Trans-lating Attraction: Being Sexually Attracted to Trans and Non-Binary People

by Shay Neary

on Apr 13, 2018

Shay Neary for The Lovehoney Head Board

How does being attracted to a trans or non-binary person affect your definition of your sexuality? Our Head Board guest author, trans woman and plus size model Shay Neary, is here to share her words of wisdom on trans attraction and sexuality.

Because of a fundamental lack of understanding of gender structure and identity, we're sometimes mystified by the matters of attraction - especially when it's in regard to TNBGF* individuals.

Part of the problem is that we tend to look at gender as if it were like a single pair of shoes, in which you have only left or right, and nothing in between.

But gender identity is more like the entire shoe deparment, with an enormous array of individual styles for you to choose from based on what you feel most comfortable in and what most suits your individual tastes.

So how do you navigate the world of dating a trans person?

*transgender/non-binary/gender-fluid individuals.

How does attraction to a TNBGF person define my sexuality?

Shay Neary for the Head Board

Too often in our culture, we hear transphobic comments like, "I would never date a trans person!" or "I'm just not attracted to trans people...".

These statements are rooted in transphobia. It's not transphobic if your attraction is based on your preferences in personality, social circles, beliefs, body type, etc; it is, however, transphobic to write off every single trans people as 'unattractive' because of your preconceptions.

Attraction to TNBGF individuals isn't something new. We've been around for decades. Our lives had been classified as taboo in prior generations, but with newfound visibility comes new ideals in the laws of attraction. This taboo has led many of us into the field of sex work.

The thing is, attraction is never based solely on genitals or appearance. Just because you are primarily or solely attracted to one gender, does not mean you are attracted to all people of that gender.

For example, if someone considered themselves a heterosexual man, and they met a man just like them in appearance, but they happened to have a vagina - would they automatically be attracted to them?

See the problem? Sexuality, is extremely fluid, and does not need to be compartmentalised for the purpose of classification.

Dating a TNBGF individual means understanding that there are going to be times you won't ever fully grasp our experience. We are often fetishised and objectified, varying on genital status, but sexuality is a key player in all this.

How should I talk to a TNBGF individual I'm attracted to?

Shay Neary for the Lovehoney Head Board

Approaching a TNBGF individual isn't difficult. To start with, we should never assume everyone is cisgender.

We are not just walking, talking genitals. We are a soul, a personality, a set of experiences and memories, and these things should hold value in your approach.

If you are TNBGF, it's sometimes difficult to come out about your gender expression to someone. Try not to force the topic, if you can feel the person is uncomfortable.

It's a good rule of thumb to always ask, "What are your preferred pronouns?" This isn't a rude question. This is a question we should ask everyone we meet, from cis to trans, across the board. It's important to respect those pronouns, because they are part of that person's identity.

Never ask about our genital status (unless you're comfortable with people asking immediately what your genitals look like), unless a TNBGF individual approaches the topic themselves. Being respectful often means being open to being wrong at times.

It's OK to make mistakes, because every TNBGF individual has their own take on things, and everyone's human. We all have found our truths differently, which means we'll each talk about our journey in our unique way.

Try to understand that we may have a difficult history that doesn't align with the experiences of a cis person. We may still be learning about ourselves and not fully grasp everything there is to know about our journey yet.

What should I know about dating a trans person?

Shay Neary for the Lovehoney Head Board

Not every TNBGF individual is gender-dysphoric (as in, we don't all want surgery or hormones). We don't all want to fit into a cisgender expression necessarily. We all have very different routes in how we transition, so don't try to erase parts of our identity for your own comfort.

Some TNBGF individuals may be very open about their expression; and some may prefer to be more private and inhibited. Be patient, and try to remember that we are marginalised individuals. We are regularly made to feel like we are "less than", based solely on our gender status.

Everyone's identity is on a scale from feminine to masculine energy, and everywhere in between. We're all attracted to different energies and characteristics, which creates that wonderful cocktail of a successful relationship.

Relationships with TNBGF individuals may be more complex than some others, but we are worth the effort. We deserve to be loved and to love in return, not just for our bodies, but for the value of our experiences.

Get to know us, find out about our hobbies; what we like to eat; what we do for fun; how we like to dress; and what our goals are for the future. Ask us our taste in music, where we'd like to travel, and if we have a pet.

You never know, we may be end up to be your friend, your lover, or even your life partner. We're truly not that different.

You can follow Shay on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr, as well as on her blog.


You may also like:

Shay Neary

Written by Shay Neary.
Shay Neary is a transgender plus size model and writer. In 2016, she became the first transgender plus size model to feature in a major fashion campaign.

Originally published on Apr 13, 2018. Updated on Aug 5, 2020