THREE STRIKES AND I’M OUT
CHAPTER SEVEN JUNE 2008.
In queer communities, we often talk about coming out. And by “queer communities,” I include HETEROSEXUALS who think they are lesbians. As far as I’m concerned, we should call it coming out again and again and again and again, because that’s how life often feels.
Sometimes I even find myself sort of “coming out” to people about aspects of my life that have nothing to do with gender or sexuality. You see how I appropriated “coming out” as a homosexual to my special sauce awesomeness? Still with me?
For example, I might be at a queer or feminist event and mention offhand to an acquaintance that by day I’m a scientist, and they’ll kind of freak out about it: “You’re a scientist? No way, I never would have guessed!” Do you know how HARD it is to come out as a scientist? I mean, scientists are an oppressed group and get scientist-bashed on the regular? What’s that you say? That’s never happened? Fuck you, scientist-phobe.
Maybe they are surprised because they stereotype scientists as unapologetic heterosexists who delight in essentializing and pathologizing our genders and sexualities. OMG did you see how I just invented a “stereotype” that actually doesn’t exist except in my tranny brain? Or maybe I “pass” as a nonscientist because I don’t wear a lab coat, or because I don’t have unruly Einstein hair. Tee hee, this coming out metaphor is fun, I can do this all day!
I’m not sure. All I really know is that when I come out to people, it’s not really about me or my identity. It’s about their assumptions, their expectations, their investment in who they think I am. Which is actually not at all related to why Gay People have to come out. Gay People have to come out because of COMPULSORY HETEROSEXUALITY, in which we are all assumed to be straight. Of course, me, being Julia Serano, doesn’t need to come out, because I am a giant weirdo that most Regular People can see is a total freak to be avoided. But anyway, if they didn’t make any assumptions about me, then I couldn’t possibly be “closeted” and I couldn’t be accused of “passing” as anything. Tee hee, it’s all about me, fuck the concept of Compulsory Heterosexuality. And if I told them something about myself, it wouldn’t be a “coming out” because they wouldn’t have already made their minds up about me in the first place.
OMG, I can make everything about ME ME ME ME.
Far and away, my biggest coming out occurred back in 2001, when I came out as transsexual. I am LOLing here because I didn’t actually have to “come out,” as anyone who looks at me can tell I am a dude. I just referred to that coming out in the past tense, which is weird, because I’m always still coming out to people as trans. I am LOLing again. (In fact, for anyone who has just picked up this book and randomly turned to this page, I have just come out to you as trans. Congratulations! OMG buy me a pressie).
But the coming out story that I wish to share with you now is not about me being or becoming transsexual. Rather, it’s about my sexual orientation.
For most of my life—from puberty onward—I’ve been primarily attracted to women. This is because I am a heterosexual man. Although pre-transition, I admittedly had fantasies about being with men, and I experimented with them to a certain extent, usually in the context of role-playing relationships. This is also because I am a man. Sometimes those explorations were awkward or unpleasant, other times they were sexy and fun, but not one even came close to evoking the sexual or romantic intensity that I experienced when I was with women. Because I’m a straight man. STRAIGHT I TELLS YA. But then I transitioned. And things changed a little bit. Shifted, you might say. I’m still very attracted to women, but in addition, I find that men sometimes pique my interest. This is because I have pumped my body full of hormones, and also because Actual Dykes would not want to sleep with me, because I am a man. And given that Men will fuck anything, including couches, I decided to broaden my horizons.
These are not the fantasies of being with faceless guys that I used to imagine. But rather, they’ll often involve specific men. Sometimes I’ll find myself appreciating the way a man looks or smells, and sometimes I’ll think about fucking him with my lady penis. I’m not sure what caused this shift. Maybe it’s from me being on female hormones, or finally settling into my female body, or from years of interacting with the world as a woman, or perhaps some combination of all three. Oh my God, how disgusting am I? Did you see what I just did.
