do it on purpose to annoy you.

2. It is assumed that we don’t have sex.

Since many non-trans people seem to be unusually (and unreasonably) concerned about our genitals and can’t seem to fathom what they might look like or how they might work, they assume that they don’t work at all, or that we somehow don’t have them, like a Barbie or Ken doll, or that we’re just not into sex (maybe we’re just not into you, but that’s a different thing entirely).

Stories from decades ago about some trans person who lost his or her ability to have an orgasm after surgery take on mythical proportions, and they’re still floated around the campfire as if this were a commonplace occurrence and that we don’t care about such things. Give me another shot of testosterone and I’ll tell you how asexual I am.

3. We deny our own sexuality.

Transsexual has the word “sex” in it, and it freaks some people out – including, sometimes, us. We know that this isn’t about sex in “that” sense, but we’re still wary that if we acknowledge the fact that we are sexual beings, others will make it about sex in “that” sense.

And those of us raised in the United States, and probably many other places as well, have been socialized into a culture that doesn’t like to talk about sex or bodies anyway, so those of us with a transsexual body or a troubled relationship with our body are sometimes reluctant to recognize or accept our sexual self. I have lived a long time and seen a lot of bodies – believe me, having a transsexual one is the least of my worries.

We all have a sexual orientation – trans and non-trans. It might have a label and it might not. We might claim it and we might not. We might act on it and we might not. But it’s there, and when it becomes invisible, it can prevent us from becoming completely self-actualized and whole.

To be sexual is human. To partake is divine. But regardless, we can’t let a significant piece of ourselves (no pun intended) go missing. We need to acknowledge our sexuality and we need to insist that others do as well.

That doesn’t mean that we have to date them – it just means we have to make sure they get their surveys right.

Matt Kailey is a public speaker, trainer, consultant, and award-winning author focusing on trans issues. He lives in Denver, Colorado, USA, and transitioned from female to male 13 years ago. Since that time, he has spoken on college campuses and at conferences throughout the United States, and has trained various businesses on issues surrounding on-the-job transition.

Matt is the author of Just Add Hormones:
An Insider's Guide to the Transsexual Experience (a Lambda Literary Award finalist and a Rocky Mountain News local bestseller), and the editor of Focus on the Fabulous: Colorado GLBT Voices, a Denver Post local bestseller. His work has also appeared in various anthologies, journals, and magazines.

He has appeared in five documentary films, including
Matt Kailey: A Conversation and the award-winning Call Me Malcolm.

He blogs at
Tranifesto, his own blog and website, and is a guest blogger at Womanist Musings.

 

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