The Sexual Orientation of Transwomen
There has been amazingly little investigation by the medical profession in to the sexual orientation of male-to-female transsexual women. This is very surprising given the psychological and social importance of "sex" and "sexuality", and the presumably deliberate incorporation of these in to the term "transsexual".
It's unclear how the crude but very real differences in the sexual priorities of men and women are reflected and adapted in transsexual and transgender women.
A man's innate priority is to seek a sexual relationship with a physically beautiful woman as she is likely to be fertile and child bearing. Whilst women may enjoy a short term relationship with a physically attractive man (who admittedly can pass on good genes to her child), a strongly competing priority is seeking a long term relationship with the wealthiest and most successful man that she can attract in order to ensure the highest possible standard of living (aka chance of survival) for herself and her children. From this difference in priorities it's unsurprising that women are far more confident that they can get a date with an attractive man than men are with an attractive woman (38% vs 26% according to one study).
Sexual orientation is a very personal feeling, the outwardly proclaimed sexuality can often differ from true private sexual attraction. It is thus not surprising that survey's and studies differ widely in their results.
A heavily caveat'ed baseline for this article is that about 85% of adult natal "XX" women consider themselves as being heterosexual, i.e. only sexually attracted to the opposite sex. This is close to the 89% of men who say they are heterosexual. However, whilst the percentage barely changes for men regardless of age, for women it increases steadily with age - from less than 80% for young women under 20, to over 90% for those aged 50+. Further, studies assessing sexual arousement using physical criteria such as pupil dilation and genital response have found that a majority of women (but not men) are bisexual in mind, if not in practice.
A review of the very limited studies (table below) of the sexual orientation of post-Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) transsexual women paint a confusing picture, with heterosexuals only very slightly outnumbered by other categories. The numbers do not align with claims that transgender women are often obsessively "female" in all aspects of their behaviour, and that many transgender women are really just homosexual men - a very high heterosexual percentage would thus be expected.
The sample size is generally small and the variance between studies is substantial, making it hard to develop a "rule of thumb". There is also a probability that the woman's true sexual preference may not be reflected in the option that she selected.
Overall, the best that can be concluded is that about half of post-SRS women classify themselves as heterosexual and choose male partners, but also a large number either prefer female partners or are amenable to them. As such, their sexuality profile seems to be very similar to genetically XX ciswomen.
Age Seems to
A large proportion of MTF transsexuals who have surgery while still under age 30 categorise themselves as a heterosexual woman. Some of these are undoubtedly the rather rare "genuine transsexual", who has from an early age considered themselves to be a female and sought hormones and surgery as soon as possible. Controversially - as discussed below - there also seems to be a substantial number of highly driven young homosexuals who decide to live as a woman as far as is possible.
Sexual orientations tend to be far more diverse among transition'ers over 30. In practice, some of these seem to play "safe", having lesbian relationships with a former female partner or other transsexual women. If the controversial autogynephilic theory (that some transsexuals are motivated by an erotic desire to become physically a woman) is correct, then this seems to reach a critical point only after age 30, and might have little effect on actual sexual orientation.
Based upon the limited available evidence it can be suspected:
The younger a woman's age at SRS, the more likely an
apparent heterosexual female orientation will be, the obvious
corollary being that the greater the woman's age at SRS, the
more likely a lesbian or bisexual orientation is.
B) The more "passable" a woman is (which is partly linked to her age at the time of SRS), the more likely an apparent heterosexual orientation is.
The corollary is that young and passable MTF women are very likely to be heterosexual, older transwomen who struggle to pass are likely to be lesbian, but there are also many who fall into a broad bi-sexual middle ground . [I welcome additional evidence to help prove or disprove this.]
A large study by Dr. Lawrence found that just 9% of the 232 male-to-female participants were attracted to men before their SRS, this rose to a substantial 34% after SRS, but percentages are still very low compared with other (smaller) studies. However there may be some problems with this study which may make it difficult to generalise from - for example the age or self-selecting nature of the participants.
