The issue of whether or not the term SOFFA (Significant Others, Friends, Family & Allies) is used throughout the trans community to describe people like me came up recently in an online discussion group, so I thought I’d share here a list of the terms that are used. Keep in mind this list is drawn from my own experience online & in person, in co-moderating partner support groups at conferences, & in my various conversations with others “like me” in the trans universe.
Historically speaking, it was pretty apparent especially when I first went online as a trans partner, nine years ago or so, that if I found “SOFFA” support I would be quite on my own as a historically-heterosexual female partner of an emerging MTF, & was often directed to more Tri-Ess type organizations when/if I did find them.
So just for the sake of it, here’s some other terms & the way (in my experience) they breakdown in use:
- SO - most often used to describe the female partner of a CD or MTF of CDing experience
- SOFFA - partner/friend/ally of (predominantly) FTM (not pronounced like the furniture, but like the O in hot)
- partner - seems to be used by both
- chaser/admirer - again, out of MTF spaces, for (mostly) the guys who date/seek out sex with CDs or pre op/non op MTFs. “chaser” is the pejorative; “admirer” is used when their attention is appreciated by the trans person in question.
- trans-am(orous), transsensual - terms that come out of the FTM universe, for women who date/seek out sex/relationships with FTMs - often intentionally *not* used by FTMs due to the fetishistic connotation, though I find it’s quite a radical idea to describe women who desire MTFs (there aren’t so many of us, so fetishization doesn’t seem to be an issue!)
- Of recent coinage, which some partners seem to respond to, is NQAL (pronounced “nickel”)- for Not Quite a Lesbian. Used by those of us who either are lesbians but are with FTMs who are stealth, & also by female partners who are heterosexual but are viewed as lesbians when our MTFs transition/crossdress.
- One of the reasons I don’t use SOFFA is exactly because lumping together those who date/partner with trans people is already such a mixed bag of people, & because the term can be off-putting to allies who aren’t dating trans people to be seen as only being there for the sexual/romantic partnerships. Also, because there is a big difference between an ally who is trans am & the partner of an MTF or FTM who is transitioning after years of a long term relationship. (The mutual scorn can be palpable.)
- As support group practice (at least at the LGBT center in manhattan) has dictated, putting the parents/family of trans people in the same room with partners/admirers/trans-am people is pretty disastrous as well.
- PFLAG’s trans support is referred to as TNET, though I often just use TFLAG (for families of trans).