Illustration by Emily Bernstein
Cis men who love trans women are all around us. They’re our coworkers, our friends, our family members. And yet they’re rarely represented in the public view. The secrecy they keep has only led to misunderstanding, and in the worst cases, violence, as cis men often fear their masculinity is at stake. We’re breaking the silence and telling their stories.Today we’re hearing from a scientist and researcher in New York. He asked VICE to withhold his name in the interest of protecting his privacy at work.
Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to know the truth about life and how the world works. But when all my findings suggested I was attracted to trans women, I struggled to accept it.When I was a teenager I encountered transgender women by chance through pornographic movies. At the beginning, trans women were slightly shocking to me, but later I realized that I found them to be very sexually and visually attractive, in the same way that I am attracted to any woman.[If you're a cisgender man who is attracted to trans women and want to share your story, contact firstname.lastname@example.org (you can keep your story anonymous).]There is so much unnecessary shame associated with sexuality. As a kid, I had to rely on limited knowledge and social norms to navigate my way through the pitfalls that riddle the landscape of human gender and sexual identity. Today, in my late twenties, I feel free from the shame I once felt, but how many other men like me have yet to resolve their own uncertainties? I hope my story might help them find similar self-acceptance, and end purposeless suffering.
Today I am a scientist, working in research in New York City. I spent years in school as a diligent student, driven by a passion to learn what is known and explore what isn’t. I’m originally from Latin America. After I received my doctorate in the U.K., I moved to the United States for work, conducting research into a well-funded area of biological medicine that is riddled with its own unknowns, despite all the major advancements made in the last decades. Science is truth, which is so important in a world where we know so much, yet still so little, about life. Those unknowns are boundaries to overcome.
My understanding of my sexuality has expanded after years spent working through the personal and social issues that once held me back. I have no issues with my attraction to anyone anymore. After a lot of introspection and reflection, I realized that my sexual orientation is heavily influenced by non-physical aspects of someone. But in terms of physical sexual matters, I am generally oriented toward individuals on the spectrum of femininity. I now understand my sexual orientation is pansexual, but when I was younger, I would have been ashamed if other people knew.When I talked in hypothetical terms with acquaintances or friends about a potential encounter with trans women, I remember saying that, to me, they weren’t different than cisgender women. And because I see trans and cis women as equally women, I told those friends that if I were to meet a trans woman I would approach her the same way I would with any other woman I was interested in. That was a big deal for me. It signified that I had grown more comfortable with myself, to the point I had started valuing the opinions of other people less. And in that way, I was approaching the truth about myself. It makes sense for me as a person, but also as a scientist.Living in a different country and meeting new people expands my world. I have friends, some of whom are trans women. The people who I once saw only in a sexualized content are now known to me, and I am grateful that I am not limited by shame or fear. Those things aren’t conducive to a productive life, and they certainly don’t blend well with my principles.
While I have made some meaningful friendships with trans women, I also realize that I don’t know any other men who are open about being attracted to trans women. That is clearly strange. It would be a mistake and a failed analysis to look at the absence of men like myself in my life and assume that means they don’t exist. I have never felt like I was the only one who was attracted to these beautiful people.In science, particularly the professional environment, people don't talk about their personal lives—not even about whether they’re single or have kids. The only time I have heard a scientist in my community talk about trans attraction is when I talk about it. People tend to listen with attention, get surprised, ask questions, and then change the topic. I think other scientists are probably limited in their understanding or awareness of trans women, at least within the profession. I don’t personally know of many trans women working in science.As I see it, being 100 percent heterosexual is a rare occurrence, and sexuality and sexual orientation is a spectrum. But I had to figure that out on my own.Something needs to change. Opening our minds and understanding that people like different things—and that that it is OK—is the first step. But we also need to have increased representation. People tend to fear that which is unfamiliar. But this is hurting people every day. It is hurting men like me, but more importantly, it is harming trans women who are too often the objects of secret desire, paying for the hypocrisies of a two-faced society. Interacting with people with different backgrounds, who have different experiences of sexuality, is key. Who you are, and whoever you love, is the truth. Nothing matters more than that.Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.