Faux Trapped Lesbians

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Nineteen or twenty years ago I met a guy who described himself as "a lesbian trapped in a man's body." I'd never heard the phrase before, so I had to think about both what it meant and how it might apply to this guy. He looked pretty conventional male, aside from an extremely long ponytail, but since long hair on a guy stopped being totally outre by 1972 at the latest, the ponytail couldn't be read as a reliable sign of gender nonconformity. He claimed that you could get an idea of how good someone would be in bed by the way they danced, which meant he was probably a terrible lay since on the dance floor he was stilted, over-performative, self-obsessed and a tad graceless. I had two friends who were interested in him: one actually went out with him and said he was an OK date; the other only asked him out and was turned down--apparently he liked to be the one to initiate things in any relationship he was in.

When I asked why he called himself a LTIAMB, he said it was because he really liked women and found it easy to be friends with them, and didn't really like stuff like hunting or hockey or homophobia. Also he'd taken a couple of women's studies classes and figured out that the women he liked best--the really smart, edgy, politically progressive ones--liked guys who worked for social justice.

So really, there was nothing especially female or queer about him. The whole LTIAMB was just a way to make himself more attractive and fuckable within the bounds of the heteronormativity.

A week or so ago I ended up having dinner with half a dozen strangers. There were two 40-something guys who were pretty conventionally male--facial hair, cowboy boots, and while each had on a necklace, they were chunky and large and made from bone and wood. One guy was a complete douchebag; the other guy was only part douchebag. Before too long, the complete douchebag announced, "I"m a lesbian trapped in a man's body."

"That's my line!" the part douchebag exclaimed, his voice tinged with alarm and pique. The CD smiled smugly and shook his head, to show that he wasn't planning to share the line.

I rolled my eyes. I was shocked that either could feel any ownership over this phrase that I'd been hearing for about two decades. But that wasn't what I responded: I just responded to the phrase itself. "No you're not," I said.

Both men turned to stare at me, shocked that I was anything but amused by the line. "Why would you say that?" one asked.

"Do you really feel you're in the wrong body? Would you ever contemplate surgery, and become a woman?"

Both men were silent for a moment. "No-oo," the CD finally said. And that was the end of that.

Before I go any further let me make it clear that I do not doubt the existence of lesbians trapped in men's bodies. I have met one, and heard of others. The one I know fathered six children while in the body of a man, and did her best to be a proper Mormon priesthood holder into her 40s. She used to pray desperately for god to fix her. But as she likes to say, "God couldn't fix me, but a surgeon in Thailand could." She now lives as a lesbian--in a woman's body.

When my friend D admitted to herself that she was a lesbian trapped in a man's body, it was a way of saying that something was amiss, that her inner sense of self did not match the outer "reality" created by her body and perceived by the rest of the world. But when straight men who want to stay men use the "line" that they're a LTIAMB, they're trying to convey that something is fundamentally right about them--they're more in touch with their feminine side, perhaps; or free of misogyny, since they A) like women and B) relate to them, and, of course, C) assume that women are incapable of feeling or enacting misogyny.

Irritated as I was by these guys, it seemed best at the time that I let the conversation go, so I did. But I wish I had pursued it. I wish I had said, "Given that you claim to feel that there's something less than ideal in simply being a straight man in a man's body, why don't you work to reform conventions of heterosexuality? Why trot out this obviously false and fairly tired line about who you really are--especially given that for people who really are lesbians trapped in men's bodies, life can be pretty damn hard, whereas you have it pretty easy? What can you do to make life better for lesbians, in both female and male bodies, and for straight women?"

The part douchebag runs all these workshops to empower women; I'm sure he would have told me that he is working to remake heterosexuality. I just uttered appropriately polite syllables of vague interest and agreement--"Oh! Uh-huh"--when he told me this, but I thought, "Utah would be one of the places where a man could make a living telling women how to stop letting men run their lives." The irony of his work is lost on him, as is the irony of his attempt to appear more heterosexually attractive by claiming a queerness he has no access to.

The complete douchebag probably would have stuttered and sputtered and gone on and on about how he cooks more than the women he dates (we'd already heard about his plans for half a dozen restaurants), which would have been better than what he did that ended the evening, which was to quote lines from The Brady Bunch and laugh uproariously at his own wit, as if he'd actually said something funny.

In other words, these faux trapped lesbians are full of shit, testosterone and themselves, a bad combination indeed. There is nothing queer about them. They are coopting queerness and femaleness as a way to make themselves more fuckable, and to let themselves off the hook for what is wrong in heterosexual relationships: they are not part of the problem! They're lesbians really, and have nothing but a body in common with the men who treat women badly!

So if you run into a faux trapped lesbian, call him on his fauxness. Say, "Get the faux out!" Challenge him to find a way to be a genuine straight man in a way he's proud of and that's still a turn-on for really smart, edgy, politically progressive women who like guys who work for social justice.

4 Comments

To be charitable, I suspect that most straight guys who say this realize that it's a joke and/or a (pick-up) line. Any guy who says this but has never seriously considered living as a woman must realize on some level that it's a joke (and not a particularly funny or original one...)

You might be right that most guys know the line is not just a line but a joke. I would have been inclined to agree with you before this last conversation. But both guys seemed pretty earnest--both in suggesting that it said something about who they really are, and in the belief that it was (and this really threw me) original. As you say, though, even if it's intended as a joke, it's not a very funny or original one, and on those grounds alone I think it's appropriate to call out the men who use it.

I had a good friend in college who jokingly called himself a LTIAMB more than once. He wasn't a douche, but we were all still really young and back then lots of folks who later became more sensitive about sexual politics were frankly still pretty clueless.

I wondered then what he meant, and I still sort of do. We had one of those flirtatious relationships that never lead to a real relationship. (We were hardly ever both single at the same time.) And so I never had a chance to find out if there was something about him sexually that would have caused him to say he was a LTIAMB. Now you've got me wondering again!

Hi Sungold--I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds this phrase befuddling. And i completely agree with you that statements--not just about sex and sexuality but about everything--often sound different coming from someone who's pretty young. That's why I stressed the age of these guys--at 40-something, they really just sounded silly, and old enough to know better.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on May 23, 2010 8:01 AM.

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