transphobia

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: H is for “how do you have sex?”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

H is for “how do you have sex?”

This question? It’s not even just relevant to trans people – it’s a common question  directed at LGBQ+ folks as well. The clearest answer in most cases (unless you’re planning on having sex with the person asking it, I guess?) is ‘um, none of your darn business.’ It is kind of amazing how simply being trans can open a person up to the kinds of invasive questions that they would never dream of asking in any other context. Suddenly we’re not people; we’re research subjects, or more often merely objects of fleeting curiosity.

But, even setting that aside, this question? It just depresses me, on so many levels. I do want to acknowledge upfront that for some trans people (as for some cis people) the answer is always simply going to be “I don’t have sex.” Because not everyone wants to , and not everyone has sex even if they do want to. But again, even setting that aside, I don’t understand how this is even confusing to people.

Because you know how I have sex with other people? [This is not going not be explicit, it’s ok!]

Me and the people I have sex with, we touch each other in whatever ways feel good to us. Or we try to, though it doesn’t always work out that way, I guess. But really, that’s it. And I really hope that’s how most people do it.

Just, like, if you seriously can’t think of ways that people with, I guess, different genital combinations than the ones you’re used to in your own sex life might be able to touch each pleasurably? You are seriously lacking in imagination, at best.

Because the thing is, genitals are somewhat important to sex, for most people, of course. But, so are so many other body parts that people possess regardless of gender or sexual orientation or whether they are trans. Most of us have hands, with fingers on them, or other appendages that can probably be used to do things.

Like, seriously? You can’t think of *any* sex acts you might participate in that the trans person in front of you is also capable of? Really?

Or are you just actually hoping for the dirty details, because you’re just that much of a creep? Which is it?


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: B is for ‘Born a man’/’Born a woman’

Welcome to another episode of the “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet. Today:

B is for ‘Born a Man’/’Born a woman’

Sometimes, when cisgender people are talking about a trans person, they will try to explain their trans-ness in simple terms, by explaining that a trans woman is a woman who was ‘born a man’, (or that a trans man is a man who was ‘born a woman’). I would like this wording to die in a fire, to be perfectly honest.

I cannot stress this enough: no one in the history of the entire world – cis, trans, or otherwise – was ‘born’ either man or a woman. We are all born as babies, and in most cases adults then make a guess at what our gender is and generally call us either a girl or a boy.

For some people, it may very well be true to say they were ‘born a girl’ or ‘born a boy’ (other people – trans, cis, and otherwise – don’t really see their gender as something they were born with, but rather as something that developed after they were born). The thing about that, though, is that trans men are just as likely to have been born boys as cis men are – trans men who are born boys are just much more likely to have the adults in their mistakenly think that they were born girls, is all.

Certainly there are trans men out there who feel that it is accurate to describe them as having been born girls, and trans women who see themselves as having been born boys, people who feel their gender has shifted over the course of their life, starting in one place and winding up elsewhere. But that is far and away not the only, or even the most common trans experience.

So, cis people, just stop it already with talking about people of any kind being born as men or women. We aren’t, any of us. And, more importantly, stop saying trans people were born in a gender other than the one they tell you they are – most of us weren’t.


Check out the rest of “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: A is for Attention (as in, you’re just doing it for the…)

Welcome to my new Friday blogging series, the “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet. One letter per week for 26 weeks! Lets’ see if I can pull it off.

A is for Attention!

One of the weirder ways that cis people sometimes try to invalidate trans people’s genders is by claiming that we’re just pretending to be trans “for the attention”.

…Which, I find it hard to believe that the people making this argument even believe it themselves. Surely there are better and easier ways to seek attention? And, given the continued invisibility of trans people generally, (yes, despite this golden age of lavish media attention we supposedly have right now – it definitely seems that at least half of the random people I see making cissexist claims about ‘only women’ having periods or ‘all men’ having penises, etc. are doing so out of pure ignorance/forgetfulness of the fact that trans people exist, rather than a deliberate denial of trans people’s genders), if this is a bid for attention, it doesn’t seem to be working all that well, to be honest.

