Dating While (Apparently) Transphobic

by cacophonies

Note: I tried to avoid jargon as much as possible for anyone new to transgender issues, but sometimes it is just easier. For anyone unsure, cis means non-trans; one’s gender identity and physical sex “match” what is found on one’s birth certificate. Trans is used here to encompass anyone whose gender identity does not match the sex that the person was assigned at birth.

Feministe has just introduced their summer guest bloggers, one of whom is Queen Emily of Questioning Transphobia. Queen Emily laid down some ground rules about the types of comments she would and would not allow, since blogs about trans issues on larger feminist blogs tend to get frequently derailed with 101-style questions about anything trans-related.

Naturally, the post lead to some ridiculous comments that directly contradicted the rules listed on her introductory post.

…One derail, however, got a few snotty replies, and got me thinking.

Commenter Melancholia asked:

Is it transphobic if a cis person will not date a trans?

The answers were pretty much the same across the board:

GallingGalla: “is it self-defense if a trans person will not date a cis person who asks questions like this?”

Kristin: “Yes, you dumbass, it’s transphobic.”

little light: “No on account of we have gross cooties. Perfectly understandable and stuff!”

gudbuytjane: “Oh, and not dating someone because they were a trans woman (which is usually the issue, now) is not only transphobic, it’s kinda foolish, because a lot of us are pretty damn hot.”

There were more, of course. All of them agreed that, yes, deciding not to date someone because they’re trans is transphobic.

The odd thing is that commenter abbyjean, who’s in agreement with the theories above, makes sure to educate the commentariat on the definition of transphobia from a pretty straightforward about.com article, which is: “Transphobia is an irrational fear of, and/or hostility towards, people who are transgender or who otherwise transgress traditional gender norms.”

(emphasis mine)

It really depends on how you look at it. If I find out that my prospective partner’s genatalia is quite a bit different that I had imagined it would be, and that part of their body was important to me (say, if I had a desire for biological children with my significant other), then I do not see the problem with no longer being interested in pursuing a romantic relationship. With that particular example, the same decision would be justified with two cis people.

I get it, I see how people who believe that this is transphobic are waiting for me to remark specifically on the way that trans women’s or men’s genitals are different, waiting for me to slip up and say something that insinuates that I assume that all trans men have vaginas, and that all trans women have penises, therefore disregarding their gender and giving them an identity that I choose for them. I’m not going to, because I know that that’s simply not the case. But to call a cisgender person transphobic for choosing not to be romantically involved with someone because they are trans is problematic on a number of levels:

It’s not about transphobia. It’s about sexual orientation.

I’m a heterosexual female, so I should therefore have the right to tell a woman that I don’t want to date her. I also have the right to desire biological children, which means that it cannot possibly be wrong for me to deny someone the privilege of being in a romantic relationship with me if they do not share that desire, or are unable to contribute to that desire.

Julia Serano wrote in “Love Rant,” a chapter in “Whipping Girl,” that she and a (presumably cis) male friend of hers had a discussion about how she would feel if her partner were to tell her that they were trans.

…he seemed surprised when I replied that I would not be bothered one bit. And it’s not that I would merely ‘tolerate’ a relationship with a trans woman. On the contrary, I would consider it an honor.”

Notice how Serano defaults to discussing trans women in her examples. She openly admits her sexual preference and orientation, but simultaneously demands that the rest of us forget our own.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. She has an admiration for what trans women go through, and she can certainly identify with trans women. She goes on to describe other details about her personal attraction to people. She, personally, would not be bothered if her partner were to inform her that they were going to transition to the opposite sex.

There’s nothing to worry about until she goes on, another page further, when her friend asks Julia (who identifies as a lesbian), “Well, what if you found out that the trans woman you were attracted to still had a penis?” Julia laughed, she says, and then told him:

I laughed and replied that I am attracted to people, not to dismembered body parts. And I would be a selfish, ignorant, and unsatisfying lover if I believed that my partner’s genitals existed primarily for my pleasure rather than her own.

She raises a decent enough point if you’re considering a couple that’s been together for a long time and one partner, unexpectedly to the other, comes out as trans, and all works out well, but her problem is that she can’t stop telling people who and what they should be attracted to, and why, and how. She is a millimeter away from telling homosexual people that everything they are fighting for is worthless and all in vain, because sexual orientation doesn’t exist.

Excluding examples of people who are freaked out by their prospective partner being trans, or people who think trans people are “gross,” “unnatural,” or any number of other things, I can think of a lot of examples where a person would decide not to date a trans person because they are trans:

Heterosexual cis woman whose (to her knowledge) heterosexual cis male husband informs her that he is trans, and will be transitioning to female. Her trans partner may or may not identify as a lesbian, or bisexual. This isn’t relevant. The cis woman is heterosexual; being with another woman is not in her sexual nature. This is not transphobic. This is telling the cis woman that she has no right to have a sexual preference, or orientation.