Post-SRS heterosexual transwomen obviously fall in to two categories - (1) those already attracted to men before SRS; and (2) those that change their sexual preference from women to men.
It's been controversially suggested that some transsexual post-SRS heterosexual women are really homosexual men driven to have sex change surgery by their sexual preferences. The theory is that as men, these individuals desire and want to have sex with other men - especially 'straight' heterosexual men - but they can only attract and enter in to relationships with the later by becoming physically a women.
Most medical professionals are reluctant to accept this theory but there are some strong advocates. It certainly seems to be indirectly supported by the fact that many (two thirds in Brasil) shemale prostitutes revert to living as a man with a homosexual orientation when their looks fade. It is only a small step from that to assume that a few homosexuals instead decide to have SRS, perhaps after entering a serious relation with a heterosexual man. The theory is also perhaps supported by evidence from Iran where homosexuality is strictly banned on religious grounds, but sex change surgery is allowed and is subsidised by the state. After surgery, the transwoman can have her birth certificate and all other official documents re-issued as 'female', and legally marry a man. The high prevalence of transsexuality and SRS procedures in Iran - one surgeon suggested eight times greater than western countries - leads to the suspicion that many homosexuals (and lesbians) are claiming to be transsexual.
Regardless of how correct the "some [MTF] transsexuals are homosexuals" theory is, it certainly doesn't account for all the heterosexual transwomen, and other factors must be considered. One such factor may be hormones. The radical hormonal changes in the body of a transwoman, to approximately female norms after orchiectomy or SRS, may well give her a push towards a heterosexual orientation. This can happen sometimes to their own surprise - often blaming (perhaps correctly in part) the hormones they are taking. For example a 27-year old MTF transsexual in love with her already post-SRS transwoman partner, admitted that "I'd now categorise myself as bisexual because since taking hormones I find men attractive too."
Non-transsexual observers seem to find that post-transition transsexual women are often more "female than [genetic] females" in their life style and social beliefs, and a few (usually those that transition in middle age) do indeed seem to be almost a living stereotype of the feminine ideal. Some transwomen undoubtedly strongly feel that as a woman they should only want to have sexual relations with a man, and in this instance any residual sexual attraction to women rather than men becomes both unimportant and something to be suppressed. For example, a study of the sexuality of 345 women by researchers at Essex University in the UK found that 74% of the women who identified themselves as being heterosexual were actually strongly sexually aroused when shown videos of attractive women. Whilst no similar study has been undertaken with transsexual women, it is safe to say that heterosexual transwomen tend to be very adamant that they are only attracted to men.
Going further, for a few transsexual women (like for some genetic women), marriage and even motherhood via the adoption of children becomes their overriding goal, and perhaps an ultimate symbol and proof of their womanhood. Indeed, the Stepford Wives may be still be alive and well - albeit as Transgender Wives.
While most heterosexual transwomen are heterosexual for reasons of choice and preference, it seems likely that in some instances the adoption of a heterosexual orientation is closely related to the transsexual woman's success in passing and assimilating herself as a woman. Social conformance - even in the twenty-first century - encourages the successfully passing transwoman to enter in to "normal" sexual relationships with men as far as she is physically capable, while intimate relationships with other women risks "rocking the boat" and unwanted curiosity and gossip.
Entering into a committed relationship with a man undoubtedly tends to pull a transwoman away from any open acknowledgement of her transsexuality and male past, and encourages an apparently heterosexual orientation in public - whatever her secret inclinations might still be. As the table above shows, many heterosexual transsexual women hide their male past from partners and even their husband, feeling (unfortunately often correctly) that the relationship may not survive this becoming known to him. Even if the partner knows about and accepts the woman's transsexuality, their friends and his family might not be so open minded, and external pressures and prejudice could eventually destroy the relationship. When the marriage of an apparently successful transwoman with a man come under stress - as every marriage inevitably does at some point - a background awareness of the wife's former life as man often seems to be a decisive factor in the divorce.
