I have seen some comments on various social media of late pertaining to dating and romantic relationships involving the transgender person. It seems to me that there are certain members of our community who seem to think that the transgender person has an (almost) inalienable right to a romantic relationship and that regardless of where they are on the spectrum or indeed where they are in the process of transitioning (assuming that they are transitioning), that they deserve to find a date. This gets rather political when a male to female transgender person wants to date a cis-gender woman who identifies as a lesbian, but who refuses to do so, sometimes citing the presence of a penis as a problem for them, or perhaps more problematically believes that the transgender woman is in some way ‘not a woman’ or lacks the shared experiences that are important to her in a romantic partner.
It is usually at this point that insults start flying. One side or the other hauls out the insults and allegations of prejudice, bigotry and sexism fly from both sides. With the cis-gender woman being called a TERF (trans exclusionary feminist) and the transgender person being called a ‘man without a cock’ or some other derogatory term. As usual this entrenches positions, stops people seeking understanding and is generally unhelpful.
I do not wish to conflate all legitimate concerns in this regard with the politics of sex and dating. There are of course very real concerns in the world that both transgender people and feminists need to deal with. But for the purposes of this article I am confining myself to the politics of dating.
I don’t think we can demand that anyone dates anyone else. Your choice of romantic partner is perhaps the single most highly personal choice (some may argue the only truly personal choice) we get to make in life. It is thus a choice that makes us accountable only to ourselves and perhaps the person we are choosing (or not choosing) to be romantic with. In the case of rejecting a random guy in a bar, perhaps there is no duty of accountability, when breaking up with a long term lover or life partner you probably owe them some sort of an explanation. That said who we are or who we are not attracted to is really no body else’s concern. It is a highly individual and highly personal matter. It may also be extremely complex in nature and not easily defined or even fully understood by the individual themselves.
I do not think that being highly or only attracted to people of the opposite sex is sufficient cause to call or treat someone as a homo-phobe.
I do not think that being highly or only attracted to people of the same race or ethnicity is sufficient cause to call or treat someone as a racist.
I similarly do not think that not being highly or only attracted to people who are transgender is sufficient cause to call or treat someone as a trans-phobe.
People get to choose who they are intimate with. Their reasons are their reasons alone and even if they do in fact later (based on other behaviours) turn out to be homo or transphobic or indeed racist, their choice of romantic partner remains their choice no matter what the reason. We simply do not get to judge that.
What we do get to judge is what other manifestations of the phobia, discrimination or prejudice there may be and how these manifestations affect our real legal rights. Are we being denied access to services that other people have? Are we being passed over for jobs or promotions because of our gender/race/sexual orientation? Do we have access to appropriate healthcare? These are the real issues we need to consider. Who people choose to date is really not important.
What people may think of us is also ultimately not important. Sure we may identify as a woman. It is hurtful when someone says ‘you are trans, you don’t know what it means to be female, you don’t have a uterus.’ But are we likely to change that point of view? Our identity is really our identity. We cannot force others to share that self identity. All that we can do is say that we have heard them and that what they say does not fit in with our point of view. Arguing the point beyond this is seldom helpful and usually just pushes the argument into a downward spiral.
It is also dangerous for us to say that we understand what being a woman is about because we have experienced whatever problems we have experienced as transgender people. We may have some understanding of what it is to be a woman, but the fact is that our experiences are very different to those of a ‘genetic’ woman. The experience of being transgender may not be easy, we may have been bullied, perhaps assaulted and even excluded, but these experiences are not the same as a genetic woman’s experiences. They are the experiences of a transgender person. We cannot know what it is like to be socialised as a female person because we were not. Some of us may wish we had that experience, but most of us did not. We had other experiences. Claiming our hardships to be the same is just not true. They are different. Perhaps our lives were worse, perhaps better. It is really hard to say as we (usually) lack an objective point of reference. But the experience most certainly have been different. Just as the male to female transgender person’s life has been different to the cis-gender male’s life.
If a lesbian woman is repulsed by a penis, she is repulsed by a penis. It is not up to us to judge her for this. If she refuses to engage in romantic relationships with anyone with a penis, that is her call to make and we cannot judge her for this. If she closes her medical practice to people with (or who may have had) penises, that is an entirely different matter. If a male refuses to be romantic with someone with a penis that is again his personal choice. If he starts assaulting people with penises who he is attracted to, that is a very different matter indeed.