Here’s the thing cis folks: yes, trans activists and others are currently doing their best to demand attention be paid to trans issues. Because our lives are currently unfairly and unnecessarily disadvantaged and made difficult in countless ways that could be easily fixed, if people just managed to hold the idea of our existence in their heads on a consistent basis. We need to be visible, and we do want attention. And sometimes, when we talk about our lives and our identities, we do so for the purpose of increasing the visibility of ourselves and our struggles.

But that is an *entirely* different thing from the idea that our existence as trans people, that our identities themselves, are formed out of a bid for attention. We do make bids for attention sometimes *because* we are trans, and because of all of the ways our trans-ness causes us to be marginalized. But our trans-ness is not in and of itself, a bid for attention. Most of us just want our identities quietly respected in the way that most cis people’s are everyday.

Got it? Good.


Check out the rest of “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

Online dating while genderqueer: I feel gross right now

[Content note: cissexism, genitals]

Every once in a while I will get a message from some dude on OKCupid who wants to know if he can ask me some questions, because y’know, he’s just a straight shooter, the kind of guy who lays all his cards on the table. He probably doesn’t mince words either, and maybe he just wants to get right to the point.

Anyway, the point is, he wants to know about my junk. And what kind I have.

Mostly I don’t super care about these questions – my standard response is “None of your business, since if it matters to you, then I’m not interested anyway.”

But sometimes they manage to be extra creepy about it. The most recent dude, for no apparent reason, made a point of letting me know that he had scoured my profile and all of the photos I included, but that he had not been able to determine on his own what my genitals looked like.

I suspect that this is because I, shockingly enough, have not included and photos of my genitals on my OKC profile. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be allowed to even if I wanted to. Nor do I describe my genitals in any of the written sections of my profile. Go figure.

But more to the point, my PSA of this day is:

Unless you are looking at a person’s genitals, or a picture of their genitals, no amount of searching their appearance for ‘clues’ or whatever will allow you to tell what genitals they have. The fact that so many people think this is possible is because they are cissexist douches.

That is all.

Bigotry and ignorance are not “phobias”

A very kind commenter recently pointed out to me that in using that word “homophobic” in my post about eliminating ableist terms from my vocabulary I was in fact (in an unfortunate irony) using an ableist term.

Phobias are, in fact, recognized mental health issues. Homophobia is not, in fact, a phobia, and conflating it with the very real experience of people with phobias is unfair. In many more ways than one. Let me explain.

The primary issue here is, of course, the unfair, incorrect, and damaging impact of comparing people with real phobias to bigots. Mental illness continues to be massively stigmatized, and people with mental illnesses are often portrayed as violent or otherwise inherently and uncontrollably abusive. By suggesting that anti-trans, anti-gay, anti-bisexual, anti-queer, and anti-asexual bigotry are “phobias” we are only contributing the idea that people with mental illnesses are bad people.

But I know that a lot of people are for some reason not convinced by this kind of argument, and think that because “everyone knows” that bi-, homo-, trans-, femme- and acephobia aren’t actually phobias that the use of the same terminology is irrelevant. So let me give you some other reason why it might be useful to avoid using these terms.

Referring to bigots as being “phobic” lets them off way too easy

The rhetoric of bigoted “phobias” carries the inherent implication that bigots can’t help the way they are, and that they can’t change. And, while I actually don’t believe most bigots ever will change, I also think it’s important to remember that the fact that they don’t change is entirely on them, based on a series of choices they make throughout their life (to not listen to other people’s experiences, to care more about their discomfort with learning than about the pain and death of other people, etc.) Bigots are responsible for their own bigotry and absolutely need to be held accountable, always. Calling them what they are (bigots), and calling their ideas what they are (bigoted), calling their actions what they are (bigotry) instead of couching it softly in terms of phobias is a powerful and necessary rhetorical move.

But it does even more than just holding people accountable.

Referring to bigotry as bigotry, and not as a phobia, makes it harder for the folks committing bigotry to derail the conversation

You see it again and again: someone points out that something another person said is problematic, and calls what was said (or the person saying it) ace/bi/femme/homo/transphobic. The person being accused of said “phobia” responds that they are not afraid of the group in question, and that they are therefore not “phobic”. Of course we know that this person knows that’s not what the word means. Of course we all know that no one thinks that anyone was actually referring to a real phobia.

