“What’s Your True Orientation?”
It has taken even I a long time to get to a space of understanding my Self, at times too well. It makes others around me uncomfortable with the fact that my queerness does not just end at my gender identity as a transgender woman but that I am queer even where my sexuality is concerned. Over the years, the more I became intimate with my Self in coming to terms with the journey that my Self was to go to affirm herself as a woman against a backdrop that otherwise promised to resist her Self, the more I uncovered and continue to uncover layers of my identity.
It is a known fact at this point, I guess, that I am married to a cisgender, heterosexual man; cisgender denoting that he, like most of society, was born with his birth assigned sex (being male), was aligned with his gender (being man) and had his whole dating being attracted to cisgender-heterosexual women (women who were female assigned at birth). Colloquially you would say he is as straight as they come. Not that his straightness requires proving, but I have seen how he reacts to being hit on by other men and how his response differed greatly from that of these sissies who often burst up and go cagey (even violent) just because they have been hit on by another dude (Gentlemen, what eats you up about another man complimenting you by hitting on you?).
Unlike them, hubby dearest often simply lets them know that he isn’t interested because he already has a Queen, a Queer Queen, mind you, without blowing up at them or denigrating them in any way. He even gets hit on via his DMs on his various social media platforms and comes to show me his exchanges at times with some guys (some openly gay and some still on the DL, your ‘After9’ type). Then we at times laugh at how he starts befriending and ‘friendzoning’ some of them even. His masculinity and sexuality or straightness for him are the least of things that are of any question to him even in how he engages with other people of diverse gender identities and sexual expressions.
He represents what to me has been the greater percentage of the calibre and type of partners I have been with, both romantically and sexually, being cisgender-heterosexual menor cis-hetmen, as is often said in my rainbow world. However, I have not only been attracted to cis-het men alone. I have dated in this world five men whose gender has walked a similar journey to that of mine. I have transgender ex-boyfriends who have often landed me in a very weird space with other people, including some trans persons who have asked me questions like, “So how do you guys do it?,” or, “Did you penetrate him?,” which are all very invasive and transphobic questions that otherwise would not be asked of my cis-het exes.
It used to really irritate me to a point of annoyance, but I had to learn that such questions are an opportunity for one to educate others about what I call inter-trans relationships or attraction. Firstly, whether there is penetration or not is really a misguided, yet loaded question. One of my trans exes had done some gender affirming surgery (both his top and his bottom surgeries) of which he was mostly the insertive partner (nothing really different to being with a cis-het man with him). By top surgery I am referring to a double mastectomy and chest reconstructive surgery, while bottom surgery might be a phalloplasty or metoidioplasty. My one other ex had his top surgery done but did not wish to have any bottom surgery done, avoiding the risks attached to bottom surgery for transmen. In this relationship I was at times the insertive partner and at times no insertion needed to happen. On other occasions he would penetrate with a strap-on and make it rain.
Not to bore you with details of my sexual life, the last of my trans ex-boyfriends I will mention had not had any bodily modifications to affirm his gender and was a very handsome light-brown skinned guy who wasn’t that heavy chested and almost with a sporty build. I will not go into the gory details of our intimate moments and will leave it to your imagination and some questions for Professor.Google. In my early years of entering the dating scene, I had dated two or so gay men who were mostly masculine expressing, or what others would call ‘straight acting/looking,’ mostly who were tops with the exception of one who was verse but I was still too dysphoric to top him.
I am sure you are now wondering what tops, bottoms and verse are. Here is some Gay101: the gay world has categories for various sexual expressions of men who are sexually attracted to other men (let me put a disclaimer that I personally problematise these categorisations for a plethora of reasons, but that will take another article to unpack for you. Indulge their use for now). Tops are often assumed to be the ‘straight looking’ gay men who are somewhat expected to be the insertive partners while bottoms are often mistakenly assumed to be the effeminate looking and expressing gay guys who are often the more visible of the gay community and expected to be receptive partners sexually. However, verse or versatile gay men are those that have a preference or flexibility to alternate between being an insertive or receptive partner. I had no issues with being with gay men who were masculine expressing, but those relationships were short lived as ultimately we were looking for different types of partners we could not give to each other or be for each other.
Now here is the other beauty of having been a pre-op trans girl at some point in my life. I have had the honour to have dated a man who identified as bisexual, who in me had what he called ‘the best of both worlds’ for being male assigned and a woman all in one body, of which he was attracted to male assigned men and female assigned women, of which in the early stages of transition before surgery having been on estrogen therapy was a B-cup girl. It was in my early 20s that I learnt that I also found some select cisgender women attractive who were masculine expressing or how in some lesbian rounds would be called a ‘butch.’ I have had the luck to have briefly dated one who did not discriminate against any type of woman; all women to her being beautiful in all their diversity.
There is just something absolutely comfortable, warm, assuring, affirming and beautiful to being with another woman. The sexual intimacy is more intense and sensual in a way that I have not felt with most men with the exception of one or two of my transmen exes. Penetrative intimacy was not a priority in this relationship where both our womanhoods were equally welcome into the partnership. I truly believe that this is the relationship that actually learnt me of the term masculine attracted, when I looked at the spectrum of bodies and identities I had been with, some cis while some trans, with others being men and others women. This discovery about my sexual attractions, preferences and relationships began to ask me questions about what this sexual orientation of mine was called.
I could not say I was heterosexual, given that heterosexuality often refers to relationships with two or more people of the opposite sex and gender. I could not say I was gay just because I had been with some while I identified as a woman. I could not definitively say I was lesbian though I found other women attractive, and queer I being trans also meant that I came with a ‘mix-masala’ of a body and identity that transgressed definitions of women and females into the relationships I went into.
What was my sexual orientation then, if not any of these listed? I tried asking ‘Professor. Google’ but came out unanswered. I was forced to have to craft my own operational definition that would help me define my Self and explain her to others I met in life for them to understand that I was not primarily attracted to a phallus on a human being. I am now in a good position to tell another person that my sexual orientation is “masculine attracted,” which denotes that I am attracted to a gender expression that is mostly opposite to mine. I am feminine and I prefer a masculine partner, and masculinity comes in all shapes of bodies and identities.
What’s your true sexual orientation? Put on a Queer Eye as you seek to answer this question.
Tshepo Ricki Kgositau