Attraction to transgender people
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Sexual attraction to transgender people has been the subject of scientific study and social commentary. Psychologists have researched attraction toward trans women, cross dressers, non-binary people, or a combination of these. Natal males attracted to transgender people primarily identify as heterosexual and sometimes as bisexual, but rarely as homosexual. Sexual arousal research has confirmed that their response patterns are unlike those of gay men and resemble those of heterosexual men, except that they are highly aroused by transgender women in addition to natal women. They show little arousal to men. A substantial proportion of men attracted to transgender people report also experiencing autogynephilia, sexual arousal in response to the image of themselves as female. There has been some discussion of attraction to trans men, but it has not yet been the topic of scientific study.
In 1993, Ray Blanchard and Peter Collins conducted an analysis of 119 profiles in a voicemail-based personal ad system of people seeking romantic or sexual partners and indicating an interest in cross-dressing or cross-dressers. The analysis revealed three groups: 42.9% were gynandromorphophiles, who "sought cross-dressers, transvestites, transsexuals," or individuals with both "male primary and female secondary sexual characteristics"; 31.1% were gynandromorphophilic cross-dressers, who identified themselves as transvestites or engaged in cross-dressing and sought partners who did the same; and 26.1% were residual cross-dressers, who identified themselves as transvestites or engaged in cross-dressing, but sought "masculine" men or did not specify their desired type of partner.
In their sociological study, Martin S. Weinberg and Colin J. Williams interviewed 26 men sexually interested in transwomen (MSTW). Thirteen identified themselves as heterosexual, and 13 as "bisexual or probably bisexual." The authors opined "These labels only superficially describe their sexual interest,":378 and noted that the expressed interest in trans women was sometimes used as a basis for denying a more stigmatized self-identity. As an example, they described a case who "said that he was 'bisexual' rather than 'gay' because he was able to think of the transwomen as women".:381
As part of HIV prevention research in 2004, Operario et al. interviewed 46 men in the San Francisco area who had sex with transgender women, but found "no consistent patterns between how men described their sexual orientation identity versus their sexual behavior and attraction to transgender women". Of the sample, 20 of them described themselves as being straight or heterosexual. Some men were definitive about this declaration, while others were hesitant and wondered if they should consider themselves bisexual.
A Northwestern University study recruited 205 men interested in trans women. In that online survey, 51% identified as straight, 41% as bisexual, and the remainder as gay. Also, 55% said their ideal partner would be a natal female, and 36% said it would be a trans woman. The study authors concluded that "The interest in trans women appears to be a distinct sexual interest separate from heterosexual men’s attraction to women for the majority of men, but there is a substantial minority who may experience it as their sexual orientation."
A 2016 study that used the penile plethysmograph demonstrated that the arousal patterns, genital and subjective, of men who report attraction to transgender women who have "female-typical physical characteristics (e.g. breasts) while retaining a penis" are similar to those of straight men and different from those of gay men. The study showed that these men are much more aroused to female than to male stimuli. They differ from both typical straight and gay men, however, in also displaying strong arousal to stimuli featuring trans women, to which they responded as much as to the female stimuli. The study also found that autogynephilia is common in this group: 42% of the study group reported experiencing autogynephilic arousal, whereas only 12% of straight men and 0% of gay men did. Of the men attracted to trans women, 41.7% identified as bisexual, with the remainder identifying as straight. The bisexuals among them did not display significantly more arousal to male stimuli than their heterosexual counterparts, however. They did report a higher number of male sex partners, and they had higher levels of self-reported autogynephilic arousal than their straight counterparts.
Sexual arousal was also measured in another study, comparing the responses of four groups of people: autogynephilic male cross-dressers, gynandromorphophilic men, heterosexual men, and homosexual men. The penile reactions of the study participants were recorded while watching nine 3-minute film clips (with audio): two neutral (natural scenery with soothing music) and seven showing pairs of individuals engaged in oral and penetrative sex. In these seven, two had male actors only, two had female actors only (with fingering as the penetrative sex), and three had gynandromorphic stimuli: a gynandromorph and a man, a gynandromorph and a woman, and a gynandromorph with another gynandromorph. Their responses replicated the finding that gynandromorphophilic men are distinct from gay men; the responses of the gynandromorphophiles were not distinguishable from those of the autogynephilic male crossdressers, however. These two groups showed little response to the male-only stimuli, large response to the female-only stimuli, but largest response to gynandromorph stimuli. The responses of the gay men and the heterosexual men both showed the expected patterns of most arousal to their respectively preferred sexes, little to the non-preferred sex, and only some to the gynandromorph stimuli.
According to Jeffrey Escoffier of the Centre for Gay and Lesbian Studies of CUNY, sexual interest in trans women first emerged in 1953, associated with the then famous transition of Christine Jorgensen.
Erotic materials created for people attracted to trans men have become more visible, especially due to pornographic actor Buck Angel. Trans activist Jamison Green writes that cisgender gay men who are partnered with trans men "are often surprised to find that a penis is not what defines a man, that the lack of a penis does not mean a lack of masculinity, manliness, or male sexuality." Gay author Andrew Sullivan has criticized the idea that gay men should necessarily be attracted to trans men, arguing that sexual orientation is based on biological sex, not gender identity.
In a 1984 case study of a 17-year-old who described himself as "'a guy with tits', rather than 'a girl with a dick'," John Money and Malgorzata Lamacz proposed gynemimesis to refer to when "a person with male anatomy and morphology lives in society as a woman" and gynemimetophilia to refer to the sexual interest in such people. They also said "for these individuals, it may be called the lady-with-a-penis syndrome." They analogously proposed andromimesis to describe people with female anatomy living as men and andromimetophilia, the sexual interest in them.
A variety of casual terms have developed to refer to people who are attracted to transgender people. These terms include admirer, trans-attracted, trans-oriented, transfan, and trans catcher. The terms transamorous and transsensual have also emerged, but they have not seen much usage.
The terms tranny chaser (sometimes shortened to chaser) and tranny hawk have been used, although tranny is considered a slur by many. The term chaser is predominantly used to describe men sexually interested in trans women, but it is sometimes used to refer to those interested in trans men as well. Transgender people themselves often use the term in a pejorative sense, because they consider chasers to value them for their trans status alone, rather than being attracted to them as a person. However, some claim this term in an affirming manner.
Sociologist Avery Tompkins of Transylvania University in Kentucky argued in an article in the Journal of Homosexuality that a sex-positive trans politics cannot emerge if terms such as tranny chaser informed discussion of attraction to transgender people.
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