The other side of the coin is that post-SRS heterosexual transwomen who are unable to pass well are often faced with great difficulty in attracting and having a relationship with men. One night stands with 'normal' men often end in tears. Brief relationships with tranny chasers may occur, but these are usually seeking pre-SRS girls and thus often disappointed. Eventual sexual abstinence is common among those in their 30's and 40's; whilst those over age 50 may struggle to get any sexual interest from men at all. One post-SRS transwoman in her 40's - who desperately wants a relationship with a 'straight' man but finds herself to be out'ed within minutes - despairingly says "no man wants to have sex with a transsexual when they can have a real woman". [MTF women thinking about transition and surgery should bear this in mind]
Finally, it should be mentioned that some transwomen consider themselves as to be heterosexual, but in practice have little interest in the actual sex. For example, Samantha Kane (who had SRS at age 37) concluded after five boyfriends that sex as a woman was rather boring - indeed far less interesting than the preliminaries to a big night out such as a shopping trip. There's no doubt that quite a few genetic women would agree with her!
More Female than
Taking one of these - Amanda started hormones and transitioned at age 16. She married a man a year later, and when still just 19 she had SRS - the first and most painful of her many feminisation operations. [Others include three breast augmentations, buttock implants and having her bottom ribs broken to achieve a smaller waist.] She then left her husband to pursue a career in New York as a 'creature of the night'. She aims for an extreme movie star look that's more female than Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe or even Jessica Rabbit!
In addition, a very small proportion of SRS operations are performed on men who have an intense desire to have "lesbian" intercourse with women. After doing whatever is necessary to obtain surgery, these men then often stop taking female hormones and live as a man or a very "butch" woman. Drew Deveaux (left) is probably the most famous example of this.
Mare-France is an interesting example for a sleuth. After her transition in 1962, age 16 she soon had serious boyfriends, but also enjoyed occasional nights with other girls. However by the late 1960's she was apparently only interested in relationships with men." To what extent that was due to hormones, surgery or a change in sexual preferences is impossible to determine without her input.
Whether To Be Open
Even if a heterosexual man seems to take the news well, the likelihood is that he never be seen again. As one very sexually active post-op transwomen put it: "Why would a normal man want to fuck me [if I told him I was transsexual] rather than a natural woman". The situation is rarely better if seeking a lesbian relationship.
Bitter experience soon makes many transwomen reluctant to confess to someone they fancy that they are transgender, but this leads to new problems. For a pre-op transwoman, even a pleasant kiss and cuddle can soon become dangerous as his/her hands wonder, and they start to look for more. Post-op transwomen face less danger from a groping hand, but a majority still face the debate of whether to confess about their past before their partner's increasing suspicion leads to a confrontation, potentially violent. For the lucky minority that are totally passable, the road may still eventually lead to very difficult questions being posed by a besotted partner, e.g. a marriage proposal and discussions about having children.
Straighter than Ciswomen?
An important benefit of a relationship with an another transsexual is that the partners can share their experiences, and provide mutual support and understanding - something which a relationship with a non-transsexual person cannot provide to the same extent. Also, transcouples do not need to face the risks and worries of going stealth to establish and maintain the relationship with their partner.
A significant proportion of transsexual women admit to being attracted to other transsexual women, indeed one small survey found that half of the respondents were strongly attracted to other transsexual women. Naturally this attraction often leads to relationships, both of a "one night stand" and of a more permanent nature. Sexually, these are technically lesbian relationships, but interestingly the partners are frequently not attracted to non-transsexual genetic women.
Homosexual or Transsexual?
Feminine 'gay' boys often face huge pressure to admit to being transgender than homosexual. The former condition has apparently become more acceptable than the later - reality television is probably a big driver in this regard. In Iran, the extraordinary situation has arisen that homosexuality is illegal, instead the state will pay for sex-reassignment surgery!
