By Joseph McClellan. $18.28; ThreeL Media; 176 pages
In Trans*Am, Joseph McClellan explores what it means to be a cisgender man who has always found himself primarily attracted to transgender women. Using a combination of theory and personal anecdote, McClellan seeks to both de-stigmatize and de-fetishize the concept of transamory by illuminating the compelling emotional and physical reasons behind his attractions.
Throughout the book, McClellan attempts to deconstruct why so many cisgender men feel ashamed of being attracted to transgender women, and in doing so he provides a captivating examination of how we view gender, sex, sexuality, and the physical body in modern day society. He discusses the external difficulties he faces when dating a transgender woman, the way being alone with his partner offers a refuge from a public that, when they decide to venture into it, always seems to demand answers to inappropriate, judgmental questions. He also spends time investigating our society's obsession with genitals.
Why, he asks, does it remain so important to us that our partners contain the genital markers typically associated with the gender with which they identify? Why do cisgender men fear the implications of enjoying sex with a woman with male genitals, and for that matter, why should there be any implications at all? Through all of this, McClellan seems to urge his readers to worry less about labels and judgments and to focus on doing what makes them feel good and happy, as long as it also makes their partner feel the same.
McClellan also reminds readers that no matter what they enjoy, they never need to feel boxed in by a specific label. He explains that while he identifies as transamorous, it is not the only sexuality he identifies as, and he has had meaningful physical and emotional relationships with people that did not identify as transgender women. McClellan doesn't shy away from the complexity of sexual attraction and from the many combinations of factors that lead two people into feeling mutual desire for one another. He admits that his own sexuality is complicated and cannot be distillated into any single word or phrase and so he doesn't attempt to distill it.
One of McClellan's major goals is to urge cisgender men to have greater respect for transgender women and, beyond that, to help men understand that feeling attracted to transgender women is nothing to fear or be ashamed of. This message, he explains, is crucial to the safety of transgender women, who are too often the victims of violent attacks perpetrated by men who, upon discovering a woman they like is transgender, become disturbed at their own attraction and take it out on the woman for "deceiving" them.
McClellan is shockingly open and honest, holding nothing back of his own stories and acknowledging his limitations as a cisgender man writing about transgender women. Beyond that he acknowledges the many injustices perpetrated against transgender women by cisgender men and does not attempt to abdicate responsibility for the group he represents. Instead, he merely attempts to highlight that there are many cisgender men out there who feel nothing but love and respect for transgender women and want to share their lives with them. "I offer my pound of flesh," he says, "as reparations for the abuses and obfuscations doled out by my kind, hopefully opening the door for more open communication and smoother pathways to intimacy."
The more we are educated about different types of gender identities and sexualities, McClellan argues, the safer and happier everyone will be.