Or, the cis lesbian woman whose presumed female partner comes out as trans. Is she supposed to stop caring about how she’s attracted to females, and accept that she’s now with a male, which is in direct opposition to her natural inclination toward woman as romantic and/or sexual partners? Is that fair?

Or the cis person who finds out that a prospective partner is trans, and the cis person had a strong desire for biological children with their partner in the future. This is no longer (in most cases) possible with a trans partner. Is it now wrong for him or her to end the romantic partnership with the trans person in order to pursue their own goals or desires?

Find all the logical flaws in this post that you want, but to make it personal: I just can’t find a way to justify how it is appropriate to tell me that I am selfish and ignorant for liking the fact that my significant other has a penis, and not liking it so much if he decided to change that.

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49 responses to “Dating While (Apparently) Transphobic

  1. I agree that as far as dating/romatic attraction is concerned, it’s one area where gender discrimination is not only nearly universal, but generally regarded as acceptable and unproblematic. Nobody should be shamed for having the preferences they do.

    Telling someone you find them unattractive is another matter. Trans people. particularly transwomen, are subject to continual such messages, and yes it is oppressive.

    • Telling someone you find them unattractive is another matter. Trans people. particularly transwomen, are subject to continual such messages, and yes it is oppressive.

      No one’s arguing that. My examples only include the most well-intentioned of people, no malice involved, in any way.

  2. A very enlightening post, written with authority and sensitivity.

    What gets me about some of the feminists blogs is the way in which writers and commenters alike always have their fists up. And, they call Black women angry? They need to check the attitude. It does nothing to advance their agenda.

    • I know exactly what you mean. If it isn’t the blog’s groupspeak, they’re immediately on the defense. I mean, I’m on their side, in terms of my ideals and what I think needs to change in our society; there’s no reason to attack someone just because they raise a respectful and possibly naive question. Everyone needs a little healthy criticism once in a while, even apparently all-knowing feminist bloggers.

  3. As a trans woman I have some issues with what you are saying. The reasons that are “valid” for not wanting to date a trans person often mask other feelings and prejudices — “eww – gross – trans people are icky or scary or wierd – what will my friends / family / work think?” to name a few.

    Perhaps this will help. I could come up with dozens of “valid” reasons why I would never date someone who is African American, or why I would never date someone who has HIV, or someone who has a mental illness, or someone who is obese, or someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language — but if you look beneath the surface, perhaps a few of my reasons are valid, but most of the reasons are about my own internal prejudices. The same is true when one comes up with all sorts of reasons for why they wouldn’t date anyone who is trans (all millions and millions of us).

    I understand people are attracted to certain types of people, and you have the right to try to date the people you are attracted to. If you’re a gay man, for example, it’s okay to say how you’ll never date a woman. However, be prepared to be wrong. My partner is a gay man, he said he’d never date a woman and doesn’t find them attractive at all, and now he’s with me. Sometimes reality surprises. Best not to box yourself in, and be open to what the world has to offer.

    • I really appreciate your comment.

      I considered adjusting some of my language in the post after re-reading it at work today, because I realize I’ve left out some things. I wanted to really focus on the non-malicious reasons why someone may decide not to be with a trans person for that reason alone, because I took issue with Serano’s passage and shortly after reading it, I read that comment, and just couldn’t get it out of my head. What I really didn’t want to do was making it seem like I was arbitrarily attacking trans people as some kind of justification for not dating one. Which was why I was going to use a different example, about a cis man and cis woman, one is infertile, the other really wants biological children, etc., but realized it was after midnight and went to bed.

      I completely agree with what you’re saying about your partner, though, and other similar situations. This morning I considered the fact that great deal of people who may have thought that biological children or genitalia were more important than anything else when it came to a prospective partner, but, when faced with the idea of not being with their perspective or current partner any more because of it, can’t possibly consider those things to be as important any longer.

      My stance was basically that we shouldn’t be so harsh on non-malicious or non-phobic people if they choose to end a relationship or not date someone because they are trans. That it’s certainly not always based on a fear or repulsion. And that ending that prejudice was more important than blatantly insulting a group of completely well-intentioned and non-prejudiced people. Not just the ones that aren’t aware of their privilege, because I’m not arguing privilege, but the woman who just can’t imagine being with another woman, or the lesbian who is not the slightest bit interested.

