I am a cis straight man who is very happily engaged to a wonderful straight trans woman named Trinity. I grew up in a small, fairly conservative town in Tennessee with a population around 17,000. I went to church every Sunday and every now and then me and my father would go fishing or shooting. It was large enough of a small town that not everyone knew everyone but at the very least you knew someone they also knew.
I am diagnosed with high functioning autism called Asperger’s Syndrome which makes me a very literal and analytical person. My parents are of completely different political ideologies ― my mother is a Democrat while my father is very much so a Republican. I moved out to Arizona when I was around 7 years old due to my father getting a job out. It was a very huge change from a small conservative town to a big metropolitan area. It was a lot to get used to and this is about the time where my experiences as who I am started.
I’ve known since I was around 8 years old that I am attracted emotionally and physically to trans women. I never saw them as anything but women and even at that age I understood that they were women. Luckily the church I went to when I was younger in Arizona was very “live and let live” ― they never talked badly about the LGBT community but, unfortunately, they never said anything good as well. I believe that attitude made me hide my attraction but at the same time didn’t cause great stress or depression about it.
When I finally told my mom that I was attracted to trans women she was accepting. She didn’t understand at first and she thought it meant I was gay but at the same time, she loved me just the same (her view has changed completely since then and she now understands that I am straight). Honestly, the one person I was worried about was my father, who looked up to Reagan and would very much not let the cold war go. When he found out all he said to me was “Either way, you’re my son and I love you.” Everything went on as it had before except I didn’t have to hide anymore, and I know I am one of the lucky ones.
My experience with telling my parents of my sexual attraction mirrors a lot of men and women who come out to their families. The difference for me I was coming out as a straight man who is attracted to trans women and unfortunately people like myself are often seen as an outsider to both groups. I have been called slurs by both communities ― many in the heterosexual community say I am gay and even many in the LGBT community say the same. That is what many men like me fear when it comes to being open about our attraction ― that we’ll become a pariah to both communities and be excluded from either group.
Don’t get me wrong, I have never experienced the kind of hatred that many in the LGBT community have, besides the few derogatory comments and one confrontation that almost became a fight because I was shopping in a grocery store and a man decided to confront my fiancee and me as we were minding our own business. I’ve been told before that I don’t belong at Pride because I am a straight cis man when I am just trying to support my fiancee. It’s incredibly disheartening as I always thought Pride was about inclusion not exclusion.
I have always been very open about my relationship and it is not something I would ever hide as I see nothing different in my relationship than my parents’ relationship or many other male-female couples. In my fiancee’s case, it seems people can’t understand that being transgender is an identity ― not a sexuality. Many in the LGBT community tell her she is gay for being with me which is a spit in the face to trans people ― by saying that they are invalidating her as a woman and basically going back to that old disgusting trope that she is just a “dude in a dress” and that is so far from the truth. She experiences bigotry all of the time when we just try to go outside and live our lives like any other human beings. By God is she strong ― she doesn’t let these people bring her down. She tells me she feels sorry for them and all of the anger and hate they must have inside of them to attack and humiliate others that have done nothing to them.
But even then I can see how society sees her due to the media and Hollywood. My first experience with seeing how hard she has it was when we were at the library years ago before this “bathroom bill” nonsense even started. We had just found some books to check out and she went into the women’s restroom and I was waiting by the water fountain for her to come out. Another woman came out and very loudly started to talk badly about her just to embarrass her. I confronted the woman and asked her, “What have we done to you that you think you have the right to try and humiliate other human beings?” and all she said was “It’s free speech f****t.” That was my first experience in seeing such hatred in a person.
One of the other things I have seen Trinity go through is many people see her as a sexual object. People stop and try to pick her up wherever she goes and the vast majority of the time she is just walking our dog in a long flowery dress like any other women. They think she is a prostitute or such a sexual being that she couldn’t resist them and that whole view point leads me to my final discussion about my experiences and how media portrays trans women and specifically our relationship.
Recently a trailer was released for a movie called “Anything.” This movie is everything wrong with Hollywood and its portrayal of trans women and the men that are attracted to them, both sexually and emotionally. The fact that they used a cis man to play the trans woman is just plain wrong. There are many trans women out there that would have been perfect for the part. And using the trope that because the character is trans she must be a sex worker reinforces a harmful stereotype.
What is on TV and in the movies is what the majority of Americans know about trans people as only around 16 percent of Americans directly know someone who is trans. So, if the majority of trans characters are sex workers then Americans will more than likely see most trans people as such and treat them that way as well. But the final thing and what actually led to this article in the first place is how they appear to portray a straight man falling in love with a straight trans woman. It comes off like it’s a surprise ― like “good for you straight man!” and a pat on the back. Basically in trying to normalize it they make it abnormal in the first place. I never thought that a straight man in a relationship with a straight woman was anything special ― that it would be “surprising” ― even the tagline of the movie is “This is a story about the infinite possibility of love.” They took something that shouldn’t be seen as anything different and made it the entire plot point and that in itself is insulting.
In this deteriorating political climate where we have a president and ruling party who wants to dismantle all the LGBT community has fought for out of fear and misunderstanding, I hope that people will still fight for what is right and understand that we are all human beings that want to live and love and that no one’s relationship should be used as a plot point and that we are all equal. I am lucky to work for a company that is very accepting ― even going as far as having a entire section in our handbook about gender identity and transitioning and how trans people must be treated equally and go by their chosen pronouns. Using improper pronouns on purpose could even lead to disciplinary action. So things may seem bleak on the government side but a lot of private entities are still fighting for LGBT rights. And know I will fight until the end to keep Trinity and people like her safe from harm and harmful laws.