A Reminder That Gender Identity and Sexuality Are Not the Same Thing

The first time it happened, I was coming out to an acquaintance of mine as a trans man. He took it well, and celebrated my newfound freedom with me until he remembered my partner (I always talk about them with this person). With a puzzled look, he asked, “wait, what about Skylar?”

I paused, feeling only slightly annoyed. I assumed he might be concerned about Skylar’s reaction to my identity. “What about them?” I asked.

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But his answer was way more frustrating than I could imagine. He said, “Are you still gonna wanna marry Skylar now that you’re a man?”

Clearly, this person is operating under the assumptions that 1) my partner, assigned male at birth, is a cisgender man; 2) that I was a heterosexual cisgender woman before the moment I told him I was a man; and 3) that I was straight as a “woman” and now that I’m straight as a “man,” the types of people I’m attracted to have changed.

First, my partner identifies as nonbinary (neither strictly male nor female) and I’ve known I was trans since the age of 4 or 5, meaning that I’ve never been a cisgender woman. Goodness, am I tired of dealing with the fact that people assume my partner and I are a cisgender straight couple… but I digress.

I’m not and never have been straight. Growing up, I was only sexually and romantically attracted to girls. I’ve since broadened my horizons to all gender identities, and I now identify as pansexual. So, if my friend’s theory that your sexuality must change if the way you identify regarding your gender were true, then my sexuality wouldn’t have to change when I’m already attracted to people of all genders.

But this idea that someone’s sexual orientation must change because your gender marker is changing makes no sense. What does your sexuality have to do with your gender anyway?

Logically, the two are not correlated; but this seems to be largely misunderstood anyhow. Straight people’s assumptions about identity have to do with a constant pairing of gender and sexuality. For example, many folks believe that if they encounter a hyper-feminine or femme-presenting human assigned male at birth, that the person must be a gay man. While if I encountered the same person, I would recognize that the person had a feminine presentation and wouldn’t make any assumptions about their gender or sexuality. But the way others tend to automatically pair femininity with homosexuality and masculinity with an attraction to women makes things way more confusing than they really need to be. We are confusing trans and other gender identities (who we are) with sexual orientations (who we love).

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In my experience, people have also made the false assumption that the fact that I have a vagina makes me inherently attracted to men or people with penises (a private detail that no one actually knows about me, but they assume by how I look). So they think when I get bottom surgery, I would automatically only be attracted to women or folks with vaginas… except I’m already primarily attracted to folks who have the same genitals as I do.

Folks’ insistence to figure this “puzzle” out is rooted in the body I was born with and the identity I was assigned. People get confused and think I was a straight woman when I met my “male” partner; and now that I’m “becoming a man,” I would have to be attracted to women now to still be straight. But in reality, my pansexuality doesn’t change no matter what. And what’s in my pants or on my birth certificate has no impact on whom I’m attracted to.

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As I transition, my partner and I will look more and more like a gay male couple. And then, when I’m on dates with the women I see outside of our polyamorous relationship, I’ll look like a dude in a straight couple with a girl. I will be attracted to women, nonbinary folks and men no matter what I wear or how I identify. It’s not complicated if you can understand how fluid sexuality and gender truly is (and that what’s in my pants is not only irrelevant, but it’s also none of your business). The same way I can perform fluid gender and wear my packing penis with a skirt, I can date whomever I want no matter what I look like — it doesn’t have to be definitely and anxiously labeled as one specific thing. And obviously, no amount of men’s shirts and testosterone is going to hinder my sexual attraction toward my partner.

By Meg Zulch

Originally published on HelloFlo.