Friday, May 11, 2012

Cis Lesbian Dismissal of Trans Lesbians, and Why it's Wrong

Ying posed the following scenario/question: "Recently, I heard a lesbian woman comment about a trans woman (who happens to be a lesbian). She said the transwoman was not "really" a lesbian like she was. It was upsetting to me. No one can define another person's identity, right? It seemed so petty, too. What skin is it off her nose anyway? What are your thoughts on people not accepting a trans person's sexual orientation as being valid?"

Something to consider is going into this is that even though many of the LGB portion of our acronym are supportive and allies, that makes them no less cisgender. Just like any non-LGB person, they're acting from a position of cis privilege, and don't understand the implications of their actions, because, frankly, they don't have to think about it much. We pop up once in a while, in a single circumstance here or there, and that's generally the extent of it. And while they're our allies for political purposes, I've come to find in my experience that LGB people are often woefully ignorant of the issues of the transgender community they support. Which is no surprise, really: We're a vastly smaller group, a minority within our lgbt minority, so appropriately less time is spent on issues relating to us. (Just a shout-out to the LGBTU student group at The University of Akron, as they break this trend and give trans issues a much larger chunk of the spotlight than we deserve by population, because they've recognized the importance of these topics. Well done on them)

So what does this mean for the lesbian in question? Well, she's invalidating our trans lesbian's identity, plain and simple. By saying she's not 'really' a lesbian, she's implying an awful lot, and none of it is good. First and foremost, let's go ahead and define "Lesbian": a lesbian is a woman* who is attracted exclusively to other women*. Pretty simple definition, right? Well the two key elements are "Woman" and "Attracted exclusively to other women". By saying she's 'not really a lesbian' she has to be excluding our trans lesbian from one of the two criteria: and since, presumably, the trans lesbian has been with, or is currently with another woman, and has shown no interest in men, we can assume that 'Attracted to other women' is true. This means the only remaining conflict is in fact, our trans lesbian's womanhood. There's no other way around it.

Nobody else can define you but you. Labels are tools that you apply to yourself, and are not end all be all, but if the trans lesbian identified as trans lesbian, then she's a trans lesbian. It's not particularly up for debate.

As far as her actions, not petty so much as it's cissexist. It's a person, in their seat of privileged power, defining someone of a marginalized minority, which of course they feel free to do, because we're clearly not better informed of our own identities than they are. And yes, people may point out that "We're all LGBT here, I'm not discriminating" but the fact is, even though you're a part of the marginalized "L G or B" subgroup, transpeople are a step even lower on the ladder. And the trait that makes marginalized is one that you do not share with us. We are trans, you are cis. You have cis privilege.

The metaphorical 'skin off her nose' is she'd have to think about trans women more critically, and actually admit that they deserve their right to womanhood as well as the right to their own autonomy - particularly regarding their identity. This is admitting that she can no longer pick and choose how to define a trans woman as she sees fit. This is a problem because for most LGB people, they're completely fine with trans people, up to the point where it becomes a matter of sexual orientation (I.E. Something they define themselves with and take very seriously), and more specifically, their sexual orientation. It's not petty, no, it's lazy.

Just a thought exercise, for any LGB folk reading this. If a Trans* person, compatible with your sexuality(I.E. Trans man if you're gay, trans woman if you're lesbian) wanted to date you, would you say yes? I'm guessing most of you knee-jerked and said 'no'. Examine why, ask yourself why, and realize that there's a good chance you're invalidating their identity of trans people implicitly by saying so.  Even if you help them politically in debates, stand up for them from bullies, it's telling of what you *really* think if it hits close to home and you say "ew, no". Chew on that for a bit, maybe you'll come to some realizations.

