As a gender nonconforming male, I face many of the same struggles as transgender women. Gender nonconformity is one of the many manifestations of transgender identity. The spectacle surrounding the sex scandal of Hot 97 hip hop DJ Mister Cee sheds light onto society's misconceptions of transgender women and those others like myself living gender nonconforming lives.
This conversation should not be about shaming Mister Cee. Nor should the conversation be about vilifying the YouTube personality and self-described drag queen and cross dresser, Bimbo Winehouse, who on September 11 revealed in a recording that Mister Cee had solicited sex from Winehouse. Clearly both Mister Cee and Winehouse were engaging in illegal activities, but it is not prostitution that is the focus of much of the gossip of the hip hop community that for too long has accepted and promoted a misogynistic culture where women hustle men with their bodies for cash or kind.
In a dramatic follow up interview with Hot 97's program director Ebro Darden, Mister Cee denied that he was gay. That Winehouse is biologically male made this difficult for many listeners to accept and subjected Mister Cee to widespread ridicule. But given my experience Mister Cee has to be taken at his word.
In her recent essay on the Mister Cee controversey, transgender activist Janet Mock calls attention to a difficult hurdle we face in living complete lives: the shaming of men who are attracted to trans women. As Mock writes "We [transwomen] are not secrets. We are not shameful. We are worthy of respect, desire and love."
Most transgender women face a daily fight to assert their womanhood in a society that still overwhelmingly see them as "fake" women. As the murder of a young transgender woman, Islan Nettles, in New York City showed recently, we have to work ten times harder to survive in a society full of hate. Despite marginalization, threats to my physical safety and limited employment opportunities, I've refused to believe that my life is not worth living. A constant summoning of courage is required of all transgender women.
But the constant barrage of negativity and public shaming takes a toll on us, devalues the desire of men attracted to us and makes it unimaginably difficult to form the essential human interaction of romantic love between two people.
In fact, the difficulty in navigating relationships with men dominated by shame are why I've spent most of my adult life single and celibate. With all the challenges that I face, I just could not cope with the fact that most men who are attracted to me could not cope with their desire.
Quite honestly, Mister Cee sounds like the few straight men I have dated. I do not question their sexuality. To peg Mister Cee as gay would not be entirely accurate. Sexuality has never been uncomplicated. The leading heteronormative and gay paradigms have aimed to make it uncomplicated, but that only erases and make invisible those who do not fit within. Language clearly fails to explain away the full spectrum of human sexual desire between consenting adults.
Men like Mister Cee are attracted to people like me because we are feminine and have many of the attributes of women. Men like him are not attracted to cisgendered males, meaning males who appear as men. Since I appear as a woman, I wouldn't classify him as gay. The denial that he gives in his interview is, in my view, accurate. As Janet Mock writes, since "there are many kinds of women, there are many kinds of men and many men desire many kinds of women."
If we agree that there are many kinds of men and women, then "straightness" is on a continuum. With this understanding it entirely makes sense for straight identified men to love and desire transgender women. If we can accept this reality, it would bring us one step closer toward creating a society where all love is equal.