What’s your ideal? What do you look for in a sexual or romantic partner? A sense of humor? Or a brooding, serious type? Someone you can see yourself marrying? Someone you can see yourself sneaking away from in the wee hours of the morning? A Bonnie and Clyde-type deal? Or more Mary and Joseph? Maybe you see yourself with dozens of lesbian lovers across the continental United States? Or maybe you’re more of a solo act, but you can appreciate the human body… from afar.
As a queer, non-binary person, sometimes looking for love feels like a game I don’t know the rules to, but everyone else does. Sex and the City can only teach me so much, and there isn’t exactly an over-abundance of forty-five-year-old men lining up to date me for two episodes.
Am I worthy of love, sex, affection, or attraction? Is this person attracted to me because they don’t know I’m trans? Will I lose this person’s attraction if I come out? Will I be safe if I come out? Is this person only attracted to me because I’m trans? Because I’m femme? Do I have to “masc it up” to maintain their attraction? Does this person still see me as a gay male, even after I’ve come out to them?
At this point, it’s unacceptable to not be an advocate for trans and non-binary people. You must ask for and use people’s pronouns, even when they’re not around; you must call out your older family members for making heinous comments about Caitlyn Jenner’s genitals; and you should be participating in activism on and offline. These are the public things you can do to set the standard — but gender is a private thing, and some of the biggest struggles for trans people happen in more private and intimate settings, like the bathroom. Trans people have to consider if their safety is at-risk every time they go to a public bathroom, or if there is even an appropriate bathroom for them.
The bedroom is another place where we all need to be making conscious efforts to be advocating for trans people and de-gendering our ideas about attraction. This goes for people of all sexualities and genders, cis or trans: we need to untie notions of gender from physical and biological attributes. Could you date a trans person of (one of) your preferred gender(s), regardless of their genitals or gendered bodily features or functions—growth or lack of facial/body hair, facial features, fatty deposits, periods? Could you date someone who has a combination of gendered bodily features or functions? Someone who is trans and on hormones, or someone who is intersex?
Is your answer to the above questions preferential, or is it upholding a system of oppression? What other preferences do you have? Do you prefer people who have European or white features? Thin bodies? Physically able-bodies? Neurotypical minds? When do your preferences stop being preferences and start being acts of discrimination, racism, ableism, or transphobia?
How can you advocate for trans people even when it’s not comfortable or easy? Challenge what is at play subconsciously, and challenge what is learned and internalized. Are you assigning or viewing binary trans people as the wrong gender? Do you see a trans woman as a man, or vice versa? Do you see her as having “male genitals?” Are you more comfortable viewing her as genderless? Are you assigning genders to your non-binary friends and strangers that are not their own? Do you see a non-binary person who was assigned female at birth as a woman, or vice versa? Are you more comfortable viewing them as binary? Do you deprive trans folks of their sexuality because it makes you more comfortable? Do you sexualize them because of their transness?
Why does this matter if it’s just sex, if it shouldn’t be anyone’s business who you choose to have sex with, date, love, or find attractive? The things you do in your bedroom, on your Tinder profile, and on the dance floor don’t exist in a vacuum. When you treat a trans person as something other than what they are, or how they identify, you tell them that they’re only valid when you say so. When you fetishize a trans person, you tell them that their identity is only valid for your pleasure. When you remove a trans person’s sexuality, or their ability to be romantic, or feel attractive, you tell them that, because they are trans, they are less than, and their safety and security are not a priority. Every trans and non-binary person deserves to feel love and affection, and to feel attractive, and we deserve to be able to think about love like everyone else hopefully does — like it’s a dreamy future where maybe our ideal could become reality.