And before the inevitable genital argument arises, is that really what you look for in a partner? Is it really the genitals? I've never ever heard someone say "that's a mighty sexy penis you've got there" Or "My what a lovely vagina you have" It's ludicrous. To imply that it's completely irrelevant would be untrue, but to claim that you're utterly unwilling because of this fact is... well, depressing. What if, for instance, a gay cis male came to date a gay cis male, and the latter was found to have been victim of a botched circumcision. Would you instantly dump him because he doesn't have the coveted penis? It's not to say sex is unimportant, but there's more than one way to skin a cat.

I'm going to go ahead and go out on a limb, because I think this is a general issue that plagues the thought processes of people who are trans, as well as people who don't understand trans lesbians, by clarifying once again the basic concept: Sexual Orientation and Gender are INDEPENDENT from each other. People have this fallback expectation that it's a definitive aspect of a woman that she be attracted to men. People further have a definitive aspect of a man that they are attracted to women. (This is heterosexual privilege but go with me here) Basically, since people believe these binaries are the 'normal' baseline, they expect someone who's 'just trans' to be following said baseline. I.E. if you want to be woman, a part of it MUST be that you're attracted to men. (This is also because people falsely try to rationalize why a guy would want a gender change and instantly assume it's sexually motivated). This is what leads people to say such ignorant things as "Well, if you're into guys, can't you just be gay instead?" or this gem: "If you like women, what's the big deal? You're a guy just like anyone else!"

These dismiss the fact that it's not their sexual attraction that bothers them, it's their gender, their body, their social role, etc. You aren't a 'more legit' trans woman if you're into guys, you're a straight trans woman (this argument is commonly framed "Trannier than thou"). Likewise, people shouldn't come to expect that being a transwoman comes with the baggage that you must like men. Likewise likewise, people should absolutely NOT be using a transgender lesbian's sexual orientation as some sort of 'proof' that she must be a guy. This is equating "wants to screw women" with "is a man". It reinforces the notion that being male is screw women ( and actually is homophobic - as any gay man will tell you, they are very much men, and are very much into other men).

A corollary of this is gender presentation. In my own case, for instance, I don't dress super fem - I wear a v-neck t-shirt and pants most days. That doesn't make me any less of a woman, and it would be just as wrong to imply that I'm not a woman because of my manner of dress. (Passing while wearing less feminine clothes is a whole other story, but the principle is still relevant).

Something to consider as a litmus test in this sort of situation is to ask yourself: If the person were cisgender, would I be scrutinizing X aspect of their person so harshly? In the case of the original scenario, were the trans lesbian a cis lesbian, her sexuality would have never been called into question. It's discriminating against a trans person because they're trans. This applies to anything. Telling a trans person "Well why don't you wear makeup? real women wear makeup" is silly, because if she were cisgender, you'd never suggest that she were not a real woman (though you might politely express that she'd look better with it).

 That doesn't mean you shouldn't help your trans friend with some social norms they may not be accustomed to, but please try to not come of as patronizing or cissexist (I.E. I'm a real girl, here let me teach you). Many of us who're just beginning hormones are experiencing a second puberty - and much like the first, it comes with awkwardness, confusion, and learning what's expected of you. Understanding that they ARE women, just, in terms of social constructs, inexperienced women, is key. (In that way, its more like teaching your 13 year old cousin than a 'guy becoming a girl')

Basically at the end of the day, cisgender people are conveniently overlooking sexual orientation as being fluid for the sake of using it as proof that they don't have to consider someone's gender identity. It's heteronormative, and just as insulting to homosexuals as it despicable that it's being weaponized against transgender people.

The only alternative to the above is if she mentally created a third category for trans women, but that's incorrect. Trans women are women who are trans. They're not a third category.

Quote of the day: "Searching for the answer's a lonely quest, but the act is liable to bring out your best" Bad Religion, Someone to Believe

-Lyn

(As always, if you have any questions you would like me to address, please put them in the comments section. It is a seriously big help to me, and you get your question examined by me!)

@ Orangeban: Your question has been answered by someone else already, and I don't much feel I have anything I could add to the discussion. You can find a link to their article in the comments section of the "How to be a Trans Ally" post.

