I focus here on the experiences of trans women and transfeminine people. The experiences of trans men and transmasculine people are not wholly divorced from trans women and transfeminine people, but doing those differences justice is outside the scope of this piece. I also frame this article as addressed to cis men, but I think people of other genders may find some useful thoughts in here as well.
Attraction to trans women is not normal. Or to be more precise, attraction to trans women is not normalized. People, including many cisgender men, are attracted to trans women and transfeminine people, but attraction to any dimension of transness is not normalized; it is inextricably bound to the normalization and support for our existence—something that is lacking in our world.

I want to share some of my thoughts on what the landscape of attraction to trans women looks like in a largely transphobic society. I hope by sharing some patterns I’ve noticed in my personal life and with clients, I can contribute a small nudge in the right direction. I use a tripartite categorization of attraction to both organize my experiences and for the trans woman attracted men to reflect on themselves.
First, there is the category of being attracted to trans women as they perform in the social role of a woman. We can then look at the attraction rooted in the fetishism of a gender and genital combination, the ‘best of both worlds’ idea. Lastly, I want to explore an attraction rooted in the entirety of transness. It will be an aspirational exercise in moving towards a positive erotics of transness. This topic could easily be a book, but I hope this small piece offers you something helpful.

Attracted to Trans Women Because ‘Trans Women Are Women’

This form of attraction to trans women is, I believe, uncommon now. The lack of popularity is in contrast to the common retort as to why trans women are deserving of rights, including being viewed as a potential romantic partner. Being attracted to a trans woman, ‘like any other woman’, is a recognition of trans women as the very thing we proclaim to be—women. Someone is performing (thank you Judith Butler) in ways to be socially recognized as a woman. Dress, mannerisms, physical appearance, these all coalesce to create the, presumably cis, woman before you, and you find her attractive. Maybe you have had some cursory engagement with diversity presentations or gender studies, and you recognize what I’m describing as the social construction of gender. It seems simple on its face.

In adding the descriptor “presumably cis,” I want to indicate this attraction is reserved for the passing trans woman. She is not initially discernible as a trans woman. You don’t expect that she was likely assigned male at birth. This distinction is why I consider this form of attraction rare among the men who see me as a provider; they are explicitly seeking a trans woman. If she has had good bottom surgery and maybe other transition related care, then there may never be a time when she has to disclose she is trans. If she hasn’t had bottom surgery or something else raises suspicion, she may have to disclose that she is trans. There are also the trans women who do not pass or seek to pass.

So, we have a trans woman who, socially, is read as a cis woman, but that script can become disrupted when she may have to disclose or is outed. What happens then runs the gamut from acceptance to violence. Herein lies the flaw with relying on a social model of attraction as normalizing, for both us and the people who find us attractive. It is a superficial level of attraction. Our bodies and our histories are not complementary to the narrative of being attracted to us. Instead, they become sites of conflict. At best, there can be someone who nonchalantly accepts us. And at worst, there is violence sometimes escalating to murder. The unknowability of which way someone’s response will go necessitates we move towards a mode of attraction that explicitly recognizes the fully embodied nature of transness.

Attracted to ‘The Best of Both Worlds’

The next form of attraction is the one I find most common among my clients. What I am calling the ‘best of both worlds’ model, a phrase from the fetishistic lexicon of trans sex work. It is referring to the idea that trans women and trans feminine people offer the ‘best of both worlds’ in generally looking and acting like a woman but offer a masculine dimension of exploration through their possession of a penis and a perception of hypersexuality.

This form of attraction is one I consider to be rooted largely in fetishism and bordered by the restrictions of heteronormativity. In this form of attraction resides most erotic depictions of trans women. Here, you have the taboo, and therefore thrilling to pursue, ‘chick with a dick.’ The myriad of phrases from my clients that slowly grate on mine and other trans women’s minds arise from here too:
“I’ve never been with a woman like you before…”
“I don’t really think of myself as bisexual but…”
“I hope you are fully functional…”

The seemingly endless obsession with my genitals in the public sphere of discourse is clearly reflected in the so-called private sphere of sexual expression. Though, there is the client who would deny that any socialization, any internalized heteronormative standards are influencing his conduct. He insists that he doesn’t like men; he just really enjoys sucking cock. Moreover, they may even say that my penis is in fact a woman’s penis. It’s different.

I do not find genital preferences a compelling idea, and I do not intend to meaningfully engage with the validity of the idea here. I consider genital preferences rooted not necessarily in transphobia, as is often argued. Instead, I think of genital preferences as a lack of imagination and openness to new experiences. They are trite and more than a little tedious.

For the client who insists this preference is the reason for seeing me, do you think engaging with a set of genitals and requiring there need to be a certain social presentation (womanhood/femininity) attached to those genitals – a penis – is truly rooted in a pure, innate aesthetic preference. In more crass terms, why are you not sucking off guys if dick is just that great? On a personal level, I find the problems rooted in this form of attraction enjoyable in the ways they complicate the popular, overly simplified, spectral analyses of gender and sex –see: The Gender Unicorn.

A Positive Erotics of Transness

With the above types of attraction to trans women and trans feminine people problematized in some aspects, the person reading this, especially my clients, may feel unsure of how to move forward. Another queer person may even have some doubts about where they stand in being attracted to a trans person. This tension is not to be avoided. No ignoring, pithy sayings, or an about face into transphobia. In the tension, we can find the path towards an “erotics of ‘trans,’” a phrase I am lifting from a 2014 piece by Avery Tompkins. Tompkins offers the needed perspective that transness is a personal quality, and like any personal quality, it can be an area of attraction.

Here, is where we can find the normalcy in being attracted to a trans woman, and this framework may apply to other trans people too. Transness, when not viewed through a fetishistic lens and taken as a quality of a person worthy of recognition, is a normal thing to find attractive. All the feelings, experiences, and embodiments that make up a transgender life can be attractive to anyone. The challenge is discarding worldviews and biases that can block us from appreciating the totality of a trans woman, including but not limited to, her transness.

So, if you have found yourself identifying with some of the less helpful habits described above, I would suggest taking some steps to re-humanize the people to whom you find yourself attracted. I have listed some suggestions below. Ultimately, I hope you feel some degree of inspiration or desire to improve your life and the lives of the trans women and other trans people around you. If you don’t, feel free to reach out on scheduling a date, and I can literally beat you over the head with some gender studies literature until you get the point.

Some Suggestions for Self-Improvement

· Engage with art by trans people
· Drop the fetishizing pornography
· Support smaller porn creators
· Journal and reflect on why you may have come to fetishize trans people or be scared of finding them attractive
· Contribute time and/or resources to local trans mutual aid and advocacy

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The Good Client Guide destigmatizes sex work while providing guidance on how to be a better client and ally. Better experiences for workers mean better experiences for clients! To make this happen, we’re welcoming submissions from both providers and their customers.

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