Guest blog: Getting hit on by a gay man validated my trans identity

Image by the fabulous Stuart F Taylor

I’m delighted to welcome Emory Oakley to the guest slot today! Emory is a queer trans man who writes fantastic educational content about gender and sexuality over on his blog. He got in touch with a pitch about dating while trans, specifically about how getting hit on by a gay man validated his trans identity. I’m really honoured that he’s up for sharing his story here, and if you’d like to find out more do click the links to some of the other fantastic pieces he’s written elsewhere on all the details of his journey in learning about how own identity.

How getting hit on by a gay man validated my trans identity

A person’s identity is complicated because of many different but intertwined parts that can influence one another. Sexuality and gender are two separate parts of a person’s identity; however, for me, how they influenced one another as I began to unpack and analyze my identity made it more challenging for me to come to a conclusion.

In the last several years dating as a transgender man, I’ve mostly dated queer, bisexual and pansexual men. While this never felt invalidating, getting hit on by a gay man made me feel validated in a way I wasn’t expecting. But before we get to unpacking that, I figured I’d give some context to my coming out journey and how sexuality and gender influenced one another to make this an interesting journey for me.

My coming out journey

My coming out journey has been far from straight.

I didn’t question my identity in high school because I was attracted to men. Looking back, I absolutely had issues with my body that began at the start of puberty. I felt uncomfortable in my body and had a lot of struggles with finding clothes that made me feel okay (read: I had meltdowns about getting dressed until I was 14 years old). At the time, I considered my discomfort in my body to be a regular thing all girls went through during puberty. I also attributed my discomfort to not developing the same way as many of my peers. I started puberty late and didn’t get the typical curves I associated with being a woman, so I tried extra hard to be feminine, which likely added to the discomfort.

University was when I first started to explore my identity. I felt queer, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. Since I was a girl, I figured this feeling of queerness meant I was attracted to women. I began exploring my attraction to women during this time, and the first time I came out was as bisexual.

A few years after starting to explore my identity, I was introduced to a wider range of queer folks who introduced me to more comprehensive queer language and new ways of being. I am so thankful to the amazing queers who lived as their authentic selves and, by doing so, gave me permission to explore and experiment with my own identity.

For a while, I identified as nonbinary and used they/them pronouns. Looking back, I feel my relationship with femininity influenced this stepping stone. I didn’t really feel like a woman, but I could recognize the feminine parts of my identity that I loved, and somehow this steered me away from considering that I might be a trans man. Also, at the time, I had this intense feeling that I was gay, but I couldn’t figure out what this meant because I was still very much attracted to men.

What was the thing that steered me toward my trans identity?

Dating straight men. It was challenging to date straight men who were uncertain about my pronouns or uncomfortable with correcting their friends on my pronouns. And honestly, I just wanted the experience to feel more gay.

Somewhere along the way, I accepted that being primarily attracted to men was okay. So, when I realized I could be transgender and gay, things opened up for me regarding my identity. Since then, I have only dated other queer people. No straight men allowed.

Settling into my trans identity

In my early 30s, I now feel reasonably confident in my identity as a queer (mostly gay) transgender man. Of course, gender and sexuality are complicated and fluid, so I am open to allowing things to lead me as they will and open to experiences as they come.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve mostly dated bisexual and pansexual men. While this didn’t feel invalidating to me, as I became more confident in who I am, I wanted to feel more accepted in the gay community.

Existing as trans man in the gay community

I am a reasonably feminine boy, and I love and embrace that.

Even though I’ve been on testosterone for 5.5 years now, I still look somewhat feminine – I have minimal facial hair, I am petite at only 5 ft 6 and 135 pounds, and I haven’t had (and don’t plan to have) top surgery. But beyond how I look, I have feminine mannerisms and still love to engage with my feminine side by painting my nails and wearing crop tops. (Unfortunately, I’ve been told too often I should smile less because it makes me look more feminine).

These days, I am confident in who I am, but feminine guys aren’t always accepted in the gay community in general.

Navigating the dating world has been challenging because it’s difficult to determine how people view me, especially when things are often focused more on hookups than dating.

I’ve noticed a few trends in my interactions with guys in the dating world. Some people seek me out because I am trans, and this seems to result from their specific interest in my body, which makes me uncomfortable. Navigating sex as a trans man can be tricky. Sometimes they’re newly queer or bicurious guys interested in me because it makes them feel safe. They may not be doing this consciously, but it feels like they’re treating me as a baby step to figuring out their queer identity because they presume they already understand my body due to their previous experience with women. This is invalidating because it says, ‘you’re close enough to a woman.’

Other men have told me they tend to prefer trans guys over cisgender guys (those who were assigned male at birth and still identify as men), which makes me uncomfortable because trans guys and trans people, in general, are so vastly different that it feels invalidating just to put us all in the same category.

I want someone to flirt with me because they find me attractive and then continue to flirt with me because they like me, regardless of my body. While I did get this from bi and pan men, I rarely got this from gay men – most ignored me (I explicitly state that I am trans on my dating profiles). It was easy to feel like I wasn’t ‘man enough’ for them.

How getting hit on by a gay man validated my identity as a trans man

The first time a gay man genuinely hit on me left me with such an intense euphoria that I am not sure I can entirely explain. When I say hit on, I don’t mean the ‘hey sexy, I want to get in your pants’; I mean the genuine ‘I actually like you’ flirting. When a gay man flirts with me, I have much less doubt that they see me as anything other than a man. I felt seen in a way I didn’t realize I needed – like I could actually be a part of the gay community despite what previous evidence seemed to suggest.

I didn’t expect this experience to feel so much more different than flirting with a bisexual or pansexual man, but maybe I wasn’t aware of how left out of the community I was feeling, and this made me feel like there are at least some people out there who see me as a gay man and would accept me with open arms.


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