28 comments:

  1. Thank you! You even answered the "skin off the nose" question. This makes me want to explore cis privilege further.

    -Ying

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  2. Thank you for linking to that post, that did answer my question.

    Here's something I was thinking about today, what do you think about people from the Otherkin communities comparing their experiences of dysphoria with their own species to the experiences of trans* people?

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  3. Biological sex =/= Gender.

    I'm a male-to-female trans person. In terms of sexual orientation I am technically "bisexual" although that doesn't say much about my preference really. I'm in a relationship with a cisgender male.

    I am genetically and biologically MALE. I always have been. I always will be. Regardless of any surgical, hormonal or other interventions that I have taken or may undertake in the future. Including SRS.

    Lesbians who object to trans women in lesbian spaces are NOT concerned with the free-for-all social construct of gender. They are concerned with biological sex. To regard that as "cis privilege" is bizzare IMO.

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  4. I identify as xyz. "No, you don't identify as xyz." Well, actually I do. "You aren't xyz." I didn't say I was, as xyz isn't a thing, it's an identity. "Well, you're not xyz, but I *am*." I see, you are xyz, and you don't see me as the same as you in that regard.

    I guess I can't help but seeing the person disagreeing as being someone like me who for whatever reason has their own identity threatened by my identification. I definitely think that identity is important, but it seems more like a thought than a physical fact, since identities are intangible things with interesting feelings that go along with them. That's not to say there isn't a physical basis, just that it's not merely something physical. (just my thoughts on the matter; toss if they disagree in an imposing way)

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  5. I have such a difficult time finding a partner because
    as a trans lesbian and am pre-op, straight women do
    prefer cis-men and lesbians prefer cis-women. The genitals
    do have a role in the selection of partners. Unfortunately
    this narrows down the number of potential partners I can
    attract, to almost zero. So, what should I do? Where can I
    go to find the right people?

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  6. Biological sex = Gender

    Gender =/= Assigned sex

    Biological sex =/= Assigned sex

    There. Fixed that one for you, becoming trappy. If you want to marinate in internalized cissexism, fine, but don't expect me to join you.

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  7. I know that this is old, but it's not her fault she's only attracted to other (cis)lesbians. Being a (cis)lesbian woman myself, we shouldn't be guilt-tripped into dating translesbians. If we aren't sexually attracted to translesbians, then we're not transphobic. I'm sorry that you feel "oppressed" by us lesbians, but if our (cis)vaginas aren't 'pinging' for you, then it doesn't make us transphobic. It simply means we aren't sexually attracted to you. And so what if we don't want to date you after you reveal you are trans. Our reasons are our reasons, noone should have to question it. It seems like everything we (cis)lesbians do, it's somehow transphobic. And before you say something like " who cares about what they have in their pants," well let me tell you this , when it comes to sex then 'yes' it does matter. If you still have a penis, whether it's "female-identified" or not, to us it's still a penis. I, and maybe most lesbians, do not find it sexually attractive and therefore we are not bigots nor are we transphobic for it. Even if you do bottom surgery, it still doesn't change the fact that you were born as a male-assigned at birth. Your definition and our definition of what a woman, female or lesbian do not match up. Vasically if you do not fit our criteria of what woman, female or lesbian is, then we are not compatibale. Sorry for the long paragraph, but I felt that this needed to be said about why most (cis)lesbians aren't interested in translesbians as partners. Again, I'm not trying to be a bigot or transphobic. I'm only stating reasons as to why we most of us (cis)lesbians won't date translesbians. I hope you all have a good day.

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    1. So you'd rather date a transman than a transwomen bc of penis/vagina.

