I swore off men and male genitalia at age 19, after countless months spent trying to be straight.
I made this very dramatic decision after sleeping with a long line of men in situations that felt forced, though (mostly) consensual. Like with most people, college was a wild and awkward time for me, as I slowly found out who I was. As someone who had led a very sheltered life through high school, I quite manically threw myself into the hookup scene at my school, which mostly consisted of creepy dudes I wasn’t attracted to coming onto me at parties. In all this mess, I had disposed of my true identity, the one I left back home with all the girls I used to kiss, touch, or silently pine after. I was in college (and a predominantly queer one at that) but my internalized homophobia, the same shame that I felt stealing kisses with my best friend where our parents couldn’t see, stayed with me regardless of the accepting atmosphere.
I was determined to give guys, and “normalcy,” a chance.
And very quickly, I learned cisgender men just weren’t for me. I enjoyed certain aspects of having sex with guys, but anything involving me touching or looking at their genitals would truly turn my stomach. It got to the point where I wished I could never see a penis again. I closed my eyes during sex and tried to imagine a woman hovering over me. But it was difficult.
I started dating women my sophomore year in college, even falling in love with one person, and immediately felt relieved in the process — I would think, this actually feels right, this is what dating is supposed to feel like. I was also quickly reminded of how much more amazing it felt to kiss a woman, and spend time with someone you’re actually deeply sexually attracted to. Finally, I felt that I knew exactly who I was.
And then I met Skylar, a gorgeous person assigned male at birth that I’m engaged to today. As soon as I met them, I felt that immediate strong attraction and excitement that I had been feeling for women…but it appeared to me at the time that they were a man. When we started dating, I felt extremely confused, especially when our lips felt like magnets when we kissed. The first time we kissed, I even felt fireworks like they talk about in movies, which Skylar thought was amusing. I kept considering breaking it off, dreading the magic spell being broken by the unzipping of their pants, but I couldn’t pull away. The first time we had sex, I was extremely anxious as I unzipped their pants — this was the moment of truth. But as I pulled their hard dick out of their underwear, I was shocked at my feelings of intense desire and awe. Skylar didn’t understand at the time that their penis was the first of its kind I was attracted to.
Soon after, Skylar came out to me as genderqueer, a development that gave me a weird sense of relief. It was as though this admission of inhabiting a trans identity comforted me about being attracted to them, affirming that I wasn’t attracted to men. But now, I see this reaction as limited and ignorant. It’s not all about the genitals, after all, and it seems pretty transphobic to congratulate myself or need permission for being attracted to Skylar’s genitalia. I first tried to look at their transfeminine identity as erasing the masculine parts of them, and even making excuses for their penis. But, the thing is, I’m incredibly attracted to stereotypically masculine parts of their body, like their penis, a fact I should celebrate and appreciate rather than downplay.
Some of my friends criticized me for dating Skylar instead of cisgender women since I was gay, another idea which is incredibly limiting to binaries of gender and sexuality. I found myself defending my attraction to them more than once, something that seemed more and more nonsensical the more I had to do it.
Because really, we’re all just a jumble of body parts and character traits and gender identities that change and look different throughout our lives. I had wanted to label myself as gay before I met Skylar, but I now realize that label is limiting for me. I am more complex than a word, and my understanding of myself, the world and others is constantly expanding. I don’t want to question or analyze my attraction to anyone, including my fiance, too much on the basis of gender and sexual orientation because it just doesn’t matter. The heart wants what the heart wants, and no amount of labeling and gender classification can ever make me love my partner and their body any less.