Skoliosexual: Inclusion or Fetishization?

Some of the queer discourse that I find on TikTok is so niche that I have to explain it before I can give my opinion on it.

Recently, scrolling through TikTok, I saw one of my mutuals asking about the meaning of a particular identity. They tagged “Skoliosexual” in their post description. I had never heard of it, and always wanting to be in-the-know on the latest queer terminology, I turned to old reliable.

Oddly enough, Google sent me to WebMD first. They describe skoliosexual (or scoliosexual) as follows:

Skoliosexuality, sometimes spelled scoliosexuality, is the attraction to people who are transgender or nonbinary. People who are transgender identify as a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth. They may identify as a man, a woman, or neither. People who don’t identify as either a man or a woman are nonbinary since their gender is neither of the two.  People who are skoliosexual may or may not be attracted to cisgender people as well. A cisgender individual identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.

https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-is-skoliosexuality

I don’t take much issue with their definitions of trans and nonbinary, although they are extremely simplified. Being trans is hard to define in a single sentence, but “other than the gender they were assigned at birth” tracks. The reason that this sexuality has become a topic of discussion, however, is because some believe it may be inherently transphobic.

Skoliosexuality is distinct from pansexuality in that it’s more specific than pansexuality: instead of being attracted to people regardless of gender, skoliosexual people are attracted to others in part because of their gender. While a pansexual person is unlikely to care about a partner’s gender, a skoliosexual person is likely to be attracted to a partner because they identify as a gender that they were not assigned at birth. 

https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-is-skoliosexuality

While scrolling through the skoliosexual hashtag on TikTok, I noticed that quite a few cis people were giving their opinions on the sexuality. Many posed the question: Isn’t that just fetishizing trans people? Trans people are people!

I would like to state my opinion on this topic, while also recognizing I can’t speak for any trans person other than myself. Some trans people may be offended by this term, and some may not. But it is for the transgender and gender nonconforming communities to decide for themselves, how to feel about this word, and cisgender people should not be making claims about trans identities.

Since trans men are men and trans women are women, defining them based on being trans instead of their gender seems othering. Others point out that skoliosexual is a label that’s often used by people who fetishize transgender people in a potentially dehumanizing way. While not everyone who identifies as skoliosexual fetishizes trans people — and many skoliosexual people are trans — others dislike using this label because they want to avoid that negative connotation.

https://www.healthline.com/health/skoliosexual#underlying-controversy

If a trans person feels fetishized, that is absolutely valid. The fetishization and objectification of trans people, specifically trans women, is extremely toxic. On the other hand, I do not believe that trans people are at fault for this toxicity. If they choose to make money off of the existence of this fetish, that is their right.

Transgender individuals do not live in a vacuum. We are subject to the conditions that society has laid out for us.

I am a queer person, and I don’t have much preference when it comes to sexual or romantic attraction. I like who I like. But many trans people, after years of heartbreak, have chosen to only date other trans people. In the community, we call this “T4T.” Are trans people transphobic or fetishizing their own community by only wanting to co-mingle? T4T dating can be safer for a multitude of reasons.

There are less awkward conversations regarding sexual intimacy. The person you are dating knows some of the struggles that you face. Another trans person might be more likely to relate to your feelings of gender euphoria (or dysphoria) better than a cisgender person would. I think that transgender people dating within the trans community is understandable, and I could see why they might prefer to identify as skoliosexual. That is in no way transphobic.

What about the cis? Are cis people allowed to identify this way?

I cannot personally allow anyone to do anything. My opinion, however, is that I am comfortable with people who are comfortable with trans people. I also believe that sexuality is not a choice.

For example, my nesting partner is a queer, cisgender woman. She presents in very feminine way, and she is very open about her queerness.

One of the things that she said to me when we first started dating stuck with me, and probably always will. She was describing to me that she is attracted to gender nonconformity (GNC). She likes trans people, nonbinary people, boys who wear makeup, or women in short hair cuts. She said to me: “Basically, if you fuck with gender, I fuck with you.”

I had never felt more validated or affirmed in my life.

Even though I identify as trans masculine and often call myself a trans “guy,” I will never be a man. I am on testosterone, and I hope to get top surgery, but those are not qualifiers of manhood. I want to be more masculine, but I don’t identify as a binary trans man. Finding a partner who could be totally accepting of that, and even encouraging, was bliss.

I am also of the opinion that sexuality and sexual identities are *descriptive, not *prescriptive. What I mean is, picking a label does not bar you from dating different sorts of people. A bisexual woman is not all of the sudden straight or gay when she enters a relationship. She is still bisexual.

Similarly, a person who identifies as skoliosexual is not necessarily saying they would never date a cisgender person. The label describes who they are most attracted to.

I know that when I was still identifying as a woman, it was very validating to me to use the term “lesbian.” I don’t use this much for myself anymore (queer just has such a nice ring to it), but it captured the androgynous picture in my head that I was doing for at the time. I was dating a heterosexual, cisgender man in college, and I told him: “You know, I’m a lesbian. You’re my last guy. If we don’t get married, I’ll be gay for the rest of my life.”

This didn’t cause him to question his own gender. Cishet men don’t usually do that. He never took offense to my identity; it was something that was really important to me. It didn’t lessen our relationship. Calling myself a “butch lesbian dating a man” was affirming my gender more than my relationship. A lesbian can date a man and be no less of a lesbian. You don’t have to identify as bisexual simply because you experience attraction to a man from time to time. If you don’t feel as though a label suits you, pick a new one.

That is how I feel about skoliosexual. If queer and trans people feel as though they need specific word to describe their dating patterns or attraction, that really doesn’t bother me. I don’t feel inherently sexualized by my partner simply because she prefers to date GNC’s. I feel seen.

The people whose feelings matter most are the two (or more) people in the relationship. I feel as though we don’t have a right to judge anyone just for their sexual identity.

Unless they identify as “Super-Straight.” That is inherently transphobic. But that is a discussion for another day.

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