Dear Alice,

I am a straight female in my mid-twenties. Well, not really. Ever since my childhood I have been fantasizing about being a male. Specifically, I increasingly fantasize about being a homosexual male and even have dreams of having male organs. I have a steady boyfriend that enjoys anal play which really excites me (I imagine myself having anal intercourse with him). Since I am not technically a male, I also enjoy watching homosexual intercourse and fantasize about watching my boyfriend with another man.

I feel like I am having sexual identity issues. Have you heard of anyone else having a similar experience? Do you think a bisexual partner would be ideal for me? Do you think role playing or three-way sexual experience would help me get satisfied?

Aspiring Gay Male

Dear Aspiring Gay Male,

Questioning one’s sexual or gender identity is not an uncommon experience and it’s great that you are asking yourself these questions! You seem very open to the experiences you are having, but it is also not uncommon for people to feel a great deal of distress thinking about sexuality. The world can sometimes be a hostile place for people who identify differently from their birth gender or who identify with any type of sexuality outside of the hetero-normative culture. But hopefully you are experiencing these questions as an exciting journey of self-discovery, despite the potential for gender and sexual oppression.

One way to think about your “sexual identity issues” is to examine gender and sexual orientation as two different aspects of yourself. In this framework, sexual orientation refers to the gender(s) to whom you are attracted, whereas gender refers to how you view your own self as a gendered being (male, female, or a different gender entirely). In looking at your sexual orientation, you seem to be clear that you are attracted to men. You may be attracted to other genders as well, but the question of whether or not you like men at least seems pretty clear. Then there’s the question of your gender identity. Have you ever noticed these fantasies about being male and having male genitals occurring outside of a sexual scenario? Or do they pretty much occur only in a sexual context? For some people, changing up their gender expression is something they enjoy only in the bedroom. Role-playing as different genders, using toys such as strap-ons, dressing in different clothing, and acting out your favorite porn are great ways to transcend the gender borders in the sack. And if your boyfriend enjoys this type of play, that’s great. Are there activities you’d like to try that he doesn’t fancy? Would he be open to you bringing other men into the mix? If not, would he be okay with you sleeping with other men on your own? What might you do if he is not okay with it?

But it may be that your feelings of being male exist in daily life, as well as in the sexual realm. What is it like moving through your daily life being read by others as a straight female? Does it feel right, or like something is amiss? Many people feel as though their birth gender is an incorrect or incomplete description of themselves. One name for this experience is transgender. Transgender people typically report feeling that their gender identity is salient both in and outside of sexual situations. If you are experiencing yourself as male in non-sexual life, it may cause you to question whether you feel that you are “technically” female, as you say. While we are taught that our gender is ultimately about our genitals, this isn’t really true. Gender has three parts: physical markers (our bodies), gender roles (how we express that gender in our given cultural settings; how we were socialized as boys and girls), and identity (our internal view of ourselves as gendered and the name we give that gender). That last one receives the least amount of attention, but it is really the most important one for most people. What does that inner gender voice tell you? It may tell you that you like gender play exclusively in sexual encounters, or it may tell you that your maleness exists beyond that. And it may shift over time, as well. If it feels helpful, you may want to speak with a counselor to help you explore these questions. Careful selection of a therapist is warranted though. Ask any prospective counselors about their experience with transgender people or with people questioning their gender identity.

By the way, just as non-transgender people can identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, so can transgender people. There are plenty of transgender men (people who were female gender at birth, but who later identify in a more male-oriented way or as men) who are attracted to other men, and identify as gay, bisexual, homosexual, queer, etc. Check out these resources below for more information.

Good luck and keep exploring!

Alice!

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