My sexual orientation has never been a secret. As a man of transgender experience, I am often assumed to be gay. I have no problem with this assumption aside from the fact that the people making such assumptions are usually informed by a very narrow understanding of the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation. Most people assume there is little or no difference between the two and often make assumptions about me, and others, that aren’t always accurate.
There is a large difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. For one, your gender identity is who you ARE and your sexual orientation is who you are attracted to. It is entirely possible to be a heterosexual transgender person, as it is also possible to be a homosexual transgender person. Likewise, it’s also possible to be a bisexual, pansexual, or asexual transgender person; however, an explanation of the gender binary and a dissection of patriarchal systems and oppressive language is required before delving too deeply into the socially constructed understanding of gender. The length and subject of this piece precludes such an analysis, but further reading about gender as a social construct is available here.
I am not gay. In fact, I don’t identify as straight either. Since childhood, I have been attracted to people who identify across the spectrum of gender. Early on, I didn’t have language to describe my feelings, nor did I know which box to put myself in when answering questions about my sexual orientation, so I labeled myself as queer. For me, queer fit…and 20 years after initially exploring the term, it still fits.
Queer is much more than a word that describes which genitalia I prefer my partner to have. Classifying myself in this way acknowledges that I have no physical sexual preference at all. The attractions I have are spiritual, and they’ve always been. Light is attracted to light and since junior high school, this is how I’ve understood, and subsequently selected, the people I choose to have close, intimate friendships and relationships with. Now sure, there are certain things I find physically appealing about people…eyes, hair, smile, physique…but the light inside of them only enhances these features in the same way that the absence of light –or the presence of darkness– makes even the most physically ‘attractive’ person undesirable. Perhaps it’s the fact that I am a hopeless romantic, but I believe that beauty is internal and eternal…and is in the eye of the beholder.
*Photo Credit: Noah’s Arc, Darryl Stephens, Jensen Atwood © 2006 Logo and Tall Skinny Black Boy Productions
*Further Research on the term “Queer“