We often hear the term “Trans Fetishist” thrown around- and recklessly.
As Trans folks, we live in a society wherein we are often hyper-sexualized by the mainstream. It’ unfortunate, but true that we haven’t yet crossed that evasive threshold of our gender being separated from our sexuality. Our sexuality as Trans individuals is frequently- and ignorantly- made the focus of our complete identity. That we have a sexuality at all or can be attractive, even desired, by another remains shrouded in taboo. Consequentially, many who might otherwise have no problem taking a Trans man or woman as a partner are forced to live out their attraction via secret fantasies in the glow of their computer screens after the rest of their family has gone to bed. To many of these people, their attraction is their shame. Or, alternatively, is perceived as altogether unattainable due to the stigma.
There is a distinct difference between a fetishist and a genuine potential romantic interest, and discerning that can save you a lot of stress and inevitable heartache. The trouble lies in the fact that, while the two are not at all related, the behaviors can appear to be, at least on the surface. Like many in my Trans family, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with both before I learned to identify who truly wanted to know me as an individual and who just fantasized about me in a sexual context, objectifying me or sensationalizing me as a caricature with little interest in me beyond a impulsive curiosity.
Recognizing fetishist behavior is vital when pursuing authentic, mutually invested relationships and establishing a quality report with another person. While a fetishist will attempt to deceive their target with elaborate cunning until they receive gratification, a romantic partner will follow your lead instead of goading you or making blatant sexual advances that are unbalanced or premature.
A fetishist will usually always pretext their interaction with a demonstration of their emotional unavailability. They will say they’re only seeking a friend with benefits (FWB) or are even currently in a relationship or married. They will unwittingly disclose their fetish by making sexual remarks, asking sexually related questions all while showing no interest in anything else about you. Their fascination with a Trans identifying person will be evident in statements or affectations they view as complimentary rather than offensive.
“I’ve never been with one before.” They might say. Emphasis here on “One.” You’re not a person, you’re just a thing they’ve never experienced. A ride at an amusement park they’ve never ridden before.
“I’m curious.” Great, but you’re not an oddity or a riddle. I don’t want someone to be curious about me, I want someone who is interested in sharing things about themselves and learning about me in a natural process that extends past their sexual curiosities.
“Discreet” in any context is an immediate red flag. They want to have you in an intimate situation, but would be horrified if anyone ever knew it was with a Trans person. They need it to be a secret- you are no one’s dirty secret.
I know of many fetishists who use dating apps and literally work their way through entire area codes of trans people without ever having the intention of dating or committing. One man by the name of Taylor would message me frequently on facebook. He’d ask if we could “Get together sometime” or “Meet up.” I wasn’t interested. A year later he also found me on Tinder. I discovered quite quickly that he had a practice of soliciting any transgender woman in driving distance and most of my local trans friends recognized him as a result of a post he left on my wall after I stopped responding to him. I found they had one sexual partner in common at one time or another- Taylor. He pursued them to satiate his sexual appetite but would eventually move on to the next trans woman who he set his target on. I never met him. Why didn’t I fall prey to his advances? I looked at his facebook page wherein he had been tagged, just a few days prior to his post on my wall, in dozens of his own engagement photos- by his future wife. I dodged a bullet.
But, Taylor is not unique. He separated his sexual lust from his emotional investment. Trans women were not friends, they were opportunities to fulfill his sexual predilections. They were there solely for his pleasure. They were not allowed to possess an expectations. While he would have sex with trans women, he would never entertain the notion of actually having a relationship with a trans woman- and not just because he was already committed.
Fetishists are indeed emotionally detached. Their motivation is purely their own sexual satisfaction. If you know what to look and listen for, they usually out themselves almost immediately.
However, many men who date trans men and women- even exclusively- are not fetishists. They want to know what books you’ve read, what you studied in school, if you prefer coffee or tea. They enjoy the privilege of getting to know you in a traditional manner with respect to, not only your boundaries, but your dignities. “Did you have a good weekend?” is vastly different from “Hey, sexy.” One makes inquiry, the other surpasses any formality and imposes an uncomfortable familiarity they think we should find endearing or a boon to our self esteem. One takes time to learn about you in a casual, relaxed manner without awkward sexual undertones while the other seeks a veritable EZ pass as if they’re doing you some kind of favor by lavishing you with loaded words designed to impress or flatter.
A fetishist places inordinate weight on your trans identity with a seemingly endless line of very personal questions regarding your anatomy, whether or not you are “Full time” or if you prefer dominant or submissive roles in the bedroom. By this time, it’s clear what their end goal is, and they’re not interested in getting to know you at all, but instead taking an assessment of your body design to see if you meet their sexual standard of acceptability. We don’t typically see women who are on a first date or opening up a dialog with a man asking if they’re circumcised or how well endowed they are in order to determine if they’re dating material. We shouldn’t tolerate equally invasive questions from men.
A fetishist has an end goal in mind, deliberately manipulating you toward that predetermined result. A romantic interest doesn’t know the destination, but takes the journey with you as an equal. They want to discuss topics of mutual interest, learn about your intricacies, share their thoughts on everything from television to politics. They ask you what yours are. They appreciate the evolution of a friendship that becomes something more valuable to them. They aren’t interested in things like discretion nor do they make mention of wanting to “experiment” or “Try it” as if you’re a newly discovered species of frog they want to see from the inside with as much respect they would have for a splayed amphibian laid prone before them for probing and prodding. A potential romantic partner will tell their friends about you as the bond grows, and they’ll learn about your story as you choose to make it available when appropriate. The fetishist thinks in the short term, scavenging for immediate self gratification leveraging you rather than respecting you. The romantic interest makes the investment of time, courtesy, and regards yours as a privilege rather than a right of passage into your pants.
It is negligent to recklessly dub every individual attracted exclusively to trans people a fetishist. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a preference. The difference between them is vast in that a romantic interest will hold your hand in public, while the fetishist will cower from any affection outside the bedroom for fear of societal repercussion or their own internalized phobia.
A partner humanizes you. They allow you to be an individual; A complex human being, the sum of many parts.
The fetishist hones in on one. They build a box around you, and your transgender status is the only part of you that matters to them. To the fetishist, your gender is the whole of your identity. They are incapable of caring for you past the morning after. The potential romantic partner will pick you up if your car breaks down. The fetishist won’t answer the phone or return a message if they’re not sexually aroused because that relationship is constructed completely around their convenience, not yours.
Too many very good people are often demonized by the word fetishist, a label that is tacked on all to frivolously and often scares those who are genuinely interested in knowing you away for fear of being branded indelibly as a “chaser” with sex being their sole purpose for wanting to know you. Thus, they fold into themselves like introverts, deliberately avoiding even friendly engagements with a trans person who they worry will falsely equate them with those who have an explicit sexual agenda.
Remove the stigma from men who have a preference for trans people or who do not have a binary gender preference when considering a possible partner to share their lives with. Life is to short to waste on things that are temporary or never bare any fruit. Learn to identify the fetishists whose purpose in pursuit is self serving and instead sew seeds of long-term emotional fulfillment with someone who ultimately deserves a chance to be, possibly, your Happily Ever After.
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