      • It may very well be that, as a Black American, a man (I am a heterosexual female) who is of another race may not want to date me, precisely because I am Black. Is it racist? Yes. But, I accept that and move on. Not everyone is going to want to be with you, even if the person’s reasons are prejudiced. That person is entitled to be prejudiced against you. It is wrong and yucky, but, it is that person’s right.

        • I’ve been wondering a lot about interracial dating, in terms of racism, too. I’m not sure that I can compare it to what I think about “gendered” dating (for lack of a better term) though. If someone won’t date another person because of their race, it can only be because of negative prejudices, or relatives, friends, family opinions. You can definitely be attracted to “your own” race in general, but most people wouldn’t rule out a person of another race altogether, unless under a lot of societal or peer pressure, which is a poor excuse and invalid in my book.

          • To flip the script, as they say, I was in a six-month relationship with a White man. Despite the fact that he has dated Black women exclusively during his adulthood, he has serious, deep prejudices against Black people.

            But, to get back to your point, people do choose to date intra-racially as opposed to interracially, due to peer and societal pressure, and, again, it is their choice. Everybody cannot be enlightened.

          • To flip the script, as they say, I was in a six-month relationship with a White man. Despite the fact that he has dated Black women exclusively during his adulthood, he has serious, deep prejudices against Black people.

            It almost seems like the people most likely to display ridiculous amounts of privilege are the ones who are so quick to play the “but I know/date/gave birth to/am related to/said hi to someone who is…” card.

            It usually seems to mean that the people who think they have zero privilege to unpack actually have the most. I’m not leaving myself out of that, either.

          • It almost seems like the people most likely to display ridiculous amounts of privilege are the ones who are so quick to play the “but I know/date/gave birth to/am related to/said hi to someone who is…” card.

            While there is some truth in that, it can also been a prejudice.

          • Agreed, when you’re under attack, the best defense is assimilation.

          • cacophonies

            A prejudice to whom?

          • cacophonies

            …or from/as a result to whom?

          • It’s prejudicial to assume that a white person who refers to their black friend is necessarily playing the “I can’t be racist, some of my best friends are black” card.

          • If the man exclusively dated Black women but seemed to have “deep prejudices against Black people” he was likely a member of a special interest group, the ethno-guiltism crowd. That’s not really “flipping the script.”

        • incognegro,

          As a heterosexual white male, I tend to avoid black females as a prospective romantic partner mainly because I don’t feel like black women take me seriously. I truly believe this is more cultural than anything else because I have no personal aversion to skin color of any kind. I know of two black females who have coupled-up with Anglo-European men. Whereas the instances of black men pairing (or baby-daddying) with white women is much more common (although apparently frowned on in the “black community).

          Just a thought based on my personal experience.

    • As a trans woman I have some issues with what you are saying. The reasons that are “valid” for not wanting to date a trans person often mask other feelings and prejudices — “eww – gross – trans people are icky or scary or wierd – what will my friends / family / work think?” to name a few.

      “I’m not attracted to you” is sufficient reason to not to date someone. People should not have to justify their attractions.

      I understand people are attracted to certain types of people, and you have the right to try to date the people you are attracted to.

      There are limits, of course, to how hard you can try.

      On the other hand there is no limit to your right not to date someone you don’t find attractive.

      if you’re a gay man, for example, it’s okay to say how you’ll never date a woman.

      Then why is it not OK to say how you’ll never date a trans?

      • Daran: leaving the rest for others: you’d say “a trans -person-,” or “a trans woman” or “trans man,” respectively. “A trans” sounds like you’re talking about a toy robot or something.

      • From my non-trans perspective, I think it really depends on the reason why someone would not date a trans person. My argument was that it could be about sexual orientation, or other similar factors. It’s okay for a gay man to say he’ll never date a woman, because he is naturally inclined to be attracted to men. If that were the basis of the reason for not dating a trans person, then it’s not transphobic, but an issue of sexuality/orientation.

        • My problem with you saying sexual-orientation is that it (to me) implies that your saying that a trans woman isn’t really a woman or that a trans man isn’t really a man.

          • cacophonies

            Not at all. The examples that I used specifically were either when a person in a heterosexual relationship comes out as trans, and will be transitioning to the same sex/gender as their partner. That’s about sexual orientation, because the straight partner doesn’t want to be with a person of the same sex.

            The other examples had to do with fertility issues, which may or may not be an issue, depending on a number of different factors.

        • Sure, that’s a reason not to date a trans woman, but if our hypothetical gay man who’s attracted to men refuses to date a trans man, then he’s doing it purely on the basis of trans status, and I’d argue that’s transphobic.

          • cacophonies

            Or a straight man and a trans woman, or a trans man and a hetero woman, or a lesbian and a trans woman…

            I can see how it can be transphobic, but not how it is always transphobic.

