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Navigating Scruff as a Trans Latino

Mar 27, 2017

About a month ago, I downloaded Scruff, a gay dating app similar to Grindr, in my continuing search for attention from guys. I had read online that the app allows users to tag themselves as “transgender,” so I decided to try it out. I wasn’t expecting much, and was nervous that I’d get a flood of negative attention, especially because I haven’t had any surgery and haven’t ever taken testosterone.

I used the app for a few weeks, after which I deleted it because I was getting more unsolicited dick pics than I had ever thought I would. It was very fun while it lasted, however, and I got the attention that I was looking for. Much to my surprise, I didn’t receive any messages along the lines of “you’re really a girl” or “why are you on this app?” like I instinctively expected, and have heard tales of from other trans guys.

I’ve only been out as a trans guy since September of 2016, and had never been active in a gay and bisexual male dating scene before trying Scruff, so using the app raised a lot of questions for me in regards to fetishization both of my trans identity and of my Latinidad. To be fair, many of the men on the app were incredibly polite and conscientious about my gender, but some men asked me invasive questions about my genitals, breasts, and hormones in our first conversations, or noted that they liked “boys with pussies.” Some cis men noted that they were only interested in trans men in their profiles. Some men made comments that highlighted their fetishization of my Latino identity, like the man who said, “I like little Latin boys like you.” 

Honestly, I don’t know how to feel about the fetishization of my trans body. I know, intellectually and because of my experience with fetishization of my Latinidad, that I should not feel good about people fetishizing my transness. But there is something flattering and intoxicating about the notion of someone finding my transness sexy, because, admittedly, I have never thought of my trans body as sexy. 

I struggle, like a lot of trans people, to see myself as sexy. This is mostly because of dysphoria, and partly because my body, pre-op and pre-T, doesn’t conform to the image of (cis) male sexiness that just exists in the world. Until recently I thought my transness would forever be seen as an obstacle at best and repulsive at worst. As much as I hate to say it, it feels good to have my sex appeal validated by cisgender men. 

Fetishization of my ethnicity and my brownness angers me in a way that fetishization of my transness does not. Maybe it’s because I’ve been experiencing fetishization for my Latinidad my whole life: when I identified as a woman, even when I was very young, I received comments from white family members, friends, and strangers that made me aware that my ethnicity was supposed to make me a sex object. I also consumed media and experienced social conversations that fetishized Latinas and Latinxs in general. Some of my earliest memories surrounding ethnicity involve comments made by white people close to me on the inherent hypersexuality of Latinxs, and the supposed inclination of Latino men to raping and harassing (white) women.

I partially credit the supposed violent and predatory hypersexuality of Latinos for why I did not come to terms with my identity as a trans man until after I turned nineteen, after a couple years of exploring a feminine nonbinary identity. It was ingrained in me that Latin American men were predators and popularly seen as predators. I did not want to be “one of them.” Now, I proudly identify as a gay Latino trans man, but it’s been a fraught journey to this point.

I do feel some discomfort that my gender identity would be listed as a “type” among other words like “bear,” “muscle,” “twink,” “college,” and others. Overall, I appreciate the inclusion of a “transgender” tag for your profile on this dating app, because it weeds out the men who aren’t interested in trans men. My presence on Scruff was not questioned, and I think that might be to the credit of the fact that no one would feel “tricked” by me. Allowing me to tag my profile as “transgender” gave me the opportunity to put that information out there at the start rather than having to reveal it later and possibly put myself in an unsafe situation.

What it feels like for me, as a trans Latino in the hookup scene, is that my sexuality is not my own, and is not up to my determination. It never has been, and that has been made painfully obvious to me by my experiences before and after coming out. People see my body as something they can claim, or something they can objectify and separate from me. In general, I think I would recommend Scruff to trans guys, even trans guys of color, but we all need to be aware that sometimes the people who show us attention aren’t seeing us as people (as if we really need to be reminded).

To all the trans guys of color who might be reading this--be careful out there.

 

Sandro Ortega-Riek is a Nicaraguan-American poet and essayist living in California. His work can be found online at ortegariekpoetry.tumblr.com.

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