Do you identify as a gay man and occasionally have fantasies about having sex with a man who has a vagina? Do you identify as a lesbian and occasionally fantasise about being penetrated by a penis?
The pornography industry featuring transsexual actors is booming. Many of us may self-identify with a specific sexual orientation (gay, heterosexual, bisexual, for example) yet we can be surprised by some of our fantasies, or turn-ons that don’t strictly fit with the idea of our sexual orientation. Why is that?
The simplified answer to a complex question is because our erotic world is big, vibrant and, well, a little unruly. By that I mean that it is not out of control but it doesn’t always obey to the specific self-identification that we think about for ourselves: self-identification of a sexual orientation is quite intellectually based, whereas the erotic mind can be raw and unedited.
Wanting to have sex with a man with a vagina doesn’t make you less of a gay man than any other gay men. Wanting to have sex with a woman who has a penis doesn’t make you more heterosexual than lesbian. All of these are variations and gradients to your own basic sexual orientation.
In fact, a ‘pre-op’ male to female transsexual, that is to say: a woman with a penis is mostly popular amongst heterosexual men. Men in general tend to have more fantasies that we call ‘gender-bending’ than women, sex researcher Justin Lehmiller says. Through his ground-breaking research in people’s sexual fantasies, he has found that men are more open about having sex with cross-dressers and transsexuals than women, and they are more prone to perform ‘gender-bending’ on themselves: wearing women’s clothes or altering their bodies to the opposite sex. Indeed, many men, Lehmiller asserts, find that a combination of feminine and masculine cues can provide an intense cocktail of eroticism and sexual arousal.
The topic of transsexual fantasies can be confusing if you happen to be drawn to people with gender-bending qualities. We are often too quick to question ourselves: ‘what does it mean? Does it mean I’m not that gay?’, ‘Does it mean I want to be a woman?’.
Having fantasies about having parts of your body be one of the opposite sex doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a transsexual. Wanting to wear women’s clothes definitely doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to be a woman: many men enjoy being men wearing women’s clothes. Many men who most definitely identify as heterosexual enjoy having sex with a woman who has a penis. Just like many gay men enjoy having sex with a man who has a vagina.
Sexual orientation, sexual fantasies and gender are all different things. If you want to go through the process of changing your gender, it is absolutely your right and you should be able to do so without any prejudice. However, changing your gender does not mean you will change your sexual orientation. Some people do, but many don’t.
If you identify as a heterosexual man and you have sex with a man, it doesn’t make you a gay man. In fact, there is a popular term for it called MSM (Men who have Sex with Men). By the same principle, if you identify as a gay man and have sex with a woman, it doesn’t make you a heterosexual man.
And sexual fantasies are altogether a different ball park. Many heterosexual men and women have homo-erotic fantasies, even sexual dreams. And many gay men and women have heterosexual fantasies and sexual dreams. This reflects the fact that we are all the on Kinsey Scale, which means that most of us are not 100% exclusively either heterosexual or gay.
Think of it as a painter’s palette: we have bits of different colours dotted around the palette. Perhaps the dominant colour is your gay colour, but somewhere around the palette, there might be a little dot of a heterosexual-oriented colour.
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Another thing that Justin Lehmiller observed in his research is that men are more likely to feel ashamed of their fantasies than women, especially those they consider not fitting with what they should be fantasising about: when it happens men tend to describe their sexuality as ‘out of control’ more than women.
Most likely the description reflects their deep fear of being less masculine or abnormal, rather than a reality of being out of control. This is important because if men feel their sexuality is out of control, they are more likely to try to find a ‘cure’ in their desperation. When men are in that state, they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by people who claim they can cure them of their ‘wrong sexuality’. After all, conversion ‘therapy’ or ‘gay cure’, a method that is very harmful, is still offered and practice in many parts of the world. In the UK, it has become unethical to practice only last year.
To sum up this big complex area of human sexuality: transsexuals who feel they have been born in the wrong body are very legitimate and they should be able to have access to the right process and surgery to have the body that they were psychologically born with, without prejudice.
Many heterosexual men and woman and gay men and women have gender-bending fantasies or have sex with someone who is gender-bending and their sexual orientation can still be the one that they self-identify with.
We are all on the Kinsey Scale, with many different sexuality bits and pieces on our palette, there is rarely 100% one or the other, however there is often a dominant one. This is nature, it is all good, and our erotic world reflects this more than our intellectual meaning-making labels.
So in other words, enjoy your vibrant sexuality, even if it takes you to surprising places and don’t worry, you are probably not out of control nor weird.