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Are Lesbians Who Date Trans Men Really Lesbians?

Two transgender men and a queer woman sit down to talk about lesbians who date trans men.
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NOTE: The opinions and statements in this article are a summary of the views stated in the two videos below. I do not necessarily agree with the views stated in the video.

“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.

However…

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.

For more, read “How to Tell Your Girlfriend You’re Transgender” and “What to Do If Your Partner Comes Out as Trans.”

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Author
J. Marie graduated from Duke University with a degree in International Relations and dreams of being a creative writer--dreams she's now realizing as a musical theatre writer in NYC. She's passionate about global black identities, black representation in media, and leather-bound notebooks. She also loves backpacking through a new country at a moment's notice, and speaks Spanish, Swahili and Standard Arabic.

15 Comments

  • sfrajett says:

    Nope. Lesbians don’t need to tiptoe around anybody. Be a lesbian, and let your partner be whoever they are. The last thing a lesbian needs is to fashion herself so as not to step on the toes of some guy. Plenty of straight men date lesbians, and hardly worry about the “lesbian” label diluting their masculinity. If he’s a guy, he needs to figure out how to be a guy in the world. Making a lesbian into his codependent accessory isn’t going to give him the courage he needs to be himself.

  • “That’s what makes you a lesbian, right? Your aversion to men?”>>> Oy.
    OR…it could be something not in any way defined by “man.” It might… jusssssssssst might….be the result of an immutable sexual and emotional desire to be with a…. wait for it… w-o-m-a-n.

  • Samantha says:

    Oh look! More rapey articles instructing lesbians to sleep with males. Women are onto this and it is not cool. Sexism like this is as old as Adam.

  • Taly says:

    Homophobia from the progressives, what a time to live in!

  • Stop harassing lesbians! says:

    How insane this is, this is pure emotional blackmail, you can’t be a lesbian otherwise you are ‘disgusted’ by the transgender body but if you decide to keep your identity you are invaliding the trans identify… so…….. you must become heterossexual, is this a new type of gay cure??

  • Carla Swift says:

    Ah yes, more rape culture from the trans brigade. Always to be expected.

  • enough with the homophobic BS says:

    Couldn’t agree more with all the commenters here. Hey J Marie – and everyone else who keeps writing horrifically rapey, condescending articles like this, telling people what to think and feel about their own sexuality (who asked you, by the way?) – sexual orientation is immutable, and sexual preference is a human right. People who call lesbians transphobic for either not wanting to date trans women because they are biologically male or trans men because they are attracted to feminine women are LITERALLY NO DIFFERENT to Mormon Christians sending their gay kids to conversion therapy camp. Nobody is obligated to find anyone attractive. Discrimination is a normal, natural and essential part of choosing sexual partners. Transphobia is beating someone up or hating them or harassing them because they transgress gender boundaries – it’s not phobic to not find someone attractive.

    Telling someone their sexuality is somehow bad and defective and needs to be fixed, whether you’re doing it for religious reasons or for political ideology, is always, always wrong. Forcing someone to redefine their sexual orientation to validate the feelings of trans people is also mega fucked up, and no, lesbians owe nothing to trans men, or to anyone else for that matter.

    Please stop with this homophobic bullshit.

  • So are cis people going to define what is transphobic and what not? In the same way that heterosexual people try to determine whether they are being homophobic or not by completely ignoring the protests and needs of the LGB community?

    Please let’s get some things straight: it is not transphobic to have a preference for a type of gender expression (eg. people who look and behave in more feminine, androgynous, or masculine ways). It is kind of borderline-not-transphobic to also have a preference to bodies that look a certain way. BUT it depends on the way you include that in your language and behaviour. We are all going to agree that a gay guy is allowed to be attracted to more masculine people, but if he writes on his Grindr profile “no Asians no femmes no fatties” we are going to call him out for being an asshole, right? Or at least I hope we are, unless we are racists, fatphobic and femmephobic, all at the same time.

    Thus, it’s ok if you are going to be attracted more to ginger person A than blond person B in the club, but you aren’t going to shout through a megaphone that blond people are not really people because you are not attracted to them, are you? In the same way, choosing who you are attracted to is not transphobic, but what IS transphobic is saying that men are really men because you are attracted to them, or because women are really women because you are attracted to them.

