FEATURE: Transitioning with Sugar – I love men, what can I do? asks Sugar Swan

As Eartha Kitt sang during the disco revival of her career in the 1984 title track, ‘I love men, what can I do? I love men, they’re no good for you’. Never have song lyrics felt more relatable right now.

Ms Sugar Swan

Ms Sugar Swan

Pre-transition I was never the ‘gay man’ that I was often perceived as and regular readers of this page will know that I have identified as bisexual since my earliest sexual experiences.

I understand that my presentation, clothing choices, femininity and other traits that should not have, but still did, lead people to assume ones sexuality would often lead to the assumption that I was a gay man. Mix that assumption with the company I kept, the gay bars I worked and frequented, the gay holiday destinations and, yeah, the fact that my endocrine system was running on testosterone leading to a high sex drive and sex with men being very freely available, I came across as pretty damn gay. Even though I reminded people that I was actually bi, I don’t think they ever really believed me.

Once I transitioned, my sexuality was once again assumed. People assumed that I was now a heterosexual woman so it came as a surprise to many when, six months into transition, I came out as lesbian. This made perfect sense to me but seemed to confuse so many others. It wasn’t that my lifelong sexual and romantic attraction to men had vanished since transitioning and being on hormones, but something had definitely changed.

Since moving through the world as a woman, I was now subject to all the usual problems that women face including misogyny, sexism and, specifically to trans women, transmisogyny.

Coping with the general transphobia that exists within society is hard enough. Walking out your front door as a trans woman and going about your day being visibly trans is difficult. Some people are kind, I receive compliments on my make up, my nails, my clothing choices, and I am commended for being myself by complete strangers most days, but these are the exceptions to the way I’m treated.

In fact, it’s the very opposite which is the norm. The compliments I get are unfortunately far outweighed by the challenges I face on a day-to-day basis. My main oppressor in all of this? Men. There’s a very clear distinction between the way men and women have treated me since transition and I’m sad to report that the majority of my oppression comes from men.

I’m not saying that women are perfect, in last month’s Gscene column I spoke of a most unpleasant experience with a woman, but when I weigh it up, most of my negative interactions come from men. Over the course of transition these daily, constant, unrelenting negative interactions with men, whether micro aggressions, sexual assault or anything between, have built up and left me scared of men.

Having always been sexually attracted to women and finding myself increasingly petrified of men, I started identifying as lesbian. The wonderful world of the internet helped me realise I wasn’t the only one and that a lot of girls like me identified as trans lesbians so I joined some social media groups for like-minded women and I felt at home, away from the male gaze.

I no longer needed to interact with men in the capacity of looking for romance, I was able to date women, as a woman, and the male interactions I had were on my own terms, with male friends that have either supported me through my journey since pre-transition or male friends I’ve met along the way, most most notably, the awesome group of trans men and non binary AFABs that I’ve met through trans night at the sauna. I now consider them true friends and I’m so very glad to have these guys in my life. So I should be happy, right? I have women to date and men and women as friends.

Unfortunately not. Just as my pre-transition self wasn’t a gay man, I’m not a gay woman. As Eartha sang: “I love men, It’s going to last, I love men, the feeling won’t pass. I love men wherever I go, all these men they’re haunting me so”. I still have sexual feelings towards men. Sexual feelings that I wish weren’t there, as since transition I only get hurt when it comes to letting men into my life and the hurt feels much greater as a woman trusting a man with my heart than it was as a man.

Men are different to women as we all know. Males are governed to some degree by testosterone, the most potent sex drug, and women governed to a degree by oestrogen.

Pre – transition, when I had testosterone in my body, I found sex with men quite easy, almost like a transaction for goods and services. It was somewhat clinical without too much emotion involved.

As a woman whose endocrine system is dominated by oestrogen, I need something different in my sexual experiences with men. I need to be treated as the woman I am, I need to be treated more gently, with a greater level of respect, without assumption of penetrative sex on date one and with an increased level of tenderness.

Ms Sugar Swan

Ms Sugar Swan

Being quite obviously trans, I feel that men treat me sexually like they would other men and despite the fact that I may have once run on testosterone, this is no longer the case and I need to be treated as the woman I am. I’m recovering from male heartbreak at the moment and I feel I’ve been used, but I won’t let it push me back into the lesbian closet.

I’ve identified as the acronyms L, G, B, T and Q  so far in my life and I’m currently at the point where I don’t identifying as anything, I won’t be categorised anymore as I’ve spent my life with labels that don’t quite fit.

My sexuality at the moment is governed by the way I’m treated by others. It matters not the gender of the person but very much how they treat me as a person and how they cater to my needs. I look forward to exploring my sexuality with an open mind and at some point I may even try out a dating app. Wish me luck!

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