- I said I think about sex with men.
- BECAUSE I A NOW A “WOMAN.”
- Because my understanding of woman = object to be fucked by men.
Many people’s sexual orientations shift for no apparent reason, so maybe that is what happened to me. OMG look how I just handwaved away the experience of millions of Lesbians who “came out” later in life after realizing they wanted to be with women. NO APPARENT REASON FOR THAT. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that WOMEN ARE AWESOME.
I’m not sure. But the one thing that I do know is that my budding attraction to men kind of freaks me out a bit because I am not a faggot, dammit. I’ve been running away from maleness and masculinity my whole life—especially with regards to my own male anatomy and history or, as I like to say, because I am actually a man. For me, transitioning was not merely about pretending I am female by pumping my body full of ‘mones and getting my dick turned inside out—it was also about disassociating myself from the world of men more generally. ‘Cept I can’t ever do that, because I am a man.
And for years that felt like such a relief. So it’s strange for me to find my mind wandering back to men, to ponder re-exploring them. Well, let’s be honest, all that porn I watch kind of helps with these thoughts. Another thing that makes this difficult for me is the fact that, frankly, men scare the shit out of me. During my transition, as soon as men started reading me as female, I was barraged by cat calls, sexual innuendos, come ons, occasional threats, and so on. That’s what I call “cis privilege” when it happens to Actual Women, but when it happens to a Man Like Me, it’s outrageous and oppressive. A lot of it was the same bullshit that most women have to deal with, and other times it was the more hardcore, hypersexualizing remarks that I only ever seem to get when men know that I’m a trans woman. Oh, what’s that you say? Actual Women get those remarks? That’s cis privilege, bitch.
I’ve survived by putting my guard up, by not letting any men get to me. I have the luxury of doing this because I was born and raised male, and was thus not groomed to be sexually available to Men.
So the idea of letting my defenses down, to allow myself to fool around with a man, is more than a little bit intimidating. Anyway, while I first noticed this shift in my sexuality several years ago, I was not in a position to act on it, because for most of the last decade, I’ve been in a monogamous relationship—something else which I’ve found myself having to come out about on many an occasion, given the high frequency of polyamorous relationships in the queer circles I inhabit. What’s that? You say San Francisco actually doesn’t reflect what most Gay People do? Fuck you, San Fran-phobe!
Whenever I would mention being monogamous, I’d often feel the need to relieve the tension by reassuring people that it’s okay, my monogamy is not “hegemonic,” it’s just a “me” thing, at which point they’d usually laugh, probably because I just used the word hegemonic, but anyway, I digress . . Tee hee, I don’t even know what “hegemonic” means any more.
While my partner and I were together, and I was not acting on my latent desires, it just made sense to identify as a lesbian. I couldn’t actually be a lesbian because I am a man, but I found a Woman self-hating enough to indulge my dumb ass fantasies. After all, I was a woman who was in a relationship with another woman. But we have recently split up—which of course, is another coming out, with friends replying: “Oh My God?” “I’m stunned!” “I’m not sure what to say?” and “It’s about time she dumped your ass, you are revolting!!”
Anyway, now that I am on my own and beginning to explore my attraction to men, I’ve started using the word bisexual to describe myself. There. I said it. Bisexual. It only took me halfway through the piece to admit it! Tee hee! What’s that? You aren’t surprised, because many transwomen are porn sick bastards? Fuck you, biphobe!
For many gay men and lesbians, the word bisexual is the second most anxious-making word in the dictionary (just after bi-curious). Forget about those other things that make Lesbians anxious, like “corrective rape,” “sexual assault,” and “gay bashing.” The most terrible fear-inducing words are ones I have claimed for myself, which gives me EVEN MORE REASON to hate those Acual Dykes.