Fundamentally, it is not up to us to police other people’s consensual sexual behaviour. Who someone allows to do what with, with their genitals (or indeed any other body part) is really none of our business. It is the individual’s choice. People have the right to make the choices they make in this regard and we should not judge them. No man or woman has the right to have sex with any other man or woman. Yes we all want to find love and we have the right to pursue this life goal but we have no right to judge other people’s choices in this regard. No one has the right to be sexual with me, I may grant that privilege to the person I choose. Similarly I cannot demand that people should be open to sex with me based solely on my gender identity correlating in some way with their sexual orientation.
I can only say this. I have spent a VAST amount of personal energy, time and angst separating my sexuality from my gender. I understand the first component very well. I always have. The second component? I am getting to the point where I find the word redundant. A construct some misguided science-ee people thought would be a good idea. Lets LABEL everybody! 🙂 Brilliant! Now the science-ee people of today have to go back and un-screw up what all those dead science-ee people wrote, because they got it WRONG! . Oh for the love of Benji! Did Science-ee people stop reading history books and junk when the interweb done got invented? I understand a lot of things, DIFFERENTLY, now. Perspective can make a vast difference. I understand “attraction”. You usually don’t get that unless you’ve gotten to know a person a little bit. I understand “arousal”, in the sense, that my hormones are WAY out front of my intellect, and possbily there was a tall whisky or two involved. You think it before you feel it. Unless there are a bunch of hotties around, and then it’s you are all like “Hey, Hormones, come back here right this minute”! And they look at you with that knowing smile on their face and say “In a minute Luv, why don’t you sit down and have a drink”. Curse you sneaky and arrogant hormones! Tall whiskey please! Then your intellect chimes in “You know, he/she is kind of cute” and your off to the races.
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Once again, a really intense thought provoking piece of writing. Thank you for sharing. You make me think about things xx
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This article is legendary. It’s rare to see such a balanced (i.e. sane) perspective on issues like this.
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Thanks Holly… That feedback is much appreciated. I try to do my best to keep perspective. Not always easy.
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A really accurate an eloquent article.. I am in complete agreement. I am probably like many post op trans lesbians in that I struggle to find romantic love. I have a line of male admirers, who despite every profile I have ever written stating I am lesbian, are determined to pop my ‘*trans-cherry*’ and ‘*straighten me out some*’!
On occasions, pre op I have given in just to stave off the loneliness, and in the hope that a little attention would make me feel ‘*loved*’. As the soft focus of beer light and charm, have given way to beer breath, slurring and the scratching of unshaved stubble, I have inevitably actually left feeling ‘*violated*’!
Post op, despite having the correct anatomy to oblige in all traditional respects, my ‘*cherry*’ is too precious for any male creature just to pluck! I will take it to my grave if necessary!
I dont judge any woman for not wanting my love. I understand her suspicions and empathise entirely. It hurts when I look at the lonely ads and find “t girl seeks cis girl”, as it seems even most trans ladies have trouble accepting the femininity of their own kind! Despite thinking “what hope is there”? I cannot reproach them as quite rightly stated it is their perogative. It is mine to be sad about it and that is all. It saddens me when I see ” cis lesbian seeks ‘*fully functional*’ t gurl”, but for the same reason it is her choice! It might annoy me that a lesbian might seek a girl purely for her penis but inward anger is my only recourse, and an unhealthy ootion at that!
My only standpoint on all of this to shout from my soapbox, “for christs sake why is this so hard”? I have been on my own for four years now and I really think I have learned everything I can learn from loneliness. I dont judge anyone for turning away from me, at that point where you kiss on the cheek and go seperate ways. It just makes me sad!
I take a deep breath pack up my ego and catch the bus home thinking what makes me so repulsive? The only answer I can come up with is that it’s my chromosomes!
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Thank you for that very honest response. I too wonder at the trans people who reject fellow transwomen at the very outset. Like you say it is their prerogative but it is illogical, irrational and very saddening. I am sure that you will find love one day. You seem to be a very self aware, caring and considerate person. I am sure you will find your soulmate. Keep looking (in the right places) and keep a positive frame of mind. Sending virtual hugs your way…
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To be honest, its only of late that its began to bother me. I have had a year or two mid transition when I have been glad if the lack of complication in my life!! I am beginning to wonder if I have forgotten how to put out the right messages! Lol
Sexuality can’t interfere with the right to be human and having feelings they require care, love, especially acceptance. For me they are the most soulful being to be around with.
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