Attraction. What is it? Where does it come from and why are we attracted to certain genders, ethnicities, occupations, values etc? Our preferences clearly aren’t permanent because they tend to change as we age. As children, generally we are attracted to other children. As we age more often than not our tastes age with us. What if you suddenly broke away from this normal shift and were suddenly someone quite different from who you had been before? What if at 50 you were suddenly 20 again? Would find yourself attracted to 20 year olds or would the wisdom you’d gained throughout your life still lead you to find 50 year olds more attractive? Our society worships youth of course so we all have some natural attraction to the beauty and promise of youth. But would you choose someone that age as a companion to spend the rest of your days with if you had 30 years more experience than they did?

I’ve been faced with a similar question after changing gender from male to female at the age of 52. My world has suddenly and dramatically shifted and it’s not just my perception but perhaps just as importantly the perception of those I meet. They no longer meet a lean athletic single male of 50, but a athletic woman instead. The world sees a woman now and the expectation is typically that I would now prefer men. To remain heterosexual I should swap my former preference from women to men. Interestingly by becoming female and still preferring women I have become Gay. Now when I am out with my fiancé we are more aware of any displays of affection which fall outside  the boundaries of normal female friendship. Holding hands and touching, sitting close and even platonic kisses are ok, but there is still a boundary that hetero couples do not have. We have both had to learn to mind that new line as it is easy to forget. Gay men’s boundaries are even more rigid. When we first began seeing each other I lived as a male. Since my transition our behavior has been modified accordingly. Not too long ago we were on a rooftop bar in Manhattan overlooking the city. We were both wearing cocktail dresses standing at the edge of the roof looking off into the evening lights. My partner casually ran her hand along my inner thigh and left it there. I am much taller than her and she was simply holding me lightly in a place that her hand naturally landed. I began to notice people sort of “looking” and then realized what was going on. I said, “did you realize that your hand is on my inner thigh?” “Oh My God!” she laughed. We both chuckled, but that is the sort of moment we often run into. I am very attracted to her, but my attraction to women and more particularly a woman like her wasn’t always so clear.

When I was younger and first “out” in the world dressing as a woman, men began to approach me. At first I was repulsed but then became accustomed to it and even began to enjoy it. Later I explored kissing and touching men. At the time I wondered about my sexual orientation. I was partially confused because I wanted to be a woman. I assumed that meant I should be attracted to men. This idea motivated me to explore being with them. I certainly enjoyed flirting and all the attention they gave me but when we began petting I felt very little interest. This was in contrast to my initial experiences with women. I found everything about women intoxicating. I would practically pass out when I was near a woman I found attractive. The way she smelled and looked, later as I became intimate I longed to feel her skin and body against me. My attraction was inarguably chemical and physical. With men I finally had to acknowledge it wasn’t like that. I found some more attractive than others but not for the same reasons as I was attracted to women. With men it was more about who they were not how they looked. Were they someone I found interesting, funny, accomplished, capable, powerful? I began to realize it was what men did and how capable and successful they were that is attractive. It also didn’t hurt if they were presentable or well dressed and smelled good. I began to wonder if other women felt this way?

Now living full time as a woman I believe I am seeing men more as other women do and it’s really fascinating how often men haven’t the slightest idea what causes women to find them attractive. Young and old men will try to out perform each other in athletics imagining these displays will gain the interest of a woman. Unfortunately this is generally not the least bit interesting to most women I know unless it has something to do with their career. For instance if they’re some sort of professional athlete. By in large the triathletes and weekend warriors are mostly ho-hum. A guy that walks up and begins a conversation with imagination and humor while his macho friends are competing in a basketball game is going to make a lot more headway.

It took me a long time to realize that my attraction fell somewhere in between male and female. I suppose that would make some sense. I like the way men pursued me but felt more interest in the female body. Eventually I realized I was a Lesbian. What a revelation that was when I had a very male body! I could just imagine approaching a Gay woman and saying, “I’m really a woman, I swear!” Lots of men say that to Gay women already. It’s similar for women who think they can “convert” a beautiful Gay man. They just haven’t been with the “right” woman. With them it would be better somehow. They miss the point. Gay women are attracted to a woman’s body and essence. Wow, what a dilemma. A man trapped in a Gay woman’s body? How on earth was this ever going to work out I wondered.

I happened to meet a woman with a very strong male side at a party some time later. She noticed and approached me. I was tall and slender with long brown hair and light goatee. She thought I was attractive. She pursued getting to know me and we began seeing each other. To me her essence was very male. She admitted later she knew mine was feminine. Dating her I realized there were women out there for me. It didn’t turn out to be her but another woman with a similar male essence while simultaneously having a female body. In many ways she is a trans-male. She in her turn had dated another trans woman before me and realized that was the sort of person she was attracted to. What are the odds? We both marvel at it. She had struggled as I had trying to find her mate, her true partner. At 52 years old I finally found the person I was attracted to both physically, emotionally and intellectually. An accomplished woman I can admire who is more gregarious and assertive than I. We are Yin and Yang but not in the most traditional sense.

Our attraction for each other seems to have three parts. Physical, mental and emotional. I’ve attempted relationships with one or even two of these, but they failed. Looking back it was obvious to me from the start that a key piece was missing but I had ignored it. In each case it was exactly that missing portion that had grown larger and eventually ended our relationship. The first step which took me nearly 50 years was to identify my own needs. That turned out to be remarkably difficult but I would call it critical. After all how can you know who to be with if you haven’t identified who you are attracted to?

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