Why Transitioning Can Often Feel Like a Fetish

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

One thing I get asked frequently by trans women early in transition is the question of whether their gender identity is just a fetish. And ya know I started out only crossdressing in the bedroom. So it made me wonder if that’s all it was too? But this really has more to do with the way society paints trans women, and there are a few reasons for that:

  1. Lack of Nonsexualized Representations in Media
    We could talk about the fact that trans women – especially trans women of color – were barred from employment for so long (and still are to a large degree) that they were forced into sex work to survive, and carry that on to the fact that the only trans representation a lot of us had growing up was in porn, since until very recently, no studios would cast trans actresses in any other roles.
    So if the only time we see trans women represented in media is when they’re portrayed as sex objects, then naturally we’ll begin conflating them with fetishes.
  2. Women in General are Hypersexualized
    After all, if women are largely seen as just sex objects, then anyone “wanting to be” a woman can only be explained (under that societal mindset) as doing so in order to be a sex object. Because that’s all women are worth in society apparently. Hence, trans women are seen as having zero value for “willingly” entering into that world, which often leads others to perceive us as fetishes.
  3. Embracing Femininity is Shameful
    Women are seen as lesser than in society. As second class citizens. So femininity itself is seen as inferior (even cis women get shamed for embracing their femininity! Look how people criticize pumpkin spice, romcoms, “don’t break a nail”, etc etc. It’s inescapable).
    So naturally anyone Assigned Male at Birth getting in touch with their femininity in any way challenges the status quo, and the status quo isn’t a fan of challenges. This leads to feelings of shame when we start allowing ourselves to step into that world. And those feelings of shame can easily make us wonder if what we’re doing is “right”.

So imagine living your whole life with all that societal bullshit thrust upon you and it’s no wonder many of us feel like degenerates.

But you’re not. Society just sucks. And I don’t really have much advice on how to navigate that beyond screw society. But that’s not terribly helpful, is it? All I can tell you is, it’s going to be hard. Deconstructing harmful narratives you’ve been told about yourself and breaking through all the internal phobias society convinced you of is no easy task.

What I can tell you is that – as someone who’s been there – it gets better. Embrace yourself little by little and in time it’ll begin to feel natural. Like you were born to be a woman – ya know, because you were!

And as far as why trans women oftentimes start out explroring their identities in the bedroom? That’s easy.

The Bedroom is a Safe Space

The bedroom is a safe space to explore taboo experiences without fully committing to them – that is, we can explore things “ironically” or just for fun in that space, and get to explore it with a loving and hopefully supportive partner, but without letting on that it’s who we really are. Honestly, why shouldn’t integral parts of ourselves be explored that way? But especially when trans women are so hypersexualized in our culture and embracing femininity is seen as shameful.

Excuse me, but where else are we suppose to explore that part of ourselves in the beginning? Particularly when leaving your house presenting as a woman can be dangerous. It could literally cost us our lives!

It’s not like we’ve been given many options here.

You Are Valid

No matter how or where you decided to start exploring your gender, you’re valid. It’s not like we’re given many “appropriate” avenues for being ourselves when ourselves are at odds with the way we’re taught we should be.

And honestly, even if your particular gender identity and/or expression is purely fetishistic, as long as everything is consentual and it brings you joy, then does it really matter?

Just be you! Whatever that means for you.

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