Chasing Off the Chasers
Early transition is a vulnerable time. As we begin the processes of coming out, and possibly of medical transition, we trans folks have all kinds of insecurities. Often, we worry about how we will “turn out,” whether we will “pass,” and if we can ever conform to cis standards of beauty. Many of us experience rejection when we first come out. Even the most supportive families will usually withdraw at the outset, when we need them most, and many friends will be lost for good. Those of us who come out while already in a relationship will often find ourselves dumped or divorced. Many of us lose jobs. Some of us lose homes. We frequently don’t feel good enough, even for ourselves. We wonder if anyone will ever love us again.
So we come out, buy new wardrobes, maybe get on hormones, have heart-rending conversations with loved ones (or people we used to think loved us), and begin presenting publicly as our true genders. We get laughed at on the street, and stared at in bathrooms. People call us “sir” or “ma’am” when we’d rather be called the opposite, or something else entirely, or not called anything at all. We lose friends, without knowing quite yet where to look for new ones. We lose respect, dignity, privilege and safety in the world.
Then, after maybe weeks, maybe months, maybe longer of nobody seeming to find us attractive or even worthy of existence, someone takes an interest. An intense, sexual, maybe romantic interest. This somebody tells us that they like trans people; in fact, that they find us fascinating, beautiful, brave, and sexy. They claim to love us because of, not in spite of, who we are. They tell us everything we want to hear when we are lonely and naïve.
If we are unlucky, we get drawn in.
But it is only a matter of time—weeks, days, hours, even minutes—before we realize that something is amiss. These people, who claim to be interested in us for who we are, turn out to be only interested in what they think we are. They are looking for “chicks with dicks” or “men with pussies” or “sexy gender-benders.” They have a fetish for trans people. This fetish inevitably comes into conflict with our self-image, self-esteem, and plans for transition. When a trans woman wants vaginoplasty, this knight in shining armor who “loves her for who she is” will suddenly, magically lose interest—and go back to his “shemale” porn.
These individuals who profess such an interest in trans people sometimes call themselves “admirers,” or perhaps they identify as “trans-sensual.” But trans people generally come to call them two things: fetishists and “chasers.” And most of us, after having been around for a while, come to have just one reaction to chasers: run.
So what is a chaser exactly?
Chaser are predators. They prey on insecurity. They look for trans people who aren’t sure of who they are yet, and try to convince them to be something else. For example, a lesbian fetishizer of trans men may steadfastly maintain that dating a trans guy doesn’t mess up her dyke credentials, even though dating a cis guy certainly would, in her opinion. She tells him he’s not a man like other men, that he is different, that he is special, that he is gentler and more sensitive. But the message she conveys to him, whether she intends it or not, is that she doesn’t really consider him a man at all, that he is castrated, that he doesn’t count.
Frequently, the bits that chasers are most interested in are precisely the body parts that trans people feel most uncomfortable with, and plan to have removed or modified. Sabotage and manipulation quickly come into play when the chaser is more interested in objectifying their trans partner’s current body than in supporting their need for medical attention. So a cis guy into shemales may try to dissuade the trans woman he is dating from going on hormones or getting bottom surgery, even as she desperately tries to save money to do just that.