Learning how to love yourself is a life-long process that produces results immediately. You also get all you’re wanting. So it’s important that men learn to love themselves. Because that is the access to everything you want. Including the love of your life who happens to be transgender.
By “loving themselves” I don’t mean in this macho way that looks like false pride or false humility. By “loving themselves”, I mean discovering who you are. From that, love of self comes naturally. It can’t help but come because “love” is what you are. So when you discover who you are, you naturally come to love and appreciate yourself. And when that happens, the Universe yields all that you want. Actually, it is always doing that, but your lack of self-love blocks what you’re wanting. “Lack of self-love” looks like stories you tell yourself that crate the reality you don’t want.
I know, sounds all woo. But it isn’t. It’s real. It sounds like woo because that’s what society (and science) tells us about what you’re reading. Religion tells us that too. And often religious people don’t love themselves. Or others. So we get confused about what “love” is when people profess to love but don’t. Particularly when it comes to loving themselves.
But with practice, everyone can find out what love is, simply by examining who and what they are. How? Read on…
First, learn to see positive in everything. I really mean this. You won’t believe how powerful this is (until you do it consistently). Most people I’ve worked with have a hard time getting beyond “superficial” perceptions of “positivity” and into the deep recognition.
For example, take the room you’re in. If I ask: “Tell me ten things that are positive about the room you’re in.” You might easily be able to do that. But if I say “take three minutes and tell me everything in the room that is positive”, most people barely make it to two minutes before they’re having to think really hard about it.
But with practice, you begin to realize just how much much we’re surrounded by positive things: situations, people, events, and more. As that practice expands your conscious awareness, you begin to realize that maybe there’s more to what you see with your ordinary eyes, ears, nose and such.
It seems crazy but seeing everything in a positive way really is the way to loving yourself. There’s more to it, of course, but it’s a perfect start.
Some guys reading this may say “I already love myself”. So far, I’ve seen even the most confident, open people have deep, negative stories about self-worth and self-value, indicating that, while they may appear self-loving on the outside, in reality they are not.
So begin the exploration today. It’s easy and with time you’ll see amazing results. Including the rendezvous with the partner of your dreams. We promise!
[Founder’s note: We did a podcast and YouTube interview with transamorous man (or Transam, as he calls us) Joseph McClellan, author of the new book Trans*am: Cis Men and Trans Women in Love, from ThreeL Media earlier this summer. But the quality was so bad, we decided to try again when he’s back in the states. In the meantime, his book has been getting some buzz and we wanted to be in on that. So Joe shared the following interview with us, which he did with Teadate co-founder, Michael Osofsky.]
Can you describe a recent sexual experience?
I have been working in Chittagong Bangladesh for six months, so I live in something of a self-imposed sexual quarantine. My last sexual encounter was over my winter holiday when I flew to visit a trans women in the Philippines with whom I’d had a very enriching correspondence for a while. I stayed there for three weeks and it was a lovely experience. As for any sexual details, I will pull a page from Laverne Cox’s interview with Katie Couric and contend that the details are nobody’s business.
How has your attraction to trans people changed throughout your life?
The changes have only been subtle. Early on there was an element of exploring, experimenting, and accumulating experience to make sense of why I was attracted to trans women as much, or more, than I was to the cis women I was expected to love. Knowing that my attraction to trans women stirred up others’ curiosity and bewilderment, I asked myself versions their questions. Over time I figured out some reasons why I am attracted to trans women, and why I have a general respect for trans people. At this point it is somewhat old-hat. At least half of the people I consider my closest friends are trans, and I have been happy to settle into a kind of kinship and gratitude that trans people exist and that their lives have been connected with mine.
When did you know for sure you weren’t gay?
I really never dwelled on that question and found its reductionism kind of funny. As a kid I was always attracted to the feminine romantically, and while I may have had a vague presentiment that was more sexually open than my friends and peers, I had a pretty good idea about what attracted me and what did not and felt that the hetero end of the binary fit me better than the other label. These days I am grateful for the rise of the term queer since it refuses to go into such linguistic cages.
