I was talking to my friend last week, and he asked me, “Have you seen *relevant trans woman* on Instagram lately?” It was a harmless question, and one that had more to do with social media than transphobia. However, when he asked me the same question a few days later, I realized: my friend is watching everything that this *relevant trans woman* puts on the Internet. And is so interested in it that he brings it to my attention. Is it possible that he has a crush on her?
Yes, it’s possible that he has a crush on her, but as I was thinking about him and her, and his dating history, and our society’s general perspective on trans people, I realized: even if he does have a crush on her, he probably doesn’t know it. He probably wouldn’t admit it. Him showing me her social media posts feels more like him trying to validate his interest in her, a way to gauge my reaction, to, in a sense, get my approval of even the vaguest interest in a trans woman.
I have no idea what it’s like to be a trans woman, but just witnessing my friend’s mild yet restrained interest in a trans woman was hard to watch. Not only does our society pathologize trans people, it also pathologizes people who are attracted to trans people. In many ways, people are trained to process their attraction to anything beyond the cis heteronormative social construct as a perversion, a fascination, even a mental illness.
Our society highly regulates acceptable forms of attraction. Attraction to children, animals, and blood lust are not acceptable forms of attraction, but because of an assumed proximity between those attractions and the attraction to trans people, homosexuality, kink, BDSM, anything in between there and heterosexuality is condemned. This leaves the people in the middle left to fend for themselves in a sea of shame and misery, even though there is nothing fundamentally pathological about those modes of sexuality.
I don’t know how to tell my friend that it’s okay for him to be attracted to whomever he is attracted to. Part of me is afraid that if I even broach the idea of him with a trans woman that his innate, toxic masculine reaction will be one of denial and perhaps even violence. I don’t know how to tell him that he can love whoever he wants to love, and he needs to work through this internal conflicts on his own. I don’t want him to put the burden of his internal conflict on another party – I don’t want him to enter into a relationship, sexual, romantic, or otherwise, by making that person validate him and prove to him that they are worthy of love, affection and sex. I want him to know that he can be attracted to someone, he can want to date someone, he can want to be in a relationship with someone, and he doesn’t have to hide. I will support him.
If anything, I’m disappointed that we, as a culture, haven’t moved past this. As we push for trans visibility in our society, I hope that the people who are attracted to trans people and who love trans people would likewise be comfortable with a degree of visibility that doesn’t compromise their privacy and doesn’t lend to a sense of cultural shame.
At the end of the day, it’s not really my business who my friend decides to date or fuck, as long as he’s happy. It is my business, however, if he continues to contribute to transphobic attitudes when it comes to dating and attraction.