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    2. Hear hear, same with heterosexual men. We like our women to be women. Not something that was rebuild in any way to look like a woman. Also i am surprised about the mental versus physical bullshit. Let me tell you a secret, if you are a man, you smell like a man you feel like a man an your pheromones tell my spidey senses that you are a man. regardless dick or no dick. Also i am not a cis man and anonymous is not a cis woman. I am a man, she is a woman and only trans is trans. Woman and man says it all, no cis needed there.

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  8. ^I wrote that. I meant * Basically. Sorry for the mistype.

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  9. Hey your blog is cool. I read a few posts and I liked them.
    I have found my partner here
    http://www.angelreturn.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. "I, myself am a pre-operative transLesbian. I HATE being misidentified as a gay man, bisexual man, and (in some cases) 'inhuman'. Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against gay men, bi men or anything like that! But, my life has been a living Hell ever since I came out and began my transitioning process. I am having a hard time getting my HRT and SRS/GRS surgery approved and covered financially, I can not believe how astronomically expensive the physical cutting (surgery) is! Anyway, I could go on and on here, but I will leave it at that. Furthermore I will lastly say that I am proud to be a member of this movement in America and worldwide today and can totally relate to all of this being discussed here right now! Stay strong sisters!"

    "Thanks!"

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    1. You are a heterosexual man rebuild to look like a woman. You are not and never will be a lesbian, simply because 1. you are a man, 2. you are a transexual man. A lesbian is a woman, you are not, you only look like one.

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  11. Cis lesbians date me, a transwoman, all the time. I am 18, post op, 5'1 tall, very pretty, have hips, hourglass torso, had voice feminization done and i didnt need facial feminization at all.

    I pass as biological female 100%.
    I have a cis girlfriend now and have several others who want to be with me. None of them have a clue about me either, i tell no one.
    Maybe i will someday but prolly not.

    So to the cis lesbian up there, you are dumb. Some of us are passing so well, you literally cannot tell unless we disclose it. People like you always want to be with people like me. Sorry but its the truth.

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    1. You can't say what TRUTH is when by your own statement everything your doing is a lie. Lesbians wanna date you, your lying to get them to date you. Truth & honesty are no where in your world, how dare to dictate to someone else something your not doing.

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    2. You can't say what TRUTH is when by your own statement everything your doing is a lie. Lesbians wanna date you, your lying to get them to date you. Truth & honesty are no where in your world, how dare to dictate to someone else something your not doing.

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    3. And trannies like you are surprised that trans "women" get killed a lot? Well Hailey its your type exactly that it happens most to.... wonder why.....

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  12. As a gay man I do not feel attracted to pre-op trans gay men bc they are not physically men. It's not bigoted or transphobic it's just I'm attracted to men and that includes their anatomy. If it were a post-op trans gay man then I wouldn't mind because not only are they the same gender, but they are also the same sex. Just like how I wouldn't date a pre-op trans mtf because even though they are the same sex, they aren't the same gender. It doesn't make me sexist or cissexist because I'm gay. I'm just strictly dickly and not interested in vagina. I'm not even attracted to gay men who resemble females because I simply am not attracted. Do you get it? I don't want to be looked as prejudice, but I can't help it if I'm not attracted to anyone who is physically female. I'll support you no matter what, but let it be known that my orientation is sexually, physically, mentally, emotionally based. You gotta be a male in all aspects. Sorry it's just how I feel.
    -Julio

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    1. Dude, nothing wrong with you, skip the word cis and nevermind trans in any form or shape. You are gay, homo, you want hair and a nutsack. Not a smoothskinned girlish tranny with or without a designer penis and an attempt to grow a beard. You are gay, be proud of it (like i am straight and want my vagina and nothing else)

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  13. "And before the inevitable genital argument arises, is that really what you look for in a partner? Is it really the genitals? I've never ever heard someone say "that's a mighty sexy penis you've got there" Or "My what a lovely vagina you have" It's ludicrous."
    If you have never heard gay males talking about cock and all its beauty, you have never been to a gay club. Similarly, if you haven't heard straight males talk about pussy and how tight, wet, loose, good or whatever other way they describe their experience with pussy, you have lived a very sheltered life.

