“But you with a man!” This grammatically incorrect statement was the trigger to my sexual identity crisis. For the past two decades, I’ve loudly announced that I am a dyke (don’t panic, we re-claimed this negative term). I wore my dyke badge with pride and dove head first into the lesbian dating pool.
Being a dyke has helped me find community, I have a gaggle of lady friends to watch the Lword reboot with. Being a dyke helped me find love, I’ve met most of my lovers at community potlucks and pool parties. Being a dyke helped me find support, I healed from a large breakup with a private LBQ support group ran by the Women’s Resource Center. Basically, I am the person I am today because my lesbian community socialized me that way.
In my lezzie world, I discovered another identity. I am a “gold star lesbian”. This means I have never had penetrative sex with a cisgender male. I’m considered pure and untainted by the patriarchy. Therefore, I have a higher value in the lesbian dating pool.
I haven’t had sex with a bio dude partially by circumstance. I chose to exist in empowering female spaces, so I mainly had access to flirt with females, dykes, and queers. I dated feminists. That’s who I was, and that’s who I wanted to be with.
As I evolved in the queer community, I witnessed a cultural shift around gender. The majority of my butch lesbian friends were transitioning from female to male. I’m not saying that being transgender was trendy! I am saying that a cultural shift had to happen, to grant more access to resources and make gender transition possible. I slowly included transgender men into my friend circle and dating pool. After all, they were socialized just like me! Trans men understood my present, and I understood their past.
Flash forward to a couple of days ago, January 8th, as I held my partner’s hand while he woke up from having bottom surgery. This moment had been in the works for many years. I stood by him while he fought insurance for denying a claim based on a transgender exclusion policy. Years later, after winning a lawsuit, we traveled to the Crane Center in California for a consultation. He was a prime candidate and we made our $500 down payment to secure a surgery date for 20 months later due to finances; building a house, making a baby, and purchasing an inclusive healthcare option. Months of planning built up to a very stressful morning when I said “goodbye, I love you” in the parking lot of the surgical center. This is where we departed, because babies and service dogs are not allowed in the facility.
The surgery went as planned. I drove my groggy husband back to our Air B&B cottage to start healing. Things were good. My stress level dropped to normal. I was able to focus on feeding our child bananas, and happily cleaned baseboards in our temporary housing. The next day, I drove him back to the center to remove a catheter and check on healing. I stood by his head, with my right arm holding our baby, and my left hand on his shoulder. Then, I peeked. I fucking looked! I told myself not to look, but my curiosity took control and I saw it. I mean it! I saw my husband’s penis in a brand new light. A rush of feelings exploded in my head and I literally cried and puked my feelings out in the hallway.
I’m sure poor Dr. Safir was so confused with my reaction, I was too. I was very happy with the result of his metoidioplasty, a simple meta. I would describe his area as masculinized. The surgery made a huge difference in the appearance of my partner’s private area, an area that I literally loved throughout the nine years of our sexual relationship. I felt joy, and also felt shock, guilt, confusion, pain, love, anger, loss. I never understood the desire to pay for the pain of surgery, until I experienced it through my partner’s body. His body. His male body.
Today I am burying my gold star lesbian status. My soul, my culture, my existence is still in the queer community. What I have discovered through love and surgery, is that I have genuine attraction to more than one gender and gender expression. I also realized that my value as a woman isn’t defined by my sexual experiences. I am now giving myself full permission to explore my sexuality in my most authentic way.
I’m currently attached to a movement with a local center for sex positive culture. Being part of the planning committee that created this organization has opened my mind to what sex positivity looks like. For me, it is a healthy mix of feminism and body positivity, and also the idea that sexuality should be honored instead of shamed. I feel like I can be a loud proud queer person even when I’m offering a blow job at a swingers party. I am still queer.
“But you with a man!”
Yep! I have a husband. I also have a fabulous femme girlfriend, who co-parents our baby. I’m exploring kink, the swingers scene, and unexpected coffee dates. My sexuality has many layers. I’m no longer a gold star lesbian and I still have value.
Heather Franck is an artist best known for her adult coloring book, Polyamory is Sketchy. She leads the Idaho chapter of polyQ, a social and support network for queers in polyamory. Heather is passionate about LGBTQ visibility and educational outreach. Help spread the message of inclusion by sharing this article.