“I’m a straight transman—but before I figured that out, I identified as a lesbian for a long time. Is it weird that I still watch Everyone Is Gay’s videos and have AfterEllen bookmarked and watch films for the lesbian representation, even though I’m a straight bloke??”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Liam Lowery as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
Oh, my fellow Former Lesbian. What you describe (both the behavior and the concern that it is weird or inappropriate) is 100% not at all weird.
I understand your conflict, though. When I began to identify as trans and queer instead of as a lesbian, it felt like I was losing a community—or at least losing the right to watch a number of television shows I previously liked. I used to feel like I was obligated to consume all of this because they were in the lesbian lexicon, but after transitioning I felt like a weird voyeur partaking in these things.
Part of this fascination, of course, is that there’s just something special about lesbians. There’s no bones about it: they are charming and charismatic, they are funny and irreverent.
But more than that, at one time you identified as a lesbian. Perhaps, like me, you still would like to be one—all but for your pesky gender identity. Maybe you still have an Indigo Girls poster on your wall. Maybe you see the lesbian subplot in Skins as a golden age of television herstory.
When you identify as a member of a community that is almost always underrepresented and misrepresented in the vast, to see your life mirrored can mean something. Maybe you miss that.
Back when I was a teen lesbian, every gay woman I new was watching The L Word. I had this feeling like all lesbians lived in the same apartment building—though we all had a different view, we all felt at home in the same place.
You, my dear friend, sublet an apartment in that building, perhaps for decades. You moved out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t miss it. You can be homesick for a place that proved not to be your ultimate home. And now that you don’t live there anymore, you probably miss that feeling. I know I do.
Even so, the time you sublet a room in Sappho Towers was real. You lived it. You felt it. And in that way, you’ll always be a lesbian—culturally, anyway.
Being trans is an identity that is similar to being a lesbian in some ways, but different in others. There’s a lot more fractioning off—case and point being that you identify as a straight transman whereas I identify as a queer transmasculine person. Some of this is part and parcel with how open-ended it is to identify as transgender at all, whereas identifying as a lesbian conveys (on some level) both a gender identity and a sexual identity.
In trans media representation, there is no monolithic “trans” identity. And this is a good thing! There is room for nuance and an acknowledgement of difference within the trans community. But at the same time, there is no AfterLaverne or AfterChaz to read. While there are increasing trans representations on television and in film, there is not a campy television series we all love to hate (though The T Word, hopefully, will become a reality someday).
Let’s say, though, that you are a straight cisgender dude who has never so much as met a lesbian, but you really like to read Everyone Is Gay and your favorite movie is But I’m a Cheerleader. What’s wrong with that? Just like how you wouldn’t be upset if a cis person watched Transparent (and many do, thank goodness), consuming gay culture is fine if you’re straight. In fact, it’s kind of the point—queer media is being presented not only to people within the community, but outside of it as a means of representing the community. In fact, if more straight and cis people watched shows featuring LGBTQ characters or read Everyone is Gay, that would likely satisfy the goals of the creators: to provide LGBTQ folks with an image of themselves on screen, and to disrupt a constant stream of straight cisgender representation.
So watch and read away, my friend—you have more than enough reason to.
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