Being trans means leaving the system of standardized desire.
When people line up “boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl,” we no longer fit easily into that structure.
Instead of fitting nicely into the paradigm of seeking — men seeking women, women seeking men, men seeking men, women seeking women — we are other.
We demand to claim our expression as an individual, which means we have to be desired as an individual.
This doesn’t mean that we aren’t desirable and lovable, it just means that it always takes awareness to have even a brief awareness with a transperson. We may be very clear on who we desire, but we demand that our partners be comfortable with their own bisexuality so they can love all of us.
Letting our freak flag fly liberates us, but it also limits the partners who are ready to do the work to be with us. Our potential partner pool (PPP) becomes smaller as we move away from normative conventions of desire, in age, in size, in gender, in just the inner work we have had to do to own our own heart, to be comfortable in our own skin.
All of this means transpeople are lonely. What makes you exceptional must inevitably also make you lonely, as Lorraine Hansbury reflected on James Baldwin.
For us, love stops being practical and becomes abstracted. When we don’t fit neatly into expectations, don’t simply fit into the movies and dreams other people keep inside of them, we don’t just fit into relationship.
As a human, as a woman, abstracted love may be the best that I can do, but it is hardly fulfilling.
Celibacy means the renouncing of sexual desire. Abstinence is not having sexual partners, even though you have sexual feelings & thoughts.
Some religions pushed the belief that having variant, non-heterosexual desire was not a sin, but acting on those desires is a sin. You can’t help it if you desire others of the same sex, but if you don’t deny those desires, preferably staying celibate but at least staying abstinent, you become an abomination in the view of God.
For them, homosexual desire was the same as having the desire to murder someone. Everyone has feelings that are impure sometimes, but acting on these feelings makes us corrupt an a sinner.
This sentenced those with variant desire to a life with only abstracted love, denying them the physical intimacy that is a core part of deep, bonded, mature human relationships. They were SOL.
For people who live within the conventions of desire, those who shape their own role and expression to live within expected attraction, living outside of that desire is almost impossible to comprehend. They like the sparks, need the sparks of attraction and can lean into them.
Even if as they mature, younger days of embodied desire, a time when things were simpler and hotter, is always accessible to them.
Transpeople, especially transpeople who emerged later in life, just don’t have those habits and conventions. We learned to not act on our desire, to fear even simple flirting, because the perception of our gender could shift in any moment and the “third gotcha” could swallow our safety.
Relationships where we have to negotiate the expectations of others, where we are expected to play the role they believe their lover, their partner should play, get very very difficult for us. We may be able to tamp down our own desire just to get something back, but always, always, always at a dear cost. (2006)
For me, this has meant staying abstinent. I can’t imagine where I would go to connect with others who are ready to consider a romantic, intimate relationship with me.
This has lead me to a state of aesthetic denial, my beliefs having to adapt to the scarcity presented to me in the world. That scarcity of intimate love started very early for me, with two Aspergers parents, so I grew up with an understanding of abstracted love. My relationships followed patterns familiar to lesbians, though because I was male bodied, I was never simply allowed into that community, never supported in those paired desires.
I learned, at great cost, how to love myself, to become intimate with my own thoughts and feelings, but I never learned how to trust others with my heart. They found it big, queer and overwhelming, not getting the joke, not respecting my tenderness.
In the last week, I have seen a TV show where a woman needs, needs, needs intimacy and heard ShamanGal say that her mother sensed some of her discord comes from the knowledge of how hard it will be to find a partner who is ready, willing and able to love her fully.
I look around and see other transwomen who have had to learn to live with abstracted love, apart from the present and practical love that the normative, especially the younger ones take for granted.
Taking care of my parents for the last decade of their life cast me in the role of spinster, her abstracted love redirected to family. I still do this sometimes with my sister — I gave her an day of travelling companionship that was easy & luxurious for — but working love for the family has never satisfied my need for layered intimacy, creative, intellectual, emotional and physical.
As a woman, I find living without love, without deep and flowing love, to be very difficult. Every woman needs getting loose sometimes, needs to fall into her own sensuality, abandon and Eros. We get a bit dried up and crazy without it.
Settling for abstracted love, for channelling that powerful force into limited and possible channels is a reasonable and good thing, but it is not a satisfying thing. It’s like a diet without some essential vitamins; it may keep you alive, but the deficiencies will always take a toll.
I make the most of what I can get. I have learned to live with aesthetic denial from a very young age. I do the best with my love, using my head the best that I can.
But abstracted love, away from the immersive power and mirroring of deep intimacy, well, it can only keep you sort of alive.