This article originally appeared on VICE US.
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 speaking with a police officer from the southeastern United States. He asked VICE to withhold his name and location to preserve his privacy.
I’ve been a police officer since I was 18. It’s all I know. Now I’m 33, married, and we have one child together. When I’m not hanging out with my group of extremely close friends, or spending time with the wide variety of acquaintances I know through my wife, I love exercising and playing sports. My life is good. I’m a young, healthy, outgoing straight white male with a family, career, and active social life. I’ve also been attracted to trans women since I was a teenager. Some people in my life know that, but my wife doesn’t, and neither do any of my colleagues.
It began with a photo of a beautiful woman, taken from behind. She had a penis tucked between her legs. It was visible through her panties. I was 13 and I didn’t understand what I was seeing, but I knew that I was extremely turned on and wanted to see more.
I found that photo one day in the 90’s, when I was home alone. It was before the internet became popular. Like lots of teenagers, I was curious, and bored. So I went snooping around in my father's closet, where I found a stack of porn magazines. The smooth pages were filled with pictures of nude cisgender women, but there was something different in them, too. Every issue featured a trans woman. I didn’t have that language back then, or the knowledge to comprehend what I was seeing. I can’t remember how those women were described, but I’m certain the language was derogatory, something like “tranny,” “transvestite,” or “she-male” of the month.
I didn’t understand what trans women were, but I knew they existed in pornography, and from that day on I sought images of them, drawn by undefinable desire. As I got older and computers were starting to be common in every home I was able to get easier access to trans porn.
Those websites often directed me to gay porn, which I had no interest in. And yet, at that time in my life, I also believed that being attracted to trans women meant that I must be gay, presenting an unnecessary conundrum with no real solution. It took too long for me to understand that my interest in trans women had nothing to do with men. Society still doesn’t understand it.
I’ve never known anyone like me, either growing up or today. I live in a small town, and people here aren’t open minded to difference. I’m sure that there are a lot of men who live here who are attracted to trans women. But they would never say it out loud because if they did, they’d run the risk of quickly being labeled gay.
I’ve never seen a real-world example of who I am, and when I’ve seen men who like trans women in pop culture, I see how the world feels about us. Whenever you see a male celebrity who had sex or went on a date with a trans woman, its always followed by some sort of scandal, or jokes about him being secretly gay. So we mostly live in secrecy, and the world goes on pretending we’re not common, that we’re not straight, and that there’s something wrong with being gay.
I’m married to a cis woman and she has no idea about this part of my life. I have been in two relationships with trans women before. One of the first calls I went to after attending the police academy was a domestic dispute involving a trans woman and her boyfriend. They had a very toxic relationship, and he treated her poorly. It is against police policy to date victims of domestic issues on calls that you’ve worked. So I obviously never made any attempt to. Then, by chance, two years after that incident, I ran into her while food shopping. She remembered me, but I didn’t remember her until she reminded me of how we first met.
I had just turned 21 and she was 45. She transitioned several years before we met, and I couldn’t tell that she was trans. In fact, I didn’t find out until our second date. I’d been looking at trans porn for years, so I had an established interest, and when she first told me I was excited and nervous at the same time. It wasn’t easy for me. Our significant age difference was itself taboo. When she told me she was trans, it was almost more than I could handle emotionally. Nonetheless, I pursued our connection.
Looking back, she and I had a fairly normal relationship, all things considered. This is the part of the story where the straight male says that he kept his trans girlfriend a secret from everyone. But in this case, she initiated the need to keep her gender private. People didn’t know that she is trans, and she wanted to keep it that way.
Some of my close friends and college buddies knew that I was dating an older woman, but they did not know that she was transgender. That time of my life was scary. I dreaded the day that someone would out my girlfriend as trans, because I knew my community would think I was gay. Sadly, being labeled gay would have consequences at work, and they would impact the rest of my career. Like it or not, the police professional is an alpha male-dominated career path and any man in the culture has to be a man's man. Nothing less.
I once heard about a police officer from a nearby town who was trying to meet trans women online. My colleagues talked about him a lot. That man became a running joke with all his coworkers and was obviously labeled as “gay” by other people in the profession. It’s absurd, because I think a lot of men in my profession wish they could openly date or have sex with trans women, but are too afraid to be honest with themselves.
If you're a cisgender man who is attracted to trans women and want to share your story, contact email@example.com (you can keep your story anonymous).
My best bet is that most men keep their sexual interest in trans women private because they’re afraid of how they'll be perceived. It’s unfortunate, but I believe it's true. When I was having sex with my ex-girlfriend, I was the bottom and she was the top. I’m positive that if the men in my profession knew about my sexual experiences with her, there’s no way they would still consider me straight.
I cared deeply about the trans women I was in relationships with, but ultimately my life went in a direction that drew me away from them. When I was younger and not thinking about kids or marriage I didn’t care that I could never have biological children with a trans woman. We were happy together, and had great sex. Through those relationships, I came to deeply admire trans women in general. But as I got older, I realized that settling down and have my own biological children was important to me, and I didn’t see a way to do that with a woman who isn’t cis.
More of us need to live openly, and men in general need to stop shaming other men for stepping beyond the bounds of stereotypical and outdated ideas about manhood and sexuality. I’ve heard men in my profession talk about trans women before. Every comment has been negative.
As police officers, we come across people from all walks of life. Some of our calls involve trans women, like that domestic call I got at the beginning of my career, when I met my ex for the first time. I have never seen a trans woman being mistreated by an officer out on patrol, but I have heard several jokes about their gender after we leave.
I look forward to a time where the world as a whole can be more accepting of trans women. It will require popular culture to push us there. If public figures started living publicly, more men would know that they’re not alone in their sexuality, and stigma against diversity in sexuality would decrease, making it less costly to be labeled gay. As silly as it sounds, I think if more male celebrities dated and married trans women, it would be more acceptable for men elsewhere in society to do that, too. Regardless, I promise you, police officers will be among the last to accept cis men who date trans women.
A few years after my first relationship with a trans woman, I dated another woman who is trans. Unlike my first girlfriend, she was in the early stages of her transition and was not able to pass very well. People often noticed that she is trans. My second girlfriend and I dated in secret for several months. But eventually our relationship became too serious to keep secret. I could no longer hide what we had. I told friends and family that I was in a relationship with a woman and we loved each other, and then I told them she is trans. A lot of those people stopped talking to me after that, and to this day I have not spoken to them.
There are real consequences for being a man and loving trans women. But there are far greater consequences for trans women themselves. They do what we don’t, and suffer far worse for it. Trans women are some of the bravest people I have ever known. A lot of cis men and cis women are scared to be themselves. Trans women go out there every day and put on a brave face to the world. I envy that.