How do you know that you’re not transgender?
The terms cisgender and transgender are quite easy to distinguish. I always refer people to Julia Serano’s peerless book, Whipping Girl, for her explanations. To paraphrase, “cisgender” simply means that you do not experience a conflict between what others perceive to be your sex or gender and what you take to be your sex or gender (See Thomas Laqueuer’s book Making Sex about how difficult it is to make sense of a firm difference between sex and gender). “Transgender”, on the other hand, is to feel that others’ interpretive gaze toward your sex or gender does not match your own inner experience of those categories. So in my case, everyone has always just taken me for a boy/guy/man, and I feel no compunction using those broad labels for myself. In Trans*am I make it clear that I have no truck with the idea of a mystical “Manhood” that establishes me as cisgender; it’s just that I present my sex and gender in ways that are comprehensible to the limited number of conventional labels we traditionally use.
Are you transam by choice?
I’m of a mind that attraction is, at the most fundamental level, intuitive. So no, my initial and subsequent attraction to trans women has never required the conscious effort of choosing. However, not repressing that attraction and cultivating it to be an open transam is a choice. I like to use the example of a man who sees a girl he is attracted to across the room at a party. She is trans and he does not know it. That is an unchosen intuition. What he does after he finds out she is trans, however, is up to him.
What are the essential qualities and behaviors of masculine & feminine and which of these do you exhibit?
I have many philosophical reasons for denying the existence of “essential qualities.” Trans people certainly suffer when they “fail” to manifest the qualities and behaviors that others expect. The same goes for transamorous people. There are qualities and behaviors that we could conventionally call masculine or feminine, but I think it is very important not to believe that any quality or behavior corresponds to an unchanging essence. For example, at first glance I’m pretty masculine, athletic, I sport a beard, and people make assumptions about how those masculine qualities entail assumed masculine behaviors. I don’t have a problem describing someone aesthetically as masculine or feminine, but I think it is very toxic to give those terms a metaphysical significance.
What do you make of cisgender men who say they’re a lesbian trapped in a man’s body?
I may have even made that joke about myself, but I don’t think it’s a productive way to look at things. The “wrong body” paradigm is dying a belated death in trans discourse. Trans writers like Sandy Stone and Thalia Mae Bettcher have done an excellent job of exposing how that paradigm has a bleak history based on cis psychologists insisting that to be trans is to have a pathology characterized by feeling trapped in the wrong body. For generations trans people knew that they were expected to describe themselves in this way, so they did. Now, however, there seems to be a slow turn toward allowing people to simply describe their own singular experience of being a person with a certain kind of body who feels a certain way and likes certain things. I believe transamorous cis men—indeed everyone—should also try to look at things this way. A nuanced first person account makes a lot more sense and is a lot more relatable to others that absurdities like “I’m a lesbian trapped in the wrong body.”
What does it mean to “fetishize” trans women and what makes it a bad thing?
This is a serious ethical issue. In Trans*am I discuss pieces about it by the trans writers Christin Milloy, Charley Reid, and Princess Harmony. Men have a tendency to not appreciate the full humanity of a trans woman, but to treat her as a symbol of the exotic, the exciting, the transgressive, or whatever else. Or in the worst cases, they just think of trans women as pretty purveyors of a forbidden penis. This leads to unethical patterns of behavior and terrible feelings borne by the objectified, fetishized lover. The scholar Avery Tompkins has written some wonderful studies about the same issue pertaining between trans men and their cis female lovers. Tompkins points out how dissatisfactory it is, however, to suggest that anyone who considers transness an attractive quality is automatically a fetishizer. They argue that this leads to a climate of shame and sex-negativity that are at odds with queer politics. Transamorous lovers are afraid to articulate their attraction for fear of being labeled a fetishizer. One reason I wrote Trans*am was to try to weigh in on this. I have certainly been accused of being a “chaser” because trans women are my preference romantically and sexually. I have not been able to concede that my preference is pathological, and since I do not believe squelching my transamorous feelings is healthy, I have tried to think about how to make it ethical.