  4. The problem people were having with her comment was

    a) treating QE like “Dear Trans Abby: Ask Me Anything!” even though she was pretty clear that she -wasn’t- there to do that

    b) why even ask?

    Because in my experience, you know, the impetus for asking this question is very rarely “I’m inundated with (trans women, men of color, fat women, lesbians, six foot models with their own yachts) hitting on me, and while gosh I don’t want to be -rude-, and they seem like perfectly nice people, the truth is I’m just not attracted to any of them. How do you give the “let’s just be friends” speech to hordes of the same population who happen to be after my hot body? After thirty or forty, it begins to get kind of uncomfortable.”

    You know?

    Assuming it’s really gone down this way, say, putting snark aside & going into the land of the realistic: a person to whom one is not attracted appears to be attracted to oneself. In general, the answer to this on an interpersonal level is “thanks but no thanks.” Justifications are rarely called for nor helpful. Neither are misguided attempts at mercy fucks, or dating, or whatever.

    If there -isn’t-even any such actual situation, then, well, I ask, why is this person throwing out this particular question at this particular juncture? In my experience, the answers to that have usually been along the lines of “stuff that is properly the asker’s issue but that the asker is attempting to lay on the population in question.”

    more bluntly, it reads like,

    “Hey, you’re a trans woman. Do I have permission to not be attracted to you? Or any trans woman? Not that I am or anything, I just wondered. I mean, does that make me prejudiced? Please say no. I feel the need for some sort of validation and/or absolution. I’m not really interested in whatever else -you- wanted to talk about, this is important.”

    hence, snarkage.

    Anyway.

    As I read it, no, Serrano isn’t saying that: she’s saying sexual orientation doesn’t boil down to genitalia. If it’s a dealbreaker for you, you know, well… it is. She’s saying it isn’t for her, and doesn’t automatically go along with “gender,” basically.

    • the impetus for asking this question is very rarely “I’m inundated with (trans women, men of color, fat women, lesbians, six foot models with their own yachts) hitting on me, and while gosh I don’t want to be -rude-, and they seem like perfectly nice people, the truth is I’m just not attracted to any of them. How do you give the “let’s just be friends” speech to hordes of the same population who happen to be after my hot body? After thirty or forty, it begins to get kind of uncomfortable.”

      Ha. The question did read like that. Although, in a (much) different setting, I think it would have been a valid question to ask. But it was not okay for him/her to assume that just because QE is trans, that she is opening herself up like a textbook for the world.

      As I read it, no, Serrano isn’t saying that: she’s saying sexual orientation doesn’t boil down to genitalia. If it’s a dealbreaker for you, you know, well… it is. She’s saying it isn’t for her, and doesn’t automatically go along with “gender,” basically.

      I would agree that sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily boil down to genitalia; however, I also don’t think it’s reprehensible if, for some people or many, it does. It’s just a preference, and not all people are locked into that preference, but the people who are aren’t bad or phobic because of it.

  5. or, more briefly, as I’ve thought when getting the “but you know I’m not gay, right?” from not at all anxious straight women:

    “Nobody asked you, ma’am, she said.”

  6. Or, put it this way: guy has “no fats, no fems” in his personal ad. Does he have the “right” to specify who he’s attracted to? Sure. Did he -need- to go out of his way to specify who he’s -not- attracted to? Well, his call, I -guess-, but; i

    s it reasonable to expect that no “fats” or “fems” are going to bristle at this? Even snark back? Think he’s a jerk? Even if in fact no, they wouldn’t -want- to belong to a club that didn’t want them as a member? particularly if this is a disclaimer one tends to see over and over again? Imo? Nope.

    • Good point. I can see how it is just plain rude to go out of your way to say what you’re not attracted to on a personal ad, or something of that nature, but it can probably prove to be a more efficient way of filtering out the people that you know you wouldn’t be attracted to.

    • belledame, I wholly agree with you. “No fats, no fems” is a statement that in no uncertain terms indicates “distaste” rather than taste. For example, why would anyone go to a restaurant and inform the server that they hate pork rather than informing them of the more relevant fact that they like beef.

      To say “I am attracted to tall men” is a far cry from stating “I am not attracted to short men.”

      This is such a good distinction you bring up that I am declaring it a rule:

      It is ALWAYS more considerate to state your taste over your distaste, because nobody should be (reasonably) hurt by your statement of taste unless it is a provocative statement such as “I am attracted to people who would burgle your grandmother and eat her canary.” Additionally, stating distaste in a situation that could be easily covered by a statement of taste is a clear statement of disapproval.
      There are, of course, exceptions to this, such as being coerced into a ride that looks scary, one can simply say “I hate rollercoasters” without having the burden of stating that they like solid ground and subsequently having to justify this against the coercive entity.

