August 17, 2014

The Gay Male Friends of Girlfags

In spite of what the girlfag-bashers on tumblr say, gay men are not the enemies of girlfags and female to male crossdreamers.
Katharine Hepburn, the girlfag

Tumblr is one of the favorite social tools of the new generation, including male to female crossdreamers and girlfags.

Some of you will have noticed that I have put up a tumblr blog in order to get in touch with them. My wife, Sally, is also blogging on transgender issues over there.

(By girlfags I mean female bodied persons who are attracted to gay and bisexual men. A majority of them can be understood as female to male crossdreamers, as they express some kind of masculine sexuality and/or identity.)

The young and restless

One strength of tumblr is that the audience is young. 66% of all visitors are under the age of 35, while 39% are under 25 years old. If you want to know about their interests and problems, this is the place to go.

On the other hand, the young age of the majority of users is also a problem, as some of them have still not developed the social antennas needed to sense the suffering of others. Some are also too angry and frustrated to treat people with love and respect. Tumblr is like a school yard where the bullies roam unsupervised.

Bullies and trolls

I have rarely seen so much aggression and hate. The girlfags are targeted by some bloggers. Some of them are separatist "truscum" FTM transsexuals, who clearly see the female bodied crossdreamers as a threat to their own social acceptance.
Another one with Hepburn

The standard argument is that girlfags are "sexual fetishists", who are objectifying and preying on gay men. And yes, the autogynephilia theory has been used, as well.

Because I defend these fellow crossdreamers, many of them believe I am a young girlfag. This has made me the target of much aggressive misogyny. The levels of irony in this scenario are mind-boggling.

Gay men accept girlfags

But here's the thing: I find no such hostility towards girlfags among gay men in general.

My girlfag friends report the same. Their gay male friends are just that: friends. They accept them in the same way they accept the "fag hags". The whole "fetish" argument makes little sense to them, probably because gay male culture has a lot of "fetishistic" expressions of the gay identity.

I am going to share a quote with you which illustrates this. It was written by a gay man in a girlfag Facebook group. I have his permission to republish it.

A gay man on girlfags

“I don't think that there is a fetishization of gay men in operation here. Aa a gay man I have very little knowledge of or insight into female sexuality but my communications and exchanges with girlfags convinces me that women have an innate and empathetic capacity to be truly sexually fluid, not only as to sexual orientation, but even as to gender roles. 
Katharine Hepburn

"I have been lucky to become friends with  some girlfags. The dynamic is always very much male/male in nature. I believe that girlfags are able to inhabit in their minds the gay male space and that they are reacting to gay men as gay men do. 

"Masculinity and the erotic attraction of maleness do not have to be the sole preserve of bio males who are gay.  I love and appreciate the fact that girlfags appreciate gay men as other gay men appreciate gay men. I suspect that girlfaggery is much more prevalent than people think. 

"I can also appreciate that many girlfags would like to be seen as gay men. I see no reason why girlfags should not butch it up if they want to absorb some of our characteristics. But be prepared for a close visual inspection of the basket!”

As this quote shows, gay men can also recognize the masculine side of the girlfag soul.

Girlfag lovers

It has been said that being a girlfag is about wanting to be seen as male in the eyes of a male lover. Many of them achieve this goal with straight and bisexual lovers.

But I also know about love relationships between gay men and girlfags. This does not make these men bisexual. They simply respond to the male side of the girlfag's pscyhe.

Some girlfags are become trans men, showing that this is much more than a fetish.


Girlfags represent just one of many expressions of gender variance. Their sexual orientation and gender identity can no more be reduced to a sexual fetish than the identity of other LGBTQA groups.

At one time or another the fetish argument has been used against all members of the LGBTQA family, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and genderqueer. The goal has always been to invalidate their identities and force them back into their closets.

Gay men have been pictured as hypersexual, fetishistic predators by the medical establishment and the religious right. Lesbians were pictured as mannish fetishists who seduced straight women, turning them into feminists. Recently the so-called trans-exclusionary radical feminists have been using the exact same arguments in order to stigmatize trans women.

The current attacks against girlfags are based on a lack of knowledge, fear, tribalism and old fashioned sexist prejudices. We have to stop putting sex, sexuality and gender identity into these small, suffocating boxes!

Here are some fascinating glimpses into the tumblr girlfag debate:

Janet Hardy: What you need to know about girlfags
On why the girlfag term is supposed to be offensive
On why girlfags invalidate biseuxal men (really!)
So far there have been 98 notes and likes on this post on girlfags
Janet Hardy has tested the prejudices of tumblr girlfag-bashers
On girlfags, gay men and fetishes
A girlfag speaks out on what it means to be genderqueer
Do you know what a girlfag is, really?

See also The International Girlfag and Guydyke site.

Sidebar: Katharine Hepburn as a Girlfag

I have used images of Katharine Hepburn to illustrate this blog post on girlfags. Needless to say, she did not call herself a girlfag, as the word had not been invented yet. Still, she definitely was one.

Here is a quote from Advocate: 

“I would consider ‘transgender’ a better way to understand Katharine Hepburn than anything else,” says out novelist and Hollywood historian William J. Mann. His latest biography, Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn (Henry Holt and Co., $30), explores with unprecedented frankness the star’s fluid sexuality and gender identification. 

"Mann sheds new light on Hepburn’s complex relationships with gay or closeted bisexual men, including her legendary love, Spencer Tracy—who, Mann reveals, was at least bisexual in terms of his sexual attractions and interactions."


  1. As a gay man allow me to add one data point to utterly contradict your anecdote. I think the entire concept of girlfags is the height of disrespect to gay men. The fact that you think you can even begin to understand what it is to be a gay man is appalling. You are either utterly ignorant of the social and sexual realities of being gay or callously accessorizing a marginalized group. Attempting to tie your identity to that of gay men diminishes and disrespects our real lived experienced and struggles. It is one thing to appreciate gay culture, it is another thing entirely to say you are in any way a member of it. Stop.

  2. First: Just make this clear: I am not a girlfag. I am an MTF transgender crossdreamer. The reason I am engaged in the girlfag struggle is that many of the girlfags are part of the broader transgender family. As I see it, all of them are part of the queer family, and some of them are also crossdreamers.

    They are my kin. They are my friends. They are my allies.

    Second: I know of no girlfag who says that she knows exactly what it means to be a gay man raised as a man in present day society. Their background is too different for that to be possible.

    However, if we agree that both sexuality and gender identity cannot be reduced to your upbringing alone (and I guess most gay men and trans men will agree with me in this), the girlfag experience makes very much sense.

    The main way for girlfags to understand their sexual orientation and/or gender identity is to look at themselves as men loving men.

    Take a look at Ili's guest blog post which I published today for a discussion of this.

    Third: Girlfags are not "callously accessorizing" gay men. These are your prejudices talking. There are already too many sex and gender stereotypes. We do not need another one. If you want to express an opinion about girlfags, you need to learn more about them.

    Fourth: Girlfags do not say they are part of gay culture. But many of them dream of being gay men and part of gay male cultures. And yes, some of them actually are, at least to some extent, as many gay men do not share your hostility towards girlfags and let them in. There are a lot of girlfag/gay man friendships out there.

    Finally: No one can fully understand the life of another. No one can fully understand the culture of another. But we cannot let that be an excuse to erect new barriers, forbidding persons to explore their own identities in relation to other groups, cultures and languages.

    Should gay men falling in love with straight men be forbidden to do so, as they are "fetishizing heterosexuality"? Should straight men and straight women stop trying to understand and love each other, because they have been raised differently? Of course not!

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