“identify with” — to classify oneself with someone or something; to relate to someone or something; to see part of oneself represented in someone or something.
This is part 3 of 3.
And now a more delicate consideration, because it involves admitting some biases which I should not have, but realize that I do.
As a straight man in the presence of homosexual men I have always felt distinct discomfort. I’ve also never been able to quite pinpoint it, and may simply have to accept a certain level of raw homophobia as the explanation.
When I delve into it, I always focus on a certain ambiguity which I cannot resolve. While I am likely not a target of romantic interest in such men (though at least once have been, unrequited though it was), the possibility is unsettling. I am acutely aware of gender balance issues and have always seen the masculine and feminine as complementary. Attempting to create sufficient balance within the same gender seems, therefore, foreign to me, and I think this is at the root of my discomfort. But I cannot really be sure.
But I acknowledge that have become something of a chameleon, and something of a mimic. These are the skills I now use automatically when trying to fit in with other men. I suppose we all do this to a certain degree, but I know that when I am with men, I observe their behavior and try to incorporate elements into my own as a way of fitting in. (I use the same observational skills with women, but as a way of avoiding incorporating behavioral elements, so as not to be detected as trans.)
When it comes to gay men, these techniques break down. The behaviors are often subtly different, and I feel the need to avoid the mimicry (as I might with women) because I do not feel consonance, and faking it would put me in an even weirder place of being perceived as a gay man. Somewhere in there may actually be the kernel of an explanation for homophobia in the larger culture. (I should note that these are not conscious techniques. They are automatic, but were gradually developed as a means of coping with and concealing my trans tendencies when I was younger. I don’t really know when I’m doing it, but can spot it easily when looking back at a previous encounter.)
I feel no such ambiguity with lesbian women. I have many friends who identify as such, and the signature feature of my relationships with them is that I can relate to them comfortably, but always sense the need to keep a respectful distance. Put plainly, I do not feel with lesbian women the same kinship and consonance that I feel with straight women.
None of this is to devalue anyone’s sexual orientation or make any sort of judgments about them. I am merely trying to parse my own reactions, and doing so only in the interest of understanding my own gender-based issues.
I am straight, and I think that is the result of feeling an instinctive need to be balanced (gender-wise) by any potential partners. Were I gay, I can imagine feeling just as much instinct for a different source of balance. But that is not me, and it suggests that I would certainly be a candidate to become a straight woman — that is, sexually attracted to men — as an integral part of my whole female identity.
Perhaps some would see this as a dodge, that I’m making excuses for wanting physical relationships with men. But the fact remains that I am not now, nor have I ever been, sexually attracted to men. I’ve simply never met a man to whom I was sexually attracted, and though I can’t exactly rule out that possibility, it’s just never been on my radar. What I can imagine is that, were I to move across the gender divide through transition, men would then represent the balancing force that I currently experience with women. There’s no guarantee that this would happen, but I think I have to be prepared in case it does.
Returning to relationships with gay men and women, I can honestly say that I basically feel an otherness with them, much as I do with straight men. I do not feel like I come at the world with the same internal workings, and I simply do not identify with them.
Of all the variations I’ve considered so far, I only truly identify with straight women, and I think that’s significant. Acknowledging and accepting this is part of the million-piece puzzle falling into place.