  7. I think the reason why those women took such issue with the question is that it came midway through what had been a frankly bizarre thread. People were asking stupid questions of me, like all it took was the mere presence of an open trans woman and they were free to ask whatever’s on their mind.

    The second point is the objectifying language of the question itself – “a trans.” Like we just don’t have genders like real people. The way the question is asked answers itself

    Knowing each of those people like I do, I would hazard a guess that like my own answer, they were being flippant, and rude. For good reason.

    And as someone said (I think Belledame222), it’s like well who asked you? I’ve lost track of the number of people, especially men, who assumed that I was interested in whatever filthy scenario they’ve cooked up, simply because I am trans. When yeah, I have a partner.

    So in the context of that particular thread, I could see why *no-one* took that question seriously, because it was stupid, irrelevant and pretty much insulting.

    To answer your question. Speaking for myself, and not as all-knowing representative of the trans community: it’s not necessarily transphobic to not date a trans person.

    One, their identified gender may not be the one which you are oriented towards. I do agree that a trans woman who transitions in the course of a relationship that began as heterosexual shouldn’t expect that her het female partner will stay attracted to her. It’s sad, but no-one has the right to define another person’s sexuality for them. You could *hope* that the person stays with you, but it may not happen.

    Two, a trans person may not click with you on a personal level, intellectually, emotionally. I know some extremely tedious trans women I’d never in a million years date, and some that are brilliant and sexy. Funnily enough, we’re actual people and not just this broad faceless community you can make a blanket call on dateability. That assumption *is* transphobic.

    The geography of our particular bodies, ok, again that is where you’re veering towards transphobic. Julia Serano’s making a particular kind of point, that genitals are not the be-all and end-all of sexual orientation. I think it’s a good point, and a necessary one given that that position (a trans women’s penis means she’s *really a man*) literally gets us killed (look at “trans panic”).

    To come back to the point about how we’re individuals, some people who fancy a trans person will find a way to work around or work through whatever issues they have with our distinctive body configurations, because they want to be with that particular person. However, if a woman with a penis or a man without is never going to be for you, then that’s sad, but we’re better off knowing up front anyway.

    • I think the reason why those women took such issue with the question is that it came midway through what had been a frankly bizarre thread. People were asking stupid questions of me, like all it took was the mere presence of an open trans woman and they were free to ask whatever’s on their mind.

      I was really, really confused about how people even thought it was appropriate to make those comments after reading your post. Even “well, she opened herself up to questions!” doesn’t make sense, because what you meant by that was very clear.

      Funnily enough, we’re actual people and not just this broad faceless community you can make a blanket call on dateability. That assumption *is* transphobic.

      No doubt.

      The second point is the objectifying language of the question itself – “a trans.” Like we just don’t have genders like real people. The way the question is asked answers itself

      Seriously, the language was really rude, regardless of whether or not the person commenting realized it. I wasn’t in any way condoning the commenter’s tone, or defending their right to ask that question on that post.

      The reason that I used that comment thread as a jumping-off point was mostly because of the excerpt from Serano’s book, which had bothered me for a long time. I wanted to blog about it, but couldn’t figure out how it was relevant, both to me personally, or any random reader that may stumble across the post. The comment thread, after that particular question, did interest me immediately, though, I admit. I was curious about what other trans people would think about that. Clearly, though, that was not the right place to have that discussion.

    • some people who fancy a trans person will find a way to work around or work through whatever issues they have with our distinctive body configurations, because they want to be with that particular person. However, if a woman with a penis or a man without is never going to be for you, then that’s sad, but we’re better off knowing up front anyway.

      You’re right, someone who is interested in someone who is trans would usually figure out how important their genitals or the way that they are perceived by the rest of the public (or their families/social groups/etc) and try to make it work. I was with a person who is trans for about two years, who came out to me a year into our relationship. I tried to make it work as best I could, and talked to a lot of (to quote Helen Boyd) “historically heterosexual” women, who were partners of trans women, who were all across the board in terms of sexuality and experience, but the general vibe I got was that these women wanted it to work and accepted their partner’s gender, even though they were heterosexual and would have a lot of re-orienting to do.

      I can’t claim to know anything about the trans man/partner dynamic in any combination, though. I assume there are a lot of differences.

  8. I receive the overwhelming majority of the privileges alluded to in this post and its comments. I am white, male, middle class, on the heterosexual half of the Kinsey scale, etc.

    Condemn me if you wish, but I find my aspiration to cast aside the misogyny and prejudices that I was socialized into challenging. I regularly receive a notable amount of social ostracization for acting on those convictions.

