FtM on an LGBT Panel

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A while back I spent some time chatting with a new FtM. You know, one of the ones with less than a year’s time on hormones.

So I’m sitting in my chair, clicking off in my head all the physical changes he’s showing, and he’s talking about how hard everything is, and people don’t understand, and it’s bad, bad, bad. Then he riffs for awhile on the LGBT panel circuit gig. How much that sucks, what with no pay and all. And I’m thinking about all the babes who are now drawn to him as he transitions, etc., the ones that stand near him at events, etc. The one’s I’ve seen touch him, and fawn over him, etc.

“I agree with you about panels,” I shared and then BOOM! Right between the ears, I realize:

I was just like that, about seven or ten years ago.

I used to talk about how hard it was, especially to some hot babe, then bask in her glow as she said something like, “oh, that is so hard!” and snuggled up next to me, (where her breast might rub against my arm) or hugged me (where both her breasts might touch my chest) or touched my face (where, depending on her top, I might get a freebie peek at her cleavage).

So this realization begins to permeate my core, and then BOOM! I realize I used panel discussions to get dates. In fact, I used the whole -transitioning-is-hard-maybe-no-one-will-date-me-life-is-hard schtick on the LGBT panel circuit to get dates.

Not in any thoughtful way, mind you. But as I listened to this guy go on, I just saw myself, seven, ten years ago, using a combination of self-fetishization and pity to get the babes to date me. I thought:

What a dorky approach! How obvious!

It worked though. At least then it did, and if the babes flocking to this guy reflect today’s times, it seems to be working still.

Then I just started laughing inside myself.

18 Comments

  1. So sad that some still use the “tragic” card instead of engaging in honest dialogue with folks outside our community.

    One of my favorite movie quotes says it best: “Everybody’s life’s got static”…so what makes pathos attractive?

  2. You crack me up! 🙂

    We were told *explicitly* that the panel circuit was NOT a dating opportunity. 😉

    ::sigh:: I guess this is just one more difference between ftm and mtf. I never got a single date from a panel. Hmmm, maybe that’s less a function of mtf v. ftm and more a function of relative allure?

    Pathos is attractive because we can all identify with it. Belonging and identifying with someone or some group is very important to people, I think. If we can make a connection with someone we find interesting (by identifying with their “pain”), all the better.

  3. >>It worked though. At least then it did, and if the babes flocking to this guy reflect today’s times, it seems to be working still.>>

    It works, from what I’ve seen, but it requires you to participate in a fetishistic dynamic that a lot of people–myself included–are extremely uncomfortable with. There’s also the issue of the kinds of people who are attracted to lonely, marginalized, desperate people. Not pretty.

  4. >>Pathos is attractive because we can all identify with it.>>

    This is true, but I think some of the people who approach us have less ennobling motives. Pathos can _also_ be attractive because of the power disparity it sets up between the pathetic one and the person altruistic enough to be with them. There are a lot of people who go after transpeople because they’re supposedly grateful for any attention they can get. They won’t be the ones to leave. Not to sound horribly shallow or anything, but my creepy-ugly-graphically-lecherous-old-guy quotient goes _way_ up whenever I’m out as ftm, as opposed to just a single queer boy. It’s the only time I get the kind of attention I used to get back when I was a woman–that is, on the short end of a power disparity.

  5. Too good, Jay.

    Interesting how pathos or pity plays for different groups of people. As a disabled person, pity has never got me dates, just pats on the head and kisses on the cheek. Ugg. I wish I knew how to help move communities invested in identity politics away from the role of victim as somehow comfortable and admirable.

  6. Indeed, pity is an unfortunate way to get dates. Pity is also a very shitty reason to give people their “rights,” as is the case with ableism.

    While I do get the heebies when I become aware that a babe’s not aware of the whole fetish thing, I confess that a part of me enjoys the attention a babe might give me as a transsexual man.

  7. >>While I do get the heebies when I become aware that a babe’s not aware of the whole fetish thing, I confess that a part of me enjoys the attention a babe might give me as a transsexual man.>>

    I can see that. It’s a bit different with gay/bisexual _men_, for me at least. I get extremely suspicious of what aspects of my body/identity they’re attracted to, if they want me as a _trans_guy, rather than just as a guy.

