Don’t Confuse ‘Being a Fetish Object’ with ‘Love’

September 17, 2013

Author, media personality and generally awesome person, Janet Mock, recently penned a widely-praised article titled “How Society Shames Men Who Date Trans Women & How This Affects Our Lives”. Besides being one mouthful of a title, it’s actually a lovely, heartfelt piece about the impact society’s stigma on men who date trans women has on both these men and their trans partners.

Still, there was one issue I struggled with in the article: there is a difference between a straight, bisexual or pansexual man who is interested in trans women and a self-proclaimed “tranny chaser” or “trans admirer.” The straight/bi/pan man is someone who would date you whether or not they had forehand knowledge of your trans status. The other group, the “chasers” and “admirers” are interested in trans women only because of their trans history.

While Mock makes some excellent points about the senseless need of society to turn the mundane into the sensational, and about the needless shame straight/bi/pan men are put through should they show interest in a trans woman, I felt like she let the stalker-y “chasers” and “admirers” off the hook entirely.

On “chasers”:
These are the dudes who pop up in my Twitter notifications with names like @trannylover0 or @lovestrans or @she_male_lover. Make no bones about it (heh. bone. heh.), these aren’t the guys Janet was talking about in her article. These are guys who realize that trans women tend to have self-esteem issues early in their transitions, making them vulnerable to sleazy come-ons. These are the guys who don’t really see trans women as women, but rather as sex objects, freaks to fulfill their fetishistic fantasies.

These are not the guys we should worry about being shamed. These are not the loving, caring individuals Janet spoke of who were getting a bad wrap. These guys are bad news.

It’s important to not confuse “being the object of someone’s fetish” with “love,” but it seems like a lot of trans women do. So desperate for affirmation, for attention, some of these women will go to great lengths to defend the “chasers” of the world. It’s like a form of Stockholm Syndrome. These girls are exposed to sleazy advances so often that they begin to sympathize with the chaser, to convince themselves that he’s “not really” a chaser, that he really does love her.

One’s genital configuration should be incidental. A normal guy may be very interested in a woman, later find out that she’s trans and have no issue with that. That’s wonderful. A chaser, on the other hand, seeks out trans women, interested in them for that reason alone. Don’t fall for that, girls. Basically, if a guy wouldn’t date a cisgender woman version of you, he’s into you for all the wrong reasons.

Maybe I’m not qualified to opine on this topic. After all, I’m not into guys… at all. Still, creepers give me the, well, creeps.


11 Responses to “Don’t Confuse ‘Being a Fetish Object’ with ‘Love’”

  1. The subject of chasers came up at a panel on dating at the Trans Kansas Conference. I tried arguing the point of your article to the panelist and other people in the room. Seemed like it fell on deaf ears because the panelists then started referring to men who like trans women as “admirers.” She may have been just trying to talk about men who are interested trans women, but I’m not so sure. It would have helped my case more if I was as well-spoken as your article is well-written.

  2. Jen Says:

    This is an incredibly complicated issue, and one that my perspective on changes with my mood. As someone who has sex with a lot of men, I’ve witnessed up close a range of motivations and responses. I’ve seen men start to freak out during and afterwards, have counseled some about their sexuality, and know many who are perfectly comfortable with their attraction to trans women. And lord knows I’ve had my share of overtly fetishizing chasers. Yes, many men want a trans woman specifically, but it doesn’t many they want any trans woman. They still make choices based on many other factors. Is that any different than a man saying he’s attracted to redheads?

    Bottom line Parker, I’m not sure I agree with you. I mean that literally. I genuinely don’t know.

    • Parker Marie Says:

      It’s fine to have conflicting opinions on this. Everyone has a right to set whatever standards they want in regards to who they will or won’t be with romantically. I think it’s important to voice my opinion on this, though because I feel like sometimes the default response of “well, if Janet Mock (or any other big name trans person) says X, X must be true,” creates a lack of diversity in opinion. In this case, I see this as open and shut: if guys go for trans women in a creepy and fetishistic way, they’re creeps. Look at any of the random twitter accounts I linked above and tell me if their creepy obsession is the same as someone who says, “hey, I like redheads.”

      • Jen Says:

        A creep creeps! Yeah, that’s easy, and I understand that that’s what your focusing on. But you’ve also set up a dichotomy where either a trans woman’s genital are entirely incidental or they’re the entire explanation of the attraction. There may be more to it.

        Your experience is largely based on being the unwanted objection of attention for random strangers you consider creeps. That makes those men easy to dismiss. My perspective is from having sex with a lot of men who wanted a trans woman, men I wanted, and with whom I’ve had extensive conversations with about their attraction.