    I am not so naive to make any comparison between my “challenges” and the hell that others have been through because of who they are.

    But I read these comments, and if I understand what the bulk of you are suggesting… it is a moral failing if a person is unwilling to consider a romantic or sexual encounter/relationship with a transgendered person? Even if some of the motivation is to avoid social consequences?

    I get grief for not taking a very impaired woman home from the club, and there would be far more severe social implications for me to be romantically/sexually involved with a transgendered person.

    A person may being losing out on the possibilty of a beautiful and rewarding experience by closing themselves to the possibility of being involced with a transgendered person. However, I am not doing them any harm, and I suspect most transgendered people wouldn’t have much interest in being with someone who is too concerned with the social ramifications of being with them, to be with them. Are we right to condemn them? Perhaps, but not so harshly.

    That seems somewhat analogous to condeming a homosexual person for not being out, because they choose not to be.

    Everyone has to live life on their own terms and if that doesn’t include harming other people/life, than I say let them live however the hell they want.

    • However, I am not doing them any harm, and I suspect most transgendered people wouldn’t have much interest in being with someone who is too concerned with the social ramifications of being with them, to be with them. Are we right to condemn them? Perhaps, but not so harshly.

      I agree with you to an extent. Not dating someone because they are trans is not inherently bad, in my opinion, but the reasons that a non-trans person decided not to date a trans person may be. I assume by the tone of what you wrote that, were you to choose not to be romantically involved with a trans person for that reason alone, it would not be malicious, but there are many situations where it would/could be.

      • I assume by the tone of what you wrote that, were you to choose not to be romantically involved with a trans person for that reason alone, it would not be malicious, but there are many situations where it would/could be.

        I’m having great difficulty getting my head around the idea of “maliciously” not dating someone.

  9. I don’t think this went through the first time I posted:

    Do you have a tendency to question the heterosexual -and from what you say, presumably cis- men you date about whether or not they are fertile and capable of having biological children with you on the first date?

    At least, I assume you’re speaking of yourself. Perhaps I should rephrase and generalize that though.

    Does the hypothetical feminist who does not want to date trans people on account of the fact that she is heterosexual and wants biological children tend to make male infertility a dealbreaker?

    Furthermore, would *finding out* that a male partner were infertile lead hypothetical feminist to break off an otherwise good and fulfilling partnership?

    ‘Cause if so, that seems just about as fucked up as the rest of it is transphobic.

    P.S. I hope that you–I mean hypothetical feminist–has had her own fertility tests just to make sure *she* isn’t the problem… I mean, I’m all about freedom of choice and people having kids of they want ’em, but damn… What a profound intstrumentalization of people that is: “I oinly want you if you can give me children.” I wonder if adding “tactful” to my online handle might make it so?

    • I have the blog set to automatically put comments from first-time commenters into moderation. Any future comments you make will go through automatically.

      That said, please watch the tone in your comments; this blog was created with the intention of inviting respectful debate, and newbie questions– all with respectful tones.

      I answered most of your questions in replies to other comments, and minor edits within the post itself when I realized I wasn’t too clear on a few things, but I’ll try to clarify a little better here:

      I wasn’t attempting to speak on behalf of everyone that defines themselves as a feminist. While the theme of this blog is generally centered around feminism, other issues will naturally intersect with feminist goals and ideologies, and we’ll occasionally post something that doesn’t, at first glance, appear to be feminist in nature. I would argue, though, that trans issues are very much a feminist issue, as the point at hand is gender, and many women are trans.

      Do you have a tendency to question the heterosexual -and from what you say, presumably cis- men you date about whether or not they are fertile and capable of having biological children with you on the first date?

      Well, I don’t actually do this, and like I said above, I can’t possibly claim to speak on behalf of all people who identify as a feminist. But do I think it’s a valid reason for a cis person to not want to be involved with another cis person romantically? Absolutely. Personally, whether or not my partner is fertile is not important to me and would likely not affect my decision to be involved with them. Whether or not someone is trans wouldn’t necessarily change my mind either way, either, but I can say with relative certainty that I would probably be hesitant to be romantically involved with a trans woman, simply because I’m a heterosexual woman. But that’s the same as me saying that I am relatively certain that I also would not be likely to be romantically involved with a cis woman, either.

      I hope that you–I mean hypothetical feminist–has had her own fertility tests just to make sure *she* isn’t the problem…

      Like I said, fertility is not a deal-breaker for me. My post (I thought I made it clear; sorry if that wasn’t the case) was largely based on hypothetical situations (aside from the end, where I declared my appreciation for my significant other’s genitals). Also, if I was a person for whom fertility, and the desire for biological children with my partner were important, all of what I said could possibly just go right out the window, depending on the relationship. I could decide that being with my partner was much more important to me than biological children, after all. You never know.

