Figuring out your sexual orientation is complicated for a lot of people, but for someone with a transgender partner, this can raise even more questions.
As a teen with a FtM (female to male transgender)writes,
"I just turned 18 a couple days ago. I have been dating a FtM for about five months but just found out that he is a FtM yesterday. I still am in love with him, but I feel like if I keep dating him then I'm a lesbian. Is this true?"
That is a really good question. The answer is, probably not. Here’s the thing, sexual orientation tends to line up with the gender of the person that you are attracted to not with their biological sex. So if you identify as straight and are attracted to men, dating someone who is FTM doesn’t mean that you are a lesbian.
But aren’t the terms sex and gender just different words for the same thing? Not really.
Sex refers to a persons biological maleness or femaleness. Females typically have XX chromosomes and males typically have XY chromosomes. (Chromosomes are long pieces of DNA that carry the genetic material that people inherit from their parents).
Sex is determined immediately when a woman's egg is fertilized by a man's sperm. If an X sperm fertilizes an X egg, the fetus will be female. If a Y sperm fertilizes the X egg, the fetus will be male.
Gender on the other hand refers to the cultural, and psychological traits typically associated with one sex or the other. Babies are usually assumed to have a male gender at birth if they have a penis, and a female gender if they have a vulva. Gender identity is how someone feels about their gender assignment.
Sexual orientation, being lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight refers to who you are attracted to. So if you have an FTM partner, you could definitely identify as straight, even if he has biologically female anatomy, since his gender identity is male.
That being said, some people with transgender partners identify as queer, or pansexual, since they don’t feel bound by the sex or gender of a partner. Those terms are a little different that bisexual, which refers to people who are attracted to both men and women.
A reader named Harley explains it like this:
"I am a 23 yr old FTM, I have a straight girlfriend and I must say you really should not feel like this challenges your sexuality at all. [Your boyfriend] is a straight man. He is a man in his mind completely. It's just his mind didn’t match his body. You are a straight woman attracted to a masculine man. Just because he was born with the wrong parts doesn't mean that he is less a man than a man born with all the male parts. Just like some are born with missing body parts such as a arm, or some are born with an extra thumb, FTM's are just born with the mind of a man and our body doesn't match up with our mind. Look at intersexed people. Born with both genders. It is life. If you have feelings for him. Don't hold back because of the way he was born. Love him for the man he is."
It can be hard to label your sexual orientation when you have a transgender partner, so if you don't feel like doing so right now, that's okay. But you might also want to think about why having a lesbian identity seems so uncomfortable you. Doing so might challenges some of the ideas that you have about what it means to be a lesbian.