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Back You are here: Home Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity - [Archived] Queer Trans men and the gay male community: Time to integrate

Trans men and the gay male community: Time to integrate

TransGayThe gay male community is often hostile and unwelcoming to gay trans men in their midst. Matt Kailey offers some thoughts on how the communities can integrate.

10 April 2011

A reader on my blog asked me: “How could one change the current climate for gay trans men in the gay male community?”

My answer: One mind at a time.

When I first started my transition, I identified as a gay man, which did not go over well with one population – gay men. The gay men who heard me speak complained that I was appropriating their identity, that I didn’t share the “gay male experience” that had shaped the lives of gay men, and that I couldn’t compare my experience to theirs.

Being opinionated, impetuous, and newly testosterone-fueled, I was slow to catch on. But I eventually realized that they were right – at least in my case.

I do know some gay trans men who have been gay men since they were old enough to formulate an identity, regardless of their body configuration, but the neighborhood Barbra Streisand fan club that I started at 11 and my childhood obsession with The Wizard of Oz really don’t qualify me.

I have found that, in many non-trans gay male communities, there seems to be a sense of invasion when it comes to gay trans men, as well as a sense of “trickery.”

I have also found that the older the men are, the stronger these feelings are – but this is a generalization, of course, and it is not always true.

There also seems to be less a sense of this in activist communities that have united around T inclusion in LGBT causes.

But again, as with lesbian communities, I have not found non-trans gay communities as a whole to be any more knowledgeable about trans issues than straight communities are. And, at least in Colorado, many of the non-trans gay activists who have attempted to include gay trans men in their programs for gay men have run up against road blocks from other gay men.

Of course, my answer to almost everything is to be out if possible, and this situation is no different. I think that the more non-trans gay men have a chance to see who we are and to know us on a personal level, the less they will feel “tricked” or “deceived.”

One of my best friends is a non-trans gay man. One or two of his friends have rejected me. They are no longer his friends. A couple of his friends have stated that they would have never considered dating a trans man until they met me (not because they want to date me in particular, but because they have realized, through meeting me, that trans guys are pretty much like every other guy). The rest of his friends have just taken me in stride. They just don’t care one way or the other.

I have many other non-trans gay friends and acquaintances. I think dating, sex, and relationships are a different matter, but there are many gay trans guys who are in relationships with non-trans gay guys, and even more who are sexually active with non-trans gay guys.

I think it just takes time. Because of our “invisibility,” primarily due to the effects of testosterone, non-trans gay men are often not aware that we are among them or that they even know any trans men.

Once they realize that they do know us, and once they start to form friendships or other relationships with us, I think attitudes will change.

I also think that we can’t position ourselves as outsiders with our noses pressed up against the window of an established community hoping to be “let in.”

Our goal should be to integrate the communities, not ask for membership. We have as much to offer as anyone else, and both trans and non-trans gay guys can benefit by the association.

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.

This article is the second part of Ask Matt Monday, which dealt with trans men and lesbian communities.

 

 

Comments   

0 #3 fox teeth 2011-04-13 20:10
from hearing about the experiences of some of the gay trans men I know in australia, it seems like there are a lot of good experiences and some bad experiences with disclosing but even then, mostly ok. what I want to know is how do you see trans guys that are not on T integrating into gay male communities? I'm not on T and in my experience I don't often get a second look. but I do make friends. I'm not that interested in going on T just to improve my chances of picking up the men I find attractive (who might still reject me after finding out my trans status). but I do wish that people would be open to reading me a different way. is that too much to ask from a looks-based culture that privileges masculinity?
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0 #2 A. Greenwick 2011-04-13 11:53
Transwomen are also often excluded from lesbian and women-centered groups. The whole 'invasion' and 'deceit' thing is quite old and tired. There definitely needs to be more education; I personally am quite burnt out from educating people about trans issues, and so I won't even bother trying to join the gay community anymore.

Something that would also help immensely is to have a positive, recurring transman character in a television show which non-trans people can empathize and identify with. That would do something similar to having everyone meet a trans person.
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0 #1 Aram 2011-04-10 07:55
Maybe this is a particularly American experience? I have to say that as a gay trans guy here in Australia, I've had no problem navigating gay men's spaces or communities.. in fact.. I don't think I could name a single bad experience. Sure, plenty of guys who need educating, (but then, we're not all born into the world with pre-programmed queer knowledge, so no problem), but no one who's ever been nasty, abusive, or sought to exclude me.
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