      All I was trying to get at was that there are reasons that a person would not date a trans person that are not transphobic. There are, of course, many ways where it would be.

  10. I don’t know, advocating genital-enlightenment seems like an extra step for social mandates. I’m not hurt by women who don’t want anything to do with my penis just because they decided against penises. Although, I cannot claim that I have ever been in a situation where a woman expected me to have anything else down there.

    I recently had some gender-blurring experiences, some of them exclusively with my partner and some involving same/opposite-sex “joiners” and I can honestly say that I am much less binary in my orientational inhibitions. At the same time, however, my over-arching preference for heterosexual intercourse has only been heightened.

    Bonus confession: I am definitely aware of the potential for emasculation in these situations and it IS a source of anxiety. Or to be more frank, I do have a slight fear that even in times of role-play or homosexual encounters that I need to maintain my masculinity for some reason, which probably diminishes the ‘fantasy’ aspect of it for not only me but also others involved. It’s hard to let go of such deeply rooted socialization because the real-world impact, should it be negative (say my partner is less attracted to me after I act subordinate too convincingly, i.e. actually go for it) would be highly undesirable.

    We are all faced with learned limitations whether we acknowledge them or not. I don’t believe there are any people completely free from prejudice. Even if you love all genitalia and gender-manifestations equally, you will find a band or a painting to disagree on.

  11. Is it just straight cis people who have a right to insist on fertile people? Could lesbians demand to date pre/non-op MTFs in order to ensure they can have babies?

    Personally, I find the obsession with genitals to be kind of distasteful, alas. The examples above seem to focus on trans people who come out during the course of a relationship and the potential alarm this might cause their monosexual partners. But many of us continue to have romantic lives after transition. I wouldn’t particularly want to start dating anybody who was going to freak out about my history or my bits, though. I’m committed to fighting transphobia, but maybe we shouldn’t start transphobes off with dating us.

    • Most of the examples do focus on trans people who come out while in a relationship, yes.

      The point of this post was to defend reasonable and non-malicious or phobic people who can’t, or won’t, be romantically involved with a trans person. I felt personally offended by the accusation in the blog post I referenced when it was nearly universally decided that it was automatically transphobic, so I wrote a post about some random examples of when I do not think it should be considered transphobic.

      The question about lesbians demanding to date pre/non-op MTF’s is just irrelevant, and I’ve explained why in several different comments on this thread. Of course everyone-cis, trans, gay, bi, any other personal identifier you can possibly think of- has the right to demand certain things in a prospective romantic partner; I focused on trans people in this post because I read a post on Feministe where the question was asked of trans people. It hit a nerve after reading Whipping Girl.

      That’s all.

  12. Personally if some one asked me the question “Is it transphobic to not date some one because they are trans?” I would still say yes, it probably is. The question was not “Is it transphobic for me, as a straight woman, to not date trans women?” or “Is it transphobic for me, as a lesbian, to not date trans men?”. The question, taken literally, just how it is, has nothing to do with sexual orientation or gender at all, it’s simply asking is it transphobic not to date people who are trans. I honestly can’t think of a non-transphobic reason to not date trans people at all. The question frames it as writing off ALL trans people, not just trans women or trans men. In all likelihood if some one has decided they will not date any trans person at all ever, I would bet a lot of money that there’s reasons are most likely transphobic.

  13. I for one don’t find “transphobic” to refuse to date a transgendered person. Even if one ignores the difficult questions regarding sexually and pre-Op, mid-Op, or post-Op, there’s a host of other issues involved as well.

    The transgendered, as exemplified by the responses your referenced in our post and the comments here, often come with a great deal of “baggage.” Many people are not attracted to dating – “hooking up” might be another story, but that often gets into a realm of fetishism that I find insulting and harmful all parties involved – people who bring with them that level of angst and psychological triggers.

    And yes, if you read the paragraph above, you’ll see that it could apply to any special interest group.

  14. Quinnae Moongazer

    It’s a rather amusing story how I came across this blog.

    I was actually Googling Ms. Serano’s Love Rant because I wanted to link it to a good friend of mine who’s been very supportive of me in my transition, a cis-woman feminist who’s been nigh on a rock and always understood me; we understood each other as women who live in, at times, a misogynistic society. What Ms. Serano communicated in that wonderfully sweary bit of prose is something I think all trans people should be proud of.

    So I found it interesting that a couple of my favourite lines in there troubled you.

