Monday, August 16, 2010

I’m not particularly exotic, but I’m working on it

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

I was a heterosexual female for 42 years before transitioning to male 13 years ago (I’ll do the math for you: 55 and still kickin’ – myself, mostly). In 42 years, I had never felt an attraction to women. Even after I transitioned, I went into the “gay community” as a gay trans man.  

But a funny thing happened on the way to gay – I realized that I found women attractive. This was an unexpected phenomenon with many possible explanations, but the bottom line is that, while I still consider myself gay, I have a newfound appreciation of the beauty of women that I didn’t have before. And, over the past 13 years, I have found many, many women attractive.   

That’s why, although I didn’t comment at the time, I was intrigued by one of Renee’s “Friday Questions,”  which was: “How come all WOC are supposed to be ‘exotically beautiful’? So beautiful that they can't see it, till some White Dude literally oohs and aahs over your beauty like you're exotic yogurt.” 

In the past decade-plus, when I have been busy finding many women to be beautiful, I have never thought of any woman as being “exotically beautiful.” But when I read the question, I was able to relate in my own way, because “exotic” is a term that I have been fighting against myself as a trans person.  

I want to be clear that I’m not comparing my experience to the experience of women of color and saying that they are the same. I’m simply saying that this is the closest that I can come based on my own experience.  

Although I think being “exoticized” happens far more often for trans women than trans men, one of the things that I put in an online profile on a gay dating site several years ago was this: “I’m not particularly exotic, but I’m working on it.” I only wish that I was as exotic in bed – and in life – as some people might think I am. 



On my own blog, I’ve written about the fine line between fetish (exotic’s first cousin) and preference – and I think it is a very fine line. While trans people often complain that our bodies are fetishized, where is that line to be drawn? 

For example, if someone is attracted to me because I have a particular body type – trans guy, no breasts, no dick – does that mean that I am being exoticized? Fetishized? Or does it just mean that this person finds this particular body type attractive and I happen to have it, so he (or she) wants to get to know me better?  

Everyone has preferences. I happen to find myself drawn to people with dark features – dark hair, brown eyes, and tan or darker complexions. Some people prefer blondes. Some people like muscular, athletic builds and others prefer softer ones.   


The difference comes in when the people who match that preference cease to be human – when any dark-featured person will do, when any trans guy with no breasts and no dick will do, when any “exotic” woman of color will do – or when people are expected to be a certain way because they have a certain characteristic. 


I have a transsexual body. If you think that’s hot, I’m okay with that (believe me, I’m okay with that!). I’m not flattered by it, but I don’t have a problem with it.

But if you expect that I’m going to act a certain way or be a certain way because of my body, then it’s not okay.

If you think that I’m not going to be an average, everyday human being because of my body, or if you think that my body is going to make up for any deficiencies that I might have, or if you think that my body is the only thing that matters, and everything else about me is just extraneous stuff that gets in the way of that particular body – then it’s not okay, because I come with all the other stuff. 

You don’t get to take the body home without the rest of me tagging along. And the rest of me might not be to your liking – it might not be nearly as “exotic” as you expected it to be.

The truth of the matter is that I’m pretty average – and so are most other trans people. I’m not particularly exotic, but I’m working on it. In the meantime, what you see is what you get – or don’t get, depending on why you want it in the first place.