Desiring the Trans Feminine

This is not necessarily a post about sexual desire, as I think the merely amorous misses the mark. Lately, I have been slowly realizing the trans feminine community I wanted to be a part of — one of my primary reasons for leaving Asia and returning westward. For the record, there are lots of other non-binary and trans masculine people around too. I don’t want this to sound like I am excluding them from my community, we are friends, but they do not elicit the same desire in me. There is something alluring to me about trans femme spectrum people which I did not necessarily expect to find. I have always been drawn to other trans people, but I assumed it was no different than the way I was drawn to cis women. At first, I did mistake this pull towards the trans feminine for a purely amatory inclination. After all, trans people are special, we have unique bodies and perspectives. We are, in short, beautiful. But as I spend more and more time with other trans femmes, this is not it, at least not all of it.

Perhaps more so than usual, this post is me collecting my thoughts — usually my impetus for writing, my thoughts are just usually more articulated than this. But, I think my desire to be close to other trans femmes is an affirmation of self. I’ve always been drawn to other women. It’s that classic trans trope, “Am I into her, or do I just want to be her?” I’ve also felt as Susan Stryker put it in the mid-90s, “I had always wanted intimacy with women…and that wanting had always felt queer to me” (2006, 250). My attraction to women has also always felt queer, even if it didn’t seem so to other people perceiving me as male before transitioning. At first, after coming out, I felt a deep sense of affirmation in being perceived as queer by others. But when I interact with trans feminine people there’s a deeper level of affirmation, there is a reflection or echo of self. Finding another trans person beautiful is an admission that I can be beautiful, that I am worthy of the same attention. I don’t feel other to them; Her/their body is like my body, nonnormative, but sexy and alluring — worthy of love. Okay, this isn’t sounding not sexual. But bear with me a moment.

Part of this familiarity is shared among all trans people and to an extent queer people in general. We have similar struggles, issues, hopes, aspiration, and opinions. We share modes of thinking about fundamental aspects of gender and sexuality that non-trans and non-queer people just don’t investigate. But in her/them (the trans feminine) there is more, a map of my own body and desires: “my kind’s your kind” (“Maps,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs). I see my own struggle with normativity, with accepting myself and my body. Our outcomes are often different, our dysphoria isn’t perfectly matched, but we understand each other in a way I haven’t experienced before. There is also a safety in this affinity. A lowering of the acceptance bar. There is such a heightened chance of violent rejection when we invest in a cis person. Rejection may not be gone from the trans interaction, but violence is.

To fall back on Karen O, “They don’t love you like I love you.” (I am really going to squeeze this “Maps” song intertextual metaphor to death.) Love can take many forms, and friendship is, if I may, equal to other kinds of love. And I am eminently enjoying these friendships. I feel reflected in the other in a way I didn’t know was possible. And that is new, beautiful, slightly bizarre, and totally awesome.


1. Susan, Stryker. 2006. “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage In The Transgender Studies Reader, edited by Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle. New York: Routledge.

2. I’m not APA citing a song: “Maps,” By the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, sung by Karen O.

I’m trans, a PhD candidate in Gender Studies, and a researcher.

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