When I told a queer friend that I was beginning to call myself bi, she jokingly replied, “No, don’t do it!” And you know, I really don’t have to do it. I could just call myself pansexual—that sounds hella queer, because it means nothing but people nod politely because they are afraid I will babble on forever about how I enjoy having my taint stroked by a genderfulid panromantic demigod. Or I could refuse to call myself bisexual on the grounds that the label “reinforces the gender binary” (a common soundbite that I debunk in Chapter 9, “Bisexuality and Binaries Revisited”). Tee hee, more meaningless words!
Hell, I know so many women partnered to trans guys who still identify as dykes—not to mention trans guys who also still identify as dykes—that I could easily just keep calling myself a dyke while dating guys, and it’s likely that no one would even notice. What’s that you say? Trans guys are actually female, wheras I am now sucking Man Dick? Transphobe!! But I don’t want to do that. My attraction to male-bodied/identified people feels very different from what I experience with female-bodied/identified individuals. The former occurs less frequently and feels more dangerous to me.
So, at this time and place, bisexual feels like the best fit for me. FEELINGS! Maybe it’s easier for me to identify as bi because of my ambivalence regarding the lesbian community because I hate those botches, because they don’t want to fuck my lady stick. For many queer women, that community is where they first felt accepted, where they feel most empowered, the place they call home. I can understand why many bi-leaning queer women might feel reluctant to risk losing that. But I can’t say the same is true for me. The lesbian community has not been a place where I have felt unconditionally accepted. This is because I am a Man. It’s a place where I am often explicitly disrespected or excluded. Because, once again, I am a man. While some of my best friends and most loyal allies are dykes, I have found that the community in general expresses anything from apathy to antagonism toward trans women, so fuck my friends. Furthermore, as a queer woman who is not ashamed about being feminine, I often find dyke spaces to be way too masculine-centric for my liking.
WHOA! You see what I did there?? Those dykes are too Manly for a Lady Like Me.
Hello bizzaro world!
Being a femme and a trans woman (i.e., a faggy man) in the lesbian community, I’ve long felt that I already had two strikes against me. So I guess being bisexual is strike number three. Most people I know who have come out as bisexual after identifying as a lesbian for many years only do so upon winding up in a serious relationship with a man. This makes me wonder whether I’m jumping the gun a bit. I mean, right now I am not dating a guy, so why come out as bi? Is it presumptuous for me to claim a bisexual identity if I’ve only ever had serious or committed relationships with women?
LOL see how I am worried about offending bisexuals for “appropriating” their identity, but I have NO QUALMS about doing this to women in general and lesbians in particular??
Or did I become bisexual when I first started sexually experimenting with guys in the early ’90s? Where does one draw the line? Maybe this has more to do with the context of one’s life than anything else. For cis queers (which means Heterosexuals), coming face-to-face with one’s own bisexuality causes anxiety because it seems to signify a shifting back toward the heterosexual world they came from. “They came from.” LOL.
But for me, a man who was socialized male, with all the homophobic hysteria that that entails, the opposite is true. If I were with a guy, we might look pretty het on the outside (ACTUAL LOLs), but on the inside, it would all feel really super fucking gay to me, like, because we are both men. And as out and proud to be queer as I am, I’d be lying if I said that I had completely worked through all of my own internalized bullshit. It took me years to become proud of being outwardly feminine, proud to call myself a woman and a transsexual. And now, to come out as transitioning from lesbian to bisexual is another step on that journey. Lots of my friends consider themselves post-identity, shunning all labels related to sexuality.
Who am I kidding? We live for this identity shit!! They see gay and lesbian and bisexual as boxes that people stuff themselves into—they find the words stifling and suffocating. So now they just use A NEW LABEL!! But sometimes, for some of us, embracing a new identity isn’t about boxing ourselves in, it’s about setting ourselves free. At least that’s how the word bisexual feels for me. It’s about acknowledging a part of myself that I am honestly not completely comfortable with yet. It’s about giving myself permission to be (a fag).