So awhile back, Holly sent me a link to a San Francisco Chronicle article about Margaret Cho and trannychasin’ (I understand that some of this language is Violet Blue’s, not Cho’s). I’m still a little incoherent on the subject, but, well, here’s a post:
I also discovered her new fetish, what she thinks is “the newest hottest thing to happen sexually”: transmen and trannyboys. Giddily, Cho gushed that she’s a born-again tranny-chaser — of the FtM (female-to-male) variety. “For me, it’s transmen. I’m doing a few things, like working with Ian Harvey. It’s not even FtM — it’s FtX. There’s a band from Toronto called The Clicks that’s all transmen, and it’s like a hot boy band. The girls just go crazy and scream for them — it’s like Beatlemania, but for queers! And packing, and the politics of packing, that’s, like, so hot.”
People are not a fetish.
Right, so, more on that outta-the-club thing: I am not a transsexual, and am no longer a proper target for trannychasing. I did, however, get to experience it for a few years. I am also encountering a lot of truly charming assumptions about my identity and life and queerness quotient, most tied to some best-of-both-worlds vision of transness and its universal properties. I gotta say, the dynamic is pretty familiar. They amount to a fetish without the sexual desire. Plus, it’d be naive not to assume that someone will eventually want to fuck this amazing new thing they think I am. There’s a hard-on for every niche.
I must also admit that some of my own revulsion at chasers is related to internal conflict about being trans on one level or another. I wouldn’t call it internalized transphobia, but there are definitely reasons to take it with a grain of salt. My own position–young, adolescent–probably attracted a particularly virulent kind of chaser.
Finally, it’s important to point out that reactions to trannychasing are as diverse among trannies as everything else. Some people can’t stand it; some people have reservations; some people think it’s an awesome idea; some people don’t want to date anyone who isn’t a chaser.
That having been said, there are some issues around chasing. The first is the idea of homogeneity–that is, that all transgendered or transsexual people (it’s not a distinction that trannychasers often make) share some foundational sense of self. I don’t think this is true. I think it’s a really dangerous assumption to make about any group of people, and that in this case it’s plainly ridiculous. Transpeople are not all gender revolutionaries–they may not even feel like true outsiders. They don’t all relate to their bodies the same way, or their histories, or their partners. Trannychasers–and this is just IME–tend to conflate all the transsexuals they meet either with the trannies they’ve already fucked or with an amalgamate everytrannytarget cobbled together from brief conversations and magazine articles.
Most trannychasers acknowledge their persnicketiness in practice. Most self-identified trannychasers go after a very specific group of people. This is even–especially–true of the people who say they’re attracted to transgender “energy” or whathaveyou. The first cut is usually gender–most trannychasers go after either transmasculine or transfeminine people–but it’s much more than that. It’s not “transpeople,” it’s a geographically, financially, ethnically specific group of transpeople in a narrow age range. They tend to dress alike, share many presentation cues, and have strikingly similar feelings about gender, queerness, and transness. Conflating the two allows said teensy subsubsubgroup to pose as the entire community. Conflating their social position with their political credibility with their desirability allows them to pose as the avant garde, the best answer. There’s quite enough of that already.
There’s also this idea that desire is by definition revolutionary, that wanting to fuck an oddity is somehow a break with tradition. Desire for the outsiders is nothing new. The new new thing would be a disavowal of the segregationist hatred that has always accompanied love of difference, the tax the mainstream pays to purity. Trannychasing, traditionally speaking, denoted the hate-inflected desire of straight men for transwomen. It tended to dehumanize the women involved. A trannychaser wanted a tranny, not a human being. This new incarnation involves a different trans demographic, but the power disparities aren’t dead. How else could the desires of a group of people whose lives are as real and as deep as anyone else’s–whose history is as long–be boiled down to a hot new thing?