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 Joey, a former online troll from Nevada. He’s requested we only use his first name to protect his privacy. This article originally appeared on VICE US.
From ages 11 to 15, I was an online troll. I mocked a lot of people, including people in the trans community, with cruel comments. I was a kid. I was an asshole. I was also secretly attracted to trans women. I'm not proud of what I said online when I was younger. I used a lot of slurs. It makes me sick to remember what I wrote. But back then I didn’t realize what I was doing. It seemed to be normal. Sometimes, my parents would pat me on the back for my posts on Facebook.
I like to tell people that I'm half Filipino, half Italian, and all American. I'm a loud and confident person. I love singing, and cooking. I sing sea shanties when I work, and jazz when I relax. Although crass and brash at times, I think I'm capable of being very sensitive and understanding.
I have a nuclear family with my mom, dad, brother and me. Our household has always been conservative and Christian. We go to church on Sundays, eat no meat on Fridays, all of that. My mom is Filipina, but she was born here and is as southern as a waffle house. My dad is white and works a corporate job.. I have only ever had one girlfriend, and my father has been making tiny mocking jabs that I might be gay, and I feel insecure because of it. Today I understand my sexuality to be generally heterosexual. I’m straight, with the only caveat being that I'm attracted to women regardless of their genitalia. It took me a while to get here.
Since 2013, my porn consumption has included, in some iterations, women with extra parts. I had various degrees of rationalization to preserve my fragile teenage masculinity. "They have vaginas and penises, it's just a cartoon," "you wouldn't do it in real life," "she's a woman with a dick, not a man with tits," "it's not gay if it's two women in the scene," "it's not gay if the guy tops,” and so on. Acting out online, trolling trans people was an expression of my self-contempt and confusion.
I only began to accept myself and trans people six months ago, when I started working closely on a business project with my cousin, a trans man who I’ll call Alex. We’re great friends, and hang out a lot. Over time, our friendship, and his transition, have helped me. Alex is clearly a man to me, regardless of how he was raised or how his body looks. He's just one of my guy friends. He's not "like a man," he just is one. This parity has helped me understand that trans women are women.
I would date a trans woman if I met someone today, but I don’t know if I could tell my mother. She is my greatest supporter, helping me in my academic and professional careers Like any good mom, she is always willing to lend an ear to my problems, give advice and offer good hugs. My mom taught me how to cook, play gin rummy, hold problematic political beliefs, and how to sing. I don't want to lose her.
As I said; she's as red southern as a statue of Robert E. Lee. She insists on dead-naming my cousin, and tells me that he can't come over in boy's clothes. If my mother stopped supporting me because, "my fag son broke God's law and married a man with fake tits," I would be devastated, and I wouldn't recover.
When bad things happen to me, she's the first to know and the first to provide baked goods to help the pain go away. My parents once assured me that they’d always accept me, no matter who I love. But I've seen the looks mom gave my brother when he dated a cisgender Black girl. If she can't handle an interracial relationship, as a Filipina woman with a white husband, how will she handle a trans daughter in law? She roots for gay and lesbian chefs to lose on cooking shows.
I know there's many of us, but if we can't see each other, we don't know how many of us there are. The more important the people who come out, the fewer required: 10,000 factory workers, or 1,000 CEOs, or 100 actors, or just Warren Buffett, could be enough to get the ball rolling. If your common transamorous man sees he's not alone, he'll know it's okay, and his friends will see him dating trans girls and know they don't have to keep a secret either. We shouldn't be hiding you. We should be proud to share our lives with you, but like in a game of chicken, nobody can be first.
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).
As a teenager, over time, my distrust of government and political nihilism rose. The 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage passed while I was at summer camp with my boys. I recall asking myself why it mattered who you married, especially, at the time, as a libertarian. “Government should be out of marriage anyway,” it occurred to me. That’s when I went from wanting bad things for LGBTQ people, to just not caring. It was a step. I stopped trolling.
Today, I try to be an ally, online and off. I make regular donations to a transgender nonprofit, and I try to educate myself. I know that I might get hurt a lot in life. If I try to get married and my church doesn’t accept us, it will hurt. When I can't donate blood anymore because of transphobic and homophobic rules about screening donors, it will hurt. It will hurt to be called a chaser. It will hurt to be called faggot. I can only hope that it will hurt less when a woman I love calls me husband.
Of course, my fears about pain are rather selfish. My life may become less comfortable, but trans women are living in literal mortal peril. I believe that the secrecy of trans female and straight cis male relationships contributes to all sorts of devastating social issues for trans women, from higher potential for domestic abuse, murder by troubled men, homelessness, loneliness, and suicide. When men keep trans women secret, trans women get hurt.