The LGBT Health & Development Program

Research Blog – Coming Out Again: Diversity in Sexual Orientation and Attraction for Trans Men

Posted on May 13th, 2015 by Jae in Featured, Research Blog, Transgender. No Comments

Transgender flag waving

torbakhopper, November, 20, 2012.

Despite the common belief that transgender (trans) men are only interested in cisgender women, trans men identify with various sexual orientations. Notably, trans men’s sexual orientations and sexual attractions sometimes shift after coming out as trans or going through gender affirming processes, like taking testosterone [1]. As individuals come out and more openly affirm their gender, the labels used to describe their sexual orientations may change [2]. For example, in one study, 75% of trans men identified as lesbian prior to coming out as trans [3]. Sometimes this change is to reflect the person’s current gender identity and that they no longer identify as a woman (like with the term lesbian), and other times it may be related to shifts in attraction. This process of identifying with sexual orientation labels varies between individuals and can evolve over time, potentially creating new coming out challenges for some.

Research has shown that becoming more attracted to cisgender men is common for trans men who were only attracted to cisgender women prior to coming out [4]. Additionally, many trans men report that they became aware of their attraction to other men only after coming out as trans [5]. This change in attraction can be related to a number of factors: testosterone use [4]; greater congruency between one’s body and gender [1]; and the validation and affirmation of one’s masculinity when pursued by cisgender gay men [1].

Even for individuals who do not experience shifts in their sexual attractions, there may be changes in how others read and label their relationships. For example, if someone was only attracted to cisgender men both before and after coming out as a trans man, he may have been perceived as heterosexual prior to coming out as trans but as gay afterwards [2]. Therefore, individuals are navigating their own identities in addition to those that are placed on them by others.

Relationships can be challenging for many people regardless of gender, yet trans individuals are faced with added difficulties of potential rejection from partners due to transphobia and stress related to disclosure of their transition history [3]. For example, in one study, nearly half of trans men who were in relationships at the time of coming out and going through transition-related processes reported that their relationships ended for reasons related to their transition [6]. Common challenges that trans people face in pursuing romantic relationships include those related to their bodies (e.g., a lack of self-acceptance or gender dysphoria), and also difficulties imposed on them by others—being rejected due to transphobic attitudes, negative responses about their bodies and transition status, and being fetishized or sexualized [7].

The research at this point is limited given that it tends to focus on relationships and attractions solely to cisgender individuals, often neglecting trans men’s relationships with trans and non-binary individuals. However, the available work is starting to highlight the importance of challenging assumptions and recognizing the diversity of sexual orientations and attractions for trans men.

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1. Rowniak, S., & Chesla, C. (2013). Coming out a third time: Transmen, sexual orientation, and identity. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 449-461. doi: 10.1007/s10508-012-0036-2

2. Galupo, M. P., Davis, K. S., Grynkiewicz, A. L., & Mitchell, R. C. (2014). Conceptualization of sexual orientation identity among sexual minorities: Patterns across sexual and gender identity. Journal of Bisexuality, 14, 433-456. foi 10.1080/15299716.2014.933466

3. Beemyn, G., & Rankin, S. (2011). The lives of transgender people. New York, NY, US: Columbia University Press.

4. Meier, S. C., Pardo, S. T., Labuski, C., & Babcock, J. (2013). Measures of clinical health among female-to-male transgender persons as a function of sexual orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 463-474. doi: 10.1007/s10508-012-0052-2

5. Bockting, W., Benner, A., & Coleman, E. (2009). Gay and bisexual identity development among female-to-male transsexuals in North America: Emergence of a transgender sexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 688-701. doi: 10.1007/s10508-009-9489-3

6. Meier, S. C., Sharp, C., Michonski, J., Babcock, J. C., & Fitzgerald, K. (2013). Romantic relationships of female-to-male trans men: A descriptive study. International Journal of Transgenderism, 14, 75-85. doi: 10.1080/15532739.2013.791651

7. Riggs, D.W., von Doussa, H., & Power, J. (2015). The family and romantic relationships of trans and gender diverse Australians: An exploratory survey. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 30, 243-255. doi: 10.1080/14681994.2014.992409

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