The homosexual or transsexual debate often tore the transgender community apart in the early 2000's, in particular the theories of Dr Ray Blanchard, Dr J. Michael Bailey and Dr Anne Lawrence caused extraordinary division. Two examples that show gulf between theory and real life:
Ivy was confused about his/her sex, and began hormones and transitioned age 24. After several dubious sexual encounters she found a serious boyfriend, but he wasn't sure about her "lack of breasts and a vagina". In rapid succession Ivy had breast augmentation, a trachea shave and finally - age 26 - sex reassignment surgery. She quickly regretted her irrevocable SRS as her boyfriends delight faded and he soon moved out of their apartment. Ivy found that she was no longer "special" but competing for men against other women, some more attractive. She is now undergoing facial hair electrolysis and seeking additional feminisation surgery that will hopefully let her live successfully as a woman for the rest of her live.
Claudia was age 18 she began to occasionally dress as a woman when going out. She met 'Martin' ("a cross between Jesus and George Best") and soon moved in with him. Martin wouldn't admit that he was gay and Claudia soon felt pressurised in to transitioning full time, taking hormones and eventually getting surgery. Claudia said: "Martin slept with women the whole time I was with him, and would say, 'If you were a girl, this wouldn't be happening,' and of course I believed him." Claudia finally had SRS surgery, age 28. A year Martin left Claudia. She now regrets having SRS but continues to live her life as woman.
Many young transsexuals enter in to an intimate relationship as a girl with a heterosexual man long before undergoing any surgery. Unlike older transsexuals, the sexual orientation of young transsexual women (meaning those who transition and start treatment before age 20) is rarely in doubt, they are usually as fervently interested in boys as any teenage girl! Again, a few examples:
Maxine: "At age 14 I experienced my 'first time' while on holiday ... [he was] six-foot-tall, wash board belly, unbelievably sexy. He chatted me up on the beach and we went to his hotel room. He slowly undressed me. It was beautiful. There was nothing I wanted more that night than to be a whole woman." A few years later Maxine had a relationship with a strongly heterosexual man: "Omar was a beautiful man but everything had to remain secret. The first time was very sensitive - however he missed me not having a bosom. He got a terrible complex, ... deep down he believed that I was really another man. I wanted to be the perfect partner for Omar, and dreamt of us having a family. I longed to be a woman, and as I fell in love with him I resolved that it was Maxine or nothing." Omar soon moved on, but Maxine had made her decision and had SRS three years later.
Tamalah, who transitioned at age 18, says "I knew from as early as I can remember that I was a girl. I didn't consider myself gay, I considered myself a heterosexual female." Both before and after the surgery, she presented herself as a woman and was often asked out by men. In regards to her very active sex life with men - "I figured what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them".
'A' had SRS at 17, she says: "I just love sex, since the operation I crave it all the time. I'm just a woman with needs!"
'T' who transitioned in her teens and had SRS at age 17 says: "I'm all woman and enjoyed being [with my partner] because he's all man. I'm more feminine than most women I know. The fact I was born a man is just an inconvenient technicality."
Whether the man is understanding or not, clearly the situation is extremely unsatisfactory. The girls desire to normalise her body and have vaginal intercourse often becomes a key driver for her seeking surgery as soon as possible. Waiting to her 18th birthday before having sex-reassignment surgery - as is required by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association Standard Of Care that most doctors and surgeons conform to - can be a bitter and sexually very frustrating test of endurance.
Paris: My last relationship was a seemingly never-ending rollercoaster of orgasms so it’s not that I don’t enjoy a bit of afternoon delight. Or evening or morning delight, for that matter. Far from it.
It's the Hormones...
Taking of birth control pill upsets this cycle and women on the pill (with raised oestrogen levels) tend to generally favour the more masculine face all the time. There's an implication that the high oestrogen levels of a transwoman on female hormones may also tug her sexual attraction towards a male partner.
Additionally, pregnant woman apparently prefer glowing, healthy looking faces in their sexual partner - this appears to be caused by their raised levels of progesterone - which many transsexual women take in relatively high doses.
You can read a little about my own sexuality and experiences here.
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