A thought for your next column: what makes for an admirer? Are they “ladies in waiting?” Are they bi…or closet gay..or hetero..or what ?
Let’s show some love and appreciation for the “Admirers”. They are often looked at with the same curiosity and suspicion that affects transgender and crossdressing people. Admirers come from all backgrounds and all points on the sexual orientation spectrum. In that respect, they are just like anyone else. I get from your question that you have male admirers in mind. It is much easier for me to discuss this in terms of men, so that is how I have answered the question – even though there are also female admirers.
There are some admirers who are bi and some who are closeted gay, and many who are heterosexual, or pansexual, and certainly some are “ladies in waiting”. Admirers come in many forms and flavors.
First, I want to emphasize that people can legitimately have a deeply held, perhaps inborn, sexual orientation and still enjoy activities that are not stereotypically associated with that orientation. Straight women may have lesbian relationships; Gay men may marry women and father children, etc.
Let’s explore each of the categories that you mentioned in your question.
Homosexual – An admirer is not necessarily gay. Most men who are gay are turned on by thoughts of two men together. The idea of masculinity and the absence of femininity are important in those fantasies. But that is a generalization, and there are exceptions to that rule. If two men are happily married and don’t have a sexual relationship (as happens in many marriages over time due to health, familiarity, busy schedules, etc.), are they still gay? It’s an important question because it shows that being gay is only partly about sex and much about whom and how you love. Some gay cultures put a lot of emphasis on the penis and the masculine body. Would the average gay man desire a woman if she had a penis? Who knows for sure, but I think not. It’s about men together being men.
Bisexual – An admirer is not necessarily bisexual. People who are bisexual are attracted to both men and women. Not everyone who is bisexual actually has sex with people of those genders. If a bisexual person is in a monogamous relationship they limit themselves to the gender of their partner. While some are attracted to the blending of genders among transgender and crossdressing people, other bisexual people are emphatic that they are attracted only to people who are men or women.
Heterosexual – An admirer may well be heterosexual. He may be attracted to a TG or CD person to the extent that he can experience her as a woman. Many transgender and crossdressing people celebrate their femininity in a way that outshines many natal females and that can be very attractive to men who like feminine people. The fact that the transgender or crossdressing person has a penis may pose a dilemma, but some heterosexual men are adventurous in a good way and are interested in trying new things. Their interest in a woman with a penis does not cancel their membership in the heterosexual club.
Panssexual – I add this category because it represents a growing group of people who are aware that they can be attracted to all kinds of people without limitations. Many admirers may come from this group though they may not be aware of the label. They are sexual people who can appreciate the sexuality of all people.
Transsensual – This is a word I like a lot. I would use it to replace “admirer” or any of the other terms for those who are attracted to people who are transgender or crossdressing. A person who is transsensual is specifically attracted to the non-traditional or blended gender expression of trans people. Someone who is transsensual is not necessarily only interested in transgender people. You can be gay, straight, or bi and also transsensual.
Ladies in waiting – Are admirers crossdressers or people who want to crossdress? Sure, sometimes they are. I discussed this interaction in the February blog post, so check that out. Being with a crossdresses may be very inspiring to someone who has had the desire to crossdress. Their desire to crossdress may be about lone self-expression or focused on the interaction between crossdressers. These desires can coexist with any other sexual orientation. As you know, crossdressers can be straight, gay, bi… is this getting repetitive? People simply don’t fit the limiting categories that are placed upon them.
The interactions between admirers and transgender and crossdressing people are often fraught with misunderstanding. I often hear complaints that the admirers are too quickly focused on sex and not enough focused upon relationships. Certainly many admirers fear that their friends or family will find out that they are transsensual because of the potential social stigma that they share with TG and CD people. Others may not know any other way to approach. I wonder if relationships would be more well-rounded if it was standard to meet admirers on the tennis court, in church, or a book club, rather than through bars and nightlife where casual sex has always found a home. A book club….now there’s an idea.
In the early 1990’s I ran the first group for “Partners” at the LGBT Center on 13th Street in Manhattan. I met many admirers there who were boyfriends, husbands, wives, and girlfriends. Since then, I have met with countless people in my private practice who are concerned or curious about their desires to be with transgender and crossdressing people. I believe that if there was no social stigma people would not ask this question. They would simply appreciate the allure and sensuality of trans and crossdressing people because they are beautiful.
Best to you all,
Dr. Katherine Rachlin is a clinical psychologist, gender specialist, and sex therapist in private practice in New York City. Her website is http://katherinerachlin.com. You can also reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 206-3636