- Sexual orientation describes your physical, romantic, or emotional attraction to other people.
- Research shows that sexual orientation can change after a transgender person transitions.
- Research supports the idea that sexual orientation and gender are more fluid than fixed for many people.
- Transgender people may be more likely to experience changes in sexual orientation after transition due to physical and hormonal changes or because they feel more at home in their bodies.
- eDrugstore offers a variety of educational resources, services, and products to support you in having happier, healthier relationships.
If you’ve experienced changes to sexual attraction or orientation at some point in your life, you’re not alone. Many people experience changes to how they identify throughout their lives. Transgender people may be more likely to experience changes in sexual orientation than cisgender people.
Many transgender people report changes in sexual orientation after transition. This isn’t shocking, as both gender and sexual orientation can shift throughout your lifespan. This means that anyone can experience changes to who they are (or aren’t) attracted to, regardless of their gender identity.
Transgender people experience a variety of changes throughout their gender transition.
This may include changes to:
- Medical needs
- Mental health
- Physical appearance
- Sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction
This is a natural result of your body going through hormonal and physical changes. Some people compare gender transition to going through puberty for a second time. When someone’s body feels more congruent with their identity, they may feel more confident and comfortable exploring what these changes mean for their sense of self.
Can Sexual Orientation Change After Transition?
Since the early 1990s, research has supported the idea that sexual orientation can change during or after gender transition. Not only can this happen, but it seems to be a common occurrence. Many of the reported changes include shifting from attraction to one gender to shifting to attraction to more than one gender.
How Common Are Changes to Sexual Orientation?
Research suggests that transgender people are more likely than cisgender people to report changes to their sexual orientation. Though this is common, not every transgender person will experience changes to sexual attraction during transition.
In one study, researchers surveyed 115 Dutch transgender people to determine if sexual orientation shifted during gender transition. The researchers found that 33 percent of trans women and 22 percent of trans men reported changes to their sexual orientation. They did not identify a trend as to when these changes occurred during the transition process.
A 2015 study of transgender and gender non-conforming people found similar results. The researchers surveyed participants about their sexual orientation across the lifespan. Out of 452 participants, more than 58 percent of participants reported significant changes to their sexual orientation within their lifetime.
When Do Sexual Orientation Changes Occur?
The 2015 study found that 49 percent of trans masculine and 64 percent of trans feminine respondents experienced changes to their sexual orientation during transition. Most participants reported experiencing these changes after social transition.
Researchers from the Dutch study weren’t able to identify a trend in when changes occurred during the transition process. However, they did find that some participants reported changes to sexual orientation prior to beginning transition.
What Are the Most Common Sexual Orientation Changes Reported?
Most research shows changes in attraction from one exclusive gender prior to transition to attraction to more than one gender following transition. However, some research has shown a more significant shift in sexual attraction among transgender adults. For example, a transgender person may be predominantly attracted to women prior to transition but predominantly attracted to men post-transition. The reverse may also occur.
A study of 232 American trans women who had completed surgical and hormonal transition showed dramatic shifts from attraction to one predominant gender to the opposite gender after transition. Prior to transition, 54 percent of participants were primarily attracted to women and 9 percent were primarily attracted to men. Following transition, only 25 percent of participants were primarily attracted to women and 34 percent were primarily attracted to men.
Gaps in the Research
Most of the research conducted in this area has focused on sexual attraction toward men or women, without accounting for attraction to transgender or gender non-conforming people. Surveys on sexual orientation may also leave out agender and asexual individuals. Advocates from the LGBTQ+ community have spoken out about how sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) questions aren’t inclusive of sexual orientation and gender fluidity.
Why Causes Sexual Orientation Change After Transition?
Like many self-labels people use in their lives, the label you use to describe your sexual orientation may change with time. For transgender people, this may be more likely. Experts haven’t identified the exact reason why this happens, but there are several leading theories that help explain the shift.
Many people assume that changes to sexual orientation can be traced directly back to hormonal changes. Sex hormones, like testosterone and estrogen, do play an important role in attraction, arousal, and sexual function. However, the hormonal changes a transgender person experiences during transition wouldn’t account for shifts in sexual orientation alone.
Many transgender people undergo hormonal therapy while receiving gender-affirming care. Not all transgender people experience changes to their sexual orientation during this process. Some transgender people also report changes to sexual orientation prior to beginning hormone therapy.
Research does suggest that people undergoing hormonal therapy are likely to experience changes to their levels of sexual desire (or libido). However, these changes are likely to be temporary, typically only affecting people during the early stages of transition.
Sexual Orientation Is Fluid
Sexual orientation isn’t a fixed construct. This means that some people may identify with the same label throughout their lives, while others may identify with more than one label. Longitudinal research supports the idea that sexual orientation can shift over time, regardless of gender.
A study recently published in the Journal of Sex Research demonstrates that many people experience changes to their sexual attractions and identities well into adulthood. Researchers found that women were more likely than men to report fluid sexuality. They also found that people who identified as straight were the least likely to report changes to their sexual orientation over time.
Gender congruence describes the feeling of your body and identity being aligned. Research shows that adolescents undergoing transition experience fewer mental health challenges when they report higher levels of gender congruence.
Feeling as if your body isn’t aligned with your identity can contribute psychological, emotional, physical, and social barriers to sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction. As transgender people transition, they often feel more comfortable with and at home in their bodies. Gender congruence can empower transgender people to explore their sexual orientation in a new way.
Be a Better Ally
Having a label to describe your gender or sexual orientation can feel validating and exciting. However, many LGBTQ+ people still experience stigma, bias, and discrimination. Transgender people who are undergoing a shift in their sexual orientation may need additional support and affirmation from their loved ones.
Learning how to be a good LGBTQ+ ally can go a long way in supporting your loved ones.
Better Relationships with eDrugstore
At eDrugstore, we’re committed to providing people of all genders with the resources they need to have happier and healthier relationships. We offer evidence-based advice on a variety of health and relationship topics. Take advantage of a free consultation with our U.S.-licensed physicians for sexual health or erectile dysfunction challenges.
Shelby is a public health professional with research and field experience in sexual and reproductive health. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).