    Part of why you felt that way seems to stem from the presumption that she’s telling others how to feel about their sexuality and sexual orientation, and it does come across as a presumption. I think what I took away from it was very different. It was a stab at the faux biological determinalism that bedevils us.

    No matter how I look, how I talk, my comportment, what I accomplish, who I associate with, how I feel on the deepest levels, how I view myself, how I identify, I am reduced to a penis. This is a concern that should trouble every person everywhere- that they are being sublimated to these little bits of flesh betwixt their legs. Their being, their essence, the defining bits of their sentience, are fundamentally meaningless when measured against the means by which you expel urine.

    That hurts. I think that what Serano was doing was empowering us with that ‘rant’ to believe that we can be more than that *and* that there are people out there who will see us as more than that.

    Auguring the opposite, that Serano was telling cis-people how to comport their sexual orientation is, I feel, reaching in the wrong direction.

    You also talk about relationships where one partner is living a lie and comes out as trans middrift. I and other trans people don’t begrudge the other partner for leaving. Frankly, we get the fact that this isn’t what that partner signed up for. I would fully understand that my ex-girlfriends, for example, are not attracted to me as a woman. I don’t begrudge them that.

    Those specific cases, of people who got involved with someone presuming they were one sex and watching them transition to another, are not as useful to your point as you may perceive largely because these cases are predicated on a very overt change that is radically different from what the cis-person got themselves into, as opposed to someone who has probably never been with a trans person making a broad and generalised statement.

    When you talk about a long term relationship or marriage where one partner comes out as a trans person, there is a lot of history and baggage to be overcome if that couple is to stay together. A few do it, and bless them. But that isn’t for everyone. All I ask is that the cis partner not *hate* their ex and make their lives miserable. But they don’t have to sleep with them or feel pressured to.

    When you talk about a person who flat out proclaims “I will never date a trans person” the salient question is “why?”

    I have my personal preferences, of course, but I never say never because I never know what package (no pun intended) people worthy of being my lovers will come in. I don’t want to reject anything out of hand because I never know whom I’ll meet. So if one is so omniscient as to speak with surety that no Jewish, or Black, or Czechoslovakian, or Trans person they could ever conceivably meet will be worthy of the passion of their hearts and the fire of their loins… I have to ask, how do they know that?

    Unless, of course, there is some sort of fear involved.

    Now, one could argue about sexual orientation, but that’s liking men or women (or both) theoretically irrespective of any other demographic concerns. When you do add other demographic qualifiers, it’s no longer a discussion of sexual orientation per se. Sleeping with people of a particular skin colour is not a true sexual orientation in the sense we mean when speak of gay, straight, or bi.

    When you talk about reproductive concerns, that is a problem for many of us, yes. But what if the trans woman had frozen her sperm? What then? If reproduction *is* possible and that potential relationship is still opposed what’s the other reason at work here?

    I’m not saying anytime someone turns me down, it’s because I’m trans. Or that everyone I proposition must accept because I’m just so many damn flavours of tranny awesome. I merely question how some people can make such a sweeping determination about us. You’ll never know if a trans-person you meet rubs you the right way.

    I’m not quite debating you here as much as turning the rubik’s cube another direction, I think. There’s always ten sides to every story. I’m not even saying that a broad statement like “I’ll never date a trans person” is indicative necessarily of some horrifically evil prejudice that must be killed with fire. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. The hypothetical (and that’s all it is here, remember) isn’t clear enough. But if it is any one thing, it is perhaps a person in need of a little education in what our dangly bits really mean.

    Then, they’re in a better position to determine what it is they’re *really* attracted to. If they untangle the identities of male and female, masculine and feminine from those things, then they can make informed decisions about what they’re really after, rather than being afraid of it.

    And as to the argument made by another commentor that amounted to “trans folk are all crazy, yo” Indeed, I suppose the stress of being constantly told that and being thought of as radioactive would make me a wee bit loopy. Luckily, my friends like me crazy.

    • It’s difficult to cite biological determinism as an idealogical foe (on its own apart from any speaker) when someone is willing to alter the “bits of flesh betwixt the legs” to legitimize their desire to effectively oppose their nature-given sex and related gender-role expectations or self expression. I see a logical misstep in saying simultaneously that genitals should not matter and also that changing them produces a positive effect in a person.

      While I will concede a moral impetus for people needing to be open about and cognizant of a spectrum-based concept of sexuality, I also support biological determinism since it is unfair (or assumptively invalid) to ask society to accept ones sexual identity when the petitioner, being a transexual, has not accepted their own. That seems self-centered from an outsider’s perspective, or it could just be me.

      An obvious exception to this would be humans born intersexed.

  15. Pingback: An Apology/Clarification « The Nice Feminist

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