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 talking to a former political conservative man from the Philippines named Paolo.
I have a pretty standard life in the Philippines. I work in e-commerce. I like reading, mostly political nonfiction as well as foreign news, like the current American presidential race. My mother was a devout Catholic, which informed the very conservative political beliefs I held my whole life. Until 2019 I always sided with the political right, both at home, and in my perspective on American politics. Looking back, I realize that I had been blind to significant sociopolitial realities, ranging from income inequality—which, only the Democrats have offered convincing solutions to—or the struggle that the LGBTQ community is facing, and how transgender people have been discriminated against for a very long time. Maybe it's surprising, because I’ve dated trans women openly for years.
Trans women are women. I see that clearly. I’m straight, 27 years-old, and I met my current girlfriend through the dating app Bumble. When we matched in the app she sent a clearly-boiler-plate message, saying something like, "Hi just in case if you haven't noticed I am transgender." After she sent that I immediately responded, saying that I knew, and we chatted right away. We met that very same day in a popular cafe in a mall near my house and we had a very good first date.
She and I hit it off right away. My girlfriend has a positive personality that I have been looking for in a partner for a very long time, and it didn’t hurt that she’s a Game of Thrones fan.
I always supported the Republican candidates in U.S. politics, until my eyes were opened to how capitalism is sucking the life force out of its workers. I have slowly moved to the center of the political compass, closer to understanding issues near to my heart. I usually read political writings on my commute, and follow foreign political news, currently the American Democratic presidential race. I am really feeling the Bern.
My family is middle class, traditional, and I have 3 older sisters. I’m the only son. My father worked hard to put us all in prestigious universities here in the Philippines. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the few I have are fantastic individuals who I know will always have my back. Just like a lot of Filipino men I play basketball a lot.
[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).]
Loving trans women is less widely practiced. Trans women are stigmatized. Societies have this idea that they are not 'truly women,’ and many people have shamefully thought of trans women as nothing more than a fetish. If the Philippines had a law that would allow me to marry my girlfriend, there’s no question in my mind. I would.
I’m exclusively interested in trans women. To me, trans and cis women are equally attractive as women. In terms of building relationships with trans women, it is more important to me that my partner’s personality fits well with my own, and that we have chemistry. It doesn’t really matter whether a woman is cisgender or transgender. I previously dated a trans woman for four years, and that relationship ended because of problems unrelated to her gender.
This kind of partnership remains taboo, trans women are more often used like a blunt tool by ignorant people and conservatives to further an agenda, than provided with representation of their lives, or their partners. I know that I’m not the only man who is attracted to transgender women. My ex-girlfriend introduced me to her friends back when we were together. Those women also had boyfriends who were very open about their relationship. But I don’t know of any men like us in pop culture, or in my community.
My father, mother, and two of my three sisters have all refused to meet my girlfriend. (My other sister has met both the trans women I’ve dated). It’s unfortunate that my family refuses to accept this part of my life, and her, but I’ve accepted them. I know that my love isn’t wrong. As long as I am happy and my girlfriend is happy, that’s all that matters. Not everyone is like my family. My friends and colleagues treat my girlfriend and me just like a regular couple.
Because of my experience, I feel I have useful guidance for men who are attracted to trans women. If you want to be in a relationship with a transgender woman, its important to scrutinize your motivations, and take it seriously. Trans women are real people. So if you’re a man with an interest in trans women, you need to be sure that you really want trans women as people, as women, and that your desire is not based solely on lustful or sexual purposes.
Men urgently need to realize that trans women deserve the same respect and rights that cisgender women are entitled to. In a relationship, this is so simple: Go out with her in public, have meals in a restaurant, go to the movies, a concert, etc. Don’t be ashamed if you feel that your friends, colleagues, or family will not support you. If they won’t, then let them. If they truly love and respect you they will be happy for you that you found someone that you love.
I play a lot of basketball, and let's just say that the comments are not always nice, regarding transgender women. The mentality of the people I’ve played basketball with is nothing more than ignorance and prejudice. I won’t even write the comments that they say here, because it just isn’t right. Acceptance of trans women is far from common.
If society were more open and accepting of diversity, I am sure more and more men would openly date, or hookup, with trans women. If we can change our sociopolitical landscape to understand the humanity of all people, we would create a world that is more hospitable to trans women’s lives, and the potential for men to accept their feelings, and begin to treat trans women humanely. I don’t really care what society thinks about my relationship. My girlfriend and I are two adults who love each other and want to be together. There is nothing wrong with that. We are not doing anything wrong. But though I don’t need society’s validation, I’m not naive enough to think other people don’t.
I have never kept this part of myself a secret. When I was single, following the breakup with my first trans girlfriend, I would go out with both cisgender and transgender women. I would tell them that my ex was transgender, and fortunately it didn’t really change their opinion of me or affect their decision to go out with me again.
Transgender women are hurt when men keep them secret. Who wouldn’t be? But so many men refuse to stop living discreetly, taking from trans women while offering little, or nothing, in return, ultimately hurting them. I would never keep my girlfriend secret. She is an amazing woman who makes me incredibly happy. But I’ve come from a conservative background, and even in my long experience of openly dating trans women, have been ignorant to the true plight they face around the world.
We can all do better. I would love the people who matter to me in my life to see how happy I am in my relationship. Thankfully, most have seen that. Maybe it starts with men, who urgently need to accept that the way trans women are generally treated isn’t acceptable. It is not healthy to keep anyone a secret.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.