“Trans men aren’t really men.”
Transgender men are tired of hearing that.
Recently, two transgender men – Ryan Sallans and Sky – sat down with vlogger Arielle Scarcella to talk about their experiences with lesbians. They answered two questions: If a transgender man transitions to male while in a relationship with a lesbian, what should the lesbian do? And is a lesbian who says she “only dates women and trans men” really a lesbian?
Question 1. I’m a lesbian and my partner transitions. What do I do?
This is tricky. When your partner transitions, standing by his side isn’t always easy – he will experience physical, emotional and personality changes, for example. And if your female partner becomes biologically male, then you suddenly have to wrestle with your identity.
If you loved him as a biological woman, shouldn’t you love him as a biological man? Are you transphobic if you leave?
“It depends,” says Sallans.
According to Sallans, it comes down to the reasoning behind your decisions. If you leave your transitioning partner because his transition is straining the relationship and you’re not emotionally equipped to handle his changes, then that’s okay. If you’re leaving him because his transgender body disgusts your delicate lesbian sensibilities, then you’re transphobic.
Question 2. I’m a lesbian who dates trans men. Am I a lesbian?
Perhaps you’re a lesbian whose partner suddenly transitioned from female to male, and you find yourself dating a man for the first time. Or perhaps you’re a lesbian who only feels comfortable dating women and transgender men. Either way, can you call yourself a lesbian?
“Call yourself whatever you want,” says Sky. “Labels are for community, not for defining love.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what you call yourself as long as you treat your partners with respect.
Sky reminds lesbians who date trans men that calling themselves lesbians belittles the transgender man’s identity – it implies that you don’t see him as a “real” man, since you don’t want to date cisgender (read: “real”) men. That’s what makes you a lesbian, right? Your aversion to men?
You could have a lot of reasons for not changing your label. Coming out again is hard. Wrestling with yourself is hard. But you owe it to the trans men in your life to do a little self-reflection and make sure that your “lesbian” label isn’t negating their male one.