I was a proud trans lesbian for almost five years. But when I was honest with myself, I knew I was also attracted to men. I found strength in other bi women who told me they too had doubts about how legitimate their queerness would be and about how they also worried what people would say. Those bi women gave me the courage to tell the world that I’m a bi trans woman.
What I love about labels is that they give us a community. When I started calling myself bisexual a few years ago, I was welcomed into the family of transgender women who experience romantic attraction in the same way I do. I’ve bonded with trans women over dating tips and terrible Grindr stories; they welcomed me in with open arms.
If you go on Twitter or Tumblr, you might think that all trans women are lesbians. If you ask a cis person, you probably think we’re all straight. In reality, about half of trans people identify as bi or queer.
But claiming bisexuality comes with a certain level of responsibility. For me, being a bisexual woman doesn’t just mean I’m attracted to more than one gender. It means I’m thinking about what being attracted to men means for other trans women who aren’t as privileged as I am. It also means standing with my trans sisters who are harassed, beaten, and killed by the men who they sleep with.
Nearly 20 trans people have been reported murdered in the United States this year. The real number is likely to be higher, as trans people are often misgendered in death or may be homeless, wherein their deaths could go unreported.
All but one of the reported murders are of Black trans women, and of those whose killers have been identified, the vast majority are cis men. When transphobia combines with anti-Blackness and leads to violence and discrimination, it’s called transmisogynoir, a term coined by Trudy at Gradient Lair. She was building on the work done by Moya Bailey, who coined “misogynoir” to describe “specifically anti-Black misogyny.”
Transmisogynoir refers to violence enacted on Black trans women specifically because they are Black trans women. “The violence enacted against Black trans women is a culmination of racism, anti-Blackness and State violence against Black bodies as non-persons in general,” Trudy writes.
When transmisogynoir is enacted by men, it often manifests as extreme violence that ends in Black trans women being beaten, shot, or killed. The reality is that many men are attracted to transgender women but they’re afraid to say so in public, and they lash out because society and patriarchal norms haven’t taught them to deal with their fear and anger in any other way.
When I first came out, I was so scared of what it meant to be a trans woman who was attracted to both men and women, but I have learned that my fear shouldn’t have been for myself. I’m Latina, but white-passing. I have a girlfriend, and the last time I slept with a man was over a year ago.
As someone with a relative amount of privilege in my community, how can I think about my own attraction to men without thinking about how men murder Black trans women? How can I even think of the word bisexual without thinking about how being bisexual, pansexual, or queer makes Black trans women at a higher risk for being murdered? I’m finding now that I can’t.
If we want to do something to stop these murders, we need to talk to the men who sleep with us. We need to put Black trans women who sleep with men at the top of our priority list; they’re the ones in danger. As a non-Black trans woman, that’s on me. That’s on all of you who aren’t Black either.
To do this, I’m going to retweet trans women, especially Black trans women, who talk about reducing violence from men. I’m going to listen to Black trans women telling me to stop citing the “35 year life expectancy” statistic. I’m going to fight for protections for sex workers. I’m going to use the privilege I get from being a white-passing Latina to confront men, white women, and other Latinas who diminish the violence Black trans women face from men.
Last year on Bi Visibility Day I was trying to learn to love myself for who I am. This year I’m not focusing on myself; I want to help give a spotlight to my trans sisters who face violence from the men who claim to love them. This year I’m proud to be bisexual because of other trans women who are bisexual or otherwise sleep with men.
Thank you for being yourself in a world that wants you dead — I promise to work my hardest to make the world a little better for you.