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    1. "If you have never heard gay males talking about cock and all its beauty, you have never been to a gay club. "

      Very good point. Genitals are immensely important in sex. I definitely get very turned on by cocks and will talk about this in the right company. I'm a heterosexual woman and I wouldn't dream of starting a sexual relationship unless my man had a fully functioning penis. Can't be doing with sex toys.

      I'm also very into giving oral sex and most lesbians are too. I've read some steamy accounts of just how much woman love their lover's vulva, her muscular sexual response, taste, colour, scent, etc...

      A neovagina isn't going to satisfy a lesbian with her face in it. I imagine only a certain, rather dull sort of man would find a surgically created pouch satisfactory. The sort who want basic PIV and don't want to look too closely.

      A recent study of the microflora found in penile skin-lined neovaginas observed that, although it wasn't what the team were studying, a foul smelling discharge was noticed in most of those studied. And that's apart from all the other major downsides. So I quite understand why transwomen keep their dicks. I just wish they wouldn't try to hassle lesbians with them.

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  14. Lesbians are female homosexuals, exclusively sexually and romantically attracted to their own biological sex: vulvas, clitorises, female voices, faces, hands, taste and smell. Transwomen don't qualify, regardless of body mods or how much lesbian porn they watch. Reality's a bitch. People can't change sex.

    If you have, or had, a penis, lesbians aren't going to find you sexually attractive. This, sadly, doesn't stop some transwomen from bullying or shaming lesbians into sex. A particular, very unpleasant, type of transwoman sees sex with lesbians as the ultimate validation of their womanhood and cry "transphobia" when called on this blatant attempt to ignore lesbian boundaries and desire. Lesbians are revolted and angered by this.

    Describing homosexual orientation as "transphobic" is ridiculous. Lesbians should laugh in your face. If refusing to sleep with transwomen is transphobic that implies that for me, a het woman, to refuse to sleep with lesbians would be homophobic. Except it's not. Sexual desire isn't any sort of phobia. Sexual boundaries are never up for discussion. No one owes anyone sex, and "no" is a complete sentence.

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  15. How dare a trans woman dictate to a biological lesbian that she must accept the penis as a part of womanhood when they don't accept it themselves. It's ridiculous.
    I am a lesbian woman that will never have an intimate relationship with a trans individual. Does that mean I hate them, no. Does that mean i won't be friends or enjoy a nice lunch with a trans woman, no. It does mean however I am grown and I can make any decision I want about my intimate life without anyone TRYING to bully mean to their discretion.

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    1. Don't worry Doecha. Same here, i am a straight man and i wouldn't do a trans woman either. we want our Pamela or angelina, not Bruce....

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  16. How dare a trans woman dictate to a biological lesbian that she must accept the penis as a part of womanhood when they don't accept it themselves. It's ridiculous.
    I am a lesbian woman that will never have an intimate relationship with a trans individual. Does that mean I hate them, no. Does that mean i won't be friends or enjoy a nice lunch with a trans woman, no. It does mean however I am grown and I can make any decision I want about my intimate life without anyone TRYING to bully mean to their discretion.

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  17. My advice to all trannies out there. Do you have a penis, find a liberal heterosexual woman or a liberal bisexual man. Have a vagina? Find a liberal straight man or a liberal bisexual woman. Stay away from gay people or a non liberal heterosexual man like myself. We, yes i identify also with gay people, are very very fixed and strong willed in what we want. There are no ifs and buts. Are we transphobic, no we just dont fuck em. Are we bigots, maybe i don't know, still wouldn't fuck em though.Call us whatever you want, you still don't get in our pants. If you keep that in mind, then we can all live happely together. Btw the word liberal was used on purpose, because it is also the liberals who came up with all this bs anyway. I am btw not a cis man. I am a man, defined by x and y chromosomes, aka a man.

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