On Preference

Pink Carbide - By Dannonlee

As humans, we tend to like to put things into boxes. We like definite answers more than spectrums and gray areas. When I was first exposed to the concept of what it means to be “transgender”, it was in the form of flawed information. For me, even through my early 20’s, I thought that transgender literally meant a gay man who liked to wear dresses. I didn’t realize at that time that women could be transgender, or that sexual preference is not linked to gender identity. What I discovered by being brave enough to really wade into queer culture and do the research necessary to understand trans issues (instead of avoiding them out of fear) is that transgender as a term is an umbrella. It is a spectrum, and has nothing to do with preference.

It is a heteronormative idea that women who identify with male gender and men who identify with female gender must be homosexual. This mistaken idea comes from the normalized idea that men always mate with women and women always mate with men. This, of course, erases homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual and all other preference identities. The fact is that some women, whether they were born as women or something else, are sexually attracted to other women. We tend to call these women lesbians (or bi, or pan, if they are not exclusively attracted to women.)

This basic broadening of concept is pretty easy to grasp. Where it gets fuzzier is when we dig deeper into gender and stereotypes. If a woman transitions to male and identifies clearly as male, looks male and changes his legal documents to reflect his male identity, one might say that his label (in regards to sexual preference) is pretty clear. If he’s into women exclusively, he’s heterosexual (even having been born female) and if he’s into men (exclusively) then he’s homosexual.

But what if an individual is born male, identifies firmly inside as female, doesn’t have any interest in transitioning his/her body (transgender without being transsexual) and is exclusively sexually attracted to women? Does that make *him* a lesbian? Is it transphobic for bio-born women who identify as women to tell such a man that he cannot use *their* label? Does it even fit him, really? How would such a person communicate his/her preferences to potential partners? How would two such individuals in a relationship describe their preference or the nature of their relationship?

The thing is, they shouldn’t have to. Yes, labels and boxes are part of our experience as humans in Western Civilization. Yes, we like to categorize and define things that are a part of our experience (especially if those things are just coming into the range of our understanding for the first time.) We like solid ground, but at the same time, it’s also important to mind our own business when it comes to what other people do in the bedroom. It should never be required for anyone to have to explain their sexuality or sexual preferences, but human beings are a curious lot and it will come up. As such, there are certain scientific terms that exist to define specifically what a person’s preference is (instead of using potentially vague terms like gay and straight.)

Androphilic individuals are individuals who like men and male traits. Gynephilic individuals are individuals who like women and female traits. These are easy to remember when you consider that Andro- is a Latin prefix meaning “Man” and Gyne- is a Latin prefix meaning “Female.” Think “Andrew” (Andro) and “Jenny” (Gyne) as a way to remember the difference. The –philia suffix should be easy for sex-obsessed apes such as ourselves. It’s often associated with all kinds of taboo acts of a sexual nature. These terms, of course, (Androphilia and Gynephilia) describe only exclusive preferences. Bisexual (attraction to men and women both) Pansexual (attraction to all, including gender identities outside of the binary) and Asexual (attraction to none) identities do exist, and people of all kinds inhabit these identities. As stated earlier, transgender is not a sexual preference, nor is it associated or linked with a specific one. It is something separate entirely. Transgender as a spectrum includes people who literally transcend the binary (the two categories of gender, male and female) in a wide rainbow of different ways. Transgender identity is about how you see yourself, how you identify, not about what kind of people you find sexually attractive.

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