But the conversation is derailed, just like that, and moves into a conversation about what it means to be whatever-phobic. Why give the person in question, the one who fucked up, such an easy out, when it can be so easily avoided? Call bigotry what it is, and close the door to this sort of derailment.

My commitment

All of this is really to say that I am making a personal commitment to no longer use the terms transphobia, acephobia, homophobia, and the like. I will instead refer variously to what is actually happening. There’s actually a plethora of better, non-oppressive, and more precise terms than “phobia” applicable to various incarnations of bigotry or just plain ignorance. Consider:

  • Acephobia may refer to:

    • anti-ace bigotry
    • compulsory sexuality
    • ace erasure
  • Biphobia may refer to:
    • anti-bisexual bigotry
    • monosexism
    • bisexual erasure
  • Femmephobia may refer to:
    • misogyny
    • devaluation of femininity
    • compulsory masculinity
  • Homophobia may refer to:
    • anti-gay bigotry
    • heterosexism
    • gay erasure
  • Queerphobia may refer to:
    • anti-queer bigotry
    • queer erasure
    • heterosexism
    • monosexism
  • Transphobia may refer to:
    • anti-trans bigotry
    • transmisogyny
    • cissexism
    • trans erasure

I mean, just look at the amazing list of more precise terms to refer to different kinds of bigotry and ignorance faced by LGBTQIA folks! There are so many options, and they are all so useful and way more accurate and direct than “phobia”.

I also plan to go back and edit references to phobias out of my old posts, although I currently barely have time to even sit down and write this out, so I’m not sure when I will manage to do that. I simply promise that it will happen.

I will, however, continue to use “phobia” terms in my tags, for indexing purposes. As a librarian, I understand that using the terms that other people use is sometimes important to make information searchable and findable. I am open to the idea of making sure that false phobias don’t turn up in the tag cloud on the right though, if that is potentially harmful or triggering for people. Please let me know if you have thoughts on this!

download

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 8

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I hope to curate writing by people with a wide variety of gender identities and experiences, talking about their gender, what it means to them personally, and what it means for the ways in which they move through and interact with the world. Basically, this is where I point out that I’m not the only person in the world who has complex thoughts about gender, and that there as many ways to be Trans* and/or genderqueer as there are to be cisgender (and yes, there are many different ways to be cisgender). Check out the rest of the series.]

  • Sage Pantony discusses their experiences of changing privilege when going from a femme presentation to a masculine one, within their identity as a simultaneously gender-fluid/genderqueer and cisgender person.

    The catcalling I used to receive from men in the streets has almost completely stopped. I didn’t expect this. In fact, I thought I would experience more sexualizing taunts and threats once I went against the norm. I’m experiencing a form of masculine privilege in that I actually feel safer when I move in public spaces now. This is interesting, as I’m pretty sure people still read me as female. Store clerks still call me “Miss” or refer to me as one of the “girls” when I’m with a group of feminine folks.

    Masculinity affords certain privileges in a patriarchal culture. I believe that I’m benefiting from some of these privileges now.

  • The author of “An Exacting Life”, a cisgender parent with a trans* child, contemplates her personal relationship with and experiences of gender.

    I am a woman who was raised as a girl. What could be more natural?

    Until I think about what a strange construct that is. I was born with certain visible body parts, and that determined how I was raised and what my future role in life would be. My culture not only supports this, but pretty much requires it. My parents carried this out unquestioningly…

  • Belinda Cooper talks about being “she-zi-thee-he” genderqueer, zir intimate relationships, and dealing with the broader world.

    At time you can feel like an alien not fitting into the terms and conditions of society and the humans don’t understand your language and properly never will. So you squeeze your alien self into their terms and you get used to it as it is easier, easier for your mother, father, brothers and as well as the stranger talking to you on the bus.

    When they present you with a forms requesting your gender, they seem to ask a question that actually want to know. Sometimes you get lucky and there are more than two possible answers and you smile and say well done people. Other times you just feel bitter anger and frustration.

    This is how ‘I’ experience life and gender.

  • Sam Dylan Finch writes incredibly beautifully about dealing with his own internalized anti-trans thoughts feelings

    What they don’t tell you about being transgender is that sometimes, the transphobe is you.