What advice would you give people discovering they might be transam?
My coarsest formulation is “If you don’t act weird about it, neither will other people.” That was always my ethos, but of course it assumes a level of privilege. But right now there is an unprecedented level of awareness about gender and sexuality, but that brings with it an imperative to engage and advocate. Don’t take shit from anyone. Study a little bit and learn arguments to shut people’s ignorance down. Value your trans partners and friends and tie your struggle to theirs. Celebrate that you are a little different and don’t let anyone tell you what you’re supposed to be like.
What changes have you noticed in your sexuality since you started meditating?
This is hard for me to answer, since I started meditating very young, before my sexuality had developed. From my teens until my early twenties I lived in meditation centers and did many long solitary retreats. I believe this had a profound impact on how I viewed trans people, since Buddhism teaches an aggressive anti-essentialism. When I encountered trans people, I was not encumbered by presumptions that they—or I—contained essences that I needed to worry about. As I’ve gotten older, and for personal reasons have become a less zealous Buddhist, I still hold those lessons dear, but I do not formally meditate very much anymore, with some regret. Lacking discipline and burdened with grownup problems like making a living, I find that really good sexual experiences sometimes bring me to the meditative place that I still value.
How has your sexuality been received by different cultures you’ve visited?
In Bangladesh, I don’t get to live my sexuality much, but I talk about it quite often in my gender studies and philosophy classes at the Asian University for Women. 80% of my students are Muslim, and I have been very impressed by how open and non-judgmental they are. Outside of campus, however, it may be a different story. If a trans lover happens to visit me here, I will definitely be aware of the gaze on us, just as I have been in small American towns. In Thailand and the Philippines, there is a lot of trans visibility, so the gaze is tolerable. In Brazil, there is a big problem with anti-trans violence, but I wasn’t really aware of it when I lived there. When you’re in a transamorous couple, you definitely feel the gaze differently in different places, but, in my case, my privileges and stubbornness have allowed me to hold my head up high and go about my business.
What’s been the reaction of your family and friends to your sexuality?
For my best friends and brothers, it has always seemed like something they’ve admired about me. Many of my friends have become sort of de facto cis-trans ambassadors from what they’ve gleaned from me and from the time they’ve spent with my partners. I don’t have the kind of relationship with my parents where we talk a lot about our private lives, but over time they got the picture of the kinds of women I like and they have are accepting. Nevertheless, I’m a little nervous that my book will be too-much-information for them. I’m grateful for these privileges though. I never felt like I had much to lose by being open, but I sympathize, to a degree, with those who do feel that they have a lot to lose.
If labels such as top/bottom, dom/sub, etc. are detrimental, how come they exist?
I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with these terms per se, but when they are automatically gendered they are problematic. The kink community is not guilty of this, but it is still the global default to assume that a man is (or should be) a top or dom, and that a woman is (or should be) a bottom or a sub.
If I identify as transam, how can I become fully enlightened when Buddhism advises us to stop identification altogether?
I presume in the same way that enlightened beings still use the words “I” and “me” and “myself” or call themselves Buddhists. Buddhism does not advocate the annihilation of language, but a realization that all terms are mere conventions, that they are not indexed to fixed essences.
What would you like to say to your critics?
Since the book is only newly released, the only thing I’ve had to contend with so far is resistance to a cis white man sticking his nose into trans issues at all, and the accusation that I am just contributing to the privileging of cis male voices. But the book is really about cis men who are attracted to trans women, not a study of trans women. The vast majority of the people I cite in the book are trans, and I am very much in support of a trans-driven discourse. I am trying to contribute to a specific niche. In my experience, and, importantly, in the experience of all my trans friends and lovers, there has been an obstinate unwillingness by cis men to analyze and articulate the ways that their lives intersect positively with their trans lovers. Many trans writers have addressed the subject, but at some point it seems to me that cis men whose lives are truly connected to trans women should attempt to engage and be accountable.
Transgender actor, activist, writer and producer Jen Richards pins the tail on the donkey.