        I think most men fall somewhere between the grossness of the men you’re talking about and someone like Janet’s partner. Men who are attracted to trans women … and let’s be clear, pre-op trans women specifically … but approach them with some level of respect and dignity. These men are often afraid to voice their interests because they know they’ll be dismissed as “chasers”.

        The redhead example wasn’t sufficient. A better would be a strong fetish, let’s say bondage. If a guy really needs bondage in order to have a satisfying sex life, what is he to do? He can either find a partner among the general population and hope that they’re into it too, or he can look among the pool of known bondage lovers (I don’t know the terms here!), and find someone there he also likes as a person.

        I suspect that a lot of men have found that they like trans women. They are straight, but they are erotically fixated on the cock. For these men, only a trans woman will do. So what do they do? Hope they inadvertently fall in love with a woman who turns out to be trans? Or do they seek out trans women and hope they find someone they like? What we’re doing is saying that anyone who does the latter is a creep.

        As I said, I’m genuinely unresolved on this issue. I like sex with men. Every man who has been attracted to me and then later learned that I’m trans has immediately dropped me. It hurts, and is exhausting. But I still want sex, and companionship. I grew tired of the rejection, so now I only get together with men who are looking specifically for a trans woman. These guys are generally good to me and there is more than just sex. But it’s mainly about sex, and I think they’d each lose interest if I had surgery. Maybe one of those hookups will turn into a relationship, but I doubt it.

        tl/dr Not all chasers are creeps, but I’m not holding out for Mr. Right either way.

    • Parker Marie Says:

      One more follow up:

      I suppose I should clarify: there is nothing wrong with two consenting adults hooking up. Whether you view each other as person 1, person 2 or object 1, object 2; if you’re both into it, awesome!

      But I’ll stand by my statement that I think guys like the ones operating the Twitter profiles I linked to in my article are total, utter creeps. I think they should be shamed for adding to the negative perception society has regarding trans women.

      To call those of us who think that guys like that are awful “shamers” is frustrating. Would you get on someone’s case for “shaming” a member of the KKK? Would you run to the defense of someone who “shamed” a pedophile? Would decry “shaming” of someone who said abhorrent statements about you?

      Because that’s what this is: these are guys who go around calling us “tr*nnies” and “traps” and “tgurls” and “shemales” (gross, gross, gross, gross). These are guys who go around calling a penis on a woman a “girlcock.” You may say, “hey, these guys are just ignorant!” Well, I’d contend that if they were ACTUALLY interested in trans women, if they ACTUALLY cared about us as anything more than fetish objects, they’d take 2 minutes to learn that none of the aforementioned things are acceptable to say to someone.

      • Jen Says:

        No argument there Parker! My point is not to contest the gross grossness of anyone who reduces anyone else to a mere sexual object, particularly when it reinforces the pervasively toxic sense that trans women transition for the sake of sex with men. I was just piggybacking on your conversation to introduce an overlooked middle ground between creep and the ideal. I’m as disturbed as anyone to find myself defending men who pursue trans women, and it’s a function of me trying to come to terms with my own situation.

        If you want to shame the creeps, you’ll find no objection from me. I would only caution you be careful of setting up the dichotomy I mentioned earlier. Because that kind of rhetoric is part of the larger stigmatization of attraction to trans women.

        Glad we’re having this conversation. Much to discuss.

      • Parker Marie Says:

        Definitely! I think your comments have been super helpful here.

        True, dudes who like trans women aren’t just divided into prince charming and creeper. There are shades of gray (shades of creep? shades of charm?) here.

        I’m glad to have your perspective on this.

  3. […] what about in the instances of mutual objectification? Parker Marie advised that there is a difference between a “fetish object” and “love” and I wholeheartedly agree. But I’m not in total agreement with her assessment of chasers. […]

  4. I personally feel like “chasers” still shouldn’t be shamed in the way that Janet Mock wrote about in the article; they shouldn’t be shamed because they like transgender women. The shameful part is that they objectify and use transgender women. Society still points to a “chaser” and says “ewww, you want to have sex with ‘those’ people???” That’s not the right shame; the shame I believe they should receive is “ewww, you objectify women???”

    • Parker Marie Says:

      I’m not sure how this got lost in the mix, but…

      Correct, the “shaming” shouldn’t exist simply as a result of wanting to be with trans women. I never said that it should. The shaming should be a result of one’s creepy actions.

      Being attracted to trans women doesn’t make someone a creep. Dehumanizing trans women, treating them us as objects, treating us as anything less than women… that’s what makes someone a creep.

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