    Also lesbians mean women attracted to women, right? Not women attracted to vaginas. You are going to be attracted to a woman because she is a woman long before you see what she has in her pants. Same for a guy. To lead to two people being naked in a room, attraction usually comes before these two people get naked, or that was the way it happened last time I checked. The definition of a lesbian is a woman attracted to women and not a women attracted to vaginas. You are obviously allowed to identify in any way that you feel more comfortable, but equating vaginas to women IS transphobic according to 90% of trans people who get to dictate what is transphobic, in the way that LGB people get to determine what is and what is not homophobic. Not all women have the same reproductive systems – neither do all men, or non-binary people. I somehow only agree with the first comment: if you want to keep identifying as a lesbian and your MAN partner is ok with that then that’s fine, but if they are not ok with you identifying as a “woman loving woman” while he fights battles everyday to be a man, then they have every right NOT to be ok with that. If you truly love a person in your life you are not going to demand from them to accept you invalidating their gender identities.

    No one here told anyone that they should be “fixed” or that their attractions or identities should be fixed. No one here told you that what you like is wrong, that who turns you on is a mistake, or that you should be attracted to every person who belongs in a specific group, therefore no one is threatening with anything that ever belonged in any conversion therapy. No one here is forcing you to become heterosexual. For whatever reason that has to do with experiences, strategic or political reasons, or a sense of self, the lesbian identity may be important to you – and you are more than encouraged to keep it – but the man identity for any trans man in your life, the woman identity for any trans woman in your life, or the non-binary identity for any non-binary trans person in your life, is probably just as important, so please don’t feel attacked if they decide that they don’t want to be defined by your language anymore because they feel that their entire existence is not respected or validated that way.

    After all, I know people who identified as lesbians and started identifying as bisexual when their partner came out as a trans man, in the same way that I know men who identified as straight but then started questioning their sexuality when their partner came out as non-binary. Bisexuality (or pansexuality) is not a disease or a badge of shame. Sexuality is fluid and that is no shame either. What is shameful, is equating “male” or “female” bodies to genders, and therefore being borderline transphobic in 2017.

  • True story here: Two people who identify as women are together and in love. They are also monosexual – and both attracted only to women – so that means they also identify as lesbians. Person A eventually comes out as a trans man. Person B is still in love with that person – and also still attracted to him – so she DECIDES to stay with him and CONSENTS to have sex with him every time they have sex. She also starts considering being into guys since, uh, she currently is in a relationship with a guy. Therefore, she starts identifying as bisexual or pansexual, or generally questioning her sexuality, since in her lifetime she has already been attracted to girls, but currently also finds herself attracted to a man.
    Can you please explain to me what would make anyone equate this story of two people doing things as harmless as coming out and finding out that sexuality is fluid, to the horrific thing that is unconsented sex – aka rape?

  • So the lesbian has to change her identity, as the id of the trans person is more important.

  • “If you’re leaving him because his transgender body disgusts your delicate lesbian sensibilities, then you’re transphobic.” WHAT THE ACTUAL WHAT? sexual orientation is not a “delicate lesbian sensibility”!!!

  • Deb Thompson says:

    What load of crap we lesbians know what woman born women have in their pants you delusional nutter, who are you tobe so condecending … not less hypocrital, Lesbians dont fuck men if they do they are Bi,Simple facts are being distorted by the like of you Stella you are not an authority on trans or lesbians stop spreding lies and contradictions lots are reaching to the conclusions that the mental ilness of trans more than those of who you speak about , the transcult will be revealed for what it is , a bunch of delusional brainwashing sick indiviual that set upon society trying to erase WOMEN and the meanings of words that describe WOMEN BORN WOMEN
    You labelling others Cis with their permission i a gross act I am A Woman, Not Cis How dare You labell me without my permission

  • Deb Thompson says:

    *without their permissionis a gross act *

  • Tehsuperlesbian says:

    Lesbians have all collectively decided that transgender isn’t a real thing which is super liberating. That means that
    1) If he comes out, he’s no longer human, so do whatever you want to him. It really doesn’t matter.

    2) Of course you’re still a lesbian!

    Simple as that.

  • Zoe says:

    I love my trans brothers and sisters but this is ridiculous! How can you be “transphobic” for breaking up with your partner for transitioning to the man they were supposed to be when you identify as a lesbian? Someone that isn’t psychically attracted to men. (Which we have no control over.)

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