In a recent article she wrote, she says about seeking out cisgender men to have sex with: “What I’m really seeking is affirmation of my womanhood, and this is the most available means of doing it. No one is more anxious about their sexuality that straight cis men, no one more frightened of being labeled “gay.” This is especially true for first-timers. Hooking up with them is like handling a volatile explosive—and I like the rush. I need that intensity. It’s the only thing that keeps the din of self-doubt and self-loathing at bay. Their wanting me is the proof I need of who I am.”
I know not all transwomen are looking for cis-trans relationships or validation from such pairings. That’s not the best approach to self-validation, but if you are looking for that, and you’re frustrated that you’re not finding what you want, you should continue reading.
There’s no need to review all the things transwomen say out of that frustration. If you’re a transwoman, you already know them and have probably said some of these things, or agreed to them when you heard friends say them.
Thankfully, alleviating your frustration couldn’t be easier. Having the relationship you want couldn’t be either. The first thing to do is recognize that your frustration is a negative emotion. It doesn’t feel good to be frustrated and no one likes it.
I know that sounds like a “no duh” statement, but you gotta get that when you’re in frustration, it’s very hard to step outside it and realize you’re frustrated, then do something productive about it.
The next thing to do is not as easy, particularly if you have consistent complaints that accompany your desire to have what you want. Your desire may sound something like this:
“I want a cis-het man to love me as the woman I am….but…”
The “but” turns your desire expression into a statement of frustration. You gotta separate the two in your head, separate the desire from the frustration. Then eliminate the frustration. How? By telling yourself new stories about your experience and desire, or better yet, new stories about experiences you haven’t had, but you want to have. For example:
New stories about past experiences:
“It’s ok, those are in the past.”
“That was the old me, I know what I’m doing now.”
“I’m sure glad those experiences are behind me.”
“I’m ready for something different.”
You’ll notice these stories make no judgements about anything. They simply acknowledge what is about these past events: they are in the past. They are behind you.
Here are new stories about the experiences you haven’t had, but want to:
“I’m eager for something different”
“I’m excited about how great these new experiences are going to be”
“The experiences coming my way are a perfect match to me”
“I’m going to like what’s coming to me.”
If these statements don’t give you some measure of relief, a sense of feeling better, then they are just “affirmations” and they are going to do diddly squat for you. You want to make up a statement, a thought, that gives you positive expectations, feelings about whatever experience you’re going to have next.
Now if you’re like some of the transwomen I’ve spoken with, you probably don’t want to confront your relationship frustration head-on. You probably have too much momentum behind your stories about your past relationships and going head-to-head with them is probably just going to add fuel to their fire, rather than create a more positive flame and accompanying positive results.
So start with something easier instead. Notice the stories I gave as examples have really nothing specifically to do with relationships. They could apply to any experience coming your way. That’s what you should start with: the easy things. Start with how your day is going to go generally. Start with how breakfast is going to go, how your commute is going to go, how the next hour at work is going to go, how your next conversation with your friend is going to go.
Then when you have that experience, no matter how the experience turns out or what you think of it, create stories that highlight even the smallest positive aspect of that experience. For example:
“What a delicious breakfast. I’m a great cook.”
If you’re not a great cook and it tasted shitty, you gotta find a positive aspect: “I didn’t burn the house down!” might be all you can find, but you gotta find a positive aspect, so if that’s the only one, find it and use it.
“That was a great set of music I listened to during my commute”
“I appreciate my work provides me with money I can use to get some of the things I need”
“I appreciate the opportunity my friend offers to practice being positive!”
Telling new stories about your every day experiences begins training you to see the world differently than you see it now, immersed in your stories which create disappointment, frustration, victimization and similar feelings and their associated experiences. So long as the stories you tell yourself are causing better feelings within you, you will, in time start having experiences consistent with your new stories. So long as you focus only on these good stories and don’t give any air time at all to your old ones, you will one day find yourself sitting in front of the guy you thought was impossible to find. And behind him will come many, many more. Guaranteed.
And when that happens, you too will have pinned the tail on the donkey.