    Those days, the only words I knew how to say were, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

    They never tell you that being transgender can sometimes feel like a run-on string of apologies – I’m sorry for being here, I’m sorry for being this way, I’m sorry for disappointing you, I’m sorry for your expectations, and I’m sorry for mine.

  • Olly from “Apparently I Don’t Exist” responds to the search term “gender fluid is utter nonsense”, which brought someone to their blog.

    I don’t think they found what they were looking for.

    Although privately I do agree with them; it is complete nonsense. I’m a logical creature who likes their patterns and progressions so not being able to predict where my gender identity is going to be on any given day of the week is what some people might call a nightmare. But it’s my reality.

    Gender is a social construct and yet in my head I know the difference between femme days and masc days and agender days and any other kind of days. Logic tells me that the clothes I wear on my body are *my* clothes, but there are days where the thought if wearing skimpy panties rather than my pirate boxer shorts makes me want to cry.

    So yeah, it is utter and complete total nonsense. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

sisters cisters

Trans women, and women-only spaces: some general comments

sisters cistersIn the posts in this series, refuting the various justifications given for excluding trans women from women-only spaces, I’ve done my best to take the arguments at face value. The thing is, though (and I’ve touched on this a little bit already), it’s pretty clear to me that all of these arguments are after-the-fact justifications for the decision to exclude trans women from spaces, a decision that is generally based entirely in people’s visceral response to the issue.

Although I think that it is very important that we have arguments ready to refute these points when they are thrown out to try and justify discrimination against trans women, I also really feel that I have to acknowledge that all of these arguments have their foundations in plain cissexism. They are not reasoned arguments to begin with, and don’t really even deserve the time I’ve given them, except that by refuting them, there is some small chance that we can force changes to be made.

Ultimately all four of the arguments against including trans women in women-only spaces boil down to “but they’re not really women!”, or more directly “we don’t want to include them, because they’re men!” Which is absolutely untrue, and is the complete misunderstanding of trans identities that lies at the root of pretty much all anti-trans bias and trans erasure.

I touched on this point in some of my refutations; however, I think it is worth repeating the ways in which each of the four arguments ultimately boils down to this most basic unwillingness to accept trans women as women.

Trans women were raised as male and therefore possess male privilege.

As I pointed out in the original post (linked above), this argument is fundamentally based in the false attribution of manhood to trans women. Considering trans women to be men is rank cissexism. Nuff said.

Trans women have penises, which can be triggering for rape survivors and other women.

When women are triggered by the (presumed) presence of penises as a part of trans women’s bodies, this trigger is fundamentally rooted in the equation of penises with men, and thus in seeing trans women as men.

We aren’t equipped to fulfill trans women’s needs!

This one is a few more steps removed from the idea that trans women are really men than the others. However, I think that the sense that it is somehow justifiable to refuse to provide services to trans women because of their (supposed) unique needs is rooted in the idea that men are not in need of the same kind of support as women are. I honestly don’t know how else someone would justify ignoring the needs of an exceptionally marginalized population, unless it is because they refuse to acknowledge that marginalization (see, we’re really just back to that whole “male privilege” idea again).

Considering trans women to simply be women reinforces the gender binary, and ignores the nuances of their unique identities (I wish I was making this up, I really do.)

Ok, this argument is I guess slightly better than the others in that it clearly accepts that trans women aren’t men. The problem is that it simultaneously asserts that trans women also aren’t really women either. Which, I mean, there are people who are neither men nor women (Hi there!), but trans women do not belong in that category. They’re women. This shouldn’t be this difficult.

Yeah.

I really, really wish that getting people to accept trans people as members of the gender they identify as (a.k.a. the gender they *are*, y’know) wasn’t as difficult as it apparently is.

So, while I hope that this series has been useful and/or enlightening, I don’t think I’ve even begun to address the real root of the problem at hand. And… I’m really not sure what I can say that will convince other people to stop being biological determinist, gender essentialist assholes. So, what I’d like to do here is just make room for other voices. Here are some people who are saying awesome and persuasive things about the trans experience that (I hope) will help people unfamiliar with transgender realities to approach these issues with more compassion and understanding. In no particular order:

Myths and Misconceptions about Trans Women

I really hope that y’all have found this series enlightening/interesting/useful. I think it’s been my biggest project on this blog to date! Thank you for reading.