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I am a woman who is attracted to gay men. In fact, I wish I were a gay man. When I fantasize about being with a man, I always imagine myself as also having a penis. I know there are ways a man can surgically become a woman, but it's tougher to enlarge a woman's clitoris into a functional penis and even more difficult to get one that would entertain a gay man.

I know there are bisexual men who would find me attractive. But bisexual men are different than gay men, and I am attracted to men who love men, not women, but I need a gay man to make an exception for me! Should I keep these fantasies to myself and hope for a better chance in my next lifetime? Do you have any advice for a woman attracted to gay men? I feel more like a gay man trapped in a woman's body than like a woman. --Trapped

Why wait for your next life? Instead of hoping you come back as a gay man, why not explore becoming a gay man in this life? "The thing about being a trans person," female-to-male (FTM) transsexual Spencer Bergstedt told me, "is this: You are really what you feel yourself to be. If you were born female-bodied and feel yourself to be a man, you're a man, if born male-bodied and feel yourself to be a woman, you're a woman." Bergstedt is an attorney and the author of Translegalities, a legal how-to guide for trans people (available at www.spencelaw.com).

"If you indeed feel yourself to be a gay man, then by all means explore the possibility of transition from female to male," Bergstedt said. "Many FTMs identify as gay and find that, with or without genital surgery, they can and do have meaningful, as well as tawdry, relationships with non-trans gay men."

Loren Cameron is the FTM author of Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits, which documents his own transformation. Cameron knows lots of FTMs who identify as gay and bisexual, and most have found gay and bisexual male lovers. "They report that their lovers are quite happy with their enlarged and lovely clit-penises," Cameron said. "This is not to say that finding partners is not difficult, but with a little self-confidence and positive sexuality everything is possible."

While it's true male-to-female (MTF) transsexuals can get pretty decent pussy these days (docs hollow out the cock and pull the shaft inside the body, turning it inside out and creating a pretty functional vaginal canal), mock cocks--aka phalloplasties--are not only expensive, they're also not all that realistic looking or functional. "But one pretty amazing thing that happens for many FTMs upon transitioning," Bergstedt said, "is that they discover having a penis of a certain size or shape isn't all that important anymore. It isn't the penis that defines them as men. What is important is that their sex partners relate to them as men."

If a guy intentionally has sex with a "chick with a dick," does that make him gay? Or does this fall under the umbrella of harmless hetero "experimentation?" By the way, I am straight. Honest! --Messed Around

"No, 'intentionally' having sex with a 'chick with a dick' doesn't make you gay," said Kate Bornstein, a male-to-female transsexual and author of the terrific book Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us and, more recently, My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely. "It means he has a leaning toward people who have a mix going on, genderwise, and he leans toward a very specific mix. It might make him a trans hag or a trans fag, but not a gay man."

Bornstein felt that you should worry less about how you're perceived by others and more about your own happiness. "Gay men want to fuck other gay men, period," Bornstein said. "Is a chick with a dick a gay man? No." What is a guy into chicks with dicks? "He might be a queer het man. That's a good category for straight men who want to explore their options. That's what queer is all about: it allows room for exploration of desire and identity. If this man is attracted to a chick with a dick, does it make him a gay man? No. Does it make him queer? Yes. Is he any less het? No. Am I speaking in contradictions? Yes."

I have been with my girlfriend for seven months now. Everything is just lovely. My relationship with her has been the best I have ever had with anyone. I love her so much and I just wish I could spend the rest of my life with her. There is one problem, though. I've been living a lie. My girlfriend thinks I'm a guy and I am not a guy. I am really a female. I'm so confused, because I don't know what to do. I really love her and I wish I was a guy so I could spend the rest of my life with this woman.

I know that what I've done is wrong and I really hate myself for doing this to her. I know that she is madly in love with me. She always talks about us having kids and getting married as soon as we complete our last year of college. Give me some advice and criticism. I know I deserve it. --Sincerely Stupid

I shared your question with all three of this week's guest experts.

"Tell her the truth," advised Bergstedt. "Your girlfriend deserves to know and you deserve to live your life without secrets. And who knows, her reaction may surprise you and you may still get to spend the rest of your days with her."

"Get honest fast," said Cameron. "If you love your girlfriend that much, tell her now. If the feelings are mutual, with a lot of work she'll stick around through the really tough stuff. Look into getting information about transgender issues and try and find some peer counseling from other transgenders in your area--if 'gender discontent' is what you're experiencing. If that's not the case, then I would recommend looking at coming to terms with being a lesbian and find support for that."

"You are sincerely stupid," said Bornstein, "but you're not a bad person. You were afraid to say things for fear of losing love, and who hasn't felt that? Now you have to make it right. Get a mediator, someone you both trust, and sit down with this person. Then say, 'I've got something to tell you.' Be prepared for the consequences: your girlfriend may slam the door in your face and say, 'You've betrayed me'--and you have betrayed her. Now it's your job to patch things up as best you can, the way any human being would patch it up with a lover."

For more information regarding FTM transgenderism, contact FTM International at 1360 Mission St., Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94103, 415-553-5987, or E-mail TSTGMen@aol.com.

Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to letters@savagelove.net.

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