  8. I get suspicious, too. And I have certainly wondered what they like/want/think about my body, especially before I had surgeries.

    And I still like the attention.

    Maybe it’s because in my experience women don’t throw that kind of attention at men (and I’m speaking now as someone seen/living his life as a man) unless they feel safe/want to.

    And even though I know that said babes know I’m transsexual, it still feels like a gift somehow.

    It’s a fine line, because the gift can quickly turn into a dud, and some babes are better than others at moving back and forth over that line.

    I guess I’m a sucker for the babes. I really, really like women, which seems strange to say, somehow, since I _hated_ being a woman. Hated it with a passion.

    Yet I also want to acknowledge that another part of me balks at babes who say, “well you’re just a guy.” ‘Cause them I’m like, “uhhh, no! I’m _not_ just a guy. I’m transsexual!”

    I really do have a few screws rattling around in my head.

  9. >>Yet I also want to acknowledge that another part of me balks at babes who say, “well you’re just a guy.” ‘Cause them I’m like, “uhhh, no! I’m _not_ just a guy. I’m transsexual!”

    I really do have a few screws rattling around in my head. >>

    Not at all. I think we’re all gonna be slightly schizophrenic–and I don’t just mean transpeople here–so long as “guy” and “transsexual” are on some level mutually exclusive.

  10. I don’t know – if my attraction to trans men is a fetish, so is my attraction to women. I do want trans guys I date as trans guys and not as just a guy. That’s no secret. But it’s not like I would call someone my “trans boyfriend.” I’d call him my boyfriend.

    I know some trans guys aren’t interested in dating me because I don’t ID as straight (or even as bi). It doesn’t bother me. I think we all have a much better chance at happy relationships when everyone is honest about these things.

  11. I’m not saying that all people who sleep with transpeople are fetishists, or that you are. I’m just saying that we attract a great many of them–and that, in a looser sense of the word, we tend to attract a great many people who use us in one way or another, as fodder for their own fantasies. We also happen to be a minority, and like all minorities, plagued with misconceptions. The people who approach us frequently harbor some of them.

    Also, you _are_ a woman, just as the gay and bisexual men who are attracted to me _are_ men; it’s difficult to other a gender subset you belong to.

    I supposed if I were engaging on a theoretical level with someone like you, the questions I’d ask would be these:

    Why are you attracted to transguys?

    Are those qualities shared with women?

    Why are these qualities not to be found in non-trans-guys?

    Do you see all transguys as having these qualities?

    Do you see your understanding of some transguys as _trans_guys to have any implications for the transguys who see themselves as just guys? Why or why not?

    Why would a woman describe herself as “attracted to woman and transguys” but not, “bisexual,” or “queer”? Would that woman decline to refer to herself as bisexual or queer if she liked, say, women and redheaded men? Or men and women from the deep South? Or women and femmey men?

    …And so on. It’s not so much the attraction as how the particular person justifies it to him-, her-, or hirself that can be offensive.

  12. This whole human attraction thing is just too complex for my poor brain. I try not to justify it to myself too much (but, who doesn’t?). I’ve long been attracted to women(!), but I’ve also been attracted to FTMs (though I never found many attracted to me) and I’ve even found myself attracted to a few (ok, I admit it, very few) natal males (one of whom is my cat). OTOH, there have also been very few MTFs that I’ve been attracted to. Attraction is, as I said, complex. I’m not sure that analyzing it too much is productive.

    Having said all that, I like the attention — whenever and however I manage to garner it (and despite whatever secret fetish my admirer may have). Hey! Come on now, I *do* have admirers! 😉

  13. So I have to ask the question:

    Isn’t all attraction, at some level, fetishistic?

    How are we defining the term here?

    I make no secret of the fact that I love cleavage. That is a fetish, is it not?

    Or I like super smart intelligent babes. That’s a fetish, too, I think. Or could be construed that way.

    It’s not so much the attraction as how the particular person justifies it to him-, her-, or hirself that can be offensive.

    When I look at my desires throug this lens, I’m shallow. I like boobs.

    And I’m reminded of something the Divine Ms. H. says all the time, “Yes it is a fetish. But if the person being fetishized likes it, it’s okay.”

    If I’m okay with it, and their okay with it, even if it seems extremely bizarre to someone else on the outside, what are we talking about then?

