A trans friend who recently started her transition mentioned to me recently that she thought she might be “more bisexual” than she initially thought. In an offhand joke I responded that yes, HRT will do that to you. Although just intended as a throwaway comment, it did get me thinking.
It’s a topic that pops up from time to time, often by folks about to start HRT and curious or worried if who they’re attracted to will soon change.
So does HRT really change your sexuality? I can only speak for myself, but my answer is a resounding “kinda, sorta”.
Back when I first went to my local doctor to ask for a referral to the GIC, they asked me if I was “a homosexual”. The question took me entirely off guard, in reality I hadn’t really thought much about my sexuality for a long time, having been in a relationship with a woman for a few years and a 6-year relationship with another woman before that. I fumbled a response about not really knowing what my sexuality was and we moved on. But the question lingered in my mind. What is my sexuality?
I pondered on it once I got home and realised I was potentially pansexual, but I certainly had a preference for women. After thinking about it more, I realised it wasn’t so much women that I was attracted to, but mainly those with a feminine-leaning presentation. Meaning I was just as attracted to some non-binary folks and men, but I perhaps didn’t feel drawn to more traditionally masculine presenting people.
In the years since I’ve come around to identifying as bisexual, by which I mean my attraction is to those who share my gender identity and those who don’t*.
So that’s how I identify now, what happened in-between?
When I was a teenager and a young adult, I remember thinking that I couldn’t be attracted to men because I couldn’t envision myself in a relationship with one. Likewise, as I started my transition I couldn’t really see myself with a man either. This slowly changed after starting HRT. But I think the truth is a little more complicated than a simple biological one.
Prior to transition, for a long time I reluctantly saw myself as a guy. I loathed the term “man” or “male” and avoided them, but I also didn’t think I could be trans. So the idea of being in a relationship with a man meant being part of a male/male relationship, this was something I really struggled to picture myself in. Obviously I had nothing against the idea in principle, I just couldn’t see myself happy in that dynamic.
But imagining that relationship was to imagine the very thing I loathed to do: seeing myself as male.
When I started to transition, my perception of myself changed to that of a woman, a label I found comforting and something that helped finally quieten my dysphoria. This evidently had a knock-on effect to my sexuality.
These days, the concept of a relationship with a man means seeing myself in a relationship as a woman, a male/female relationship. As soon as I began to see myself that way I realised the idea caused no dysphoria or discomfort whatsoever. This allowed me to feel more confident in how I identified my sexuality, I no longer had any aversion regarding attraction to traditional masculinity.
So is it really the HRT that changes someone’s sexuality? For me, I suspect the bulk of the change came from other factors. Which is to say, you could argue I was always bi, I just had to come to terms with my own identity to realise it.
As with a lot of transition, the answer to this question is going to be unique and personal to each person.
*The difference between bisexual and pansexual is something that needs a longer discussion, perhaps a blog post for another day! Personally, I use bisexual as interchangeable with pansexual, but that’s just my personal preference. I have friends who prefer pansexual and I 100% understand that.