Just the Tip offers smart and compassionate sex and relationship advice from queer non-monogamous kinkster Jera Brown. If you have a sex or love question you’d like Jera to answer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or DM Jera on Twitter @rebellioustips.
Who can use the word “queer” in a dating profile? The best term for me is gynophilic. I’m attracted to femininity foremost. That means I’ve dated some transwomen who still had male genitalia. I accept them as women, so I had no problem with the penises. Good times were still had. Can I call myself queer for that? If I do, I’m guessing that I would get more interest in online dating from transfolk or people who consider “queer” a selling point.
If I called myself queer, I’m guessing more poly/kinky folks (like me) would be interested. It would also get rid of homophobes who otherwise would be interested. Now, intersect that with the usual “am I queer enough” problem.
Am I queer enough because I play with penises on trans women? I’d say I’m at least queer adjacent. But others would say no, that I cannot use “queer” unless I date men.
To me, online dating (especially profiles) are part marketing. You put your best images out there without making a false impression. Can “queer” be included in your marketing efforts?
Thank you for sending in this question about such a vulnerable and personal topic. As there is increasing visibility of transgender people and other queer identities online, in our media, and out in the world, I think it’s important that we grapple with questions like yours directly and intentionally.
There is one thing that I think it’s important to address before I share a specific answer to your question, which is that transgender women are women, full stop. This means that the body a transgender woman is a woman’s body, even if that body happens to include a woman’s penis. There is no such thing as male genitalia on a trans woman, because she is a woman. While our society conditions us to be unable to see a penis as anything but male, that is a projection of identity and dominant cultural assumptions onto the body of another person, rather than an immutable, biological truth inherent to the penis.
Trans women aren’t male, aren’t born male, and don’t have male genitals. Trans women were misidentified at birth as men because our simplified sex and gender binary has decided that all penises are male and all vulvas are female, but as many societies across time have known—and what we are simply rediscovering now in western colonialist society—is that such a reductive distinction leaves out millions of women with penises, men with vulvas, and non-binary trans people who are neither women nor men, or who are both a woman and a man at the same time. When a so-called “scientific” classification system systematically excludes millions and millions of people, we must ask ourselves if the problem is with those people, or if the problem is with the classification system itself. I would argue the latter.
[Check out Sara’s post about how saying you’ll never a date a trans person is transphobic.]
To directly address your question, while I cannot be the judge of what is queer or not queer, I do think there are a few potential things to consider. I will present some possibilities for you to contemplate, but only you can truly know if identifying yourself as queer is the right choice or not.
First, if you are only attracted to women and femininity, then it is important to understand that one’s identity is not defined by genitals, but rather genitals are defined by identity. If you enjoy having sex with cisgender women and transgender women, the presence of a penis does not suddenly make that straight sex with cisgender women into queer sex with transgender women, just as being penetrated by a cisgender woman wearing a strap-on does not make a straight man gay or bisexual.
If you enjoy playing with the female penises of transgender women, then you are still experiencing straight attraction to a woman, just including a different sex act then our mainstream sexual culture envisions when we say “sex with a woman.” In such a case, I do not think it would be appropriate to list yourself as queer just to capture your potential to be attracted to transgender women, because it is a straight attraction in that scenario.
Second, if you are seeking sex with transgender women who have penises as a way to explore your own potential attraction to “male genitalia,” masculinity, or pleasure with men in any way, I feel that it’s important for you to spend some time examining your own possible internalized homophobia and question why you feel safer exploring that attraction through misgendering trans women than exploring it through having sex with men. It’s also important to address that, in such a situation, the choice to categorize transgender women as having “male genitalia” or being “men” in any other way is fundamentally misgendering your partners and undermining their self-determination and bodily autonomy as women.
If you are wanting to list yourself as queer in order to better capture your desire to explore your own attraction to men who do have male genitalia, then listing yourself as “queer” is certainly appropriate, but I believe it requires doing some self work around exploring your own identity and attraction before putting the hearts of transgender women and other queer people in the line of fire.
Finally, if you know that you are not a queer person, meaning a man who is only attracted to women, whether they are transgender or cisgender, and you list yourself as queer to signal your allyship, what you are actually doing is appropriating queer identities and queer language to serve your own needs. This is the opposite of allyship because it takes the language and community structure of marginalized people who were forced to create it in response to oppression and uses it for your own needs as a person with relative power and privilege to make yourself seem more progressive, more open-minded, and more attractive to women.
I don’t feel that it’s acceptable for someone to use the language of queer identities just to attract a certain type of straight/bisexual partner or to eliminate homophobic or closed-minded people from your matches on a dating app. If your goal is to connect with kinky women, polyamorous women, and open-minded, progressive women, then there are many more effective ways to signal your interest in those communities of women without appropriating the language of queerness.
Additionally, I don’t believe that dating apps are a form of marketing, although I certainly used to say that as well. My greatest success in online dating (and dating in person) has not come from trying to present some sort of constructed image of who I think other people want me to be, but rather my success has come from the times when I have been the most direct about my desires, my shared values, and what I am looking for in a partner.
When you approach online dating in such a direct and vulnerable way, it may feel like you are dooming yourself by shrinking your pool of potential partners, especially when your interests include kink/BDSM and you want relationships in a polyamorous style (both of which apply to me). However, what you are actually doing with your radical vulnerability and your honesty about your desire is cutting out a lot of the people who wouldn’t have been a good fit for you from the beginning.
Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish by listing yourself as queer on your dating profile (if it’s anything other than signaling your authentic identity as a queer person), and consider other ways that you can meet those needs without appropriating queerness. Maybe that means adding something to your profile about your desire to date polyamorous and kinky women. Maybe that means directly stating your political views on racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other issues where your allyship is important to you.
I personally am not interested in trying to find a partner who is monogamous or who has no interest in kink. Does that shrink my pool of potential dates? Yes, of course. However, does that also mean that when I do match up with people, I can cut through a lot of the bullshit and get directly to talking about what I want and like? Yes, very much so.
In summary, only you can know if listing yourself as “queer” is right for you or not. Consider why you are drawn to a queer identity and question whether that is saying something about your inner desire to date identities other than women or whether it is being used as a tool to signify your open-mindedness without being inherent to the way you build relationships.
Image by Charlotte Butcher