  14. >>When I look at my desires throug this lens, I’m shallow. I like boobs.>>

    The analogy as relates to trans-fetishists wouldn’t be, “likes boobs,” but, “goes after people with boobs because he believes people with boobs can be reduced to a single type.”

    This is how I define the terms:

    A fetish, to the extent the term is applied to attraction to people, is a reduction. Not merely in terms of the interaction (“You’re hot!”), but in terms of the understood personhood of the fetish object (“Your thoughts and desires are immaterial!”). “Fetish,” as relates to people who are attracted to transpeople or to transgender, means the transphobia that enables dehumanizing objectification. Women, I would argue, are also frequently fetishized, because attraction to them is so often coupled with misogyny. All attraction, no matter how hedonistic, is definitely not fetishistic, because the power disparities are not always set up to enable fetishistic attraction.

  15. >>And I’m reminded of something the Divine Ms. H. says all the time, “Yes it is a fetish. But if the person being fetishized likes it, it’s okay.”>>

    So if a transguy–or, for that matter, a woman–agrees to insulting, demeaning, or depersonalized sexual attention because they sincerely believe they have no right to expect better, that attraction cannot be interrogated?

  16. Sure, you can interrogate for yourself, and suggest to the other person that _you_ don’t think it is right, yet what are we to do with people who seem to engage in behavior _we_ find self-destructive?

    If they don’t believe it is self-destructive, is it? Yes, it might be self-destructive for me, if I were to engage in it.

    But if they say, “no, it is okay,” then what I can say, “well, if you never think differently, I’m here. In fact, I’m here no matter what.”

    My problem with feminist “interrogation” is that it is simply an opportunity for us to feel better about ourselves because “we’re not doing that!”

    People believe my choice to change my gender is demeaning and depersonalizing to myself and insulting to them. They interrogate my choices.

    Yes, they interrogate my chioces. That does not mean they are correct about what is best for me.

    The overreaching problem I have with so much political theory is that it presumes to know what is best for entire classes of people, even when the other people say that what they are doing is right for them. We have lost the ability to accept that people know what is best for themselves. We have lost the ability to accept that people can make choices that appear to be counter to their best interests, because, after all, they are laboring under ______ (you fill in the blank).

    Politics on the left, the area with which I am most familiar, has simply devolved into a replacment for Christianity.

    Instead of the Bible, we have Texts and Theory. Instead of God, we have Gods, each one of us who know the truth anointed to _know_ what is true for other people who are too duped to have figured it out yet.

    And when people attack me or engage in campaigns that attempt to diminish my place in the world, I get to say that doesn’t work for me. Sexuality, like gender identity and political behavior and family life is complex set of affinities.

    You pointed that out to me on another thread. It’s sometimes difficult to tell what, exactly, is most concomittant with a transperson’s sense of self or with their ability to function in the real world. Like I said, it’s a maddening set of affiliations. For all I know, O’Hartigan feels most affinity with what she’s writing now. I just happen to disagree with it.

    If I enlarge your statement to include all people, interrogating may become an opportunity to understand what motivates another person. It is never an opportunity for me to feel better about my choices, indicate to them in any way that they are wrong, stupid or duped by misogyny, racism, ableism, etc., or make them feel less than because of their choices.

    You were correct to point out to me how I was projecting onto O’Hartigan a set of assumptions about what “being trans” meant for me. I don’t see that as any different than projecting our assumptions about “being a woman” onto other people, even if that projection includes a finely wrought feminist analysis of the subjugation of women.

    In my worldview, I want people to accept that my choices are right for me. What am I if I do not extend that courtesy to others, if not a hypocrite?

    (Damn, man! You get me thinking at 8:30 am with only one cup o’ joe! And if you feel I have quoted you out of context, I apologize in advance. I quoted you because I see your comment as relevant to this discussion.)

  17. >>My problem with feminist “interrogation” is that it is simply an opportunity for us to feel better about ourselves because “we’re not doing that!”

    People believe my choice to change my gender is demeaning and depersonalizing to myself and insulting to them. They interrogate my choices.

    Yes, they interrogate my chioces. That does not mean they are correct about what is best for me.>>

    Point taken. I didn’t mean calling out individuals on the rubrics of their relationships.

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